The HINDU Notes – 19th December 2019 - VISION

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Friday, December 20, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 19th December 2019






📰 Are fears over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act misplaced?

To reassure Indian Muslims, the PM needs to state that the govt. will not conduct an exercise like NRC

•A day after asserting at an election rally that those “creating a storm” against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) can be “identified by their clothes itself”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that “no Indian has anything to worry regarding this Act”. It is unfair to dismiss without careful consideration the government’s claim that Indians have nothing to fear from the CAA. Not even its critics can deny that all that the CAA does is to offer a benefit: citizenship. It does not take away anything from anyone. And, it offers the benefits of citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

•True, it doesn’t offer this benefit to persecuted Ahmadiyyas or Shias from these countries. It is discriminatory towards persecuted non-Indians who are Muslims. But what has that got to do with Indians, or Indian Muslims, for that matter? As has been pointed out umpteen times by Home Minister Amit Shah, the CAA doesn’t even refer to Muslims. So why is it being said that this law targets Indian Muslims?

No CAA without NRIC

•For an answer, we don’t need to look beyond the Home Minister’s own statements. Mr. Shah has repeatedly underscored two things: one, he will implement the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), extending the NRC exercise conducted in Assam to the rest of India; and two, the sequence is all-important: he will implement the CAA first, and only after that, the NRIC.

•Put simply, the CAA is a safety net that will ensure, and insure, the citizenship of all Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Paris — not just the lakhs of Hindus classed as “illegal migrants” by the Assam NRC, but also others all over India who might be categorised as “foreigners” when the NRIC is implemented. The citizenship of all of them will first be secured through the CAA, and only then, after all non-Muslims are protected with requisite citizenship-related documentation, will the all-India NRC or NRIC be implemented. If there is no NRIC, there would be no need for the CAA either. The NRIC’s objective is to divide the people domiciled in India into two categories: citizens and “illegal migrants”. The CAA’s objective is to pre-emptively rescue, prior to the NRIC exercise, the citizenship of all Indians except those whose religion finds no mention in the CAA.

Threat of omission

•It’s simple arithmetic: add all the religious groups under threat of exclusion by the NRIC (Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Parsis). Subtract from this set all the religious groups secured by the CAA (Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Parsis). We are left only with Muslims as the remainder. They will be the only community excluded from the ‘legislative benevolence’ of the Indian state as incarnated in the CAA. Ready to be scooped up, like so many gasping fish, by the NRIC net.

•Every Indian who is puzzled by the intensity of the anti-CAA protests sweeping the country needs to answer a few simple questions: What happens when, after Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian residents of India who are excluded by the NRIC are granted citizenship, thanks to the CAA, only Muslim “non-citizens” remain? Will these stateless people be sent to detention camps? Or will they be accorded an inferior status in a hierarchy of citizenship where non-Muslims occupy a higher position?

•Even if the government were to announce that it won’t implement the CAA, the very existence of this legislation is a danger to the social fabric of the country, for it is a tremendous enabler of hate speech. The world’s foremost experts on Genocide Prevention consider hate speech the prime harbinger of genocide. “The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. It started long before with hate speech,” observed Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Prevention of Hate Speech, on Prevent Genocide Day this month. As a political tool, the CAB-NRIC combo has the potential to encourage hate speech, especially at election time. As an administrative tool, it weakens constitutional safeguards against genocidal machinations, which could prove deadly in the unlikely event of the world’s largest democracy mutating into a majoritarian state sympathetic to such machinations.

Exclusionary precedents

•There is ample historical precedent for exclusionary citizenship laws and the ends they served. The Reich Citizenship Law of 1935 stripped German Jews of their citizenship, and everyone knows what came after. Closer home, the 1982 Citizenship Law in Myanmar rendered Rohingya Muslims stateless, despite the fact that they were indigenous to the Arakan region. Myanmar is currently facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

•Assurances by the government that “no Indian will lose citizenship” are to be welcomed. But anti-CAA protesters are convinced that under the CAA-NRIC regime, sections of Muslims will cease to be “Indians” anyway. Once they lose their citizenship, the government can still claim that no “Indian” has lost citizenship, for it is the government which decides who is an Indian and who isn’t.

•If it is indeed the case that all fears about the CAA are misplaced, and it is only “vested interests” that are misleading the nation, then it is easy for the Prime Minister to dispel such misapprehensions. Instead of blandly insisting that “not a single Indian will lose citizenship”, he only needs to declare categorically that the government will never, ever conduct anything like the NRIC. And he must repeat this assurance in every election rally, tweet it out, and reiterate it in his radio address. Can he do so? If he cannot, or will not, then what does that say of the intent behind the CAA?

📰 The rhetoric and reality of capital punishment

It provides neither justice nor deterrence

•Following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of review petitions by all four convicts in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case, the four have moved one step closer to the gallows. In the light of this, and the repeated demands to punish all rape convicts with the death penalty, it becomes important to examine empirical evidence on the topic.

•If the experience of the past century is taken as a guide, it is clear that death penalty as a measure to end sexual violence has completely failed. In 1965, only 23 nations had abolished the death penalty. But, subsequently, criminal justice systems across the world lost confidence in this mode of punishment. Today, over two-thirds of countries have given up on capital punishment either in law or in practice. The standards by which nations conduct themselves have evolved. But, in India, we continue to go against the tide.

Against natural justice

•In the system of criminal justice worldwide, including in India, underpinning the element of sentencing is the ‘Theory of Punishment’. This is classical law, proved so by having stood the test of time for centuries. It stipulates that there should be four elements of a systematic punishment imposed by the state: the protection of society; the deterrence of criminality; the rehabilitation and reform of the criminal; and the retributive effect for the victims and society. Capital punishment, in its very essence, goes against the spirit of the ‘Theory of Punishment’, and by extension, natural justice.

•The first element, ‘protection of society,’ is not served by imposing the death sentence any better than by incarceration. This has been proven time and again as inmates have spent decades on death row, harming no one, but being brutalised by the inhuman punishment meted out to them. Second, there are several factors which effect criminal activity and deterrence is only one of them. In a UN survey, it was concluded that “capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than the threat of life imprisonment.” The report of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee said that capital punishment is a regressive step and may not provide deterrence. The committee recommended the life sentence for the most grievous of crimes.

•It is not just statistics that prove the case against deterrence, so does logic. A reasonable man is deterred not by the gravity of the sentence but by the detectability of the crime.





•Third, the facet of ‘reform and rehabilitation of the criminal’ is immediately nullified by the prospect of capital punishment, ad oculos.

•This leaves only the final element — ‘the retributive effect’. Killing should never be carried out based on the primal and emotive desire among human beings for revenge. Revenge is a personalised and emotional form of retribution, which often loses sight of proportionality.

•A comparative study of death row conflicts shows that the jurisprudence in this regard is skewed against the weaker sections. Justice P.N. Bhagwati, said that “death penalty in its actual operation is discriminatory for it strikes mostly against the poor and deprived”. The reasons include lack of adequate legal assistance to the marginalised. The Death Penalty Project has conclusively shown the manner in which wrongful capital sentencing is carried out. In the United States alone, over 350 people have reportedly been wrongfully sentenced in the last century.

•Hence, in the light of the recent incidents of heinous violence perpetrated against women, it becomes imperative for the judiciary not give in to the public clamour for making capital punishment mandatory for rape convicts. Public angst and emotions cannot be an alternative to reason and logic. There needs to be better enforcement of law in response to valid questions on justice but death penalty holds no answers.

📰 Council votes for 28% GST on all lotteries

•The GST Council broke its tradition of taking decisions by consensus at its 38th meeting on Wednesday, with a first-time vote on a proposal to tax all lotteries at the uniform rate of 28%. After Kerala pushed for a division, States voted 21-7 in favour of the proposal. There were no proposals or discussion regarding overall GST rate changes at the meeting, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. A presentation on revenue augmentation made by State and Central officials contained data and projections of revenue collection and compensation cess collection, but did not make any suggestions to increase or cut rates, she said.

•The Council ultimately decided the issue needed further study and discussion before any decision is taken.

•There have been widespread concerns about the shortfall in tax revenue at a time of economic slowdown and lower consumption.

•In the first eight months of this financial year, only about 50% of GST collection targets and 60% of compensation cess collection targets have been achieved.

•Speaking to journalists as he left the meeting, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra said that the Centre’s revenue projections indicated that it would run out of money to compensate States by February 2020. He also worried that social sector spending would be cut as a result. According to sources present in the meeting, Delhi Finance Minister Manish Sisodia also took the Centre to task during the meeting, asking how the State is expected to govern when compensation cess payments are delayed.

•“I have heard the concerns of States,” said Ms. Sitharaman. “In the Council and in the Rajya Sabha, I have explained in detail about how we remain committed to cooperative federalism and also to honour the promises given on GST.”

•With regard to lotteries, there is a dual rate regime at present, with state-run lotteries taxed at 12%, while state-authorised lotteries (run by private players) face a 28% tax rate.

•“There was an extended debate on the topic. Every attempt was made to keep that set tradition [of decisions by consensus] alive, every attempt was made to convince based on the opinion-making in the house,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told journalists after the meeting. “But eventually, the Council was reminded that the rules allow [voting] and that tradition is not part of the rulebook, and the rules should govern the running of the Council.”

•She added that the vote had been taken “on a request of one member”. Several people present in the meeting confirmed that it was Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac who pushed for the vote. Maharashtra and Puducherry were among the States who opposed the proposal along with Kerala, concerned about losses to State revenue, sources said. However, the vote went in favour of the proposal and a uniform 28% tax rate on lotteries will come into effect from March 1, 2020.

•The Council decided to waive the late fee for GSTR-1 taxpayers who have not filed returns from July 2017 to November 2019 if all the returns are filed by January 10, 2020. If this deadline is missed, then e-way bills will be blocked for defaulters, said Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey.

•In view of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern States, the tax filing deadline for November has been extended to the end of the year in those areas. Other measures have been taken to check the menace of fake invoices.

📰 No stay on Citizenship Act implementation, says SC

Court says it will hear the 59 petitions on January 22

•The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, which fast-tracks citizenship by naturalisation process for “illegal” migrants from six religious communities, other than Muslims, who have fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

•Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde instead orally suggested to the government to publicise the actual intent of the Act so that there was no confusion among the public about its objectives and aims.

•Protests have broken out all over the country since the notification of the Act on December 12.

•“There is need to publicise why the Act [CAA] is passed. There is a need for that,” Justice Bobde addressed Attorney General K.K. Venugopal for the Centre. “I agree. We will see to it,” Mr. Venugopal responded.

‘Lot of confusion’

•The CJI’s comments came on a submission by advocate A.K. Upadhyay that there was a lot of confusion in the public mind about the objectives of the amended Citizenship Act.

•The government has maintained that the amendments made to the Citizenship Act of 1955 were meant to protect and welcome religiously persecuted people fleeing the three neighbouring countries, where Muslims form the majority.

•The Supreme Court issued a formal notice admitting 59 petitions filed by people from all walks of life and faiths. The court said it would hear the petitions on January 22.

•Wednesday was its last working day before it closed for the winter vacation till January 1.

•But lawyers continued to fervently urge the Bench, also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant, to stay the Act even after the court called the next case.

•“We are not going to hear this case today!” Justice Bobde said emphatically.

•Mr. Venugopal said there were at least four judgments of the court, which said an Act once notified as law cannot be stayed.

•“The Act has not come into existence. Its Rules are yet to be notified,” senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for a petitioner, countered.

•During a brief but tense hearing, both the CJI objected to how several lawyers shouting at the same time to be heard by the Bench created an atmosphere of ruckus not befitting the court’s decorum.

•“I went to the Pakistan Supreme Court. They have a lectern where only one lawyer addresses the Bench... We should have something like that here,” Mr. Venugopal said.

Petitioners’ arguments

•The petitions argue that the law welcomes “illegal migrants” into India selectively on the basis of their religion and pointedly excludes Muslims. It has an “unholy nexus” with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise and is against the principles of secularism, right to equality and dignity of life enshrined in the Basic Structure of the Constitution.




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