03 December, 2019
0 Min Read
|GS-II||Govt. seeks review of SC/ST creamy layer|
|NHRC seeks report on assault cases|
|Rajya Sabha clears Bill banning e-cigarettes, Oppn points to conventional tobacco|
|Ethics panel set to form code of conduct for Lok Sabha MPs|
|Govt cut tax to tap firms exiting China, says FM|
|GS-III||Cars powered by hydrogen cells: Japanese research is key input in Govt’s SC reply|
Syllabus subtopic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
News: The Centre on Monday asked the Supreme Court to refer to a sevenjudge Bench the question whether the creamy layer concept should apply or not to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes while providing them reservation in promotions.
Prelims and Mains focus: About the cases related to the issue, issues related, challenges and implications of the move
On September 26 last year, a fivejudge Bench in the Jarnail Singh case unanimously agreed with a 2006 judgment of another five-judge Bench in the M. Nagaraj case, which had upheld the application of the creamy layer principle in promotions.
The 2018 judgment, authored by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, had also refused the government’s plea to refer the 2006 Nagaraj case judgment to a sevenjudge Bench.
On Monday, however, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal urged the court to reconsider the ruling and refer the Nagaraj case judgment to a sevenjudge Bench. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, agreed to hear the case after two weeks.
The 2018 judgment, modifying the part of the Nagaraj case verdict which required the States to show quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment, had, however, rejected the Centre’s argument that the Nagaraj case ruling had misread the creamy layer concept by applying it to the SCs/STs.
“The whole object of reservation is to see that the backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis. This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were,” Justice Nariman had said, upholding the Nagaraj case ruling. The 2018 judgment said that when a court applies the creamy layer principle to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Article 341 or 342 of the Constitution. The caste or group or subgroup named in the list continues exactly as before, Justice Nariman had reasoned.
“It is only those within that group or subgroup, who have come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer, who are excluded from the benefit of reservation,” he had explained. He had observed that unless the creamy layer principle was applied, those genuinely deserving reservation would not access it and those who were underserving within the same class would continue to get it. The court held that the principle was based on the fundamental right to equality. “The benefits, by and large, are snatched away by the top creamy layer of the backward caste or class, keeping the weakest among the weak always weak and leaving the fortunate layers to consume the whole cake,” Justice Nariman had observed.
Syllabus subtopic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
News: Expressing concern over the recent sexual assault cases, the National Human Rights Commission on Monday issued notices to the Centre, States and Union Territories seeking reports on the standard operating procedure (SOP) for dealing with such cases and the use of the Nirbhaya Fund. The NHRC has asked the governments to respond in six weeks.
Prelims and Mains focus: about NHRC, SHRC, their composition, functions and limitations, about Nirbhaya Fund
Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports, the NHRC observed that there was a “dire need for all stakeholders to work jointly to get rid of this evil.”
The Commission’s action comes in the wake of the gangrape and murder of a doctor in Hyderabad that has spurred a debate on the condition of women’s security in the country once again.
Remarks made by NHRC
Issuing the notices, the Commission said the “largest democracy of the world, which has adopted the longest written Constitution and has a rich cultural heritage of gender equality, is today being criticised for having the most unsafe environment for women.”
The NHRC said these cases were violations of the victims’ human rights.
“There have been constitutional and statutory provisions to ensure that women are not subjected to any kind of discrimination and harassment. But, there is an alarming trend indicating that things are getting worse, amounting to violation of right to life, liberty, dignity and equality of women across the country,” it said.
The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019 passed by the Parliament aims to accelerate the process of appointment of chairperson and members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Salient Features of the Act:
The Act amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. It provides for a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC), as well as Human Rights Courts.
Composition of NHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.
Inclusion of woman member: The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman.
Other members: Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC. The Bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.
Chairperson of SHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of a SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC.
Term of office: The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. Further, the Act allows for the reappointment of members of the NHRC and SHRCs for a period of five years. The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment.
Powers of Secretary-General: The Act provides for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them. The Bill amends this and allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
Union Territories: The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.
Functions and Powers of NHRC
Limitations of NHRC
About Nirbhaya fund
The Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund was announced in Union Budget 2013 by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Issues with Nirbhaya Fund:
The government has been accused of keeping Nirbhaya Fund unutilised. With rise in cases of sexual harassment and crimes against women there is a crying need for implementation of such funds.
Syllabus subtopic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
News: The Rajya Sabha approved a country-wide ban on electronic cigarettes on Monday.
Prelims and Mains focus: about the key features of the Bill, its merits and challenges in implementation
The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019 was passed by a voice vote amid concerns that it was brought under pressure from the tobacco lobby.
The Bill, which got the Lok Sabha’s nod last week, will replace the Ordinance promulgated on September 18.
What does the law say?
The law categorises production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement of e-cigarettes as cognisable offences.
Any contravention of the law will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one-year, or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. For any subsequent offence, it provides for imprisonment of up to three years along with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
Govt’s stand on the Ordinance route taken earlier
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured the House that there are no “vested interests” or “ulterior motives” behind the legislation. “Our intentions are absolutely pious and very clear that we want to nip this problem in the bud itself,” he said, pointing out that only 0.02 per cent Indians use e-cigarettes.
Justifying the government decision to impose the ban through an Ordinance, the minister said it was the “need of the hour”. “We wanted to implement it because we knew that big companies had planned everything… They were just going to start their manufacture,” Harsh Vardhan said.
Concerns of the Oppositon:
Members of the Opposition alleged that the Bill was brought under pressure from the tobacco companies since e-cigarettes could hurt their market share. “It seems like it’s okay to have cigarettes and tobacco products, but not e-cigarettes. What is it about e-cigarettes that you had to bring in such a law? Please let us in on this secret,” Congress MP Digvijaya Singh said.
“If the idea is to address health problems related to consumption of tobacco then all tobacco products should be banned. Why just e-cigarettes?” asked Ravi Prakash Kumar of Samajwadi Party.
Opposition members also questioned whether a blanket ban was the right way since the prohibition of alcohol in Gujarat and Bihar had no effect on the supply of the banned substance.
Nadimul Haque (TMC) said the mandate of the Bill should be extended to all tobacco products including gutkha and pan masala. Vijila Sathyananth of the AIADMK said the government should ban all kind of cigarettes.
The Health minister replied, “In a country as vast as India, you see once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is, in fact, very, very difficult to ban it… Once you have a very huge consumer base… we are not able to do it (implement ban) for cigarettes, for so many things, because 28 per cent of the people are involved with that.
Syllabus subtopic: Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
News: With two legislators forced to apologise for their remarks in the two sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha, its Ethics Committee is all set to form a code of conduct for MPs in the Lower House. After BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur triggered a controversy with her remarks on Nathuram Godse, the Ethics Committee initiated discussions on it on Monday.
Prelims and Mains focus: About the Parlimentary Committees and their functioning, significance and ways to improve their working
The panel, headed by BJP’s Vinod Kumar Sonkar, met on Monday and decided to seek suggestions as well as views from all political parties for the code that would oversee the moral and ethical conduct of the MPs.
In the meeting, the 14-member committee decided to study code of conduct for the lawmakers in the US, UK and other countries.
A code of conduct had come into force for the Rajya Sabha MPs in 2005.
Instances of violation
SP leader Azam Khan had created controversy in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha with a sexist remark against BJP’s Rema Devi, who was then in the chair,
The ongoing winter session witnessed uproarious scenes when Thakur made a remark about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Godse.
While Thakur’s remarks were expunged, the Opposition protests forced the ruling BJP to direct her to tender an apology twice on the floor of the House.
The two incidents have made it necessary to lay down a format on code of conduct, especially in the backdrop of new technologies in the communication sector. Unlike in the past, the remarks on the floor of the House spread fast, even if they are expunged from the records. So the MPs will have to follow certain decorum in speaking inside the House as well as outside.
Issues raised by MPs
During the meeting, members warned that such a code will have long lasting impact and thereby it should be “carefully discussed and deliberated in detail”. The political parties would be asked to give their opinions and suggestions, the source said.
The discussions have just begun and no time frame has been finalised to come up with a format. However, they indicated that no decision would be taken in a hurry without proper study.
With proceedings getting disrupted often in the Rajya Sabha, Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has suggested changes in the code so that “disruptive activities” in whatever form can be brought down.
About Ethics Committee
Each of the two houses of the Parliament has an Ethics Committee. They deal with the member’s conduct.
Role of Ethics Committee
Besides overseeing the moral ethical conduct of the members, ethics committee also prepares Code of Conduct for members, which are amended from time to time. The ethics committee in Lok Sabha has 15 members. In Rajya Sabha, this number stands at 10.
Who can file complaint?
Any person may make a complaint to the Committee regarding alleged unethical behaviour or breach of Code of Conduct by a member or alleged incorrect information of a member’s interest. The Committee may also take up matters suo motu.
Where it has been found the member has indulged in unethical behaviour or there is other misconduct, or a member has contravened the rules, the Committee may recommend imposition of one or more of the sanctions. This may include censure, reprimand, suspension, from the House for a specific period or any other sanction determined by the Committee.
Significance of parliamentary committees
Types of committees
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance. Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.
What these committees do?
Advantages of having such committees:
How can these committees be made more effective?
Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
News: The government’s decision to cut corporate tax rates for domestic companies, including new manufacturers, was taken in the context of companies exiting China amid the trade war between Washington and Beijing, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman told Parliament on Monday.
Prelims and Mains focus: about the recent economic slowdown, Corporate tax cuts and other measures taken by the government
Remarks made by the FM
Sitharaman, who moved the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha for passage, said that several southeast Asian nations have lowered their corporate tax rates, while some were contemplating rate cuts. Singapore has a 17% tax rate, she added. The Lok Sabha passed the bill on Monday.
“Keeping in mind the trade war between the US and the People’s Republic of China and indications that many multinational companies wanted to get out of China, although the budget FY20 had been passed shortly before this, we thought of reducing the corporate tax rate. The ordinance route was taken because the House was not in session,” the minister said while placing the bill for the consideration of the House.
About the Bill
The ordinance promulgated in September offered a lower 22% corporate tax rate for companies that do not avail tax incentives and 15% for new manufacturers starting production before March 2023.
The move was aimed at reversing the economic slowdown. The government had also lowered the rate of minimum alternate tax (MAT) from 18.5% to 15% for businesses that continue to avail exemptions. The Bill clarified that the lower MAT rate of 15% will be applicable from 1 April, 2019, a move that tax experts welcomed.
The bill placed before the Lok Sabha on Monday also contains certain proposals that were not part of the ordinance. It clarifies that new mining companies, software producers, gas bottling plants, and book printers are not eligible for the 15% corporate tax rate announced in September. It allows companies indulging in other business activities along with manufacturing operations to claim the concessional tax rate of 15%, though the income arising on account of non-manufacturing activities shall be taxable at the rate of 22% on a gross basis without deduction of any expenditure, said Girish Vanvari, founder of advisory firm Transaction Square.
Concerns raised by the Opposition
During the discussion, opposition members accused the government of not being able to manage the economy well.
K. Subbarayan, a Communist Party of India member from Tamil Nadu, alleged the bill was pro-business. The MP highlighted the initial estimate of the ?1.45 trillion revenue that will be forgone because of the reduction in tax rates.
India’s economic downturn deepened in the second quarter with growth losing steam to 4.5%, the lowest since March 2013, as manufacturing output contracted, official data showed last month. The economy had expanded at 5% in the first quarter. The slowdown has proved to be a weak point for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has set itself the goal of doubling the size of the economy to $5 trillion over the next five years.
Syllabus subtopic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
News: Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next July, Japan’s government and its auto industry are jointly making a big bet on hydrogen to power emission-free cars — widely regarded as the next frontier in electric vehicle (EV) technology. And, as Japan strives to put thousands of hydrogen vehicles on its roads ahead of the 2020 sporting event, India could end up riding the slipstream.
Prelims and Mains focus: about Hydrogen fuel cell technology, its use in vehicle and its prospects in the future, India’s efforts to reduce environmental pollution
The apex court had on November 13 directed the Centre to look into the feasibility of introducing hydrogen-based technology to deal with air pollution in the National Capital Region, with a specific reference made at the last hearing to the ongoing research at Kyushu University.
About the research
Research on hydrogen-based vehicle technology, or fuel cells, done at the International Research Center for Hydrogen Energy at Kyushu University is learnt to be a crucial input in the submissions set to be presented by the Centre in the Supreme Court on December 3.
Government departments in India are learnt to be in touch with researchers at the Fukuoka-based university — Japan’s fourth oldest university — for readying the blueprint to be submitted in court. An executive with the Japanese auto industry confirmed that the Indian government has reached out to the university and is focused on exploring the possibility of operating fuel cell-driven public transport.
The relatively nascent hydrogen market is currently dominated by two of Japan’s top carmakers, Toyota and Honda, alongside South Korea’s Hyundai.
About the Fuel cell
At the heart of the hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is what is called a fuel cell, where hydrogen and oxygen are combined to generate an electric current, with water being the only by-product.
About the Japanese project
The project at Kyushu University is supported by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
According to Professor Kazunari Sasaki, Senior Vice President, Kyushu University and the Director of International Research Center for Hydrogen Energy, the institution is leading “a coordinated effort among industry, academia, government and the local community to build a research and education center for hydrogen energy, the only one of its kind in the world… to contribute to the realisation of a low-carbon society by utilising hydrogen energy technologies”.
Japan had earlier this year announced plans to ramp up its exposure to the hydrogen ecosystem. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had declared in Davos that his government “aims to reduce the production cost of hydrogen by at least 90 per cent by the year 2050, to make it cheaper than natural gas”.
As a step in bolstering Japan’s hydrogen push, Panasonic Corporation had, last month, announced it had fabricated a hydrogen station in Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture with the aim of “verifying the practicality of using hydrogen”.
European firms such as Norwegian public enterprise Enova SF, which is responsible for the promotion of environmentally friendly production and consumption of energy, are already working on the technology separately.
In 2017, Enova issued a support programme to support establishment of hydrogen infrastructure, as well as support for fleet users to purchase H2 vehicles and stations.
Toyota’s Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that is one of the first such vehicles to be sold commercially, counts Norway and Denmark as among its biggest emerging markets, after the state of California in the US.
Note: For more on Hydrogen Fuel cell vehicle market click on the link below
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