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Cabinet Reshuffles since 2009

June 18th, 2013 1 comment
Source: www.pib.nic.in

Source: www.pib.nic.in

Yesterday the Prime Minister reshuffled his Cabinet and inducted four cabinet ministers and four ministers of state.  Since the beginning of the UPA II government, there have been three major Cabinet reshuffles and a number of minor readjustments in the portfolios of ministers. Analysing changes in the portfolios of ministers gives an insight into the churn in the political leadership of the different ministries of the government of India.

Until recently there was no central online resource where information could be collated about cabinet reshuffles. The information was scattered between the websites of the President, the Prime Minister and the Press Information Bureau. Since 2012, the Cabinet Secretariat has started putting details about changes in the portfolio of the council of ministers in the public domain. However analysing this information becomes difficult as the information is split into different files and details about the Cabinet reshuffle do not go back till 2009.

We have tried to collate data about changes in Cabinet portfolios since May 2009, so that it becomes easily accessible and can be analysed by interested individuals.  The raw data file can be accessed here. This data could be analysed to see which Ministers have shifted across ministries or the average length of tenure of Ministers in different ministries.

If you spot interesting trends in the raw data above, please share them with us on twitter@prslegislative

We have done a preliminary analysis of the data to see which ministries have had the most changes in Cabinet Ministers since May 2009:

– Railway Ministry portfolio has been held by six different Cabinet Ministers [Mamata Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi, Mukul Roy, C P Joshi (twice), Pawan Kumar Bansal and now Mallikarjun Kharge]

– Ministry of Law and Justice, Corporate Affairs and Science and Technology: Four Cabinet Ministers.

– Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Civil Aviation, Rural Development, Tourism and Youth and Sports:  Three Cabinet Ministers.

– Ministries like Finance, Home, External Affairs, Communications and Information Technology, Human Resource Development:  Two Cabinet Ministers.

– Ministries like Agriculture and Non Conventional Energy Sources have the same Ministers from May 2009.

This data also helped us put together a brief chronology of Cabinet reshuffles since the beginning of the term of the UPA II government:

23 & 28- May-09 Cabinet sworn in.
31-May-09 Meria Kumar resigns as Minister of Water Resources to become Speaker of Lok Sabha.
19-Apr-10 Shashi Tharoor resigns as Minister of State from the Ministry of External Affairs.
15-Nov-10 A Raja resigns as Minister of Communications and Information Technology. Kapil Sibal gets additional charge of the ministry.
19-Jan-11 First major cabinet reshuffle. Most ministries affected.
12-Jul-11 Second major Cabinet reshuffle. Dinesh Trivedi assumes charge of Railway Ministry after Mamata Banerjee, Salman Khursheed becomes Law Minister, Jairam Ramesh moves to Rural Development. New Ministers like Rajeev Shukla (Parliamentary Affairs) and Jayanthi Natarajan (Environment and Forest) get inducted.
18-Dec-11 RLD joins UPA. Ajit Singh inducted as Minister of Civil Aviation.
20-Mar-12 Dinesh Trivedi resigns and Mukul Roy becomes Railway Minister.
27-Jun-12 Pranab Mukherjee resigns as Finance Minister to fight the presidential election.
31-Jul-12 P Chidambaram moves from Home to Finance Ministry and Sushil Kumar Shinde moves from Power to Home Ministry.
22-Sep-12 Trinamool withdraws support to UPA. All TMC ministers resign. C P Joshi assumes additional charge of Railway Ministry.
28-Oct-12 Third major reshuffle. S M Krishna resigns from Ministry of External Affairs and Salman Khursheed takes over. Ashwani Kumar comes in place of Salman Khursheed in Law and Justice. Ambika Soni resigns and Manish Tiwari takes charge of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Ajay Maken moves from Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to Housing and Urban Poverty Alliviation.
21-Mar-13 DMK withdraws support. All DMK Ministers resign.
11-May-13 Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal resign. Kapil Sibal takes charge of Ministry of Law and Justice and C P Joshi takes charge of Railways.
16-Jun-13 Ajay Maken and C P Joshi resign.

 

 

The law and short of it

May 23rd, 2013 1 comment

In today’s Opinion piece, in the Indian Express, we discuss how enacting hasty new legislation in response to public events may not be the answer. 

The recent spot fixing controversy in the Indian Premier League has brought the issue of betting in sports back into the limelight. As a result, public debate around betting, and steps that need to be taken to prevent the recurrence of such events, is gaining traction. The government’s response to this incident has been somewhat predictable. The minister of state for sports has reportedly stated that his ministry is committed to putting in place new legislation to deal with the menace of fixing in sports. This approach to law making points towards a growing trend of initiating policy and legislative decisions as a reaction to public events. This is not something new. The Mumbai terror attack in 2008 was the catalyst for the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act, and the brutal rape and murder of a young girl in Delhi led to the overhaul of India’s penal code to ensure stricter penalties for crimes against women. Both these bills were passed without effective scrutiny, as they were not referred to a parliamentary standing committee for examination.

Events in the country may, on occasion, highlight gaps in our policy and legislative framework. However, they often point out the ineffectiveness of existing laws and the lack of proper implementation. And that is not always a result of not having enough laws in the country. There are more than a 1,000 Central laws and over 15,000 state laws. The problem lies with our law-making process, which is ad hoc in nature. It is geared towards churning out legislation that is not entirely evidence based and does not take the feedback of different stakeholders into account. In its reports, the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution had observed that “our legislative enactments betray clear marks of hasty drafting and absence of Parliament scrutiny from the point of view of both the implementers and the affected persons and groups”.

Take, for example, the Gram Nyayalaya Act, which establishes village courts to provide people with easy access to justice and reduce the case law burden on the court system. Structured feedback from villagers, whom this act is trying to empower, prior to introducing the bill in Parliament would have given valuable insights about implementation challenges. A comprehensive study to examine the impact that village courts would have in reducing pendency in the judicial system would have provided hard numbers to substantiate what types of cases should be adjudicated by the village courts. A detailed financial analysis of the cost implications for the Central and the state governments for implementing the law would have helped policymakers decide on the scale and effectiveness of implementation. In the absence of these studies, there is no way to measure whether the law has been effective in giving villagers easy access to justice and in reducing the burden on the judicial system.

The importance of stakeholder consultation was recently stressed by the parliamentary committee examining the land acquisition bill. In its report on the bill, the committee recommended that, “before bringing in any bill in future, the government should ensure wider, effective and timely consultations with all relevant and stakeholders so that all related issues are addressed adequately.” Rajya Sabha MP N.K. Singh, while testifying before the parliamentary standing committee on the National Food Security Bill, had drawn the attention of the committee towards the need for an accurate financial memorandum accompanying the bill, to “avoid serious consequences in the implementation of the bill.” The National Advisory Council has also suggested a process of pre-legislative scrutiny of bills and delegated legislation. In its approach paper, the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission had suggested that delegated legislation should also be published in draft form to elicit feedback and that a cost benefit analysis of the delegated legislation should be appended to the draft.

New laws can have a significant impact on the lives of people, so it is important that our law-makers enact “effective laws”. For this to happen our law-making process needs to evolve. While there will always be public pressure for new laws, the solution lies in ensuring that the law-making process is robust, consultative and deliberative. The solution to addressing policy opportunities does not always lie in making new laws but in ensuring that whatever law is enacted is well thought out and designed to be effective.

 

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Govt. gives itself the master key to access sensitive personal information

May 9th, 2011 3 comments

The government has given itself the “master key” to access major consumer databases maintained by companies in different sectors. Under new regulations made under the Information Technology Act, government can ask companies to share sensitive personal information about their customers.

Sensitive personal information would cover medical records and history, information about physical, physiological and mental health, sexual orientation, credit and debit cards, biometric information and passwords.

Under the new rules any government agency required under law to obtain information for the purpose of verifying identity, or for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, and punishment of offences can ask a company to give sensitive personal information held by it about an individual.

There are no checks on this power, except that the request for information be made in writing, and stating clearly the reason for seeking the information.  Usually information requests have certain inbuilt checks.  For example, search warrants in criminal cases are issued by a court.  Tapping of telephones or interception of electronic communication can only be authorised by the Union or the State Home Secretary after following a prescribed process.  The new Bill for Unique Identification Number (UID) permits such use only by the order of a court, or for national security (by an order of an authorised officer of at least Joint Secretary rank in the central government).

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No more wireless internet at cafes and airports

February 25th, 2011 8 comments

If the government has its way, accessing the internet using wifi hotspots at airports and cafes just might become a thing of the past.  It might happen because of the way “cyber cafes” are defined in the Information Technology Act.  The IT Act defines a cyber café as any facility which as part of its business offers internet access to people. The

The government has sought feedback on a draft regulation to govern the working of cyber cafes.   The draft regulation can be found here.  The draft regulations requires every cyber cafe to have a license and give internet access to people after they prove their identity to the satisfaction of the cyber café.  The cyber cafés are required to maintain the logs of users and of websites accessed by users. Cyber cafes are also required to ensure that their service is not utilised by people for any illegal activity or for viewing pornography.  There are requirements on the physical layout of the cyber cafe — for example, they need to prominently display a board stating that users may not view pornography.

These regulations by their very nature are designed for a traditional cyber café where people use computer terminals provided by the cyber café owner and access the internet.  But because of the waycyber café is defined in the Act, most public wifi hotspots would be called a cyber café and thereby be regulated by the cyber café guidelines.  So the local café which provides wireless access to its patrons would have to get a licence and follow other cyber café guidelines.  Since the draft guidelines place enough legal responsibility on a cyber café that many café and other public places which offer wireless internet would rethink their strategy of providing this service.

You can send in your feedback to the draft guidelines by the 28th of February to grai@mit.gov.in

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PAC seeks comment on 2G and 3G spectrum allocation

December 23rd, 2010 No comments

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has invited suggestions on “Recent Developments in the Telecom Sector including allocation of 2G and 3G Spectrum”.

Comments are invited from experts, associations, individuals, organisations and institutions interested in the matter.

Comments have to be sent in to: Director (PAC&CS), Lok Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 401, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi – 110001 (Ph.: 23034401, 23035236), e-mail: compac@sansad.nic.in. Comments have to be sent in within 15 days.

Assets and Liabilities of MPs after election

December 20th, 2010 No comments

It is common knowledge that individuals contesting elections have to file an affidavit, declaring (i) their criminal records (if any), (ii) assets & liabilities and (iii) educational qualification.  What is not widely known is that after getting elected, Members of Parliament are required to file a declaration of assets and liabilities with the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha.   The rules to this effect were made in 2004 under the Representation of Peoples Act , 1951.

These declarations have to be made by MPs within 90 days of taking their seat in Parliament.  Rules for Lok Sabha MPs an be found hereand those for Rajya Sabha MPs can be found here.

The Rajya Sabha rules specify that the declarations made by MPs shall be made availaible to any person with the written permission of the Chairman.  The rules also specify that Rajya Sabha MPs are required to update their declarations every year.

The Lok Sabha rules specify that the declarations made by the Lok Sabha MPs shall be treated as confidential and shall not be made available to any person without the written permission of the Speaker.  The rules also do not contain an express provision for the declaration made by the MPs to be updated in case there is a change in the status of their assets and liabilities.

Such rules under the Representation of Peoples Act currently do not exist for MLAs in States.

Issues related to Paid News: Send in your comments

December 18th, 2010 5 comments

The Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Information Technology has invited comments on the subject of “Isssues related to Paid News“.

Comments/Suggestions/Opinion/Views to be sent to:

Additional Director (IT)
Lok Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 156,
Parliament House Annexe,
New Delhi 110 001

Comments can also be sent by fax or e mail:
Fax: 011 -2301 0756 | E mail: comit at sansad dot nic dot in

Last date for sending in comments is: January 1, 2011

Important committee meetings

December 17th, 2010 No comments

The winter session has come to an end, but parliamentary committees continue to meet to discuss important issues.  Some of them are:

  • Lok Sabha Committee on Ethics | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Adding to procedure of Lok Sabha,  rules to incorporate a committee on ethics, specify its functions and procedures to be followed by the committee
  • Lok Sabha Committee on Empowerment of Women | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Informal interaction with with NGO Shakti Vahini on the subject Honour Killings and other forms of violence against Women
  • Committee on Water Resources | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Evidence of the representatives of the Ministry of Water Resources on The Dam Safety Bill, 2010
  • Committee on Information Technology | 20 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Briefing meeting with the officials of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the subject, Issues related to Paid News
  • Committee on Finance | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: 1. Oral hearing of the representatives of (i) Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and (ii) US India Business Council (USIBC) on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008’. 2. Further oral evidence of representatives of Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue) and Enforcement Directorate on ‘Tax exemptions and related matters in respect of IPL/BCCI’
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Previous attempts to abolish Rajya Sabha

December 16th, 2010 2 comments

The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister recently remarked that the Rajya Sabha should be abolished.  This is not a new thought.  In 1954 and 1973, resolutions were moved in the Lok Sabha seeking to abolish the Rajya Sabha.  Both these resolutions were unsuccessful.  Attempts to abolish the Rajya Sabha have also been made by introducing private member bills in the Lok Sabha.  These private member bills seeking constitutional amendment were introduced in 1971, 1972, 1975 and 1981.  None of these Bills was passed by the Lok Sabha.

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FAQs on Telephone Tapping

April 27th, 2010 2 comments

1.  Is the government empowered to intercept communication between two individuals?

Answer: Yes. The Central and the State government can intercept communication.  Letters, telephone (mobiles and landlines) and internet communication (e mails, chats etc.) can be intercepted by the government.

Interception of:

  • postal articles is governed by the Indian Post Office Act, 1898 [Section 26];
  • telephones is governed by the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 [Section 5(2)];
  • e mails/chats etc. is governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000 [Section 69].

2. Under what circumstances can the government intercept communication?

Answer: The circumstances under which communication can be intercepted by the government are:

  • for postal articles: the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety or tranquility;
  • for telephones: in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence;
  • for e mails / chats etc.: in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above;

3. Are there any safeguards that have been built into the interception process?

Answer: The Supreme Court in the case of PUCL Vs Union of India observed that the right to have telephone conservation in the privacy of one’s home or office is part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, which cannot be curtailed except according to the procedure established by law.

Elaborating the scope of Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1882 the Court clarified that this section does not confer unguided and unbridled power on investigating agencies to invade a person’s privacy.

The court laid down the following safeguards:

a.  Tapping of telephones is prohibited without an authorizing order from the Home Secretary, Government of India or the Home Secretary of the concerned State Government

b. The order, unless it is renewed shall cease to have authority at the end of two months from the date of issue. Though the order may be renewed, it cannot remain in operation beyond six months.

c. Telephone tapping or interception of communications must be limited to the address (es) specified in the order or to address (es) likely to be used by a person specified in the order.

d. All copies of the intercepted material must be destroyed as soon as their retention is not necessary under the terms of Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1882.

e. In an urgent case, this power may be delegated to an officer of the Home Department, Government of India or the Home Department of the State government, who is not below the rank of Joint Secretary. Copy of this order should be sent to the concerned Review Committee within one week of passing of the order.

f. This Review Committee shall consist of the Cabinet Secretary, Law Secretary and the Secretary Telecommunications at the Central Government. At the state level, the Committee shall comprise of Chief Secretary, Law Secretary and another member (other than the Home Secretary) appointed by the State Government. The Committee shall on its own, within two months of the passing of an order under Section 5 (2) investigate whether its passing is relevant. If an order is in existence, the Committee should find out whether there has been a contravention of the provisions of Section 5 (2). If the Review Committee on investigation concludes that provisions of Section 5 (2) have been contravened, it shall direct destruction of the copies of the intercepted material.

In pursuance of the Supreme Court judgement the Indian Telegraph (First Amendment) Rules, 1999 were framed and notified on 16.02.1999.

A similar notification titled, the Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information Rules, 2009 were notified on October 27, 2009. [see page 18]

4. Are there any other known cases of telephone tapping of politicians?

Answer: In 2005, Shri Amar Singh alleged that his telephones were tapped by private individuals.  The case against them is currently pending in the Tis Hazari court in Delhi.

5. Are there any statistics about the number of telephones being tapped by the government?

Answer:  Currently no such statistics are publicly available.  In a similar context, in the UK (where the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 governs this particular subject) a Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner states that a total of 5344 warrants were issued for interception of communication in 2008.