The status of ground water: Extraction exceeds recharge

May 6th, 2016 1 comment

Yesterday, Members of Parliament in Lok Sabha discussed the situation of drought and drinking water crisis in many states.  During the course of the discussion, some MPs also raised the issue of ground water depletion.  Last month, the Bombay High Court passed an order to shift IPL matches scheduled for the month of May out of the state of Maharashtra.  The court cited an acute water shortage in some parts of the state for its decision.

In light of water shortages and depletion of water resources, this blog post addresses some frequently asked questions on the extraction and use of ground water in the country.

Q: What is the status of ground water extraction in the country?

A: The rate at which ground water is extracted has seen a gradual increase over time.  In 2004, for every 100 units of ground water that was recharged and added to the water table, 58 units were extracted for consumption.  This increased to 62 in 2011.[1]  Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, saw the most extraction.  For every 100 units of ground water recharged, 137 were extracted.

In the recent past, availability of ground water per person has reduced by 15%.  In India, the net annual ground water availability is 398 billion cubic metre.[2]  Due to the increasing population in the country, the national per capita annual availability of ground water has reduced from 1,816 cubic metre in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metre in 2011.

Rainfall accounts for 68% recharge to ground water, and the share of other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures taken together is 32%.

Q: Who owns ground water?

A: The Easement Act, 1882, provides every landowner with the right to collect and dispose, within his own limits, all water under the land and on the surface.[9] The consequence of this law is that the owner of a piece of land can dig wells and extract water based on availability and his discretion.[10]  Additionally, landowners are not legally liable for any damage caused to  water resources as a result of over-extraction.  The lack of regulation for over-extraction of this resource further worsens the situation and has made private ownership of ground water common in most urban and rural areas.

Q: Who uses ground water the most? What are the purposes for which it is used?

A: 89% of ground water extracted is used in the irrigation sector, making it the highest category user in the country.[3]  This is followed by ground water for domestic use which is 9% of the extracted groundwater.  Industrial use of ground water is 2%.  50% of urban water requirements and 85% of rural domestic water requirements are also fulfilled by ground water.

IMAGEThe main means of irrigation in the country are canals, tanks and wells, including tube-wells.  Of all these sources, ground water constitutes the largest share. It provides about 61.6% of water for irrigation, followed by canals with 24.5%. Over the years, there has been a decrease in surface water use and a continuous increase in ground water utilisation for irrigation, as can be seen in the figure alongside. [4]


Q: Why does agriculture rely most on ground water?

A: At present, India uses almost twice the amount of water to grow crops as compared to China and United States.  There are two main reasons for this.  First, power subsidies for agriculture has played a major role in the decline of water levels in India.  Since power is a main component of the cost of ground water extraction, the availability of cheap/subsidised power in many states has resulted in greater extraction of this resource.[5]  Moreover, electricity supply is not metered and a flat tariff is charged depending on the horsepower of the pump.  Second, it has been observed that even though Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) are currently announced for 23 crops, the effective price support is for wheat and rice.[6]  This creates highly skewed incentive structures in favour of wheat and paddy, which are water intensive crops and depend heavily on ground water for their growth.

It has been recommended that the over extraction of ground water should be minimized by regulating the use of electricity for its extraction.[7]  Separate electric feeders for pumping ground water for agricultural use could address the issue.  Rationed water use in agriculture by fixing quantitative ceilings on per hectare use of both water and electricity has also been suggested.[8]  Diversification in cropping pattern through better price support for pulses and oilseeds will help reduce the agricultural dependence on ground water.[6]  


[1] Water and Related Statistics, April 2015, Central Water Commission,

[2] Central Ground Water Board website, FAQs,

[3] Annual Report 2013-14, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation,

[4] Agricultural Statistics at a glance, 2014, Ministry of Agriculture; PRS.

[5] Report of the Export Group on Ground Water Management and Ownership, Planning Commission, September 2007,

[6] Report of the High-Level Committee on Reorienting the Role and Restructuring of Food Corporation of India, January 2015,

[7] The National Water Policy, 2012, Ministry of Water Resources,

[8] Price Policy for Kharif Crops- the Marketing Season 2015-16, March 2015, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture,

[9] Section 7 (g), Indian Easement Act, 1882.

[10] Legal regime governing ground water, Sujith Koonan, Water Law for the Twenty-First Century-National and International Aspects of Water Law Reform in India, 2010.

The Net Neutrality Debate in India

February 9th, 2016 3 comments

Yesterday, the Telecom and Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016.  These regulations prohibit Telecom Service Providers from charging different tariffs from consumers for accessing different services online.  A lot of debate has taken place around network (net) neutrality in India, in the past few months.  This blog post seeks to present an overview of the developments around net neutrality in India, and perspectives of various stakeholders.

Who are the different stakeholders in the internet space?

To understand the concept of net neutrality, it is important to note the four different kinds of stakeholders in the internet space that may be affected by the issue.  They are: (i) the consumers of any internet service, (ii) the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) or Internet Service Providers (ISPs), (iii) the over-the-top (OTT) service providers (those who provide internet access services such as websites and applications), and (iv) the government, who may regulate and define relationships between these players.  TRAI is an independent regulator in the telecom sector, which mainly regulates TSPs and their licensing conditions, etc.,

What is net neutrality?

The principle of net neutrality states that internet users should be able to access all content on the internet without being discriminated by TSPs.  This means that (i) all websites or applications should be treated equally by TSPs, (ii) all applications should be allowed to be accessed at the same internet speed, and (iii) all applications should be accessible for the same cost.  The 2016 regulations that TRAI has released largely deal with the third aspect of net neutrality, relating to cost.

What are OTT services?

OTT services and applications are basically online content.  These are accessible over the internet and made available on the network offered by TSPs.  OTT providers may be hosted by TSPs or ISPs such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, VSNL (government provided), etc.  They offer internet access services such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google and so on.  Therefore, OTT services can broadly be of three types: (i) e-commerce, (ii) video or music streaming and, (iii) voice over internet telephony/protocol services (or VoIP communication services that allow calls and messages).  Prior to the recent TRAI regulations prohibiting discriminatory tariffs, there was no specific law or regulation directly concerning the services provided by OTT service providers.

How is net neutrality regulated?

Until now, net neutrality has not directly been regulated in India by any law or policy framework.  Over the last year, there have been some developments with respect to the formulation of a net neutrality policy.  TRAI had invited comments on consultation papers on Differential Pricing for Data Services as well as Regulatory Framework for Over-The-Top Services (OTT).[i],[ii]  A Committee set up by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had also examined the issue of net neutrality.[iii]

Internationally, countries like the USA, Japan, Brazil, Chile, Norway, etc. have some form of law, order or regulatory framework in place that affects net neutrality.  The US Federal Communications Commission (telecom regulator in the USA) released new internet rules in March 2015, which mainly disallow: (i) blocking, (ii) throttling or slowing down, and (iii) paid prioritisation of certain applications over others.[iv]  While the UK does not allow blocking or throttling of OTT services, it allows price discrimination.

What do TRAI’s 2016 Regulations say?

The latest TRAI regulations state that:

(i) no service provider is allowed to enter into any agreement or contract that would result in discriminatory tariffs being charged to a consumer on the basis of content (data services),

(ii) such tariffs will only be permitted in closed electronic communications networks, which are networks where data is neither received nor transmitted over the internet,

(iii) a service provider may reduce tariff for accessing or providing emergency services,

(iv) in case of contravention of these regulations, the service provider may have to pay Rs 50,000 per day of contravention, subject to a maximum of Rs 50 lakh, etc.[v]

It may be noted that, in 2006 and 2008, TRAI had suggested that the internet sector remain unregulated and non-discriminatory (net neutral).[vi][vii]

What are some of the key issues and perspectives of various stakeholders on net neutrality?

TSPs and ISPs:  TSPs invest in network infrastructure and acquire spectrum, without getting a share in the revenue of the OTT service providers. Some have argued that the investment by TSPs in internet infrastructure or penetration levels would diminish if they are not permitted to practice differential pricing, due to a lack of incentive.

Another contention of the TSPs is that certain websites or applications require higher bandwidth than others.  For example, websites that stream video content utilise much more bandwidth than smaller messaging applications, for which the TSPs need to build and upgrade network infrastructure.  The Committee set up by DoT had recommended that the TSPs may need to better manage online traffic so that there is better quality of service for consumers and no network congestion.

Further, the Committee also said that in case of local and national calls, TSP (regular calling) and OTT communication services (calls made over the internet) may be treated similarly for regulatory purposes.  However, in case of international VoIP calling services and other OTT services, it did not recommend such regulatory oversight.

Consumers and/or OTT service providers:  The Committee set up by the DoT said that the core principles of net neutrality (equal treatment and equality in speed and cost) should be adhered to.  It also said that OTT services (online content) enhance consumer welfare and increase productivity in many areas.  These services should be actively encouraged. In the absence of neutrality, the internet may be fragmented and not as easily accessible to those who are unable to pay for certain services.

It has been said that discrimination of internet content by TSPs could be detrimental to innovation as the bigger market players would be able to pay their way out of being throttled.  This could potentially result in TSPs restricting consumers’ access to small-scale, but innovative or qualitative OTT services (restricting growth and innovation for start-ups too).

Now that regulations regarding price discrimination are in force, we do not know whether TRAI or the government will enforce rules regarding other aspects of net neutrality.  Also, the extent to which these regulations would affect the business of TSPs and OTT service providers remains to be seen.

[i] “Consultation Paper on Differential Pricing for Data Services”, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, December 9, 2015,

[ii] “Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services”, TRAI, March 27, 2015,

[iii] “Net Neutrality, DoT Committee Report”, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, May 2015,

[iv] “In the Matter of Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet: Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order”, Federal Communications Commission USA, February 26, 2015,

[v] “Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016”, TRAI, February 8, 2016.

[vi] “Consultation Paper on Review of Internet Services”, TRAI, December 2006,

[vii] “Recommendations on Issues related to Internet Telephony”, TRAI, August 18, 2008,

Money Bills vs. Other Bills

December 22nd, 2015 1 comment

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015 was introduced in Lok Sabha yesterday, as a Money Bill [Clarification: This is as per news reports.*  The text of the Bill does not indicate that it is a Money Bill].  In this context, we briefly outline the various types of Bills in Parliament, and highlight the key differences between Money Bills and Financial Bills.

What are the different types of Bills?

There are four types of Bills, namely (i) Constitution Amendment Bills; (ii) Money Bills; (iii) Financial Bills; and (iv) Ordinary Bills.

What are the features of each of these Bills?

  • Constitution Amendment Bills[i]: These are Bills which seek to amend the Constitution.
  • Money Bills[ii]: A Bill is said to be a Money Bill if it only contains provisions related to taxation, borrowing of money by the government, expenditure from or receipt to the Consolidated Fund of India. Bills that only contain provisions that are incidental to these matters would also be regarded as Money Bills.[iii]
  • Financial Bills[iv]: A Bill that contains some provisions related to taxation and expenditure, and additionally contains provisions related to any other matter is called a Financial Bill. Therefore, if a Bill merely involves expenditure by the government, and addresses other issues, it will be a financial bill.
  • Ordinary Bills[v]: All other Bills are called ordinary bills.

How are these bills passed?

  • Constitution Amendment Bills1: A Constitution Amendment Bill must be passed by both Houses of Parliament. It would require a simple majority of the total membership of that House, and a two thirds majority of all members present and voting.  Further, if the Bill relates to matters like the election of the President and Governor, executive and legislative powers of the centre and states, the judiciary, etc., it must be ratified by at least half of the state legislatures.
  • Money Bills[vi]: A Money Bill may only be introduced in Lok Sabha, on the recommendation of the President. It must be passed in Lok Sabha by a simple majority of all members present and voting.  Following this, it may be sent to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations, which Lok Sabha may reject if it chooses to.  If such recommendations are not given within 14 days, it will deemed to be passed by Parliament.
  • Financial Bills4: A Financial Bill may only be introduced in Lok Sabha, on the recommendation of the President. The Bill must be passed by both Houses of Parliament, after the President has recommended that it be taken up for consideration in each House.
  • Ordinary Bills5: An Ordinary Bill may be introduced in either House of Parliament. It must be passed by both Houses by a simple majority of all members present and voting.

How is a Money Bill different from a financial bill?

While all Money Bills are Financial Bills, all Financial Bills are not Money Bills.  For example, the Finance Bill which only contains provisions related to tax proposals would be a Money Bill.  However, a Bill that contains some provisions related to taxation or expenditure, but also covers other matters would be considered as a Financial Bill.  The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015, which establishes funds under the Public Account of India and states, was introduced as a Financial Bill.[vii]

Secondly, as highlighted above, the procedure for the passage of the two bills varies significantly.  The Rajya Sabha has no power to reject or amend a Money Bill.  However, a Financial Bill must be passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Who decides if a Bill is a Money Bill?

The Speaker certifies a Bill as a Money Bill, and the Speaker’s decision is final.[viii]  Also, the Constitution states that parliamentary proceedings as well as officers responsible for the conduct of business (such as the Speaker) may not be questioned by any Court.[ix]


[i]. Article 368, Constitution of India.

[ii]. Article 110, Constitution of India.

[iii]. Article 110 (1), Constitution of India.

[iv]. Article 117, Constitution of India.

[v]. Article 107, Constitution of India.

[vi]. Article 109, Constitution of India.

[vii]. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015, introduced in Lok Sabha on May 8, 2015,

[viii]. Article 110 (3), Constitution of India.

[ix]. Article 122, Constitution of India.

[*Note: See Economic Times, Financial Express, The Hindu Business LineNDTV ,etc.]


The Juvenile Justice Bill, 2015: All you need to know

December 18th, 2015 6 comments

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 is currently pending in Rajya Sabha and was listed for passage in the current Winter session of Parliament.  The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha after incorporating certain amendments, in May 2015.  Here is all you need to know about the Bill and key issues associated with it.  A PRS analysis of the statistics on incidence of crimes by children and conviction rates is available here.

Table 1: Juveniles between 16-18 years apprehended under IPC


















Other offences






Note: Other offences include cheating, rioting, etc.  Sources: Juveniles in conflict with law, Crime in India 2013, National Crime Records Bureau; PRS.

Who is a juvenile as recognised by law?

In the Indian context, a juvenile or child is any person who is below the age of 18 years.  However, the Indian Penal Code specifies that a child cannot be charged for any crime until he has attained seven years of age.

Why is there a need for a new Bill when a juvenile justice law already exists?

The government introduced the Juvenile Justice Bill in August 2014 in Lok Sabha and gave various reasons to justify the need for a new law.  It said that the existing Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was facing implementation issues and procedural delays with regard to adoption, etc.  Additionally, the government cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to say that there has been an increase in crimes committed by juveniles, especially by those in the 16-18 years age group.

NCRB data shows that the percentage of juvenile crimes, when seen in proportion to total crimes, has increased from 1% in 2003 to 1.2% in 2013.  During the same period, 16-18 year olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54% to 66%.  However, the type of crimes committed by 16-18 year olds can be seen in table 1.

What is the new Bill doing?

Currently, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 provides the framework to deal with children who are in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.  The Bill seeks to replace the existing 2000 Act and lays down the procedures to deal with both categories of children.  It highlights the two main bodies that will deal with these children, to be set up in each district: Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) and Child Welfare Committees (CWCs).  It provides details regarding adoption processes and penalties applicable under the law.  The Bill provides for children between 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous crimes.  The three types of offences defined by the Bill are: (i) a heinous offence is an offence that attracts a minimum penalty of seven years imprisonment under any existing law, (ii) a serious offence is one that gets imprisonment between three to seven years and, (iii) a petty offence is penalized with up to three years imprisonment.

Currently, how is a juvenile in conflict with law treated? How is that set to change?

Under the 2000 Act, any child in conflict with law, regardless of the type of offence committed, may spend a maximum of three years in institutional care (special home, etc.)  The child cannot be given any penalty higher than three years, nor be tried as an adult and be sent to an adult jail.  The proposed Bill treats all children under the age of 18 years in a similar way, except for one departure.  It states that any 16-18 year old who commits a heinous offence may be tried as an adult.  The JJB shall assess the child’s mental and physical capacity, ability to understand consequences of the offence, etc.  On the basis of this assessment, a Children’s Court will determine whether the child is fit to be tried as an adult.

What did the Standing Committee examining the Bill observe?

One of the reasons cited for the introduction of the Bill is a spike in juvenile crime, as depicted by NCRB data.  The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development examining the Bill stated that NCRB data was misleading as it was based on FIRs and not actual convictions.  It also observed that the Bill violates some constitutional provisions and said that the approach towards juvenile offenders should be reformative and rehabilitative.

The Bill as introduced posed certain constitutional violations to Article 14, 20(1) and 21.  These have been addressed by deletion of the relevant clause, at the time of passing the Bill in Lok Sabha.

What does the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) say? What are the obligations on the signatory nations?

The UNCRC was ratified by India in 1992 and the 2000 Act was consequently brought in to adhere to the standards set by the Convention.  The proposed Bill maintains this aim and seeks to improve implementation and procedural delays experienced by the 2000 Act.  The UNCRC states that signatory countries should treat every child under the age of 18 years in the same manner and not try them as adults.  While the 2000 Act complies with this requirement, the Bill does not.  However, many other countries who have also ratified the Convention try juveniles as adults, in case of certain crimes.  These countries include the UK, France, Germany, etc.  The United States is not a signatory to the UNCRC and also treats juveniles as adults in case of certain crimes.

Under the Bill, what happens to a child who is found to be orphaned, abandoned or surrendered?

The Bill addresses children in need of care and protection.  When a child is found to be orphaned, abandoned or surrendered he is brought before a Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours.  A social investigation report is conducted for the child, and the Committee decides to either send the child to a children’s home or any other facility it deems fit, or to declare the child to be free for adoption or foster care.  The Bill outlines the eligibility criteria for prospective parents.  It also details procedures for adoption, and introduces a provision for inter-country adoption, so that prospective parents living outside the country can adopt a child in India.

Currently, the Guidelines Governing Adoption, 2015 under the 2000 Act, regulates adoptions.  Model Foster Care Guidelines have also recently been released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

What are the penalties for committing offences against children?

Various penalties for committing offences against children are laid out in the Bill.  These include penalties for giving a child an intoxicating substance, selling or buying the child, cruelty against a child, etc.

Issue to consider: The penalty for giving a child an intoxicating or narcotic substance is an imprisonment of seven years and a fine of up to one lakh rupees.  Comparatively, buying or selling a child will attract a penalty including imprisonment of five years and a fine of one lakh rupees.

It remains to be seen if the Bill will be taken up for consideration in this session, and if its passage will address the issues surrounding children in conflict with the law.


Rethinking judicial appointments: Collegium vs. Commission

October 16th, 2015 3 comments

Earlier today, the Supreme Court struck down the two Acts that created an independent body for the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.

One of the Acts amended the Constitution to replace the method of appointment of judges by a collegium system with that of an independent commission, called the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).  The composition of the NJAC would include: (i) the Chief Justice of India (Chairperson) (ii) two other senior most judges of the Supreme Court, (iii) the Union Law Minister, and (iv) two eminent persons to be nominated by the Prime Minister, the CJI and the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha.  The other Act laid down the processes in relation to such appointments.

Both Acts were passed by Parliament in August 2014, and received Presidential assent in December 2014.  Following this, a batch of petitions that had been filed in Supreme Court challenging the two Bills on grounds of unconstitutionality, was referred to a five judge bench.  It was contended that the presence of executive members in the NJAC violated the independence of the judiciary.

In its judgement today, the Court held that the executive involvement in appointment of judges impinges upon the independence of the judiciary.  This violates the principle of separation of powers between the executive and judiciary, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.  In this context, we examine the proposals around the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.

Appointment of judges before the introduction of the NJAC

The method of appointment of the Chief Justice of India, SC and HC judges was laid down in the Constitution.[i]  The Constitution stated that the President shall make these appointments after consulting with the Chief Justice of India and other SC and HC judges as he considers necessary.  Between the years 1982-1999, the issue of method of appointment of judges was examined and reinterpreted by the Supreme Court.  Since then, a collegium, consisting of the Chief Justice of India and 4 other senior most SC judges, made recommendations for persons to be appointed as SC and HC judges, to the President.[ii]

Recommendations of various bodies for setting up an independent appointments commission

Over the decades, several high level Commissions have examined this method of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.  They have suggested that an independent body be set up to make recommendations for such appointments.  However, they differed in the representation of the judiciary, legislature and executive in making such appointments.  These are summarised below.

Table 1: Comparison of various recommendations on the composition of a proposed appointments body

Recommendatory Body Suggested composition
2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) Judiciary : CJI; [For HC judges: Chief Justice of the relevant High Court of that state]

Executive : Vice-President (Chairperson), PM, Law Minister, [For HC judges: Includes CM of the state]

Legislature: Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leaders of Opposition from both Houses of Parliament.

Other: No representative.

National Advisory Council (2005) Judiciary: CJI; [For HC judges: Chief Justice of the relevant High Court of that state]

Executive: Vice-President (Chairman), PM (or nominee), Law Minister, [For HC judges: Includes CM of the state]

Legislature: Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition from both Houses of Parliament.

Other: No representative.

NCRWC (2002) Judiciary :CJI (Chairman), two senior most SC judges

Executive: Union Law Minister

Legislature: No representative

Other: one eminent person

Law Commission (1987) Judiciary : CJI (Chairman), three senior most SC judges, immediate predecessor of the CJI, three senior most CJs of HCs, [For HC judges: Chief Justice of the relevant High Court of that state]

Executive: Law Minister, Attorney General of India, [For HC judges: Includes CM of the state]

Legislature: No representative

Other: One Law academic

Sources: 121st Report of the Law Commission, 1987; Report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), 2002; A Consultation Paper on Superior Judiciary, NCRWC, 2001;  A National Judicial Commission-Report for discussion in the National Advisory Council, 2005; Fourth Report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), ‘Ethics in Governance’, 2007; PRS.

It may be noted that the Law Commission, in its 2008 and 2009 reports, suggested that Government should seek a reconsideration of the judgments in the Three Judges cases.  In the alternative, Parliament should pass a law restoring the primacy of the CJI, while ensuring that the executive played a role in making judicial appointments.

Appointments process in different countries                  

Internationally, there are varied methods for making appointments of judges to the higher judiciary.  The method of appointment of judges to the highest court, in some jurisdictions, is outlined in Table 2.

Table 2: Appointment of judges to the highest court in different jurisdictions

Country Method of Appointment to the highest court Who is involved in making the appointments
UK SC judges are appointed by a five-person selection commission. It consists of the SC President, his deputy, and one member each appointed by the JACs of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.[iii]  (The JACs comprise lay persons, members of the judiciary and the Bar and make appointments of judges of lower courts.)
Canada Appointments are made by the Governor in Council.[iv] A selection panel comprising five MPs (from the government and the opposition) reviews list of nominees and submits 3 names to the Prime Minister.[v]
USA Appointments are made by the President. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.[vi]
Germany Appointments are made by election. Half the members of the Federal Constitutional Court are elected by the executive and half by the legislature.[vii]
France Appointments are made by the President. President receives proposals for appointments from Conseil Superieur de la Magistrature.[viii]

Sources: Constitutional Reform Act, 2005; Canada Supreme Court Act, 1985; Constitution of the United States of America; Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany; Constitution of France; PRS.

In delivering its judgment that strikes down the setting up of an NJAC, the Court has stated that it would schedule hearings from November 3, 2015 regarding ways in which the collegium system can be strengthened.

[i] Article 124, Constitution of India (Prior to 2015 Amendments)

[ii] S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India, AIR 1982, SC 149; S.C. Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 268; In re: Special Reference, AIR 1999 SC 1.

[iii].  Schedule 8, Constitutional Reform Act, 2005.

[iv].  Section 4(2), Supreme Court Act (RSC, 1985).

[v].  Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the retirement of Justice Morris Fish,

[vi].  Article II, Section 2, The Constitution of the United States of America.

[vii].  Article 94 (1), Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.


Regulating real estate: the 2013 Bill and recent developments

April 8th, 2015 10 comments

Yesterday, Cabinet approved amendments to the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013, which is currently pending in Parliament.

In this context, the blog post outlines key features and issues related to the Bill, and certain changes which were approved by Cabinet.

What is the current status of the Bill?

The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in August 2013.  It was then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development, which submitted its report in February 2014.  The Bill has not been discussed in Parliament as yet, and is currently pending in Rajya Sabha.

As mentioned above, Cabinet approved certain changes to the Bill yesterday.  However, a comprehensive list of these changes is not available in the public domain yet.

What are the key features of the Bill?

The Bill regulates transactions between buyers and promoters (sellers) of residential real estate projects.  It establishes state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) in order to do so.  Residential real estate projects, with some exceptions, need to be registered with RERAs, and their details must be uploaded on the website of the RERA.  This implies that promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale without registering them with RERAs.  Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with RERAs.  The Bill also establishes state level appellate tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals.  Decisions of RERAs can be challenged before these tribunals.

The Bill outlines the duties of promoters, buyers, and real estate agents.  For example, the Bill requires that promoters keep 70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project, in a separate bank account. This amount must only be used for construction of that project.  The state government can alter this amount to less than 70%.  The Bill also provides for penalties for the breach of certain provisions of the Bill.

What are some of the issues to consider?

A few key issues to consider in the Bill are related to the following: (i) certain states have already enacted laws to regulate real estate; (ii) commercial real estate has not been included within the ambit of the Bill; (iii) certain smaller sized projects have not been covered under the Bill; and (iv)  70% of the amount collected from buyers must be kept in an escrow account.

Firstly, at present, certain states, such as West Bengal and Maharashtra, have already enacted laws to regulate real estate.  So, any central law on real estate that is subsequently enacted will override provisions of state laws if they are inconsistent with the central law.  For example, while this Bill (introduced at the centre) requires that 70% of the amount collected from buyers be kept in a separate account and be used only for construction of that project, the Maharashtra law requires that the entire amount collected from buyers be used only for purposes collected.

Secondly, while the Bill seeks to regulate residential real estate, commercial real estate has been excluded from its ambit.  The Standing Committee has also pointed out that commercial and industrial real estate should be regulated by the Bill.

Thirdly, registration with RERAs is not required for projects that: (i) are less than 1000 square metres, or (ii) entail the construction of less than 12 apartments, or (iii) entail renovation/repair/re-development without re-allotment or marketing of the project.  The Standing Committee has pointed out that the exclusion of projects, smaller than 1,000 square meters or 12 apartments, from the purview of RERAs could lead to the exclusion of a number of small housing projects.  Instead, it has suggested that only projects that are smaller than 100 square meters or three apartments need not register with the RERA.

Finally, the Bill mandates that 70% of the amount collected from buyers of a project be used only for construction of that project.  Typically, the project cost of a real estate project includes the cost of land and the cost of construction.  In certain cases, the cost of construction could be less than 70% and the cost of land more than 30% of the total amount collected.  This implies that part of the funds collected could remain unutilised, necessitating some financing from other sources.  Consequently, this could raise the project cost.

The Standing Committee made certain other recommendations in relation to the Bill.  It suggested that all real estate agents be registered with RERAs; and that a new provision be inserted to allow RERAs to give directions to state governments to establish a single window system for providing clearances for projects.  Additionally, a time limit should be specified for state and local authorities to issue completion certificates for projects.

What were the changes to the Bill approved by Cabinet yesterday?

A comprehensive list of amendments is not in the public domain yet.  However, a press release of the government, published by the Press Information Bureau, indicates the following changes have been made: firstly, the application of the Bill has been extended to cover commercial real estate, in addition to residential real estate; and secondly, the amount to be kept in an escrow account has been reduced from 70% of the amount collected from buyers to 50%.

For more information, please see the PRS Legislative Brief on the Bill, available here.  You can also watch a PRS video on the Bill here.

A background to Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000

March 24th, 2015 3 comments

A few minutes ago, the Supreme Court delivered a  judgement striking down Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.  This was in response to a PIL that challenged the constitutionality of this provision.  In light of this, we present a background to Section 66 A and the recent developments leading up to its challenge before the Court. 

What does the Information Technology Act, 2000 provide for?

The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 provides for legal recognition for transactions through electronic communication, also known as e-commerce.  The Act also penalizes various forms of cyber crime.  The Act was amended in 2009 to insert a new section, Section 66A which was said to address cases of cyber crime with the advent of technology and the internet.

What does Section 66(A) of the IT Act say?

Section 66(A) of the Act criminalises the sending of offensive messages through a computer or other communication devices.  Under this provision, any person who by means of a computer or communication device sends any information that is:

  1. grossly offensive;
  2. false and meant for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will;
  3. meant to deceive or mislead the recipient about the origin of such messages, etc, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to three years and with fine

Over the past few years, incidents related to comments,  sharing of information, or thoughts expressed by an individual to a wider audience on the internet have attracted criminal penalties under Section 66(A).  This has led to discussion and debate on the ambit of the Section and its applicability to such actions.

What have been the major developments in context of this Section?

In the recent past, a few arrests were made under Section 66(A) on the basis of social media posts directed at notable personalities, including politicians.  These  were alleged to be offensive in nature.  In November 2012, there were various reports of alleged misuse of the law, and the penalties imposed were said to be disproportionate to the offence. 

Thereafter, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court, challenging this provision on grounds of unconstitutionality.  It was said to impinge upon the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

How has the government responded so far?

Subsequently, the central government issued guidelines for the purposes of Section 66(A).  These guidelines clarified that prior approval of the Deputy Commissioner or Inspector General of Police was required before a police officer or police station could register a complaint under Section 66(A).  In May 2013, the Supreme Court (in relation to the above PIL) also passed an order saying that such approval was necessary before any arrest is to be made.  Since matters related to police and public order are dealt with by respective state governments, a Supreme Court order was required for these guidelines to be applicable across the country.  However, no changes have been made to Section 66 A itself. 

Has there been any legislative movement with regard to Section 66(A)?

A Private Member Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in 2013 to amend Section 66(A) of the IT Act.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill stated that most of the offences that Section 66(A) dealt with were already covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. This had resulted in dual penalties for the same offence.  According to the Bill, there were also inconsistencies between the two laws in relation to the duration of imprisonment for the same offence.  The offence of threatening someone with injury through email attracts imprisonment of two years under the IPC and three years under the IT Act.  The Bill was eventually withdrawn.

In the same year, a Private Members resolution was also moved in Parliament.  The resolution proposed to make four changes: (i) bring Section 66(A) in line with the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution; (ii) restrict the application of the provision to communication between two persons; (iii) precisely define the offence covered; and (iv) reduce the penalty and make the offence a non-cognizable one (which means no arrest could be made without a court order).  However, the resolution was also withdrawn.

Meanwhile, how has the PIL proceeded?

According to news reports, the Supreme Court  in February, 2015 had stated that the constitutional validity of the provision would be tested, in relation to the PIL before it.  The government argued that they were open to amend/change the provision as the intention was not to suppress freedom of speech and expression, but only deal with cyber crime. 

The issues being examined by the Court relate to the powers of the police to decide what is abusive, causes annoyance, etc,. instead of the examination of the offence by the judiciary .  This is pertinent because this offence is a cognizable one, attracting a penalty of at least three years imprisonment.  The law is also said to be ambiguous on the issue of what would constitute information that is “grossly offensive,” as no guidelines have been provided for the same.  This lack of clarity could lead to increased litigation.

The judgement is not available in the public domain yet. It remains to be seen on what the reasoning of the Supreme Court was, in its decision to strike down Section 66A, today.


Land Acquisition: An overview of proposed amendments to the law

March 16th, 2015 4 comments

On March 10, Lok Sabha passed a Bill to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.  The Bill is now pending in Rajya Sabha.  This blog briefly outlines the context and the major legislative changes to the land acquisition law.

I. Context

Land acquisition, unlike the purchase of land, is the forcible take-over of privately owned land by the government.  Land is acquired for projects which serve a ‘public purpose’.  These include government projects, public-private partnership projects, and private projects.  Currently, what qualifies as ‘public purpose’ has been defined to include defence projects, infrastructure projects, and projects related to housing for the poor, among others.

Till 2014, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 regulated the process of land acquisition.  While the 1894 Act provided compensation to land owners, it did not provide for rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) to displaced families.  These were some of the reasons provided by the government to justify the need for a new legislation to regulate the process of land acquisition.  Additionally, the Supreme Court had also pointed out issues with determination of fair compensation, and what constitutes public purpose, etc., in the 1894 Act.  To this end, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 was passed by Parliament, in 2013.

II. Current legislative framework for land acquisition

The 2013 Act brought in several changes to the process of land acquisition in the country.   Firstly, it increased the compensation provided to land owners, from 1.3 times the price of land to 2 times the price of land in urban areas, and 2-4 times the price of land in rural areas.  Secondly, unlike the earlier Act which did not provide rehabilitation and resettlement, the 2013 Act provided R&R to land owners as well as those families which did not own land, but were dependent on the land for their livelihood.  The Act permits states to provide higher compensation and R&R.

Thirdly, unlike the previous Act, it mandated that a Social Impact Assessment be conducted for all projects, except those for which land was required urgently.  An SIA assesses certain aspects of the acquisition such as whether the project serves a public purpose, whether the minimum area that is required is being acquired, and the social impact of the acquisition.  Fourthly, it also mandated that the consent of 80% of land owners be obtained for private projects, and the consent of 70% of land owners be obtained for public-private partnership projects.  However, consent of land owners is not required for government projects.   The 2013 Act also made certain other changes to the process of land acquisition, including prohibiting the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land, except in certain cases where the limit may be specified by the government.

III. Promulgation of an Ordinance to amend the 2013 Act

In addition to the 2013 Act, there are certain other laws which govern land acquisition in particular sectors, such as the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Railways Act, 1989.  The 2013 Act required that the compensation and R&R provisions of 13 such laws be brought in consonance with it, within a year of its enactment, (that is, by January 1, 2015) through a notification.  Since this was not done by the required date, the government issued an Ordinance (as Parliament was not in session) to extend the compensation and R&R provisions of the 2013 Act to these 13 laws.  However, the Ordinance also made other changes to the 2013 Act.

The Ordinance was promulgated on December 31, 2014 and will lapse on April 5, 2015 if not passed as a law by Parliament.  Thus, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 has been introduced in Parliament to replace the Ordinance.  The Bill has been passed by Lok Sabha, with certain changes, and is pending in Rajya Sabha.  The next section outlines the major changes the Bill (as passed by Lok Sabha) proposes to make to 2013 Act.

IV. Changes proposed by the 2015 Bill to the 2013 Act

Some of the major changes proposed by the 2015 Bill (as passed by Lok Sabha) relate to provisions such as obtaining the consent of land owners; conducting an SIA; return of unutilised land; inclusion of private entities; and commission of offences by the government.

Certain exemptions for five categories of projects: As mentioned above, the 2013 Act requires that the consent of 80% of land owners is obtained when land is acquired for private projects, and the consent of 70% of land owners is obtained when land is acquired for public-private partnership projects.  The Bill exempts five categories of projects from this provision of the 2013 Act.  These five categories are: (i) defence, (ii) rural infrastructure, (iii) affordable housing, (iv) industrial corridors (set up by the government/government undertakings, up to 1 km on either side of the road/railway), and (v) infrastructure projects.

The Bill also allows the government to exempt these five categories of projects from: (i) the requirement of a Social Impact Assessment, and (ii) the limits that apply for acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land, through issuing a notification.  Before issuing this notification, the government must ensure that the extent of land being acquired is in keeping with the minimum land required for such a project.

The government has stated that these exemptions are being made in order to expedite the process of land acquisition in these specific areas.  However, the opponents of the Bill have pointed out that these five exempted categories could cover a majority of projects for which land can be acquired, and consent and SIA will not apply for these projects.

Return of unutilised land: Secondly, the Bill changes the time period after which unutilised, acquired land must be returned.  The 2013 Act states that if land acquired under it remains unutilised for five years, it must be returned to the original owners or the land bank.  The Bill changes this to state that the period after which unutilised land will need to be returned will be the later of: (i) five years, or (ii) any period specified at the time of setting up the project.

Acquisition of land for private entities: Under the 2013 Act, as mentioned above, land can be acquired for the government, a public-private partnership, or a private company, if the acquisition serves a public purpose.  The third major change the Bill seeks to make is that it changes the term ‘private company’ to ‘private entity’.  This implies that land may now be acquired for a proprietorship, partnership, corporation, non-profit organisation, or other entity, in addition to a private company, if the project serves a public purpose.

Offences by the government: Fourthly, under the 2013 Act, if an offence is committed by a government department, the head of the department will be held guilty unless he can show that he had exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.  The Bill removes this section.  It adds a provision to state that if an offence is committed by a government employee, he can be prosecuted only with the prior sanction of the government.

Acquisition of land for private hospitals and educational institutions: While the 2013 Act excluded acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions, the Bill sought to include these two within its scope.  However, the Lok Sabha removed this provision of the Bill.  Thus, in its present form, the Bill does not include the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions.

Other changes proposed in Lok Sabha: In addition to removing social infrastructure from one of the five exempted categories of projects, clarifying the definition of industrial corridors, and removing the provision related to acquisition for private hospitals and private educational institutions, the Lok Sabha made a few other changes to the Bill, prior to passing it.  These include: (i) employment must be provided to ‘one member of an affected family of farm labour’ as a part of the R&R award, in addition to the current provision which specifies that one member of an affected family must be provided employment as a part of R&R; (ii) hearings of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority to address grievances related to compensation be held in the district where land is being acquired; and (iii) a survey of wasteland must be conducted and records of these land must be maintained.

For more details on the 2015 Bill, see the PRS Bill page, here.

A version of this blog appeared on on February 27, 2015. 


Coal Block Allocations and the 2015 Bill

March 7th, 2015 5 comments

Earlier this week, Lok Sabha passed the Bill that provides for the allocation of coal mines that were cancelled by the Supreme Court last year.  In light of this development, this post looks at the issues surrounding coal block allocations and what the 2015 Bill seeks to achieve.

In September 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled the allocations of 204 coal blocks.  Following the Supreme Court judgement, in October 2014, the government promulgated the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014 for the allocation of the cancelled coal mines.  The Ordinance, which was replaced by the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, could not be passed by Parliament in the last winter session, and lapsed. The government then promulgated the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Second Ordinance, 2014 on December 26, 2014.  The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 replaces the second Ordinance and was passed by Lok Sabha on March 4, 2015.

Why is coal considered relevant?

Coal mining in India has primarily been driven by the need for energy domestically.  About 55% of the current commercial energy use is met by coal.  The power sector is the major consumer of coal, using about 80% of domestically produced coal.

As of April 1, 2014, India is estimated to have a cumulative total of 301.56 billion tonnes of coal reserves up to a depth of 1200 meters.  Coal deposits are mainly located in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

How is coal regulated?

The Ministry of Coal has the overall responsibility of managing coal reserves in the country.  Coal India Limited, established in 1975, is a public sector undertaking, which looks at the production and marketing of coal in India.  Currently, the sector is regulated by the ministry’s Coal Controller’s Organization.

The Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 (CMN Act) is the primary legislation determining the eligibility for coal mining in India.  The CMN Act allows private Indian companies to mine coal only for captive use.  Captive mining is the coal mined for a specific end-use by the mine owner, but not for open sale in the market.  End-uses currently allowed under the CMN Act include iron and steel production, generation of power, cement production and coal washing.  The central government may notify additional end-uses.

How were coal blocks allocated so far?

Till 1993, there were no specific criteria for the allocation of captive coal blocks.  Captive mining for coal was allowed in 1993 by amendments to the CMN Act.  In 1993, a Screening Committee was set up by the Ministry of Coal to provide recommendations on allocations for captive coal mines.  All allocations to private companies were made through the Screening Committee.  For government companies, allocations for captive mining were made directly by the ministry.  Certain coal blocks were allocated by the Ministry of Power for Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP) through tariff based competitive bidding (bidding for coal based on the tariff at which power is sold).  Between 1993 and 2011, 218 coal blocks were allocated to both public and private companies under the CMN Act.

What did the 2014 Supreme Court judgement do?

In August 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India released a report on the coal block allocations. CAG recommended that the allocation process should be made more transparent and objective, and done through competitive bidding.

Following this report, in September 2012, a Public Interest Litigation matter was filed in the Supreme Court against the coal block allocations.  The petition sought to cancel the allotment of the coal blocks in public interest on grounds that it was arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional.

In September 2014, the Supreme Court declared all allocations of coal blocks, made through the Screening Committee and through Government Dispensation route since 1993, as illegal.  It cancelled the allocation of 204 out of 218 coal blocks.  The allocations were deemed illegal on the grounds that: (i) the allocation procedure followed by the Screening Committee was arbitrary, and (ii) no objective criterion was used to determine the selection of companies.  Further, the allocation procedure was held to be impermissible under the CMN Act.

Among the 218 coal blocks, 40 were under production and six were ready to start production.  Of the 40 blocks under production, 37 were cancelled and of the six ready to produce blocks, five were cancelled.  However, the allocation to Ultra Mega Power Projects, which was done via competitive bidding for lowest tariffs, was not declared illegal.

What does the 2015 Bill seek to do?

Following the cancellation of the coal blocks, concerns were raised about further shortage in the supply of coal, resulting in more power supply disruptions.  The 2015 Bill primarily seeks to allocate the coal mines that were declared illegal by the Supreme Court.  It provides details for the auction process, compensation for the prior allottees, the process for transfer of mines and details of authorities that would conduct the auction.  In December 2014, the ministry notified the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Rules, 2014.  The Rules provide further guidelines in relation to the eligibility and compensation for prior allottees.

How is the allocation of coal blocks to be carried out through the 2015 Bill?

The Bill creates three categories of mines, Schedule I, II and III.  Schedule I consists of all the 204 mines that were cancelled by the Supreme Court.  Of these mines, Schedule II consists of all the 42 mines that are under production and Schedule III consists of 32 mines that have a specified end-use such as power, iron and steel, cement and coal washing.

Schedule I mines can be allocated by way of either public auction or allocation.  For the public auction route any government, private or joint venture company can bid for the coal blocks.  They can use the coal mined from these blocks for their own consumption, sale or for any other purpose as specified in their mining lease.  The government may also choose to allot Schedule I mines to any government company or any company that was awarded a power plant project through competitive bidding.  In such a case, a government company can use the coal mined for own consumption or sale.  However, the Bill does not provide clarity on the purpose for which private companies can use the coal.

Schedule II and III mines are to be allocated by way of public auction, and the auctions have to be completed by March 31, 2015.  Any government company, private company or a joint venture with a specified end-use is eligible to bid for these mines.

In addition, the Bill also provides details on authorities that would conduct the auction and allotment and the compensation for prior allottees.  Prior allottees are not eligible to participate in the auction process if: (i) they have not paid the additional levy imposed by the Supreme Court; or (ii) if they are convicted of an offence related to coal block allocation and sentenced to imprisonment of more than three years.

What are some of the issues to consider in the 2015 Bill?

One of the major policy shifts the 2015 Bill seeks to achieve is to enable private companies to mine coal in the future, in order to improve the supply of coal in the market.  Currently, the coal sector is regulated by the Coal Controller’s Organization, which is under the Ministry of Coal.  The Bill does not establish an independent regulator to ensure a level playing field for both private and government companies bidding for auction of mines to conduct coal mining operations.   In the past, when other sectors have opened up to the private sector, an independent regulatory body has been established beforehand.  For example, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, an independent regulatory body, was established when the telecom sector was opened up for private service providers.  The Bill also does not specify any guidelines on the monitoring of mining activities by the new allottees.

While the Bill provides broad details of the process of auction and allotment, the actual results with regards to money coming in to the states, will depend more on specific details, such as the tender documents and floor price.  It is also to be seen whether the new allotment process ensures equitable distribution of coal blocks among the companies and creates a fair, level-playing field for them.  In the past, the functioning of coal mines has been delayed due to delays in land acquisition and environmental clearances.  This Bill does not address these issues.  The auctioning of coal blocks resulting in improving the supply of coal, and in turn addressing the problem of power shortage in the country, will also depend on the efficient functioning of the mines,  in addition to factors such as transparent allocations.


Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin)

January 2nd, 2015 7 comments

Earlier this month, guidelines for the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) were released by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.  Key features of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), as outlined in the guidelines, are detailed below.  In addition, a brief overview of sanitation levels in the country is provided, along with major schemes of the central government to improve rural sanitation.

The Swachh Bharat Mission, launched in October 2014, consists of two sub-missions – the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G), which will be implemented in rural areas, and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), which will be implemented in urban areas.  SBM-G seeks to eliminate open defecation in rural areas by 2019 through improving access to sanitation.  It also seeks to generate awareness to motivate communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, and encourage the use of appropriate technologies for sanitation.

I. Context

Data from the last three Census’, in Table 1, shows that while there has been some improvement in the number of households with toilets; this number remains low in the country, especially in rural areas.

Table 1:  Percentage of households with toilets (national)

Year Rural Urban Total
1991 9% 64% 24%
2001 22% 74% 36%
2011 31% 81% 47%

In addition, there is significant variation across states in terms of availability of household toilets in rural areas, as shown in Table 2.  Table 2 also shows the change in percentage of rural households with toilets from 2001 to 2011.  It is evident that the pace of this change has varied across states over the decade.

Table 2: Percentage of rural households with toilets




% Change

Andhra Pradesh




Arunachal Pradesh




























Himachal Pradesh




Jammu and Kashmir
















Madhya Pradesh








































Tamil Nadu








Uttar Pradesh








West Bengal




All India




II. Major schemes of the central government to improve rural sanitation

The central government has been implementing schemes to improve access to sanitation in rural areas from the Ist Five Year Plan (1951-56) onwards.  Major schemes of the central government dealing with rural sanitation are outlined below.

Central Rural Sanitation Programme (1986): The Central Rural Sanitation Programme was one of the first schemes of the central government which focussed solely on rural sanitation.  The programme sought to construct household toilets, construct sanitary complexes for women, establish sanitary marts, and ensure solid and liquid waste management.
Total Sanitation Campaign (1999): The Total Sanitation Campaign was launched in 1999 with a greater focus on Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities in order to make the creation of sanitation facilities demand driven rather than supply driven. Key components of the Total Sanitation Campaign included: (i) financial assistance to rural families below the poverty line for the construction of household toilets, (ii) construction of community sanitary complexes, (iii) construction of toilets in government schools and aganwadis, (iv) funds for IEC activities, (v) assistance to rural sanitary marts, and (vi) solid and liquid waste management.
Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (2012): In 2012, the Total Sanitation Campaign was replaced by the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which also focused on the previous elements.  According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the key shifts in NBA were: (i) a greater focus on coverage for the whole community instead of a focus on individual houses, (ii) the inclusion of certain households which were above the poverty line, and (iii) more funds for IEC activities, with 15% of funds at the district level earmarked for IEC.
Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (2014): Earlier this year, in October, NBA was replaced by Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G) which is a sub-mission under Swachh Bharat Mission.  SBM-G also includes the key components of the earlier sanitation schemes such as the funding for the construction of individual household toilets, construction of community sanitary complexes, waste management, and IEC. Key features of SBM-G, and major departures from earlier sanitation schemes, are outlined in the next section.

III. Guidelines for Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin)

The guidelines for SBM-G, released earlier this month, outline the strategy to be adopted for its implementation, funding, and monitoring.

Objectives: Key objectives of SBM-G include: (i) improving the quality of life in rural areas through promoting cleanliness and eliminating open defecation by 2019, (ii) motivating communities and panchayati raj institutions to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, (iii) encouraging appropriate technologies for sustainable sanitation, and (iv) developing community managed solid and liquid waste management systems.

Institutional framework: While NBA had a four tier implementation mechanism at the state, district, village, and block level, an additional tier has been added for SBM-G, at the national level.  Thus, the implementation mechanisms at the five levels will consist of: (i) National Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), (ii) State Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), (iii) District Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), (iv) Block Programme Management Unit, and (v) Gram Panchayat/Village and Water Sanitation Committee.  At the Gram Panchayat level, Swachhta Doots may be hired to assist with activities such as identification of beneficiaries, IEC, and maintenance of records.

Planning: As was done under NBA, each state must prepare an Annual State Implementation Plan.  Gram Panchayats must prepare implementation plans, which will be consolidated into Block Implementation Plans.  These Block Implementation Plans will further be consolidated into District Implementation Plans.  Finally, District Implementation Plans will be consolidated in a State Implementation Plan by the State Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).

A Plan Approval Committee in Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation will review the State Implementation Plans.  The final State Implementation Plan will be prepared by states based on the allocation of funds, and then approved by National Scheme Sanctioning Committee of the Ministry.

Funding: Funding for SBM-G will be through budgetary allocations of the central and state governments, the Swachh Bharat Kosh, and multilateral agencies.  The Swachh Bharat Kosh has been established to collect funds from non-governmental sources.  Table 3, below, details the fund sharing pattern for SBM-G between the central and state government, as provided for in the SBM-G guidelines.

Table 3: Funding for SBM-G across components

Component Centre State Beneficiary Amount as a % of SBM-G outlay
IEC, start-up activities, etc 75% 25% 8%
Revolving fund 80% 20% Up to 5%
Construction of household toilets 75%(Rs 9000)90% for J&K, NE states, special category states 25%(Rs 3000)10% for J&K, NE states, special category states Amount required for full coverage
Community sanitary complexes 60% 30% 10% Amount required for full coverage
Solid/Liquid Waste Management 75% 25% Amount required within limits permitted
Administrative charges 75% 25% Up to 2% of the project cost

One of the changes from NBA, in terms of funding, is that funds for IEC will be up to 8% of the total outlay under SBM-G, as opposed to up to 15% (calculated at the district level) under NBA.  Secondly, the amount provided for the construction of household toilets has increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000.  Thirdly, while earlier funding for household toilets was partly through NBA and partly though the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the provision for MGNREGS funding has been done away with under SBM-G.  This implies that the central government’s share will be met entirely through SBM-G.

Implementation: The key components of the implementation of SBM-G will include: (i) start up activities including preparation of state plans, (ii) IEC activities, (iii) capacity building of functionaries, (iv) construction of household toilets, (v) construction of community sanitary complexes, (vi) a revolving fund at the district level to assist Self Help Groups and others in providing cheap finance to their members (vii) funds for rural sanitary marts, where materials for the construction of toilets, etc., may be purchased, and (viii) funds for solid and liquid waste management.

Under SBM-G, construction of toilets in government schools and aganwadis will be done by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Women and Child Development, respectively.  Previously, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation was responsible for this.

Monitoring: Swachh Bharat Missions (Gramin) at the national, state, and district levels will each have monitoring units.  Annual monitoring will be done at the national level by third party independent agencies.  In addition, concurrent monitoring will be done, ideally at the community level, through the use of Information and Communications Technology.

More information on SBM-G is available in the SBM-G guidelines, here.