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Explaining the draft Bill on violence against healthcare professionals and clinical establishments

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released a draft Bill to address incidences of violence against healthcare professionals and damage to the property of clinical establishments.  Public comments on the draft Bill are invited till the end of September.  In this context, we discuss key provisions of the draft Bill below.

What does the draft Bill seek to do?

The draft Bill prohibits any acts of violence committed against healthcare service personnel including doctors, nurses, para medical workers, medical students, and ambulance drivers, among others.  It also prohibits any damage caused to hospitals, clinics, and ambulances. 

Under the draft Bill, violence means any act which may cause: (i) harm, injury or danger to the life of a healthcare service personnel, while discharging their duty, (ii) obstruction or hindrance to healthcare service personnel, while discharging their duty, and (ii) loss or damage to any property or documents in a clinical establishment. 

What are the penalties for committing such acts of violence?

Currently, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for penalties for any harm caused to an individual or any damage caused to property.  Further, the Code prescribes penalties for causing grievous hurt i.e., permanent damage to another individual.  The draft Bill additionally specifies penalties for similar offences caused to healthcare professionals and clinical establishments. 

Under the draft Bill, any person who commits violence, or abets such violence may be punished with imprisonment between six months to five years, along with a fine of up to five lakh rupees.  However, if any person causes grievous hurt to a healthcare service professional, he will be imprisoned for a period between three years to ten years, along with a fine between two lakh rupees and Rs 10 lakh.  Note that, currently under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, an individual who commits grievous hurt is punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years, along with a fine.

In addition to the punishment for offences committed under the draft Bill, the convicted person will also be liable to pay compensation to the affected parties.  This includes: (i) payment of twice the amount of the market value of the damaged property, (ii) one lakh rupees for causing hurt to healthcare service personnel, and (iii) five lakh rupees for causing grievous hurt to healthcare service personnel.  In case of non-payment of compensation, the amount may be recovered under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1890.  The Act provides for recovering certain public arrears by attaching the property of an individual. 

How will these cases of violence be investigated?

All offences under the draft Bill will be cognizable (i.e., a police officer can arrest without a warrant) and non-bailable.  An aggrieved healthcare service professional can write a request to the person-in-charge of the clinical establishment to inform the police of an offence committed under the draft Bill.  Further, any case registered under this Bill will be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

This Bill is currently in the draft stage and has been released for comments by stakeholders and experts in the field.  The draft will be revised to incorporate such suggestions.  Note that, comments can be emailed to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare at us-ms-mohfwnic.in by the end of September.

Examining pendency of cases in the Judiciary

Yesterday, Parliament passed a Bill to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court from 30 to 33 (excluding the Chief Justice of India).  The Bill was introduced in view of increasing pendency of cases in the Supreme Court.  In 2012, the Supreme Court approved the Scheme of National Court Management System to provide a framework for case management.  The scheme estimated that with an increase in literacy, per capita income, and population, the number of new cases filed each year may go up to 15 crore over the next three decades, which will require at least 75,000 judges.  In this blog, we analyse the pendency of cases at all three levels of courts, i.e. the Supreme Court, the Highs Courts, and the subordinate courts, and discuss the capacity of these courts to dispose of cases.

Pendency in courts has increased over the years; 87% of all pending cases are in subordinate courts

Sources:  Court News, 2006, Supreme Court of India; National Data Judicial Grid accessed on August 7, 2019; PRS.

Overall, the pendency of cases has increased significantly at every level of the judicial hierarchy in the last decade.  Between 2006 and now, there has been an overall increase of 22% (64 lakh cases) in the pendency of cases across all courts.  As of August 2019, there are over 3.5 crore cases pending across the Supreme Court, the High Courts, and the subordinate courts.  Of these, subordinate courts account for over 87.3% pendency of cases, followed by 12.5% pendency before the 24 High Courts.  The remaining 0.2% of cases are pending with the Supreme Court.  The primary reason for growing pendency of cases is that the number of new cases filed every year has outpaced the number of disposed of cases.  This has resulted in a growing backlog of cases.

In High Courts and subordinate courts, over 32 lakh cases pending for over 10 years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:  National Data Judicial Grid accessed on August 7, 2019; Court News, 2006-17, Supreme Court of India; PRS.

In the High Courts, over 8.3 lakh cases have been pending for over 10 years.  This constitutes 19% of all pending High Court cases.  Similarly, in the subordinate courts, over 24 lakh cases (8%) have been pending for over 10 years.  Overall, Allahabad High Court had the highest pendency, with over seven lakh cases pending as of 2017.

Despite high pendency, some High Courts have managed to reduce their backlog.  Between 2006 and 2017, pendency of cases reduced the most in Madras High Court at a rate of 26%, followed by Bombay High Court at 24%.  Conversely, during the same period, the pendency of cases doubled in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, and increased by 2.5 times in Karnataka High Court.

As a result of pendency, number of under-trials in prison is more than double that of convicts

Sources:  Prison Statistics in India, 2015, National Crime Record Bureau; PRS.

Over the years, as a result of growing pendency of cases for long periods, the number of undertrials (accused awaiting trial) in prisons has increased.  Prisons are running at an over-capacity of 114%.  As of 2015, there were over four lakh prisoners in jails.  Of these, two-thirds were undertrials (2.8 lakh) and the remaining one-third were convicts. 

The highest proportion of undertrials (where the number of inmates was at least over 1,000) were in J&K (85%), followed by Bihar (82%).  A total of 3,599 undertrials were detained in jails for more than five years.  Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of such undertrials (1,364) followed by West Bengal (294). 

One interesting factor to note is that more criminal cases are filed in subordinate courts than in High Courts and Supreme Court.  Of the cases pending in the subordinate courts (which constitute 87% of all pending cases), 70% of cases were related to criminal matters.  This increase in the pendency of cases for long periods over the years may have directly resulted in an increase in the number of undertrials in prisons.  In a statement last year, the Chief Justice of India commented that the accused in criminal cases are getting heard after serving out their sentence.

Vacancies in High Courts and Subordinate Courts affect the disposal of cases

Sources:  Court News, 2006-17, Supreme Court of India; PRS.

Vacancy of judges across courts in India has affected the functioning of the judiciary, particularly in relation to the disposal of cases.  Between 2006 and 2017, the number of vacancies in the High Courts has increased from 16% to 37%, and in the subordinate courts from 19% to 25%.  As of 2017, High Courts have 403 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 1,079 judges, and subordinate courts have 5,676 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 22,704 judges.  As of 2017, among the major High Courts (with sanctioned strength over 10 judges), the highest proportion of vacancies was in Karnataka High Court at 60% (37 vacancies), followed by Calcutta High Court at 54% (39 vacancies).  Similarly, in major subordinate courts (with sanctioned strength over 100 judges), the highest proportion of vacancies was in Bihar High Court at 46% (835 vacancies), followed by Uttar Pradesh High Court at 42% (1,348 vacancies).

Explainer: The Code on Occupation Safety, Health and Working Condition

Presently, there are around 40 central laws regulating different aspects of labour such as, industrial dispute resolution, bonus payments, and working conditions.  The Ministry of Labour and Employment has proposed to consolidate these laws into four codes—wages, social security, industrial safety and welfare, and industrial relations.

The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 23, 2019.[1]  The Code consolidates 13 labour laws relating to safety, health and working conditions.  These include the Factories Act, 1948, the Mines Act, 1952, and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.  In this context, we explain key provisions of the Code.

Who will be covered under the Code?

The Code applies to organisations employing at least 10 workers, and to all mines and docks.  Provisions of this Code will cover both employees and workers.  Employees include individuals in managerial and administrative positions.  However, the Code does not apply to apprentices, or to offices of the central or state governments.

Does the Code create special provisions for different types of organisations and workers?

Apart from prescribing health and safety provisions that apply to all organisations, the Code also outlines special requirements for different types of organisations (such as factories and mines) and workers (such as beedi and cigar workers).  These special provisions include exceptions or additional requirements.  For example, under the Code, factories are required to get a license in addition to registering under the general provisions of the Code. Similarly, the Code requires certain contractors to get licenses before hiring any contract labour.  Further, audio-visual workers can only be hired after signing an agreement with employers, which must be registered with a government authority.

What are the duties of employers and employees?

The Code lays down several duties of employers.  These include, providing a workplace that is free from hazards that may cause injury or diseases, and providing free annual health examinations to employees.  For certain organisations such as, factories and mines, the employer may have additional responsibilities. These include the obligation to notify authorities in case of an accident at the workplace that leads to death or serious bodily injury of an employee.

Under the Code, employees must take care of their own health and safety, comply with the specified standards, and report unsafe situations to the inspector-cum-facilitator.  Employees also have the right to obtain information related to safety and health standards from the employer.  They may do this by directly approaching the employer, or through a Safety Committee representative.   

Will work hours be uniform for all workers and employees?

Work hours for different types of organisations and employees will be notified by the government.  This is different from the current labour laws, many of which specify work hours within the law itself.  For example, the Factories Act, 1948 provides for a maximum 10 hours of work per day and 60 hours of work per week.[2] 

The Code also changes work hour requirements for women.  The current laws such as, the Mines Act, 1952, and the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, prohibit women from working after 7 pm and before 6 am.[3],[4]  However, the Code permits female workers to work past 7 pm and before 6 am with their consent and the approval of the government.  

What working conditions and welfare facilities does the Code provide for?

The employer is required to provide a hygienic work environment with: (i) ventilation, (ii) comfortable temperature, (iii) sufficient space, (iv) clean drinking water, and (v) latrine and urinal accommodations.  In addition, the government may specify certain other facilities such as, canteens, first aid boxes, and crèches that an employer must provide for.  This is a shift from the current legislation which provides for welfare facilities like canteens and crèches, in the law itself.  For instance, the Factories Act, 1948 requires the provision of canteens, ambulances, and first aid kits for organisations depending on the number of workers employed in the organisation.2

What is the leave policy for workers?

The Code states that no employee can be made to work for more than six days a week.  However, exceptions could be provided for motor transport workers.   Annually, workers must receive one day off for every 20 days they have worked.   While calculating annual leave, maternity leave and periods of lay off will be counted as days spent on duty.

What are the authorities set up under the Code?

The Code requires central and state governments to set up Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Boards at the national and state level, respectively.  These Boards will advise the central and state governments on the standards, rules, and regulations to be framed under the Code.  

The composition of the National Advisory Board includes five representatives for employers, five representatives of employees, and five reputed persons from the fields related to occupational health and safety, amongst other members.  The composition of State Advisory Boards will be decided by state governments.

How is the Code being enforced?

An inspector-cum-facilitator may be appointed by the government to inspect workplaces, inquire and investigate accidents, and provide safety information to workers.  In the case of factories, mines, and docks, the inspector may close or restrict employment in parts of the organisation if there is a health and safety risk.

The Code also prescribes penalties for violating provisions of the Code.  An offence that leads to the death of an employee could result in imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine up to five lakh rupees, or both.  Further, at least 50% of such fine may be given as compensation to the heirs of the victim.  For any other violation where the penalty is not specified, the employer will be penalised with a fine between two and three lakh rupees.  On the other hand, if an employee violates provisions of the Code, he could be fined up to Rs 10,000.

Does the Code provide gender specific provisions?

The Code includes certain provisions specific to female and transgender workers.  With respect to women, the government can prohibit employment of women in certain organisations if working there may be dangerous to their health and safety.  Further, the Code allows female workers to work night shifts with their consent and subject to approval of the government.  The Code also acknowledges transgender persons as a third gender by requiring separate urinal and latrine accommodations, rest rooms, washing spaces, and locker rooms for male, female, and transgender workers.  

[1] Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019, Ministry of Labour and Employment, https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/Occupational%20Safety%2C%20Health%20and%20Working%20Conditions%20Code%2C%202019.pdf.

[2] Factories Act, 1948, Ministry of Labour and Employment, https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/TheFactoriesAct1948.pdf

[3] Mines Act, 1952, http://www.dgms.gov.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/Mines%20Act,%201952.pdf.

[4] Plantations Labour Act, 1951, https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/The-Plantation-Labour-Act-1951.pdf.

[5] Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966, http://labour.bih.nic.in/acts/beedi-and-cigar-workers-act-1966.pdf.

Understanding the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019

Today, the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 was passed by Lok Sabha.  It seeks to regulate medical education and practice in India.  In 2017, a similar Bill had been introduced in Lok Sabha.  It was examined by the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, which recommended several changes to the Bill.  However, the 2017 Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.  In this post, we analyse the 2019 Bill.

How is medical education and practice regulated currently?

The Medical Council of India (MCI) is responsible for regulating medical education and practice.  Over the years, there have been several issues with the functioning of the MCI with respect to its regulatory role, composition, allegations of corruption, and lack of accountability.  For example, MCI is an elected body where its members are elected by medical practitioners themselves, i.e., the regulator is elected by the regulated.  Experts have recommended nomination based constitution of the MCI instead of election, and separating the regulation of medical education and medical practice.  They suggested that legislative changes should be brought in to overhaul the functioning of the MCI.

To meet this objective, the Bill repeals the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and dissolves the current MCI.

The 2019 Bill sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC) as an umbrella regulatory body with certain other bodies under it.  The NMC will subsume the MCI and will regulate medical education and practice in India.  Under the Bill, states will establish their respective State Medical Councils within three years.  These Councils will have a role similar to the NMC, at the state level.

Functions of the NMC include: (i) laying down policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals, (ii) assessing the requirements of human resources and infrastructure in healthcare, (iii) ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils with the regulations made under the Bill, and (iv) framing guidelines for determination of fee for up to 50% of the seats in the private medical institutions.

Who will be a part of the NMC?

The Bill replaces the MCI with the NMC, whose members will be nominated.  The NMC will consist of 25 members, including: (i) Director Generals of the Directorate General of Health Services and the Indian Council of Medical Research, (ii) Director of any of the AIIMS, (iii) five members (part-time) to be elected by the registered medical practitioners, and (iv) six members appointed on rotational basis from amongst the nominees of the states in the Medical Advisory Council.

Of these 25 members, at least 15 (60%) are medical practitioners.  The MCI has been noted to be non-diverse and consists mostly of doctors who look out for their own self-interest over public interest.   In order to reduce the monopoly of doctors, it has been recommended by experts that the MCI should include diverse stakeholders such as public health experts, social scientists, and health economists.  For example, in the United Kingdom, the General Medical Council which is responsible for regulating medical education and practice consists of 12 medical practitioners and 12 lay members (such as community health members, administrators from local government).

What are the regulatory bodies being set up under the NMC?

The Bill sets up four autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC.  Each board will consist of a President and four members (of which two members will be part-time), appointed by the central government (on the recommendation of a search committee).  These bodies are:

  • The Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB): These two bodies will be responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines for medical education, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the under-graduate and post-graduate levels respectively.
  • The Medical Assessment and Rating Board: The Board will have the power to levy monetary penalties on institutions which fail to maintain the minimum standards as laid down by the UGMEB and the PGMEB.  It will also grant permissions for establishing new medical colleges, starting postgraduate courses, and increasing the number of seats in a medical college.
  • The Ethics and Medical Registration Board: This Board will maintain a National Register of all the licensed medical practitioners in the country, and also regulate professional and medical conduct.  Only those included in the Register will be allowed to practice as doctors.  The Board will also maintain a register of all licensed community health providers in the country.

How is the Bill changing the eligibility guidelines for doctors to practice medicine?

There will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to under-graduate and post-graduate super-speciality medical education in all medical institutions regulated under the Bill.  Further, the Bill introduces a common final year undergraduate examination called the National Exit Test for students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for practice.  This test will also serve as the basis for admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions under this Bill.  Foreign medical practitioners may be permitted temporary registration to practice in India.

However, the Bill does not specify the validity period of this license to practice.  In other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, a license to practice needs to be periodically renewed.  For example, in the UK the license has to be renewed every five years, and in Australia it has to renewed annually. 

How will the issues of medical misconduct be addressed?

The State Medical Council will receive complaints relating to professional or ethical misconduct against a registered medical practitioner.  If the medical practitioner is aggrieved of a decision of the State Medical Council, he may appeal to the Ethics and Medical Registration Board.  If the medical practitioner is aggrieved of the decision of the Board, he can approach the NMC to appeal against the decision.  It is unclear why the NMC is an appellate authority with regard to matters related to professional or ethical misconduct of medical practitioners. 

It may be argued that disputes related to ethics and misconduct in medical practice may require judicial expertise.  For example, in the UK, the regulator for medical education and practice – the General Medical Council (GMC) receives complaints with regard to ethical misconduct and is required to do an initial documentary investigation in the matter and then forwards the complaint to a Tribunal.  This Tribunal is a judicial body independent of the GMC.  The adjudication decision and final disciplinary action is decided by the Tribunal.

How does the Bill regulate community health providers?

As of January 2018, the doctor to population ratio in India was 1:1655 compared to the World Health Organisation standard of 1:1000.  To fill in the gaps of availability of medical professionals, the Bill provides for the NMC to grant limited license to certain mid-level practitioners called community health providers, connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.  These mid-level medical practitioners may prescribe specified medicines in primary and preventive healthcare.  However, in any other cases, these practitioners may only prescribe medicine under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner.

This is similar to other countries where medical professionals other than doctors are allowed to prescribe allopathic medicine.  For example, Nurse Practitioners in the USA provide a full range of primary, acute, and specialty health care services, including ordering and performing diagnostic tests, and prescribing medications.  For this purpose, Nurse Practitioners must complete a master's or doctoral degree program, advanced clinical training, and obtain a national certification.

Explainer: The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that amends the Right to Information Act, 2005 was introduced in Lok Sabha today.

What does the RTI Act do?  

Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.  This includes: (i) disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure, (ii) powers and duties of its officers and employees, and (iii) financial information.  The intent of such suo moto disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information.  If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities.  This may include information in the form of documents, files, or electronic records under the control of the Public Authority.  The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.  

Who is included in the ambit of ‘Public Authorities’?

‘Public Authorities’ include bodies of self-government established under the Constitution, or under any law or government notification.  For instance, these include Ministries, public sector undertakings, and regulators.  It also includes any entities owned, controlled or substantially financed and non-government organizations substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government. 

How is the right to information enforced under the Act?

The Act has established a three tier structure for enforcing the right to information guaranteed under the Act.

Public Authorities designate some of their officers as Public Information Officers.  The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities. These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.  Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority.  Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission.  These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners.  

What does the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 propose?

The Bill changes the terms and conditions of service of the CIC and Information Commissioners at the centre and in states.  Table 1 below compares the provisions of the Act and the Bill. 

Table 1:  Comparison of the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Provision

RTI Act, 2005

RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Term

The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) (at the central and state level) will hold office for a term of five years. 

The Bill removes this provision and states that the central government will notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.

Quantum of Salary

The salary of the CIC and ICs (at the central level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively. 

Similarly, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the state level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the state government, respectively. 

 The Bill removes these provisions and states that the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state CIC and ICs will be determined by the central government.

 

Deductions in Salary

The Act states that at the time of the appointment of the CIC and ICs (at the central and state level), if they are receiving pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to the pension. 

Previous government service includes service under: (i) the central government, (ii) state government, (iii) corporation established under a central or state law, and (iv) company owned or controlled by the central or state government.

The Bill removes these provisions.

 

Sources:  Right to Information Act, 2005; Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019; PRS.

Understanding the AERA (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Earlier this week, Rajya Sabha passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and the Bill is now pending in Lok Sabha.  The Bill amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.  The Act established the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA).  AERA regulates tariffs and other charges for aeronautical services provided at civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.  It also monitors the performance standard of services across these airports.  In this post, we explain the amendments that the Bill seeks to bring in and some of the issues around the functioning of the regulator.

Why was AERA created, and what is its role?

Few years back, private players started operating civilian airports.  Typically, airports run the risk of becoming a monopoly because cities usually have one civilian airport which controls all aeronautical services in that area.  To ensure that private airport operators do not misuse their monopoly, the need for an independent tariff regulator in the airport sector was felt.  Consequently, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008 (AERA Act) was passed which set up AERA. 

AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (development fee and passenger service fee) for aeronautical services (air traffic management, landing and parking of aircraft, ground handling services) at major airports.  Major airports include civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.  In 2018-19, there were 32 such airports (see Table 1).  As of June 2019, 27 of these are being regulated by AERA (AERA also regulates tariffs at the Kannur airport which was used by 89,127 passengers in 2018-19).  For the remaining airports, tariffs are determined by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which is a body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation that also operates airports. 

What changes are being proposed in the Bill?

The Bill seeks to do two things:

Definition of major airports:  Currently, the AERA Act defines a major airport as one with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakh, or any other airports as notified by the central government.  The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports to over 35 lakh. 

Tariff determination by AERA:  Under the Act, AERA is responsible for determining the: (i) tariff for aeronautical services every five years, (ii) development fees, and (iii) passengers service fee.  It can also amend the tariffs in the interim period.  The Bill adds that AERA will not determine: (i) tariff, (ii) tariff structures, or (iii) development fees, in certain cases.  These cases include those where such tariff amounts were a part of the bid document on the basis of which the airport operations were awarded.  AERA will be consulted (by the concessioning authority, the Ministry of Civil Aviation) before incorporating such tariffs in the bid document, and such tariffs must be notified.

Why is the Act getting amended?

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that the exponential growth of the sector has put tremendous pressure on AERA, while its resources are limited.  Therefore, if too many airports come under the purview of AERA, it will not be able to perform its functions efficiently.  If the challenge for AERA is availability of limited resources, the question is whether this problem may be resolved by reducing its jurisdiction (as the Bill is doing), or by improving its capacity. 

Will the proposed amendments strengthen the role of the regulator?

When AERA was created in 2008, there were 11 airports with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakh.  With increase in passenger traffic across airports, currently 32 airports are above this threshold.  The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports to over 35 lakh.  With this increase in threshold, 16 airports will be regulated by AERA.  It may be argued that instead of strengthening the role of the regulator, its purview is being reduced. 

Before AERA was set up, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) fixed the aeronautical charges for the airports under its control and prescribed performance standards for all airports and monitored them.  Various committees had noted that AAI performed the role of airport operator as well as the regulator, which resulted in conflict of interest.  Further, there was a natural monopoly in airports and air traffic control.  In order to regulate the growing competition in the airline industry, and to provide a level playing field among different categories of airports, AERA was set up.  During the deliberations of the Standing Committee examining the AERA Bill, 2007, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had noted that AERA should regulate tariff and monitor performance standards only at major airports.  Depending upon future developments in the sector, other functions could be subsequently assigned to the regulator.

How would the Bill affect the regulatory regime?

Currently, there are 32 major airports (annual traffic above 15 lakh), and AERA regulates tariffs at 27 of these.  As per the Bill, AERA will regulate 16 major airports (annual traffic above 35 lakh).  The remaining 16 airports will be regulated by AAI.  Till 2030-31, air traffic in the country is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 10-11%.  This implies that in a few years, the traffic at the other 16 airports will increase to over 35 lakh and they will again fall under the purview of AERA.  This may lead to constant changes in the regulatory regime at these airports.  The table below provides the current list of major airports:

Table 1: List of major airports in India (as on March 2019) 

Airports with annual traffic above 35 lakh Airports with annual traffic between 15 and 35 lakh

Ahmedabad

Goa

Mumbai

Amritsar

Madurai*

Srinagar

Bengaluru

Guwahati

Patna

Bagdogra

Mangalore

Trichy*

Bhubaneswar

Hyderabad

Pune

Calicut

Nagpur

Varanasi

Chennai

Jaipur

Thiruvananthapuram

Chandigarh

Port Blair*

Vishakhapatnam

Cochin

Kolkata

 

Coimbatore

Raipur*

 

Delhi

Lucknow

 

Indore

Ranchi*

 

* - AERA does not regulate tariffs at these airports currently. 

Sources: AAI Traffic News; AERA website; PRS.

Explaining the difference between the government finances reported in the Economic Survey and the Union Budget 2019-20

The Finance Minister, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, presented the Union Budget for the financial year 2019-20 in Parliament on July 5, 2019.  In the 2019-20 budget, the government presented the estimates of its expenditure and receipts for the year 2019-20.  The budget also gave an account of how much money the government raised or spent in 2017-18.  In addition, the budget also presented the revised estimates made by the government for the year 2018-19 in comparison to the estimates it had given to Parliament in the previous year’s budget.

What are revised estimates?

Some of the estimates made by the government might change during the course of the year.  For instance, once the year gets underway, some ministries may need more funds than what was actually allocated to them in the budget, or the receipts expected from certain sources might change.  Such deviations from the budget estimates get reflected in the figures released by the government at later stages as part of the subsequent budgets.  Once the year ends, the actual numbers are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), post which they are presented to Parliament with the upcoming budget, i.e. two years after the estimates are made.

For instance, estimates for the year 2018-19 were presented as part of the 2018-19 budget in February 2018.  In the 2019-20 interim budget presented in February 2019 (10 months after the financial year 2018-19 got underway), the government revised these estimates based on the actual receipts and expenditure accounted so far during the year and incorporated estimates for the remaining two months.

The actual receipts and expenditure accounts of the central government are maintained by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Ministry of Finance on a monthly basis.  In addition to the monthly accounts, the CGA also publishes the provisional unaudited figures for the financial year by the end of the month of May.  Once these provisional figures are audited by the CAG, they are presented as actuals in next year’s budget.  The CGA reported the figures for 2018-19 on May 31, 2019.[1]  The Economic Survey 2018-19 presented on July 4, 2019 uses these figures.[2] 

The budget presented on July 5 replicates the revised estimates reported as part of the interim budget (February 1, 2019).  Thus, it did not take into account the updated figures for the year 2018-19 from the CGA.

Table 1 gives a comparison of the 2018-19 revised estimates presented by the central government in the budget with the provisional unaudited figures maintained by the CGA for the year 2018-19.[3]

Table 1:  Budget at a Glance: Comparison of 2018-19 revised estimates with CGA figures (unaudited) (Rs crore)

 

Actuals
2017-18

Budgeted
2018-19

Revised
2018-19

Provisional
2018-19

Difference
(RE 2018-19 to Provisional 2018-19)

Revenue Expenditure

18,78,833

 21,41,772

 21,40,612

20,08,463

-1,32,149

Capital Expenditure

2,63,140

 3,00,441

 3,16,623

3,02,959

-13,664

Total Expenditure

21,41,973

 24,42,213

 24,57,235

23,11,422

 -1,45,813

Revenue Receipts

14,35,233

 17,25,738

 17,29,682

15,63,170

-1,66,512

Capital Receipts

 1,15,678

 92,199

 93,155

1,02,885

9,730

of which:

 

 

 

 

 

Recoveries of Loans

 15,633

 12,199

 13,155

17,840

4,685

Other receipts (including disinvestments)

 1,00,045

 80,000

 80,000

85,045

5,045

Total Receipts (without borrowings)

15,50,911

 18,17,937

 18,22,837

16,66,055

-1,56,782

Revenue Deficit

 4,43,600

 4,16,034

 4,10,930

4,45,293

34,363

% of GDP

2.6

2.2

2.2

2.4

 

Fiscal Deficit

 5,91,062

 6,24,276

 6,34,398

6,45,367

10,969

% of GDP

3.5

3.3

3.4

3.4

 

Primary Deficit

 62,110

 48,481

 46,828

62,692

15,864

% of GDP

0.4

0.3

0.2

0.3

 

Sources:  Budget at a Glance, Union Budget 2019-20; Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance; PRS.

The 2018-19 provisional figures for revenue receipts is Rs 15,63,170 crore, which is Rs 1,66,512 crore less than the revised estimates.  This is largely due to Rs 1,67,455 crore shortfall in centre’s net tax revenue between the revised estimates and the provisional estimates (Table 2).

Major taxes which see a shortfall between the gross tax revenue presented in the revised estimates vis-à-vis the provisional figures are income tax (Rs 67,346 crore) and GST (Rs 59,930 crore).  Non-tax revenue and disinvestment receipts as per the provisional figures are higher than the revised estimates.

Table 2:  Break up of central government receipts: Comparison of 2018-19 RE with CGA figures (unaudited) (Rs crore)

 

Actuals
2017-18

Budgeted
2018-19

Revised
2018-19

Provisional
2018-19

Difference
(RE 2018-19 to Provisional 2018-19)

Gross Tax Revenue

19,19,009

22,71,242

22,48,175

20,80,203

-1,67,972

of which:

 

 

 

 

 

Corporation Tax

5,71,202

6,21,000

6,71,000

6,63,572

-7,428

Taxes on Income

4,30,772

5,29,000

5,29,000

4,61,654

-67,346

Goods and Services Tax

4,42,562

7,43,900

6,43,900

5,83,970

-59,930

Customs

1,29,030

1,12,500

1,30,038

1,17,930

-12,108

Union Excise Duties

2,59,431

2,59,600

2,59,612

2,30,998

-28,614

A. Centre's Net Tax Revenue

12,42,488

14,80,649

14,84,406

13,16,951

-1,67,455

B. Non Tax Revenue

1,92,745

2,45,089

2,45,276

2,46,219

943

of which:

 

 

 

 

 

Interest Receipts

13,574

15,162

12,047

12,815

768

Dividend and Profits

91,361

1,07,312

1,19,264

1,13,424

-5,840

Other Non-Tax Revenue

87,810

1,22,615

1,13,965

1,19,980

6,015

C. Capital Receipts (without borrowings)

1,15,678

92,199

93,155

1,02,885

9,730

of which:

 

 

 

 

 

Disinvestment

1,00,045

80,000

80,000

85,045

5,045

Receipts (without borrowings) (A+B+C)

15,50,911

18,17,937

18,22,837

16,66,055

-1,56,782

Borrowings

5,91,062

6,24,276

6,34,398

6,45,367

10,969

Total Receipts (including borrowings)

21,41,973

24,42,213

24,57,235

23,11,422

-1,45,813

Note:  Centre’s net tax revenue is gross tax revenue less share of states in central taxes.  Figures for GST include receipts from the GST compensation cess.  Note that GST was levied for a nine-month period during the year 2017-18, starting July 2017.

Sources:  Receipts Budget, Union Budget 2019-20; Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance; PRS.

While the provisional figures show a considerable decrease in receipts (Rs 1,56,782 crore) as compared to the revised estimates, fiscal deficit has not shown a comparable increase.  Fiscal deficit is estimated to be Rs 10,969 crore higher than the revised estimates as per the provisional accounts.

On the expenditure side, the total expenditure as per the provisional figures show a decrease of Rs 1,45,813 crore as compared to the revised estimates.  Certain Ministries and expenditure items have seen a decrease in expenditure as compared to the revised estimates made by the government.  As per the provisional accounts, the expenditure of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution are Rs 22,133 crore and Rs 70,712 crore lower than the revised estimates, respectively.  The decrease in the Ministries’ expenditure as a percentage of the revised estimates are 29% and 39%, respectively.  The food subsidy according to CGA was Rs 1,01,904 crore, which was Rs 69,394 crore lower than the revised estimates for the year 2018-19 given in the budget documents.

 

[1] Accounts of the Union Government of India (Provisional/Unaudited) for the Financial Year 2018-19, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, May 31, 2019.

[2] Fiscal Developments, Economic Survey 2018-19, https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/economicsurvey/doc/vol2chapter/echap02_vol2.pdf.

[3] Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance, March 2018-19, http://www.cga.nic.in/MonthlyReport/Published/3/2018-2019.aspx.

Explainer: The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019

Explainer:  The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019

The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019 was passed by Parliament today.  It replaces an Ordinance that was promulgated in February 2019.  The Bill brings about two major changes in reservation of teaching posts in central educational institutions.  Firstly, it establishes that for the purpose of reservation, a university/college would be considered as one single unit. This means that posts of the same level across all departments (such as assistant professor) in a university would be grouped together when calculating the total number of reserved seats.  Secondly, it extends reservations beyond Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), to include socially and educationally backward classes (OBC) and economically weaker sections (EWS). 

In this post, we look at how the Bill will impact the reservation of teaching posts in central educational institutions.  

How has teachers’ reservation been implemented in the past?

In 2006, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued guidelines for teacher reservations in central educational institutions.[1]  These guidelines required central educational institutions to consider a university as one unit for the purpose of reservation.  It stated that reservations would be calculated using a roster system specified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension.[2]

However, the UGC Guidelines (2006) were challenged in the Allahabad High Court in 2017.  The question before the Court was whether a university should be taken as a unit when applying the roster.[3] The Court found that individual departments should be taken as a unit for the purpose of reservation, instead of universities.  It held that taking a university as a unit could result in some departments having only reserved candidates and others having only unreserved candidates.  Following the judgment, departments were treated as a single unit for reservation at central educational institutions.

In March 2019, the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Ordinance, 2019 was promulgated, and passed as a Bill in July 2019.  The Bill overturns the Allahabad High Court judgment and reverts to the system where a university is regarded as one unit for the purpose of reservation. 

Over the years, there has been deliberation on whether the university or department should be taken as a unit for reservation of teaching posts.  This has to do with the manner in which the roster system [4]specified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension is applied in both situations.

What was the roster system specified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension?

The roster system calculates reservation based on cadre strength.  A cadre includes all posts available to be filled within a unit, i.e. either department or university.  For instance, all associate professor positions within a university or within a department would be considered a cadre.

At present, the roster system is applied in two ways, i.e., the 13-point system or the 200-point system. For initial recruitment in both systems, all posts in a cadre are numbered and allocated.  This means that in a cadre with 18 posts, each post will be assigned a number from 1 to 18 and allocated to a particular category, i.e., either SC, ST, OBC, EWS or unreserved.  Therefore, hiring of teachers for all posts takes place on the basis of this list.

However, there are two fundamental differences between the 200 point and 13 point systems.

  1. Cadre size: The 13-point system is applied to cadres with two to 13 posts, and the 200-point roster is applied to cadres with 14 or more posts.
  2. Filling of vacancies: In the 200-point system, once a post is designated as a reserved seat for a specific category (for example, ST), all future vacancies of that post must be filled by a candidate of that category. However, in the 13-point system vacancies are filled in a rotational manner.

When a university is taken as the unit for reservation, the 200-point system is used, as there tend to be more than 13 posts in a university.  However, when a department is taken as a unit, the 13-point system or the 200-point system may be used, depending on the size of the department.

How are the number of reserved seats calculated in the roster system?

For both the systems, the number of seats reserved for SC, ST, OBC, and EWS is determined by multiplying the cadre strength with the percentage of reservation prescribed by the Constitution.  The percentage of reserved seats for each category is as follows:  (i) 7.5% for ST, (ii) 15% for SC, (iii) 27% for OBC, and (iv) 10% for EWS.

If the number of posts needed to be filled is 200, and the percentage of reservation for ST is 7.5%, we would use the following formula to calculate the number of reserved posts for that class:

Number of posts needed to be filled x percentage of reservation/100

= 200 x 7.5/100

= 15

Thus, the number of seats reserved for ST in a cadre with the strength of 200 posts is 15.  Using the same formula, the number of seats reserved for SC is 30, OBC is 54, and EWS is 20.

How are these reserved seats distributed across posts?

To determine the position of each reserved seat in the roster systems, 100 is divided by the percentage of the reservation for each category.  For instance, the OBC quota is 27%.  Therefore, 100/27 = 3.7, that is, approximately every 4th post in the cadre list.   Likewise, SC is approximately every 7th post, ST is approximately every 14th post, and EWS will be approximately every 10th post.

What is the difference in the application of the roster between the department and university systems?

To demonstrate the difference between the department and university systems, a hypothetical example of a university with 200 posts for associate professors, and nine departments with varying number of posts is provided below.

When the university is taken as a unit

If the university is taken as the unit for reservation, then the total number of posts for the reserved categories would be 119 (i.e., 30 for SC, 15 for ST, 54 for OBC, and 20 for EWS), whereas the number of unreserved (UR) seats would be 81.  This is mentioned in Table 1.  The method of calculation of these numbers is based on the roster system prescribed by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension.

Table 1:  No. of posts reserved when university is taken as a unit

Type of Post

No. of Reserved Seats

SC

30

ST

15

OBC

54

EWS

20

UR

81

Total

200

When departments are taken as separate units

If different departments of a university are taken as separate units for reservation, then the total number of posts for the reserved categories would be 101 (i.e., 25 for SC, 9 for ST, 49 for OBC, and 18 for EWS), whereas the number of unreserved (UR) seats would be 99.  This is mentioned in Table 2.  The method of calculation of these numbers is based on the roster system prescribed by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension.

Table 2:  No. of posts reserved when department is taken as the unit

Department

No.

of posts

UR

SC

ST

OBC

EWS

A

5

4

0

0

1

0

B

13

8

1

0

3

1

C

20

9

3

1

5

2

D

2

2

0

0

0

0

E

50

22

7

3

13

5

F

10

6

1

0

2

1

G

25

13

3

1

6

2

H

25

13

3

1

6

2

I

50

22

7

3

13

5

Total

200

99

25

9

49

18

Note:  Number of posts in each department are hypothetical

As can be seen in the above example, if departments are taken as separate units, there is a decrease in the number of reserved posts.  The number of reserved posts decreased by five for SC, six for ST, five for OBC, and two for EWS.  This example is corroborated by the special leave petition filed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the Supreme Court against the 2017 order of Allahabad High Court. It demonstrates that the number of reserved seats in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) decreased when departments were taken as separate units.  The number of reserved posts decreased by 170 for SC, 114 for ST, and 90 for OBC.[5] EWS was not included in the reservation system when the BHU numbers were calculated. 

Thus, the trade off between the two systems is as follows. On the one hand, when the university is taken as a unit there is a possibility that some departments would only have reserved candidates and others would have only unreserved candidates. However, when a department is taken as a unit, there is a decrease in the total number of reserved posts within the university.

 

[1] Circular No. F. 1-5/2006(SCT), University Grants Commission, 2006.

[2] O.M. No. 36012/2/96-Esst. (Res), ‘Reservation Roster- Post based- Implementation of the Supreme Court Judgement in the case of R.K. Sabharwal Vs. State of Punjab, Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension, July 1997, http://documents.doptcirculars.nic.in/D2/D02adm/36012_2_96_Estt(Res).pdf.

[3] Vivekanand Tiwari v. Union of India, Writ petition no.  43260, Allahabad High Court, April 2017.

[4] O.M. No.36039/1/2019-Estt (Res), ‘Reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs) in direct recruitment in civil posts and services in the Government of India’, Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pension, https://dopt.gov.in/sites/default/files/ewsf28fT.PDF.

[5] Special Leave Petition filed in Supreme Court by Ministry of Human Resource Development, January 2019, as reported in Indian Express, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/simply-put-the-unit-in-teachers-quota-5554261/.

First session of 17th Lok Sabha: What to expect

The results of General Election 2019 were declared last week concluding the process for electing the 17th Lok Sabha.  Immediately after the results, the previous Lok Sabha was dissolved.  The next couple of days will witness several key events such as swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha.  In the first session, the newly elected MPs will take their oaths, the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha will be elected, and the President will address a joint sitting of Parliament.   In this blog, we explain the process and significance of the events that will follow in the days to come.

Key Events in the First Session of the 17th Lok Sabha

The Bharatiya Janta Party has emerged as the single largest party and the leader of the party will be sworn-in as the Prime Minister.  As per Article 75(1) of the Constitution, the other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.  The 91st Amendment to the Constitution limits the total size of the Council of Ministers to 15% of the total strength of the House (i.e., 81 Ministers).  As per media reports, swearing-in of the Council of Ministers is scheduled for May 30, 2019.

How is the schedule for first session decided?

The 17th Lok Sabha will commence its first session in the first week of June.  The exact date of commencement of the first session and the schedule of key events in the session, including the date of President’s address, is decided by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.  This Committee will be set up after the swearing in of the Council of Ministers.  The previous Lok Sabha had commenced on June 4, 2014 and its first session had six sitting days (June 4, 2014 to June 11, 2014). 

Who presides over the first session?

Every proceeding of the House is presided by a Speaker.  The Office of the Speaker becomes vacant immediately before the first meeting of a new Lok Sabha.  Therefore, a temporary speaker, known as the pro-tem Speaker, is chosen from among the newly elected MPs.  The pro-tem Speaker administers oath/affirmation to the newly elected members, and also presides over the sitting in which the new Speaker is elected.  The office of the pro-tem Speaker ceases to exist when the new Speaker is elected.  

How is the pro-tem speaker chosen?

Once the new government is elected, a list containing the names of the senior-most members of the House is prepared.  The seniority is decided by total tenure as a member of either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.  The Prime Minister then identifies a Member from the list who acts as the Speaker pro-tem.  Three other members are also identified before whom other members may take oath/affirmation.

How is the new Speaker chosen?

Any member may give notice of a motion that another Member be chosen as the Speaker of the House.  The motions are then moved and voted upon.  After the results are announced, the Speaker-elect is felicitated by leaders of all political parties, including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.  From then, the new Speaker takes over the proceedings of the House.

An understanding of the Constitution, the Rules of Procedure, and conventions of Parliament is considered a major asset for the Speaker.  While this might indicate that a Speaker be one of the senior-most members of the House, this has not always been the norm.  There have been occasions in the past where the Speaker of the House was a first-time MP.  For instance, Mr. K.S. Hegde, the Speaker of the sixth Lok Sabha and Mr. Bal Ram Jakhar, the Speaker of the seventh Lok Sabha were both first time MPs

What is the role of the Speaker in the House?

The Speaker is central to the functioning of the legislature.  The proceedings of the House are guided by the Rules of Procedure and the final authority for the interpretation and implementation of these rules rests with the Speaker.  The Speaker is responsible for regulating the discussion in the House and maintaining order in the House.  For instance, it is the Speaker’s discretion on whether to allow a member to raise a matter of public importance in the House.  The Speaker can suspend a sitting member for obstructing the business of the House, or adjourn the House in case of major disorder.

The Speaker is also the chair of the Business Advisory Committee, which is responsible for deciding the business of the House and allocating time for the same.  The Speaker also chairs the General Purposes Committee and the Rules Committee of the Lok Sabha and appoints the chairpersons of other committees amongst the members.  In the past, Speakers have also been instrumental in strengthening the Committee system.  Mr. Shivraj Patil, the Speaker of the 10th Lok Sabha, played a key role in the initiation of 17 Departmental Standing Committees, therefore strengthening Parliament’s control over the functioning of different ministries of the government.

Since the Speaker represents the entire House, the office of the Speaker is vested with impartiality and independence.  The Constitution and the Rules of Procedure have prescribed guidelines for the Speaker’s office to ensure such impartiality and independence.  Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy, the Speaker of the fourth Lok Sabha, formally resigned from his political party as he was of the opinion that the Speaker belongs to the whole House and should therefore remain impartial.  As per Article 100 of the Constitution, the Speaker does not exercise vote on any matter being voted upon, in the first instance.  However, in case there’s a tie during the voting, the Speaker exercises her vote. 

What does the President’s Address entail?

The election of the Speaker is followed by the President’s Address.  Article 87 of the Constitution requires the President to address both Houses at the beginning of the first session after each general election.  The President also addresses both the Houses at the beginning of the first session of each year.  The President’s address highlights the initiatives of the government from the previous year, and mentions the policy priorities for the upcoming year.  After the address, the ruling party moves a Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in both Houses of Parliament.  In the Motion of Thanks, MPs may move amendments to the motion, which are then put to vote. 

The President of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind will address Parliament in this first session of the 17th Lok Sabha.  During the 16th Lok Sabha, the first President’s address was held on June 9, 2014 and the last time he addressed Parliament was on January 31, 2019 (highlights of this address can be read here).

 

Sources: The Constitution of India; Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha; Handbook on the Working of Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; The website of Parliament of India, Lok Sabha; The website of Office of the Speaker, Lok Sabha.

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