28TH NOVEMBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1.One Nation One Election

News: Prime Minister once again raised the pitch for “One Nation, One Election” and a single voter list for all to prevent the impact of the model code of conduct on development works due to frequent elections.

Elections in India

  • Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately — that is whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
  • This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha. The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronize with one another.
  • For instance, Rajasthan faced elections in late 2018, whereas Tamil Nadu will go to elections only in 2021.

One Nation, One Election:

  • The idea is about structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner so thatelections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies are synchronised together so that the election to both can be held within a given span of time.

Origin of the concept:

  • Simultaneous elections are not new to India. They were the norm until 1967. But following dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in 1968 and 1969 and that of the Lok Sabha in December 1970, elections to State Assemblies and Parliament have been held separately.
  • The idea of reverting to simultaneous polls was mooted in the annual report of the Election Commission in 1983. The Law Commission’s Report also referred to it in 1999. After PM floated the idea once again in 2016, the NITI Aayog prepared a working paper on the subject in January 2017.

Advantages:

  • Help keep a check on the poll expenses,party expenses, etc. and also save public money. Reduce the burden on administrative setup and security forces.
  • Ensure timely implementationof the government policies and also ensure that the administrative machinery is engaged in developmental activities rather than electioneering.
  • Solve the problem of governanceon the part of the politicians who are ruling. It is generally seen that for short term political gains from a particular assembly election, ruling politicians avoid taking a harsh long term decision which can ultimately help the country in the long run.
  • Provide more time to all the stakeholderse. political parties,Election Commission of India (ECI), paramilitary forces, civilians for the preparation of elections once in five years.

Challenges:

  • Massive expenditure.
  • Policy paralysis that results from the imposition of the Model Code of Conductduring election time.
  • Impact on delivery of essential services.
  • Burden on crucial manpowerthat is deployed during election time.
  • Puts pressure on political parties,especially smaller ones, as elections are becoming increasingly expensive.

Impact on Regional parties:

  • There is always a tendency for voters to vote the same party in power in the state and at the Centre in case the Lok Sabha polls and the state elections are held together.

What changes are required?

  • Article 83 which deals with the duration of Houses of Parliament need an amendment.
  • Article 85 (on dissolution of Lok Sabha by the president).
  • Article 172 (relating to the duration of state legislatures).
  • The Representation of People Act, 1951 Actwould have to be amended to build in provisions for stability of tenure for both parliament and assemblies. This should include the following crucial elements:
  • Restructuring the powers and functions of the ECI to facilitate procedures required for simultaneous elections A definition of simultaneous election can be added to section 2 of the 1951 act.

2.Pardoning powers of President

News: Recently, the President of the United States of America (USA) has exercised his powers under the constitution to pardon his former National Security Advisor. Unlike the USA President, whose powers to grant pardons are almost unrestrained, the President of India has to act on the advice of the Cabinet.

Pardoning Power of the President in the USA:

  • The Presidentof the USA has the constitutional right to pardon or commute sentences related to federal crimes. Clemency is a broad executive power, and is discretionary which means the President is not answerable for his pardons, and does not have to provide a reason for issuing one. But there are few limitations.
  • The USA has a Presidential system. The USA Supreme Courthas held that this power is granted without limit and cannot be restricted by Congress (legislature).

Limitations:

  • All Presidents shall have power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. Further, the power only applies to federal crimes and not state crimes. Those pardoned by the President canstill be tried under the laws of individual states.

Pardoning Power of the President in India:

  • It says that the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.

The President can exercise these powers:

  • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court martial;
  • In all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
  • In all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.
  • This power of pardon shall be exercised by the President on the advice of Council of Ministers.
  • The constitution does not provide for any mechanism to question the legality of decisions of President or governors exercising mercy jurisdiction.
  • But the SC in Epuru Sudhakar case has given a small window for judicial review of the pardon powers of President and governors for the purpose of ruling out any arbitrariness.

Terms

  • Pardon:It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments and disqualifications.
  • Commutation:It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment for a lighter form. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment, which in turn may be commuted to a simple imprisonment.
  • Remission:It implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character. For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for two years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
  • Respite:It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
  • Reprieve:It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.

3.Forceful Inter-faith conversions for marriage

News: The UP Cabinet has cleared a draft ordinance against forceful inter-faith conversions for marriage, amid similar steps by other states.

Background:

  • The state of UP is witnessing rising incidents of forced religious conversions or conversions through fraudulent ways. The extreme right wing politicians in the state were quiet vocal against alleged religious conversions. There are cases of being allegedly lured and honey-trapped by men and those girls now seeking their help to free themselves.

Details:

  • The proposed law defines punishment and fine for three different cases.
  • Conversion done though “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” would face jail term of one to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000.
  • Conversion of a minor, a woman from the SC or ST would have to face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000. If such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
  • It proposes among other things that a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” of the same is to “change a girl’s religion”.

Who can convert and how can they do it under the proposed law?

  • Under the new proposed law, anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance.
  • The government is supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format.
  • However, under the new law, it would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means. In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and fine of minimum Rs 10,000.

Constitutional provisions:

  • The right to marry a person of one’s choice is a guarantee under Article 21. At the same time, freedom of conscience, the practice and propagation of a religion of one’s choice, including not following any religion, are guaranteed under Article 25. One set of rights cannot invalidate the other.

Criticism:

  • Such law to regulate matrimonial relationships between two consenting adults is simply against the constitutional guarantees. The right to marry a person of one’s choice flows from the freedom of individuality, naturally available to any individual. Hence, interfaith marriages and religious conversions should not be the matter of concern for social watchdogs. Hence, the mere statement of two consenting adults about the existence of their matrimonial relation is sufficient.

4.Trends of Air Pollution

News: According to a recent study commissioned by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the rate of increase in pollution levels in southern and eastern India is far greater than the Indo-Gangetic plain (IGP). It has also found that air pollution in rural areas has increased at par with urban India.

About the Study:

  • It was jointly carried out by IIT-Delhi and CPCBand analysed data from 2000 to 2019. Currently, the process of collating and analysing the 2020 data is going on as well and a decrease in pollution levels is expected in the coming years.
  • The study, conducted on the basis of satellite data,is the first of its kind to look at air pollution spatially. Spatial mapping of pollution will be vital for the government to form its future policies under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Details:

  • The rate of increase of PM2.5over eastern and southern India is more than 1.6% per year during this period, and less than 1.2% annually in the IGP. PM2.5 are fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. It is a major pollutant affecting the environment, human health and the climate.
  • 436 cities/towns with a population of more than 1 lakh in 2019exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 40 micrograms per metric cube (μg/m3).
  • Population-weighted 20-year averaged PM2.5 over India is 57.3 μg/m3, with alarger increase observed between 2010 and 2019 than in the 2000-09 period.
  • As of 2019, 5% of districtsin India did not meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guideline of 10 μg/m3.

Statewise Data:

  • Ambient PM2.5 exceeds the annual NAAQSof 40 μg/m3 in every state except for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • The 5 level in the IGP,which has a population of more than 70 crore, and the western arid region is more than double the annual NAAQS.
  • In Odisha and Chhattisgarh, which have reported among the highest increase in air pollution in eastern India,this is due to mining activities and thermal coal power plants.
  • In southernIndia, high urbanisation in and around cities such as Bengaluru or Hyderabad has led to increased emissions. Unfavourable meteorological conditions in eastern and peninsular India, along with increase in emissions, has led to an overall increase in PM 2.5.

Analysis:

  • While in absolute terms the level of air pollution continues to be the highest in the IGP,the rate of increase in air pollution is much higher in southern India and certain areas of eastern India.
  • If the focus continues to be on IGP and the increasing pollution (levels) in southern and eastern India is not addressed now, in another 10 years these regions will also have the same problem as northern India does.

Urban-rural Divide:

  • On PM2.5 levels cutting across the urban-rural divide, the study cites the example of Delhi,where it increased by 10.9% between 2001 to 2015. During the same period, PM2.5 exposure in rural India rose by 11.9%. A steady air pollution rise in rural India is due to high reliance on solid fuel for domestic use, which is the largest contributor to ambient PM2.5 in India.
  • This implies that poor air quality in India is not an urban-centric problem. Air pollution in rural areas is rarely discussedwith air pollution policies which continue to focus on urban centres.
  • Schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana(PMUY) are expected to decrease the pollution levels but it lacks a mechanism to track its progress.
  • Since the household sources contribute more than 50% to ambient PM2.5 in rural areas, successful implementation of PMUY with sustained usage should arrest or even reverse the increasing trend in rural PM2.5.