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Exclusion of advocates for consideration as judicial members in tribunals contrary to SC judgements: Top court

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It is most refreshing, most rejuvenating and most rejoicing to see that while underscoring the invaluable importance of lawyers in imparting justice, the three Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat in a latest, landmark, learned and laudable judgment titled Madras Bar Association vs Union of India & Anr. in Writ Petition (C) No. 804 of 2020 along with others delivered on November 27, 2020 minced just no words that exclusion of advocates in 10 out of 19 tribunals, for consideration as judicial members is contrary to the Supreme Court judgments in Union of India v. Madras Bar Association (2010) and Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2015). Why should advocates be excluded from it? Why can’t they become part of it?

Needless to say, it is advocates who really constitute the backbone of judicial system? How can the judicial system operate normally if the backbone itself is removed from the body? You tell me! This alone explains why the petitioner which is the Madras Bar Association has been so relentless in pursuing this matter to take it to its logical conclusion! Its fight has certainly not gone in vain as this extremely judgment itself shows!

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice L Nageswara Rao for himself, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice S Ravindra Bhat sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “This Court is once again, within the span of a year, called upon to decide the constitutionality of various provisions concerning the selection, appointment, tenure, conditions of service, and ancillary matters relating to various tribunals, 19 in number, which act in aid of the judicial branch. That the judicial system and this Court in particular has to live these déjà vu moments, time and again (exemplified by no less than four constitution bench judgments) in the last 8 years, speaks profound volumes about the constancy of other branches of governance, in their insistency regarding these issues. At the heart of this, however, are stakes far greater: the guarantee of the rule of law to each citizen of the country, with the concomitant guarantee of equal protection of the law. This judgment is to be read as a sequel, and together with the decision of the Constitution Bench in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Limited (2020) 6 SCC 1.”

To say the least, it is then mentioned in para 2 that, “The core controversy arising for this Court’s consideration is the constitutional validity of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities [Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members] Rules, 2020” (hereinafter referred to as “the 2020 Rules”).”

While elaborating in detail, the Bench then informs in para 3 that, “Before considering the merits of the case, it is necessary to refer to the events preceding the issuance of the 2020 Rules for a better understanding of the dispute. Like many other nations, India recognized the need for Tribunalisation of justice to provide for adjudication by persons with ability to decide disputes in specific fields as well as to provide expedited justice in certain kinds of cases. Part XIV-A was inserted in the Constitution of India by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976. Article 323-A enables the Parliament to constitute administrative tribunals for adjudication of the disputes relating to the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State or any local or other authority. According to Article 323-B, the appropriate Legislature may constitute Tribunals for adjudication of any dispute, complaints or other offences with respect to all or any of the matters specified in Clause (2) therein. The vires of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 (enacted by Parliament in furtherance of Article 323A, for setting up administrative tribunals for adjudication of service disputes of public servants) was challenged in proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Two questions that were posed in the said Writ Petition related to the exclusion of jurisdiction of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution in service matters, the composition of the administrative Tribunal and the mode of appointment of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members.

While holding that the bar on jurisdiction of the High Courts’ cannot be a ground of attack, this Court in S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India (1987) 1 SCC 124 held that the Tribunal “should be a real substitute of the High Courts not only in form and de jure but in content and de facto”.

The Central Government was directed to make modifications to the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 pertaining to the composition of the Tribunal to ensure selection of proper and competent people to the posts of Presiding Officers of the Tribunal.”

In totality, the Bench then very rightly sums up in para 53 that, “The upshot of the above discussion leads this Court to issue the following directions:-

(i) The Union of India shall constitute a National Tribunals Commission which shall act as an independent body to supervise the appointments and functioning of Tribunals, as well as to conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of Tribunals and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the Tribunals, in an appropriate manner. Till the National Tribunals Commission is constituted, a separate wing in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India shall be established to cater to the requirements of the Tribunals.

(ii) Instead of the four-member Search-cum-Selection Committees provided for in Column (4) of the Schedule to the 2020 Rules with the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, outgoing or sitting Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal and two Secretaries to the Government of India, the Search-cum-Selection Committees should comprise of the following members:

(a) The Chief Justice of India or his nominee – Chairperson (with a casting vote).

(b) The outgoing Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal in case of appointment of the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal (or) the sitting Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal in case of appointment of other members of the Tribunal (or) a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court in case the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal is seeking re-appointment – member;

(c) Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India – member;

(d) Secretary to the Government of India from a department other than the parent or sponsoring department, nominated by the Cabinet Secretary – member;

(e) Secretary to the sponsoring or parent Ministry or Department – Member Secretary/Convener (without a vote). Till amendments are carried out, the 2020 Rules shall be read in the manner indicated.

(iii) Rule 4(2) of the 2020 Rules shall be amended to provide that the Search-cum-Selection Committee shall recommend the name of one person for appointment to each post instead of a panel of two or three persons for appointment to each post. Another name may be recommended to be included in the waiting list.

(iv) The Chairpersons, Vice-Chairpersons and the members of the Tribunal shall hold office for a term of five years and shall be eligible for reappointment. Rule 9(2) of the 2020 Rules shall be amended to provide that the Vice-Chairman, Vice-Chairperson and other members shall hold office till they attain the age of sixty-seven years.

(v) The Union of India shall make serious efforts to the Chairman or Chairperson or President and other members of the Tribunals. If providing housing is not possible, the Union of India shall pay the Chairman or Chairperson or President and Vice-Chairman, Vice-Chairperson, Vice President of the Tribunals an amount of Rs. 1,50,000/- per month as house rent allowance and Rs. 1,25,000/- per month for other members of the Tribunals. This direction shall be effective from 01.01.2021.

(vi) The 2020 Rules shall be amended to make advocates with an experience of at least 10 years eligible for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals. While considering advocates for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals, the Search-cum-Selection Committee shall take into account the experience of the Advocate at the bar and their specialization in the relevant branches of law. They shall be entitled for reappointment for at least one term by giving preference to the service rendered by them for the Tribunals.

(vii) The members of the Indian Legal Service shall be eligible for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals, provided that they fulfil the criteria applicable to advocates subject to suitability to be assessed by the Search-cum-Selection Committee on the basis of their experience and knowledge in the specialized branch of law.

(Read the conclusion on TheDailyGuardian.com)

(viii) Rule 8 of the 2020 Rules shall be amended to reflect that the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committee in matters of disciplinary actions shall be final and the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committee shall be implemented by the Central Government.

(ix) The Union of India shall make appointments to Tribunals within three months from the date on which the Search-cum-Selection Committee completes the selection process and makes its recommendations.

(x) The 2020 Rules shall have prospective effect and will be applicable from 12.02.2020, as per Rule 1(2) of the 2020 Rules.

(xi) Appointments made prior to the 2017 Rules are governed by the parent Acts and Rules which established the concerned Tribunals. In view of the interim orders passed by the Court in Rojer Mathew (supra), appointments made during the pendency of Rojer Mathew (supra) were also governed by the parent Acts and Rules. Any appointments that were made after the 2020 Rules came into force i.e. on or after 12.02.2020 shall be governed by the 2020 rules subject to the modifications directed in the preceding paragraphs of this judgment.”

(xii) Appointments made under the 2020 Rules till the date of this judgment, shall not be considered invalid, insofar as they conformed to the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committees in terms of the 2020 Rules. Such appointments are upheld, and shall not be called into question on the ground that the Search-cum-Selection Committees which recommended the appointment of Chairman, Chairperson, President or other members were in terms of the 2020 Rules, as they stood before the modifications directed in this judgment. They are, in other words, saved.

(xiii) In case the Search-cum-Selection Committees have made recommendations after conducting selections in accordance with the 2020 Rules, appointments shall be made within three months from today and shall not be subject matter of challenge on the ground that they are not in accord with this judgment.

(xiv) The terms and conditions relating to salary, benefits, allowances, house rent allowance etc. shall be in accordance with the terms indicated in, and directed by this judgment.

(xv) The Chairpersons, Vice Chairpersons and members of the Tribunals appointed prior to 12.02.2020 shall be governed by the parent statutes and Rules as per which they were appointed. The 2020 Rules shall be applicable with the modifications directed in the preceding paragraphs to those who were appointed after 12.02.2020. While reserving the matter for judgment on 09.10.2020, we extended the term of the Chairpersons, Vice Chairpersons and the members of the Tribunals shall be in accordance with the applicable Rules as mentioned above.”

Most significantly, it is worth paying attention that it is then observed in the epilogue that, “Dispensation of justice by the Tribunals can be effective only when they function independent of any executive control: this renders them credible and generates public confidence. We have noticed a disturbing trend of the Government not implementing the directions issued by this Court. To ensure that the Tribunals should not function as another department under the control of the executive, repeated directions have been issued which have gone unheeded forcing the Petitioner to approach this Court time and again. It is high time that we put an end to this practice. Rules are framed which are completely contrary to the directions issued by this Court. Upon the tribunals has devolved the task of marking boundaries of what is legally permissible and feasible (as opposed to what is not lawful and is indefensible) conduct, in a normative sense guiding future behavior of those subject to the jurisdictions of such tribunals. This task is rendered even more crucial, given that appeals against their decisions lie directly to the Supreme Court and public law intervention on the merits of such decisions is all but excluded. Also, these tribunals are expected to be consistent, and therefore, adhere to their precedents, inasmuch as they oversee regulatory behavior in several key areas of the economy. Therefore, it is crucial that these tribunals are run by a robust mix of experts, i.e. those with experience in policy in the relevant field, and those with judicial or legal experience and competence in such fields. The functioning or non-functioning of any of these tribunals due to lack of competence or understanding has a direct adverse impact on those who expect effective and swift justice from them. The resultant fallout is invariably an increased docket load, especially by recourse to Article 226 of the Constitution of India. These aspects are highlighted once again to stress that these tribunals do not function in isolation, but are a part of the larger scheme of justice dispensation envisioned by the Constitution and have to function independently, and effectively, to live up to their mandate. The involvement of this Court, in the series of decisions, rendered by no less than six Constitution Benches, underscores the importance of this aspect. The role of both the courts as upholders of judicial independence, and the executive as the policy making and implementing limb of governance, is to be concordant and collaborative. This Court expects that the present directions are adhere to and implemented, so that future litigation is avoided. The Government is, accordingly, directed to strictly adhere to the directions given above and not force the Petitioner – Madras Bar Association, which has been relentless in its efforts to ensure judicial independence of the Tribunals, to knock the doors of this Court again.”

To summarise, the Centre must pay heed to what the Apex Court has said and comply with accordingly. Advocates should not be excluded from consideration and those advocates who are eligible to become a High Court Judge with an experience of 10 years in the High Court should be rendered eligible for appointment as a judicial member of the Tribunal. However, it is left open to the Search-cum-Selection Committee to take into account in the experience of the Advocates at the Bar and the specialization of the advocates in the relevant branch of law while considering them for appointment as judicial members. The Apex Court also said that it sees no harm in members of the Indian Legal Service being considered as judicial members, provided they satisfy the criteria relating to the standing at the bar and specialization required. The court also added that appointment of competent lawyers and technical members is in furtherance of judicial independence. These Tribunals are expected to be independent, vibrant and efficient in their functioning. So Centre must get down promptly to its job of appointing competent lawyers as laid down by the Apex Court in this latest, landmark, learned and laudable judgment so elegantly, effectively and eloquently!

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Policy & Politics

Builder hardware products from India have considerable global demand, says Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash

Tarun Nangia

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Builder hardware industry is linked to the construction equipment industry where the revenue was valued at US$ 6.5 billion in 2020 and construction market is expected to be the third largest globally by 2025: MSME Secretary B B Swain

India is the 17th largest supplier of builder hardware products and is on its way to fulfil the government ambition to become a global manufacturing hub of builder hardware products.

Builder Hardware is another performer making India as one of the top 20 suppliers with a 1.2 percent share in the world builder hardware export pie, said Som Parkash, Minister of State of Commerce & Industry

While addressing the Builder Hardware Expo, organised by EEPC India, virtually today, the Minister noted that builder hardware products from India have considerable demand across the continents.

Indian builder hardware product is one of the best performing segments in the Indian engineering goods sector which has been the key driver of merchandise exports from the country.

“Builder hardware industry is linked to the construction equipment industry where the revenue was valued at US$ 6.5 billion in 2020 and the construction market is expected to be the third largest globally by 2025,” said Mr B B Swain, Secretary, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

India is the 17th largest supplier of builder hardware products and is on its way to fulfil the government ambition to become a global manufacturing hub of builder hardware products.

Swain stated that EEPC India with more than 60 per cent of its members representing MSME sector took several initiatives even during pandemic to provide global interaction opportunities to small players in the form of webinars and virtual Expos.

“The Government of India has been proactive to ensure that all the benefits of the MSME schemes reach the intended beneficiaries in time,” said Mr Swain.

EEPC India Chairman Mahesh Desai said that the four-day virtual Expo would provide opportunity to the Indian exhibitors to display an array of over 200 domestic builder hardware products to overseas buyers from nine focus regions and trade blocs.

“The buyers would comprise contractors, builders, building engineers, architects, landscape artists, interior designers, consultants and project management professionals,” he said.

Speaking at the Expo, EEPC India Vice Chairman Arun Kumar Garodia said India belongs to the league of leading builder hardware manufacturing and exporting nations.

“The Government of India has now set a National Mission of merchandise exports to reach US$ 400 billion within this fiscal, US$ 500 billion by FY-24 and US$ 1 trillion by FY-28 by making Indian products the only choice for global buyers,” he said.

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Policy & Politics

MOU SIGNED BETWEEN J&K AND GOVERNMENT OF DUBAI FOR REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT, INDUSTRIAL PARKS, SUPER SPECIALITY HOSPITALS

MoU will give UT a big developmental push: Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Jammu and Kashmir administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Dubai for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, multipurpose towers, logistics, medical college, super specialty hospital and more.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal highlighted the significance of the day and said that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai Government, the world has started to recognize the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon. This MoU gives out a strong signal to the entire world that the way India is transforming into a global power, Jammu & Kashmir is having a significant role in that as well.

This MoU is a milestone after which the investment will pour in from entire globe and is a big developmental push. Different entities from Dubai have shown keen interest in investment. Development has to be aspired on all fronts and we are on track, he added.

Goyal thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shri Amit Shah for their focus and commitment towards the development of UT of Jammu & Kashmir. Recent industrial package of 28,400 Crore rupees is a testimony towards ensured development.

Terming it a momentous occasion for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Shri Manoj Sinha said that this development journey will help the Union Territory to scale new heights in Industrialization and sustainable growth.

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal highlighted the significance of the day and said that with the signing of the MoU with Dubai Government, the world has started to recognize the pace with which Jammu and Kashmir is traversing on the development bandwagon.

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India is working towards bridging digital divide in Africa: V. Muraleedharan

‘India has adopted an approach that facilitates development of human capital in the continent with the larger objective of harnessing socio-economic growth,’ said V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India

Tarun Nangia

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‘India is working towards bridging digital divide in Africa and has adopted an approach that facilitates development of human capital in the continent with the larger objective of harnessing socio-economic growth”, mentioned V Muraleedharan, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India while addressing the Inaugural Session at the 2nd edition of the India Africa Higher Education and Skill Development Summit organised by Confederation of Indian Industry in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India today.

Muraleedharan elucidated that India is best positioned to partner Africa as we can offer affordable and high-quality education and skill development opportunities and make the young population employable and allow them to participate in growing economies of African countries. Elucidating on the strong Indo-African partnership in the domain of higher education and skill development, the Minister stated that capacity building and providing higher education opportunities with for the socio-economic development of our partner nations is a major element of our Foreign Policy.

India has long standing ties in education with Africa and over 2000 Indian faculty members have been involved in teaching and research activities of Ethiopian nations. Further, defence academies and colleges are being set up in nations like Nigeria and Tanzania. With a view to promote students from African nations to study in India, several initiatives have been undertaken like the Study in INDIA, ITEC programmes, Sir C V Raman Scholarship, collaboration of Department of Science & Technology with the World Bank to develop centres of excellence in African countries and the launch of e-VidyaBharti and e-ArogyaBharti Project, among others.

Dr Sarah Ruto, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Education Republic of Kenya, emphasised that Kenya is working towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals with a special focus on select education-based SDG Goals. She mentioned that Kenya has a competency-based curriculum to meet the rising demands for tertiary education and there is focus on alumni network funding as well as partnerships to promote skill development.

Buti Kgwaridi Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science & Innovation, Government of Republic of South Africa informed that a bilateral cooperation treaty is being negotiated in education for exchange of students as well as to share best practices. He added that forums like IBSA and BRICS have also provided opportunities to address the developmental needs of the nations.

Dame Diop, Minister of Employment, Vocational Training, Apprenticeship and Inclusion, Government of Republic of Senegal informed that the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES) which harmonises national policies particularly for human capital development and vocational training is a major step towards promoting employability. The Minister commended India for committing 130 million Rupees to Senegal to create science and technology institutes.

Dr Douglas Letsholathebe, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Government of Republic of Botswana highlighted that the commonality of English language based higher education system offers scope for greater cooperation between the countries. The Minister stated that the Botswana Vision 2036 aims at transformation from a resource-based to an all-ingredient knowledge-based economy focussing on education, training, and human resource development systems. Expressing the commitment to the youth, Botswana has joined the Generation Unlimited initiative as a leader thereby, playing a crucial role in forging multisector partnerships across geographies to provide greater access to skilling and livelihood opportunities.

S Kuppuswamy, Co-Chair, CII Africa Committee & Advisor-Group Finance & Special Projects, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said that the Indo-African collaboration has strengthened in the post pandemic era as the nations are collectively focusing on new age learning models and enhancing the role of technology in education. Emphasizing on the strong multilateral cooperation with Africa, it was highlighted that one of the most popular programs, the Study in India commonly called EDCIL offered by Ministry of Education offers around 900 scholarships to African students to study in India and Indian universities are also investing in promoting their services to the African community.

The two day Summit organised in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India will focus on Online education, Study in India and Skills Development programmes. Over 6 ministers from Africa and India participated at the Summit and event saw online registration of 600 delegates from India and Africa.

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Policy & Politics

INDEX NUMBERS OF WHOLESALE PRICE IN INDIA FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER, 2021(BASE YEAR: 2011-12)

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Note: P: Provisional, F: Final, * Annual rate of WPI inflation calculated over the corresponding month of previous year

The month over month change in WPI index for the month of September, 2021 (as compared to August, 2021) was 0.07 %. The monthly change in WPI index for last six-month is summarized below:

Annex-I

All India Wholesale Price Indices and Rates of Inflation (Base Year: 2011-12=100) for September, 2021

Annex-II

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

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One nation one election: From inception to constitutional/logistical issues

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‘The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.”

In the yesteryears, when Late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was injecting the idea that India will awake to life and freedom, he certainly would not have had any idea that the same speech, to the same public and with the same zeal will be delivered by dissecting few of the words and adding spice wrapped in polarized feelings. Those occasions were five yearly festival of Indian democracy- elections where such speeches jumbled every now and then – could be heard and read.

But one could never fathom of a situation where complex electoral processes does not go simultaneously for the centre and state and in fact, takes place at intervals of every few months in the diversified though unified country like India. And the saga of speech would start once again, every second, for months. It took 20 years of independence and 17 years of first general election to break the chain. 1967 was the last time when India had near simultaneous elections.

The Constituent Assembly had scholars like Dr. BR Ambedkar who raised the issue of deciding the status of election commission i.e. whether it has to be a permanent body or a temporary one, giving logic for his take on the issue. At the same time, the far-sightedness of ones like Prof. Shibban Lal Saxena, threw light on the issue that mid-term dissolution of assemblies would push us to a situation of having elections before completion of five years and hence we cannot have such a commission which sits free for five years after conducting one and waiting for other election, and hence we have Article 324 in our constitution.

Kerala Assembly made debut for the mid-term dissolution and elections were held in the year 1960, unlike for rest of the country which was held in 1962. Nagaland and Pondicherry should also be kept under exceptions because assemblies here were formed only after 1962. Like every beginning has an end, similarly every end has a beginning. The end of simultaneous election had its beginning in 1970 when, on the wishes of Indira Gandhi, there was a premature dissolution of Lok Sabha on December 27, 1970 and mid-term elections were held in February 1971. The next political event was declaration of National Emergency, 1975. General Elections were held in the year 1977 and the newly formed Janta Parivar started to focus on dissolution of assemblies of few states after the 1977 victory. Such attempts, both at centre and state level, were rusting the greased process of simultaneous elections. The 1998 and 1999 dissolution of Lok Sabha acted as a catalyst for such rusting of simultaneous elections and now only three to four states go for elections with the Lok Sabha polls for last few years. Thus, the Election Commission now conducts state elections once or twice every year and so we get to hear the saga of speeches discussed earlier every few months.

The Hurdles in the path

The Representation of People Act, 1951 is relevant to throw light on the legal aspect of the possibility and shortcomings faced by the authorities for conducting simultaneous elections. Section 14 and Section 15 talk about notification for general elections to House of People and State Assembly respectively. These provisions are empowering in nature and hence the Election Commission, by virtue of these provisions, can notify elections keeping a gap of six months from the end of tenure of the house and this gap period has to be strictly adhered to. Usually, the election schedule is announced a few days before the notification is issued so that the individuals and institutions involved in the process gear up. Hence we can surmise that for the present state of affairs regarding elections of different states and for those assemblies ending their tenure in the span of less than six months, simultaneous elections are legally possible. But, this is not the only changes that shall be required.

Our constitution’s basic structure not only includes parliamentary democracy but also federalism. Also, the tenured elected legislatures are equally important to sustain parliamentary democracy. By bringing the scheme of simultaneous elections, tampering of constitutional accountability shall take place. This shall further deteriorate the structure of federalism that we uphold.

As we have a quasi federal state, our President and Governor neither reigns nor governs unlike United States where the President both reigns and governs and England where the King reigns but does not govern. Thus, by bringing simultaneous elections, we shall be indirectly bringing Governor and President at the pedestal to govern and reign, as when the Lok Sabha or the State Assemblies would be dissolved, the President and Governor shall be appointed as head of the executive. This was even suggested as one of the proposals in The Niti Aayog discussion paper, 2017.

The Paper and the Draft Report of the Law Commission in 2018 also suggested to shorten the tenure of few legislative assemblies and to extend the same of the others in order to synchronize the cycles. This would lead to chaos as why would an elected assembly would want a tenure of two years in place of the earlier promised five years. Similarly, it was also proposed to conduct only two sets of election in a time span of five years. This action in itself is anti-democratic as it goes against the right of citizens to elect their leaders at regular intervals.

This anti-democratic action can be curved into a democratic one by bringing the necessary constitutional amendments. In order to sync the tenures and terms, amendments shall be needed in the following Articles of The Constitution of India, 1950

Article 83(Duration of Houses of Parliament) and 172(Duration of State Legislatures) – These article provides for fixed tenure of five years of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly. It shall need to be amended to match the requirements of flexible tenures in case of synchronizing elections.

Article 85(Sessions of Parliament, prorogation and dissolution) and 174(Sessions of the State Legislature, prorogation and dissolution) – These sections empowers the President and governor to dissolve the Lok Sabha and Legislative assembly respectively. it shall need to be amended to include synchronization as a reason to dissolve.

Article 356(Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States) – This article provides for when president or governor can act as head. This shall need to be amended to include manual tampering of tenures so as to create a path to shorten the tenures and also provide for a way to president or governor to act in situations.

In addition to these constitutional issues, there are logistical issues too. The logistical issues which are of major economical value bring with itself the shortage of the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Presently, the complete set of single EVM including the voter-verifiable paper audit trial can be used for different elections taking place at different time and places for so long as is the recommended life of an EVM. One EVM can have the names of 16 candidates at maximum. Hence for those constituencies where candidates are even one more than 16, the second EVM has to be used. As a precautionary measure, few of the EVMs are kept as reserve and they are to be used in case the once installed earlier face issues. The number of polling stations in India is more than one million. Now the calculation has to start from providing every polling station with EVMs, that too double in number in case of simultaneous elections for centre and state. The procurement of such large number of EVMs does not limit the expenditure. Storage and security of the EVMs adds to the expenditure which undoubtedly counts to thousands of crores and this does not adds to decrease in the expenditure as is the view of proponents for simultaneous elections. As far as local body polls are concerned, the polling stations, the superintending authority and the judicial authority for taking cases of local elections are different from those of state or centre elections. Hence such issues only add to the logistical issues already faced by the election commission.

Conclusion

The idea of one nation one election is not alien to India. 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967 pave way for the history of simultaneous elections. The synchronization shall definitely bring stability and strengthen nationalism. In long run, it might also help to cut expenditure and speed up development but the immediate expenses seem to be more than the cost benefit analysis. Moreover, the authors are of the opinion that one election might make the country more centralized and lead to tangential behavior towards local issues and regional parties. It might also transform our democracy to a managed democracy like in Russia. It might give the pretence of free and fair elections but the reality shall be far from it.

Thus, it is imperative that electoral reforms are needed but one nation one election is not the correct scheme to embrace under the ambit of electoral reforms.

The Constituent Assembly had scholars like Dr. BR Ambedkar who raised the issue of deciding the status of election commission i.e. whether it has to be a permanent body or a temporary one, giving logic for his take on the issue. At the same time, the far-sightedness of ones like Prof. Shibban Lal Saxena, threw light on the issue that mid-term dissolution of assemblies would push us to a situation of having elections before completion of five years and hence we cannot have such a commission which sits free for five years after conducting one and waiting for other election, and hence we have Article 324 in our constitution.

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Policy & Politics

MAKING IT HAPPEN: HIGH SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION IN GANJAM

Anil Swarup

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With the sole motto of ‘Desire for excellence in School Education’, the concept of transformation of high schools into Centre of Excellence (CoE) is based on the vision of Chief Minister of Odisha. The school transformation initiative aims to revolutionize the high school education paradigm of Odisha by upgrading the existing school infrastructure at par with the best of the private schools in the country. This has helped provide a highly conducive learning environment for the students from humble background and would also ensure the delivery of best quality education and training.

The major challenge of community participation and ownership was addressed through regular coordination meetings with PRI members, Block Administration, parents, alumni, School Management Committee (SMC), teachers and students. This also helped identify the needs and priorities of the school for imparting quality education. After several rounds of consultations, it was decided to bring about holistic changes in the existing infrastructure of the high school and re-establish it with Smart and Digital Class Rooms, e-Library-cum-Reading Room, Modern Science Laboratory, Hygienic Toilet, Safe & Pure Drinking Water and upgradation of Sports facilities.

After finalizing the above-mentioned priorities, the next challenge was to work out the finances to implement the said work. This is where the ‘Mo School’ initiative of the State Government played the role of a game changer. Under this programme, contributions were to be invited from alumni, donors and organizations for every school and the State Government would provide twice the matching grant against each donation received. For example, if a CSR contribution of Rs. 1 Lakh was received for a particular school, the State Government would provide Rs. 2 Lakhs for the said school and a total amount of Rs. 3 Lakhs would be made available for the development of the school.

In addition to the aforementioned, the local self-governing bodies such as Gram Panchayats and Blocks also earmarked their funds for transforming the local schools which would turn into an asset for capacity building of their children. The overall transformation work was closely monitored by the School Management Committee (SMC) in coordination with Block Technical Team in order to maintain a higher degree of transparency, accountability and timeline.

The main aim was to improve quality of education in high schools by using latest technology, upgrading infrastructure by means of smart class rooms and creation of interactive learning environment with audio-visual facilities. In order to inculcate the practice of reading and to develop soft skills among the students, a well-furnished Library-cum-Reading Room has been setup where students not only develop practice of reading books related to their syllabus but also various informative and motivational books.

To inculcate a sense of scientific temper among students, a modern integrated science laboratory has been setup. To facilitate easy understanding of various science concepts and theories, students will now get a first-hand learning experience by performing various experiments in the laboratory. The modern science laboratory will improve scientific reasoning abilities and practical skills of the students.

In addition to all the above, separate hygienic toilets for boys and girls were also ensured in the high schools. The idea is to ensure that students remain free from infection by developing good sanitation habits. The toilets are fitted with colored & designed tiles and with modern sanitary fittings to minimize wastage of water. Installation of napkin incinerators in girls’ toilet is also ensured to dispose the sanitary napkins in a hygienic way. It is also ensured that the teachers and students use the same toilet so that they take personal interest in maintaining cleanliness & hygiene. Special and dedicated toilet for students with special needs are also made an integral part of the new toilet pattern.

As a top priority, pure and safe drinking water facilities are being ensured in all schools under the ‘Nal Se Jal’ campaign of the State Government. Provision of water purifier is ensured in every high school for safe and pure drinking water. It has also been decided to upgrade the school playground with modern playing equipment in order to nurture young sporting talents.

An additional initiative called ‘Water Bell – The reminder’ has been launched by Ganjam Administration with a vision to inculcate the habit of drinking water at regular intervals among the students so that they stay hydrated and fit. As students spend most of the time in schools, water bell is a reminder for a strategic break for the students during the school hours to take a break and drink water in between the school sessions. Students are also encouraged to carry water bottle to schools

The efforts being made have the potential of transforming high school education in the entire state of Odisha, including Ganjam District . The idea of upgradation of Government high schools driven by 5T principles has not only resulted in the transformation of infrastructure but also developed self-confidence and motivation among students, teachers and parents coming from very humble background in rural areas. This ambitious initiative has become a reality only because of the concerted efforts of various stakeholders, especially the field level functionaries like BDOs, AEs, JEs, SMCs, Teachers, parents, students, etc. The success can be attributed to ‘Team Ganjam’ led by a young and dynamic Vijay Amruta Kulange. This team made it happen. All this could not have been achieved without political support from the top. The beauty of the model is that it is replicable, scalable and sustainable because all the stakeholders are on board.

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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