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Presidential elections: The race heats up!

June 14th, 2012 2 comments

The Election Commission has announced the schedule for the election of the President of India.  The last date for nominations is June 30, elections will be held on July 19, and counting will take place on July 22.  The BJD and AIADMK have proposed the name of Mr. P.A. Sangma.  The Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress have suggested three names.  Other parties or alliances have not announced any contenders.  Our calculations show that no single party or alliance has the numbers to unilaterally elect candidates of its choice.

A candidate will need 5,48,507 votes to be elected as the President.  If the UPA were to vote as a consolidated block, its vote tally would reach 4,49,847 (41% of the total votes).  Among the Congress allies, Trinamool holds the largest number of votes (47,898). If Trinamool decides to support some other candidate, the UPA tally will fall to 4,01,949 votes (37% of the total).

The votes held by the major alliances are given in the table below:

Coalition Value of votes Percentage of total votes
UPA

4,49,847

41.0%

NDA

3,03,912

27.7%

Left

52,282

4.8%

Bahujan Samaj Party

43,723

4.0%

Samajwadi Party

68,943

6.3%

Biju Janata Dal

30,215

2.8%

AIADMK

36,216

3.3%

Others

1,11,874

10.2%

Total

10,97,012

Minimum required to be elected

5,48,507

 

 

A detailed break-up of votes held by each party is given in the table below:

Party Value of votes Percentage of total votes
Indian National Congress

3,31,855

30.30%

Bharatiya Janata Party

2,32,454

21.20%

Samajwadi Party

68,943

6.30%

All India Trinamool Congress

47,898

4.40%

Bahujan Samaj Party

43,723

4.00%

Janata Dal (United)

41,574

3.80%

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)

36,216

3.30%

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

35,734

3.30%

Biju Janata Dal

30,215

2.80%

Nationalist Congress Party

24,058

2.20%

Independent

23,830

2.20%

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)

21,780

2.00%

Telugu Desam Party

21,256

1.90%

Shiv Sena

18,320

1.70%

Shiromani Akali Dal

11,564

1.10%

Communist Party of India

9,758

0.90%

Rashtriya Janata Dal

8,816

0.80%

Others

7,420

0.70%

Janata Dal (Secular)

6,138

0.60%

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference

5,556

0.50%

Rashtriya Lok Dal

5,412

0.50%

Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhaga (DMDK)

5,104

0.50%

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha

4,584

0.40%

Muslim League Kerala State Committee

4,456

0.40%

Indian National Lok Dal

4,068

0.40%

All India Forward Bloc

3,961

0.40%

Jharkhand Vikas Morcha

3,352

0.30%

Asom Gana Parishad

3,284

0.30%

Telangana Rashtra Samiti

3,044

0.30%

Revolutionary Socialist Party

2,829

0.30%

Bodoland People’s Front

2,808

0.30%

All India United Democratic Front

2,796

0.30%

Praja Rajyam Party

2,664

0.20%

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena

2,275

0.20%

Kerala Congress (M)

2,076

0.20%

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen

1,744

0.20%

Nagaland People’s Front

1,722

0.20%

Sikkim Democratic Front

1,640

0.10%

Peoples Democratic Party

1,512

0.10%

Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi

1,058

0.10%

Lok Janasakti Party

957

0.10%

All Jharkhand Students Union

880

0.10%

Haryana Janhit Congress

820

0.10%

Mizo National Front

732

0.10%

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

708

0.10%

Swabhimani Paksha

708

0.10%

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi

708

0.10%

YSR Congress Party

708

0.10%

Peasants and Workers Party

700

0.10%

Pattali Makkal Katchi

528

0.00%

Manithaneya Makkal Katch

352

0.00%

Puthiya Tamilaga

352

0.00%

All India NR Congress

240

0.00%

J&K National Panthers Party

216

0.00%

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

176

0.00%

United Democratic Party

153

0.00%

Lok Satta Party

148

0.00%

Loktantrik Samajwadi Party

129

0.00%

J&K Democratic Party Nationalist

72

0.00%

People’s Democratic Front

72

0.00%

Uttarakhand Kranti Dal

64

0.00%

Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party

60

0.00%

People’s Party of Arunachal

32

0.00%

Total

10,97,012

 

Notes:

The electoral  college for the Presidential election consists of the elected members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and all Legislative Assemblies. The winning candidate must secure at least 50% of the total value of votes polled. 

Each MP/ MLA’s vote has a pre-determined value based on the population they represent. For instance, an MP’s vote has a value of 708, an MLA from UP has a vote value of 208 and an MLA from Sikkim has a vote value of 7 (Note that all MPs, irrespective of the constituency or State they represent, have equal vote value).

Parties in various coalitions:

UPA: Congress, Trinamool, DMK, NCP,Rashtriya Lok Dal, J&K National Conference, Muslim League Kerala State Committee, Kerala Congress (M), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Sikkim Democratic Front, Praja Rajyam Party, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi

NDA: BJP, JD(U), Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, Janata Party

Left: CPI(M), CPI, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc

Vacancy in police forces

May 9th, 2012 No comments

Parliament voted on the Demands for Grants for the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 02, 2012. During the debate, MPs expressed concern over the status of police forces in different States of the country.  They emphasised  the need to augment the capability of police forces. Though ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects, the union government provides assistance to States for strengthening their forces.  For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs has been implementing a non-plan scheme for ‘Modernization of Police Forces’ since 1969-70.  Under the scheme assistance is provided in the form of grants-in-aid towards construction of secure police stations, outposts, for purchase of vehicles, equipment etc.  (To know more about the scheme, see an earlier blog post on the issue.)

At the all India level, the sanctioned strength of State Police equals 20.6 lakh personnel.  Though there exist wide variations across States, at an average this amounts to 174 police personnel per lakh population.  However, the actual ratio is much lower because of high vacancies in the police forces.  At the aggregate level, 24% positions are vacant.

The table below provides data on the strength of state police forces as in Jan, 2011

State Sanctioned strength Sanctioned policemen/ lakh of population Vacancy
Andhra Pradesh 1,31,099 155 31%
Arunachal Pradesh 11,955 966 42%
Assam 62,149 200 12%
Bihar 85,939 88 27%
Chhattisgarh 50,869 207 18%
Goa 6,108 348 16%
Gujarat 87,877 151 27%
Haryana 61,307 248 28%
Himachal Pradesh 17,187 256 22%
Jammu & Kashmir 77,464 575 6%
Jharkhand 73,005 235 30%
Karnataka 91,256 155 10%
Kerala 49,394 141 7%
Madhya Pradesh 83,524 115 9%
Maharashtra 1,53,148 139 10%
Manipur 31,081 1,147 26%
Meghalaya 12,268 469 17%
Mizoram 11,246 1,112 6%
Nagaland 24,226 1,073 0%
Orissa 53,291 130 18%
Punjab 79,565 291 14%
Rajasthan 79,554 118 11%
Sikkim 5,421 886 27%
Tamil Nadu 1,20,441 178 15%
Tripura 44,310 1,224 17%
Uttar Pradesh 3,68,260 184 59%
Uttarakhand 20,775 211 24%
West Bengal 72,998 81 18%
A&N Islands 4,417 1,018 22%
Chandigarh 7,873 695 22%
D&N Haveli 325 114 13%
Daman & Diu 281 140 6%
Delhi 81,467 441 1%
Lakshadweep 349 478 36%
Puducherry 3,941 352 25%
All India 20,64,370 174 24%

Source: Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 90, 13th March, 2012  and Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 1042, March 20, 2012

Is prior sanction always required to prosecute army officers under AFSPA?

May 4th, 2012 No comments

The Supreme Court passed its  judgment in General Officer Commanding (Army) vs. CBI on May 01, 2012.  The case addressed the issue of need for sanction to prosecute Army officers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The case dealt with two instances of alleged fake encounters.  Five people were killed by the Army in Assam in a counter insurgency operation in 1994.  Another five people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in March, 2000 in an encounter.

In both cases, it was alleged that the Army officers had staged fake encounters.  In both instances, the CBI was directed to investigate the matter.  CBI claimed that the people who were killed were indeed victims of fake encounters.  The CBI moved the court to initiate prosecution against the accused Army officers.

The officers claimed that they could only be prosecuted with the prior sanction (permission) of the central government.  The officers relied on provisions of the AFSPA,1958 and the Armed Forces J & K (Special Powers) Act, 1990 to support their claim.  (See Notes for the relevant clauses)  These provide that legal proceedings cannot be instituted against an officer unless sanction is granted by the central government.

It must be noted that Army officers can be tried either before criminal courts or through court-martial (as prescribed under Sections 125 of the Army Act, 1950).  The Army officers had appealed that both procedures require prior sanction of the government.

The judgment touches upon various issues.  Some of these have been discussed in more detail below:

  • Is prior sanction required to prosecute Army officers for ‘any’ act committed in the line of duty?
  • At what stage is sanction required?
  • Is sanction required for court-martial?

Is prior sanction required to prosecute army officers for ‘any’ act committed in the line of duty?

The judgment reiterated an earlier ruling.  It held that sanction would not be required in ‘all’ cases to prosecute an official.  The officer only enjoys immunity from prosecution in cases when he has ‘acted in exercise of powers conferred under the Act’.  There should be ‘reasonable nexus’ between the action and the duties of the official.

The Court cited the following example to highlight this point:  If in a raid, an officer is attacked and he retaliates, his actions can be linked to a ‘lawful discharge of duty’.  Even if there were some miscalculations in the retaliation, his actions cannot be labeled to have some personal motive.

The Court held that the AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act, empowers the central government to ascertain if an action is ‘reasonably connected with the discharge of official duty’ and is not a misuse of authority.  The courts have no jurisdiction in the matter.  In making a decision, the government must make an objective assessment of the exigencies leading to the officer’s actions.

At what stage is sanction required?

The Court ruled that under the AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act, sanction is mandatory.  But, the need to seek sanction would only arise at the time of cognizance of the offence.  Cognizance is the stage when the prosecution begins.  Sanction is therefore not required during investigation.

Is sanction required for court-martial?

The Court ruled that there is no requirement of sanction under the Army Act, 1950.  Hence, if the Army chooses, it can prosecute the accused through court-martial instead of going through the criminal court.

The Court noted that the case had been delayed for over a decade and prescribed a time bound course of action.  It asked the Army to decide on either of the two options – court martial or criminal court – within the next eight weeks.  If the Army decides on proceedings before the criminal court, the government will have three months to determine to grant or withhold sanction.

Notes

Section 6 of the AFSPA, 1958:

6. Protection to persons acting under Act – No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.”

Section 7 of the Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act, 1990:

7. Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act. No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.”

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The Piracy Bill, 2012

April 27th, 2012 1 comment

The Piracy Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on April 24, 2012.  According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons, there has been a significant increase in attacks by pirates, particularly in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.  This has affected security of maritime traffic and personnel plying between Asia, Europe and Africa.  Moreover, enhanced naval presence in the Gulf of Aden is now causing pirates to shift operations close to India’s Exclusive Economic Zone.   As a result, a number of Somali pirates are presently in the custody of Indian police authorities. However, since piracy as a crime is not included in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), this has led to problems in prosecution.

The Piracy Bill intends to fill this gap and provide clarity in the law.

The Bill, if passed by Parliament, would extend to the entire Exclusive Economic Zone of India (EEZ).  Under international law, EEZ is a seazone over which a country has special rights for exploration and use of marine resources.  It stretches outward from the coast, up to 200 nautical miles into the sea.

The Bill defines ‘piracy’ as any illegal act of violence or detention for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or aircraft on high seas or at a place outside the jurisdiction of any State.  This definition is akin to the definition of piracy laid down under the ‘United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea‘.

The Bill seeks to punish piracy with imprisonment for life.  In cases where piracy leads to death, it may be punished with death.  It also provides that if arms, ammunition are recovered from the possession of the accused, or if there is evidence of threat of violence, the burden of proof for proving innocence would shift to the accused.

The Bill empowers the government to set up designated courts for speedy trial of offences and authorizes the court to prosecute the accused regardless of his/ her nationality.  It also provides for extradition.

You can access the Bill text here.

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Can States levy entry tax?

April 4th, 2012 2 comments

The government of West Bengal has recently imposed a tax on the entry of goods into the local areas of the State.  According to the Finance Minister, this will help meet ‘cost for facilitating trade and industry in the State’.

Many States impose entry tax on goods coming into their areas of jurisdiction.  Entry Tax is imposed by States under the provisions of Entry 52 of the State List and Article 304 of the Indian Constitution.  These read as under:

Entry 52, List II of the Seventh Schedule (State List)

“Taxes on the entry of goods into a local area for consumption, use or sale therein.”

Article 304: Restriction on trade, commerce and intercourse among States

“Notwithstanding anything in article 301 or article 303, the Legislature of a State may by law –

(a) impose on goods imported from other States or the Union territories any tax to which similar goods manufactured or produced in that State are subject, so, however, as not to discriminate between goods so imported and goods so manufactured or produced; and

(b) impose such reasonable restrictions on the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse with or within that State as may be required in the public interest:

Provided that no Bill or amendment for the purposes of clause (b) shall be introduced or moved in the Legislature of a State without the previous sanction of the President.”

Are there any restrictions to the power of States to impose entry taxes?

The use of the words ‘so, however, as not to discriminate ‘ and ‘reasonable restrictions’ in the above articles constrain the power of States to some extent.  Several petitions challenging the imposition of entry taxes have been filed before courts.  In 2008, the Supreme Court has referred the entry tax issue to a larger bench.  This case is currently pending.

What are the arguments in favour and against the imposition of such taxes?

Arguments in favour of entry tax

  • Resource mobilization
  • Protection to state producers and manufactures

Arguments against entry tax

  • Upward pressure on prices
  • Delays and bottlenecks to movement of goods at state borders
  • Reduction in competition and consumer choice

In addition to the above, it can also be said that an entry tax goes against the principle envisaged under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.  The GST aims to create a common market throughout India without any taxes on inter-state movement of goods.  A Constitutional Amendment Bill to facilitate the implementation of GST is currently pending in Parliament.

 


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The Budget – What’s in store for the Railways this year?

March 15th, 2012 1 comment

The Minister of Railways, Dinesh Trivedi, presented the Railways Budget 2012 to Parliament on 14th March.  While commenting on the financial position of Railways, the Minister said that ‘the Indian Railways are passing through a difficult phase’. The Operating Ratio for the closing year is now estimated to equal 95%. This is significantly higher than the 91.1% figure budgeted last year.

Operating Ratio is a metric that compares operating expenses to revenues. A higher ratio indicates lower ability to generate surplus.

Surplus is used for capital investments such as laying of new lines, deploying more coaches etc. Therefore, a smaller surplus affects the Railway’s capability to make such investments.

Budget v/s Revised estimates 2011-12

Budget 2011-12 had estimated the performance of Railways for the financial year. Revised estimates have now been submitted. Taken together, these two figures help in comparing actual performance against targets. Some observations are enumerated below:

  • Total receipts decreased by Rs 2,746 crore.
  • Total expenditure increased by Rs 2,102 crore.
  • Operating Ratio increased from 91.1% to 95%. This implies a decrease in surplus.
  • Appropriations to the ‘Development Fund’ and the ‘Capital Fund’ decreased from Rs 5,258 crore to Rs 1,492 crore (a decrease of 72%). The ‘Development Fund’ finances expenditure such as passenger amenities; the ‘Capital Fund’ is used for capital augmentation such as laying of new lines.

Budget estimates 2012-13

In 2012-13, Railways plan to improve Operating Ratio to 84.9% and to increase surplus to Rs 15,557 crore. This is more than 10 times the surplus generated in 2011-12 (Revised Estimates).

The effective increase in freight rates is estimated to average 23%. During this time, passenger fares are also estimated to increase by an effective average rate of 19%. [1]

Infrastructure

Performance during the 11th Plan

Under the 11th Five Year Plan, the total plan expenditure for Railways had been approved at Rs 2,33,289 crore.

The Outcome Budget shows that the actual expenditure is only likely to be Rs 1,92,291 crore. Thus, expenditure will fall short by Rs 40,998 crore. This gaps exists despite a significant increase in the Gross Budgetary Support approved by Parliament.

Plan expenditure during 2007-12 (In Rs Crore)

Approved Expenditure

Actual Expenditure

Gross Budgetary Support

63,635

75,979

Internal Resources

90,000

67,763

Extra Budgetary Support

79,654

48,549

Total

2,33,289

1,92,291

The Standing Committee on Railways, in its 11th report presented in August 2011, had sought an explanation from the Ministry.

According to the Ministry, lower mobilization of internal resources and lack of extra budgetary support are the main reasons for the shortfall.  Internal resource mobilization has been low because of (i) impact of the 6th Pay Commission; and (ii) slow growth in freight earnings due to the economic slowdown. Extra budgetary resources have been low due to non-materialization of funds through the Public-Private Partnership route.

Proposals for the 12th Plan

Two recent committees – Kakodkar Committee on Railway Safety and the Pitroda Committee on Railway Modernization – have called for large investments in the next five years. The Kakodkar Committee has recommended an investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in the next five years to improve safety; the Pitroda Committee has recommended an expenditure of Rs 3,96,000 crore in the next five years on modernization.

The Railway sub-group of the 12th Five Year Plan has also estimated a requirement of Rs 4,42,744 crore for various other investments proposed to be undertaken during the Plan period. [2]

All three groups have called for significant investments in infrastructure augmentation in the next five years.

Budget proposals 2012-13

According to the Minister’s speech, the Annual Plan outlay for the year 2012-13 has been set at Rs 60,100 crore. The plan would be financed through:

  • Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 24,000 crore
  • Railway Safety Fund of Rs 2,000 crore
  • Internal Resources of Rs 18,050 crore
  • Extra Budgetary Resources of Rs 16,050 crore. Of this, Rs 15,000 crore would be borrowed from the market through IRFC (Indian Railway Finance Corporation).

What happens now?

The Budget is likely to be discussed in the two Houses within the next few days.  Post the discussion, the Ministry’s proposals will be put to vote.  Once passed, the Ministry can put its proposals into action.

For more details on the Railway Budget, including the projects proposed this year and the status of proposals made last year, please see our analysis here.

To understand some of the challenges faced by the Indian Railways, see our blog post from last year.

Notes:

[1] The ‘effective average fare’ has been calculated by dividing the total income from the segment (freight/ passenger) by the total traffic (in NTKM/ PKM).  This would vary with changes in fares as well as the usage by different categories of users (including the proportion of tickets booked through Tatkal).

[2] Source: Report of the Expert Group on Railway Modernization (Chairman: Sam Pitroda)

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Scenarios for upcoming Rajya Sabha, Presidential and VP elections

March 7th, 2012 No comments

Several Rajya Sabha seats go to elections this year. The President and the Vice-President are also due to be elected by August. We analyse the impact of the recent State Assembly elections on the composition of the Rajya Sabha and the outcome of the Presidential polls.

Rajya Sabha – How will its composition change?

Since Rajya Sabha members are elected by the elected members of State Legislative Assemblies, a change in the composition of State Assemblies can affect the composition of Rajya Sabha.  A total of 61 Rajya Sabha seats are up for election in April and July.  This includes 10 seats from Uttar Pradesh and 1 seat from Uttarakhand.

In light of the recent Assembly elections, we work out two scenarios to estimate the composition of Rajya Sabha in 2012.

Members of Rajya Sabha are elected through the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote (STV). In an STV election, a candidate is required to achieve a certain minimum number of votes (called the ‘quota’) to be elected.  (For more details on the STV system, click here)

For instance, in the case of Uttar Pradesh (UP) 10 Rajya Sabha seats go to election this year.  Candidates will be elected to these 10 seats by the 403 elected MLAs of the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly.  Each MLA will rank the candidates based on his/ her preference. After successive rounds of elimination, candidates who are able to secure at least 37  {or 403/(10+1) } votes will be declared elected.

In the new UP Assembly, Samajwadi  Party (SP) has a total strength of 224 members. As a result, SP can elect at least 6 (or 224/37) Rajya Sabha MPs of its choice.  BSP’s strength of 80 will allow it to elect 2 (or 80/37) MPs to Rajya Sabha. Similarily, the BJP with a strength of 47 MLAs can have one candidate of its choice elected to the Rajya Sabha.  This leaves 1 seat.  The fate of this seat depends on the alliances that may be formed since no other party in UP has 37 or more seats in the Assembly.  If the Congress (28 seats) and RLD (9 seats) join hands, they may be able to elect a candidate of their choice.

We build two scenarios which give the likely range of seats for the major coalitions and parties. The actual result will likely fall between these scenarios, depending on alliances for each election.

Of the two scenarios, Scenario II is better for the UPA. It is based on the assumption that the UPA is able to put together the necessary support/ alliances to get its candidates elected to seats with indeterminate status.  Scenario I is based on the assumption that the UPA is not able to put together the required support. As a result, the seats in question get allocated to candidates from other parties/ coalitions. (See Notes for the composition of the coalitions)

Composition of Rajya Sabha

Party/ Coalition Current composition Scenario I Scenario II
Total seats

245

245

245

UPA

93

95

98

NDA

66

67

65

Left

19

14

14

BSP

18

15

15

SP

5

9

9

BJD

6

8

7

AIADMK

5

5

5

Nominated

7

12

12

Others

21

20

20

Vacant

5

0

0

It appears that there would not be a major change in the composition of the Rajya Sabha.

Which party’s candidate is likely to become the next President?

The next Presidential election will be held in June or July.  The electoral college for the Presidential election consists of the elected members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and all Legislative Assemblies. Each MP/ MLA’s vote has a pre-determined value based on the population they represent. For instance, an MP’s vote has a value of 708, an MLA from UP has a vote value of 208 and an MLA from Sikkim has a vote value of 7. (Note that all MPs, irrespective of the constituency or State they represent, have equal vote value)

As is evident, changes in the composition of Assemblies in larger States such as UP can have a major impact on the outcome of the Presidential election.

The elections to the office of the President are held through the system of proportional representation by means of STV (same as in the case of Rajya Sabha).  The winning candidate must secure at least 50% of the total value of votes polled.  (For details, refer to this Election Commission document).

By this calculation, a candidate will need at least 5,48,507 votes to be elected as the President. If the UPA were to vote as a consolidated block, its vote tally would reach 4,50,555 votes under Scenario II (the one that is favourable for the UPA).  Therefore, the UPA will have to seek alliances if it wants a candidate of its choice to be elected to the office of the President.

Scenarios for Presidential elections

(figures represent the value of votes available with each party/ coalition)

Party/ Coalition Scenario I Scenario II
UPA

4,48,431

4,50,555

NDA

3,05,328

3,03,912

Left

51,574

51,574

BSP

43,723

43,723

SP

69,651

69,651

BJD

30,923

30,215

AIADMK

36,216

36,216

Others

1,11,166

1,11,166

Total

10,97,012

10,97,012

Minimum required to be elected

5,48,507

5,48,507

What about the Vice-President?

Elections to the office of the Vice-President (VP) will be held in July or August.  The electoral college will consist of all members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha (i.e. both elected and nominated). Unlike the Presidential elections, all votes will have an equal value of one.

Like the President, the VP is also elected through the system of proportional representation by means of STV.  The winning candidate must secure at least 50% of the total value of votes polled.

Presently, two seats are vacant in the Lok Sabha. If we exclude these from our analysis, we find that a candidate will need at least 395 votes to be elected as the VP.  Under our best case scenario, the UPA holds 363 votes in the forthcoming VP elections.

As is the case with Presidential elections, the UPA will have to seek alliances to get a candidate of its choice elected to the office of the Vice-President.

Scenarios for VP elections

(figures represent the value of votes available with each party/ coalition)

Party/ Coalition

Scenario I

Scenario II

UPA

360

363

NDA

216

214

Left

38

38

BSP

36

36

SP

31

31

BJD

22

21

AIADMK

14

14

Nominated

14

14

Others

57

57

Total

788

788

Minimum required to be elected

395

395

Notes:

[1] UPA: Congress, Trinamool, DMK, NCP,Rashtriya Lok Dal, J&K National Conference, Muslim League Kerala State Committee, Kerala Congress (M), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Sikkim Democratic Front, Praja Rajyam Party, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi

[2] NDA: BJP, JD(U), Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal

[3] Left: CPI(M), CPI, Revolutionary Socialist Party,All India Forward Bloc

 

The Arms Act – Mandatory death penalty declared unconstitutional

February 8th, 2012 3 comments

The Arms Act, 1959 governs matters related to acquisition, possession, manufacture, sale, transportation, import and export of arms and ammunition. It defines a specific class of ‘prohibited’ arms and ammunitions, restricts their use and prescribes penalties for contravention of its provisions.

Section 7 of the Act forbids the manufacture, sale, and use of prohibited arms and ammunition unless it has been specially authorised by the central government.1  Section 27(3) prescribes that any contravention of Section 7 that results in the death of any person ‘shall be punishable with death’.2

Section 27(3) of the Act was challenged in the Supreme Court in 2006 in State of Punjab vs. Dalbir Singh.  The final verdict in the case was pronounced last week.  The judgment not only affects the Act in question but may have important implications for criminal law in the country.

Legislative history of Section 27

When the law was first enacted, Section 27 provided that possession of any arms or ammunition with intent to use the same for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment up to seven years and/ or a fine.

This section was amended in 1988 to provide for enhanced punishments in the context of escalating terrorist and anti-national activities.  In particular, section 27(3) was inserted to provide for mandatory death penalty.

The Judgment

The Supreme Court judgment says that Section 27(3) is very ‘widely worded’.  Any act (including use, acquisition, possession, manufacture or sale) done in contravention of Section 7 that results in death of a person will attract mandatory death penalty.  Thus, even if an accidental or unintentional use results in death, a mandatory death penalty must be imposed.

The bench quotes relevant sections of an earlier judgment delivered in 1983, in Mithu vs. State of Punjab.  In this case, the court had looked into the constitutional validity of mandatory death sentence.  The final verdict had ruled that a provision of law which deprives the Court of its discretion, and disregards the circumstances in which the offence was committed, can only be regarded as ‘harsh, unjust and unfair’.

The judgment goes on to say that the concept of a ‘just, fair and reasonable’ law has been read into the guarantees under Article 14 (Equality before law) and Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.  A law that imposes an irreversible penalty such as death is ‘repugnant to the concept of right and reason’.  Therefore, Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act, 1959 is unconstitutional.

Section 27(3) is also unconstitutional in that it deprives the judiciary from discharging its duty of judicial review by barring it from using the power of discretion in the sentencing procedure.

What happens now?

Under Article 13 of the Constitution, laws inconsistent with the Constitution shall be null and void.  Therefore, Section 27(3) of the Arms Act, 1959 shall now stand amended.  Courts shall have the discretion to impose a lesser sentence.

It is noteworthy that the Home Minister had also introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha on the 12th of December, 2011 to amend the Arms Act, 1959.  The Bill seeks to remove the words ‘shall be punishable with death’ and replace these with ‘shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine’.  This Bill is currently being scrutinized by the Standing Committee.

Notes:

1) Section 7 of the Arms Act, 1959:

“7. Prohibition of acquisition or possession, or of manufacture or sale, of prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition.  No person shall —

(a) acquire, have in his possession or carry; or

(b) use, manufacture, sell, transfer, convert, repair, test or prove; or

(c) expose or offer for sale or transfer or have in his possession for sale, transfer, conversion, repair, test or proof;

any prohibited  arms  or  prohibited ammunition unless he has been specially authorised by the Central Government in this behalf.”

2) Section 27(3) of the Arms Act, 1959:

“27(3) Whoever uses any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition or does any act in contravention of section 7 and such use or act results in the death of any other person, shall be punishable with death.”

Sources:

Arms Act, 1959;  Supreme Court judgment

Assembly elections 2012 – Trends of the last 25 years

January 24th, 2012 No comments

Over the next few weeks, Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in five States – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.  As parties prepare for the upcoming elections, we take a look at the electoral trends in these states over the past 25 years.

We see that electoral fortunes in some states have fluctuated widely.  The electoral mandate in UP has varied over the last 25 years.  Five different parties — Congress, Janata Dal, BJP, SP and BSP have been the single largest party in the Assembly at some point in time.

In Punjab, the Akalis and the Congress have alternately controlled the government.  In Uttarakhand, the 2007 elections saw the BJP take over control from the Congress.

In Manipur and Goa, Congress has been dominant player in elections.  In both states, it emerged as the single largest party in all but one election since 1984.  In Manipur, the Congress lost this status to the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), a splinter group of the Congress in 2000.  In Goa, it lost this status to BJP in 2002.

The results of Uttar Pradesh elections will have the highest impact on national politics.  The state has 80 out of 543 elected seats in Lok Sabha and 31 out of 231 elected seats in Rajya Sabha.  The results could give an indication of the prospects for these parties in the next general elections, and may also change the composition of Rajya Sabha over the next few years.  Given that there are five parties (BSP, SP, BJP, Congress and RLD) with a significant base in the state, the possibilities of post poll arrangements are also wide open.

For more details, see our Vital Stats.

The Lokpal debate: How the numbers stack up in Rajya Sabha…

December 28th, 2011 No comments

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 was passed by Lok Sabha yesterday. The Bill will be discussed next by Rajya Sabha. Unlike the Lok Sabha, where the UPA government holds a majority in the House, the composition is different in Rajya Sabha.

As on 28th December 2011, the total strength of Rajya Sabha is 243 members . The UPA has a combined strength of 95 members in the House, well below the 50% mark.  (Of course, there will be some absent members which will change the arithmetic a bit.)  The passage of the Bill thus depends on the stand taken by other political parties and their numbers in the House. Here’s how the figures stack up:

Party Numbers
Indian National Congress (INC) 71
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) 7
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 7
All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) 6
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference 2
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) 1
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) 1
Total UPA 95
   
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 51
Janata Dal (United) 8
Shiv Sena (SS) 4
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) 3
Total NDA 66
   
Communist Party of India (Marxist) 13
Communist Party of India (CPI) 5
All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) 1
Total Left 19
   
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP ) 18
Biju Janata Dal (BJD ) 6
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK ) 5
Samajwadi Party (SP ) 5
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD ) 4
   
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP ) 2
Bodoland People’s Front (BPF ) 1
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD ) 1
Lok Janasakti Party (LJP ) 1
Mizo National Front (MNF ) 1
Nagaland People’s Front (NPF ) 1
Telugu Desam Party (TDP ) 4
   
Nominated 8
Independent and others 6
   
Total 243

 

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