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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 23 August 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 23 August 2023


Contents

  1. Reviving Representation of People Act Section 8(4): A Comprehensive Review
  2. Managing Food Price Changes in a Changing Climate

Reviving Representation of People Act Section 8(4): A Comprehensive Review


Context

Defamation conviction in 2019 that resulted in Rahul Gandhi’s expulsion from the Congress party has sparked debates regarding the need to reinstate Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act (RP Act). This thorough analysis, which argues for the reinstatement of Section 8(4) to ensure a fair and constitutionally sound approach to the disqualification of parliamentarians, critically explores the far-reaching ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013).

Relevance: 

GS Paper 2- Polity – Disqualification of legislators.

Mains Question

What did Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act (RP Act) contain, and how did its invalidation in the Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013) case affect parliamentarians’ ineligibility? Talk about the long-term effects of instant disqualification following a conviction under Section 8(3) and how it affects legislators’ careers. (150 Words)


The 1951 Representation of Peoples Act (RPA Act):

Prior to the first general elections, the Indian province legislature issued the Representation of People Act 1951 (RPA Act 1951). This law, which covers numerous facets of the electoral process, forms the basis for regulating elections in India. The legislation covers the qualifications and exclusions of members of the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and state legislatures’ State Legislative Assembly and State Legislative Council in addition to describing the procedures of conducting elections. The legislation elaborately lays out detailed standards for all aspects of conducting elections procedurally.

The disqualification of representatives following convictions for particular offences is covered by Section 8 of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951. The following provisions are described in this section:

  • Anyone convicted of a crime punishable by one of the following statutes, among others, the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967, the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002, among others, faces disqualification if one of the following circumstances exists:
    • If a conviction results in only a fine, the offender is ineligible for six years following the conviction.
    • If incarceration is part of the sentence, the disqualification period starts on the day of conviction and lasts for an additional six years after the sentence is completed.
  • A person is disqualified if they are found guilty of breaking the rules against hoarding or profiteering, falsifying food or medications, or the prohibitions of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.
  • A person who has been found guilty and given a sentence of at least two years in prison (apart from the offences listed in subsections 1 and 2) is ineligible commencing on the date of their conviction and for an additional six years following their release.

On July 10, 2013, a two-judge Supreme Court panel invalidated Section 8(4) of the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act. If an appeal was filed within three months of a conviction, Section 8(4) allowed convicted politicians to retain their seats.

The Indian Constitution’s Article 103

Decision on issues involving member disqualifications.—

  • If there is any doubt regarding whether a member of either House of Parliament is subject to one of the disqualifications listed in paragraph (1) of article 102, the President will be consulted, and his decision will be final.
  • The President must consult the Election Commission before making any decisions on such matters and must follow their advice.

Immediately Disqualified and the Lily Thomas Case

By invalidating Section 8(4) of the RP Act, the landmark decision in Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013) signalled a crucial turning point. Previously, this clause gave people three months to appeal convictions before their disqualification took effect. A conviction under Section 8(3) of the RP Act, however, resulted in the immediate disqualification of sitting legislators as a result of this judgement. This interpretation triggered discussions about the precarious balance between necessary action and the fundamental constitutional principles of justice and equality.

Examination of Section 8.3

A careful examination of Section 8(3) reveals a complex viewpoint on the moment of disqualification. Disqualification is specified as starting “from the date of conviction,” which implies the need for a formal declaration. In this context, it becomes important to consider the idea that the President, as provided for in Article 103, may have the right to declare disqualification. This strategy offers a means to stop arbitrary decisions regarding disqualification and is consistent with the values of accountability and transparency.

Executive Orders and Section 8(3)

According to Section 8(3), the President is given a crucial role in enforcing disqualification following conviction. This constitutional viewpoint highlights the significance of maintaining the division of powers and making sure there is a strong mechanism for enforcing disqualification. The President’s participation, as required by Article 103, emphasises the checks and balances built into India’s democratic system.

The Stay Conundrum: Conviction vs. Sentence

The effect of a stay of sentence vs a stay of conviction on disqualification is one of the intriguing legal concerns raised by these developments. Conflicting interpretations have been produced by historical cases. The difficulty of the interplay between stays, convictions, and disqualifications is highlighted by the absence of a definitive Supreme Court ruling on this issue, even as Rahul Gandhi’s case serves as evidence in this regard.

Effect on the Careers of Legislators

Legislators’ careers could be significantly impacted by the Lily Thomas decision’s precedent for immediate disqualification. Concerns are raised concerning the potential disruption of elected representatives’ legislative trips due to the lengthy appeals process of the court system. The extraordinary instance of the Agra court’s prompt intervention to suspend a conviction serves as a perfect example of the uncommon rapid response that many legislators might not have the opportunity to enjoy.

Article 103 and Amendment Consideration in the Balance

While concerns about differentiation were the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate Section 8(4), Article 103 offers a constitutional means of differentiation with regard to sitting parliamentarians. This legal distinction opens the door for careful thinking to go into a prospective constitutional amendment to reestablish Section 8(4). A similar modification might be in line with Article 103, guaranteeing differentiation based on a legally valid framework.

Conclusion

The reinstatement of Section 8(4) of the RP Act necessitates a thorough analysis of the ramifications for law, the constitution, and daily life. This research highlights the necessity for a comprehensive strategy that protects lawmakers’ careers, upholds the spirit of the Constitution, and upholds the values of justice, distinction, and separation of powers. In order to provide a strong and equitable framework for disqualifying parliamentarians, it is crucial to strike a delicate balance between swift action and procedural fairness.


Managing Food Price Changes in a Changing Climate


Context:

As a result of shifting climatic conditions, the traditional link between monsoon patterns and food prices has changed. The monsoon, once a trustworthy predictor of food prices, no longer follows the expected course. Uneven rainfall distribution and erratic monsoon progressions have become the norm, disrupting the expected relationship between price trends and monsoons.

Relevance

GS Paper 3 – Environment – Climate change

Mains Question

What are the difficulties in sustaining food security in the impacted regions as a result of the disruption to the traditional relationship between monsoon patterns and food prices caused by the changing climate? (150 Words)


What is food security?

According to the United Nations Committee on World Food Security, food security is the assurance that each person has constant access to sufficient, safe, and nourishing food that meets their dietary needs and preferences and promotes an active and healthy lifestyle.

Weather Impact on Crops

Crop yields have been significantly affected by these shifting weather patterns. Unexpected price increases have been a result of major crop loss caused by unusual weather events. The effects are clear in a number of industries, including the devastation of tomato and onion harvests as a result of harsh weather events. In addition, paddy crops in areas like Punjab have been decimated by floods, affecting overall production.

Monsoon and Price Shift

Although a normal reaction would be for food inflation to moderate as the monsoon moves forward, recent months have bucked this tendency. Indians struggle with persistently high retail inflation brought on by skyrocketing food prices. Forecasts indicate that this pattern will continue, and long-term inflation expectations are higher than 6%.

Extended Periods of High Inflation

  • The price of food has changed as a result of climate change. Extreme weather-related crop losses have disrupted supply systems, causing scarcity and price increases. The sporadic effects of climate-related occurrences compound, posing serious problems for food prices.
  • The Need for Climate-Proofing Food Security Climate change acts as a crisis catalyst and threat multiplier, especially for the most vulnerable segments of society. By 2080, 600 million more people are expected to experience food insecurity due to its effects on food production, livelihoods, and well-being, which would further worsen child malnutrition.Around 80% of the world’s population is at risk from climate change-related crop failures, and the most vulnerable regions are predominantly found in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Farming households suffer disproportionately from poverty and vulnerability in these places.Millions may become even more impoverished if a severe drought breaks out as a result of climate change or the El Nino weather phenomena. This emphasises the requirement to strengthen food security against the negative effects of climate change.

Problems with World Food Prices

•Concerns about rising food prices have spread around the globe. According to the World Bank’s Food Security Update, over 90% of lower-middle-income nations are seeing food price increases that are higher than 5%. With the World Food Programme estimating that 345.2 million people will experience food insecurity in 2023, the effects of these trends are profound.

Potential Reversal of Progress

The situation raises the possibility of rolling back the advancements made in the past century. Extreme weather-related problems have proven to be formidable foes of earlier successes in the fight against hunger. Food affordability for disadvantaged communities is threatened by rising costs combined with climate-related occurrences; the effects go beyond simple food access. Malnutrition and death rates are directly correlated with rising prices. The risk of wasting and severe wasting increases with a five percent increase in real food prices, however little. These issues have a disproportionately negative impact on vulnerable communities in low-income countries, and agricultural losses brought on by extreme weather events only make their situation worse.

Ways to Improve Food Security:

  • A proactive strategy utilising the Buffer Stocking Policy is essential to improve food security. The government can strategically unload excess rice through open market operations because the Food Corporation of India (FCI) now has rice reserves that are three times larger than the standards for buffer stocks. This might significantly reduce the inflation of rice prices, reducing it down to 4%. Furthermore, there is opportunity for similar open market operations due to the substantial wheat procurement that underpins the public distribution system (PDS).
  • It is crucial to address the problem of excessive import taxes on fat and skimmed milk powder (SMP). Current import taxes for fat and SMP are 40% and 60%, respectively; a prospective policy change to reduce these rates to 10% to 15% might encourage imports and reduce variations in domestic prices. The prices of milk and milk products may be stabilised by such actions.
  • Promoting the growth of fodder crops is crucial for addressing the issue of rising fodder prices. This can be facilitated by offering incentives or subsidies, choosing the right crop combinations, and setting up fodder banks. Additionally, preparation for drought is essential, even before the influence of variables like El Nino is officially projected by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). These efforts would lead to a more steady fodder supply, essential for livestock and overall food security. Adoption of drought-tolerant agricultural varieties, increased irrigation infrastructure, consideration of restrictions on rice exports during times of scarcity, improved grain storage and distribution networks, and increased social protection coverage are a few examples of proactive policy interventions. Such actions can help to reduce the negative effects of climate-related problems, hence boosting overall food security.

Conclusion

The changing link between monsoons and food prices emphasises the varying climate dynamics. The trajectory of food inflation is being altered by extreme weather events, which are a result of climate change. These changes present significant challenges to ensuring the availability and affordability of food, necessitating creative approaches.


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