Kurukshetra IAS Academy Blogs

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1.SC to hear plea to include CJI on EC selection panel

NGO tells Supreme Court that Centre can take ‘unfair advantage’ while filling two vacancies

Organisation asks the top court to stay the new law on appointment of Election Commissioners

Says the law was enacted to countermand an order which sought to end ‘exclusive control’

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to urgently hear on Friday a plea which said the Centre could take “unfair advantage” while filling the two vacancies of Election Commissioners (ECs) in the Election Commission of India (ECI) following the unexpected resignation of Arun Goel ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

A Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna agreed to list for hearing the plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, which said the new law on the appointments of ECs should be put on hold.

The NGO said the Chief Justice of India (CJI) should be brought back on board the high-profile selection committee headed by the Prime Minister for appointments of ECs to the top poll body as directed by a landmark Supreme Court judgment in the Anoop Baranwal case of March 2, 2023.

‘Free and fair elections’

“Now, the Executive has the ability to appoint two Election Commissioners which can give an unfair advantage to the Executive. The role of the Election Commission is critical in ensuring free and fair elections and therefore, the appointments must also be seen to be fair and free from any bias or latches to the government of that time,” the organisation, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza, submitted.

In Anoop Baranwal versus Union of India in March last year, a Constitution Bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph (now retired) ordered the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two ECs to be appointed by the President on the advice tendered by a committee of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the single largest party in Opposition and the CJI.

The court had reasoned that “fierce independence, neutrality and honesty” envisaged in the institution of the EC required an end to government monopoly and “exclusive control” over appointments to the highest poll body. However, the government had enacted a new law — The Chief Election Commission and other Election Commissions (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023 — to countermand the judgment. The law had replaced the CJI with a Cabinet Minister on the selection committee, giving the Centre a dominant role in the appointment process.

‘Political interference’

“… Democracy is a facet of the basic structure of the Constitution and in order to ensure free and fair elections and to maintain healthy democracy in our country, the Election Commission should be insulated from political and/or executive interference,” the NGO argued.

The application filed by the NGO also pointed out that the ECI at present was under the sole charge of CEC Rajiv Kumar.

“In light of the eminent elections, it would not be prudent to leave the post of the Election Commissioners vacant as the role of the Election Commission is critical in assuring free and fair elections, in adjudicating disputes between political parties and in ensuring accurate voter lists and voter turnout,” the application said.

2.Will publish poll bond data ‘in time’, says CEC

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Wednesday said that the Commission would share details of electoral bonds “in time” and asserted that it believed in complete transparency.

The State Bank of India was directed by the Supreme Court to submit the data by March 12. “They have given us the details in time. I will go back and look at the data, and would definitely disclose it in time,” he said, speaking in Jammu where he was ending his nationwide visits before announcing the Lok Sabha election schedule.

He said the commission believed only “in disclosure, disclosure and disclosure” to ensure high standards of transparency.

The SBI has issued electoral bonds worth ₹16,518 crore in 30 tranches since the inception of the scheme in 2018.

3.T.N. Governor stalls move to re-induct Ponmudy

In yet another stand-off with the Tamil Nadu government, Governor R.N. Ravi has put on hold the proposed swearing-in of DMK leader and former Minister K. Ponmudy to re-induct him into the Cabinet.

He was disqualified as MLA after his conviction in a disproportionate assets case in December. The move to re-induct him began after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction and sentencing.

4.‘60% Kannada signboards rule sees 98% compliance in Bengaluru’

As the deadline for complying with the 60:40 rule for use of Kannada in signboards ended on Wednesday, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), body responsible for civic amenities of the Greater Bengaluru metropolitan area, claimed the rule has already seen a 98% implementation.

As per a survey conducted in December, the BBMP claimed to have identified 50,357 violations to the rule and of them, 49,241 establishments had already changed their signboards and only 1,116 now remain. A senior BBMP official said they were confident of ensuring 100% implementation within 15 days.

It may be recalled that when the BBMP started to shut shops for non-compliance after the previous deadline of February 28, Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar orally announced the extension of the deadline by two weeks.

Gaps in implementation

B. Sannerappa, State general secretary, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, which spearheaded the campaign in December 2023, said, “Many shops have covered the English name using plastic, cloth, and pasted a sticker bearing a Kannada name. This is just a temporary arrangement. The BBMP should ensure that the shops install new signboards”.

5.Political background not ‘sufficient reason’ to reject a candidate as judge, says SC Collegium

The Supreme Court Collegium has brushed aside an “input” from the Department of Justice that a lawyer being considered for appointment as a Kerala High Court judge is “considered a CPI(M) sympathiser”.

Recommending advocate Manoj Pulamby Madhavan for appointment as High Court judge, the Collegium led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said having a political background is not always a “sufficient reason” to reject a person’s candidature as a judge.

The Collegium resolution of Tuesday quoted from the Department of Justice’s communication, which said “Manoj Pulamby Madhavan is considered to be a CPI(M) sympathiser. He was appointed as Government Pleader in 2010 and 2016-2021 by the LDF government”. The Collegium said the input was “extremely vague”. “Even otherwise, the mere fact that the candidate has had a political background may not be a sufficient reason in all cases,” it said.

“Similarly, that he was appointed as a Government Pleader in 2010 and 2016-2021 by the LDF government does not constitute a valid ground to reject his candidature. As a matter of fact, the appointment of the candidate as a Government Pleader would indicate that he would have acquired sufficient experience in handling cases where the State is a party in diverse branches of law,” the Collegium reasoned in favour of Mr. Madhavan, who is a Scheduled Caste community member.

The Collegium also reminded how recently an advocate was appointed a High Court judge despite being an office-bearer of a political party.

Justice L. Victoria Gowri was reportedly an office-bearer of the BJP Mahila Morcha before her appointment as a Madras High Court judge.

6.Russian dominance in India’s arms imports declines

Russia’s share in India’s arms imports shrunk from 76% in 2009-13 to 36% in 2019-23

In the last 15 years, India has significantly reduced its dependence on its biggest arms supplier, Russia. According to new data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank, about 76% of arms imported by India during the 2009-13 period was from Russia. In contrast, in the 2019-23 period, Russia’s share reduced to 36%.

While Russia still remains India’s largest supplier, arms imports have increased substantially from France and the U.S. in recent years (Chart 1). France’s share in India’s arms imports was just 0.9% in the 2009-13 period. However, in the 2019-23 period, its share climbed to 33%, making it the second largest supplier. The U.S.’s share increased from 8% in 2009-13 to 13% in 2019-23. The chart shows the volume of arms transfers from the five major arms exporters to India in terms of trend-indicator value. This is calculated based on the known unit production cost of a core set of weapons and is intended to represent the transfer of military resources rather than the financial value of the transfer. India’s arms imports increased by 4.7% during 2019-23 compared to the previous five-year period.

Between 2019 and 2023, India climbed one spot to become the world’s biggest arms importer (Chart 2), displacing Saudi Arabia. India’s share in global arms imports rose from 9.1% in 2014-18 to 9.8% in 2019-23. Saudi Arabia, which was the biggest importer in the previous five-year period, reduced from 11% to 8.4%.

Understandably, Ukraine, which had a negligible share in global arms imports in 2014-18, increased its share to 4.9% in the next five years, especially after the Russian invasion in February 2022.

As far as India’s neighbours are concerned, Pakistan’s share in global imports increased from 2.9% in 2014-18 to 4.3% in 2019-23. The share of China, on the other hand, declined from 4.9% to 2.9% in the same period.

According to SIPRI, countries in Asia, Oceania, and West Asia continued to import arms in much larger volumes than Europe. In 2019-23, nine of the 10 biggest arms importers were from Asia, Oceania, or West Asia. Chart 2 shows the share of top countries in global arms imports in two five-year periods.

Russia’s role as an arms supplier diminished not just in the case of India but across the world. Russia accounted for 21% of all arms exports in 2014-18. In 2019-23, this share came down to 11% (Chart 3). In volume terms, Russia’s exports fell by 52% during the two periods.

According to the think tank, until the year 2019, the volume of Russian arms exports remained more or less constant with minimal changes. However, export volumes started to rapidly decline in 2020, 2021, and 2022. In 2023, the volume exported was 74% lower than the levels recorded in 2019.

Russia was the major arms supplier to 31 nations in 2019. This figure decreased to 14 in 2022 and 12 by 2023. On the other hand, the U.S., the biggest exporter of arms, further cemented its position by increasing its share in global exports from 34% to 42%. Chart 3 shows the share of top countries in global arms exports in two five-year periods.

Table 4 lists the units of various types of weapons ordered by India in the last 15 years. Missiles formed the largest component in India’s arms order and a majority of them were from Russia followed by the U.S., Israel, and France. Most ordered commodities also included engines, armoured vehicles, and aircraft. While engines and aircraft were mostly ordered from Russia, France and the U.S., armoured vehicles came from South Africa and Russia.

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