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In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has left it to Parliament to legislate on the issue of candidates facing criminal charges getting elected to Parliament and State legislative Assemblies.
- The court mentioned that it was not within its powers to disqualify politicians facing criminal cases from contesting election, but recommended that Parliament enact a strong law.
- However, the court made it mandatory for political parties and candidates themselves to make public disclosure through print and electronic media.
Some important changes in the electoral laws made by the judiciary:
- Making it mandatory for candidates to submit an affidavit with full disclosure of criminal cases and details of their asset and income.
- The most recent change, i.e. providing an option to voters to exercise None of the Above (NOTA) in case they do not want to vote for any of the candidate contesting an election, was also introduced by the judiciary in 2003 on the basis of the PIL filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
The chances of Parliament acting fast on this issue are dim. The reasons are simple and obvious:
- No political party is free of this problem. The use of muscle power along with money power is a weapon used by all political parties to maximise electoral gains.
- In such a scenario, any move to ban candidates with a criminal record from contesting elections would mean political parties inflicting self-harm.
- While political parties raise concern about candidates with a tainted background contesting elections and getting elected, none of them come forward to set an example for others when it is time to act.
What is the ground reality? Some data on the criminal background of the politicians:
- Data from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) indicate that 179 out of the 543 elected Members of Parliament in the present Lok Sabha have some kind of criminal case pending against them.
- Some of these may be of a frivolous nature,but many of these cases concern allegations of their involvement in serious crimes.
- In the case of over 100 MPs, the cases were of a very serious nature such as crimes against women and kidnapping. There seems to be very little improvement in this regard in the last five years.
- In the previous Lok Sabha (2009), 163 had criminal cases pending against them, many of which were of a serious nature.
- The profile of members of the Upper House is no better; of 228 members of the Rajya Sabha for whom data could be analysed, 20 have cases of serious crimes pending against them.
- Among the Bharatiya Janata Party’s MPs (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), 107 (32%) have criminal cases pending against them. Of them, 64 (19%) have cases of serious crimes pending against them.
- The Congress is only a shade better than the BJP; 15 MPs (15%) have criminal cases pending against them, of whom eight (8%) have cases of serious criminal offences pending against them.
- There is hardly any difference between the national and regional parties in this regard. In the Shiv Sena, 18 MPs (86%) have criminal cases pending against them, of whom 10 (48%) are alleged to be involved in serious criminal cases.
- Of all MPs, six each of the Nationalist Congress Party (55%) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (67%) have serious criminal cases pending against them. Going by the ADR’s estimates, there are more than 1,500 MPs and MLAs in Parliament and State Assemblies with criminal cases pending against them.
Role of Election Commission
- The issue is far more important and serious than the attention being paid to it by the policy makers.
- While the Election Commission has limited powers to legislate on such laws, it is only Parliament which can legislate to bring about the desired change.
- A survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, found that opinion was divided when people were asked whether they would be willing to vote for an honest candidate who may not get their work done, or a tainted candidate who could get their work done.
- Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das recently announced that his government has introduced electric vehicles for official use.
- While 20 vehicles have been acquired for the first phase, another 30 are expected to be added to the fleet in the coming weeks.
- It has also been reported that 12 charging stations have been set up in Ranchi so far, and several more are slated to come up.
|Electric Vehicles: Background
Why Electric vehicles now?
- In the 21st century, EVs saw a resurgence due to technological developments, and an increased focus on renewable energy.
- A great deal of demand for electric vehicles developed and a small core of do-it-yourself (DIY) engineers began sharing technical details for doing electric vehicle conversions.
- Government incentives to increase adoptions were introduced, including in the United States and the European Union.
- Electric vehicles will reduce fuel bills and are an integral component of the smart cities project.
- In the current scenario of soaring fuel prices and the spectre of climate change looming large over the planet, it is a welcome development that a State government is taking the lead in switching to e-vehicles.
- Not only does this reduce the burden of fuel bills on the exchequer, it is also in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong pitch in favour of electric vehicles at the recently held Global Mobility Summit in New Delhi. “Clean mobility powered by clean energy is our most powerful weapon in our fight against climate change,” Mr. Modi had said as he batted for investments in electric vehicles and charging stations.
Government officials and Fuel consumptions
- In this context, it is well known that government officials are tremendous guzzlers of fossil fuel.
- If ministers and politicians are taken as a single category of consumers, their per capita and per kilometre consumption of fossil fuel is likely to be many times higher than that of most ordinary users, given their penchant for moving around accompanied by lengthy convoys of gas-guzzling escort vehicles.
- One might expect that in a real democracy, public servants, with some exceptions, would typically use public transport, which also happens to be another thrust area identified by the Prime Minister as integral to the future of mobility in India.
- But if this is too unrealistic an expectation, the least they could do is to exchange their petroleum-based vehicles for electric ones.
- If other States and the Centre were to follow the example set by Jharkhand, it would have two positive spin-offs:
- first, it would encourage the spread of a transportation infrastructure specific to e-vehicles; and
- second, it would spur the early adoption of e-vehicles by first-time buyers, generating consumer momentum for India’s stated goal of ensuring that by 2030, all public transport and 30% of private vehicles are electric.
- This is not far-fetched as quite a few countries, such as Norway and France, already have a substantial percentage of their vehicles running on either electricity or alternate fuels.
Smart Cities and Electric Vehicles
- Electric vehicles are also an integral component of smart cities, as they are an automatic assumption in frameworks of smart transportation.
- With the cities accounting for 70% population of the world, the environmental challenges could be daunting. Therefore, smart cities are incorporating the concept of electric vehicles in their development plans.
- Meanwhile, the government needs to speed up the formulation of rules for e-vehicles as a category, and come up with an India-specific road map for a transition that needs to be smooth if only because it is inevitable.
- The World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank had issued an emergency call to reform the multilateral trading system as the US retreats from prior agreements.
- The slow pace of reforms since the early 2000s, fundamental changes in a more interconnected modern economy and the risk of trade policy reversals call for urgency to re-energize trade policy reforms.
American arrogance on rise
- US has harshly criticized globalism in general and questioned America’s participation in multilateral institutions like the WTO during the UNGA meeting.
- The fallout from the escalating US-China trade conflict led the WTO to cut its trade growth forecast.
- WTO also warned that a full-blown trade war would knock around 17% off global trade growth, and 1.9% off GDP growth.
Focus on E-commerce
- The WTO, IMF and World Bank jointly called for new rules to address the expanding role of electronic commerce along with investment and services trade in the 21st century.
- The opportunities provided by information technology and other fundamental changes in the global economy are yet to be reflected in modern areas of trade policy.
- The three institutions also advocated the more so-called use of plurilateral talks to help unblock trade negotiations that have failed to advance at the multilateral level.
Emphasis on Plurilateral Accords
- Plurilateral accords are deals negotiated among a group of like-minded members that are limited to certain sectors of goods or services.
- Such agreements are typically easier and faster to negotiate than multilateral accords, which require a consensus among the WTO’s 164 members.
Revitalizing the Dispute Settlement Mechanism
- The joint report urged WTO members to work together to fix the impasse in the WTO dispute settlement system, which risks paralysis due to the Trump administration’s refusal to appoint appellate body members.
- Over the past year the US has cited a pattern of judicial overreach at the WTO and has blocked the appointment of experts to the appellate body, which has the final say in WTO dispute rulings.
- If the US continues to oppose new appointments to the panel beyond December 2019, the body will not have enough panelists to sign off on rulings.
- The WTO will lack the ability to fully adjudicate trade disputes involving the world’s largest companies.
Try to collect few points for:
What are the key areas of reform if the WTO has to survive in the present context of ‘Trade War’, especially keeping in mind the interest of India? (15) (CSE Mains, 2018)
- The past two years have seen the Supreme Court progressively question patriarchy in religion to ensure emancipation for women, and set the course for the future.
- But majority decisions in the court continue to rely on legal technicalities when it comes to politically-charged cases like the Ayodhya dispute and the arrest of five activists in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.
- The court has not shied away from confronting age-old personal law practices, usages and customs which were considered taboo.
- Chief Justice Dipak Misra belled the proverbial cat when he wrote in his main opinion that historically, women have been treated unequally. No philosophy has so far convinced the large population of this country to open up and accept women as equal partners in the journey of spirituality, the Chief Justice wrote in the Sabarimala case.
- In Sabarimala, the court held that the ban on women, based on their menstrual status, considering them as polluted and a distraction for worshippers vowed to celibacy, is a form of untouchability. In no uncertain terms, the court told the world that India still practices untouchability 63 years after the social evil was abolished under the Untouchability (Offences) Act in 1955.
- The fact that the court, despite the changes in Chief Justices, has remained steadfast in its objective to realise the equal status of women in religion was witnessed in October 2016 when a Bench led by then Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur drew a parallel between the restriction on women worshipping in Sabarimala temple and Mumbai’s famed Haji Ali Dargah.
- Chief Justice Thakur had observed that ‘exclusion’ is practised by both Hindus and Muslims and the problem needs to be addressed. Hardly a week later, the Dargah Trust conceded before the court that it had resolved to allow women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah at par with men.
- The Khehar Court on August 22 last year declared the triple talaq unconstitutional and anti-Quran. Justice Kurian Joseph, on the Constitution Bench, held that Islam cannot be anti-Quran and Triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran, and consequently, it violates Shariat.
- Over the past year, the Misra Court has intervened with the Parsi elders to allow Goolrokh Gupta, a Parsi woman, who married outside her faith, to pray at the Tower of Silence for her departed father. It has also referred to a Constitution Bench the question whether the practice of female circumcision or khafz, prevalent in the Dawoodi Bohra sect, amounts to female genital mutilation and is a violation of women’s right to life and dignity.
- However, in the court’s decisions in three cases — Aadhaar, Ayodhya and activists’ arrests — the dissenting opinions of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S. Abdul Nazeer resonate while the opinions of the majority on the Bench led by Chief Justice Misra feel prosaic.
- In the case regarding the arrested activists, the majority opinion shared between Chief Justice Misra and Justice Khanwilkar retains the probe with the Maharashtra police. The two judges do not address Justice Chandrachud’s conclusion that investigation should go to a SIT as there is prejudice on the side of the police.
- In the Ayodhya case, Justice Nazeer points out the question in the 1994 Ismail Faruqui verdict, whether ‘offering prayers in a mosque is an essential part of Islam or not’, greatly influenced the Allahabad High Court’s judgment to divide the Ayodhya land in September 2010.
- The majority opinion of Chief Justice Misra and Justice Bhushan rests comfortably on the conclusion that the observation was confined to the facts of the Faruqui case.
- In the majority opinion in the Aadhaar case, the lead opinion by Justice A.K. Sikri holds that the right to provide dignity to the poor outweighs the right to privacy. The lead opinion strives for balance even as Justice Chandrachud, in his minority opinion, argues that it is not necessary to sacrifice privacy for dignity.
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