1. How to grease the wheels of justice
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Polity and governance
Sub Theme: justice system| UPSC
A government with capability and foresight ought to be able to do two things at once, even as it is preoccupied with the Covid pandemic. Foresight means seeing and acting on the inevitable secondary and future effects of a crisis that is still out of control. We have seen the health system fail catastrophically, and have watched the economy groan and crumble. The court system is not far behind.
The courts have not worked with a full caseload since March 2020. I am not advocating that we open the courts in undue haste — it would be irresponsible and could lead to an immediate spike in cases. But when the courts do eventually reopen, what awaits them?
By and large, over the last year, only very urgent matters were being taken up over videoconferencing. Between India’s two waves of Covid, a brief attempt to reopen physically was made by some courts, and a dual-access hybrid system was trialled, where some could attend physically, with precautions, and others could dial in. However, the regular caseload was still not being taken up. As a result, pendency has risen precipitously across the judicial system — 10.35 per cent at the Supreme Court and, more worryingly, 20.5 per cent in the High Courts and 18.2 per cent at the district level. When the lockdown of March 2020 was declared, there were 3.68 crore cases across all levels; which have already shot up to 4.42 crore. By the time physical functioning begins, there will likely be nearly 5 crore pending cases.
Delays and inefficiencies arising from the heavy dockets in Indian courts have long been a matter of concern, and like most matters of systemic concern, they have been allowed to grow gently in the dark. What Covid has done is stall the system; for every day that normal functioning does not take place, pendency multiplies. Courts at the district level often list upwards of a hundred matters daily, of which up to a quarter are fresh filings. All the fresh matters not being filed right now will be filed on reopening, since limitation periods have been extended. The economic slump caused by the lockdowns has also exacerbated the situation because, for one, defaults on debts and deliverables are rising.
Two solutions offered by voices in the senior judiciary are — digital functioning and a procedural revamping. The first is a mirage. Experience has demonstrated that outside of the Supreme Court and certain High Courts, except for bail and other exigencies, courts are not capable of hearing large numbers of cases virtually. There is a yawning digital divide between courts, practitioners and clients in metropolitan cities and those outside. Overcoming the hurdles of decrepit infrastructure and digital illiteracy will take years. To expect this kind of change overnight across the nation is deluded techno-fetishism.
Procedural quick fixes are the easiest to accomplish and therefore attractive — change at the stroke of a pen. However, they often only serve to reclassify matters. For, example, the proposal to decriminalise cheque bouncing would certainly get rid of lakhs of cheque bouncing cases, but most would reappear as criminal complaints of cheating, or as civil recovery proceedings. Procedural shortcuts can also problematically alter the rights of parties and introduce uncertainties into the law.
The failure of the elites of the legal system has been their treatment of the pandemic as being first and foremost a question of the welfare of lawyers, and not a crisis of access to justice. The system is broken at a fundamental level and from the bottom, the subordinate courts are the primary interface of the people with the justice system. Seventy per cent of prisoners in Indian jails are undertrials, who have never been convicted, and are, therefore, innocent. Few pending cases have moved forward over the last year, and adjournments of six months or more are common. It is little wonder that many citizens have lost faith in the courts.
2. Tackling the Maoists
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III: National security
Sub Theme: Left wing extremism| UPSC
- Naxalism is a far-left violent movement which aims to overthrow the government of India through people’s war
- According to MHA figures presently it affects more than 82 districts in 11 states. 30 districts are severely affected
The name and the origin
- In 1967 peasant revolt against landlords in Naxalbari village in Darjeeling district of West-Bengal. Police opened fire on them
- Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels – All social relations and state structures in an elitist/capitalist society are exploitative in nature. Only a revolutionary change through active means can end this
- Mao Zedong added that Guerilla warfare, Protracted peoples war can achieve this. Surrounding the cities from the countryside, political transformation through mass involvement
- End-goal is to establish people’s government
- Working against the interest of the people.
- Want to capture political power
- If welfare was their real motive than India’s constitutional-legal framework provides enough space to accommodate all democratic demands – Telangana, Tripura are example of it
- Biggest challenge to internal security of the country – Former PM Manmohan Singh
THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA’S APPROACH
- The Government’s approach is to deal with Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management. In dealing with this decades-old problem, it has been felt appropriate, after various high-level deliberations and interactions with the State Governments concerned, that an integrated approach aimed at the relatively more affected areas would deliver results. With this in view, a detailed analysis of the spread and trends in respect of Left Wing Extremist violence has been made and 90 districts in eleven States have been taken up for special attention with regard to planning, implementation and monitoring various interventions. However, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ being State subjects, action on maintenance of law and order, lies primarily in the domain of the State Governments. The Central Government closely monitors the situation and supplements and coordinates their efforts in several ways. These include providing the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs); sanction of India Reserve (IR) battalions, setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) schools; modernisation and upgradation of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus; reimbursement of security related expenditure under the Security-related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme; providing helicopters for anti-LWE operations, assistance in training of State Police through the Ministry of Defence, the Central Police Organisations and the Bureau of Police Research and Development; sharing of Intelligence; facilitating inter-State coordination; assistance in community policing and civic action programmes etc. The underlying philosophy is to enhance the capacity of the State Governments to tackle the Maoist menace in a concerted manner.
- The Union Home Minister, the Home Secretary & the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary and a Review Group chaired by the Cabinet Secretary review the LWE situation on a regular basis. The Progress of the various schemes is regularly monitored by MHA though meeting and Video Conferencing with the Central Ministries/Departments concerned and State Governments.
- The Union Home Minister has convened meetings of Chief Ministers of LWE affected States on February 09, 2015, May 08, 2017 and August 26, 2019.
- The Union Home Minister has visited Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in the month of May 2018 and reviewed the LWE situation.
- The Minister of States (Home) have visited LWE affected States and reviewed the LWE situation
- Review Group meeting conducted by the Cabinet Secretary on 15/12/2016, 03/08/2017 and on 23/7/2018.
- Meetings are being conducted regularly by Union Home Secretary with Secretaries of Central Ministries and Chief Secretaries, DsGP of the LWE affected States and DsG of CAPFs.
- Union Home Secretary also visited the LWE affected States to review the LWE situation.
- The Union Home Secretary has visited Chhattisgarh in the month of October, 2019 and reviewed the LWE situation.
IMPORTANT INITIATIVES FOR LWE AFFECTED STATES
- In order to holistically address the LWE problem in an effective manner, Government has formulated National Policy and Action Plan adopting multi-pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights & entitlement of local communities etc.
- Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme:This Scheme has been extended by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a subscheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years till 2020. Under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme, the central Govt. reimburses to the State Governments of 11 LWE affected States Security Related Expenditure of 90 districts relating to training and operational needs of security forces, ex-gratia payment to the family of civilians/security forces killed/injured in LWE violence, compensation to Left Wing Extremist cadres who surrendered in accordance with the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the concerned State Government, community policing, Security related infrastructure for village defence committees and publicity materials. There is a substantial increase in annual outlay and new items such as compensation for Security force personnel incapacitated during anti LWE operations and compensation for the property damage have been included in this scheme. The SRE Scheme aim at strengthening of the capacity of the LWE affected States to fight the LWE problem. Rs. 367.26 crore have been released in 2019-20.
- Special Central Assistance (SCA) for 30 most LWE affected districts: :This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme, ‘Modernization of Police Forces’ for a period of 3 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The main objective of the Scheme is to fill the critical gaps in Public infrastructure and Services, which are of emergent nature. Rs. 2148.24 crore have been released to the Stats during last 3 years.
- Special Infrastructure Scheme, along with Construction of Fortified Police Stations in the LWE affected States: On regular demand of the LWE affected States,the Central Government has approved this Scheme as a sub-scheme of the Umbrellas Scheme, ‘Modernization of Police Forces’ for a period of 3 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The total outlay of the scheme is Rs. 1006.00 crore i.e. Rs. 604 crore as Central Share (60%) and Rs.402 crore as State share (40%). Rs. 102.675 crore have been released in 2019-20.
- Scheme of Fortified Police stations: The Ministry had sanctioned construction of 400 Fortified Police Stations in 10 LWE affected States. Of these 399 of PSs have been completed.
- Assistance to Central Agencies for LWE management Scheme:This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. Under the Scheme, assistance is provided to Central Agencies (CAPFs/IAF etc) for strengthening of infrastructure and hiring charges for Helicopters..
- Civic Action Programme (CAP): This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. CAP in LWE affected areas is being implemented since 2010-11 to bridge the gaps between Security Forces and local people through personal interaction and bring the human face of SFs before the local population. The Scheme has been very successful in achieving its goal. Under the Scheme, funds are released to the CAPFs, deployed in LWE affected areas, for conducting various civic activities for the welfare of the local people. Rs.20 crore have been released to CAPFs in the financial year 2019-20..
- Media Plan:This Scheme has been approved by the Government on 27.09.2017 as a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme Modernization of Police Forces for a period of 03 years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The Maoists have been misguiding and luring the innocent tribals/ local population in LWE affected areas by their So-called poorfriendly revolution through petty incentives or by following their coercive strategy. Their false propaganda is targeted against the security forces and the democratic setup. Therefore, the Government is implementing this Scheme in LWE affected areas.Under the scheme activities like Tribal Youth Exchange programmes organised by NYKS, radio jingles, documentaries, pamphlets etc. are being conducted. Rs.7.46 crore have been released in the financial year 2019-20.
- Road Requirement Plan-I (RRP-I) for LWE affected areas:This Scheme is being implemented by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways for improving road connectivity in 34 LWE affected districts of 8 States i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.This scheme envisaged construction of 5,422 km roads lengths in LWE affected States, of which 4,946 km roads have been completed.
- Road Connectivity Project for LWE affected areas (RRP-II):The Government approved this scheme on 28.12.2016 for further improving road connectivity in 44 districts of 9 LWE affected States. This Scheme envisages 5412 km roads and 126 bridges at an estimated cost of Rs. 11,725 Crores. Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this project. The roads included under the scheme have been identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the State Governments and the security agencies. 2473 km roads have been constructed so far.
- LWE Mobile Tower Project:To improve mobile connectivity in the LWE areas, the Government on 20.08.2014 approved installation of mobile towers in LWE affected States and 2335 mobile towers have been installed in Phase-I. Phase-II of the project has been approved by the Government of India, under which 4072 mobile towers, involving an expenditure of Rs. 7330 crore, has been approved by the Government of India.
- Aspirational District:The Ministry of Home Affairs has been tasked with the monitoring of Aspirational districts programme in 35 LWE affected districts.
- It is the belief of the Government of India that through a holistic approach focussing on development and security-related interventions, the LWE problem can be successfully tackled. However, it is clear that the Left Wing Extremists do not want root causes like underdevelopment to be addressed in a meaningful manner since they resort to targeting school buildings, roads, railways, bridges, health infrastructure, communication facilities etc in a major way. They wish to keep the population in their areas of influence marginalized to perpetuate their outdated and failed ideology. Consequently, the process of development has been set back by decades in many parts of the country under Left Wing Extremists influence. This needs to be recognised by the civil society and the media to build pressure on the Left Wing Extremists to eschew violence, join the mainstream and recognise the fact that the socio-economic and political dynamics and aspirations of 21st Century India are far removed from the Maoist world-view. Further, an ideology based on violence and annihilation is doomed to fail in a democracy which offers legitimate forums of grievance redressal.
3. Rocky road for RTI activists in Bihar, 20 killed in past 11 years
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II, IV : Right to information
Sub Theme: Whistle blowing| UPSC
- A whistle-blower is a person, usually an employee, who exposes information or activity within a private, public, or government organization that is deemed illegal, illicit, unsafe, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer funds.
What are the Effects of Whistle Blowing
- Forced to leave organisation / demotion.
- Credibility ruined
- Family, health and/or life in jeopardy.
- Outrage and divisiveness of people directly or indirectly involved.
- Physical or psychological isolation.
- Organisation experiences loss of money, restitution, productivity and positive reputations.
Satyendra Dubey, an IIT Kanpur graduate in his mid thirties was supervising construction of the golden quadrilateral project in the koderma division of Jharkhand.
He had a reputation for being an honest and upright officer. He was promoted as project director and was likely to be posted there. Dubey exposed mis handling of funds by three of his engineers which led to the suspension of the contractor.
He had written to the National highway authority of India (NHAI) and to the prime minister’s office (PMO) describing the financial irregularities in the project.
Dubey was shot dead on november 26, 2003
The incidence of murder of Manjunath Shanmugham, an IIM graduate and a sales manager of the Indian Oil Corporation on november 19, 2005 once again shocked India. He got killed for exposing the racket of adulteration of petrol and the mafia behind it.
Bipin Agrawal Agrawal had filed at least 900 RTI applications seeking details on government land encroachment in the district. His home was attacked by assailants in 2020 as well. Following the incident he had sought protection from local police but that was not provided to him.
Corruption is a social evil which prevents proper and balanced social growth and economic development.
One of the impediments felt in eliminating corruption in the Government and the public sector undertakings is lack of adequate protection to the complainants reporting the corruption or wilful misuse of power or wilful misuse of discretion which causes demonstrable loss to the Government or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant.
It was decided to enact a separate legislation to provide adequate protection to the persons reporting corruption or wilful misuse of power or discretion which causes loss to the Government or who disclose the commission of a criminal offence by a public servant.
It seeks to protect whistle-blowers, i.e. persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offence by a public servant.
Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization may make such a disclosure to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.
Every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant.
The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. It penalises any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.
It prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.
- The Act has not been notified so far. (7 years)
- It does not provide any penalty for victimising a complainant.
- The CVC was designated to receive public interest disclosures since 2004 through a government resolution. There have been only a few hundred complaints every year. The provisions of the Act are similar to that of the resolution. Therefore, it is unlikely that the number of complaints will differ significantly.
- The power of the CVC is limited to making recommendations. Also it does not have any power to impose penalties.
- The Act has a limited definition of disclosure and does not define victimisation.
- Other countries such as US, UK, and Canada define disclosure more widely and define victimisation.
- The Act differs on many issues with the proposed Bill of the Law Commission and the 2nd Administrative Reform Commission’s report.
- These include non-admission of anonymous complaints and lack of penalties for officials who victimise whistle-blowers.
4. Bureaucracy’s Digital Challenge
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS II, IV: Ethics and bureaucracy, governance
Theme: social media and bureaucracy | UPSC
Context: Government’s push towards bringing digital governance is partially successful as they have missed on the requisite reform when it comes to the social media usage of its employees.
For the employees (specially the civil servant) it a moral dilemma between anonymity and transparency in their functioning.
In this context, let us analyse the role of social media in bureaucracy.
Social media can be avoided:
- As an organisational form, the bureaucracy is incompatible with social media.
- While bureaucracy is characterised by hierarchy, formal relationships and standard procedures, social media is identified by openness, transparency, and flexibility.
- Bureaucracy is based on rule-based order and cannot be put to litmus test of public choices.
Why social media is unavoidable for bureaucracy:
- Social media has also created a positive outlook towards an institution long perceived as opaque and inaccessible.
- Social media has increased awareness among people about government policies and programmes.
- It provides an opportunity to bureaucrats to shape the public discourse and engage with the public while being politically neutral.
- Value governance is more important than the red file governance.
- Rise of fake news and political propaganda requires deliberate transparency on part of bureaucracy.
- Right to information has already liquidated the concept of back door bureaucracy.
Word of caution:
- Social media accountability is no alternative to institutional and citizen-centric accountability.
- Utilisation of social media should not hinder the routine bureaucratic work.
- Work ethics should be part of civil servants conduct on social media.
- Civil servant should take moral responsibility of their conduct on social media.
- Government can come up with comprehensive code of conduct on social media.