Archive

Archive for December, 2010

Telangana – Recommendations of a previous Commission

December 30th, 2010 3 comments

The Justice  Srikrishna Committee, which is looking into the feasibility of a separate Telangana State, is expected to submit its report by tomorrow.  It might be useful at this point in time to revisit the recommendations of the 1953 States Reorganization Commission (SRC) – the Commission that had first examined the Telangana issue in detail. However, it must be kept in mind that some of those arguments and recommendations may not be applicable today.

Background

Before independence, Telangana was a part of the Nizam’s Hyderabad State and Andhra a part of the erstwhile Madras Province of British India.

In 1953, owing to agitation by leaders like Potti Sreeramulu, Telugu-speaking areas were carved out of the Madras Province. This lead to the formation of Andhra Pradesh, the first State formed on the basis of language.

Immediately afterward, in 1953, the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was appointed. SRC was not in favour of an immediate merger of Telangana with Andhra and proposed that a separate State be constituted with a provision for unification after the 1961/ 62 general elections, if a resolution could be passed in the Telangana assembly by 2/3rd majority.

However, a ‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ was subsequently signed between the leaders of the two regions and this lead to a merger. The agreement provided for some safeguards for Telangana – for instance, a ‘Regional Council’ for all round development of Telangana. Thus, a unified Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956.

In the years that followed, Telangana continued to see on-and-off protests; major instances of unrest were recorded in 1969 and in the 2000s.

The SRC 1953 report

The full SRC report can be accessed here. Summarized below are its main arguments and recommendations related to Telangana.

Arguments in favour of ‘Vishalandhra’

  • The merger would bring into existence a large State with ample agricultural land, large water and power potential, and adequate mineral wealth.
  • Fewer independent political jurisdictions would help accelerate important projects related to the development of Krishna and Godavari rivers.
  • The two regions would complement each other in resources – Telangana was not self-sufficient in food supplies but Andhra was; Andhra did not have coal mines but Telangana did.
  • Substantial savings could be realized through elimination of redundant expenditure on general administration.
  • Hyderabad could serve as a suitable capital for the entire region.

Arguments in favour of a separate Telangana State

  • Andhra had been facing financial problems and had lower per capita revenue than Telangana. Resources raised through land and excise revenues in Telangana were higher.
  • Telangana claimed to be progressive in administration and hence did not foresee any benefits from a merger. In addition, people feared that the region might not receive adequate development focus in a large ‘Vishalandhra’.
  • Telangana did not wish to lose its independent rights – for instance, the rights to utilization of waters of Krishna and Godavari.
  • The educationally backward people of Telangana feared losing out to people from the more developed coastal regions, especially in matters of employment.

SRC recommendations

The Commission agreed that there were significant advantages in the formation of ‘Vishalandhra’. However, it noted that while opinion in Andhra was overwhelmingly in favour of a larger unit, public opinion in Telangana had still to crystallize.

Even though Andhra leaders were willing to provide guarantees ensuring development focus on Telangana, the SRC felt that any guarantee, short of Central Government supervision, could not be effective. In addition, it noted that Andhra, being a relatively new State, was still in the midst of developing policies related to issues like land reform. Thus, a hurried merger could likely create administrative difficulties both for both units.

The SRC thus recommended the creation of a separate Telangana State with provision for unification after the 1961/62 general elections.

Tags:

Mechanism of voting and recording of votes in Parliament

December 24th, 2010 5 comments

The convention for passing Bills in the Parliament is by orally communicating agreement or disagreement with the proposed motion (whether a Bill should be passed or not, for example). When a motion is put to vote the speaker says, ‘Those in the favour of the motion say Aye and those opposing it say No.’ According to the voice vote, the Speaker decides whether the Bill is accepted or negated by the House.

If a member is not happy with a voice vote, it can be challenged and a division can be asked for. The procedure for division entails the Speaker to announce for the lobbies of Parliament to be cleared. Then the division bell rings continuously for three and a half minutes and so do many connected bells all through Parliament House and Parliament House Annexe. MPs come from all sides into the chamber and the doors are closed. The votes are recorded by the Automatic Vote Recording Equipment.

For example, in the Winter Session of the Parliament, four appropriation bills (financial Bills) were passed by voice vote amidst the interruptions from the opposition and two bills i.e. The Orissa (Alteration of Name) Bill, 2010 and The Constitution (One Hundred and Thirteenth Amendment) Bill, 2010 (Amendment of Eighth Schedule) were passed through division. For these Bills the voting took place together. The votes recorded were: 298 ayes and 0 noes.

Can the Supreme Court ask the government to frame a law?

December 23rd, 2010 4 comments

In a recent case, the Supreme Court directed the appropriate government to enact a law by June 2011.  The case, Gainda Ram & Ors. V. MCD and Ors.[1], concerned the legal framework for regulating hawking in Delhi.  The judgement lays out the background to this case by stating that the regulation of hawking in Delhi had been proceeding under directions issued by the Supreme Court in previous cases, and was being implemented by municipal authorities such as the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC).

The NDMC and the MCD have also framed schemes to regulate hawkers as per a policy of the government framed in 2004.  However, since these schemes were not laid before Parliament, the Court held that these schemes cannot be called ‘law’ or drafted under the authority of any law.  The Court also stated that there is an urgent need to enact a legislation to regulate hawking, and the rights of street vendors.

It referred to a Bill which had been framed by the government, and stated that since the government has already taken the first step in the legislative process by drafting a Bill, the legislative process should be completed.  On the basis of this, and other reasons, it directed the government to enact a law by June 2011.  This judgement raises three issues:

  1. The government is not the law making body in India.  Enacting a law is the function of Parliament and state legislatures.
  2. Even if the Court were to address the correct authority, Courts in India have no authority to direct the legislature to frame a law, let alone specify a time-period.  This may be said to violate the basic principle of “separation of powers” which states that the executive, legislature and judiciary should function independently of each other.  Under the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court and the High Courts have the power to protect fundamental rights and to interpret law.  The Constitution does not give power to Courts to direct the framing of a law.
  3. Persons can be held in contempt of court for not following its directions.  In this case, it is not clear who would be held in contempt for not enacting a law by June 2011.  The Supreme Court can either hold the Speaker of the Parliament in contempt for not enacting a law by the specified date (it is uncertain whether the Court has this power since no such past instance has arisen). Or it can hold the concerned government official in contempt for not enacting the law within the time period specified (the government in this case, having no power to enact a law).

[1] Decided on October 8, 2010

Legislation referred to parliamentary committees for scrutiny and report

December 23rd, 2010 No comments

In the recently concluded Winter Session of Parliament, nine Bills were introduced. Of the Bills introduced, 4 bills have been referred to the relevant Standing Committee for examining the Bill. The Standing Committees have been given three months to scrutinize the bills, hold consultations and present a report.  Details of these Bills are:

1.      The Forward Contracts (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2010 (to be examined by the Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution)

2.      The Multi-State Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2010 (to be examined by the Committee on Agriculture)

3.      The NIMHANS, Bangalore Bill, 2010 (to be examined by the Committee on Health and Family Welfare)

4.      The National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 (to be examined by the Committee on Finance)

The composition of the Standing Committees examining the Bills can be found here. Typically, during the process of review the parliamentary standing committees issue advertisements in newspapers inviting public feedback and comments on the Bill. As and when the advertisements appear, details can be found on the PRS website.

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.

State Funding of Elections

December 22nd, 2010 2 comments

In the recently concluded Congress plenary, Congress President Sonia Gandhi suggested state financing of elections as a measure against corruption in the electoral process. State funding of elections has been suggested in the past in response to the high cost of elections.

A few government reports have looked at state funding of elections in the past, including:

  • Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998)
  • Law Commission Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999)
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)

Here is what they had to say:

The Indrajit Gupta Committee (1998) endorsed state funding of elections, seeing “full justification constitutional, legal as well as on ground of  public  interest” in order to establish a fair playing field for parties with less money. The Committee recommended two limitations to state funding. Firstly, that state funds should  be given only to national and state parties allotted a symbol and not to independent candidates. Secondly, that in the short-term state funding should only be given in kind, in the form of certain facilities to the recognised political parties and their candidates. The Committee noted that at the time of the report the economic situation of the country only suited partial and not full state funding of elections.

The 1999 Law Commission of India report concluded that total state funding of elections is “desirable” so long as political parties are prohibited from taking funds from other sources. The Commission concurred with the Indrajit Gupta Committee that only partial state funding was possible given the economic conditions of the country at that time. Additionally, it strongly recommended that the appropriate regulatory framework be put in place with regard to political parties (provisions ensuring internal  democracy,  internal structures and maintenance of accounts, their auditing and submission to Election Commission) before state funding of elections is attempted.

Ethics in Governance”, a report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008) also recommended partial state funding of elections for the purpose of reducing “illegitimate and unnecessary funding” of elections expenses.

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2001, did not endorse state funding of elections but concurred with the 1999 Law Commission report that the appropriate framework for regulation of political parties would need to be implemented before state funding is considered.

Tags:

Are measures to minimize conflict of interest of MPs adequate?

December 21st, 2010 2 comments

In India, one of the common threads that run through many of the corruption scandals is the issue of conflict of interest i.e. public officials taking policy decisions based on their personal interest.  For example, Shashi Tharoor in the IPL controversy or Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh Housing Society scam.

Many countries take measures to minimize conflict of interest of its MPs by regulating membership of parliamentarians in Committees, making it mandatory for them to declare pecuniary interest, and restricting employment both during and after completion of tenure.  For example, the US Senate has a detailed Code of Official Conduct that provides guidelines on conflict of interest.

India also has some measures in place to minimize conflict of interest.  These are codified in the Code of Conduct for Ministers, Code of Conduct for Members of the Rajya Sabha, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and Handbook for Members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.  Every Rajya Sabha MP has to declare his or her interest (along with assets and liabilities).  He has to declare five pecuniary interests:  remunerative directorship, remunerated activity, majority shareholding, paid consultancy and professional engagement.  Lok Sabha MPs can object to another MP joining a parliamentary committee on grounds that he has personal, pecuniary or direct interest.  (For more details, see PRS note on Conflict of Interest Issues in Parliament).

On December 1, 2010, PRS held its annual Conference on Effective Legislatures.  One of the topics discussed was MPs and Conflict of Interest: Issues and Resolution.  Panelists included D Raja, Prakash Javdekar and Supriya Sule.  Issues such as requirement for transparency, expertise of legislators, election of honest legislators, and ethical media were discussed.  The issues that were raised during the discussion are summarised in the PRS Summary of Proceedings from the Conference.

Can Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) summon ministers?

December 21st, 2010 No comments

One of our earlier posts (read here) tackled the question of whether the Public Accounts Committee could summon ministers or not. According to a direction of the speaker, a Minister cannot be summoned by a financial committee.

There are no specific procedures for the Joint Parliamentary Committees mentioned in the rules. However, according to the Directions by the Speaker general rules applicable to Committees shall apply to all Committees, though specific directions can be given for some committees (read here).  In other words, the general directions for all committees would be the same, unless a specific direction was given relating to a particular committee.

In the Joint Committee of Stock Market Scam and Matters relating there to, a specific request was made to the Speaker, Lok Sabha by the Chairman, JPC on 20th May, 2002 for permitting the Committee to call for written information on certain points from the Minister of Finance and Minister of External Affairs. The Speaker accorded the necessary permission on 1st June, 2002.

Consequently, the Minister of Finance (Shri Jaswant Singh), the Minister of External Affairs (Shri Yashwant Sinha) and the former Finance and External Affairs ministers (Shri P. Chidambaram and Dr. Manmohan Singh respectively) testified before the Committee. Read the text of the report here.

Transparency of Committees: International Comparison

December 21st, 2010 No comments

In the aftermath of the 2G scam, there has been a great deal of discussion on how Parliamentary Committees can be used for scrutinising the functioning of the government.  Committee Reports are generally put in the public domain, but how transparent are the internal workings of the Committees themselves?

As one measure of transparency, minutes of Parliamentary Committee meetings are included in Committee reports. The meetings themselves, however, are held behind closed doors.

A number of other democracies allow in-person public viewing of some (if not all) Committee meetings.  Several of these offer live webcasts of meetings as well. See options in Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, and the United Kingdom.

Mandate of Committee examining issue of 2G-licenses and allocation of spectrum

December 21st, 2010 No comments

A Committee has been set up to examine appropriateness of procedures followed by the Department of Telecommunications in issuance of licences and allocation of spectrum during the period 2001-2009.  The Committee will be chaired by retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice (Retd.) Shri Shivraj V. Patil.  According to news reports the Committee is scheduled to submit its report by the first week of January 2011.  The Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Committee have been listed as:

1. To study the circumstances and developments in the Telecom sector that led to the formulation of the New Telecom Policy 1999 and subsequently, introduction of 4th Cellular Telecom Mobile Service (CMTS) licence in 2001.

2. To examine the internal (intra-departmental) procedures adopted by DoT during the period 2001-2009 for:
a. Issue of telecom access service licences, and
b. Allocation of spectrum to all telecom access services licencees during the above period.

3. To examine whether these procedures were in accordance with existing policies and directions of DoT/Government.

4. To examine whether these procedures were followed consistently and if not, identify specific instances of:
a. Deviation from laid down procedures;
b. Inappropriate application of laid down procedures;
c. Violation of underlying principles of laid down procedures.

5. To examine whether the procedures adopted were fair and transparent and were in keeping with the principles of natural justice and if not, identify the specific instances of lack of fairness and transparency.

6. To identify the deficiencies, if any, in the procedures as formulated and identify the public officials responsible for such deficiencies.

7. To identify the shortcomings and lapses, if any, in the implementation of the laid down procedures and identify the public officials responsible for such lapses.

8. To suggest remedial measures to avoid in future:
a. Deficiencies in formulation of procedures; and
b. Lapses in implementation of laid-down procedures.