Every person who earns is required to furnish his return of income to the Income Tax Department, provided the earning is chargeable to tax. Return of income tax is then examined by the income tax department and consequently they specifies correction, if any. Such process in which the return is examined by the Income Tax Department is called “Assessment” . This Assessment includes re-assessment as well under section 147 in accordance with the section 2(8) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
In order to determine whether the income disclosed by the assessee and the tax payable on it is correct or not, the procedure adopted is known as “Assessment or “Re-assessment”. Significantly, sections 147 and 148 of Income Tax Act empowers the Income Tax Department to assess, re-assess or re-compute income, etc., when there is likelihood of escapement of the same.
Also, in certain cases there may not be escape of whole income from assessment, but of some, or income has been assessed at a low rate or excessive allowance or loss, for instance- depreciation, etc. have been allowed. In such cases, the Assessing Officer (A.O.) has been given the power to assess or reassess such income or re-compute the loss or allowance, as the case may be. The provisions regarding assessment or reassessment are dealt under sections 147 to 153. Provisions under these sections manifest that powers of the A.O. to re-initiate a completed assessment are not unlimited or luxuriant. The following is the order of procedure of Assessment/ Reassessment:
1. Examination of the information by the Assessing officer (A.O.)
2. Formation of Belief
3. Recording of Reasons
4. Issuance of Notice under section 148
5. Filing of Return
6. Obtaining copy of Reasons Recorded
7. Filing objections by Assessee & Disposal of Objections By A.O
8. Reassessment Proceedings
1. EXAMINATION OF THE INFORMATION BY THE ASSESSING OFFICER
Section 147 provides for the Income Escaping Assessment. It empowers the AO to assess or reassess any income escaping assessment, provided certain pre-requisites are met. The initial step in assessment or reassessment is the examination of the information by the A.O. There is general rule according to which an assessment can be opened only within 4 years from the end of relevant “Assessment Year”. Still, there are two exceptions to such rule, provided under provisos to section 147:
i. Proviso first – When income has escaped assessment by reason of failure on part of the assessee to disclose entirely and truly all material facts necessary for his assessment.
ii. Proviso second – When income in relation to any asset (including financial interest in any entity) located outside India, chargeable to tax, has escaped assessment for any assessment year, it is not necessarily to be a failure on the part of assessee.
In accordance with the explanation 3 to section 147, the A.O. has the power to assess or reassess on any issue, coming to his notice in the due course of the proceedings. He is obligated under this section to assess, reassess or re-compute the loss or the depreciation allowances or any other allowance, as the case may be, for the assessment year . In the matter of CIT v. Best Saw Mills, the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala , decided that in the process of income escaping assessment, if A.O comes to know that any other item of income also have escaped from original assessment, then he is bound to assess such item(s) of income during reassessment under section 147 as well.
2. FORMATION OF BELIEF (REASON TO BELIEVE)
After the examination of whether income or part of income has escaped the assessment or not, under section 147, the next thing to be considered is the existence of “reasons to believe”. Starting words of section 147: If the Assessing Officer has reason to believe that any income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment for any assessment year, he may, subject to the provisions of sections 148 to 153……, suggests that for the assessment process to start by A.O., there must be reason to believe that income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment. Here in this section, reason to believe is of utmost importance so that A.O. may act in an accountable manner. It ensures A.O may act on direct or circumstantial evidence but not on mere suspicion or rumor. In absence of adequate reasons the reassessment was set aside.
Additionally, time and again in various cases, it has been the subject of contention. The words “reason to believe” demands A.O. to act honestly and reasonably and upon reasonable grounds. For the purpose section 147, reason to believe is applicable in the following :
a) Evidence in possession of AO that the assessee has understated his income
b) Evidence in possession of AO that the assessee has claimed excessive loss/ deductions, allowances, reliefs.
The test for the determination for the initiation of reassessment proceedings is the prima facie existence of some material, which can aid the reopening of the case by the department. In the matter of CIT v. Indo Arab Air Services , the court held that mere information that huge cash deposits were made in the bank accounts could not give the A.O. prima facie belief that income has escaped assessment. The A.O. is required to form prima facie opinion(s) in relation to tangible material which provides the nexus or the link having reason to believe that income has escaped assessment. The A.O. is also supposed to examine whether the assessee has disclosed the cash deposits in the return of income so as to form an opinion that income has escaped assessment.
It is sufficient if there is presence of belief that income has escaped assessment/ reassessment, further the question whether reasons are sufficient or adequate, it is not upon the courts to decide. However, it is open to the assessee to indicate that A.O. acted in absence of any belief or that belief was malafide or that it was based on non-specific, immaterial, irrelevant and vague information. When the reason to believe recorded are immaterial and does not make relevant considerations and that Assessing Officer’s reason to believe lacks reasonableness, the reopening of the assessment would not be allowed.
Another requirement of the section 147 is that the belief must be of jurisdictional A.O. and not of any other A.O. or authority or department. Hence, the jurisdiction of A.O. to reopen an assessment under section 147 requires issuance of a valid notice and if the same is absent, the entire proceedings taken by the A.O. would become void for want of jurisdiction. In Swati Malove Divetia v. ITO reopening of assessment under section 147 merely on the issue of cash deposit at the time of demonetization period was set aside, since jurisdictional aspect was completely ignored by the A.O.
3. RECORDING OF REASONS
After the A.O. forms the opinion that due to excessive loss or depreciation allowance, the income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment, the A.O. is required to record the reasons and disclose by what process of reasoning, he formed such belief. Section 147 bars the A.O. from merely recording the reason of excessive loss or depreciation allowance or other deductions without disclosing the reasons of such beliefs.
In the present stage of recording reasons and next stage i.e. issuing notice under section 148, A.O. is only supposed to reach a prima facie conclusion that income had escaped assessment. It is not for A.O. to build a guaranteed or firm case against the assessee before the issuance of notice. The A.O. is not expected to produce a complete investigation prior to the issuing of notice as was decided in the matter of ITO Vs. Smt. Gurinder Kaur.
It has been cleared in various cases including in CIT v. Shiv Ratan Soni that recording of reasons before issuing notice is mandatory and upon contradictions in note sheet recording reasons, if reasons were not recorded before issuance of notice and instead were antedated, reassessment in pursuance of such notice was declared without jurisdiction
Similarly, an assessment cannot be reinitiated merely to evaluate the genuineness of the expenses. In the matter of Dhruv Parul bhai Patel v. ACIT, it was emphasized that a notice for reopening the assessment has to be sustained and supported only on the basis of reasons recorded by the AO and not with the help of irrelevant or extraneous ground, material or possible improvement.
4. ISSUANCE OF NOTICE UNDER SECTION 148
The mere requirement as discussed above, for initiating proceedings under section 148 is that there must be reasons to justify belief regarding the escapement and suppression of income, the same must be recorded before issuance of notice in accordance with section 148 and revelation of the reasons in the notice is not called for.
After the stage of recording of reasons is over, intimation to the assesses by A.O. is followed. Issuing of a notice under section 148 is very crucial and mandates A.O. to serve it properly to the assessee. It is well-settled that if notice is not properly served, the assessment as well as reopening would be illegal. For instance if notice under section 148 is sent on a wrong address and served on a person who is neither employee nor authorized agent of assessee, is not a valid exercise and therefore, the consequent assessment is bad in law. Upon the issuance of notice, the assesse is required to provide the following:
a) Income returns of assessee
b) The income returns of a person other than the assessee in question, who is supposed to be assessed as per the provisions of the Income Tax Act i.e. during the year before the assessment year of relevance.
In the matter of Chaya Sinha v. ACIT, ITA it was held by the court that a separate notice should be issued under section 148 if A.O. come to know that any other income chargeable to tax has also escaped the assessment for the particular assessment year, when the proceeding under section 147 is ongoing for the another assessment year. The separate process will include separate recording of reasons in accordance with section 148(2) and issuance of separate notice under section 148.
5. FILING OF RETURN
Subsequent to the serving of notice under section 148 by the A.O., the assessee is duty bound to file tax returns for the escaped income for the relevant assessment year. The assessee need to provide income returns either within a 30 day notice period; or within a duration that has been expressly mentioned in the notice served by the A.O. When the assesse is providing income returns of any other assessable person, then it will be required by the assessee to furnish the income returns in the form and manner, prescribed in the Act. It might be required that any other relevant particulars be furnished.
Section 148 requires the period in which return is to be filed must be included in the notice. Such return shall be treated as a return furnished under section 139 and for that reason A.O. will be needed to serve notice under section 143(2) within a period of 12 months from the end of the month in which return was furnished.
When the assessment is made in accordance with section 143(3), no action can be taken after the expiry of four years from the end of relevant Assessment Year. But, if any income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment due to the failure on the part of the assessee to file return under section 139 or in response to a notice under section 142(1) or section 148 or to reveal entirely and truly all material facts required for the assessment. Again, no action shall be taken after the expiry of 16 years where income in relation to any asset (including financial interest in any entity) located outside India, chargeable to tax, has escaped assessment for any assessment year.
6. OBTAINING COPY OF REASONS RECORDED
After filing return the assessee can ask for reasons recorded by the A.O. for the assessment. In CIT v. Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. , it was held that when the reassessment order is passed by the A.O. without providing reasons recorded, if asked by the assessee, is invalid. It is not sufficient if A.O. provides only gist of reasons, the same is not equivalent to the reasons that A.O. is supposed to record as per section 148(2). It will ultimately amount to failure on part of A.O. to furnish reasons to the assessee when requested and demanded repeatedly.
7. FILING OBJECTIONS BY ASSESSEE & DISPOSAL OF OBJECTIONS BY A.O.
Next step after obtaining of reasons recorded is the filing of objections by the assessee, if he chooses to and then the disposal of the same by the A.O. Assessee is entitled to submit the objections regarding the assessment or reassessment process. During this stage the assessee in order to prove that income in question had not escape the assessment, advance all the argument in one’s favour and provide all the essential details. Subsequently, A.O has to pass the speaking order on objection raised by assessee.
The A.O. is bound to dispose-off preliminary objections that assessee has raised against reasons recorded for reopening assessment by passing speaking order i.e. before proceeding with assessment starts was held in Banaskantha District Oilseeds Growers Co-op. Union Ltd. v. Asst. CIT. Likewise, one of the notable decision of the Supreme Court, on this topic, is GKN Driveshaft (India) Ltd. v. ITO. In the instant case it was decided that A.O. is under obligation to first dispose-off the objections raised by assessee and thereafter frame the reassessment order.
Later on, the same court in Home Finders Housing Ltd. Vs ITO held non-compliance of directions provided in GKN Driveshaft (India) Ltd v. ITO regarding the disposal of objections by passing a speaking order is a “procedural irregularity” which could be cured by remitting matter to authority.
In the matter of K. S. Suresh v. Dy. CIT the court decided that if assessee has objected to reasons for reopening assessment and A.O. passes order without considering assessee’s objection, the orders shall be quashed.
In the matter of Asian Paint Ltd. vs. Dy. CIT the Hon’ble Bombay High Court held that it is mandatory for the A.O to dispose-off the objects raised by assessee and accordingly pass the assessment order. Further, A.O. is not supposed to proceed with assessment for 4 weeks thereafter.
However, if the delay is on the part of the assessee in filing objections to the reasons and because of that A.O. is left with little time to dispose of the objections and pass the assessment hastily before it gets time barred, then decision of Asian Paints cannot be applied in such cases, which states that A.O. should not pass the assessment order for 4 weeks. For that a writ petition to challenge the reopening should not be entertained as well.
8. REASSESSMENT PROCEEDINGS
The A.O. is required to dispose-off the objection by specking order, but if the same is not done and assessment proceeding has been started by A.O., then the Assessee may file application under section 144A before the Additional or Joint Commissioner of Income Tax. Moreover, if this application is rejected by the said authority, assessee is entitled to file writ petition in the High Court.
Alternatively, if assessee wants, he can assist for assessment proceeding and provide all the documents required during the procedure of assessment. Afterwards, if the assessee is not satisfied with the order then he may go for appeal before the Commissioner of Income Tax (CIT) against the order of Assessment. Section 153 provides that an assessment or reassessment under section 147 must be completed within 9 months from the end of the financial year in which the notice in accordance with section 148 was served.
Since the object and purpose of the proceeding under section 147 are not for the benefit of assessee but for revenue, an assessee cannot be allowed to change the reassessment proceedings as his appeal or revision, in disguise, and access relief in respect of items which were earlier rejected or claim relief in respect of items not claimed in the prior assessment proceedings, except if they are not related to “escaped income”, and re-agitate the deduced matters.
Even in cases where the claims of the assessee during the course of reassessment proceedings related to the escaped assessment are accepted, still the allowance of such claims has to be obviated to the extent to which they reduce the income to that of earlier assessed. Basically, the income for purposes of reassessment cannot be reduced beyond the income assessed earlier. This was held in CIT Vs. Sun Engineering Works P. Ltd.
Similarly, no reassessment proceedings can be initiated so long as assessment proceedings pending on the basis of return already filed are not terminated held in H.E.H. The Nizam’s supplemental family Trust vs. CIT.
The Re-opening of assessment or reassessment is an indispensable procedure under Income Tax Act, 1961. Its scope and effect are wide enough to include assessing, reassessing or re-computing of income, turnover etc. The provisions regarding assessment or reassessment are dealt under sections 147 to 153. Section 147 empowers assessing officer with huge, but limited power of assessment against the assessee. Time and again Apex Court and various High Courts have laid down guidelines, to be followed during the different stages of procedure. In spite of expressed provisions and judicial pronouncements, varied kinds of issues crop up during reassessment proceedings. It is required that assessment is done scrupulously and finality should be given to it instead of leaving matters unresolved for the reassessment. It is pertinent to say that “assessment should be recognized as a matter of principle and re-opening as an exception”.
Time and again the Supreme Court and various High Courts have laid down guidelines, to be followed during the different stages of procedure. In spite of expressed provisions and judicial pronouncements, various kinds of issues crop up during reassessment proceedings. It is required that assessment is done scrupulously and finality should be given to it instead of leaving matters unresolved for the reassessment. It is pertinent to say that ‘assessment should be recognised as a matter of principle and reopening as an exception’.
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The rise of cybercrimes during Covid-19 lockdown
Thereis a dramatic rise in cybercrimes across the country, cyberattacks have soared 86% in the four weeks between March and April, said a recent Reuters report quoting Home Ministry officials and detailing fake offers from telecom and streaming services like Netflix Inc, offering discounted services in the lockdown.
The article gives an analytical information about rising cyberattacks and cybercrimes in India. there is data transferring or acquiring personal information of users by hacking, frauds or unknown internet viruses. During this catastrophic time, people are vulnerable to internet use, and resultantly became victims of cybercrimes. The article highlights the facts of the cybercrime in lockdown as well as legal aspects of such crimes. further, there are some suggestive defences for addressing the cybercrimes observed in foreign laws and some analytical observation of experts to reduce cybercrimes. In the end, it concludes on the importance of privacy as the fundamental right of the citizens of India and explains the need for such suggestive alternative laws in India to be recommended by government and administrative bodies.
During the pandemic period, as the world is suffering through a major health crisis, many other dark elements with atrociousness and treacherousness have raised since the lockdown has started. As people were in their respective homes and following the rules of the government, the medium to get used to this lifestyle was the internet browsing and social media surfing, which turns out to be very dangerous because of data transferring or acquiring personal information of anyone by hacking, frauds or unknown internet viruses. It has been discovered that such viruses or frauds are a medium to get access to personal information of the user.
In the catastrophic time of the pandemic, people are vulnerable to internet use, and therefore became victims of cybercrimes. Internet is also a necessary for many corporate and government office employees who are working from home in the lockdown. Cases of data breach through unsecured apps for official meetings in the lockdown is being a major concern, zoom app has been detected as a part of mediums to cybercrimes. It was observed that hackers were able to get access to the meeting IDs and the passwords during the online lectures or other official meetings, inappropriate content used to came across, and no such firewall and barrier can protect from hacking as it is seen that perpetrators are more advanced and more equipped than protectors, which leads to bring the justice for the online users as a Gordian knot.
The 21st century’s advancement in the science and data technology has been seen as a more of a sin in disguise. America after having world class internet technology for data protection cannot even anticipate the scandal like Cambridge Analytica can take place, the Cambridge Analytica scandal which shook the world for internet security and a big alert for social media security. India is not even close to the advancements of technology which America has, In India, internet security is not taken as seriously, which has resulted in the rise to cybercrimes during the pandemic. Looking to the history of cyber threat reports in India, In the cyber threat report of 2019, around 65% of firms face cyber attack in 2019, As per the cyber security reports of 2018 by CISCO, it was found that around 53% of the cyber attacks caused the financial loss of 3.5cr rupees.
As per the report by India Today it was found that Chennai has experienced major cyber attacks with a stat of around 48% in the 2019. It’s the wake-up call to have a major concern for strengthening internet technology, laws of internet technology and to have an extraordinary array of cyber security in the country.
The I.T capital of India, Hyderabad has reported 1,300 cases under information technology Act, 2019 in the year 2020, the city has 70% of increase in cybercrimes. Similarly, Bangalore and other I.T. hub of India has become the highest reported cybercrime city, over 10,555 cases in 2019 that has raised in the lockdown simultaneously, making Karnataka the highest number of cybercrimes. This raises question over how safe India on internet website and cyber space is, as the I.T hubs of the country are the most affected by cybercrimes. In Maharashtra there is 40% rise in cyber crimes compared to last year, crimes related to fraud payment and banking have increased in lockdown. Uttar Pradesh and Assam have comparatively lesser in number of cybercrimes than other states, this is probably because of less use of internet and low digitalization in the sates. In the year 2019, 4,4546 cases of cybercrimes were registered as compared to 28,248 in 2018 as per National Crime Record Bureau data (NCRB). The rise of cybercrimes has already started since last year, The COVID-19 lockdown that started since early 2020 has made a repulsive effect on cybercrimes.
Already More than 550 million Indians that have connected to the Internet in recent years, fueled by rural growth. But the rapid proliferation of Internet users has also left the country’s public and private sectors vulnerable to a cyber attack during the lockdown because most of the work is being done online, it gave an open invitation to cyberattacks moreover the Indian cybersecurity is weak to protect the internet users. There is a dramatic rise in cybercrimes across the country, cyberattacks have soared 86% in the four weeks between March and April, a recent Reuters report quoting Indian Home Ministry officials and detailing fake offers from telecom and streaming services like Netflix Inc, offering discounted services in the lockdown.
According to city crime records bureau data Bangalore, March and April together had 1,308 cybercrime cases with a jump in bank fraud and scams in such cases people impersonating government officials to trick the victims. The spike in cybercrimes and attacks has targeted general citizen’s wallets and personal data given the sharp increase in the percentage of Indian corporate workforce. The online corporate workers and digital payment users are the easy targets of cyberattacks. India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) reported that cybercriminals had launched thousands of fraud portals related to the coronavirus. These sites have tempted many Indians to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 into making donations. The online users and digital payment workers are the victims of cyberattacks in the lockdown.
STRENGTHENING INDIA’S CYBER DEFENCES
To construct secure cyberspace the defence mechanism against cybercrimes must be created, to make better user-friendly cyberspace, for this, India needs to strengthen cyber defence. Following are the key points:
STRINGENT DATA PROTECTION LAWS
It is a dire need to have strict data protection laws in India, as the right to privacy is a fundamental right of every person guaranteed by the constitution of India, it is important to have strict regulations that protect the privacy of persons despite the existing circumstances. In the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) data is secured by effective regulation on personal data of users, this has reduced the threat to privacy. Therefore, after ensuring similar aims of such laws the application of artificial intelligence aimed for Covid-19 should be structured.
DATA PROCESSING AGREEMENT
Any parties that act as data processors on their behalf of the data controllers must also sign a data processing agreement. As per Article 28 of the GDPR, rights and obligations of each party regarding the protection of personal data of their users are a present legally binding contract which lays down the data processing agreement to make transparency visible. Data Protection evaluation: To make the software more secured before being in the hands of the user a data protection impact assessment must be conducted by the companies offering artificial intelligence and software solutions on devices by testing them on various levels before launching them. This would help to prevent a threat to the users and making a user-friendly mechanism. The governmental websites need to have much strong data protection evaluation to protect the official data online.
There is a need of more user-friendly machine learning tools to make the users understand and feel safe while browsing on internet. Most of the users are unknown of the internet websites and threats, this illiteracy of the internet users in India makes a victim of cybercrimes. The head of a Mumbai-based law firm of Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, Purnima Thacker says, to reduce cybercrime risk for private companies and individuals a user-friendly cyber policy along with impactful and applicable security system, that includes training users, system analyses and quick response and assistance where a user helped in using the secure network.
Spreading awareness: The awareness and understanding of cybersecurity in this country are also one of the major concern, as people are more driven and focused towards the innovation rather its proper ways for usage. As about installing any application or any software most of the people don’t bother to check the veracity of that software or the true source of the application, even while installation people are so complacent about it regarding unknown sources and application security permission. Several improvements can be made, spreading of awareness has to come in every individual level regarding the usage and do’s and don’t of Internet technology, Children in schools and colleges should be taught about the netiquette. Parents should also need to understand their responsibilities for guiding the children about the Internet technology and also provide an open and free environment for the child to discuss if the child is facing any difficulties or atrocities in the online medium as in the pandemic, children are very much dependent on the internet as they are being educated through online medium.
SAFETY MEASURES TO BE TAKEN IN CONSIDERATION
The user should check the authenticity of the website while downloading anything from a website. There are various tools available online which checks the authenticity of websites, other than that, a person can also verify if the website has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, dysfunctional elements and broken links.
The user must use effective and reliable antivirus for mobile and desktop. The users must change the passwords timely to protect any unknown interference. User should check the reviews and mentions on the other website as a legitimate website has reviews and mentions, A website with there is no presence of any review or mentions so it can be a sign of fake website or the website may be new. Users should check for the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, a website with SSL certificate means that whatever the data you provide to the website will directly reach to the site without any interference of any 3rd party, website description in detail, for example, the link may be HTTP = Bad, HTTPS = Good.
in https://, the ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’. It indicates that the website uses encryption to transfer data and provides protection from the hacker. The user must refrain from accessing anonymous Emails with attachments while sending any personal information through emails do not share any passwords.
Avoid suspicious emails that come with a sense of panic, do not have a blind trust on any links given in any mail or other medium. User should also have a check on the contents of the website, many fake websites don’t have quality and true content, most of the time it is copied, plagiarized and cloned from other sites with blur images. Whereas, a legitimate website comes with quality and distinctive content with clearly and explicitly stated details and good English.
The Indian cybersecurity system is poor to protect the internet users from cyberattacks even before COVID- 19 lockdown.
Due to improper security system of internet transaction and data sharing, normal people are the victims of financial and important informational losses. This issue of cyber-crimes rises more in the COVID-19 lockdown period because of two reasons, firstly because people are made to work from home through different applications and software, which are contributing factors as this lowers the security of their system. Secondly, during the time of lockdown many people have lost their jobs, economic security, and source of income this made the rise in crime in society, as there is a low possibility of going out of homes the internet became a new medium for criminals to exploit and explore, making internet browsing unsafe for the general internet user in the lockdown Different kinds of roots are used to extract information from the user for personal benefits such as banking scams, debit cards, credit card frauds, social media scams etc. The cybercriminals are using fake IDs of the renowned organization to send emails for personal benefits.
This is a serious issue of the time because of a breach of private information that is under Art 21 of the constitution of Indian as fundamental right and offence under Sec.72 of information technology, Act 2000 for breach of privacy. These sites have tempted many Indians to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 into making donations. These Fake sites are quite sophisticatedly structured, indistinguishable from other websites. The ‘PM CARES’ coronavirus fund created by the P.M.O a lot of fake versions of the site have emerged and have successfully solicited thousands of dollars from unsuspecting individuals, Indian home ministry officials said that more than 8,000 complaints have been received from Indians, home and abroad. The cybercriminals have left no stone unturned to exploit the vulnerable user by extracting their information for personal gains.
To avoid cybercrimes the Indian government should support information sharing mechanisms, build attribution capability, and strengthen the coordination of vulnerability disclosure processes, make transparency in software and other website portals and userfriendly mechanisms, these could be the steps that can be taken to better protect the country from the attacks of ongoing cyber-attacks.
Right to Internet access: Essential fundamental right
In these pandemic times, the economy worldwide has been suffering from depression. No wonder, the youth of India is facing anxious moments vis-à-vis their jobs and careers. Due to Covid-19, more than 50 % of businesses have gone online. The shift towards the virtual world is too glaring to miss as online is the only segment which is working well in the new normal. Internet access and good Internet connections are becoming an essential tool for surviving in daily activities.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Opinions that, Constitution is the Soul of the nation. The preamble of the constitution is key to the Mind of the constitution. The Constitution of India is not only protected and enforcement of Fundamental Rights of Citizen of India, but it is also Plays a Vital Role in Guardian of the Government of India for Implementing Public Policies Properly. DR. Ambedkar Speaks in Drafting Committee of Constitution of India on the topic of Freedom of Speech and Expression and Its Significance in Democracy of India. Right to Internet Access is Essential Human Right emerged in Covid-19 Situations. Internet Access is an Integral Part of Freedom of Speech and Expression because using the Internet helps us to manipulates businesses on the Internet and Social Media Campaigning. Education in India landed on Online Access Platforms during the Covid-19 Pandemic with using of the Internet. Therefore, Without Internet Access, We Cannot able to fulfill our daily life goals. We cannot access Online Education Platforms.
In 2016, the Human Rights Council of United Nations General Assembly states that Right to the Internet Access is an essential human right integral allowing Individuals to access Freedom of Speech and Expression. In August 2012, the Internet Society did a survey among more than ten thousand internet users from 20 countries, of which 83% of users strongly agreed to legalize the right of internet access as a basic human right, with 13% on the opposite opinion.
Fundamental Rights are basic rights needed for human beings to live in life. Fundamental Rights help us to eliminate poverty, inequality, and curb major problems faced in society. Fundamental rights Help in the empowerment of human beings. Fundamental Rights helps us in the empowerment of human beings. Fundamental Rights are inserted in our constitution of India and deals with Part III of the constitution of India. In the constitution of India, there are six basic fundamental rights included in the constitution. Right to Life and Personal Liberty, Right to Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Law, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right to Justice against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Right to Employment and Enhancement of Minorities.
In these Pandemic Days whole world economy suffering from depression. Jobs and employment problems create very rapidly. The youth of India suffer from Anxiety and fears of the future career. Due to this pandemic more than 50 % percent of the Market, Businesses are landed in Internet Market. Businesses, as well as the corporate sector, holds all over activities in online mode as well as online webinars, meetings. The major economy of India openly active on the Internet. Internet Access and good Internet connections are becoming an essential tool for surviving in daily activities. Internet Access is not only Plays a crucial role in businesses. It helps in accessing information sources worldwide. We can achieve high-quality education goals and Low-cost education with help of the internet.
Today, we see that since the month of April, the government of India Implements a lockdown phase in India. In the last six months, the government of India reopens businesses in a slow process. Schools and Colleges conduct their online classes of students. Internet access is essential for attend online classes, webinars held by subject experts, and educational study. However, backward areas of our country not access to the Internet yet. More than 40 percent of the backward population of our country does not know how to use the Internet and the Importance of the Internet in the Present Situation.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION, RIGHT TO EDUCATION AND PRIVACY UNDER ARTICLE 19 AND 21 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
Every citizen of India Has freedom of speech and expression. It means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures, or any other mode. It includes the expression of own’s ideas by any communicable media or visible representation (E.g.: Signs, gestures, etc.). The freedoms guaranteed under Article 19(1) are available to citizens only and not to a foreigner or an alien enemy. The term ‘citizen’ under Article 19 means a Natural Person but not a legal person like a company or corporation.
Freedom of Opinion and Expression states that Internet Access is co-relates to this article of the constitution. Every citizen of India has freedom of opinion and expression. Citizens of India can express their own thoughts freely without any hesitation. Businesses, Education, Online Markets as well as the corporate sector are landed on the Internet during Pandemic Days.
Article 21 A of the constitution of India deals with the Right to Education is the fundamental right of every citizen of India. Children of India have the right to education till the age of 14 years. Under this Article of the constitution of India, every child of India has the right to attain compulsory education till the age of 14 years. In the Interest of Education and employment, Internet access is essential for empowerment.
Article 21 of the constitution deals with the Right to Personal liberty but the Right to Privacy includes under Article 21 of the constitution of India. Right to Privacy deals with Right to Internet Access. If the internet access links with education and uses in businesses, Trade, personal enhancement then it is dealing with the personal liberty of human beings.
In this period of the pandemic, Internet access is essential for achieve advanced educational goals in life. Online classes and webinars of students are dependent on the Internet. Good Internet access and Information diffusion are leads to empowerment of human being. Article 19 (1) of the constitution of India deals with the speech and expression of India. Speech and expression through Internet are new generations Information diffusion landed over the Informative World. United Nations General Assembly concludes that in the month of November 2015, the Right to the Internet is an essential fundamental right of every citizen in the world. Internet access is essential for the advancement of education and personal needs fulfillment in life. In August 2012, Internet Society did a survey, regarding Users of the Internet in the World. Then 40 % of the Population opined that Internet Access is the essential fundamental right of every human being in this world. Because It empowers development and Information Diffusion.
Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declared that “Right to Internet Access is essential fundamental Right as Similar to Right to Education” freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Nowadays, unlike traditional media, the internet allows people to seek, receive and impart information rapidly and at an extremely low cost.
In 2016, a report from the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the internet to be a basic human right.
United Nations General Assembly states that the Right to development is third generation human right in developing countries. Recognition of the close relationship between the right to Internet Access and basic human right by international laws.
(4) ANALYSE THE FOLLOWING CASE LAW
Aniruddha Bhasin Versus Union of India (Writ Petition No. 1030/2020) 
The court held that the Right to Internet Access, also known as The Right to Broadband or Freedom to connect. This case held that suspended Internet broadband connections are temporarily permissible but permanently shut down is an abuse of power. Right to Internet Access is an integral part of Article 21 of the constitution of India. Article 21 A of the constitution of India states the Right to education but It deals with the Right to Internet Access.
The right of freedom to choose trade and profession over the Internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19 (1) of the constitution of India.
Fahima Shirin Versus State of Kerala (Writ Petition No. 19716/2019) The high court of Kerala delivers the judgment on this case; Right of Internet Access is recognized as Right of privacy and Right of Education under Article 21 of the constitution of India. The court ordered the college to modernize policies so they do not discriminate based on gender or undermine student’s access to educational resources. Finding the restrictions to be “Absolutely unwarranted”. PUCL Versus Union of India (AIR 1997 SC 568) The right to the Internet deals with the right to life and personal liberty. Civil liberties are essential for human development. Internet aids the citizen to express their opinion on a global platform and therefore is covered under the ambit of Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution.
MANEKA GANDHI VERSUS UNION OF INDIA (1978 SCR (2) 621) 
The case held that every human being has the right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the constitution of India. Any competent authority of government cannot be curtailed the Right to Personal liberty of Any Individual Citizen of India except in cases of public order emergency.
Maneka Gandhi is a Registered by the birth citizen of India have the willingness to travel abroad but an Order issued by government authority for not the issuance of Passport to travel abroad in case of public order is unconstitutional and violates Article 21 of the constitution which deals with personal liberty. Because travel to abroad in own willingness is related to personal liberty. There is no question that arises of public order.
(5) CONCLUSION: Internet Access is essential in our daily life because it is the source of Information diffusion and plays a vital role in the development of our life. The golden triangle of the constitution of India includes the Right to life and personal liberty, the Right to Freedom of speech and expression, and the Right to Equality before the law under Article 21, 19, and 14 of the constitution of India Respectively but one section of society easily accesses to the Internet and other section of society unable to access the Internet then such situation leads to digital inequality and causes unable to use of freedom of expression. Clearly, such circumstances Violate provisions of Article 21, 19, and 14 of the constitution of India.
United Nations General Assembly of Human Rights states that the Internet is an essential human right and advises countries presented in the assembly needed to make the Internet Access to the Fundamental Right of every citizen.
In this Pandemic Days, not only Internet Access but Good connection of Internet Access is essential for our education as well as business and other activities. Major backward areas of India do not access to the Internet yet. Lack of Infrastructure and lack of digital literacy causes them could not able to use the Internet. The administration wanted to make a plan in the interest of public policy and delivers Internet Access to every citizen of India.
Today, we see that the Government of India, after first rigorously implementing a lockdown across the country, has started reopening businesses, albeit slowly. Schools and colleges are conducting their online classes. Internet access is essential for attending online classes, webinars held by subject experts, and educational study. However, backward areas of our country have no or limited access to the Internet yet.
How Covid-19 pandemic improved marine life more than any policy
Commercial fishing has slowed down due to Covid-19. Fishes have begun to display changes in behavioural patterns. Pauly’s colleagues in China have even reported that the decrease in fishing boats has led to smaller fish appearing on the ocean surface and predators becoming more active.
“Hundreds of dead fish washed up on the shores of Juhu beach”, “Under oxygenated rivers affecting the livelihood of fishermen”: these are just a few examples of headlines we have seen reported in recent years.
Although the occurrence of such calamities can be traced back to problems dating as far back as the 1960’s, it is only in contemporary times that people have begun to witness and pay heed to the true effects of environmental degradation. Warm water temperatures and low levels of dissolved oxygen in water bodies have led to a steady decline in existing marine life. The discharge of organic and inorganic industrial waste and other effluents into rivers has come to deeply affect fish and other aquatic creatures. Many fishes are even injured in the debris.
Studies show that water pollution causes diseases such as fin and tail rot, hyperplasia, ulceration, gill disease, liver damage and neoplasia in fishes. This, in turn, can lead to health problems amongst humans who consume contaminated fish. Fish is a good source of protein and an important contributor to the human diet. It keeps the heart and brain healthy. It also helps prevent diseases like malaria and yellow fever which are spread by mosquitoes. Fish are also rich in two important minerals: iodine and selenium. And lastly, they are also important sources of income and employment in many developing regions across the world.
In 2016, an estimated 91 million tonne of fish were captured. Overfishing, known to negatively affect aquatic life, can impact entire ecosystems too. It can change how fast the fish matures and reproduces. When a bulk of fish is taken out of the ocean at once, it creates an ecological imbalance which erodes the food web and leads to the loss of many other marine animals that are dependent on fish for their survival. In the past, fishing used to be a sustainable activity. Fishermen did not have the resources or the technology to traverse deep waters. But today, deep water fishing is a multimillion dollar industry.
We are misusing our technology by overexploiting the oceans. Moreover, we are destroying entire ecosystems with our destructive practices. For example: the population of Bluefin tuna is now at 2 to 3 percent of its original level during the mid-20th century. Tuna shoals could recover if a central part of the ocean remains off-limits. Marine biologist, Daniel Pauly, believes there should be a global ban on fishing on the high seas. These international waters include all parts of the ocean that are 200 miles or more away from sovereign land. That’s about 58 percent of the ocean›s surface! Pauly believes the ban will restore about two-thirds of the world’s oceans, allowing fish stocks to rebuild without affecting fisheries that belong to less developed coastal nations. If implemented, this ban has the potential to raise the value of the world’s fisheries by 13 billion dollars.
Although the pandemic has upended our lives as humans, nature is just beginning to see the stages of recovery for the first time since the early 90’s. Noninterference has provided fishing grounds with much needed respite from years of overfishing. Commercial fishing has slowed down due to Covid-19. Fishes have begun to display changes in behavioural patterns. Pauly’s colleagues in China have even reported that the decrease in fishing boats has led to smaller fish appearing on the ocean surface and predators becoming more active. Perhaps the pandemic did have a silver lining after all.
Big win for democracy in Jammu and Kashmir
Huge participation of voters across all the districts in the Union Territory reflects people’s conscious political choice for inclusive democracy, peace and development over separatism, despondency and exclusiveness.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in and out of Parliament loudly pronounced amongst other objectives for abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A and eventual bifurcation of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state into two Union Territories: That the natives who have been forced to live out of Kashmir shall be repatriated back in their homeland.
No matter which party/Parties have finally made it to grassroots power structure.the District Development Councils. Huge participation of voters across all the districts in the JK Union Territory reflected people’s conscious political choice for inclusive democracy,peace and development over separatism ,despondency,and exclusiveness.
People’s political wisdom and choice of democracy calls for celebration.Long live the democracy.
After successful DDC elections and its concomitant process of establishment of District development councils in each district and elections of its Chairpersons and other concerned committees the process is likely to be completed in near future.The political process has actually set in for eventual assembly elections sooner than later.Be it as May -The most important issue of reversal of Kashmiri Pandits exile deserves the foremost utmost priority.without the physical return, rehabilitation and restitution of this native population back in the Valley,peace efforts will allude and all other politico-economic process will be a smoke screen.Govt. Of India would be accused of wilful neglect and in breach of constitutional mandate for denial of right to life,liberty and dignity in their homeland to the aborigines native population of seven hundred thousand people living in exile for more than three decades.
HOW LONG ABORIGINES KPS HAVE TO WAIT TO RETURN HOME
Enough is Enough: Three decades of exile is too long and traumatic -Shiriman Pradhan Mantari.
Exiled natives are longing to return home and awaiting for accomplishment of the PM’s promises on this issue.Now that DDC elections are over and huge people’s participation especially the women and youth can be a game changer and people have preferred democracy,peace and development as future way forward than separatism,despondency and militancy.Exiled Natives are expecting the next agenda with Modi:2 hopefully is and would be repatriation and return of the aborigines Kashmiri Pandits.
Jammu and Kashmir entered a ferocious wave of terrorists violence in the 1990s, when religious radicalization and terrorism became a new weapon in a full-blown insurgency against the Indian State. The Kashmir Valley, once the center of multiculturalism became the focal point of a proxy war. Indeed, Pakistan’s premier Intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sponsored notorious terror organizations such as JKLF,Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul-Mujahideen etc., providing them with weapons, logistical support and training facilities in so-called ‘Azad’ (‘free’) Kashmir. The objective was to annex the Kashmir Valley, and cleanse it of non-Muslim minorities. As such, the tragic event that came to be known as the mass Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits unfolded when scores of Pandits, as well as hundreds of Kashmiri Muslims, were killed by Kashmiris who had been indoctrinated by the anti-Hindu, anti-India propaganda disseminated from the Pakistani side of the LoC. After killing hundreds of Pandits including women,children & even the infants,by inflicting ethnic cleansing all most the entire population was forced to leave their ancestral homes in the Valley and had to live in refugee camps in Jammu and other parts of India .The terrorists achieved the target of demographic change they had set out and from there undertook further campaigns of religious persecution in Jammu.
The seeming silence by the political spectrum of India over the gross neglect by successive Governments on the plight of exiled natives of Kashmir is intriguing and the conspicuous callousness of Modi:2 is more palpable.
In Jammu and Kashmir, there are layer upon layers of distortions of history, self-serving myths and competing political interests. Peeling off these layers by revisiting history, without any prejudice, can only help in our search for a brighter tomorrow for Jammu and Kashmir.
The J&K policy needs to combine between what the country pursues as domestic policy on one hand and the treatment of Indo-Pakistan relations as foreign policy, on the other.
The return of the exiled Pandits back to the Kashmir Valley with pride, is a matter of enforcing India’s Constitution in Kashmir.It is important to restore and protect multiculturalism, plural ethos and the secular identity of India and the Jammu and Kashmir state.
Return, restitution and retention of exiled Pandits as a religious Hindu community, shall be the real test of the will of the central government and the governor’s administration.
No solution to Kashmir will make any headway unless the Pandits are rehabilitated, return to the Valley and are made part of the dialogue process as an important stakeholder.
It is the constitutional and political duty of the government of India and the Jammu and Kashmir government to repatriate the entire exiled Pandit community back to their homeland. It is also their duty to probe the reasons and circumstances of ethnic cleansing, fixing the responsibility for the killing of innocent citizens.
After almost ten months of 5th.August 2019 decision of abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, a sense is gathering around that their plight as native exiled Kashmiri is being slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but nothing by way of action is seemingly visible by the Modi-2.0 and JK Union Territory Government. The future of Pandits, as an important stakeholder and a relevant component to the resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio, is less and less talked about.
Kashmiri Pandits have an existential stake in the Valley. They have to be physically present on the soil of the Valley as living component and stake holders and day to day participants in the socio-economic, political, cultural and spiritual ethos of Kashmir valley, otherwise how will the present as well as future generations realise that Kashmir is the keystone of their heritage through millennia, finding mention even in the Indian oldest scriptures?
Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.
Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?
Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks. Patanjali gifted his yog sutra to humanity and his. Sarangadeva is considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. Acharya Abhinav Gupta, one of the greatest scholars of all times, wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of RAS are being taught in 80 universities around the world. Why educationists and policymakers are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our textbooks?
Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years. That can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaign.
Governor Rule gives all statutory powers to the state government to do justice to this illustrious community, who are now living as refugees in their own country for the last 30 years.
It is hoped that the central government shall revisit its J&K policy by demonstrating political will and large-heartedness in dealing with the Kashmir situation and liberally fund the return, rehabilitation and security of Kashmiri Pandits back in their homeland, which is the Kashmir Valley.
To quote what former Prime Minister IK Gujral once said, “For the illustrious Kashmiri Pandit community, which has contributed a great deal in shaping the nation building a democratic, progressive and secular India, if the coffers of the country are to be emptied for them, it would still be a small price to pay.”
It is important for the state governor to rise above civil service jargon while designing a package for the return of Kashmiri Pandits. It is also imperative to hold consultations with representatives of Kashmiri Pandits, so that all aspects are taken into account and the entire gamut of present and future problems analysed threadbare and in complete detail.
Kashmiri Pandits are a religious minority, which calls for due statutory recognition. The constitution of a state minority commission shall be a good step in this direction.
The MHA being the nodal ministry, shall start a structured dialogue with Pandits, for designing a comprehensive, time-bound package for return and rehabilitation and political empowerment.It shall not take more than two years for its implementation.
Pandits believe that if the exiled community is not repatriated back to their homeland with dignity and pride now, then it will be never and eventually this illustrious community will disintegrate.
Ashok Bhan is Sr. Advocate, distinguished fellow USI And ; Chairman: Kashmir (Policy and Strategy) Group.
Prime Minister Narendra Damodar Modi in and out of Parliament loudly pronounced amongst other objectives for abrogation of articles 370 and 35-A and eventual bifurcation of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State into two Union Territories -that the natives who have been forced to live out of Kashmir shall be repatriated back in their homeland.Kashmiri Pandits are living in exile for more than three decades.
Time to enact strict rules for our MPs and MLAs
How long will politicians be allowed to become MPs and MLAs even after having not dozens but hundred to two hundred criminal cases pending against them and still allowing them to continue as MPs and MLAs on one pretext or the other even when for other services like becoming a judge or an IAS or even a police constable there is strict police verification and one case alone is sufficient to ruin the career of the concerned aspirant?
How long will politicians be given long rope and allowed to contest elections from jail itself? How long will MP and MLAs be allowed to misbehave in Parliament and state Assemblies and still be given long rope by not taking any action against them? How long will politicians be allowed to become MPs and MLAs even after having not dozens but hundred to two hundred criminal cases pending against them and still allowing them to continue as MPs and MLAs on one pretext or the other even when for other services like becoming a judge or an IAS or even a police constable there is strict police verification and one case alone even if it turns out to be fake is sufficient to ruin the career of the concerned aspirant?
How long will this worst discrimination between politicians and others be justified on one pretext or the other? How long will tearing of rule books be dismissed off lightly? How long will tearing of any law like the “Farm Law” be allowed to be torn of and that too right inside Parliament or State Assembly and that too by prominent members just like we saw in Delhi and other States?
How long will they be even allowed to indulge in physical violence and still spared from being permanently debarred? Why are they let off by just a reprimand or suspension for a short period of a few days or sometimes even for just a day? Why are they not seriously taken to task ever?
What message is being sent by all this? Does this not send a message that if one is a politician and an MP or MLA, he can hold the law to ransom? For how long will this pathetic state of affairs be allowed to continue?
We all saw how just days after row and being brutally manhandled during a special session of the Legislative Council, the body of the Karnataka Legislative Council’s Deputy Chairman – SL Dharmegowda was found on railway tracks at Gunasagar village of Kadur Taluk in Chikmagalur district during a special session of the Council! Why no action taken against all those who manhandled him? His brother Bhojegowda while speaking to media said that, “There was no personal or financial reasons for him to take this extreme step. He was upset about what had happened [in the council], I and other party leaders had told him not to take things to heart as these are common in politics, but he seems to have taken it very seriously.”
Needless to say, rules need to be enacted now at the earliest because such type of uncivilized behavior has become very common in politics as the brother of the deceased Deputy Chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council very rightly pointed out! This cannot be delayed any further. Supreme Court must now take suo motu action if politicians themselves don’t take any action on this!
Truth be told, it was none other than the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla who has called for a “high-level probe” into the death of SL Dharmegowda. Om Birla rightly said that, “Anguished at the sad news of demise of Deputy Chairman, Karnataka Legislative Council, Shri SL Dharmegowda. My condolences to his family. The unfortunate incident in the House, when he was in Chair, is a serious attack on democracy. It is necessary to have a high level probe through an independent agency into his death.”
Bluntly put: Why no action against those who carried out this serious attack on democracy? Just because they are politicians? Are they above the law? Why have they been given such a long rope?
Needless to say, SL Dharmegowda was at the centre of December 15 high voltage drama in the Legislative Council which saw BJP-JDS and Congress members hurling abuses and pushing each other over a row on the no-confidence motion against Chairman K Pratapachandra Shetty. During the ruckus Gowda was pulled down from the Chair (Chairman’s seat) by some Congress legislators who accused him of occupying it as Deputy Chairman against rules as part of BJP’s plan to unseat Shetty who is from the Congress. All rules of decorum were thrown to the winds and he was hackled and mercilessly manhandled! This is what he took straight to his heart but for our politicians this is normal! For how long?
We must ask ourselves: How long will politicians be allowed to have a free run in all spheres of life? How long will politicians be allowed to scream and shout at each other in Parliament and State Assemblies without any fear of facing prosecution as they stand protected by Constitution? How long will they be not held accountable just like others? How long will they be allowed endlessly to decide their own pay package and have a free run?
We must also ask: How long will politicians who rule in the State be allowed to withdraw criminal cases against MPs and MLAs from their own party? Is this not a mockery of the “due process of law” and “equality”? Is this not a blatant violation of right to equality?
We must also not hesitate to ask: Why is it that a convicted politician is barred for a limited time and that too only when he has been convicted for an offence whose punishment is more than two years’ imprisonment? Why is it that for other government jobs like for becoming a civil servant or a Judge or even a police cop or a soldier in the forces do we see that there is a proper police verification and even if someone out of jealousy files a false case still he/she is debarred from getting the concerned job while on the contrary if that same person emulates Phoolan Devi then just like her, he/she still can contest elections even from jail and become an MP and MLA? How can this be wrongly justified as most unfortunately we see right now?
As if this is not enough, it must also be asked: Why is it that politicians alone are given the long rope? Why are they not held accountable for what they do and punished just like we see in case of others? Why are they encouraged to consider themselves as being free to take the law for granted?
Few more troubling questions are: How can it be ignored that the percentage of MPs and MLAs with pending cases are increasingly steadily with time? How long will we keep ignoring this steady rise in percentage? How can it be ignored that many of them are facing very serious charges of murder, rape and what not?
While continuing in the same vein, it must also be asked: How can it be ignored that the Supreme Court said just recently that it was “surprised”, “shocked” and “sorry” to know that over 4,000 criminal cases were pending against sitting and former lawmakers — both members of parliament (MP) and members of legislative assembly (MLA)? How can it be ignored that the Supreme Court said that some of these cases date to as far back as the 1980s? How can such a burning issue be left unattended, unaddressed and play havoc with our democratic system?
It must be mentioned here that what is mentioned above arose when a Bench of Apex Court led by Justice N.V. Ramana was hearing a PIL filed by an eminent and learned advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has sought a lifetime ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases, from contesting elections. It must be also mentioned here that Justice NV Ramana while expressing his serious concern didn’t shy away from remarking during the hearing in simple and straight language that, “So many cases are pending at the initial stage because of influence of legislators (FIRs are not filed) and they (legislators) hang the sword over investigations.”
Let us not shy away from asking: How can it be lightly dismissed that currently there are more than 4,500 cases that are pending against MPs and MLAs all over India? How can it be lightly dismissed that they are allowed to get away easily by terming them as “politically motivated”? How can they who are our law makers be allowed to continue to make a mockery of our democracy by allowing them immunity in spite of facing charge sheet in more than hundreds of criminal cases?
It must be mentioned here that the PIL which eminent lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had filed seeking to set up exclusive courts in every district to complete the cases pending against politicians within one year and permanently bar convicted politicians from contesting elections, unlike in the present when a convicted politician is barred for a limited time and that too only when he has been convicted for an offence whose punishment is more than two years imprisonment is the crying need of the hour also. It must also be mentioned here that this PIL was filed in August 2016 in the Apex Court and the hearing of which is in the final phase as most of us know too well. It goes without saying that it is likely to give a massive push towards ensuring that politicians with criminal background are debarred from entering politics by contesting elections. But for this to happen it is the Apex Court Bench which is hearing this notable judgment which shall have the final say on this which has to catch the bull by the horns and which shall be decided within a short time in the days ahead! Which side the dice rolls will be decided by this Apex Court Bench and we must hope that we shall not be disappointed this time at last!
In hindsight, we also need to ask: How can this be allowed that Chief Ministers themselves are facing charge sheets in several cases and still be allowed to hold public office? How can it be allowed that even if convicted then they can again come back in active politics within a short span of time and again be back to business as usual? How long will the “Sab Chalta Hain” approach be allowed to carry on for MPs and MLAs?
To be sure, it must also be asked: Why is it that in the latest hearing of the case filed by eminent lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, the Central Government too had shown its “unwillingness” to bar convicted politicians permanently from contesting polls while responding to Ashwini’s argument with regard to why politicians who in various court judgments have been considered as the “supreme public servant” should not be barred forever from contesting elections when a bureaucrat or a Judge was permanently removed from the service if he or she was convicted for an offence.
Adding more to it, it must also be asked: Why is it that an aspirant for a Judge or an IAS or any other government job is promptly barred even if there is one entry in any of the FIR in any police station but the same promptness completely disappears and vanishes in thin air when it comes to MPs and MLAs? It is high time and the time bound trial of pending cases against MPs and MLAs must be taken to their logical conclusion at the earliest! There can be no more dilly-dallying on such serious issue anymore!
Of course, it is good to see that the Supreme Court Bench also directed the Chief Justices of the respective High Courts to ensure the urgent listings of such cases. But it is also concerning to see that in what can be seen as an unpalatable truth pertaining to the huge power wielded by such tainted politicians, the Supreme Court while hearing the case filed by lawyer Ashwini on 4 November 2020 while quoting from the records that it received from various High Courts lamented that, “The High Court of Kerala has specifically placed on record that the police officials are reluctant to arrest and produce the legislators. The same issue is also being faced by the Calcutta High Court.” It is high time and all this must stop now and for this to happen police must be freed from political clutches and made to function independently and their transfer, posting and promotions should not be in the hands of politicians any longer! This must be now made to happen to preserve our national interests and not political vested interests which till now most unfortunately are having the last laugh! Let’s fervently hope this happens! Only politicians with impeccable track record should be our law makers and not the other way around as we see most unfortunately right now! Supreme Court cannot be a passive player any longer on this most burning issue confronting our nation!
A bench of Supreme Court led by Justice N.V. Ramana was hearing a PIL filed by an eminent and learned advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who had sought a lifetime ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases, from contesting elections. It must be mentioned here that Justice Ramana while expressing his serious concern didn’t shy away from saying in simple and straight language, “So many cases are pending at the initial stage because of influence of legislators (FIRs are not filed) and they (legislators) hang the sword over investigations.”
Making it happen: Transforming solar energy sector
Over the years since 2015-16, India has commissioned 38 GW of solar projects and is well on its way to achieving the most ambitious target set as a part of one of the biggest solar energy expansion programmes in the world.
It was 2014. Consequent to the “findings” in a CAG report and subsequent endorsement of the report by the Supreme Court, all hell seemed to have broken loose in the coal sector. I was posted as Coal Secretary to clear the mess. In the following couple of years, the coal sector was resurrected. However, what I witnessed in another Ministry, New and Renewable Energy, that was under the same Minister, Piyush Goyal was nothing short of a miracle. And, the miracle man was Upendra Tripathi, an IAS officer who had already earned accolades while working in his own state, Karnataka
Upendra who had never worked in the field of energy earlier, (except in the Petroleum sector way back in early 90s) took charge as Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). This Ministry had been created by the Government of India in early 80s as a response to global oil crisis. It was beset with precarious financial situation in April 2014. Against an annual budget of Rs 1500 crore (around US $ 214 million), the subsidy arrears to the States for completed activities was INR 3300 crore (around US $ 471 Million). The Ministry was grappling to fund subsidy arrears. However, all this changed May, 2014. A new government came to power at the centre. Narendra Modi, the new PM who had written a book, “Convenient Action” as a response to Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”, called Upendra for a discussion. He wanted to know if India could have 100 GW of solar power by 2022. Upendra answered in the affirmative in the context of millions of hectares of wastelands in the country. What he did not know at that point was that, just before he had joined, his predecessor had sent a detailed letter to the Prime Minister’s office that the proposition of 100000 MW of solar by 2022 against the existing target of 20000 MW was impossible – there was no land, no money, no demand and no wherewithal.
Having promised to the PM that the target was not a challenge, Upendra soon discovered the ground reality. The challenge now was how to plan for this huge target and convince the Cabinet and other stakeholders that 100 GW of solar for India was both desirable and doable without any substantial investment from the Government of India.
The key to the solution lay in the creation of a policy ecosystem of land, labor, capital and technology and sell this dream to the global galaxy of investors as real and profitable. India did have the famous solar mission since 2010. Hence, there was some institutional mechanism already available. Upendra evolved a four-fold strategy:
(1) Making full use of two Public sector entities under the Ministry, a SECI-IREDA model of mutual cooperation for solar deployment between a developer (Solar Energy Corporation of India) an investor (Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency) was created. The later invested for 50 MW of solar power in Kerala to reap financial benefit over next 30 years by selling power to the State of Kerala and SECI implemented the project as EPC contractor. This project became a pilot and a case study or future investments. This was a very practical move to demonstrate to the world at large that MNRE could find buyers, investors and developers to finance and implement bankable and profitable projects. The investment could be recovered in the first seven years and the rest of the project life of 23 years was for generating surplus.
(2) Brainstorming with colleagues and Industry brought forth the idea of a global summit of investors. This was deliberated at length and finalized. It was christened Renewable Energy–Invest or RE-Invest in brief. (Incidentally, the third edition of RE-Invest was recently held by the Government of India.) RE-INVEST became both a brand and a signature event for the Ministry which organized such an investment focused mega- event in February, 2015 with two unique and innovative add-ons — Green Energy Commitment Certificates to invest in solar projects and Green Finance Commitment certificates to finance such projects. The top ten certificates of commitment providers were handed over the certificates during the inaugural event of RE-INVEST by the Prime Minister himself. There were 462 corporates who committed to deploy 287 GW of renewable energy projects by the year 2022. 40 Financial Institutions committed up to US $ 78.75 Trillion @ one million US $/MW. This provided the blueprint for the future.
(3) On the suggestion of Industry, the idea of SOLAR PARKS, (huge centralized generation centers running into thousands of MWs) was taken up. Under this dispensation, the responsibility for proving land for the projects was with the federal and provincial governments. Land acquisition in India in those days was the most complicated procedures — time consuming and litigation prone.
(4) A scheme was launched to train 57000 Suryamitras (Friends of the Sun) as solar mechanics, constituting a workforce that the industry badly needed. The capacity building measure was financed by the Government and implemented by State Renewable Energy agencies that were brought together in a common platform called the Association of the Renewable Energy Agencies of the States (AREAS).
The rest, as they say, is history. Over the years since 2015-16, India has commissioned 38 GW of solar projects and is well on its way to achieving the most ambitious target set as a part of one of the biggest solar energy expansion programmes in the world. Recognizing the phenomenal work done by Upendra, he was chosen as the founding Director General of the International Solar Alliance, the multilateral body that has a target of mobilizing more than US $ 1000 billion by 2030 in ISA member countries and pursues more innovative ideas such as the World Solar Bank and the One Sun One World and One Grid.
Upendra Tripathy demonstrated that civil servants can be visionaries and through meticulous planning and collaborative implementation, they can make-it-happen on the ground
Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.
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