26&27, March 2017

1.Supreme Court denies permission to woman to terminate 27-week foetus

Source: The Hindu

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act prohibits termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks even if there is a fatal risk to the mother and the foetus

Bench says:

  • As regard to the foetus, the report states that, if the pregnancy is terminated in the 27th week, there is a possibility that the baby may be born alive.
  • The report of the medical board, which has examined the woman, and said that as per the opinion of the doctors the baby may be “born alive” if the mother is allowed to abort at this stage.
  • The apex court also observed that as per the doctors’ opinion, the physical condition of the woman is normal and there is no risk to her health.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971

The Act made the abortions legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.  However Supreme Court denies permission to woman to terminate 27-week foetus(27/03/2017)

The provisions of the Act are as follows:

  1. The termination of pregnancy requires the opinion of two doctors.
  2. The abortion can happen if the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger due to pregnancy. If there is a risk of the birth of a handicapped or malformed baby.
  3. Pregnancy of unmarried girls under 18 years of age, with the consent of the guardian. Pregnancy resulting due to rape. Pregnancy resulting due to the failure of sterilization.

Background:

Abortion and family planning in India During British Rule

  • The India Penal Code, 1860 stated induced abortions as illegal. Induced abortion means purposely causing miscarriage.
  • The only exemption was if it is done to save the life of the mother.

Before 1971

  • India was the first country to introduce family planning programme in 1952. The idea behind this programme was to popularise the concept of contraceptives so that the pregnancy can be avoided or delayed. But, the efforts were not enough to control the population.
  • Sterilisation remained the only way for contraception after the family deciding to stop after having the desired number of children.

After 1971

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was enacted in the light of rising population and also preventing maternal deaths from illegal abortions without proper equipment and training. The MTP Act supports the pro-choice agenda and abortion provisions are determined by this Act.

The Act can be misused in the following ways:

  • The abort unwanted pregnancy the women can cite the reason of contraceptive failure.
  • The issue became so severe that the sex-selective abortions started taking place.
  • With the use of Imaging technology like ultrasound with the intention to see the well-being of the foetus and to identify any danger to the lives of mother and child.
  • But the increase in the number of ultrasound clinics and lack of proper regulations the sex-selective abortions (female) increased to such an extent that the sex-ratio declined.
  • According to census 2011, the abortions happening in a hospital ranges from 32% in Chhattisgarh to 72% in Assam. To address this issue the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act was introduced to stop illegal use of ultrasound machine to determine sex and close illegal clinics.

2.Earth Hour turns 10

Source: The Hindu

170 nations and territories take part in bid to highlight global warming

The Earth Hour, as global landmarks began dimming their lights to draw attention to climate change.

Key facts:

  • Millions of people from some 170 countries and territories were expected to take part in the annual bid to highlight global warming caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas to drive cars and power plants.
  • The event, which originated in Sydney, has grown to become a worldwide environmental campaign, celebrated across all continents.
  • Conservation group WWF, which organises Earth Hour, said great strides had been made in highlighting the dire state of the planet.

The WWF said teams around the world would use Earth Hour this year to highlight climate issues most relevant to individual countries:

  • In South Africa, the focus would be on renewable energy while in China, the WWF was working with businesses to encourage a shift towards more sustainable lifestyles.
  • Last year, scientists recorded the Earth’s hottest temperatures in modern times for the third year in a row. Nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures.

3.FM approves the re-organisation of the field formations of the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) for the implementation of Goods & Services Tax (GST)

Source: PIB

This will ensure rendering of taxpayer services to all the taxpayers through an indirect tax administration structure, having pan-India presence.

  • Reorganisation of the field formations of the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) for the implementation of Goods & Services Tax (GST) has been approved by the Union Finance Minister.
  • The existing formations of Central Excise & Service Tax under the CBEC have been re-organised to implement and enforce the provisions of the proposed Goods & Services Tax Laws.

Key facts:

  • The Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) is being renamed as the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC), after getting legislative approval.
  • The proposed CBIC shall, inter alia, supervise the work of all its field formations and Directorates and assist the Government in policy making in relation to GST, continuing Central Excise levy & Customs functions.
  • The CBIC will have 21 Zones, 101 GST Tax payer Services Commissionerates comprising 15 sub-Commissionerates, 768 Divisions, 3969 Ranges, 49 Audit Commissionerates and 50 Appeals Commissionerates.
    • This will ensure rendering of taxpayer services to all the taxpayers through an indirect tax administration structure, having pan-India presence.
  • For a robust IT Network, the Directorate General of Systems under CBEC is being strengthened. The Directorate General Tax Payer Services is being expanded for greater out- reach for facilitating smooth transition for the taxpayers to the GST environment.
  • The existing training establishment, to be renamed as National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics will have an all India presence, to enable capacity building to the employees of the indirect tax administration of the Centre as well as of the State Governments and to members of Trade and Industry.
  • The renamed Directorate General of Goods & Service Tax Intelligence is also being strengthened and expanded to become an important wing of the Government in its fight against Tax Evasion and Black Money.

4.INS Vikramaditya fires surface-to-air missile

Source: The Hindu

Newly installed Barak missile tested

  • Over three years after joining the Navy, the country’s sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya successfully carried out the maiden test of the newly installed Barak short range surface-to-air missile.
  • During the firing carried out in the Arabian Sea, the missile was fired against a live, low-flying, high-speed target. The target was successfully engaged and destroyed.

The 44,500 tonne carrier was commissioned into the Navy in November 2013 at Severodvinsk in Russia and was originally scheduled to have the long range surface- to-air missile system under joint development with Israel. But delay in its development resulted in the carrier being inducted into the force without its own air defence system, and forcing it to rely on support ships in the carrier battle group for air cover.

5.Recommendations of Law Commission against Hate Speech

Source: PIB & The Hindu

Hate speech has the potential to provoke individuals and society to commit acts of terrorism, genocides and ethnic cleansing. It is an “incitement to hatred” against a particular group of persons marginalised by their religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, etc.

  • Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India (AIR 2014 SC 1591) had asked the Law Commission of India to examine if it ‘deems proper to define hate speech and make recommendations to the Parliament to strengthen the Election Commission to curb the menace of “hate speeches” irrespective of, whenever made.
  • In pursuance of this reference, the Law Commission has undertaken a study of laws restricting hate speeches in India.

The Supreme Court in 2014 had referred to the Law Commission for means to arm the Election Commission to crack down on hate speech.

What Constitution of India says?

  • Freedom of Speech and Expression is one of the most significant rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
  • However, this right has been subjected to reasonable restrictions enunciated under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The reasonableness of this restriction is subject to several tests.
  • Laws that seek to prevent speech that marginalise the vulnerable sections of the society strive to harmonise the freedom of expression with right to equality.
  • In order to protect this group from discriminatory attitudes and practices it is necessary that forms of expression that have the potential of inciting hatred and violence are regulated.
  • International laws, especially the European Court of Human Rights has stressed on the need to exercise free speech in a responsible manner, especially in an increasingly multicultural and plural world.

Indisputably, offensive speech has real and devastating effects on people’s lives and risks their health and safety. It is harmful and divisive for communities and hampers social progress. If left unchecked, hate speech can severely affect right to life of every individual,

Key facts: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017 — inserting new Sections to fortify democracy against hate speeches.

In its report, the Law Commission cautioned the government that hate speech is “considered outside the realm of protective discourse.

  • In the opinion of the Commission, the anti-discrimination should take into account the harmful effect of speech on rights of the vulnerable group.
  • The Commission recommends that the several factors need to be considered before restricting a speech, like, the context of the speech, the status of the victim, the status of the maker of the speech and the potential of the speech to create discriminatory and disruptive circumstances.
  • After a thorough examination of the issue and an analysis of the international legal framework, the Commission has proposed amendments to the Indian Penal Code by insertion of new sections after section 153B and 505A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • It is also proposed that apart from this sanctioning such expression, other strategies might also be employed to encourage harmony among different groups of the society like sensitising and educating the public on responsible exercise of speech.

6.Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana- Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment

Source: PIB

The Central Government proposes to launch a new Central Sector Scheme

Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana”, a ‘Scheme for providing Physical Aids and Assisted-living Devices for Senior citizens belonging to BPL category’

  • The devices will help the Senior Citizens to overcome their age related physical impairment and to lead a dignified and productive life with minimal dependence on care givers or other members of the family. The ambitious Scheme, first of its kind in the country is expected to benefit 5,20,000 Senior Citizens over a period of the 3 years.

Background:

  • As per the Census figures of 2011, the population of senior citizens in India is 10.38 crore. More than 70% of the population of senior citizens live in rural areas of the country.
  • A sizeable percentage (5.2%) of the senior citizens suffers from some sort of disabilities related to old age. Projections indicate that the number of elderly population will increase to around 173 million by 2026.

Salient features of this scheme:

  • The scheme will be distribute free of cost physical aids and assisted-living devices for senior citizens belonging to BPL category.
  • It will be implemented through the sole implementing agency ‘Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation (ALIMCO), a PSU under Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • The eligible elderly beneficiary will get devices such as walking sticks, elbow crutches, walkers/crutches, tripods/qadpods, hearing aids, wheelchair, aificial Dentures and Spectacles.
  • The devices will help the Senior Citizens to overcome their age related physical impairment and to lead a dignified and productive life with minimal dependence on care givers or other members of the family.
  • Beneficiaries will be identified by the State Governments/UTs through a Committee chaired by the Deputy Commissioner/District Collector.
  • The Committee can utilize the data of BPL beneficiaries receiving Old Age Pension under the NSAP or any other Scheme of the State/UTs for identification of senior citizens belonging to BPL category.

7.How Finance Bill amendments affect Tribunals

Source: Indian Express

The long title of this year’s Finance Bill states that it “gives effect to the financial proposals of the Central Government for the financial year 2017-18.

  • This is because the Finance Bill typically includes provisions that give effect to the imposition of a tax or a change in existing tax rates — such as a lowering of income tax, or changes to corporate tax, customs or excise duties.
  • Since the Finance Bill is a Money Bill, it only needs the approval of Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha may only make recommendations.
  • If Rajya Sabha does not pass the Bill within 14 calendar days, it is deemed to be passed.
  • This year, the Finance Bill has been passed by Lok Sabha with not only changes to applicable taxes, but also structural changes to institutions and sectors.

This, however, is not the first time that the Finance Bill has proposed legislative changes that are unrelated to taxation. In earlier years, the Finance Bill has envisaged substantive provisions relating to the creation of an independent agency to manage government debt, the Monetary Policy Committee to target inflation, and the merging of the Forward Markets Commission with the Securities regulator.

Key facts

  • The Finance Bill, 2017 allows the central government to specify the appointments, tenure, removal, and reappointment of chairpersons and members of Tribunals through Rules.
  • Currently, these provisions are specified in the parent laws establishing these Tribunals.
  • The fundamental issue here is whether it is appropriate to delegate such matters to the government through Rules.
  • Typically, a Bill passed by Parliament includes the broad regulatory framework and principles governing the sector, and allows the government to specify the details of implementation through Rules.
  • The idea behind delegating Rulemaking to the government is to address the need for expediency and flexibility in implementation of laws.
  • While a Bill requires parliamentary approval in order to be enforced, Rules do not. Giving the government the power to make Rules regarding the appointment, removal, and reappointment of members on a Tribunal lowers the threshold of parliamentary scrutiny.

Tribunals:

  • Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies that are headed by a senior member of the judiciary, such as a judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court.
  • There could be a conflict of interest if the government were to be a litigant before a Tribunal, while also determining the appointment of its members and presiding officer.
  • Tribunals affected by the Finance Bill include those before which the central government could be a party to disputes — such as those related to Income Tax, Railways, administrative matters, and the Armed Forces Tribunal.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court, while examining provisions related to the National Tax Tribunal, had held that Appellate Tribunals have powers and functions similar to that of High Courts, and hence matters related to the appointment and reappointment of their members must be free from executive involvement.

Finance Bill 2017

  • The amendments to the Finance Bill also replace certain existing Tribunals and transfer their functions to other Tribunals.
  • The rationale for this overhaul has not been stated. For example, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal has been replaced by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
  • The Finance Bill allows anonymous donations to political parties through electoral bonds. It also removes existing limits on the percentage of profits that a company can donate to political parties
  • It also makes Aadhaar mandatory when applying for a Permanent Account Number (PAN), or filing Income Tax returns. Every person holding a PAN is also required to provide his Aadhaar number, else the PAN will be invalid.

Implementation of laws

  • The lawmaking process has evolved over the years to ensure detailed scrutiny, deliberations, expert feedback and public consultation on legislative proposals of the government through the establishment of Parliamentary Standing Committees.
  • While demands for grants of various ministries in the Union Budget are examined by Parliamentary Standing Committees during the Budget session, the tax proposals in the Finance Bill are not.
  • Therefore, such instances where structural changes to laws are included in the Finance Bill bypass institutional checks and balances that ensure the role of both Houses of Parliament in lawmaking.
  • The question is whether structural changes should be enacted without going through the established Standing Committee scrutiny processes that ensure a careful assessment of the impact of legislative proposals of the government and ensure public engagement and rigour in the lawmaking process.27-03

 

 

8.Behind SC no: Govt won’t give in writing reason for security veto

Source: Indian Express

The judiciary has had several rounds of “informal” discussions with senior government functionaries but is not convinced with the government’s reasoning.

Chief Justice JS Khehar confirmed this in open court for the first time since the judiciary’s falling out with the executive following the Supreme Court ruling in October 2015, striking down by a 4-1 majority verdict the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014, that sought to have a say in senior judges’ appointments, as unconstitutional.

Executive vs CJI:

  • when the Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, rejected the Centre’s recommendation that the government should have the power to reject any name for appointment as a judge of the high court for reasons of “national security”, it followed in the footsteps of former CJI T S Thakur who had rejected such a veto in the proposed Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
  • It is now learnt that the reason why the Supreme Court collegium, under Justice Thakur and now CJI Khehar, took this stand is because the government said if it rejects a candidate on grounds of national security, it will not give in writing the evidence that forms the basis of its decision.

The government is not inclined to share the evidence in writing because that can also adversely impact the candidate’s standing as a lawyer. The government, sources said, is not averse to the idea of showing the evidence to the CJI who can then inform his collegium colleagues

SC collegium to have last say over national security issue

  • The collegium is of the view that making recommendations is a collective decision of the entire collegium and all members should be aware of the entire material about a candidate before making an informed choice.
    • The collegium, sources said, is also of the view that if the government gives the reasons in writing, the charge can be verified through independent sources.
  • Letting the government impact the appointment process through the national security clause without giving in writing the grounds will only mean handing over the veto to the government.
  • Incidentally, to convince the collegium to accept the national security clause, the government has said it has so far not rejected any recommendation on national security grounds. It has assured the collegium that in future too, the clause will be invoked sparingly.
  • While rejecting the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, the SC had agreed to revise the memorandum of procedure to usher in more transparency in appointment of judges to the SC and HCs.

The new law had sought to overturn the over two-decade- old collegium system where judges appoint judges. It had sought a say for the executive in appointment of judges. The national security clause and the secretariat clause are part of the draft MoP which has been shuttling between the government and the collegium since March 22, 2016.



Leave a Reply