Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 31st December 2021

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1.  Landmark court rulings during the pandemic

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims – Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Important Judgements of Courts| UPSC  

Direction to the Health Ministry to explore “crowdfunding”. It was to help two children — suffering from the rare Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy — procure exorbitantly priced medicines.

  • The Court noted that the high cost of medicines should not be a reason to deny treatment to patients, especially children.
    • Right to Health and Healthcare’ is a fundamental right which has been recognised by the Supreme Court to be a part of the ‘Right to life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution.
    • It was “incumbent on society in general and authorities in particular to ensure that the life of such children is not compromised, even if there is a small window of improving their chances of survival or even providing a better quality of life”.
    • The draft policy has a section where the government proposed crowdfunding for treatment of high-cost rare diseases. The section says that in certain cases since the government cannot fully finance the treatment, the gap can be filled by seeking donations from prospective individuals or corporate donors, who are willing to support the cost of such diseases.
    • But the draft policy, which was introduced in 2020 for consultation, has still not seen the light of the day. The earlier policy of 2017 was kept in abeyance by the government. On March 30 this year, the ‘National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021’ was approved by the Centre.

     

    Arrest for tax evasion 

     

    The Court upheld a controversial provision in the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act that gives power to the authorities to arrest any person if there is a “reason to believe” that he has committed tax evasion.

    However, the court underlined that any person arrested under the CGST Act will have to be apprised of the grounds for arrest and be produced before a Magistrate within 24 hours.

    The Centre had pointed out that several bogus firms had fraudulently availed of IGST refunds and ITC credits that had caused substantial loss to the exchequer.

     

    Court order halted

    Justice C. Hari Shankar restrained a foreign court from pursuing its cause before the Indian judiciary. In a strongly worded judgment passed in May, he halted the enforcement of an order passed by the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court in September 2020, disallowing U.S. firm InterDigital Technology Corporation, from pursuing a patent infringement case against Chinese tech giant Xiaomi Corporation.

    On the case filed here, Justice Shankar said, “The right of a citizen for legal redressal and to ventilate his legitimate rights, is hallowed, sacred, and fundamental in this country.” 

     

    Rent payment for poor

    In an unprecedented judgment, the Court directed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to keep his promise, made in a press conference, that his government would pay the rent for those who are unable to pay it due to poverty in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

     

    The promise/assurance/representation given by the CM clearly amounts to an enforceable promise, the implementation of which ought to be considered by the government,” the court ruled. 

    He remarked that the Chief Minister cannot first make a “clear and unequivocal oral assurance” and then fall silent when it comes to implementation.

     

    Another Bench of the High Court has stayed Justice Singh’s judgment following the Delhi government’s appeal against the order, claiming no indiscriminate and unconditional assurance for payment of rent was made by Mr. Kejriwal.

     

    Stray dogs feeding

     

    A slew of directions on the contentious issue of feeding stray dogs came in July from Justice Midha. He remarked that every stray or street dog had the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them. But in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others, he said.

     

    Every dog is a territorial being, and therefore, have to be fed and tended to at places within their territory which are not frequented, or less frequented, and sparingly used by the general public,” 

     

    • Justice Midha added and directed Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) to form ‘Guard and Dog partnerships’ in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad, so that the dogs could be trained to be guard dogs.
    • The High Court also ruled that it should be “the duty and obligation of every RWA or municipal corporation to ensure that community dogs in all areas have access to food and water in the absence of their caregivers”.
    • He also made it mandatory to feed the dogs only at areas designated by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) in consultation with the RWAs or municipal corporation.

     

    Virtual registration

    Delhi High Court has rules that marriages could be registered in the virtual presence of parties.

    “In a little over half a decade, since the Registration Order was notified, the universe has undergone a sea change but the Registering Authority, while exercising its power and jurisdiction under the Registration Order, is refusing to recognise the reality that with the technology is available today, web portals and videoconferencing have become the norm,” the Court said.

    She said if videoconferencing was not accepted as the norm, then courts in the country would have come to a grinding halt and not been able to function when the citizens of the country needed access to justice.

     

    2.   Parties against putting off U.P. election, says CEC

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims – Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
    Sub Theme: Election dates decision| Election campaign regulation| UPSC 

Context: Amid rising cases of omicron, concerns have been raised by Allahabad High Court on the conduct of election in states and it has urged the Prime Minister and Election Commission to immediately ban rallies and public meetings of political parties and consider postponing the Assembly election as according to the Court, it is more important to save lives. However, taking note of the judgment of Allahabad High Court, Election Commission has stated that all parties in Uttar Pradesh want the Assembly elections to be held as per schedule.    

    

Views Expressed by Election Commission

 

  • Chief Election Commissioner on the conclusion of three-day visit to the state to assess poll preparedness said that all political parties, without any difference of opinion wants elections to be conducted on time while following Covid protocol.  
  • However, some political parties during the meeting expressed concern over flouting of Covid rules at election rallies, and also sought curbs on the number of rallies. 
  • On the issue of postponing of elections, EC said that it will execute the responsibility assigned to it as per the Constitution and necessary steps will be considered (limiting presence in rallies) based on rising Covid cases in the state. 
  • On political rallies becoming instances of super spreader, EC stated that its responsibility kicks in once Model Code of Conduct comes into effect on the announcement of election dates.  

Constitutional Provisions

Article 83 – Duration of Houses of Parliament

 

(2) The House of the People, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting and no longer and the expiration of the said period of five years shall operate as a dissolution of the House.

Provided that the said period may, while a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, be extended by Parliament by law for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate. 

 

Article 172 – Duration of State Legislature 

(1) Every Legislative Assembly of every State, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting and no longer and the expiration of the said period of  five years shall operate as a dissolution of the Assembly. 

 

Provided that the said period may, while a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, be extended by Parliament by law for a period not exceeding one year at a time and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the Proclamation has ceased to operate. 

 

Understanding Article 83(2) & Article 172(1)   

 

  • Thus, constitutionally speaking, there is no provision to extend the duration of Lok Sabha or State Assembly unless proclamation of emergency under Article 352 is in operation. 
  • This is because completion of 5 years for both Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies operates as dissolution of the House. 
  • This also means that Election Commission by the operation of Article 324 must conduct elections so that a new government is elected on completion of the period of 5 years. 

Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

 

  • Model Code of Conduct (MCC) provide a level playing field for all political parties, keep the campaign fair and healthy, avoid clashes and conflicts between parties, and ensure peace and order. 
  • The Election Commission ensures observance of MCC by political parties in power to ensure electoral process is not misused by the ruling party.    

Salient Features    

 

  • MCC has evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the set of guidelines embodied in the code. 
  • The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc. 
  • In the case of Union of India v Harbans Sigh Jalal and Others, Supreme Court ruled that MCC would come into force the moment the Election Commission issues the press release, which precedes the notification of elections.      
  • MCC does not have a statutory backing and hence cannot be enforced legally. 
  • However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other laws such as IPC, Cr.PC, Election laws – RPA, 1951 etc.
Part of MCC Subject for guidance of political candidates & candidates
Part 1 General Conduct
Part 2 Meetings
Part 3 Procession
Part 4 Polling Day
Part 5 Polling Booth
Part 6 Observers
Part 7 Party in Power
Part 8 Guidelines on Election Manifestos

 

Challenges – MCC

 

  • It cannot be legally enforced and this increases its non-compliance 
  • Regulating Fake News and Hate Speech at election rallies
  • Mere warnings by EC do provide deterrent effect to continue corrupt practice as defined under RPA, 1951.
  • Regulating political advertisements on digital and social media by political proxies. 

 

What if MCC is made legally enforceable?

 

Benefits Concerns
  • Ensure independence of EC in handling cases of non-compliance.
  • This will improve EC’s credibility and conducting fair and transparent elections.
  • It will ensure political neutrality especially for the ruling party at centre and states   
  • It will delay the conduct of elections as number of cases will be filed in Courts against decisions of EC and its officers.      
  • Results in filing of frivolous cases as part of political vendetta against rival candidates.    
  • It will unnecessary burden the judiciary during elections and may hamper the entire electoral process.
  • Taking actions by officers may result in their untimely transfer or suspension due to political pressure.  

Supreme Court judgement
§ SC said EC has residuary and plenary power under article 324. In case where law is silent, Article
324 is a reservoir of power to act.
§ Article 324 ‘operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation’ (Mohinder Singh Gill case)

Bold steps taken by EC
§ In 1998 EC prohibited newspapers and news channels from publishing results of pre-election
surveys and exit polls during a certain period.
§ EC conducted EVM hackathon.
§ Banned prominent politician from campaigning for certain period in recent Lok sabha election.
§ Banned a biopic movie.
§ Banned election campaign in Kolkata due to eruption of violence.
§ SVEEP – Systematic voter’s education and electoral awareness program.
§ C-Vigil
§ Election commission has setup Media Certification and Monitoring Committee

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