19, December 2016

1.Single tribunal to arbitrate inter-State water disputes

Source: The Hindu

Centre also proposes to float some Benches by amending the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956

The Centre has decided to set up a single, permanent Tribunal to adjudicate all inter-State river water disputes, a step which is aimed at resolving grievances of States in a speedy manner.

  • This body will subsume existing tribunals.
  • There will be only one permanent tribunal with retired Supreme Court judge as its chairperson.
  • There will be benches formed as and when required. The benches though will be wound up once a dispute is resolve.

Significance of newly proposed mechanisms:

  • Besides the tribunal, the government has also proposed to float some Benches by amending the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 to look into disputes as and when required. Unlike the tribunal, the Benches will cease to exist once the disputes are resolved.
  • Earlier, water tribunals “took ages” to deliver final awards into disputes, where as the proposed Tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict during a span of three years.

Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC)

  • Along with the tribunal, the amendment proposes to set up Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC).
  • The DRC, comprising experts and policy-makers, is proposed to handle disputes prior to the tribunal.
  • whenever a State will request, the Centre will set up a DRC. Most disputes will get resolved at the DRC’s level itself. But if a State is not satisfied, it can approach the tribunal.

Central Government Act

Article 262 in The Constitution Of India 1949

  1. Adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter State rivers or river valleys
  • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter State river or river valley
  • Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause Co ordination between States.

2.Government forms high-level task force on Indus Water Treaty

Source: Indian Express

The government has formed an inter-ministerial task force, to be headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra, to look into all the strategic aspects of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan.

  • Besides, chief secretaries of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, the states from where the six Indus system rivers flow, will be “invitees” in the task force.
  • The task force is mandated with taking all important strategic and policy decisions. It is an all-powerful body which will take decisions regarding the treaty.

Key facts:

The high-level inter-ministerial task force has been formed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a review meeting on the 56-year-old Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan in the aftermath of series of cross-border terror strikes including Uri attack.

In that meeting, it was also decided that India will exploit to the maximum water of Pakistan-controlled Rivers including Jhelum.

India and Pakistan

  • Pakistan had in approached World Bank, flagging concerns that the design of the Kishenganga project was not in line with the criteria laid down under IWT. It had then demanded the international lender to set up a Court of Arbitration to look into the matter.
  • Refuting the claims made by Pakistan, India had asserted that the project design is “well within parameters” of the treaty and urged the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert as the issue is a “technical matter” as suggested in the treaty.

IWT:

Under the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 and to which the World Bank is also a party, the global body has a specified role in the process of resolution of differences and disputes.

  • The treaty deals with sharing of water of six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum between the two countries.
  • It was signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960.
  • As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers —Ravi, Beas and Sutlej was given to India. While control over three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab was given to Pakistan.
  • Allows India to use only 20% of the water of Indus river, which flows through it first, for irrigation, power generation and transport. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty.
  • The treaty has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990. It is most successful water treaty in world.

3.EC seeks end to nameless donations

Source: The Hindu

Poll panel has proposed a series of electoral reforms, including tighter waiver of income tax

  • Seeking to stop financing of election campaigns using black money, the Election Commission has urged the government to amend laws to ban anonymous contributions of Rs. 2,000 and above made to political parties.
  • As per the amendment proposal, sent by the commission to the government, and made part of its compendium on proposed electoral reforms, Anonymous contributions above or equal to the amount of Rs. 2,000 should be prohibited

Background:

  • There is no constitutional or statutory prohibition on receipt of anonymous donations by political parties.
  • But there is an “indirect partial ban” on anonymous donations through the requirement of declaration of donations under Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • But, such declarations are mandated only for contributions above Rs. 20,000.

Impact of Demonetization:

  • Post-demonetisation, no political party can accept donations in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes since they were rendered illegal tenders.
  • If there is any discrepancy, political parties are as liable to be questioned by IT authorities as is anyone else.
  • The political parties enjoy no immunity in this regard

Commission on Income tax Act to political parties:

The poll panel has also proposed that exemption of income tax should be extended only to political parties that contest elections and win seats in Lok Sabha or Assembly polls.

  • Section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 confers tax exemption to political parties for income from house property, voluntary contributions, capital gains and other sources.
  • Only income under the head ‘salaries and income from business or profession’ are chargeable to tax in the hands of political parties in India.
  • The commission said that there could be cases where political parties could be formed merely for availing of provisions of income tax exemption if the facility is provided to all political parties.

Recommendation  to check black money

  • The EC has asked the Law Ministry to ensure that political parties are made to register details of donors for coupons of all amounts on the basis of a Supreme Court order of 1996.
  • Coupons are one of the ways devised by the political parties for collecting donations and hence are printed by the party itself. There is no limit as to how many coupons can be printed or its total quantum.

4.Supreme Court wants woman pilot to get permanent wings

Source: The Hindu

Court rejects Centre’s view that Air Force officer has no entitlement to a commission

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur offered relief to Ms. Kaur in her fight against the rules of the “Establishment,” under which her time as a pilot was over.

What case says?

  • Air Force woman pilot Sandeep Kaur’s application for a permanent commission was rejected in March 2016. The establishment said she was not “entitled” to seek one.
  • The Army had cited the extreme difficulties a woman officer may have to face in combat situations.
  • The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) told the Union to allow Ms. Kaur to stay on if she qualified and was found suitable.
  • The AFT asked the authorities to decide her application in two months. But the Union decided to take the fight to the Supreme Court and seek a stay of the order.

What Supreme court says?

  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur offered relief to Ms. Kaur in her fight against the rules of the “Establishment,” under which her time as a pilot was over.
  • The Union, represented by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, had appealed against a 2016 order of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), directing the government to reconsider her application for permanent commission and let her continue to serve the country.
  • The Bench asked Mr. Rohatgi whether she would get a pension. When he answered in the negative, Chief Justice Thakur said, “Then let her fly, let her continue.”
  • The outcome of Ms. Sandhu’s case brings cheer to several women officers waging a battle in the Supreme Court for equal opportunity.

Background:

Delhi High Court order in a similar case to argue that these “young ladies have sacrificed the prime of their life to serve the nation,” but got a raw deal as they left service without a pension.

  • The Army’s appeal against a March 2010 Delhi High Court judgment holding that women officers “deserve better from the government” is pending in the Supreme Court for five years now.
  • The High Court had observed that “if male officers can be granted permanent commission, there is no reason why equally capable women officers can’t.
  • The High Court ruling was on a batch of petitions filed in 2003 by advocate Babita Punia and several women officers to stop ‘discrimination against women Army officers, who are given only Short Service Commission for periods extendable up to 10 years.’ The Army had cited the extreme difficulties a woman officer may have to face in combat situations.


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