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ECI Condoles Passing Away of Former CEC Shri T.N. Seshan

 

  • Article 324(2)of Constitution states that the President shall, with aid and advice of Council of Ministers, appoint CEC and ECs, till Parliament enacts a law fixing the criteria for selection, conditions of service and tenure.
  • But a law has not been enacted for the purpose so far.
  • Hence a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a fair and transparent procedure for appointment of CEC and ECs.
  • It has pointed out that the process for appointment of the CEC and ECs was different from those for other top constitutional positions.
  • The Supreme Court, earlier, acknowledged that till now good persons have been appointed in the poll panel.
  • Yet, it has questioned the mandate of the parliament to frame a law for this purpose and has recently referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.

How does the electoral system evolve in India?

 

  • Electoral democracy in India owes a great deal to the foresight of the Constituent Assembly.
  • When the Constituent Assembly debated how free and fair elections should be ensured, three important questions arose.
  1. Whether free and fair elections should be made a part of fundamental rights or an independent institution, outside the executive, should be established to conduct the elections?
  • The Assembly opted for the latter and created the Election Commission of India.
  1. Whether to have a single, centralised body for elections to the Lok Sabha and State legislatures or not?
  • One proposal was that the ECI be confined to federal elections, and separate institutions be set up to conduct elections to State legislatures.
  • However, with increasing tension among communities, the Assembly feared partisan action in the States and opted for a single national institution, the ECI.
  • Originally, the Constitution had provided for tribunals set up by the ECI to hear election petitions.
  • But aggrieved parties approached the courts, and the courts decided to hear election petitions.
  • Then the ECI itself recommended that election petitions be heard by the judiciary, and in 1966, the law was changed accordingly.
  1. How to ensure the independence of the ECI?
  • The Assembly provided simply for the CEC to be appointed by the President, leaving it to the legislature to enact a suitable law, which never happened.
  • Also on removal, though the CEC is provided with a security of tenure and could only be removed through impeachment, other EC’s can be removed on the recommendations of CEC.
  • Hence for the ECs, even the safeguard of removal was not provided, which is also a subject matter of the above-mentioned PIL.

What has this resulted in?

 

  • From 1967 to 1991, the one-party dominance in the national politics was getting faded, political competition intensified.
  • The political actors stepped up violence and electoral malpractices.
  • The ECI could not arrest this deterioration.
  • Several State governments made large-scale transfers on the eve of elections and posted pliable officials in key positions, who sometimes flouted the ECI’s orders.
  • However, during the 1996 general election, the ECI restored the credibility of the election process.
  • It publicly reprimanded politicians for violating the Model Code of Conduct, postponed/ cancelled elections if their credibility was compromised, intensified supervision of elections, and insisted on action against errant officials.
  • The ECI has since become an institution of some authority, but still controversies over appointments of ECs, allegations of partisanship, voter bribery and paid news prevail.

What should be done?

 

  • A selection committee for appointment (CEC and EC) should be made which could involve –
  1. The prime minister
  2. The leader of opposition
  3. The speaker (presiding officer of the Lok Sabha)
  • Thus, though there can be no perfect process, any process involving greater inclusion, representativeness and diversity would be superior to the government of the day making the selection.

 

Union Agriculture Minister attends the Eighth Session of Governing Body of Seed Treaty at FAO Headquarters in Rome

 

  • Shri Tomar, while informing the delegates about the uniqueness of Indian legislation “Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act” to protect Farmers’ Rights and breeder’s rights, said that in Indian legislation a farmer is entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 except brand name, and our legislation is fully compliant to article 9 of the Treaty. Under the provisions of this Act, 138 farmers/farming communities have been awarded with Plant Genome Saviour Awards. India has received about 16,620 applications for Plant Variety Protection out of which 10,920 (66%) have been received from farmers alone. Also, the PPV&FR Authority has registered about 3631 plant varieties out of which 1597 (44%) belong to the farmers.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act

 

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act (PPVFRA), which introduced intellectual property protection in Indian agriculture, faced its biggest test when PepsiCo India initiated legal proceedings against potato farmers of Gujarat for “illegally” growing its potato variety registered under the PPVFRA.

History of PPVFRA

 

  • The PPVFRA was enacted in 2001 after engaging debates were held in the country on how intellectual property rights should be introduced in Indian agriculture after the country joined the World Trade Organisation in 1995 and agreed to implement the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
  • The choice before India was to either enact a law that protected the interests of farming communities or to accept the framework of plant breeders’ rights given by the International Union for Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV Convention). The latter option was rejected primarily because the current version of UPOV, which was adopted in 1991, denies the farmers the freedom to reuse farm-saved seeds and to exchange them with their neighbours.
  • Therefore, in the PPVFRA, India introduced a chapter on Farmers’ Rights, which has three legs:
    • one, farmers are recognised as plant breeders and they can register their varieties;
    • two, farmers engaged in the conservation of genetic resources of landraces and wild relatives of economic plants and their improvement through selection and preservation are recognised and rewarded; and,
    • three, protecting the traditional practices of the farmers of saving seeds from one harvest and using the saved seeds either for sowing for their next harvest or sharing them with their farm neighbours.

 

 

Swachh – Nirmal Tat Abhiyaan”

 

  • To strive to make our beaches clean and create awareness amongst citizens about the importance of coastal ecosystems, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) are undertaking a mass cleanliness-cum-awareness drive in 50 identified beaches under the “Swachh – Nirmal Tat Abhiyaan”, from 11th-17thNovember, 2019. The identified beaches are in 10 coastal States/Union Territories (UTs) namely Gujarat, Daman & Diu, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha. The beaches have been identified after the consultation with the States/UTs.
  • The cleaning drives in all beaches are being undertaken, involving school/college students of Eco-clubs, district administration, institutions, volunteers, local communities and other stakeholders.  State Nodal Agencies for the Eco-clubs will be facilitating the week long intensive cleanliness drive in all 10 States/UTs. Nodal teachers from the Eco-clubs will be present at the sites during the entire cleanliness drive. MoEF&CC officials have also been deputed to monitor the implementation of the drive.