Paper: General Studies 2
Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Why in the news?
A jawan from the CISF has been served a notice as a D or ‘Doubtful voter. This tag has relegated the jawan to the additional list of people excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam.
What is a D-Voter?
D voter, sometimes also referred to as Dubious voter or Doubtful voter is a category of voters in Assam who are disenfranchised by the government on the account of their alleged lack of proper citizenship credentials. The D voters are determined by special tribunals under the Foreigners Act, and the person declared as D voter is not given the elector’s photo identity card.
What is the National Register of Citizens?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the list of Indian citizens of Assam. It was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951. For a person’s name to be included in the updated NRC list of 2018, he/ she will have to furnish:
- Existence of name in the legacy data: The legacy data is the collective list of the NRC data of 1951 and the electoral rolls up to midnight of 24 March 1971.
- Proving linkage with the person whose name appears in the legacy data.
Leader of Opposition
Paper: General Studies 2
Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges
Why in the news?
Delhi High Court refused to entertain a plea seeking directions to the Lok Sabha Speaker to appoint a Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the House.
Since, no party has 10% of the seats no LoP has been appointed till date in the 17th Lok Sabha.
Who is the Leader of Opposition?
- “Leader of the Opposition”, in relation to either House of Parliament, means that member of the Council of States or the House of the People, as the case may be, who is, for the time being, the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman of the Council of States or the Speaker of the House of the People, as the case may be.
- It has been accorded statutory status in 1977
- GV Mavalankar, the First Lok Sabha speaker said that main opposition party’s strength must equal the quorum in the House. Since quorum=10% of total membership Therefore, LoP must be from party with minimum 10% seats. This rule is incorporated in Direction 121(1) in Parliament (facilities) act 1998.
- Appointment of a LoP is essential as the LoP sits on selection committees for CVC, CIC, NHRC and Lokpal
- He/She helps direct debate and consolidate opposition and criticism of the Government.
National Repository of Photographs
Paper: General Studies 2
Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications,
Why in the news?
The Central Government is considering a proposal to:
- create a repository of photographs of criminals in the country
- track missing children and unidentified dead bodies through facial recognition.
The repository shall act as a foundation for a national level searchable platform of facial images and the data needs to be protected against following threats – unauthorised access to database or application, accidental modifications or deletions, confidentiality, integrity and availability breaches of data during data transport and physical storage, encryption/decryption engine.
Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Paper: General Studies 2
Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Why in the news?
Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was cleared by the Rajya Sabha through a voice vote on Monday.
What are the major provisions of the Bill?
- Official Verification of Aadhaar number holder: Under the Aadhaar Act, an individual’s identity may be verified by Aadhaar ‘authentication’. Authentication involves submitting the Aadhaar number, and their biometric or demographic information to the Central Identities Data Repository for verification. The Billadditionally allows ‘offline verification’ of an individual’s identity, without authentication, through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) by regulations.
- During offline verification, the agency must (i) obtain the consent of the individual, (ii) inform them of alternatives to sharing information, and (iii) not collect, use or store Aadhaar number or biometric information.
- Voluntary use: The Act provides for the use of Aadhaar number as proof of identity of a person, subject to authentication. The Bill replaces this provision to state that an individual may voluntarily use his Aadhaar number to establish his identity, by authentication or offline verification. The Bill states that authentication of an individual’s identity via Aadhaar, for the provision of any service, may be made mandatory only by a law of Parliament.
- The Bill amends the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 to state that persons with a license to maintain a telegraph, banking companies and financial institutions may verify the identity of their clients by: (i) authentication or offline verification of Aadhaar, (ii) passport, or (iii) any other documents notified by the central government. The client has the choice to use either mode to verify his identity and no person shall be denied any service for not having an Aadhaar number.
- Entities using Aadhaar: Under the Act, usage of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual, by the State or a body corporate under any law, is permitted. The Bill removes this provision. An entity may be allowed to perform authentication through Aadhaar, if the UIDAI is satisfied that it is: (i) compliant with certain standards of privacy and security, or (ii) permitted by law, or (iii) seeking authentication for a purpose specified by the central government in the interest of the State.
- Aadhaar number of children: The Bill specifies that at the time of enrolling a child to obtain an Aadhaar number, the enrolling agency shall seek the consent of his parent or guardian. The agency must inform the parent or guardian of the manner in which the information will be used, the recipients with whom it will be shared, and of their right to access the information. After attaining eighteen years of age, the child may apply for cancellation of his Aadhaar.
- Disclosure of information in certain cases: Under the Act, restrictions on security and confidentiality of Aadhaar related information do not apply in case the disclosure is pursuant to an order of a District Court (or above). The Bill amends this to allow such disclosure only for orders by High Courts (or above). Further, under the Act, an officer not below the rank of a Joint Secretary may issue directions for disclosing information in the interest of national security. The Bill amends this to allow such disclosure on directions of officers not below the rank of a Secretary.
- UIDAI Fund: Under the Act, all fees and revenue collected by the UIDAI will be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India. The Bill removes this provision, and creates the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund. All fees, grants, and charges received by the UIDAI shall be credited to this fund. The fund shall be used for expenses of the UIDAI, including salaries and allowances of its employees.
- Complaints: Under the Act, courts can take cognizance of an offence only if the UIDAI registers a complaint. The Billamends this to allow the individual to register complaints in certain cases, including impersonation or disclosure of their identity.
- The Bill defines the Aadhaar ecosystem to include enrolling agencies, requesting agencies, and offline verification-seeking entities. It allows the UIDAI to issue directions to them, if necessary, for the discharge of its functions under the Act.
- Penalties: Under the Bill, the UIDAI may initiate a complaint against an entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem for failure to (i) comply with the Act or the UIDAI’s directions, and (ii) furnish information required by the UIDAI. Adjudicating Officers appointed by the UIDAI shall decide such matters, and may impose penalties up to one crore rupees on such entities. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal shall be the appellate authority against decisions of the Adjudicating Officer.
UN Report on Human Rights in Kashmir
Paper: General Studies 2
Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.
Why in the news?
A new report, published on Monday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, describes how tensions over Kashmir – which rose sharply after a deadly suicide bombing in February targeting Indian security forces in Pulwama — continue to have a severe impact on the human rights of civilians, including the right to life.
What are the major findings of the report?
- According to data gathered by local civil society, the report says, “around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over a decade. Last year also registered the highest number of conflict-related casualties since 2008 with 586 people killed, including 267 members of armed groups and 159 security forces personnel.”
- The report notes that the Union Ministry for Home Affairs has published lower casualty figures, citing 37 civilians, 238 terrorists and 86 security forces personnel killed in the 11 months up to 2 December 2018.
- Of the 160 civilian deaths reported by local organizations, 71 were allegedly killed by Indian security forces, 43 by alleged members of armed groups or by unidentified gunmen, and 29 were reportedly killed due to shelling and firing by Pakistani troops in areas along the Line of Control. According to the Government of Pakistan, a further 35 civilians were killed and 135 injured on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control due to shelling and firing by Indian forces during 2018.
- Two armed groups have been accused of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Kashmir, and armed groups were reportedly responsible for attacks on people affiliated or associated with political organizations in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killing of at least six political party workers and a separatist leader. In the lead up to local elections scheduled for October 2018, armed groups threatened people participating in the elections and warned of “dire consequences” if those running for election did not immediately withdraw their nominations.
- The report notes that in Kashmir, accountability for violations committed by members of the Indian security forces remains virtually non-existent.
- Arbitrary detention and so-called “cordon and search operations” leading to a range of human rights violations, continue to be deeply problematic, as do the special legal regimes applying to Indian-Adminstered Kashmir.
- “The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) remains a key obstacle to accountability,” the report says. “Section 7 of the AFSPA prohibits the prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Government of India grants a prior permission or ‘sanction’ to prosecute. In nearly three decades that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government. The Indian Army has also been resisting efforts to release details of trials conducted by military courts where soldiers were initially found guilty but later acquitted and released by a higher military tribunal.”
- In addition, the report notes, “no security forces personnel accused of torture or other forms of degrading and inhuman treatment have been prosecuted in a civilian court since these allegations started emerging in the early 1990s.”
- And despite international concerns at the alarming numbers of deaths and life-altering injuries caused by the security forces’ regular use of shotguns as a means of crowd control – even though they are not deployed elsewhere in India – they continue to be employed, leading to further deaths and serious injuries.
- The report describes how, among various other incidents, a 19-month-old girl was hit by metal shotgun pellets in her right eye on 25 November 2018. According to information from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where most people injured by shotgun pellets are treated, “a total of 1,253 people have been blinded by the metal pellets used by security forces from mid-2016 to end of 2018.”
- The report also examines human rights violations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. While different in nature to the violations taking place on the other side of the Line of Control, people living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, as well as in Gilgit-Baltistan are also deprived of a number of fundamental human rights, particularly in relation to freedoms of expression and opinion, peaceful assembly and association. The report notes no steps have been taken to resolve the main issues, including a number of highly problematic legal restrictions, outlined in the previous UN Human Rights Office report.v
- “Anti-terrorism laws continue to be misused to target political opposition as well as civil society activists,” the report says, adding thatnationalist and pro-independence political parties “claim that they regularly face threats, intimidation and even arrests for their political activities from local authorities or intelligence agencies.” Threats are also often “directed at their family members, including children.”
- Citing specific cases, the report also notes how journalists in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir “continue to face threats and harassment in the course of carrying out their professional duties.”
- The report also says the UN Human Rights Office has received “credible information of enforced disappearances of people from Pakistan-Administered Kashmir including those who were held in secret detention and those whose fate and whereabouts continue to remain unknown.”
- “In almost all cases,” it adds, “victim groups allege that Pakistani intelligence agencies were responsible for the disappearances. There are fears that people subjected to enforced disappearances from Pakistan-Administered Kashmir may have been detained in military-run internment centres in Pakistan.”
- The report also notes that four major armed groups believed to be currently operating in Kashmir – Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harakat Ul-Mujahidin – are believed to be based on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control.
- The report stresses that “neither the Government of India nor of Pakistan have taken clear steps to address and implement the recommendations” made in the UN Human Rights Office’s previous report, published in June 2018. It therefore restates those recommendations along with additional ones. It also calls on the 47-Member-State UN Human Rights Council to “consider… the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigations into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.”
What is India’s concern regarding the report?
- India has expressed concern that the update had extended legitimacy to cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan referring to terrorist groups as ‘armed groups’ among others.
- India has also said that it reflected a prejudiced mindset which chose to ignore the comprehensive socio-economic development efforts undertaken by the government in the face of terrorist challenges.
- Operation Milap by the Delhi Police is an initiative under which children are rescued. Under this project, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the Delhi Police develops information, rescues the trafficked or kidnapped persons and arrests the kidnappers.
- Utkarsh 2022 is a three year road map of the RBI to improve regulation and supervision of the banking system.
- Four indigenous Indian movies – Dibi Durga (West Bengal), Niyamgiri-the Mountain of Law (Odisha), Shot Awake (Nagaland) and Strength in Diversity (Nagaland) are showing at the International Indigenous Film Festival of Kuching, Malaysia