- Reservation for women in politics
- Foreign lawyers can practise in India
- AUKUS Deal
- Smart Cities Mission
Reservation for women in politics
A day before her appearance in front of the Enforcement Directorate in the Delhi liquor policy case, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader launched a six-hour hunger strike on March 10 seeking early passage of the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- History of Political Reservation for Women
- Women’s Reservation Bill
- Arguments in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill
- Arguments Against Reservation for Women in Politics:
History of Political Reservation for Women
Origins of the Issue:
- The demand for political reservation for women in India can be traced back to the Indian national movement in the 1930s.
- Women leaders Begum Shah Nawaz and Sarojini Naidu submitted an official memorandum to the British Prime Minister in 1931, outlining the status of women in the new Constitution.
- The issue of women’s reservation came up in Constituent Assembly debates but was rejected as being unnecessary. It was assumed that a democracy would accord representation to all groups.
- However, it became clear in the following decades that this was not the case.
- The Committee of the Status of Women in India, set up in 1971, commented on the declining political representation of women in India.
- While a majority of the Committee was against reservation for women in legislative bodies, all of them supported reservation for women in local bodies.
- Many State governments began announcing reservations for women in local bodies.
National Perspective Plan for Women:
- In 1988, the National Perspective Plan for Women recommended reservation for women from the level of the panchayat to that of Parliament.
- These recommendations paved the way for the historic enactment of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution, which mandate one-third of the seats in Panchayati Raj Institutions and one-third of the offices of the chairperson at all levels of the Panchayati Raj Institutions and in urban local bodies, respectively, to be reserved for women.
- Many States, including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Kerala, have made legal provisions to ensure 50% reservation for women in local bodies.
- Within these seats, one-third are reserved for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe women.
Women’s Reservation Bill
Introduction and Lapse of the Bill:
- The Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 1996 to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for women.
- The Bill failed to get the approval of the House and was referred to a joint parliamentary committee which submitted its report to the Lok Sabha in December 1996.
- In 1998, the Bill was reintroduced in the 12th Lok Sabha by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, but failed to receive majority votes.
- The Bill was reintroduced in 1999, 2002 and 2003, but failed to receive majority votes.
Passing of the Bill and Opposition:
- In 2008, the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government tabled the Bill in the Rajya Sabha and it was passed with 186-1 votes on March 9, 2010.
- However, the Bill was never taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
Promise by BJP and Current Status:
- In 2014, the BJP promised 33% reservation for women in its manifesto and repeated the promise in its 2019 agenda.
- However, there has been no movement from the government regarding the Bill.
How many women are in Parliament?
- Only about 14% of the members in Indian Parliament are women, the highest so far.
- According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India has a fewer percentage of women in the lower House than its neighbours such as Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — a dismal record.
Arguments in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill
- Affirmative action is necessary: Proponents argue that affirmative action is necessary to improve the status of women in politics, as political parties are inherently patriarchal.
- Under-representation of women: Despite the hopes of the leaders of the national movement, women are still under-represented in Parliament. Reservations would ensure that women form a strong lobby in Parliament to fight for issues that are often ignored.
- Evidence of positive impact: There is evidence that women as panchayat leaders have shattered social myths, been more accessible than men, controlled the stranglehold of liquor, invested substantially in public goods such as drinking water, helped other women express themselves better, reduced corruption, prioritised nutrition outcomes, and changed the development agenda at the grassroots level. Studies have found that women leaders are more likely to invest in goods that are important to the interests of women.
- Addressing challenges: India faces challenges such as a high percentage of crimes against women, low participation of women in the workforce, low nutrition levels, and a skewed sex ratio. To address these challenges, it is argued that more women in decision-making are needed.
Arguments Against Reservation for Women in Politics:
- Opposes Constitutional Equality: Some opponents argue that reserving seats for women in politics goes against the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution. They believe that this could lead to women not competing on merit, which could lower their status in society.
- Women Are Not a Homogenous Group: Unlike a caste group, women are not a homogenous community, which means that the same arguments made for caste-based reservation cannot be made for women.
- Women’s Interests Are Connected to Other Strata: Women’s interests cannot be isolated from other social, economic, and political strata.
- Restricts Voter Choice: Some argue that reservation of seats in Parliament would restrict the choice of voters to women candidates. Suggestions have been made for alternate methods, such as reservation for women in political parties and dual-member constituencies, but there are concerns about their effectiveness.
- Threat to the “Ideal Family”: Some opponents argue that bringing women into politics could destroy the “ideal family” since men hold primary power and key positions in politics.
Source: The Hindu
Foreign lawyers can practise in India
In a move that could potentially change the landscape of legal practice in the country, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has allowed foreign lawyers and law firms to practise in India. Although they cannot appear in court, they can advise clients on foreign law and work on corporate transactions.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the BCI decision?
- What do the new BCI rules allow for foreign lawyers and law firms in India?
- How have foreign law firms operated in India so far?
What is the BCI decision?
- The Bar Council of India (BCI) has notified the Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022.
- BCI is a statutory body established under the Advocates Act, 1961, regulating legal practice and legal education in India that was previously opposed to foreign law firms’ entry into India.
- BCI has now allowed foreign law firms to operate in India, citing reasons such as addressing concerns about the flow of Foreign Direct Investment in the country and making India a hub of International Commercial Arbitration.
- The new rules bring legal clarity to foreign law firms that currently operate in a very limited way in India.
- BCI has resolved to implement these Rules enabling foreign lawyers and Foreign Law Firms to practice foreign law and diverse international law and international arbitration matters in India on the principle of reciprocity in a well-defined, regulated, and controlled manner.
What do the new BCI rules allow for foreign lawyers and law firms in India?
- The new Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022 allows foreign lawyers and law firms to register with the Bar Council of India (BCI) to practice in India if they are entitled to practice law in their home countries.
- However, foreign lawyers and law firms cannot practice Indian law.
- They are not permitted to appear before any courts, tribunals or other statutory or regulatory authorities in India.
- Foreign lawyers and law firms are only allowed to practice transactional work or corporate work, such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts, and other related matters on a reciprocal basis.
- The notification also states that they are not permitted to do any work related to conveyancing of property, title investigation, or other similar works.
- Indian lawyers working with foreign law firms will also be restricted to engaging only in “non-litigious practice.”
How have foreign law firms operated in India so far?
- The issue of foreign law firms entering the Indian market first arose in 2009 with a challenge before the Bombay High Court in the case of ‘Lawyers Collective v Union of India.’
- The Bombay High Court interpreted Section 29 of the Advocates Act to mean that only advocates enrolled with BCI can practise law in India, and that ‘practice’ would include both litigious and non-litigious practice. As a result, foreign firms could neither advise clients in India nor appear in court.
- In 2012, the Madras High Court considered the issue in ‘AK Balaji v Union of India’ and held that foreign firms cannot practise law either on the litigation or non-litigation side unless they meet the requirements and rules laid down by the Advocates Act and the BCI rules.
- In 2015, the Supreme Court recognised the practice of foreign law firms in a very narrow sense in the same case, ‘AK Balaji v Government of India.‘ Over 32 foreign law firms from the UK, the US, France and Australia were impleaded as respondents in the case.
- The Madras High Court, however, created an exception to the ban on foreign law firms. It allowed temporary visits or advising clients on a “fly in and fly out” basis, i.e., for the purpose of giving legal advice to clients in India regarding foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse international legal issues.
- BPOs and LPOs also arrived in India on a large scale, carrying out backend work for US-based companies and support operations for lawyers. However, they operated in uncertain legal frameworks and the Supreme Court had to intervene to settle the law on the issue.
What was the SC’s decision?
- In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the earlier judgments of the Madras and Bombay High Courts disallowing foreign law firms and lawyers to practise in India.
- However, the SC made some modifications, stating that the expression “fly in and fly out” only covers casual visits that do not amount to practice.
- The SC did not make any decision on the fate of Legal Process Outsourcing (LPOs), stating that they primarily offer services such as secretarial support, transcription services, proofreading services, and travel desk support services, which do not come under the purview of the Advocates Act or the BCI Rules.
Source: Indian Express
Recently, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States unveiled plans to provide Australia with conventionally armed, nuclear-powered attack submarines in the early 2030s to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. The arrangement was made through the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) enhanced security partnership.
GS III: Defence
Dimensions of the Article:
- AUKUS Deal and SSN-AUKUS:
- What is AUKUS?
- Benefits of Nuclear Submarines for Australia
- Under this deal, the United States intends to sell Australia three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines built by General Dynamics in the early 2030s, with an option for Australia to buy two more if needed.
- However, the multi-stage project will culminate with British and Australian production and operation of a new submarine class – SSN-AUKUS – a trilaterally developed vessel with the best technologies and capabilities of all three countries.
AUKUS Deal and SSN-AUKUS:
- The AUKUS deal is a defence agreement signed between Australia, the UK and the US in 2021.
- It aims to assist Australia in deploying nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific region to counter China’s ambitions in the area.
- Here, SSN-AUKUS is the name given to the future attack submarine for Australia and the UK, designed through the combination of the UK’s submarine design and advanced US technology.
- SSN-AUKUS will be built in domestic shipyards in Australia and the UK before the end of this decade.
- The UK is expected to receive its first SSN-AUKUS in the late 2030s, and Australia is expected to receive the submarine in the early 2040s.
- The submarines will be nuclear-powered but not equipped with nuclear warheads, and the deal includes commitments to the countries’ respective nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
- The deal also involves provisions to improve infrastructure and industrial capacities, as well as greater integration of the countries’ submarine forces.
What is AUKUS?
- A 2021 defence deal between Australia, the UK and the US
- Aims to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific region
- Officially made to emphasise the countries’ “shared commitment to a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region”
- Intended to combat China’s ambitions in the region
- China has staked territorial claims across the resource-rich region and has multiple nuclear-capable submarines
- AUKUS was signed to bolster Australia’s naval power in the region
- The partnership was described by the then Australian PM Scott Morisson as a “partnership where our technology, our scientists, our industry, our defence forces are all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region that ultimately benefits all”.
Benefits of Nuclear Submarines for Australia:
- Near infinite endurance: Nuclear-powered submarines have an internal nuclear reactor, which gives them the ability to operate and stay submerged for long periods without needing to surface to recharge their batteries.
- Faster and more advanced: Typically, nuclear submarines are faster and more advanced than conventional submarines, which allows them to reach far out into the ocean and launch attacks on the enemy.
- Greater range and capability: Nuclear submarines like the SSN-AUKUS will give the Royal Australian Navy the capability to go into the South China Sea to protect its assets and conduct patrols, which it currently does not possess.
- Improved strategic position: The nuclear-powered submarines will enhance Australia’s strategic position in the Indo-Pacific region and provide a significant boost to its naval power.
- Commitment to non-proliferation: The new deal includes “clear commitments” to the countries’ respective nuclear non-proliferation obligations, ensuring that Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines will not be equipped with nuclear warheads.
Source: Indian Express
Smart Cities Mission
As the June 2023 deadline for completing the Smart Cities Mission approaches, the government has asked 20 of the worst-performing cities — ones that have completed the fewest projects under the mission — to buck up.
GS II: Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the Smart Cities Mission?
- What kinds of projects were proposed?
- What is the status of the projects?
What is the Smart Cities Mission?
- The Smart Cities Mission is an initiative of the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 25, 2015.
- Cities across the country were asked to submit proposals for projects to improve municipal services and to make their jurisdictions more liveable.
- Between January 2016 and June 2018 (when the last city, Shillong, was chosen), the Ministry selected 100 cities for the Mission over five rounds.
- The projects were supposed to be completed within five years of the selection of the city, but in 2021 the Ministry changed the deadline for all cities to June 2023, which was earlier the deadline for Shillong alone.
What kinds of projects were proposed?
- After the Ministry gave broad guidelines to the participating cities, the project proposals ranged from making certain stretches of roads more accessible and pedestrian-friendly to more capital-intensive ones like laying water pipelines and constructing sewage treatment plants.
- All 100 cities have also constructed Integrated Command and Control Centres to monitor all security, emergency and civic services.
- During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, these centres were converted into emergency response units by many of the cities.
What is the status of the projects?
- As of March 3, the 100 cities have issued work orders for 7,799 projects worth Rs 1.80 lakh crore, the government told Parliament on March 13.
- Out of these, 5,399 projects worth Rs.1.02 lakh crore have been completed, and the rest are ongoing.
- Only around 20 cities are likely to meet the June deadline; the rest will need more time.
- Cities selected in January and June 2018 have achieved 44% of their targets, while those selected in 2016 in the second round are not much farther ahead with 46% completion.
- Shillong has completed just one of its 18 proposed projects.
Source: Indian Express