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Showing posts with label National. Show all posts
Showing posts with label National. Show all posts

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Are New Codes for NEET Aspirants Justified in Light of Hardship Endured by Them?

Introduction

After a protracted battle between states and center in the apex court, the stage is set for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical and paramedical courses in the country. The honorable Supreme Court made it mandatory a pass in the NEET exam a mandatory condition to get admissions in medical and paramedical courses in the country. In order to offset the chances of cheating in mass-scale, the exam conducting authority Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) made sweeping changes in the schedules for the code of contact for the aspirants. The centers were given strict instructions to adhere to the code to avoid the controversies. In the light of the severe criticism from various quarters, let us see what these codes meant in the first place and how the authorities should execute them with discretion.

neet exam

NEET Codes of Contact Surprised the Aspirants

As per the new codes of contact issued by CBSE for conducting NEET exam, the candidates had to remove earrings, abandon closed shoes, cut shirt sleeves, and avoid taking a calculator, unwanted papers before entering the examination hall. Apart from the restrictions listed above, the aspirants were not allowed to wear full sleeve shirts, and not allowed to take pencils, pens, closed or high-heeled shoes, metal buttons and big brooches inside the examination hall. Though CBSE gave instructions on the codes of contact, many of them were not clearer enough. As a result, the aspirants had to run between pillar and post in the 24th hour, risking their chances for appearing in the exam. Keeping in mind the confusion, some authorities at the test centers kept a stock of two dozen T-shirts ready for the use by those students who came with full-sleeve shirts on.

neet conduct code

Candidate Hardships

Many candidates around the country were not prepared to meet the NEET codes of contact at the examination centers despite their listings in the leaflet accompanying the hall ticket.

neet hardships


  1. A girl student at Army Public School in Bengaluru faced an unexpected crisis when she was unable to remove earrings in a hurry.

  2. neet eararing removal

  3. In another incident, a girl in Kannur district of Kerala was asked to remove her underwear before entering the examination hall.

  4. Students wearing closed shoes were asked to remove them and asked to walk into the examination hall barefooted.

  5. Girls with the long flock of hair nicely combed and set were asked to untie their hair before their entry into the venue.

  6. neet hardships

  7. Authorities in some exam centers asked even asked the girls to remove the nose stud before entering the exam center.

  8. neet nose ring removal

  9. The candidates who came wearing the black dress were in for a shock. They were asked to remove them and change into new clothes with lighter colors.

  10. neet black dress

  11. Students coming with full sleeves were asked to make it half-sleeves before entering the hall by the authorities.

  12. neet half-sleeves

Response from Parents

Though many parents acknowledged the good intentions of the CBSE in removing the menace of mass copying, they were against the way these codes were executed across the country. They were of the view that the codes should have been enforced depending upon on the context and sensibility of the situation. They also added that blind enforcement of codes would deter the aspirants from undertaking similar examinations in the future if the authorities were not forthcoming in understanding the feeling of the student community. In certain cases, the children were made to do what that was not listed in the list of not-dos.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Community Radio – Rural Way of Information Sharing

Introduction

Rural folks have been listening to community radio in Sanga Reddy district of Telangana everyday evening. They either just sit on an easy chair or cook in the kitchen listening to different programs from the community radio. This has become a daily routine for the people who come home tired from the field after a day’s hard work. This radio station is manned by the ladies who work in the fields by the day. These part-time employees painstakingly collect information from the ground and compile it into programs in interesting ways to woo the rural folks. In this blog post, we will be looking into this unique way of information dissemination practiced in our rural villages when the urban dwellers go Hi-Fi.

fm radio station

India’s First Community Radio

Our country’s first community radio was commissioned in 2008. It was realized after a decade-long wait. The rural institution of information Sangam Radio sharing was established with the purpose of disbursing the information in their own colloquial language and slang. It is located in a place called Pastapur in Zaheerabad district, and it caters to people from Jarasangam, Raikod, and Zaheerabad. It also partly covers Kohir and Nyalkal. It broadcasts a variety of programs from 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM every day. Each village that this radio station covers has a population of between 600 and 1200 people. In short, the radio station has a coverage diameter of 30 kilometers, whereas the All India Radio nearby covers a distance of 100 kilometers. If anyone visits the Sangam Radio, he or she would get surprised looking at the simple setup that has become the household name in the villages surrounding Zaheerabad. The broadcasting tower is placed on top of a tree near the building housing the studio complex.

community radio


Employees of Radio Station

The facilitator for this community radio is Deccan Development Society (DDS). This is a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) working on the issues relating to farmers. All the employees of this community radio station are on the payrolls of this NGO. After getting the required license, DDS established FM radio station, a transmission tower and program recording facilities. These facilities are partly funded by UNESCO. The villagers work part-time as the station employees. They work in the field by the day and in the radio station by the night. It runs with eight persons – three men and five women. Meet Hyderabad Narasamma and Nalugandila Narasamma who have been regularly doing the regular transmission of programs that have been compiled by other staff members.

radio station employees


Variety of Programs

Villagers eagerly wait for the programs aired by this radio station every day. They relax listening to the variety of programs in the evening. They listen to songs or discussions or anything that is informative in their own dialect and colloquial language. The medium of communication is Telugu.  Sangam Radio offers the opportunity for the villagers to share their views through discussions and interview.

program recording

  1. Songs: The song the community radio airs depends upon the seasons. Over the period of years, the station has collected over 2500 songs sung by the members of the community. Often those songs are recorded with the instrumental accompaniment.


  2. program song recording


  3. Discussions: This program talks about the issues and tips about plowing, plant seeds, plant care, water irrigation and harvest.

  4. live discussions


  5. Interactive Sessions: Every day, the last 30 minutes of the program is dedicated for listeners who would like to call the station to clear their doubts. In these call-in sessions, the people report about the missing cattle, new findings while working in the fields are shared or asked questions to the experts in the field of agriculture. The listeners even trace the missing cattle and pass the information to the radio station for information dissemination.

  6. interactive programs


  7. Other Programs: They often feature farming practices, health tips, festivals, birthday wishes, etc.

  8. other programs

Monday, 3 April 2017

Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 - Review

Introduction

Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 proposes to set up an anti-corruption ombudsman in the Indian states. Its main duty is to help people come out with the instances of corruption among the Politicians and Government Officials. It essentially implements the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. As a result of the interference of this ombudsman, many of those have been charged with corruption have begun facing the legal proceedings against them. This ombudsman organization works along with the Income Tax Department and the Anti-Corruption Bureau to publicize the corrupt people in the Government set-up. The act of 2013 establishes by the law Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for the member states. This act covers entire India, including Jammu and Kashmir which enjoys special powers under article 370.  As per the statutes of the act, the “public servants” working within and outside India come under its scrutiny. According to this anti-corruption act, “public functionary” definition applies to both Politicians and Government Officials who depend on the taxpayers’ money for their sustenance.
lokpal bill

Brief History

In 1966, the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by Shri. Morarji Desai submitted an interim report on “Problems of Redressal of Citizen’s Grievances”. In this interim report, the ARC had recommended the setting up of two special authorities to deal with the grievances aired by the citizens. At that time, a Parliament member Laxmi Mall Singhvi coined the term Lokayukta. While participating in the debate on grievance mechanisms, he borrowed the Sanskrit words Lok (people) and Pala (protector) and stood for the setting up of an anti-corruption mechanism under this name. Thus the word Lokpal literally means “Caretaker of the People”. Accepting the word Lokpal, the ARC recommended for the creation of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for the States of the Indian Union.
lokpal history

Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill

Implementing the interim report, the Union Government introduced the Lokpal Bill in 1968 for the first time.  Due to several reasons, the tabled bill could not get the approval from both the houses of Parliament. Taking the cue from first Lokpal bill at the Centre, the western state of Maharashtra introduced the Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta Act in 1971 to create Lokayukta in the State.  After that, many other states had established the anti-corruption ombudsmen in their states. At present, the States such as Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Tripura don’t have the institutions of Lokayukta in their respective States.   The current form of Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill came as a draft for the scrutiny of the Parliament in 2010. The government tabled this bill in the Parliament after the noted Freedom Fighter Anna Hazare sat on the “hunger strike” demanding a law to tackle the growing menace of corruption in the country. His strike had found support from across the country, forcing the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre to suddenly draft an anti-corruption ombudsman bill. After a lot of deliberation, the bill was finally passed by both the houses of Parliament in 2013 in time to curb the unrest among the citizens.
lokpal act

Composition of Lokpal

As per the law, Lokpal is a statutory, multi-member body which has no constitutional backing. It consists of one Chairperson and a maximum of 8 members. The Members of Parliament, Members of State Legislative Assembly, Members of Panchayat and Municipality, persons convicted of any offence, politicians, people who are removed from the public services due to their inappropriate actions, persons holding any office of trust or business organization are not eligible to hold the coveted post of Chairperson in Lokpal.

1. Chairperson: A person becomes eligible for the appointment as Chairperson of Lokpal if he is a former Chief Justice of India, a former member of Supreme Court or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability. Additionally, he should have adequate knowledge and 25 years of experience in the matters of the anti-corruption policy, finance, vigilance, law and management, and public administration.

2. Members: Out of 8 permissible members, half will be coming from the judiciary. Rest 50% of members will be from OBC/SC/ST/women and minorities. Judicial members should either be a former Judge of Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of a High Court. In the case of non-judicial members, they should be eminent persons with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability in their chosen professional areas. They should have at least of 25 years of experience in matters relating to anti-corruption policy, vigilance, public administration, vigilance, law, management, and finance.
lokpal benches


Lokpal Officials

There are three officials who work under the anti-corruption ombudsman. The Chairperson appoints them after consulting with other members. They are Secretary to Lokpal and Directors of Inquiry and Prosecution. The Chairperson appoints Secretary from a panel of names suggested by the Central Government. The Chairperson also appoints the Directors of Inquiry and Prosecution. These high-ranking officers cannot be below the rank of Additional Secretary to the Government of India.

Lokpal Wings

According to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013, the anti-corruption ombudsman would constitute an inquiry wing under the Director of Enquiry. This wing would conduct the preliminary inquiry into an alleged offense committed by a public servant. If convicted, the person is punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988. Similarly, the prosecution wing would be constituted under the leadership of the Director of Prosecution. This wing prosecutes the public servants who have been found to commit crime prima facie.

Lokpal’s Jurisdiction

As per the law, all public servants come under the purview of the anti-corruption ombudsman. It does not matter whether the public servant was inside or outside the country at the time of the alleged crime. Even the Prime Minister of the country comes under the ambit of the law under certain conditions. Other people who come under the purview of the Lokpal include the Union Ministers, Members of Parliament, Officers coming under Groups A, B, C and D, and persons who are in charge of any society or organization set up by the Central Act or any other body financed or controlled by the Central Government. The persons who get involved in the act of abetting, giving or taking bribe also come under the ambit of the law automatically.

Lokpal Benches

The anti-corruption law proposes to set up the Lokpal benches. The Chairperson constitutes these benches as per his discretion. Ideally, each Lokpal bench will have two or more members. About 50% of the members in each Lokpal Bench should be judicial members. If the bench has the Chairperson, he will oversee it. In cases of benches that don’t have the Chairperson, the judicial member will preside over them. The sitting of these benches may take place in New Delhi or any other place as decided by the Lokpal.  Sometimes, the existing benches get re-constituted to get the required output. This would be done by the Chairperson himself if the situation warrants so.
lokpal benches

Working of Lokpal

When citizens air their complaints, Lokpal receives them. Then, the anti-corruption ombudsman analyzes them to check their veracity. Once it decides to go ahead, Lokpal would order a preliminary inquiry. This would be done either by the inquiry wing or any other Central Government agency, such as Delhi Special Police Establishment, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), etc. The preliminary inquiry has to get completed within 90 days of receiving the complaint. However, the time of inquiry can be extended for further 90 days if the enquiring official requests in writing with sufficient reasons for it. This inquiry would find out whether there is any prima facie case to go ahead.  Further recommendations on the case would be done on a case-to-case basis.

1.  If the complaints are against officers of Group A to Group D services, the ombudsman would refer it to Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) for the follow-up action. CVC would enquire and report the development back to Lokpal directly in case of Group A and Group B officers.

2. CVC would probe and start action against the erring Group C and Group D officers as per the CVC Act of 2005.
lokpal working

Powers of Lokpal

Its inquiry wing has the power to search and seize objects – both movable and immovable objects – and make reports based on them.  These reports would be taken up by the 3-member Lokpal benches for further scrutiny. The benches would give the opportunities for the allegedly corrupt officers to say in their defense. After this, the benches would undertake any of the following alternatives.

1. If the officers are found guilty, the benches would grant their sanction to the prosecution wing or CBI to file charge sheets against them. The benches can also direct the concerned government departments to start proceedings against them.

2. If the officers are found innocent, the benches would direct the filing of the closure of case reports before the Special Court. Now, the benches would proceed against the complainants for filing false complaints.

lokpal powers

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Right to Information Act 2005 - Review

Introduction

The Parliament approved the Right to Information Act in the year 2005. It proposes to set up a regime under which people can get information about the public services.  It effectively replaces the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002.  Under the ambit of this law, the citizens of the country can ask information from a public authority. As per the law, public authority definition covers a Government Body or instrumentality of the State.  The law instructs the public authority to quickly reply or file a reply within 30 days.  It further asks the public authority to computerize their records for the wider dissemination of the requested information. Under the act, they need to proactively catalog the information so that citizens need the least recourse to requests for the intended information. After its passage in both the houses of Parliament on June 15, 2005, the law came into force on October 12, 2005.  The procedure to get information as per this new act began soon after when a person filed an RTI application Pune police station.

rti act

Scope of the Act

Previously, information access from the public bodies in our country was restricted due to colonial-era laws such as the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and various other special laws.  The new RTI act seeks to relax these age-old laws to help the Indian citizens to seek the information they want. It also modifies a fundamental right of citizens. The new RTI act covers entire India, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir where a separate act is in practice.  The new RTI act covers all constitutional authorities. The authorities who come under the ambit of the law include the executive, legislature, and judiciary. Any institution or body established by the act of Parliament and State Legislature also comes under this act. It also brings under its purview the bodies or authorities constituted by the order of government bodies. The entities that are covered in this landmark act include organization or bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government. Non-government organizations (NGOs) that get sizeable financial help either directly or indirectly from the government also come under RTI. In a recent judgment, the honorable Supreme Court sought to clarify this for the benefit of the ordinary citizens of the country.

rti scope

Question of Private Bodies Under the Act

When the people started filing litigation to know the status of private bodies and political parties under the RTI act, the honorable Supreme Court sought to clarify the confusion prevailing in the act. Initially, the private bodies were not thought to come under the purview of the act. In a decision of Sarbjit Roy vs. Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Central Information Commission (CIC) reaffirmed the stand taken by the honorable Supreme Court. The organization confirmed that the privatized public utility companies also come under the ambit of this law.  In the above-said case, the honorable Apex Court cleared the air by its ruling that private institutions and NGOs that receive over 95% of their infrastructure funds from the government bodies come under this act.

rti players

Political Parties Under the Act

The Central Information Commission has the view that political parties are public authorities that directly deal with the people.  Hence, they are directly answerable to the citizens of our country under the RTI act. The panel of Central Information Commission that made this landmark statement included Satyanand Mishra, Annapurna Dixit, and M.L. Sharma. The quasi-judicial body CIC  further added that the political parties such as Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)), Communist Party of India (CPI), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) are getting funds indirectly from the Central Government. Hence, CIC opined that they have all the characteristics of the public authority as defined in the RTI act. In order to counter this move, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the center brought a Right to Information (Amendment) Bill to remove the political parties from the scope of the act. However, the Parliament could not pass the bill. Instead, it referred the bill to a standing committee to look into the specifics.  However, the standing committee on the Law and Personnel gave its suggestion along with the altered draft of the amendment bill.  The committee states “It considers the proposed amendment is a right step in the direction to discuss the issue once and for all”. In effect, the committee recommended the passing of the bill. Hence, the political parties of our country now stand out of the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

rti politics

Brief History

The right to Information Act was approved by the Parliament in the year 2005. It proposes to set up a regime under which people can obtain information about the public services.  It effectively replaces the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002.  Under the ambit of this law, the citizens of the country can request information from a public authority. As per the law, the definition of public authority covers a Government Body or instrumentality of the State.  The law instructs the public authority to expeditiously reply or file a reply within 30 days.  It further asks the public authority to computerize their records for the wider dissemination of the requested information. Under the act, they need to proactively catalog the information so that citizens need minimum recourse to request the intended information. After its passage in both the houses of Parliament on June 15, 2005, the law came into force on October 12, 2005.  The procedure to get information as per this new act began soon after when an RTI application was filed at a Pune police station.

rti history

Hierarchy of Information Officers Under RTI

Each authority covered under RTI act must appoint their Public Information Officer (PIO).  The general public has to submit the application seeking information to PIO of that organization. The PIO of the concerned department is expected to give the required information to the applicant. If the request relates to the working of another public authority, the PIO should transfer it to a PIO of the concerned authority within five working days. This is the case even with the information requests that seek information from several departments. The relevant portions of the requests need to go to the concerned department PIOs for the speedy action.  In addition to the PIOs, the public authorities have to appoint Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) to aid the PIOs in processing the requests and disseminating the information to the public in time.           

rti officers

Working of RTI

The process of RTI involves reactive disclosure of information by the government and non-government authorities. This is against proactive disclosure by the people and authorities. Mostly, the submission of a request for certain information by an individual sets the ball rolling.  While placing the application for the information, the applicant needs to give his name and contact particulars. He need not give any other reasons or particulars to corroborate his request for seeking the information. The designated PIOs and APIOs of the individual departments or agencies need to give the information within a stipulated time period.

rti working

If the designated officers fail to act on the requests in the given time period, the public can go to the Central Information Commission (CIC) seeking justice.  CIC also steps in those cases where the PIOs and APIOs have not been appointed by the concerned departments. In these cases, the public doesn't have any means to file their requests for information. The people can even approach CIC with complaints when the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer declines to receive the application for the information.  With respect to the dissemination of information, the act specifies the time limit for the Information Officers to adhere to. They are as follows.

  1. If the request has been given to PIO, the applicant should get a reply within 30 days of receipt of the application.
  2. If APOIO gets the request, the processing and the giving of the required information should be completed within 35 days of its receipt.
  3. If the PIO transfers the request to another public authority, the turn-around time is 30 days from the day it is received by the PIO of the transferee authority.
  4. The information about the human rights violation by the security agencies has to be given within 45 days. The list of scheduled security agencies is given by the act. The processing of such requests can only be done after the CIC gives its prior consent. 
  5. If the liberty or a life of an individual is involved, the turn-around time for the requests is 48 hours.

Fees Fixed for RTI Requests

A citizen who wishes to get information from a public authority has to give a bankers’ cheque or a court fees stamp for Rs. 10 along with the application. The amount has to be payable to the Accounts Officer of the Public Authority.  If the situation warrants, the seeker of the information may have to pay further fees towards the cost of getting it.  The PIOs will offer details about the extra fees.

rti fees

Exclusions from RTI Act

Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second Schedule like IB, Directorate General of Income tax (Investigation), RAW, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID), Andaman and Nicobar, The Crime Branch-CID-CB, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Special Branch, Lakshadweep Police etc. are excluded. However, the exclusion is not in absolute terms. There are provisions under the act that bring these agencies under its purview.

rti exemptions

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Goods and Services Tax Bill – Review

Introduction

This is the most talked about topic in the society. Politicians talk about the benefits it incurs to the customers in the long run. The small-time shop owners raise their concerns, the multinational companies are for it and the end customers get confused because of all these developments. Basically, the bill proposes to bring a national value-added tax in the country, uniting all the existing state and national level laws under one platform for direct tax administration. The central government proposes to bring this GST Bill by April 1, 2017. However, both the houses of Parliament have to ratify this bill by 2/3rd majority. Apart from this, about 50% of states in the Indian Union need to give their consent to make it a law. The central government is working hard to bring the GST Bill on the said date. Being a federal country, state and central governments have to bring in GST concurrently. However, both will have independent functions.

gst bill

What is GST?

Goods and Services Tax is going to become a comprehensive indirect tax framework. This is going to cover manufacture, and sale and consumption of goods and services across India. When working, it will replace taxes levied by both state and central governments. The bill proposes to collect the value-added tax at each stage of sale or buying of goods and services. The government is going to collect the taxes on the input tax credit method. This novel method allows the GST-registered commercial establishments to claim tax credit to the value of GST they had paid on buying of goods and services.   Another positive point is that the bill does not distinguish between taxable goods and services. Hence, there will be at a single rate in a supply chain from the buyers to the end users. As against the multiple authorities for levying tax in the current set up, the new bill envisages the tax administration to come under a single authority.

gst

Constitutional Amendment

In order to bring the GST Bill, the lawmakers need to bring in certain amendments. The lawmakers will have to pass the bill as per the provisions of Article 368 of the constitution. The constitutional amendment should get approval from Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the States. Both the houses of Parliament should pass this bill with 2/3rd majority. Moreover, 50% of states also need to give their consent for this bill. Hence, it came as 122nd amendment to the constitution in 2014. On December 19, 2014, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the bill envisaging changes in the constitution for approval in the lower house of Parliament. Lok Sabha passed the bill on May 6, 2015.  Subsequently, it was sent to the Rajya Sabha for its consent. In the upper house, there was some opposition to the bill. Hence, the ruling dispensation agreed to send the draft of the bill to a Select Committee of lawmakers from both the houses of Parliament. The committee suggested certain changes to the bill draft. The upper house of the Parliament approved the new draft that incorporated the suggested changes on April 3, 2016. Since it was an amended draft, it was re-introduced in lower house of Parliament for its approval. Finally, Lok Sabha also passed the bill on August 8, 2016. Now, the draft is in the court of the States. At least, 50% of the States have to pass the bill to make it an act. The north-eastern state of Assam became the first state to give its consent for the bill on August 12, 2016.

gst law

Benefits of GST

Many hail GST as the major reform since the opening of trades and services to the private sector in 90s.  This would be a major step in the reform of indirect taxation in India. As said before, this bill amalgamates several state and central government taxes into a single tax structure for the easy administration. This would bring down the cascading or double taxation and help a common national market. Under the new tax regime, the exports will become zero-rated. Apart from this, tax rate on the imported goods will be same as that levied on domestic goods and services. The bill proposes to simplify the indirect tax administration by bring under a single and competent authority. Under the present set up, the state and central authorities figure out and administer taxes. Hence, the present framework has many lacunae for tax evasion. Though taxes remain nominal or zero rated initially, they may go high once the government decides to levy GST on petroleum and petroleum products. Hence, the GST bill proposes to insulate the revenues of the state governments from its impact. In order to keep the prices and inflation under control, the States have asked for suitable compensation for any revenue losses from the central government. The Centre has in principle has agreed to give suitable compensation for 5 years since the date of implementation of GST.

gst central

Benefits for Customers

The end users don’t have to pay tax at multiple levels while purchasing goods and services. There is no distinction between taxable goods and services down the supply chain in the GST framework. Hence, the customers don’t have to pay hefty taxes at the time of buying. Moreover, the tax burden on the consumers would come down drastically due to these legislations. At present, the customers are paying close to 30% taxes at multiple levels. The middle men carrying the goods and services to different states don’t have to cough up hefty amounts in the form of taxes and favours at the border checkpoints. Ultimately, this would pass down to the customers in the form of lower prices. This would also bring down the paperwork that goes into the documentation in the states for each good entering under their jurisdiction. 

gst benefits

Salient Features of GST Bill

  1.         GST has two components. One comes from the Centre and the other from the States. The authorities are going to prescribe rates for centre- and state-administered GST, according to the revenue consideration and acceptability of the stakeholders.

  2. Basic features of GST will be uniform across the statutes – one Central GST (CGST) and the other for State GST (SGST) for every State. The features covered include chargeability, basis for classification, definitions of taxable event and taxable person, measure of levy including valuation provisions, etc.


  3. The Centre and States will levy GST on all transactions involving goods and services. However, the tax consideration will exempt certain goods and services as defined by the competent authority and those goods that are outside the purview of GST. There is a threshold over which these goods and services attract the GST.

  4. The separate accounts of the Centre and States will get the revenue returns.  These accounts would also hold the information about the account-heads for all the services and goods. That is the account-heads will tell whether the revenue is for the Centre or States.

  5. The tax paid to the Central GST will go as the Input Tax Credit (ITC). As per the provisions, this amount can only be used against the CGST payment as well. So, under no condition the cross usage of ITC is possible. However inter-state supply of goods and services will get waiver under the IGST model.

  6. The Centre and States have to avoid the credit accumulation on account of GST refund.  However, the authorities can waive this condition when they deal with exports, input taxes at higher rate than output tax, buying of capital goods, etc.      

  7. The Centre and States need to follow the uniform procedure for collecting GST to the extent possible as per the legislations for Central and State GST.

  8. The Centre and the States would have concurrent jurisdiction for the entire value chain and all tax payers. However, this will be on the basis of threshold for goods and services as prescribed for the States and the Centre.

  9. As per the suggestions given by the honourable members of the Parliament, there is an upper ceiling on gross annual turnover and floor tax rate on it. It is now set at 18%.

  10. The taxpayer need to send periodical forms in the prescribed format to both the

  11. Central and State GST authorities. This will be verified by the said authorities periodically to ascertain the current status of the taxpayer.

  12.   On submission of the forms, each taxpayer will get a PAN-linked taxpayer identification number. The number will have either 13 or 15 digits.  This will align the GST-PAN linked system with the PAN-based system for income tax.

  13.   In order to help the taxpayers, the competent authorities will execute the functions such as enforcement, assessment, audit and scrutiny in transparent way. Hence, this will do away the hassles of waiting for the results.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Nirbhaya Act – Criminal Law (Amendment) Act

Introduction

Nirbhaya Act is basically a Criminal Law (Amendment Act) of 2013.  This law seeks to bring amendments to laws on sexual offenses. Through this amendment, the relevant sections of Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act are altered to bring strong punishments relating to sexual offenses. This bill was passed by the lower house of the Parliament on March 19, 2013. Subsequently, the elders present in the upper house passed the bill on  March 21, 2013.  So fast was the response of the government that the honorable President of India gave his consent for the bill on April 2, 2013. A day after on April 3, 2013, the new bill, nicknamed as Nirbhaya Act, came into the force. The height of the irony was that the bill could not prevent the juvenile convict of the Delhi Gang Rape Case walked free. The ruling hierarchy had to face the wrath of the protest in the streets of the country for keeping the amendment bill in abeyance for almost three years, cling on its nitty-gritty.

nirbhaya act

Nirbhaya Act History

For many years, the ordinary citizens of India wanted to enact a law to curb the growing trend of rapes cases in our country. As usual, Indian polity was not that interested in it as the parties are looking at the specifics that need to be added to make it a comprehensive law. On this backdrop, there was a gang rape of a young woman at New Delhi in 2012.  A physiotherapy intern was traveling with her boyfriend in an empty bus to her house. The workers of the bus and their friends took the vehicle for several rounds around New Delhi and brutally assaulted and raped the girl in turns. Despite giving the best of available treatments in New Delhi and Singapore, she died from her injuries thirteen days later. This incident got a lot of coverage in the national and international media. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women had condemned the incident.  Its Chairperson called the Indian and Delhi governments to do whatever necessary to bring culprits to books.  He also urged the Indian authorities to take up radical reforms to make sure the delivery of gender justice and reach out with efficient services for the benefit of women in the country. This gruesome incident angered the ordinary citizens and they took to the streets demanding the stringent legislation to prevent further incidents. They fought with the security forces peacefully, making their point for bringing a stringent legislation against the rape.

women rape

Preparation of the Draft

About six days after the gruesome incident, the Central government appointed a judicial committee headed by Justice J.S. Verma, a former Supreme Court Judge, to suggest suitable amendments to the Criminal Law to correctly deal with the cases involving sexual assault. The committee also included retired Judge Leila Seth and leading advocate in Supreme Court Gopal Subramaniam.  This 3-member committee was given a month time to submit its report. The judicial committee studied the cases and submitted its report in just 29 days, on January 23, 2013. During its one-month review, it studied and analyzed about 80,000 suggestions and petitions it received from various sources. The comments for the committee came from the public, eminent jurists, lawyers, NGOs and women’s groups.  The report by the committee mainly held the government and the law enforcing agencies responsible for the growing menace of rape and sexual assault cases in the country. The major suggestions of the committee included a revision of AFSPA in conflict areas, resolution of ambiguity over the control of Delhi Police, setting the life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for rape convicts, etc. Though there were clamors for the death penalty for the rape convicts from the public, the judicial committee stuck to the life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for the rape convicts.

indian response

Ordinance Route

Compiling the suggestions given by the expert panel, a group of Ministers on February 1, 2013, gave consent to bring an ordinance to bring the law into effect immediately. This was mainly done to quench the protests across the country.  In reality, the group of Ministers had in principle adopted 90% of the suggestions given by the Justice Verma committee. The ordinance was later replaced by a Bill with many changes. The lower house of the Parliament passed the Bill on March 19, 2013.

amended nirbhaya act
Changes in Criminal Code

The most important change is in the rape definition under Indian Penal Code (IPC).  Though the ordinance sought to replace the word rape with sexual assault, the new act drafted retained that word in Section 375.  It extended the definition of the word rape to include other acts in addition to vaginal penetration. The altered definition covered the acts such as penetration of penis or any object or any part of the body to any extent into the vagina, mouth or urethra of another person or making another person do so. All these acts have become punishable under the new law. In the same breath, the applying of mouth or touching private parts of a person also is considered as the sexual offense. The section also clarified on the ambiguity about the extent of penetration and lack of physical resistance. This clarity helped the judges to term the act as a sexual offense in more clear terms. The new bill extends the quantum of punishment under new provisions from seven years to the imprisonment for the lifetime. Only in exceptional cases, the death sentence would be given under new act.


nirbhaya act changes

A new section called 376A is introduced in the Indian Penal Code to find out the quantum of punishment if the convict inflicts serious injury to a person. If the victim dies of internal injury or goes into the persistent vegetative state, the quantum of punishment a convict attracts would be 20 years of rigorous punishment. If the trying officer so thinks, the punishment can be extended up to life imprisonment or death sentence. This section also deals with the gang rape cases. In these cases, the persons involved, regardless of their age and gender, will have to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than 20 years.  In the rarest of rare cases, the quantum of punishment may extend up to imprisonment of a lifetime, Apart from these, the convict has to give compensation to the victim. The amount of the compensation has to be reasonable enough to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation of the victim. If the convict fails to pay the compensation amount, he will have to undergo the rigorous punishment further. The punishment extension on account of non-payment of the compensation would be decided by the Judge of the trial court.

final nirbhaya act

Juvenile Offenders

In the case of juvenile offenders, the Juvenile Justice Board will call the shots. The board will form a panel of psychiatrists to look into the role of the so-called juvenile to decide his mindset.  Depending on the feedback, the Juvenile Justice Board will transfer the case to the police or send him to the correction home.

juvenile offenders

Changes in CrPC and Evidence Act

 The process of recording the statement is made more victim-friendly and easy. However, two crucial changes have been made in the law. They are given below.

  1.  The law has made irrelevant the character of the victim.

  2.  If the sexual intercourse is proved beyond doubt, then there is no presumption of’ no consent’. Moreover, the court records the statement by the victim without any prejudice or bias.  The court will not ask for the proof of ‘no consent’ from the prosecution or the victim.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Trivandrum Retains Top Slot in Governance Ranking

Introduction

New Governance index ranking list is out with few surprises. In 2016, for which the list was compiled by February 2017, national capital slips two points to 9th position while southern city of Thiruvananthapuram retaining the top position. This index was prepared after a survey of 21 major cities across the country, covering a total of 18 states. This exercise was part of the Annual Survey of India’s City-System (ASIS) that evaluated major Indian states for this purpose. In this blog post, we will see the salient features of this survey compilation and their importance in the modern context for the benefit of readers.

city ranking

City Governance Index

A non-profit organization by the name Janagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy (JCCD) had undertaken a survey of Indian citizens from across the country to know about the governance in their respective states. As part of this exercise, a total of 21 major cities spread across 18 states across the country were covered.   As per the rules of this exercise, a city scores better if it is able to deliver a better quality of life to its citizens over the medium and longer periods of time. After Thiruvananthapuram, Pune occupied the second spot, followed by Kolkata at the third spot. In this survey, the Indian cities scored between 2.1 and 4.4 on a 10-point scale. The team that compiled the data set the cities such as London (9.3) and New York (9.8) as the benchmark cities for comparison purpose. These low scores imply that the Indian cities need to strengthen their City-Systems by updating their policies and quality of law being enforced to deliver a better quality of life for their citizens. This is a way to tell the politicians and officials what people in cities want or expect from them to do.

city governance

ASICS Report

This report is designed to help city dwellers point out issues in the urban governance in cities across the country. This enables the leaders in these cities to use these inputs to update the reform roadmap to make the city-based societies more liveable. The city-based societies are in modern civics termed as City-Systems. These are frameworks that channel the manpower and money for overall development. They consist of four distinct but inter-related parts, such as urban planning and design; urban capacities and resources; empowered and legitimate political representation and transparency, accountability and participation. Using these components, the governance can be made accountable to the people on daily basis.

top city

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Are the Hospitals in India Fire-proof?

Introduction

Looking at the recent incidence involving the fire accident in Bhubaneswar hospital, we can safely surmise that the hospitals in our country are not fire-proof. It is not because of law paucity, but due to the callous attitude of the authorities who have to take steps to implement them. If the business houses have enough money to bribe the authorities, the culprits can easily walk free. Due to the business mind, the managements of the private hospitals do not have spare time to train the staff on the standard procedure that they need to follow during a fire accident. This is why we have a lot of fatalities and injuries when the fire accidents do happen in the hospital premises. In this article, we would be looking at the reasons for the frequent occurrence of fire accidents in Indian hospitals.

fire accident

Causes of Fire Accidents in India

Most often the fire accidents seem to originate from the ages-old electric circuits in the hospitals. Normally, the managements have to get these electric circuits replaced every second or third year to make sure the safety of the inmates. However, this is not done or overlooked to save on money spent on repairing. Moreover, the authorities keep the inflammable materials packed inside the locked rooms. Since the hospitals have come up in the busy localities of the cities, they have been built as the vertical structures. Due to the lack of available space, the rooms are tightly packed with little or no ventilation. Such hospitals have the centralized air condition facility that asks for tightly closed doors. If the fire erupts, the smoke from them spreads in no time through the ducts before the people even become aware of them. If the accident occurred in a corner, the people have to rush through a designed route to reach outside. These hospitals do not have alternative fire-escape routes for people to come out of the fire-ravaged hospital. Though the authorities have rules to strictly carry out the fire-safety norms, the hospital managements do not always follow them.

patients

Recent Fire Accident

The recent fire accident at the private hospital seemed to have started from the dialysis ward. The fire was so intense that the thick smoke emanating from it was making difficult for the fire fighting people to go near it. The thick smoke rendered these emergency people immobile and clueless while navigating through the corridors of the hospital. Moreover, the rooms compartmentalized to maximally use the available space. This also ensured the slow movement of people through the common pathway. Though the patients were ready for transport outside after removing the life-support systems from them, the staff could transport them outside only after a delay. So, many of them were brought dead in the nearby hospitals. This hospital had faulty smoke and fire management systems. Moreover, the employees at the casualty department were ill equipped to handle the fire accident when it did occur. The fire accident could have been averted had the management promptly repaired these systems.

VIP visits