The HINDU Notes – 07th August 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 07th August 2019

πŸ“° Museum on PMs likely to be ready by March 2021

Building to come up at Nehru’s erstwhile residence

•The opening of the museum on Prime Ministers of India that is being set up on the premises of Jawaharlal Nehru’s erstwhile residence Teen Murti Estate could be delayed by a few months, sources in the Union Culture Ministry said.

•The museum, the foundation stone for which was laid on October 15, 2018 by the then Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, is likely to be constructed by the Central Public Works Department as per its deadline of March 2020, senior ministry officials said. However, the targeted opening in October 2020 could be pushed due to the work on the exhibits inside the museum, including the digital content that is being created, they said.

•While one official said the opening could be “a few months late”, a top ministry functionary said it would be likely by March 2021.

•Speaking at the launch of a book on former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the museum would be dedicated to all former Prime Ministers. He asked the families of all former Prime Ministers to share things related to them for the exhibits.

•Teen Murti Estate, which is spread over 25.5 acres, houses the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. According to the Culture Ministry, the existing museum building occupies 4,286 sq m and the library building is built on 4,552 sq m — that’s about two acres together. The NDA government had decided to use the remaining area for a museum on all Prime Ministers, including those in the future.

•The new museum will take 10,975.36 sq m over a basement, ground and first floor, with galleries on all three levels, a government statement had said on October 15, 2018. The museum will include interactive features for visitors to learn about the contribution of former PMs over the years.

πŸ“° Lok Sabha endorses Centre’s decisions on Kashmir

A momentous occasion in our Parliamentary democracy, says PM

•The Centre’s decisions setting new terms of engagement with Jammu and Kashmir — by reorganising it as Union Territories, ending its special status under Article 370 and 35 (A) and extending to it all the provisions of the Constitution — were endorsed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday after a debate that lasted close to seven hours.

•The Lok Sabha approved a resolution abrogating special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and a Bill for splitting the State into two Union Territories. The resolution was adopted by the House with 351 members voting in its support and 72 against it, while one member abstained.

•The Bill to create the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh was passed by 370 votes in favour and 70 against. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House.

‘No talks with Hurriyat’

•Replying to the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah assured the House that the government could restore full Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir if the situation improved and expressed its willingness to engage with the local population. “We don’t want to talk to the Hurriyat, but we are ready to speak to the people of Kashmir,” he said, adding that the security forces would not be moved out of the Valley until the situation became fully normal.

•Mr. Shah also asserted that the Centre’s decision did not impact in any way India’s claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and the government would continue to do so.

•Mr. Modi termed the passage of the resolution and the Bill “a momentous occasion in our Parliamentary democracy”.

•“For years, vested interest groups who believed in emotional blackmail never cared for people’s empowerment. J&K is now free from their shackles. A new dawn, better tomorrow awaits!” Mr. Modi said in a series of tweets and saluted the people of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

•Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla adjourned the House sine die (indefinitely) after the resolution and the Bill were passed. They will become law with President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent.

•The Constitutional order amending the provisions of Article 370 and the bills — to create J&K and Ladakh as union territories and extend reservation benefits to certain sections — was passed by a division votes.

•Removal of the special provisions according special status to J&K under Article 370 was supported by 351 members, 72 voted against it and one member abstained. In case of the J&K re-organisation bill, the government managed 370 votes in his favour.

•BJP ally, Janata Dal (United), and Trinamool Congress didn’t take part in the debate and walked out of the House. However, several Opposition parties including Telugu Desam Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal among others supported the government.

•During his reply, Mr Shah asserted that the special provisions under Article 370 denied basic rights to minorities (non-Muslims) in the Kashmir valley. He said if the families of Dr. Manmohan Singh or Inder Kumar Gujral had settled in Kashmir instead of Punjab, they could not have become Prime Ministers.

•“Minorities don’t have voting rights,” he said and added, “”This is not a historical blunder but we are rectifying the historical blunder”.

•The Home Minister said Article 370 allowed Pakistan to spread terrorism in J&K that has seen 41,900 deaths since 1989. “Do we still want to follow the same path that we have so far followed or should we try something new?”he asked in response to remarks made by Congress leader Shashi Thaoor.

•Mr Tharoor, had earlier commented that though the armed forces had met with success in dealing with terrorists, the Centre’s move may actually now allow them to cite “a new injustice’ and give a foothold to terror outfits group Al Qaeeda and ISIS.

•The Home Minister also asserted that the Centre wouldn’t alter different sections under Article 371 that guarantees special provisions to several North Eastern States like Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya among others.

•When several Opposition MPs questioned where was fellow member and National Conference (NC) Farooq Abdullah, Mr. Shah replied: “Farooq Abdullah ji is not under house arrest. If he doesn’t want to come out of his house I can’t put a gun to his head and make him come out”.

•Hitting back at the Congress for questioning the manner in which the the Modi government bifurcated J&K, Mr. Shah charged the Congress of splitting Andhra Pradesh even after the Assembly of undivided Andhra Pradesh rejected the resolution to create Telangana with two-third majority.

•The House witnessed sharp exchanges between Opposition and Treasury benches through the day over a range of issues including how India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru handled the accession of J&K.

•When many speakers from the Treasury benches including union minister Jitender Singh (who represents Udhampur Lok Sabha seat) maintained that Art. 370 ensured prosperity only to ‘three political families’ and was inserted at the instance of Nehru, Mr. Tharoor countered that it was done with the concurrence of the then Home Minister Sardar Patel.

•Mr. Modi was given a rousing welcome with loud chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jaiand Vande Mataram when he walked into the House just before Mr Shah started replying to the debate.

πŸ“° Ahead of Jaishankar's Beijing visit, India tells China to avoid commenting on Ladakh

‘India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise’ said an MEA spokesperson

•The formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, is an internal affair of India, and India expects other countries to avoid commenting on its internal developments, an official of the Ministry of External Affairs said on Tuesday.

•The Indian response came after Beijing said that ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir undermined its sovereignty. “The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, is an internal matter concerning the territory of India. India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise,” said the spokesperson of the Ministry.

•The Bill describes Kargil and Leh districts as constituents of the Union Territory of Ladakh.

•Historically the district of Leh covered the area of Aksai Chin that remains out of Indian control.

•The exchanges over Ladakh are expected to set the backdrop of the August 11 to 13 visit to Beijing by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar who will participate in the High Level Mechanism between two sides.

•The Chinese Foreign Ministry had highlighted the creation of Ladakh as a union territory while criticising the Indian move to end the special status for Kashmir. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday that change of the status of Ladakh was ‘unacceptable’ to China.

•“We urge India to exercise prudence in words and deeds concerning the boundary question, strictly abide by relevant agreements concluded between the two sides and avoid taking any move that may further complicate the boundary question,” said Ms. Hua in response to a question on the creation of a union territory in Ladakh that she described as ‘Chinese territory’ in the western sector of the Sino-India boundary question.

MEA statement

•In response the MEA spokesperson said, Delhi and Beijing are committed to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border region. “The border issue will be dealt with on the basis of the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of India-China Boundary Question,” said the MEA spokesperson.

πŸ“° The hard realities of India’s fast-track courts

Many of them are understaffed and under-resourced

•Fast-track courts are in the limelight yet again. Smriti Irani, Minister for Women and Child Development, informed the Rajya Sabha that the government has proposed to set up 1,023 fast-track courts to clear the cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court in a suo motu petition had issued directions, stating that districts with more than 100 cases pending under the POCSO Act need to set up special courts that can deal specifically with these cases.

•Increasing the number of courts as a recourse to deal with the mounting backlog has been a common practice. However, while large sums of money and attention are being devoted to creating additional posts, little is being done to identify and address the prevalent systemic issues. Without fully optimising the current mechanisms and resolving the problems, sanctioning more judges may not provide the intended results.

•Fast-track courts (FTCs) have been around for a long time, with the first ones being established in the year 2000. Since then, much has been spoken and written about them. To quote the Ministry of Law and Justice, at the end of March, there were 581 FTCs operational in the country, with approximately 5.9 lakh pending cases, Uttar Pradesh having the most number of cases. However, 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no FTCs. In terms of money, ₹870 crore was released by the Centre between 2000-2001 and 2010-2011 towards these FTCs.

State-by-State variations

•With all these years of experience and money spent, it is discomforting to see not only the decline of FTCs across the country but also systemic issues prevalent in the States that have the courts. In a survey of FTCs conducted by National Law University Delhi, it was observed that there is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by these courts across States, with certain States primarily allocating rape and sexual offence cases to them and other States allocating various other matters. Further, several FTCs lacked technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of the victims and many of them did not have regular staff.

•While the Centre is promising to set up FTCs across the country, the moot question is: will a mere increase in the number of judges lead to a direct reduction in pendency of cases? Data collated from the Supreme Court’s ‘Court News’ between 2010 and 2017 show otherwise. For instance, in Karnataka, the number of working judges increased between 2012 and 2017 (with occasional dips in certain years) but pendency did not reduce. Similarly in other States, such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and West Bengal, increase or decrease in the number of judges did not affect pendency of cases.

Addressing the systemic issues

•Hence, there are several other factors that have an impact on disposal of cases. Inadequate staff and IT infrastructure, delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, frivolous adjournments and over-listing of cases in the cause list are some of the variables. Identifying systemic issues and addressing the concerns is as important for timely disposal of cases as increasing the number of judges.

•Furthermore, given the vacancies in subordinate courts across the country, it also needs to be seen whether States will hire additional judges or appoint FTCs from the current pool of judges. For instance, in the case of commercial courts, several States designate special judges from the current pool of judges. Such a move could prove to be problematic as it would increase substantially the workload of the remaining judges.

•All said and done, the final responsibility of making sure that the entire exercise results in a positive change vests with the States. For the FTCs to become successful, States will need to take stock of the issues at the ground level.

•It is often noted that policies and regulations are passed without keeping in view the ground realities. It is important that States engage with the principal and senior district judges to get a sense of issues the courts are facing in various districts. Equal attention must be paid to both the metropolitan and far-flung non-metropolitan areas. Critical issues such as inadequate court staff, improper physical and IT infrastructure and understaffed forensic labs, which affect the day-to-day functioning of the FTCs, must be comprehensively addressed. For the overall system to work productively, it is important to ensure that its various components work efficiently and without any hindrance.

πŸ“° The new facts on the ground for Kashmir

India cannot claim the moral high ground any more that it has kept the State’s integrity intact

•Without going into the moral and legal arguments for or against the scrapping of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the decision to reorganise the State into two Union Territories (UTs), a dispassionate analysis of the possible immediate implications of these constitutional changes is needed. Some assertions in support of the changes may partially be true while others may run contrary to the facts.

•The implicit claim that this would lead to greater counterterrorism preparedness is questionable. The strength of any counterinsurgency grid is largely based on human intelligence coming from the ground. Here, it will be unrealistic to expect that merely changing the administrative and political set-up of the State will lead to more intelligence to the security apparatus; in fact, there is a high possibility of the contrary happening in the short-term on account of the decision’s unpopularity in the Kashmir Valley. India needs to be mindful of the fact that historically, any spike in disaffection in Jammu and Kashmir has facilitated a misadventure by Pakistan. For instance, the maximum dilution of Article 370 took place in the 1960s, including changes concerning the nomenclature of the ‘head of the State’. And this was followed by the infamous ‘Operation Gibraltar’ by Pakistani President Ayub Khan in August 1965.

A self-defeating strategy

•The present cycle of violence can be traced back to the rigging of the 1987 Assembly elections and, in this connection, Home Minister Amit Shah is right in citing rigging of successive elections as the primary cause of the mistrust of Kashmiris towards India. But in bringing the State directly under the Centre as a Union Territory, the government may have overlooked the hard lessons learned by India’s intelligence in its nearly 30 years of counterinsurgency operations — relying purely on militaristic tools can be self-defeating.

•Further, bifurcating the State and creating a Union Territory of Ladakh mirrors what Pakistan did with Gilgit and Baltistan regions by de facto creating a separate province in 2009. New Delhi has often objected to the Chinese infrastructural projects in the region and also opposed Islamabad’s decision to separate it from the rest of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Now, after stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, India cannot claim the moral high ground any more by pointing out unlike Pakistan, it kept the integrity of the State intact.

Ladakh as Union Territory

•Though the demand for Union Territory status picked up momentum in Ladakh in the 1990s, its spread was limited to the Leh district of Ladakh. The Shia population of Kargil has consistently opposed such a call as it fears Buddhist domination in the new set-up. Hence, the Centre needs to assure leaders from Kargil that their interests would be safeguarded in the new Union Territory. India would not want to create another zone of disaffection in a strategically important border region of the State where it has already faced Pakistani aggression once.

•The Centre also needs to take steps to prevent further polarisation within the State. The ruling political elite, particularly from the Kashmir Valley, has remained indifferent to regional and ethnic aspirations, which are inherently political. Factoring in the complex societal landscape of the State and its divergent aspirations, saner proposals have been made before for five-tier devolution of powers — from State-level to regional-level to district-level to block-level to village-level. However, in the absence of any institutional mechanism to address regional and ethnic aspirations, polarisation has continued to increase among different regions, often taking a communal turn. Monday’s decision might polarise the State even further along regional and religious lines.

•Mr. Shah made a valid point when he said that political reservation, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, has been denied to Scheduled Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir even though all political parties have suitably accommodated them in other ways. In the past, there had been several Bills in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for political reservation but they were never passed. Around 11.91% of the State’s population is made of Scheduled Tribes, the bulk of them from Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes. Extending political reservation to them will make the State’s political structure more inclusive.

•However, Mr. Shah’s claim of widespread poverty in the State, cited as one of the justifications for Monday’s decision, is not backed by facts. Only 10.35% of the State’s population lives below the poverty line, compared to the national average of 21.92%. It needs to be noted that though restrictions on land sale existed, successive State governments had been, on an ad hoc basis, liberally giving land to non-state investors on 99-year leases.

Removal of impediments

•Monday’s decision on paper has removed all impediments on sale of land but, in the short term, could lead to an increase in private investment only in Jammu. A prolonged period of peace is needed in other parts of the State to attract investment. Monday’s move has also removed another impediment — children born to women marrying citizens from outside Jammu and Kashmir can now inherit property.

•Further, descendants of Partition refugees who migrated from Sialkot, many of whom belong to Scheduled Castes, will now be able to get employment, buy and own land and vote in the new Union Territory.

•What also needs to be considered is that bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir may trigger demands for further division of the State which, unless they are categorically rejected, could trigger a long period of instability and turbulence. Separation of ethnically and culturally distinct Ladakh from the rest of Jammu and Kashmir is somewhat less challenging, because of its relatively smaller population. And what about the right to return of Kashmiri Pandits? Monday’s decision is unlikely to alter their present status as the security environment in the Valley is currently not conducive for them to go back.

•On the whole, the country needs to be better informed of the implications of the changes on the ground. The road to resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir tangle lies in bringing the policymaking closer to facts, learning from the past and avoiding unrealistic expectations.

πŸ“° Kashmir has been cut to the quick

The Centre is riding roughshod over Kashmiri public opinion already beset with disaffection

•In the face of a massive security build-up in Kashmir at the close of July, a seasoned journalist conjectured, “This is just the right time when militants and their masters in Rawalpindi could do with a terror attack in Kashmir.” Such were the arguments trotted out by experienced media persons in seeking to account for the extraordinary lock down that had descended on Kashmir throwing its citizens into a panic, with a run on banks, petrol pumps and stores across the Valley. I began receiving phone calls from friends and associates as far as Gopalpora, Mattan and Doabgah and Sopore asking what was happening. My former colleagues in government, some in key positions, had no inkling and made dire predictions.

A steamrolling

•And then we had the statement of the Home Minister, Amit Shah, in the Rajya Sabha on the morning of Monday August 5, 2019. Under Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had its own Constitution and its own laws, with the President of India empowered to decide which provisions of the Indian Constitution would be applicable within the State, but only with the assent of the State.

•In one fell swoop, the President, Ram Nath Kovind, declared that all provisions of the Indian Constitution shall now apply to the State, thus nullifying Article 370 with the use of that same article thereby ending the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir that it had enjoyed since the promulgation of India’s Constitution. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 further bifurcates the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, both with a Muslim majority namely: the Union Territory (UT) of J&K and the Union Territory of Ladakh. While the UT of J&K will have a legislature, the Union Territory of Ladakh will be without one. Although in the past UTs have been upgraded to States, never has a State been downgraded, thus bringing to a consummation the process initiated with the accession, although hardly in the manner dreamt.

Umbilical link

•Article 370 has governed the accession and relationship of the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir with India under the Indian Constitution. As originally envisaged, Article 370 formed the basis of Kashmir’s special and autonomous status. Mainstream political leaders such as Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others have warned that revoking Article 370 will mean a break in the relationship between the State and India.

•A devout Muslim, the then unchallenged Kashmiri leader, Sheikh Abdullah (Baba-i-Qaum to his people), ‘faced a clear choice in 1947; he could join a Muslim nation or he could join a secular state, where Kashmiris would be free to live a life of their own choosing. In making his choice, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the Sheikh’s reassurance. Of Kashmiri descent, a heritage that Nehru cherished, Nehru had an inclusive vision of what India was to be’. By contrast, the leader of the newly emerging nation of Muslims, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was a cold and distant figure, a modernist who could excite awe but little affection. At the time of accession, the portion of the State where Jinnah’s Muslim League had its support lay not in the Kashmir Valley but across the Pir Panjal, in Mirpur and the old Poonch principality of the feudal State of Jammu and Kashmir, an area a large part of which Pakistan occupies today and calls ‘Azad Kashmir’.

•It is important to remember that the Kashmir freedom movement was a movement to rid Kashmir of despotism, working in tandem with the national movement but not part of it. This was primarily a Kashmiri movement drawing almost universal Kashmiri support in a Muslim majority State where the Kashmiris were the largest single ethnic group. Despite efforts by Maharajah Hari Singh’s Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak in eliciting the Sheikh’s support for Independence, the latter stood steadfast in his demand for an end to the monarchy.

•Visiting Srinagar on June 18- 23, India’s Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten urged Hari Singh not to make a declaration of independence. He conveyed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s message that ‘the States Department was prepared to give an assurance that, if Kashmir went to Pakistan, this would not be regarded as unfriendly by Government of India’. It was only when Jammu and Kashmir forces faced an uprising by the Poonch troops of the British Indian Army’s decommissioned Sixth Punjab Regiment (in the border district of Poonch), and then a military rout by invading frontier tribesmen in the State’s border town of Domel on October 22, 1947 that the Maharaja turned in desperation to India.

Pakistan’s lost cause

•According to the 1941 Census, 77.11% of the population of Jammu and Kashmir was Muslim, 20.12% Hindu and 1.64% Sikh. Pakistan has argued that the logic of Partition meant that the State had to be a part of Pakistan. But by recourse to an invasion by Pakistan’s frontier tribesmen and the support of the invasion by Pakistan’s armed forces, Pakistan virtually lost its case, certainly in the eyes of Kashmiris. India’s case rested on the public will. Indeed, Sheikh Abdullah spoke for Kashmir at the United Nations in February 1948 as part of a delegation led by N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar firmly declaring, “We shall prefer death rather than join Pakistan. We shall have nothing to do with such a country.” And it was this freedom within the Indian Union that Abdullah sought through the constitutional guarantee of Article 370, which read with Article 369, provided temporary powers to Parliament to make laws for J&K.

•Under sub-section 3 of this Article, the President of India can revoke Article 370 only on advice from the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. The Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 1957, and replaced by a Legislative Assembly, which was dismissed last year after the coalition between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party collapsed and the Governor Satya Pal Malik rejected a bid for an alternative coalition. Importantly, the current Presidential order modifies Article 367 of the Constitution, with “Constituent Assembly” to be read as “Legislative Assembly of the State” and the State government construed as the Governor. This has enabled the President to abrogate Article 370 with the consent of the Governor as consent of the State. The people themselves, who the Constitution is designed to serve, therefore, had no part in this process. The constitutional validity of these amendments are for the Supreme Court to ponder. But the question here is that if these are indeed designed to benefit the people, was it necessary to bring them before Parliament under stealth, with the leaders of mainstream parties, the former Chief Ministers the Abdullahs (father and son), Mehbooba Mufti and the BJP’s ally Sajjad Lone all under house arrest?

Opaque moves

•There is little doubt that these are bold constitutional measures described with contrasting adjective or invective, consummating a process that began with the Constitution of India. But if the view of government was simply to rectify a constitutional error or remedy an anachronism as claimed by assiduous government spokesmen, did it not follow that democratic compulsion required that it be placed before the public most affected — the people of J&K, — before being sneaked into Parliament in tight secrecy? This without the knowledge of even the local government amidst security measures unprecedented in their intensity, surpassing even those that the Jagmohan government was forced to take following the outbreak of insurgency in 1989-90? This endeavour has meant riding roughshod over Kashmiri public opinion already beset with widespread disaffection. What it has succeeded in doing is leading to a feeling of betrayal among a section of our people and foreboding among well wishers of Kashmir.

πŸ“° Article 370: Petition filed in Supreme Court against Centre’s notification on J&K

Advocate says the move was unconstitutional and illegal

•A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the August 5 notification of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 2019, which amends Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and scraps its 65-year-old predecessor — The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of May 14, 1954 — as unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary.

•The petition filed by advocate M. L. Sharma is likely to be mentioned before Justice N.V. Ramana on Wednesday. The Chief Justice of India and Justice S.A. Bobde, the second senior most judge, are sitting in a Constitution Bench in the Ayodhya title suit appeals. Justice Ramana is ranked third in seniority.

•Mr. Sharma said his petition refers to how the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir were detained/arrested before the issuance of the August 5 notification. There was no meaningful legislative or representative debate, he submitted.

•By junking the 1954 Order, the notification takes away the special rights and privileges enjoyed by the residents of Kashmir. It has effectively allowed the entire provisions of the Constitution, with all its amendments, exceptions and modifications, to apply to the area of Jammu and Kashmir, the petitioner contended. The 2019 notification superseded the 1954 Order and declared that “all the provisions of the Constitution, as amended from time to time, shall apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir”.

•The August 5 notification has been issued under Article 370 of the Constitution. In short, the government employed Article 370, which had once protected the 1954 Order giving special rights to the people of J&K, to scrap the more than 60-year-old Order. The government justified the notification by saying that it closes the “chasm” between residents of J&K and citizens of other parts of the country.

•The second part of the August 5 notification dealt with the addition of a new clause to Article 367, which amends the proviso to clause (3) of 370. Article 367 deals with the applicability of the General Clauses Act, 1897, to interpret the provisions of the Constitution. The August 5 notification amends the expression “Constituent Assembly”, contained in the proviso to clause (3) of Article 370, to mean “Legislative Assembly”.

•Clause (3) of Article 370 gives the President power to end the special rights and privileges of the people of J&K under the 1954 Order. However, the clause carried the rider that the President had to first get the consent of the Constituent Assembly of J&K before issuing such a notification. This rider or check on the President’s power was intended to give the people of the State a say in their own future.

•However, the Constituent Assembly ceased to exist in 1956 and did not abrogate Article 370, which was deemed to be a permanent feature of the Constitution.

•The August 5 notification tided over the obstacle of a non-existent ‘Constituent Assembly’ by amending the expression in the proviso to ‘Legislative Assembly’. An amendment in Article 370 should have undergone the constitutional amendment procedure envisaged under Article 368 of the Constitution, the petitioner said.

πŸ“° ‘Raising time limit for abortion under study’

•The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that it has initiated the process for an inter-ministerial consultation on raising the gestation period for terminating pregnancy in case of health risk to the mother or foetus.

•“The administrative ministry has already initiated the process of inter-ministerial consultation for the amendment in Medical Termination Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971 and will finalise the same as soon as possible,” the health ministry said in an affidavit placed before a Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar.

•The Health Ministry’s response came on a petition by social activist and lawyer, Amit Sahni, for raising the time limit for terminating pregnancy in case of health risk to the mother or the foetus to 24-26 weeks from the current cap of 20 weeks.

•It contended that unmarried woman and widows too should be allowed to undergo legal abortion.

•The Supreme Court, in 2017, had declined to amend the Act which prohibits termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks, saying that the issue fell within the legislative realm.

•The Health Ministry said it had sought comments from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Niti Aayog on amending the MTP Act and had in March forwarded a final draft to the law ministry for its approval.

•But, the Law Ministry had returned the note saying that since both Houses of Parliament have been adjourned, the administrative ministry may, as soon as the new government is sworn-in, take a view in the matter after holding consultations with all stakeholders, the affidavit said.

πŸ“° Consumer Protection Bill gets RS green light

The bill seeks to establish authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumer disputes
•Parliament on Tuesday approved a new bill to revamp the process of administration and settlement of consumer disputes, with strict penalties including jail term for adulteration and misleading ads by companies.
•The Consumer Protection Bill 2019, already passed by Lok Sabha, was approved in the Upper House by voice vote and will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
•Amendments moved by Derek O’ Brien (TMC) and KK Ragesh (CPI) for sending the bill to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha for further scrutiny were rejected by the Upper House.
•Members from Left parties, DMK and Trinamool Congress opposed the bill saying it takes away indirectly the powers of the state governments and should be referred to a select committee.
•The bill piloted by Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan seeks to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights. It strengthen the rights of consumers and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defects in goods and deficiency in services.
•Under the Bill, celebrities endorsing misleading ads are also liable for fine.
•Replying to a debate on the Bill, Paswan said that the suggestions given by members would be included in the rules framed by the Ministry under this legislation.
•The Minister said if a product is found faulty, instead of earlier individual examination, the entire batch would be examined. He said the new bill seeks to take care of product liabilities and service, as well as action against publishers and celebrities of misleading advertisements.
•Paswan said there are a number of cases, over 20,304 cases at national, 1,18,319 cases pending at state level and 3,23,163 cases are pending at the district level in the country. “Now we are naming District Commission, State Commission and National Commission, with the district and state commissions under state governments,” he said.
•The minister lamented that still, in 118 districts out of 596 districts the posts of president of consumer commissions are not appointed and as many as 362 posts of members are lying vacant.
•Responding to a point regarding celebrity endorsements raised by Samajwadi Party member Jaya Bachchan, Paswan said when the Bill was sent to a Standing Committee earlier, it set jail term as punishment for all. However, later when an assessment was conducted, it was found that world-wide there is no provision of serious punishment for celebrities.
•Paswan observed that media and celebrities must only advertise what has been given in writing to them by manufacturers, else they will be responsible (for the misleading advertisements). The Minister was quick to add that celebrities were also endorsing Swachhta campaign and other social messages. He said the government will further examine rules regarding stunts in advertisements.
•On maximum retail price (MRP), Paswan said many restaurants were overcharging but when it tried to intervene, the matter was challeged in court. He said MRP should be displayed prominently on products apart from date of expiry, date of manufacturing and complaints redressal mechanism. He observed that there is no concept of levying a service charge globally and the government advised restaurants to make it voluntary.
•Paswan urged the state governments to pay more attention to consumer awareness programmes like 'Jaago Graahak Jaago’. “Since 90 per cent of cases are coming to district consumer commissions, the compensation have been increased to Rs one crore and Rs 10 crore for state level commissions, while the compensation for above Rs 10 crore has been kept for national commission,” he said.
•Participating in the debate, KC Ramamurthy (Congress) supported the bill but called for action against unfair trade practices as defined by the Bill and punitive measures thereof, saying the issue is being dealt by the Competition Commission also. “The bill is silent on promotion of false and misleading advertisements,” he said, demanding action against celebrities and those who promote such false advertisements.
•Vijay Goel (BJP) suggested that a Ministry of Moral Responsibility or Moral Education be also set up to ensure that lawmakers follow certain rules. He cited the example of Ministry of Loneliness set up in UK and Ministry of Happiness in Bhutan. He said the long queues for essential items under the Congress rule are no longer there.
•Goel said India is likely to cross China’s population by 2024 and consumerism is growing fast. He said this bill came in 2015 but could not be passed by Rajya Sabha even after Lok Sabha approved it. The Bill has also been sent to two Stranding Committees, he noted.
•Derek O’Brien (TMC) said sending the bill to a select committee is not a delaying tactic by the opposition but for ensuring that legislations should be properly scrutinised. He alleged that through this bill, the central government is “snatching” away the rights of states. “All executive powers are retained by the Centre, but the financial burden of setting up consumer commissions lies with the states. The states’ federal powers have been taken away,” he noted.
•O’Brien earlier quoted Dr BR Ambedkar who had stated that “there is a majority and there is a minority and the rights of minorities should be protected“.
•Paswan earlier noted it is a long pending legislation and except five, all recommendations of a parliamentary standing committee have been included in the bill. He said the government had dropped health care from the bill as several members had objected to it.
•He said this “non controversial” bill among other things, proposes setting up of Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and forums at the district, state and national levels for adjudicating consumer complaints.
New authority
•It also seeks to set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights as a class. The CCPA would make interventions to prevent consumer detriment arising from unfair trade practices. The agency can also initiate class action, including enforcing recall, refund and return of products.
•“This bill is a must in the current juncture but takes away the states’ powers. What is the reason for taking away the states’ powers indirectly in every bill?,” DMK member Tiruchi Siva questioned in Rajya Sabha. He pointed to to a provision in the bill wherein members of the state and district level consumer disputes redressal forums will be appointed by the central government, “usurping the powers of the state“.
•While proposing that the bill be referred to a select committee, Siva said the disputes redressal forums proposed in the bill do not have members from judiciary. “How can it be called a quasi-judiciary body? It is a pseudo-judiciary body,” he said.
•Echoing the views, CPI(M) member K K Ragesh said this a “sabotage of federalism and centralisation of powers” and added that even state’s powers to frame rules has been snatched away.
•Supporting the bill, RJD member Manoj Kumar Jha noted, “In this session of Rajya Sabha, there was a pattern to reduce the position and powers of states. BJP has always been concerned about federalism. I don’t know where those concerns have gone now.”
•He urged the government to take steps against advertisers on financial instruments and mutual funds to ensure the advertisements are clear to consumers.
•Claming that the bill is not “foolproof” and has many “drawbacks”, TRS member K Keshava Rao said the government has not accepted the 11 recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee that vetted the the draft law.
•He also said it challenges the federalism as members of the state and district forums will be appointed in consulation with the central government. Rao also pointed that the bill has not been drafted in a “simple language” for the benefit of consumers. The definition of consumer rights is written in a complicated way, he said.
•Speaking in favour of the bill, Ravi Prakash Verma (SP) demanded that the government create a consumer-friendly ecosystem in the country and create more awareness about consumer rights.
•Amar Patnaik (BJD) said the bill is good but several things need to reconsidered, especially definition of consumer needs to be broadened and welcomed a provision a class action. Supporting the bill, Kahkashan Perween (JD-U) shared her bad experience of buying diabetes medicine from an online platform.