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06 February, 2020

19 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020
Banking Regulation Act, 1949
Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust
Changes in Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019
International Intellectual Property Index
Telecom Ombudsman
GS-III Pollution by Thermal power plants
GS-II :
Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new scheme; its significance and benefits

 

News: The finance ministry unveiled details of a new scheme that could fetch the exchequer part of the Rs.9.32 trillion direct taxes under dispute and free up courts and tribunals crippled by prolonged litigation.

 

Background

A similar scheme announced last year to settle indirect tax disputes related to central excise duty, service tax and various cesses had collected more than Rs.39,000 crore.

 

Need for the scheme

Tax disputes consume copious amount of time, energy and resources both on the part of the government and taxpayers. Moreover, they also deprive the government of the timely collection of revenue.

 

About the proposed scheme

  • The Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020, tabled in Parliament by finance minister, offers immunity from prosecution to those who sign up for the scheme, which opens on the date it is signed into law.

 

  • The scheme offers companies a chance to pay disputed tax arrears without interest and penalty if paid before 31 March. If paid later, but before a due date to be announced later, the amount due will go up by 10%.

 

  • In case the tax dispute is over penalty, interest or fee, the settlement amount payable is 25% of the dues if paid before the end of March.

 

  • If paid subsequently, but before the date to be announced in due course, the payable amount would be 30% of the dues.

 

  • The scheme, however, will not cover tax demands related to undisclosed foreign income or assets or tax demands raised after the government secured information from other countries.

 

  • The proposed scheme is applicable to appeals filed by taxpayers or the government, which are pending before the commissioner (appeals), tribunals, high courts or the Supreme Court as on 31 January.

 

 

What does it signify for the govt.?

If the scheme is successful in collecting revenue, it will offer relief to the Modi administration, which has estimated that its fiscal deficit for FY20 would slip from the earlier projected 3.3% of GDP to 3.8% of GDP.

 

What are the likely benefits?

  • This is an opportunity for assessees to clear long-pending disputes and many tax payers, especially those having small amounts under dispute, are likely to lap it up.

 

  •  This will not only benefit the government by generating timely revenue but also taxpayers who will be able to deploy the time, energy and resources saved by opting for such dispute resolution towards their business activities.

 

  • The scheme can be beneficial for settling cases such as additions of unexplained cash deposited during the demonetization period and additions for penny stocks. It would be beneficial for such taxpayers to pay the tax amount and settle the disputes without imposition of interest and penalty.
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GS-II :
Banking Regulation Act, 1949

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the amendments proposed and their significance; about cooperative banks; about the act

 

News: The Union cabinet has approved changes to the Banking Regulation Act to strengthen oversight of cooperative banks.

 

Background:

  • In September 2019, the RBI superseded Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank Ltd. (PMC Bank) board after uncovering several irregularities. Cash withdrawals were capped at Rs.1,000 per account for six months, but subsequently relaxed to Rs.50,000 as panic spread among depositors.

 

  • Urban cooperative banks (UCBs) reported nearly 1,000 cases of fraud worth more than Rs.220 crore in past five fiscal years, a Press Trust of India report said, citing the RBI.

 

Aim of the amendment

The proposed amendment is aimed at protecting the interests of 86 million depositors who have put money totalling around Rs.5 trillion in 1,540 cooperative banks in the country.

 

Present Scenario

  • Cooperative banks are currently under the dual control of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies and RBI.

 

  • While the role of registrar of cooperative societies includes incorporation, registration, management, audit, supersession of board and liquidation, RBI is responsible for regulatory functions such maintaining cash reserve and capital adequacy, among others.

 

What are the amendments proposed?

  • It will give the Reserve Bank of India wider powers to regulate cooperative lenders and prevent frauds such as the one seen at Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank Ltd.

 

  • Once the amendment is cleared by Parliament, cooperative banks will be audited according to RBI’s norms and the central bank can supersede the board, in consultation with the state government, if any cooperative bank is under stress.

 

  • Appointments of chief executives will also require permission from the banking regulator, as is the case for commercial banks.

 

  • Audit of such banks will be as per RBI guidelines and recruitment for banks’ management will be based on certain qualifications. All these steps will be implemented by RBI in a phased manner.

 

  • The administrative role will continue to be done by the Registrar of Cooperative Societies. The amendments will apply to all urban co-operative banks and multi-state cooperative banks.

 

 About the Act:

  • The Banking Regulation Act, 1949 regulates all banking firms in India. Passed as the Banking Companies Act 1949, it came into force from 16 March 1949 and changed to Banking Regulation Act 1949 from 1 March 1966.

 

  • It is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir from 1956.

 

  • Initially, the law was applicable only to banking companies. But, in 1965 it was amended to make it applicable to cooperative banks and to introduce other changes.

 

Overview:

  • The Act provides a framework under which commercial banking in India is supervised and regulated. The Act supplements the Companies Act, 1956. Primary Agricultural Credit Society and cooperative land mortgage banks are excluded from the Act.

 

  • The Act gives the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) the power to license banks, have regulation over shareholding and voting rights of shareholders; supervise the appointment of the boards and management; regulate the operations of banks; lay down instructions for audits; control moratorium, mergers and liquidation; issue directives in the interests of public good and on banking policy, and impose penalties.

 

  • In 1965, the Act was amended to include cooperative banks under its purview by adding the Section 56. Cooperative banks, which operate only in one state, are formed and run by the state government. But, RBI controls the licensing and regulates the business operations. The Banking Act was a supplement to the previous acts related to banking.
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GS-II :
Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the trust and its mandate

 

News: PM Modi told the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet had approved a scheme for the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya by setting up an autonomous trust, Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, to take forward the process as per the Supreme Court’s orders.

 

Background

The Supreme Court mandated three-month deadline to set up a trust was to end on February 9, a day after Delhi votes.

 

About the trust

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs notified the trust.

 

  • There would be 15 trustees, out of which one would always be from the Dalit society.

 

  • The government had decided to transfer the entire 67.703 acres to the trust.

 

  • This trust will be fully autonomous to take any decision regarding the construction of temple.

 

  • The Uttar Pradesh government had approved the Supreme Court’s direction to grant 5 acres to the Central Sunni Wakf Board.

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GS-II :
Changes in Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the changes recommended by the RS committee; about the bill and its significance

 

News: The 23-member Rajya Sabha Select Committee on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 has recommended 15 major changes in the bill.

 

Background

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha and the committee has held ten meetings since the Bill was referred to it by the Lok Sabha on November 21, 2019.

 

 

What changes did it recommend?

  • A surrogate mother need not be a “close relative” of the intending couple. Requiring the surrogate mother to be a “close relative” potentially restricts the availability of surrogate mothers, affecting genuinely needy persons.

 

  • Omission of the five-year time limit before seeking surrogacy.

 

  • allowing single women (widow or a divorcee and Persons of Indian Origin) to avail of surrogacy

 

  • increasing insurance cover for the surrogate mother from the 16 months proposed in the Bill to 36 months.

 

  • deleting the definition of “infertility” as “the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse” on grounds that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.

 

  • In order to protect the interests of the child born through surrogacy, the Committee recommended that the order regarding the parentage and custody of the child, issued by a Magistrate, shall be the birth affidavit for the surrogate child.

 

  • As a general recommendation, the Select Committee said that the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill (ART), which is awaiting Cabinet approval, may be taken up before the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, since the ART Bill primarily deals with technical, scientific and medical aspects, including the storage of embryos, gametes, oocytes, etc. as contained in the Surrogacy Bill.
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GS-II :
International Intellectual Property Index

Syllabus subtopic: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora - their Structure, Mandate.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the index and India’s score: its significance; need for reforms in India’s IP regime

 

News: The International IP Index was released by Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the US Chambers of Commerce.

 

India’s performance on the Index

  • India has been ranked 40th out of 53 countries even as the country has shown improvement in terms of scores when it comes to the protection of IP and copyright issues.

 

  • India was placed at 36th position among 50 countries in 2019.

 

  • India's score, however, increased from 36.04 per cent (16.22 out of 45) in 2019 to 38.46 per cent (19.23 out of 50) in 2020, a 2.42 per cent jump in an absolute score. However, India's relative score increased by 6.71 per cent.

 

  • Two new Index economies (Greece and the Dominican Republic) scored ahead of India. The Philippines, and Ukraine leapfrogged India.

 

What does the score signify?

India's score on the International IP Index demonstrates the country's growing investment in IP-driven innovation and creativity. The Index specifically highlights a number of reforms over the last year that strengthen India's overall IP ecosystem.

 

 

Efforts made by India in IP sector

  • Since the release of the 2016 National IPR Policy, the government of India has made a focused effort to support investments in innovation and creativity through increasingly robust IP protection and enforcement.

 

  • Since 2016, India has improved the speed of processing for patent and trademark applications, increased awareness of IP rights among Indian innovators and creators, and facilitated the registration and enforcement of those rights.

 

  • In 2019, the Delhi High Court used dynamic injunctions to disable access to copyright-infringing content online, resulting in an increase in India's score on two of the copyright-related indicators.  The use of these injunctions places India alongside global leaders in copyright enforcement, including Singapore and the UK. As a result, India scores ahead of 24 other economies in the copyright indicators.

 

  • The Delhi High Court also issued a series of judgements that provide clarity on existing statutes related to trademark protection online, resulting in a score increase on one of the trademark-related indicators.

 

  • The courts issued two precedential rulings that raised the bar for the damages awarded in IP-infringement cases and may provide a deterrent for future infringement. This resulted in an increase in score on one of the trademark-related indicators.

 

  • India also continues to score well in the Systemic Efficiency indicator, scoring ahead of 28 other economies in these indicators. This is a result of a concerted effort by the Indian government to consult with stakeholders during IP policy formation and create greater awareness about the importance of IP protection. India also remains a leader in the use of targeted incentives and IP assets for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

 

  • To continue this upward trajectory, much work remains to be done to introduce transformative changes to India’s overall IP framework and take serious steps to consistently implement strong IP standards.

 

 

Significance of the index

Indian policymakers seem to recognize this Index as a valuable resource in their efforts to strengthen the country’s promising innovation ecosystem and enhance its competitiveness in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy.

 

 

Challenges ahead

GIPC has identified several challenges for India. Prominent among them being:

  1. patentability requirements,
  2. patent enforcement,
  3. compulsory licensing,
  4. patent opposition,
  5. regulatory data protection,
  6. transparency in reporting seizures by customs, and
  7. Singapore Treaty of Law of TMs and Patent Law Treaty.

 

 

Need for reforms in India’s IP regime

  • No other economy stands to gain more from strong Indian IP than India itself. For example, no industry has been hurt more by copyright violations in India than the country’s own Bollywood industry, which loses almost USD3 billion to piracy each year.

 

  • The number one way the present administration can demonstrate its commitment to the success of the Atal Innovation Mission, Accelerating Growth for New India’s Innovations, Make in India, Digital India, and Startup India is to strengthen its IP framework in ways that promote the legal and regulatory certainty necessary for greater R&D investment, high-value jobs, and greater innovative and creative outputs.

 

  • Strong IP standards can further solidify India's position as the world’s fastest-growing economy, bolstering its reputation as a destination for doing business, foreign businesses’ ability to invest and make in India, thereby supporting the growth of India’s own innovative and creative industries.
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GS-II :
Telecom Ombudsman

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its objective; about TRAI and its mandate

 

News: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is planning to set up the post of a Telecom Ombudsman to deal with consumer complaints and grievances on poor quality telephony services.

 

 

Background

The concept of a telecom ombudsman was first floated by TRAI in late 2017, after which the Telecom Commission had cleared the proposal in 2018. However, there have been no developments on that front after that, despite repeated reminders sent to the DoT from TRAI.

 

Objective of the move

  • The ombudsman will be the third level of authority which users can approach, if their complaints on poor quality service is not heard by the telecom services providers.

 

  • The first level is the complaint centre of the respective telcos, whereas the second level is the appellate authority, which decides on the users’ complaints within 39 days.

 

  • In case a grievance is not redressed even after exhausting the two tier procedure as prescribed by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the complainant may approach Public Grievance wing of Department of Telecommunications (DoT), along with all documentary evidence(s) for non-redressal of grievance at concerned service provider level.

 

About Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • TRAI is a statutory body set up by the Government of India under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.

 

  • It is the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India.

 

  • It consists of a Chairperson and not more than two full-time members and not more than two part-time members.

 

  • The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
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GS-III :
Pollution by Thermal power plants

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the move to curb air pollution from thermal power plants; about NGT; CPCB

 

News: The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 14 thermal power plants for not complying with a December 31, 2019 deadline to limit sulphur dioxide emissions.

 

Where are these plants located?

  • These are 5 plants in Haryana, 3 in Punjab, 2 in Uttar Pradesh, 2 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 in Telangana and 1 in Tamil Nadu with a total capacity of approx 15 GW that have missed the deadline.

 

  • The 14 plants have been given until the end of this month to explain to the CPCB why they have not complied with the norms and why action should not be taken.

 

Background

  • Non-compliance by the thermal power plants is an ongoing dispute being contested at the National Green Tribunal through a petition filed in April 2017.

 

  • There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding the extensions given to these plants.

 

Can CPCB punish them for violating the guidelines?

The CPCB has the power to impose steep fines or shut a unit under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

 

Steps taken to limit air pollution

  • To limit particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission from thermal plants, India put in place a phased-approach that directs 440 coal-fired units — responsible for about 166,000 MW of power — to put in place measures to limit pollution by December 2022.

 

  • However 11 plants in a 300 km radius of Delhi were to comply by December 31, 2019 because of the poor air quality in the city as well as the surrounding Gangetic plain.

 

  • Some of them claimed to have set in place the process for acquiring flu-gas desulphurisation technology where as others said they were yet to award tenders. Only one of these plants has actually implemented technology to limit emissions.

 

  • As per Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates, these norms can help reduce PM emissions by about 35%, NOx emission by about 70%, and SO2 emissions by more than 85% by 2026-27 against a business-as-usual scenario with no pollution control technologies.

 

Cost of installing technology to control toxic emissions

  • A latest study has estimated that it would cost coal-fired power plants about Rs 730-860 billion to install technology to control toxic emissions of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from them.

 

  • On average, this could translate into an increase of about Rs 0.6 per unit of electricity for consumers. However, the cost of not abating pollution from power plants is higher and will impact the health of millions of people across the country, caution the authors.

 

  • India’s environment ministry had come out with strict emission norms for coal power plants in December 2015 mandating them to install such technology by December 2017, but later the date was postponed till 2022.

 

  • The study recommended to the government to take strict measures in case the power plants fail to adhere to strict emission standards even by 2022.
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