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ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY IN DIGITAL AGE: AN ANALYSIS

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“Democracy is a government by the people in which the supreme power is bestowed in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected representatives under anunrestricted electoral system.” A democratic government indicates a democratic state but a democratic state does not means a democratic government. A democratic state mean is that the community, as a whole possesses sovereign authority and maintains ultimate controlling and dismissing a government. In a democratic setup, government is only one pillar coexisting in a social fabric of various institutions, political parties, organisations and associations. This diversity is termed as pluralism, and it assumes that many organisations and associations in a democracy are independent of the government. The pillars of Democracy are as stated: –

• Sovereignty

• Government elected by the citizens

• Human Rights

• Majority rule

• Minority rights

• Free and Fair Elections

• Due process of law

• Equality before law

• Constitutional limits on the government

Since the early days of the World Wide Web, the knowledge of exploiting new media for political participation and democratic practices has been framed as contemporary and highly innovative. While these claims are acceptable with regard to the information and communication technologies, which enable Internet-based democratic processes, it is important to keep in mind that the diverse suggestions for electronic democracy draw on—explicitly or implicitly—well-established concepts of democratic theory. Most democratic systems in the world are based on key elements of the liberal school of thought. A characteristic of this model is its strong emphasis on procedures. Instead of attempting to realise a predefined form of society, this model focusses on processes and institutions that safeguard binding decision-making. The democratic process is conceptualised as a market-like competition between strategic actors, such as interest groups, political parties and elites. The citizen is conceptualised as a consumer whose political participation is more or less limited to the periodic expression of individual preferences. Processes of political will formation, based on public debate and learning, do not receive heightened attention in this model.

By most theoretical stipulations India should not have subsisted as a democracy because of these major reasons namely: –

• Poverty

• Citizens are largely rural and uneducated

• Civic institutions are weak.

It is a paradox even for those who believe in a positive relationship between economic equality or social homogeneity and democracy. India’s wealth disparity is one of the highest in the world. Indian society is also one of the most heterogeneous in the world (in terms of ethnicity, language, caste and religion), and social inequality, a legacy of the caste system, is considerable. Yet this country, with the world’s largest electorate, keeps lumbering on decade after decade as a ramshackle, yet resilient, democratic polity. There are numerous paths in which the historical and social roots of democracy in India are different from those in the West, and the indigenous political culture has fundamentally redesigned the processes of democracy. These variances are reflected in the existing functioning of democracy in India, making it difficult to fit the Indian case to the canonical cases in the standard theories of democracy.

Digital democracy is an attempt to practise democracy without the limits of time, space and other physical conditions, using ICT or CMC instead, as an addition, not a replacement for traditional ‘analogue’ political practices. Coleman and Norris (2005) sanction the fondness for “e-democracy” as the key concept. Internet gives an open forum for political discussions and for people coming from different walks of life. Citizens exchange arguments and consider different views and contentions that are curated to secure the public welfare. By the process of this exchange of ideas and opinions citizens can come to an understanding regarding which procedure, action and policy will be best in application. Deliberation is an important precondition for the legitimacy of democratic political decisions. Deliberation in democratic processes produces outcomes that protects the public or common good through reason rather than through political power.

With all physical activities screeching to an unforeseenstandstill, the digital space became humankind’s best friend during the pandemic. The Government of India made use ofICT as well, in order to address the pandemic, when it launched initiatives like the contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu, the government e-services app Umang, the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) among others. Apart from them, there have been innumerable district and panchayat-specific digital initiatives. However, such initiatives, while facilitating and enabling millions of Indians, did not consider the questions of universal access and literacy. ‘Digital Divide’ was nurturing its roots. In India, roughly 50% of the population, still have no access to the internet. This divide is the result of a lack of sufficient infrastructure push in the rural areas of the country. There is global belief that internet and social media give a pathway to individual’s opinion and strengthen it which in turn strengthen the democratic setup of the country but this is not as clear and easy as it looks because digitisation also poses threats to liberal democracy in the long run. The four major threats to be discussed are as follows: –

1. Corporate Algorithms have led to shift in power.

2. Technological Companies gain unprecedented market and political power.

3. Echo chambers are threatening to deepen social fissures.

4. Algorithms used in public and private sector decision making are opaque.

Many countries are exercising extreme resistance over the streaming of information. This takes place through bans and the disruption of internet and website access, the repudiationof digital anonymity, restrictions on and the manipulation of content, or the spread of disinformation and propaganda. Ensuring free and open internet is critical for realizing its democratizing and emancipatory benefits. In 2018, there were an estimated 196 internet shutdowns in 25 countries. This number is on the rise, from 75 in 2016 and 106 in 2017. The official justifications for shutdowns in 2018 were overwhelmingly cited as safety, followed national security, action against fake news and hate speech, and school exams.The countries that used this measure most in 2018 include India, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Ethiopia. India’s shutdown of the internet in Kashmir in August 2019 was the 51stshutdown in the country this year. Numerous countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are trying to weaken encryption tools through the creation of ‘backdoors’. Quite a few nations mandate the localization of personal data and the local storage ofencryption keys. The discussion around encryption and the contradiction between private and security remain unsettled. Encryption strategies must strike a balance between national security and individual freedom of expression. Disinformation campaigns and content manipulation by state and non-state actors increasing. State propaganda is often fictitious and circulated using paid content contributors. A recent study estimates that authors construct and publish approximately 500 million comments in a year. Their key objective is to strategically divert social media users from contentious subjects.

Like any subject E- Democracy also has its advantages and disadvantages,

ADVANTAGES

• Access to bulk information and happenings

• Easy and Structural Organisation

• Power and Open Portal for the people

DISADVANTAGES

• ‘Virtual’ Democracy (lack of idea of happenings of ground realities)

• Digital division of the citizens

• Anti-Democratic forces

• Echo Chambers

• Equality to access

• Right of Participation

• Validation

• Delegation.

Risks obscuring a fundamental prerequisite for democratic flexibility in politics and technology: that societies must resist their own domestic inclinations to adopt repressive principles. In 2020, after continuoustensions and frictions at the border with China, Indiangovernment banned over one hundred Chinese apps. This accompanied other sanctions on Chinese technology, including hindering Huawei and ZTE from partaking in 5G trials and imposing cumbersome obligations on Chinese foreign direct investment.

E-democracy needs rules and regulations. Regulation desires to be citizen centred and balanced. It is necessary to focus on citizens’, limit the powers of public authorities, avoid over-regulation and authorize scope for initiatives by stakeholders, including citizens. Regulation of e-democracy entails empowerment and safeguards. It can take various forms and be undertaken by a variety of players at various levels, including public authorities, providers of tools and users themselves. A balance between rights of access and safeguards is the only way to sustain and protect citizens’ interests. All e-democracy participants have to act in a transparent and fairmanner and be responsible and accountable for their actions and for publicly expressed opinions. The human rights ethics established by inter-governmental organisations, in particular the United Nations need to be followed. Media Houses should play a linking role between the policy makers and the stakeholders by reporting an unbiased political news and day-to-day happenings.

However, since the pandemic has hit the world, everything has come on the virtual platform and has survived in this manner since the last 3 years, keeping this new world arrangement in mind we cannot deny that E-Democracy is the way but it has a long way to go in terms being stable, balanced and unbiased, some of the ways in which these criteria’s can be met are as follows: –

Balanced and verified facts must be presented to the users to help them understand the problem, alternatives and opportunities.

Procedures such as e- voting, e- petitions and e-consultation must be introduced.

Regular and two-way communication between citizens and policy makers

Citizens should get an opportunity to contribute to political agenda setting, planning and decision making at different levels.

Digital tools are used to explain the rationale behind political decisions and initiatives

While reviewing and improving E-Democracy, the focus should be on the democratic structure and its stakeholders not on the technology.

Institutions and citizens should be responsible for e-democracy processes.

E-democracy measures should be compatible and integrated with, non-electronic forms of democratic engagement and participation.

Democracy is a promise and a challenge. It is a promise that free human beings, working together, can administrate themselves in a means that will serve their ambitions for personal freedom, economic opportunity, and social justice. It is a test because the accomplishment of the democratic enterprise rests upon the shoulders of its citizens and no one else.

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AN ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE BODIES CAN ESTABLISH A CAPTIVE POWER PLANT PRIMARILY FOR THEIR OWN USE UNDER THE ELECTRICITY ACT: SUPREME COURT

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The Supreme Court in the case Chhattisgarh State Power Distribution Company Ltd. vs Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission observed that a captive power plant primarily for their own use can be established by an association of corporate bodies.

The requirement would be that the consumption of SBIPL and SBMPL together should not be less than 51% of the power generated. Admittedly, the joint consumption by SBIPL and SBMPL is more than 51% and under the provisions of the said Act, the use of electricity by it would be for captive use only even an association of corporate bodies can establish a power plant. Since SBMPL holds 27.6% of the ownership, the requirement of not less than 26% of shares is fulfilled by SBMPL as SBMPL holds 27.6% equity shares in SBPIL.

The fourth proviso to sub­section (2) of Section 42 of the said Act would also reveal that surcharge would not be leviable in case open access is provided to a person who has established a captive generating plant for carrying the electricity to the destination of his own use and under Section 9 of the said Act, could be an individual or a body corporate or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, it is clear that the person will get benefit even an association of corporate bodies can establish a captive power plant it has been seen. The definition of “person” is wide enough to include any company or body corporate or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, or artificial juridical person it should be primarily for the use of the members of such co­operative society or association is the requirement, the Bench observed while referring to the provisions of the Electricity Act.

The BPIL, the respondent contended and supported the impugned judgment that no permission is required from the Commission for supply of electricity for its own use. Thereafter the appellant Company contended that unless SBPIL consumes 51% of the aggregate electricity generated by it, it will not be entitled to get the benefit under Section 9 of the said Act, in an appeal filled before the Apex Court.

An appeal was dismissed by the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity filed by the Company further The Commission held that SBPIL was entitled to supply electricity to its sister concern SBMPL and the same would qualify to be treating as own consumption and within the ambit of Section 9 read with Section 2(8) of the Electricity Act, 2003 and Rule 3 of the Electricity Rules, 2005 SBPIL submitted a petition for providing open access and wheeling of power through the transmission system of the Chhattisgarh State Power Distribution Company Ltd (Company) for captive use by SBMPL to the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission, the commission. A Captive Generation Plant is established by SBPIL, and is a sister concern of SBPIL Shri Bajrang Power and I spat Ltd and Shri Bajrang Metallics and Power Ltd, SBMPL.

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Where the crime was committed the remission or premature release policy of the state has to be considered: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in the case Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, Lala Vakil vs State of Gujarat observed that where the crime was committed has to be considered in the remission or pre­mature release in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State.

While allowing the writ petition the court observed and contended that Once the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, after the trial been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be 6 considered including remission or pre­mature release in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court, as the case may be. The court further stated that under Section 432(7) CrPC the appropriate Government can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments.

the appropriate Government in the ordinary course would be the State of Gujarat. But the case was transferred in exceptional circumstances by this Court for limited purpose for trial and disposal to the neighboring State i.e., the State of Maharashtra by an order dated 06.08.2004. ordinarily, the trial was to be concluded in the same State and in terms of Section 432(7) CrPC as the crime in the instant case was admittedly committed in the State of Gujarat, observed by the Apex Court.

he application for pre­mature release has to be filed in the State of Maharashtra and not in the State of Gujarat, as prayed by the petitioner by judgment impugned dated 17.07.2009 As His petition filed in the High Court of Gujarat was dismissed taking note of Section 432(7) CrPC on the premise that since the trial has been concluded in the State of Maharashtra. Thereafter He had filed his petition for pre­mature release under Sections 433 and 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 stating that he had undergone more than 15 years 4 months of custody.

The bench comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and the justice Vikram Nath observed and noted that under Section 432(7) CrPC can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments of the appropriate Government.

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Adopt roster based reservation for preferential candidates as followed by JIPMER: Supreme Court directs all AIIMS institutes

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The Supreme Court in the case Students Association AIIMS Bhopal And Or’s. v. AllMS and Or’s observed and directed all AIIMS Institutes to adopt roster-based reservation followed by Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry (JIPMER) as a plea was filled in the Court seeking direction to AIIMS to have a defined criteria for arriving at seat matrix for institutional preference candidates in INI-CET examination.

the order of the Apex Court in the case AIIMS Students’ Union v. AIIMS And Or’s, would not be applicable if It emphasized that if the roster-based system is implemented the actual roster points for AIIMS would be different from JIPMER as the same would depend on the percentage of seats decided to be allocated to the preferential candidates but It stated that the reservation would be similar to the one adopted by JIPMER AIIMS New Delhi was willing to provide a roster-point based reservation for its institutional preference candidates, by way of an affidavit 20th January 2022 the Bench was apprised that pursuant to a meeting held on 28th June 2020 as prescribed the relevancy:

It shall not be too wide with the one for the general category candidate, that the margin of difference between the qualifying marks for the Institute’s candidate.

The one who has secured marks at the common entrance PG test less than the one secured by any other candidate belonging to reserved category enjoying constitutional protection such as SC, ST etc. cannot be the AIMS graduate the last student to qualify for admission.

appearing on behalf of AIIMS, Advocate, Mr. Dushyant Parashar, New Delhi was asked to get instructions from AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and Jodhpur so that the Court can pass appropriate orders on the next date of hearing. As that apart from AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and AIIMS, Jodhpur, all other AIIMS before the Apex Court has agreed to implement the roster-based reservation system followed by JIPMER Puducherry for their institutional preference candidates, the Court was informed at the last date of hearing.

the petition had been filed seeking direction to AIIMS to disclose how the seats for institutional preference candidates are to be allotted in the view of the same the petitioners claim that in the INI-CET examination conducted in July, 2021, only 4 seats (1.87%) in AIIMS, New Delhi were allotted to institutional preference candidates. Rivetingly, the petitioners note that no seats were allocated to any other AIIMS for admission of institutional preference candidates.

the Bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and the justice A.S. Bopanna observed and noted that to record in the order that the roaster system would be applicable from this year. Mr. Parashar informed it that since new software is to be put in place for counselling, it might cause some delay. The bench further stated that the court will order it to apply this year but in case of delay AIMS can come later.

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‘The crime committed has to be considered in the remission or premature policy of the state’

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The Supreme Court in the case Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, Lala Vakil vs State of Gujarat observed that where the crime was committed has to be considered in the remission which is applicable in the State and the pre­mature release in terms of the policy

The Court noted while hearing the writ petition that in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court once the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, after the trial been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be 6 considered including remission or pre­mature release, as the case may be, in the instance case. under Section 432(7) CrPC, there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments, can be either the Central or the State Government of the appropriate government.

in terms of Section 432(7) CrPC, the trial was to be concluded in the same State and ordinarily in the State of Gujrat the crime in the instant case was admittedly committed. by an order 06.08.2004., the case was transferred in exceptional circumstances by this Court for limited purpose for trial and disposal to the neighbouring State i.e., the State of Maharashtra, observed by the bench of Apex Court.

As mentioned by the petitioner in the plea that by judgment impugned dated 17.07.2019., the application for pre­mature release has to be filed in the State of Maharashtra and not in the State of Gujarat and His petition filed in the High Court of Gujarat was dismissed taking note of Section 432(7) CrPC on the premise that since the trial has been concluded in the State of Maharashtra. under Sections 433 and 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the petition was filled by the petitioner for premature release further the petitioner stated that that he had undergone under the custody of more than 15 years 4 months.

Section 302, 376(2) (e) (g) and reading it with Section 149 IPC, Shah was found guilty for the offence, the offence committed by him in the State of Gujrat.

The bench comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and the justice Vikram Nath observed that under Section 432(7) CrPC can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments of that appropriate government.

The bench comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and the justice Vikram Nath observed that under Section 432(7) CrPC can be either the Central or the State Government but there cannot be a concurrent jurisdiction of two State Governments of that appropriate government.

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Seeking reduction of qualifying the percentile for admission in ayurveda course: A plea in Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in the Case Amit Kumar v UOI & Or’s observed in Ayurveda course in view of large number of vacancies and for seeking reduction of qualifying percentile for admission, an ayurveda aspirant who appeared in NEET 2021 has approached the Court.

the court had observed that lowering the minimum marks and reducing the percentile for admission to first year BDS Course would not amount to lowing the standards of Education and further the Court directed to lower the percentile mark by 10 percentiles for admission in first year of BDS Course for academic year 2020-2021, with regards to substantive the contentions made by the petitioner by referring the judgement passed in the case in Harshit Agarwal & Or’s v Union of India.

the percentile may also be reduced for Ayurveda programme enabling the Petitioner to take admissions then If percentile is being reduced/considered for reduction for BDS course was further stated by the petitioner in the plea, while referring to an order dated 04.29.2022. Thereafter the top Court had asked Centre to consider lowering the percentile for BDS Courses.

Seeking the Centre’s response in a plea by filing a counter affidavit, noted by the Top Court specifying the above-mentioned information:

after deducting the admission granted for MBBS Courses (BDS Courses), the total number of Candidates.

in All India Quota and State Quota, the totals number of vacant seats.

in government colleges on one hand & private/deemed colleges on the other hand, the number of seats which are remaining.

the petition was filed through AOR Neeraj Shekhar and for the petitioner Advocate Shivam Singh appeared.

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Bank case rejected by Supreme Court against farmer

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The Supreme Court in the case Bank of Maharashtra & Or’s v Mohanlal Patidar observed an order given by the High Courts of directing the bank the OTS proposal given by a farmer who had availed a loan from the bank, the court further pulled up the Bank of Maharashtra for challenging the order.

The Bank shall complete remaining formalities and provide all consequential benefits flowing therefrom to the petitioners, the court further stated that it is needless to emphasize The OTS proposal given by the petitioners in both the cases shall be accepted by the Bank and ‘sanction letters’ be issued forthwith, the court allowed the petitioner plea.

The petitioner not only promptly challenged the said order, it is noteworthy that petitioner never acceded to the unilateral decision dated 25th August 2021 and even otherwise the letter dated 25th August 2021 is held to be illegal by us, clause-7 of policy cannot take away the fruits of OTS benefits, within two months from the date of issuance of order dated 22th September 2021, the petitioner filled the instant petition and further the court directed we are unable to give stamp of approval to the impugned orders and action of the Bank, observed by the bench comprising of Justice Sujoy Paul and the justice Dwarka Dhish Bansal while setting aside the impugned orders of the bank.

In an order dated 03.09.2021 it was stated and it showed that the petitioner was required to pay minimum 10% of the OTS amount within stipulated time and that he had deposited Rs.35,00,000/- out of Rs.36,50,000/- within the stipulated time, it was argued before the court by the counsel.

As full and final settlement of the dues, he will be required to deposit Rs.50.50 lakhs as he was informed by the Asset Recovery Branch of the Bank.

Whole law comes into place when a matter of farmers come as the down payment were also accepted and it was further stated by the bench in an oral remark You don’t file cases against the ones who loot 1000s of crores.

The respondent had obtained a loan and intended to pay it in terms of a One Time Settlement which was quantified as Rs 3650000/-. in furtherance thereof the respondent had deposited Rs 35,00,000 with the bank, in the above-mentioned matter.

The bank had miserably failed to accept the same and on the contrary, decided to enhance the compromise amount to Rs.50.50 lakhs unilaterally which was contrary to the OTS scheme, contended by the counsel further the counsel stated that the bank had miserably failed to accept the same and on the contrary, decided to enhance the compromise amount to Rs.50.50 lakhs unilaterally which was contrary to the OTS scheme.

The bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and the justice Surya Kant observed and remarked while dismissing the plea assailing Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order dated 02.21.2022 Such a litigation in Supreme Court will spoil the families of farmers financially, Go after bigger fish.

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