Polity & Governance
- Codification of customary laws of Tribals
- Rajasthan seeks increased assistance for JJM
Government Schemes & Policies
- Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020
- Medical equipment categorised as drugs
- Pesticides Management Bill 2020
- Bill to include tribes in ST category
- No right to detain children in prisons
- No voting rights for prisoners
- DRT under Vivaad se Vishwas scheme
Also in News
- Five-day working week in Maharashtra
- Price cap on bottled water
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Polity & Governance
Codification of customary laws of Tribals
The Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) has moved resolutions to codify the customary laws of three tribal clans.
- The council introduced separate bills to adopt the law of the Mizo, the Kaipeng and the Malsom communities to redress their long-standing demands.
What is the issue?
- Several clans have been approaching the TTAADC, which was constituted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, to codify the respective customary law of all indigenous communities.
- Tripura has 19 tribal communities, but some are left with very small population.
- The TTAADC introduced the bills to codify the customary law of the Mizo, the Kaipeng and the Malsom communities in its current session.
- Most of the customary laws of the numerous tribal groups in the northeast India are not in written structure.
- Even after the codification, the customary law has limited jurisdiction and can only deal with elected civil law matters.
What is Sixth Schedule?
- The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution.
- Passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, it seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal population through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC).
- ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.
- The governors of these states are empowered to reorganise boundaries of the tribal areas.
- In simpler terms, she or he can choose to include or exclude any area, increase or decrease the boundaries and unite two or more autonomous districts into one.
- They can also alter or change the names of autonomous regions without a separate legislation.
Autonomous districts and regional councils:
- Along with ADCs, the Sixth Schedule also provides for separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region.
- In all, there are 10 areas in the Northeast that are registered as autonomous districts – three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura.
- Each autonomous district and regional council consists of not more than 30 members, of which four are nominated by the governor and the rest via elections. All of them remain in power for a term of five years.
- The objectives are to maintain a distinct identity and exclusiveness of tribals and to keep away intrusive elements.
ADCs empowered with civil and judicial powers:
- The ADCs are empowered with civil and judicial powers, can constitute village courts within their jurisdiction to hear trial of cases involving the tribes.
- Governors of states that fall under the Sixth Schedule specifies the jurisdiction of high courts for each of these cases.
- The councils are also empowered to make legislative laws on matters like land, forests, fisheries, social security, entertainment, public health, etc. with due approval from the governor.
- The roles of the central and state governments are restricted from the territorial jurisdiction of these autonomous regions.
- Also, Acts passed by Parliament and state legislatures may or may not be levied in these regions unless the President and the governor gives her or his approval, with or without modifications in the laws for the autonomous regions.
Rajasthan seeks increased assistance for JJM
The government in Rajasthan has sought changes in the norms for Central assistance for the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), which envisages supply of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household by 2024, in order to reduce the financial burden on the States.
Reason for the demand:
- Rajasthan, where only 12% households are currently getting piped water supply, has formulated new action plans for implementing JJM by rejuvenating the sources of water to provide connections to about 98 lakh households.
- The State which has only 1.01% of the country’s surface water, had been trying hard to supply drinking water to geographically difficult areas and expected more assistance from the Centre to achieve the targets of JJM.
- Unless the steps were taken to increase surface water, the dark zones would expand across the State.
- The JJM is being implemented under the State Water and Sanitation Mission, which is already functional, and different sources, including rainwater harvesting, have been tapped.
Jal Jeevan Mission:
- Jal Jeevan Mission is a central government initiative under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- It aims to ensure Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) for every household in India by 2024.
- It also aims to create local infrastructure for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture.
- The flagship Central scheme at present stipulates the share in 50:50 ratios.
- The Har Ghar Nal Se Jal programme, announced by Finance Minister recently, forms a crucial part of the Jal Jeevan Mission.
- The Jal Jeevan Mission is based on a community approach to water as it includes information, education and communication as key components.
- The Mission is based on various water conservation efforts like point recharge, desilting of minor irrigation tanks, use of greywater for agriculture and source sustainability.
- The Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country.
Government Schemes & Policies
Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020
The Union Cabinet has given its nod to Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020 that will replace a 1963 law governing country’s 12 major ports.
- At present the ports are governed by a ports law of 1963.
- The Cabinet has approved the Major Ports Authority Bill 2020, that will be introduced in Parliament and replace the existing law.
- The proposed law is aimed at enhancing the overall efficiencies of the ports.
- Every port will now be governed by a Port Authority which will have the powers to fix reference tariffs for various port services, giving more autonomy to the ports.
- Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) will be ended.
- The major-port sector hasn’t seen the required level of fixed assets creation to pare the country’s high logistic costs owing to legacy issues including the TAMP’s archaic regulatory grip.
Major Ports in India:
- India has 12 major ports– Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).
Facts about Major Ports:
- According to the Indian Ports Association (IPA), the country’s 12 major ports recorded a marginal 1.14 % growth in cargo volumes at 585.72 million tonne (MT) during April-January period of the 2019-2020 fiscal.
- Deendayal port handled the highest traffic volume, followed by Paradip, Visakhapatnam, JNPT, Kolkata (including Haldia), and Mumbai.
- These 12 major ports handle about 60 % of the country’s total cargo traffic.
Medical equipment categorised as drugs
The Union Health Ministry has notified that medical equipment would qualify as “drugs” under Section 3 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 with effect from April 1, 2020.
What are the new provisions?
- After the law comes into effect, the manufacture, import and sale of all medical devices will now need to be certified by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
- Medical equipment under this definition include implantable medical devices such as knee implants, CT scan, MRI equipment, defibrillators, dialysis machine, PET equipment, X-ray machine etc.
- The ministry, through a gazette notification, also released the Medical Devices Amendment Rules, 2020, for mandatory registration of medical devices.
- All devices, including instruments, apparatus, appliances and implants, whether used alone or in combination for various purposes like diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment, alleviation of any disease, investigation, replacement or modification or support of the anatomy among others, will be regulated under the legislation.
- With mulling the laws, the ministry hopes will ensure that the equipments follow quality standards.
- Besides it will also make medical device companies accountable for quality and safety of their products.
- CDSCO will be the nodal authority to investigate complaints related to the quality and safety aspects of medical devices and can suspend the registration or cancel licences of firms.
Pesticides Management Bill 2020
The bill seeking to promote safe and effective pesticides is about to be introduced in the current session of Parliament.
About the bill:
- The Pesticides Management Bill 2020 seeks to replace the existing Insecticide Act, 1968, which the government said is age-old and needs immediate re-writing.
- Any person who wants to import, manufacture, or export pesticides would have to register under the new bill and provide all details regarding any claims, expected performance, efficacy, safety, usage instructions, and infrastructure available to stock that pesticide.
- The information will also include details on the pesticide’s potential effects on the environment.
- The bill also has a provision to provide compensation if there is any farm loss because of low quality or spurious pesticides.
- The penalty collected from the manufactures/dealers and funds put in by the government would be used to form a central fund.
- All the information regarding the available pesticides would be available in the public domain, in all languages in digital format, so that farmers can make the right decision on their use.
- The bill plans to regulate pesticides-related advertisements to check misleading claims by industries and manufacturers.
- It seeks to promote the use of organic pesticides.
- The new draft bill is aimed at protecting the interest of the farmers, so that they get safe and effective pesticides.
- Farmers would be empowered to get all information regarding the available pesticides, their strength, weaknesses, and risks from the dealers they choose to purchase the pesticide from.
- India is the fourth-largest producer of pesticides in the world.
- In the domestic market, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana are among the states with the highest recorded consumption.
- It is reported that eight states consume more than 70% of the pesticides used in India.
- Amongst the crops, paddy accounts for the maximum share of consumption (26-28%), followed by cotton (18-20%), notwithstanding all the hype around BT technology.
- There are 292 pesticides registered in the country, and it is estimated that there are around 104 pesticides that are continued to be produced/ used in India that have been banned in two or more countries in the world.
- The industry has grown to be an INR 20,000 crores business in India, with the top 3 companies having a market share of 57%.
Bill to include tribes in ST category
The Lok Sabha has recently passed the Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to include more tribes in Karnataka in ST category.
What are the proposals?
- The bill seeks to include the Parivara and the Talawara communities in Karnataka in the ST category to ensure they get reservation and other benefits provided by the government.
- The Siddi tribes of Belagavi and Dharwad would also be included in the category apart from those living in the Uttar Kannada districts.
- Scheduled Tribes have been defined in Article 366 of the Constitution as ‘‘such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution.’’.
- Article 342 of the Constitution provides the President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or group within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be.
- Any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from and other modifications in the list of Scheduled Tribes can be made only through an amending Act of Parliament.
Parivara and Talawara tribe:
- The Union Cabinet in 2018 had approved the inclusion of the communities Parivara and Talawara as synonym of Nayaka in the list of STs of Karnataka.
- This will fulfil the long term demand of ‘Parivara’ and Talawara’ communities for granting Scheduled Tribes status in the State of Karnataka.
- The persons belonging to ‘Parivara’ and Talawara’ communities will be eligible to get the Scheduled Tribe certificate from the State of Karnataka and will also be eligible for all benefits meant for the Scheduled Tribes in the State.
- As per the government, Parivara and Talawara are socially, politically, economically and educationally backwards.
- The communities’ life cycle rituals, language, lifestyle, the standard of living, physical features, socio-economic and educational status and their geographical isolation are similar to that of Beda, Nayaka and Valmiki which are already included in the ST category in the state of Karnataka.
- Siddi Tribe in Karnataka mainly lives in Dharwad, Belagavi and Uttar Kannada districts.
- They were classified under the list of Scheduled Tribes by the union government in 2003.
- They are included in the Centre’s list of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
- They depended on hunting and gathering traditionally, but at present, their main source of livelihood is labour and agriculture.
- It is believed that they are of African origin because they clearly show the Negroid racial strain in their physical features.
No right to detain children in prisons
The Supreme Court made it clear that the police have no right to detain children in conflict with law in a lockup or a jail.
What the law says?
- A juvenile in conflict with law, if apprehended, has to be placed immediately under the care of the special juvenile police unit or a designated child welfare officer.
- The child has to be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) and once a child is produced before a JJB, bail is the rule.
- And even if, for some reason, bail is not granted, a child cannot be put behind bars. He has to be lodged either in an observation home or in a place of safety.
- The law is meant to protect children and not detain them in jail or keep them in police custody. The police cannot torture children.
- The court said the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, is a welfare law. The JJBs, formed under this Act, are not intended to serve the authorities as “silent spectators”.
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 came into force from January 15, 2016 and repeals the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
- The JJ Act, 2015 provides for strengthened provisions for both children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law.
- It strikes a fine balance between the demands of the stakeholders asking for continued protection of rights of juveniles and the popular demand of citizens in the light of increasing incidence of heinous crimes by young boys.
Key provisions of the act:
1. Offences defined:
- The Act clearly defines and classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous, and defines differentiated processes for each category.
2. Provisions for serious and heinous offences:
- Keeping in view the increasing number of serious offences being committed by persons in the age group of 16-18 years and recognizing the rights of the victims as being equally important as the rights of juveniles, special provisions are incorporated in the Act to tackle heinous offences committed by individuals in this age group.
3. Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA)
- It establishes a statutory status for the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA).
- Mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care is required according to the Act.
5. Juvenile Justice Board:
- In pursuance with Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016, the State Government constitutes Juvenile Justice Boards in the districts time to time, for exercising the powers & to discharge duties, conferred on such Boards in relation to Children in Conflict with Law under this Act and Rule.
- The new law gives the Juvenile Justice Board the power to assess whether the perpetrator of a heinous crime aged between 16 and 18, had acted as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult.’
- The board will be assisted in this process by psychologists and social experts.
- It will ensure that the child’s rights are protected throughout the process of apprehending the child, inquiry, aftercare and rehabilitation.
- It will also ensure the availability of legal aid for the child through the legal services institutions.
- New offences including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, the use of children by militant groups, and offences against disabled children are also incorporated in the legislation.
- It also proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children. It provides for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures.
No voting rights for prisoners
The Delhi High Court has rejected a petition seeking voting rights for prisoners.
- The students’ petition challenged the constitutional validity of section 62(5) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951, which says prisoners, i.e., neither convicts nor undertrials, should be allowed to vote, if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police.
- It argued that a blanket ban on prisoners’ right to vote “is a violation of the spirit and soul of the constitution as well as the basic principle of equality.”
- The Bench noted the right to vote provided under the statute — Representation of the People Act, 1951— was subject to restrictions imposed by the law, which does not allow prisoners to cast vote from jails.
- Earlier, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had informed the High Court that prisoners do not have voting rights under the Representation of People Act.
- The right to cast vote was neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and was only provided by a statute.
Supreme Court’s Observation:
- The SC has observed that a person is in prison because of his or her conduct, and cannot claim equal rights as others who are not incarcerated.
[Ref: Quartz, The Hindu]
DRT under Vivaad se Vishwas scheme
The Direct Tax Vivaad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 will now cover pending litigation in debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) as well besides those in various courts and tribunals.
Vivaad se Vishwas Bill 2020
The Direct Tax Vivaad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Finance, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, on February 5, 2020.
What is the scheme?
- Under this scheme, taxpayers whose tax demands are locked in dispute in multiple forums, can pay due to taxes by March 31, 2020, and get a complete waiver of interest and penalty.
- If a taxpayer is not able to pay within the deadline, he gets a further time till June 30, but in that case, he would have to pay 10% more on the tax.
- The Vivaad se Vishwas scheme is similar to the ‘Indirect Tax, Sabka Vishwas’ scheme, which was introduced by Finance Minister during her maiden budget presentation in July 2019.
- The “Sabka Vishwas” legacy dispute resolution scheme was aimed at reducing disputes related to excise and service tax payments.
Aim of the scheme:
- The Vivaad se Vishwas Scheme aims to resolve 483,000 direct tax-related disputes pending in various appellate forums.
- Currently, there are 4.83 lakh direct tax cases pending in various appellate forums — Commissioner (Appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), High Court and Supreme Court.
- The Bill provides a mechanism for resolution of pending tax disputes related to income tax and corporation tax.
- The bill aimed at reducing litigations related to direct taxes.
- It covers disputes pending at the level of commissioner (appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunals (ITAT), high courts, the Supreme Court and those in international arbitration.
- Now, the ambit of the scheme will include disputes pending in Debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) also.
- Disputes of search and seizure where the recovery is below Rs 5 crore can be taken in this scheme.
- It is hoped that people will take advantage of the scheme to settle the tax disputes before March 31, 2020 as 10 % more will be charged for settlement of disputes after the end of the current financial year.
Debt recovery tribunals (DRTs):
- DRTs were established to facilitate the debt recovery involving banks and other financial institutions with their customers.
- DRTs were set up after the passing of Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDBBFI), 1993.
- The DRTs enforces the provisions of the RDDBFI Act, 1993 and also Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interests (SARFAESI) Act, 2002.
- DRTs can take cases from banks for disputed loans above Rs 10 Lakhs.
- Appeals against orders passed by DRTs lie before Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT).
- The fundamental purpose of the 1993 Act was to remove claims of banks and financial institutions from the ordinary form to specialised tribunals.
- The avowed purpose of the statute was to ensure the speedy disposal of claims of banks and financial institutions intended to be governed by it.
Also in News
Five-day working week in Maharashtra
The Maharashtra government has announced a five-day working week for its officers and employees from February 29.
- The decision was taken at the state Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to ward a five-day working week to its government officers and employees.
- There are over 20 lakh officers and employees in government, semi-government and local bodies in the state.
- The Cabinet also decided that the state department for OBCs, SEBCs (socially and educationally backward classes), VJNTs (Vimukt jati and nomadic tribes) and special backward classes will now be known as the ‘Bahujan Kalyan Department’.
Price cap on bottled water
Bottled drinking water has come under a price cap in Kerala, with the State making it an essential commodity and fixing a ceiling of ₹13 per litre, from the existing retail price of ₹20.
- The government had also decided to make BIS standards mandatory for all brands of bottled water.
- The move by the State government would help to regulate the water industry in the long run.
- The public felt that bottled water manufacturers were fleecing customers.
- This move will force unauthorised manufacturers to shut shop.
[Ref: The Hindu]