1. Are parliamentary privileges repugnant to the principle of ‘equality before law’ in a democratic polity like India? Examine.
Recently, the Karnataka assembly Speaker ordered the imprisonment of two journalists based on recommendation by its privilege committee. The order has drawn widespread criticism on the misuse of parliamentary privileges to throttle media.
Article 105 pertains to the powers, privileges, etc, of Parliament, its members and committees while Article 194 provides the same for the states.
Right to regulate internal matters of house.
Freedom form arrest in certain cases.
Freedom of speech. What said within parliament premise cannot be questioned in court.
Right to punish members and outsiders for breach of privileges.
Right to publish debates and proceedings and right to restrain others form publishing.
Importance of privileges:
The members must be able to criticize the wrongs of the government without any fear, favor or pressure. They can perform their constitutional duty of asking questions, putting forward motions or casting votes without any outside influence or fear
It protects the parliamentarians from frivolous charges.
The privileges enable smooth working of a parliamentary system.
The frequent misuse of privileges makes it appear to be repugnant to equality before law:
There are no clearly laid out rules on what constitutes breach of privilege and what punishment it entails. The provision is at times used to counter media criticism of legislators and as a substitute for legal proceedings, thereby violating freedom of speech of others.
Breach of privilege laws allow politicians to become judges in their own cause, raising concerns of conflict of interest and violating basic fair trial guarantees.
Various instances in recent times shows how the privileges are being misused, raising the question of violation of the equality before law (Article 14).
Gross misbehavior on the part of members, violence, throwing chairs, using un-parliamentary language within the house go unpunished.
They violate the equality among the citizen and acts and speeches which would otherwise be deemed as unlawful or defamatory go unpunished in the house. There have been many instances of clashes between freedom of speech granted to members of the parliament and Fundamental rights as given to the citizens as per article 19 (1) (A).
The room for misuse has led to emergence of elitist mentality among the members since they will go unpunished for anything said or done in the House
The legislature must use the power to punish for contempt or breach of privilege sparingly, invoking it mainly to protect the independence of the House and not to take away the liberty of critics.
The time has come for the legislature to codify privileges and for the higher judiciary to lay down the limits of penal action for breach of privilege.
Article 105 and 194 was inserted in the constitution with the basic objective of allowing legislators and parliamentarians to function efficiently, however various loopholes makes it prone to misuse. It is time some action is taken on this part. though parliamentary privileges are absolute must in the democratic system, yet there needs to be check and regulation on the same. The need of the hour is self-regulation by the Houses as a whole and individuals so that a fine balance between the parliamentary privileges and the principle of ‘Equality before law’ can be maintained.
2. Parliamentary committees act as instruments for ensuring executive accountability. Elucidate. Also explain briefly the committee system of the Indian Parliament.
The work done by the Parliament in modern times is not only varied in nature, but considerable in volume. The time at its disposal is limited. It cannot, therefore, give close consideration to all the legislative and other matters that come up before it. A good deal of its business is, therefore, transacted by what are called the Parliamentary Committees.
They serve as instruments of accountability which can be seen as
They help ensuring the financial accountability of the executive eg. Public accounts committee has helped keep tabs on misappropiation of funds
They ensure the scrutiny of the demand for grants made in the budget eg. Estimates committee
Joint Parliamentary committees formed on the 2G scam, Coal scam have helped assess violations made by the executive
They help in assessing the claims of executives of work done eg. Committee on the welfare of tribals helps check on the efficacy of executive action
They help in reshaping institutions which may not be functioning as required . Eg. Parliamentary committee on Medical Commission of India
They verify the promises made in parliament by the executive to their actual course of action eg. Committee on Government Assurances
The committee system of the Indian Parliament
Ad hoc and Standing Committees
Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Ad hoc Committees and the Standing Committees. Ad hoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report. The principal Ad hoc Committees are the Select and Joint Committees on Bills. Others like the Railway Convention Committee, the Committees on the Draft Five Year Plans and the Hindi Equivalents Committee were appointed for specific purposes.
Apart from the Ad hoc Committees, each House of Parliament has Standing Committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the Committee on Petitions, the Committee of Privileges and the Rules Committee, etc.
Of special importance is yet another class of Committees which act as Parliament’s ‘Watch Dogs’ over the executive. These are the Committees on Subordinate Legislation, the Committee on Government Assurances, the Committee on Estimates, the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Public Undertakings and Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs). The Committee on Estimates, the Committee on Public Accounts, the Committee on Public Undertakings and DRSCs play an important role in exercising a check over governmental expenditure and Policy formulation.
Besides these committees, the departmental standing committees work throughout the year and reconstituted every year. The overall impact of committee system in parliament is handle a large amount of workload, through effective scrutiny of all stakeholders including external experts who are available thus ensuring accountability of the executive.
3. The position of Legislative Council is inferior to that of the Legislative Assembly so that it may well be considered as a surplusage. Critically analyse.
Inferior status as provided in the constitution:
A Money Bill can be introduced only in the assembly and not in the council. The council cannot amend or reject a money bill. It should return the bill to the assembly within 14 days, either with recommendations or without recommendations. The assembly can either accept or reject all or any of the recommendation of the council. In both the cases, the money bill is deemed to have been passed by the two Houses.
The final power to decide whether a particular bill is a money bill or not is vested in the Speaker of the assembly.
The final power of passing an ordinary bill also lies with the assembly. At the most, the council can detain or delay the bill for the period of four months – three months in the first instance and one month in the second instance.
The council is not even a revising body like the Rajya Sabha; it is only a dilatory chamber or an advisory body.
The council can only discuss the budget but cannot vote on the demands for grants (which is the exclusive privilege of the assembly).
The council cannot remove the council of ministers by passing a no-confidence motion. The council of ministers is collectively responsible only to the assembly.
When an ordinary bill, which has originated in the council and was sent to the assembly, is rejected by the assembly, the bill ends and becomes dead.
The council does not participate in the election of the President of India and representatives of the state in the Rajya Sabha.
The very existence of the council depends on the will of the assembly. The council can be abolished by the Parliament on the recommendation of the assembly.
Criticism of the working of the legislative councils:
Being a parking lot for the old unelectable leader at the state level.
Club for the influential and rich people who have invested in the political parties and in return they are given special privileges in return.
The legislative function of this house in subordinate in comparison to the vidhan sabha and that to is limited to ordinary bills only.
The cost that incurs in form of salary, pension, providing other amenities and facilities on the state exchequers is high.
Positives/ need for legislative councils:
acts as a cooling chamber same as in line with Rajya sabha wherein the bills passed by the popular house in deliberated and discussed in detail.
gives a platform wherein the opinion of the experts/veterans from various fields can be expressed and included in the bills often passed in
It provides a check for the bills passed in the heat of the moment and driven by passion by the vidhan sabha.
4. What are the highlights of the new civil aviation policy? Why was this policy the needed? Discuss.
In an effort to give a boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative in the Civil Aviation Sector, to take flying to the masses, and for enhancing ease of doing business through deregulation, simplified procedures and e-governance, the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016 assumes great importance.
The policy aims to take flying to the masses by making it affordable and convenient. Vision is to enhance ticketing from 8cr currently to 30cr by 2022 and 50 cr by 2030.
Aim is to establish an integrated eco-system which will lead to significant growth of the civil aviation sector to promote tourism, employment and balanced regional growth
Enhance regional connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development
Enhance ease of doing business through deregulation, simplified procedures and e-governance.
Salient points in the Policy
5/20 rule (5 years of operation and a fleet of 20 aircrafts) will be no more applicable for airlines looking to fly abroad. For starting foreign operations, airlines will have to operate 20 flights or 20% of its fleet on domestic routes (whichever is higher, given the moniker 0/20 rule)
2. Maintenance Repair and Overhaul operations– The MRO business of Indian carriers is around Rs 5000 cr, 90% of which is currently spent outside India. In the budget for 2016-17, customs duty has been rationalised and the procedure for clearance of goods simplified. Further incentives proposed in the policy to give a push to this sector
Regional Connectivity Scheme – Purpose is to boost airlines flying to hitherto underserved/uneconomical/hinterland routes.
Capping of airfares on the routes under RCS – Rs 2500 for a 1 hour flight and Rs 1200 for half an hour flight
Revival of airstrips/airports as No Frill Airport at an indicative cost of Rs 50cr to Rs 100cr
Demand driven selection of Airports/Airstrips for revival in consultation with state govt and airlines
Viability Gap Funding to airline operators. Centre and state will bear the burden in the ratio of 80:20. For the North Eastern State, this will be in the ratio of 90:10. Govt will taper the VGF based on appropriate load factors achieved by the airlines. Once route becomes sustainable, subsidy removed. Subsidy to be provided based on reverse bidding.
Tax incentives in store for all airlines operating on hitherto underserved routes
To increase viability of running routes from regional airports, government has abolished airport charge, reduced service tax and excise duty on Aviation Turbine Fuel
Bilateral Traffic Rights – GoI will enter into ‘Open Sky’ Agreement on a reciprocal basis with SAARC countries and countries located beyond 5000 km from Delhi
Development of new Airports either by PPP or by AAI – Encourage development of airports by AAI, State Governments, the private sector or in PPP mode
Aviation Education and Skill Building Assessment
Why was this policy the needed?
5/20 rule had irked airlines for a long time now. At a time when most of the airlines are not posting profit and reeling under the burden of high taxes, 5/20 scheme proved to be a major impediment in enabling airlines to boost profits by initiating foreign operations. The guidelines in the present policy regarding foreign operations will ensure that airlines do not neglect domestic operations in pursuit of profit. The move has been criticized by established players like Jet Airways who are wary of increased competition.
The initiative in the policy to boost MRO business is commendable as it leads to substantial loss of revenue for India. The MRO cost of Indian carriers is around Rs 5000 cr, 90% of which is currently spent outside India. Moreover, owing to India’s favourable geographical location India has the potential to become an MRO hub, a status currently occupied by Dubai.
Regional Connectivity Scheme has been mooted with an objective of promoting connectivity in Tier 2, Tier 3 cities. Intent is to fast track the sector and harvest its multiplier effect on the economy, spurring investments, tourism and employment. Moreover, of the 35 crore middle class citizens, only 8 cr people fly. Capping of fares, enhancing connectivity will lead to an increase in the number of citizens who can fly and can take some burden off railways
Open sky policy will enhance competition leading to better service and cost effectiveness
It is important for us to see the Civil Aviation Policy in the larger background of some of the other reforms taken by the Government of India, including FDI reforms. FDI has been made open in nine sectors, including aviation. The government has given approval to foreign non-airline entities to invest up to 100 per cent in domestic airlines. These measures, coupled with the Civil Aviation Policy, are steps in the right direction which can help the civil aviation sector.
5. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has always had active government support, but also vehement opposition. What is your view in this regard? Discuss.
AFSPA was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government of India considered disturbed areas. It was first implemented in Manipur and Assam in 195, following the Naga movement. The Central government empowered the governors of the states and administrators of Union Territories to take a call whether the areas of that particular state or union territory is disturbed or not. Since then it has been extended at various times in the states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Punjab, J&K, Mizoram and Meghalaya
WHY DOES THE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT IT :
The AFSPA was enacted at a time when India was going through an internal crisis of sorts a newly formed democracy grappling with issue of insurgency and separatism with the state police inadequate and their commitment in doubt it was left to the centre to implement the act and bring a modicum of normalcy in these disturbed areas.
From the time of its implementation AFSPA has been able to control violent activities of ULFA (United liberation front of Assam), put an end to the Khalistani separatist movement in Punjab which was a huge threat to integrity and unity of India. AFSPA has also brought back democracy to the forefront in Nagaland which was threatened by insurgency and faction rivalries.
The central Government also claims that AFSPA is only an extra ordinary measure when the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for local forces to handle.
The army also calls for its continuance in order to carry out their duties without the fear of vexatious litigation and to conduct their operations with anonymity and uplift their morale in risky operations which is the bedrock of the Armed forces.
Many human rights activists, NGOs, UN observers have labelled the act Unconstitutional (as it contravenes Article 21) and Draconian (due to the provisions which place excess power in the hands of the army)
Section 4 of the act gives special powers to army officers in disturbed area to shoot (even if it kills) any individual who violates law / or is suspected to violate law (this includes assembly of five or more people, carrying of weapons) etc. The only condition is that the officer has to give warning before opening fire.
Arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without consent.
Once a person is taken into custody, he / she has to be handed over to the nearest police station as soon as possible.
Prosecution of the officer on duty needs prior permission of the Central Government.
The grounds of declaration of a disturbed area have not been defined in the act. Moreover, once an area has been declared disturbed it cannot be subjected to judicial review. Critics say that the law does not provide adequate safeguards in application of AFSPA.
The critics say that the law overrides the Crpc which lays down a proper procedure for police personnel in dealing with law and order problems. Unlike Crpc there are no adequate safeguards in the implementation of the AFSPA. Even the SC has stressed the need for following the appropriate procedure especially when security forces work in the aid of civil authorities
The act has not been able to contain insurgency and maintain law and order in the disturbed regions. When it was imposed in the north east there was few insurgent groups but today there are more than two dozen groups operating in the north east. In addition to this there has been rise in the number of civilians killed by the forces.
Grave human right violations have actually helped the insurgents to mobilize the people against the government. AFSPA has further intensified the demand for autonomy by the people leading to increase in agitations. This gives rise to a vicious circle of continuing law for indefinite period.
These provision often carried out under doubtful conditions has led to International organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch to term them as extra judicial killings.eg: Pathribal and Machil fake encounter cases
The Santosh Hegde committee to look into AFSPA in Manipur and the Jeevan Reddy committee have also recommended its repeal
In my view there is a need to curb the extent of discretion in the hands of the officer and the guilty must be brought to book under the jurisdiction of SC or a military court under the aegis of the Supreme Court
There must be periodic third party reviews of the working of the law like the UN or a SIT appointed by the SC,
Regular meet and greet programmes should be conducted by the army to quell fear amongst the local civilian population.
All said and done it must be noted that AFSPA as a law was a product of its time and there must be a serious debate of its necessity in a matured democracy like ours and if continued its use and vast area of discretion must be severely curtailed and subjected to periodic scrutiny.
BEST ANSWER : LINCOLN
AFSPA is a special provision to be enforced in ‘disturbed areas’ where the government feels existing law and order mechanism is unable to deal with situation.
Currently its inforce in Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Asaam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh. It was recently revoked from tripura.
The government support for AFSPA is primarily due to the fact that the situation has worsened beyond the control of police etc. hence Army needs to be called in. For Army to operate in such areas it needs the protection of provisions for AFPSA to function smoothly. The opposition comes from certain provisions of AFSPA. They are.
1) Section 4(A) gives it power to fire upon anyone even unproved if they feel threat is imminent.
2) Army can arrest without a warrant, and hold the person in custody for unlimited duration.
3) It can enter and search any premises, vehicles etc.
4) Act done under this act in good faith is immune from prosecution unless Central; government gives permission for it.
1) The fact that army needs to called in implies that condition has worsened beyond a point. Army to operate in such extraordinary condition especially when they are faced with terrorists they needs immunity for their action done to ensure security.
2) But AFSPA provides blanket immunity. For eg. even in cases of rape as seen in Manipur Army personnel were immune from any prosecution.
3) There were also instance of extra judicial killings such as machil encounter but army had conducted internal enquiry and court marshaled the personnel.
4) The Act needs to amended to ensure person arrested is produced before a court or handed over to police in specified period of time.
5) As per Supreme Court order every instance of encounter needs internal investigation and actions taken accordingly in case of wrong doings. The report has to be made public to enable transparency.
6) In instances like rape allegation a civil-military panel needs to look into allegation and decided whether allegation is true. If true the AFSPA immunity should not be applicable to said personal.
Thus amending AFSPA to ensure only action done in good faith in line of duty gets immunity. Excesses and misuse of AFSAP provision need to dealt strongly. AFSPA needs to be amended to reflect the same.