- Supreme Court mulls limit to role as policy watchdog
- Lokpal yet to get director of inquiry
- Midday meals leave a long-lasting impact: study
- RBI bars Mastercard from issuing new cards in India
- U.S., Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan: Quad
- G7’s Build Back Better World Initiative
The resolve voiced by a Division Bench of the Supreme Court recently to “examine” the extent to which the judiciary can question the government’s COVID-19 policies drifts from the court’s three-judge Bench judgment previously in May 2021 which held that courts cannot be “silent spectators when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies”.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Separation of Powers, Judiciary, Judgements & Cases)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the recent judgement on intervention by Courts
- What is the separation of power?
- Functional Overlapping amongst the organs of Government
- Concerns regarding overlapping of powers
- When is overlapping of powers beneficial?
About the recent judgement on intervention by Courts
- In July 2021, a Supreme Court Bench said that courts should not undermine the executive at a time when a “collective effort” was required to overcome the public health crisis.
- According to the latest judgement, the Executive has the benefit of experts with their expert knowledge and there are certain norms based on which every institution should function, hence, the courts intervention into matters pertaining to the executive should not be overpowering.
May 2021 Judgement on Separation of Powers
- In May 2021, the SC bench while hearing the suo motu case “Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During the Pandemic” enunciated that our Constitution does not envisage courts to be silent spectators when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies. Judicial review and soliciting constitutional justification for policies formulated by the executive is an essential function, which the courts are entrusted to perform.
- Responding to the government’s argument that it should have “room for free play in the joints” while dealing with the pandemic, the SC bench said that the court has no intention to “second-guess the wisdom of the executive”. However, it continues to exercise jurisdiction to determine if the chosen policy measure conforms to the standards of reasonableness, militates against manifest arbitrariness and protects the right to life of all persons.
- The judgment highlighted that courts across the globe have responded to constitutional challenges to executive policies which violate rights and liberties of citizens.
What is the separation of power?
- The separation of power is part of governing of a state in which the components of state like legislative, executive and judiciary remain independent with each other so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches. It is also a part of independent of judiciary.
- Separation of powers, therefore, refers to the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.
Although the Constitution of India does not provide strictly for the separation of powers, these articles provide a general guideline:
- Article 50: This states that the State or the Government concerned will take appropriate steps to ensure that the judicial branch is separated from the functioning and working of the executive branch.
- Article 121 & 211: It, in a way, provides for the separation of the legislature and the judiciary. This article states that the conduct of justice or the way a judge discharges his duties of any Court cannot be discussed in the legislature (state or union).
- Article 122 & 212: This article is aimed at keeping the judiciary (the law interpreting body) and the legislature (the law-making body) separated. It does so by stripping the judiciary of any power to review and question the validity of proceedings that take in a legislature or the Parliament.
- Article 361: This article separates the judiciary and the executive. It states that the President or any governor of any state is not answerable to any court in the country for actions and activities are taken in performance/exercise of the powers and duties of their office.
What is check and balance?
Checks and balances, principle of government under which separate branches are empowered to prevent actions by other branches and are induced to share power. Checks and balances are applied primarily in constitutional governments.
Functional Overlapping amongst the organs of Government
- While separation of powers is key to the workings of Indian Government, no democratic system exists with an absolute separation of powers or an absolute lack of separation of powers.
- Every organ is, in a way, overlapped in its practical functioning with the other two organs of the Government. This overlapping enables the organs to act as a check on each other without too much interference.
Overlapping Powers of Legislature:
|With Judiciary||With Executive|
|Impeachment and the removal of the judges. Power to amend laws declared ultra vires by the Court and revalidating it. In case of breach of its privilege and it can punish the person concerned.||The heads of each governmental ministries are members of the legislature. Through a no-confidence vote, it can dissolve the Government. Power to assess the works of the executive. Impeachment of the President. The council of ministers on whose advice the President and the Governor acts are elected members of the legislature.|
Overlapping Powers of The Executive:
|With Judiciary||With Legislature|
|Making appointments to the office of Chief Justice and other judges. Powers to grant pardons, reprieve, respite or remission of punishments or sentence of any person convicted of any offence. The tribunals and other quasi-judicial bodies which are a part of the executive also discharge judicial functions.||Power to promulgate ordinance which has the same force of the Act made by the Parliament or the State legislature. Authority to make rules for regulating their respective procedure and conduct of business subject to the provisions of this Constitution. Powers under delegated legislation.|
Overlapping Powers of The Judiciary:
|With Executive||With Legislative|
|Under Article 142, the Supreme Court functions as an Executive in order to bring about the complete justice.||Judicial review, i.e., the power to review executive action to determine if it violates the Constitution. Rigidity / Non-Amendability of the Constitution under basic structure.|
Hence, we can see that although the Constitution mentions a certain amount of separation of powers, it does not do so strictly to keep every organ in check and ensure that it is not entirely free in exercising powers vested in it without any restraint or ulterior motive that will not be in the public interest. In addition to functional overlapping, there is a lack of administrative distinction between the three divisions of the Indian system.
Concerns regarding overlapping of powers
- The biggest issue of overlap might be that a particular organ cannot be held accountable for its decision, for example, Judicial Decision in 2G case, Coal Block case. (Unaccountability)
- The faith of the public in the institutions of the Government plays a very crucial role in such a complex and vest democracy. The organs repeated interventions into others’ decisions leads to the diminishing of the faith of the people in the quality, efficiency and integrity of them. (Erosion of faith)
- It undermines the spirit of democracy as too much accumulation of powers in organs of Government undermines the principle of check and balance. (Accumulation of power)
- Excessive infringement on each other jurisdiction may impede the smooth functioning of Government and hinder public service and overall development (Adverse effect on development)
When is overlapping of powers beneficial?
- Rule of Law: The accountability and equality in governance are enhanced by enabling power-sharing laws.
- Check and Balance: The overlap prevents arbitrary actions by the other two organs of the Government; an example is the power of judicial review of the Apex Court of India.
- Check arbitrariness: Constitutional demarcations of overriding powers decrease the scope of conflict among the government organs.
- Cooperation: The overlapping functions induce power-sharing and also provides power decentralisation, thus ensuring that the three organs can work hand-in-hand to solve problems faster.
-Source: The Hindu
More than two years after the Lokpal came into being, the Centre is yet to appoint a director of inquiry for conducting preliminary inquiry into graft complaints sent by the anti-corruption ombudsman, according to a Right to Information reply.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional and Non-Constitutional Bodies, Policies and Interventions on Transparency and Accountability in governance)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Lokpal
- Other Important Points regarding the Lokpal
- Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020
- Exception for Prime Minister
- Other Provisions for Fighting Corruption
- About the Lokpal missing a director of inquiry
- The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 establishes Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States (Statutory Bodies) to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries.
- Composition: Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% shall be judicial members and 50% shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.
- Appointment process: It is a two-stage process.
- A search committee which recommends a panel of names to the high-power selection committee.
- The selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India (or his nominee) and an eminent jurist (nominated by President based on the recommendation of other members of the panel).
- President will appoint the recommended names.
- The jurisdiction of Lokpal extends to:
- Anyone who is or has been Prime Minister, or a Minister in the Union government, or a Member of Parliament, as well as officials of the Union government under Groups A, B, C and D.
- The chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre.
- Any society or trust or body that receives foreign contribution above Rs. 10 lakhs.
Other Important Points regarding the Lokpal
- Salaries, allowances and service conditions: Salaries, allowances and other perks of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.
- Inquiry wing and prosecution wing: Inquiry Wing for conducting preliminary inquiry and Prosecution Wing for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act.
- Power with respect to CBI: Power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal. Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal would need approval of Lokpal.
- Timelines for enquiry, investigation: Act specifies a time limit of 60 days for completion of inquiry and 6 months for completion of investigation by the CBI. This period of 6 months can be extended by the Lokpal on a written request from CBI.
- Suspension, removal of Chairperson and member of Lokpal: The Chairperson or any Member shall be removed from his office by order of the President on grounds of misbehaviour after the Supreme Court report. For that a petition has to be signed by at least one hundred Members of Parliament. Special Court shall be setup to hear and decide the cases referred by the Lokpal.
Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020
- Complaint can be filed with the Lokpal against the sitting Prime Minister, Union Ministers, MPs, bureaucrats, among others.
- A complaint filed against a sitting or former prime minister shall be decided by full bench of Lokpal comprising of its Chairman and all members in admission stage.
- If such complaint is dismissed by the full bench, records of enquiry are not to be published.
- A complaint against Union Minister/ MP is to be looked into by bench of not less than three members.
Exception for Prime Minister
- The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
- Complaints against the PM are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of inquiry and at least 2/3rds of the members approve it.
- Such an inquiry against the PM (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.
Other Provisions for Fighting Corruption
- Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 provides for penalties in relation to corruption by public servants and also for those who are involved in the abetment of an act of corruption.
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 aims to prevent instances of money laundering and prohibits use of the ‘proceeds of crime’ in India.
- The Companies Act, 2013 provides for corporate governance and prevention of corruption and fraud in the corporate sector.
- The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 regulates the acceptance and use of foreign contributions and hospitality by individuals and corporations.
Along with the above legal frameworks, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 sets out provisions which can be interpreted to cover bribery and fraud matters, including offences relating to criminal breach of trust and cheating.
About the Lokpal missing a director of inquiry
- According to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, there shall be a director of inquiry, not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India, who shall be appointed by the Central government for conducting preliminary inquiries referred to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) by the Lokpal.
- According to provisions contained under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, complaints in respect of public servants belonging to groups A, B, C or D are referred by the Lokpal to the CVC for a preliminary inquiry.
-Source: The Hindu
According to a new study on the inter-generational benefits of India’s midday meal scheme
GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Poverty and Hunger, Government Policies and Initiatives, Welfare Schemes)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme
- How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-
- Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?
- Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation
Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme
- The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
- Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a party, India has committed to yielding “adequate nutritious food” for children.
- The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
- The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes.
- The students of:
- Government schools,
- Government aided schools,
- Local body Education Centres,
- Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres,
- Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,
- National Child Labour Project schools run by the Ministry of labour.
How the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme came to be-
- Post-Independence, Tamil Nadu was the first state to introduce the MDM scheme in the 1960s.
- The Central scheme to provide meals to school children began in 1995, however, most states just limited themselves to providing dry rations.
Supreme Court Order: The Game Changer
- A Supreme Court order of 2001 provided for all states to introduce cooked meals.
- The Supreme Court order specified the states to provide “at least 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days in a year”.
Supreme Court on MDM during Pandemic
- The SC alerted state governments “Non-supply of nutritional food to the children as well as lactating and nursing mothers may lead to large-scale malnourishment, particularly in rural and tribal areas.”
- Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter the Court asked states to ensure that “schemes for nutritional food for children are not adversely affected”.
Has the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme helped?
- Research has shown how hot, cooked food attracted students to schools and improved their nutritional status.
- MDM has been proven to attract children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school.
- Along with Improvement of regularity, educational and nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and benefits to women are also highlighted.
- Hence, the main positives of this scheme are:
- Avoiding classroom hunger.
- Increased school enrolment and attendance.
- Improved socialisation among castes.
- Reducing malnutrition.
- Empowering women through employment.
About the recent study on long term impact of MDM scheme
- Girls who had access to the free lunches provided at government schools, had children with a higher height-to-age ratio than those who did not.
- The prevalence of stunting was significantly lower in areas where the mid scheme was implemented in 2005.
- The linkages between midday meals and lower stunting in the next generation were stronger in lower socio-economic strata and likely work through women’s education, fertility, and use of health services.
Criticism of MDM scheme and Implementation
- Despite the success of the program, child hunger as a problem persists in India, 42.5% of the children under 5 are underweight.
- Some simple health measures such as using iodised salt and getting vaccinations are uncommon in India.
- Many children don’t get enough to eat, which has far-reaching implications for the performance of the country as a whole.
- A 2005 study found that Caste based discrimination continued to occur in the serving of food.
- Media reports have also highlighted several implementation issues, including irregularity, corruption, hygiene, caste discrimination, etc.
- Poor food quality is a major concern, affecting the health of children (as many media reports show students falling sick dur to lapses in quality checking and control). There are provisions for regular social audit, field visits and inspections but these are seldom carried out.
- The schools do not function during holidays and vacations which deprives children of their one daily meal.
-Source: The Hindu
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed restrictions on Mastercard Asia / Pacific Pte. Ltd. from on-boarding new domestic customers (debit, credit or prepaid) onto its card network for non-compliance with the regulator’s directions.
According to the RBI, the U.S. card-issuer Mastercard has failed to comply with the local data storage rules announced by the central bank in 2018.
GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Cyber Security, IT & Computers), GS-III: Indian Economy
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the RBI’s data localisation policy?
- What is the need for local data storage?
- What lies ahead?
What is the RBI’s data localisation policy?
- In 2018, the RBI had issued a circular ordering card companies such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to store all Indian customer data locally so that the regulator could have “unfettered supervisory access”.
- This meant that foreign card companies had to store complete information about transactions made by Indian customers in servers located within India.
- The reason offered by the RBI to back up its data localisation rule was that local storage of consumer data is necessary to protect the privacy of Indian users and also to address national security concerns.
As per the data- localisation norms set by RBI:
- While there is no bar on the processing of payment transactions outside India, the Payment System Operators (PSOs) will have to ensure the data is stored only in India after the processing.
- In case the processing is done abroad, the data should be deleted from the systems abroad and brought back to India not later than the one business day or 24 hours from payment processing, whichever is earlier. The same should be stored only in India.
- The data stored in India can be accessed for handling customer disputes, whenever required.
- The payment system data may be shared with an overseas regulator if required, but with the approval of RBI.
- Some banks, especially foreign, that had been permitted to store the banking data abroad may continue to do so. However, in respect of domestic payment transactions, the data shall be stored only in India.
- The data stored domestically must include:
- End-to-end transaction details and information related to payment or settlement transaction collected or processed as part of a payment.
- Information such as customer name, mobile number, email, Aadhaar number, PAN number.
- Payment sensitive data such as customer and beneficiary account details; payment credentials such as OTP, PIN, Passwords.
What is the need for local data storage?
- Experts believe that customer privacy and national security are genuine concerns that need to be taken seriously. However, many also believe that data localisation rules are too stringent and they could simply be used by governments as tools of economic protectionism.
- For instance, they argue, it may not be strictly necessary for data to be stored locally to remain protected.
- Broadly speaking, formal international laws to govern the storage of digital information across borders may be sufficient to deal with these concerns.
- Governments, however, may still mandate data localisation in order to favour local companies to foreign ones.
Understanding the move
- China, for example, has used its cyber-security laws to discriminate against foreign companies. A similar trend may be playing out in India with the Centre’s emphasis on economic self-sufficiency.
- In 2018, Mastercard had launched a complaint with the U.S. government that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was actively promoting Indian cards like RuPay and that it was affecting the business of foreign card companies.
- Governments may also believe that mandating foreign companies to set up local infrastructure can boost their local economies.
What lies ahead?
- Indian banks that are currently enrolled in the Mastercard network are expected to make alternative arrangements with other card companies.
- The process is expected to take a few months, and their card business is expected to take a significant hit meanwhile.
- The RBI’s data localisation policy, as it burdens foreign card companies, may end up favouring domestic card issuers like RuPay. Mastercard owns about one-third of the market share in India, and the RBI’s ban is likely to significantly benefit its competitors.
- Similarly, the ban on American Express and Diners Club earlier in 2020 benefited the Indian card network RuPay.
- Some believe that even Visa, a foreign company which dominates card payments in India, may come under regulatory pressure in the near future.
- Thus, the card payments sector may end up being restricted to a few domestic companies, which in turn can lead to reduced competition. This could mean higher costs and lower quality services for customers.
-Source: The Hindu
The US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity,
GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the new US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan Quad
- Significance of the new quad grouping
- How will this impact China’s BRI initiative?
About the new US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan Quad
- The US State Department announced the setting up of the new diplomatic platform on July 2021 to help strengthen economic connectivity across the region.
- The department announced that representatives from Washington, Kabul, Islamabad, and Tashkent had agreed, in principle, to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity.
- All four nations- the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan intend to cooperate to expand trade, build transit links and strengthen business-to-business ties, recognising the historic opportunity to open flourishing interregional trade routes.
- The representatives from the four nations will be meeting in the coming months to determine the modalities of the cooperation with mutual consensus.
- The new diplomatic platform will work to expand trade, build transit links and strengthen business-to-business ties.
Significance of the new quad grouping
- Afghanistan is bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan towards the east and south, Iran to the west and China to the northeast – The land-locked nation’s location has for a long time been seen as a competitive advantage for the country.
- Afghanistan has since long been the crossroads of commerce between Asian countries by connecting them to Europe and enhancing religious, cultural and commercial contacts.
- The new ‘quad’ group appears to be a means for the United States to retain its foothold in the region after it completes its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- However, ever since the US has begun withdrawing its troops, violence has been rising and efforts to broker a peace agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban have slowed down.
How will this impact China’s BRI initiative?
- The new quad group’s formation is significant as it comes amid China’s efforts to extend its Belt Road Initiative (BRI) to Afghanistan.
- The Belt Road Initiative was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013.
- The Belt Road Initiative aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
- Afghanistan due to its strategic location can provide China with a strategic base to spread its influence across the world.
- Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited Uzbekistan in the past week for an official two-day visit during which he highlighted the benefits of regional connectivity and invited the nation to become party to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
-Source: The Hindu
G-7 leaders finally came around with the proposed Build Back Better World (B3W) to counter China’s rising influence across 100-plus countries through Belt Road Initiative (BRI) projects.
GS-II: International Relations (India and its Neighborhood, Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests, Important International Groupings affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the G7?
- History of the G7
- About the Build Back Better World (B3W)
- Significance of B3W
What is the G7?
- The Group of 7 (G7) is an informal group of seven countries — the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, the heads of which hold an annual summit with European Union and other invitees.
- Together the member countries represent 40% of global GDP and 10% of the world’s population.
- Unlike other bodies such as NATO, the G7 has no legal existence, permanent secretariat or official members.
- It also has no binding impact on policy and all decisions and commitments made at G7 meetings need to be ratified independently by governing bodies of member states.
- The major purpose of the G-7 is to discuss and deliberate on international economic issues.
- G7 is capable of setting the global agenda because decisions taken by these major economic powers have a real impact. Thus, decisions taken at the G7 are not legally binding, but exert strong political influence.
- It sometimes acts in concert to help resolve other global problems, with a special focus on economic issues.
History of the G7
- A meeting between the current G7 members, excluding Canada, in 1975 laid the basis for the formation G7. At the time, the global economy was in a state of recession due to the OPEC oil embargo.
- As the energy crisis was escalating, the then US Treasury Secretary decided that it would be beneficial for the large players on the world stage to coordinate with each other on macroeconomic initiatives.
- After this first summit, the countries agreed to meet annually and a year later, Canada was invited into the group which marked the official formation of the G7 as we know it.
- The President of the European Commission was asked to join the meetings in 1977 and following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and a subsequent thaw in relations between the East and West, Russia was also invited to join the group in 1998. Thereafter the group was named the G8 until 2014, when Russia was expelled for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
- The presidency of G7 meetings is held by each of the seven countries in turn, each year. The country holding the presidency is responsible for organising and hosting the meeting.
About the Build Back Better World (B3W)
- The B3W aims to address the infrastructure investment deficit in developing and lower income countries – the space which has been increasingly captured by China through 2,600 BRI projects with trillions of dollars of investment.
- The overall focus is on developing transportation, logistics and communications, which would reduce trade and transaction cost for China’s trade, give more market access to Chinese markets and ensure stable supply of energy and other resources.
- B3W initiative will provide a transparent infrastructure partnership to help narrow about $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035.
- It calls for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in collaboration with the private sector while adhering to climate standards and labour practices.
- However, the announcement is yet to be made about how exactly the plan would work or how much capital it would ultimately allocate.
Significance of B3W
- The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geo-political events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
- China in 1979 had an economy that was smaller than Italy’s, but after opening to foreign investment and introducing market reforms, it has become the world’s second-largest economy and is a global leader in a range of new technologies.
- However, the West had failed to offer a positive alternative to the “lack of transparency, poor environmental and labour standards, and coercive approach” of the Chinese government that had left many countries worse off.
-Source: Indian Express