Daily News Analysis 12th October 2023 (The Hindu)

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Here are the topics covered for  12th October 2023: Disqualification of MLA, UN Security Council reform, Women’s quota — rhetoric and reality , Spring cleaning: On GST regime reform  , Operation Ajay, International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)

Table of Content

GS-2:Disqualification of MLA, UN Security Council reform, Women’s quota — rhetoric and reality 

GS- 3: Spring cleaning: On GST regime reform  

Facts for Prelims: Operation Ajay, International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)

 

Disqualification of MLA

Context: 

  • Maharashtra Speaker to hear disqualification petitions of rival Shiv Sena faction.

 

About disqualification:

  • Under the provisions of the Constitution of India and the Representation of the People Act (1951), certain disqualifications exist for a person to be chosen as and to be a member of the legislative assembly or legislative council of a state. These disqualifications include:
    • Holding an Office of Profit: A person is disqualified if they hold any office of profit under the Union or state government.
    • Unsound Mind: Individuals who are declared to be of unsound mind by a court are disqualified.
    • Undischarged Insolvency: Those who are undischarged insolvents are also disqualified.
    • Non-Indian Citizenship: If a person is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign state, they are disqualified.
    • Disqualification by Parliament: The Parliament can pass laws that impose additional disqualifications on individuals.
    • Conviction of a crime: If an MLA is convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more, they are disqualified from being an MLA.

In addition to these constitutional disqualifications, the Representation of People Act (1951) further establishes disqualifications that are similar to those for the Union Legislature.

 

Disqualification on the grounds of defection

  • If a person is disqualified on the grounds of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule, they cannot be a member of either House of the state legislature. 
  • The decision regarding disqualification under the Tenth Schedule is made by the Chairman (in the case of a legislative council) and the Speaker (in the case of a legislative assembly), not by the governor
  • In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the Chairman or Speaker in this matter is subject to judicial review.

The disqualification process for MLAs can be more effective in upholding the principles of democracy, maintaining political stability, and ensuring that elected representatives adhere to the rule of law and ethical conduct.

 

UN Security Council reform

Context: 

  • The issue of reforming the United Nations Security Council has resurfaced during the ongoing General Assembly session. 
  • Various world leaders, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, have expressed concerns about the Council\’s effectiveness and its limited representation.

 

Key points: 

  • The Security Council\’s composition and structure are outdated, reflecting the geopolitical realities of 1945 when it was founded. Today, with 193 UN member-states, the Council\’s 15 members represent less than 8% of the total membership. 
  • This imbalance unfairly favours a few countries, particularly those that were victorious in World War II. For example, Europe, with only 5% of the world\’s population, controls 33% of the Council seats, not including Russia.
  • This situation is unjust and fails to acknowledge the contributions made by other countries, such as Japan, Germany, and India, in terms of financial support, peacekeeping operations, and their roles in shaping world affairs. Despite widespread recognition of the problem, the solution remains elusive.
  • The fundamental challenge lies in achieving a consensus on how to reform the Security Council. Amending the UN Charter is a complex process, requiring a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly\’s member-states, followed by ratification by two-thirds of the member states.
  • The existing permanent members, including China, are hesitant to dilute their privileges, while rival countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt all have their own claims and counterclaims.
  • One proposal suggests the creation of a second category of \”semi-permanent members\” for 10-year terms to accommodate these states, but this idea hasn\’t gained much traction. As a result, the debate has gone in circles for decades, leading to gridlock in the Security Council.
  • This gridlock has had real-world consequences, as seen in the Council\’s inability to respond effectively to events like the conflict in Ukraine. Russia\’s frequent use of the veto power has hindered resolutions on various global issues.
  • On the flip side, obstructionism by Western countries has affected reforms in financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which were established in 1944.

 

Way forward:

  • Despite these challenges, the United Nations remains the foremost global platform for international cooperation, uniting all countries on a common stage.
  • Allowing it to become ineffective and irrelevant could have profound repercussions for global diplomacy and conflict resolution. 
  • Therefore, the debate on Security Council reform continues, although a clear and universally accepted solution remains elusive.

 

Women’s quota — rhetoric and reality 

Context: 

  • The passing of the Women\’s Reservation Bill in both Houses of Parliament has been celebrated, but it overlooks certain critical realities about this legislation. This conditional law necessitates the conduct of a national census and subsequent delimitation of constituencies as prerequisites for implementation. 

 

About women\’s quota: 

  • Women’s quota, once it is acknowledged that reserving seats for women in legislative bodies is a progressive step, there is no legal or political justification for delaying its enforcement.
  • The Home Minister of India justified these conditions by arguing that failing to rely on criteria established through delimitation could lead to legal challenges against the legislation. 
  • While it\’s essential for legislation to have a solid foundation and valid reasons for existence, in the case of the Women\’s Reservation Law, the stark reality is that women, who make up nearly half of the population, are underrepresented in Parliament and State legislative bodies. 
  • Reports reveal that out of the maximum allowable 550 seats in the Lok Sabha, only 82 (15%) are held by women, and in the Rajya Sabha, out of 250 members, only 31 (12%) are women. Globally, India ranks 141 out of 185 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report.
  • Constitutional provisions (Article 81(2)(a) and Article 170) link the number of seats in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies to the population. However, delimitation in India is a contentious issue, promoting population expansion without due regard for development and family planning. 
  • Full-scale delimitation in India has been postponed since 1976 and is expected to take place after the 2026 Census at the earliest.
  • The delayed delimitation could lead to significant shifts in political power and resource allocation between the northern and southern regions of India, as demographic patterns show that South India has outperformed the North in various sectors. 
  • Southern states have been successful in reducing their populations through scientific means, while northern states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have failed to do so.
  • The fusion of women\’s reservation with delimitation poses two challenges. It might prolong delimitation for years, delaying the implementation of the women\’s quota law, or it could result in delimitation based on population, potentially granting undue advantages to certain northern states.

 

Conclusion: 

  • The fusion of the demand for women\’s reservation with the uncertainty of a future delimitation process, particularly in the context of a constitutional amendment, raises questions about the constitutionality of such contingent legislation. 
  • Parliament has either engaged in populist rhetoric or made a constitutional mistake by combining these aspects. The lack of transparency on the matter until the special session began was undemocratic and prevented a thorough examination of the legislation\’s flaws.
  • In terms of the future of women\’s quota in the legislature, one can only adopt the pessimism of the intelligence and optimism of the will, as Antonio Gramsci famously expressed it in a different context.

 

Spring cleaning: On GST regime reform 

Context: 

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council recently addressed several long-standing tax ambiguities, including the taxation of corporate and personal guarantees for bank loans. 

 

Key points: 

  • These clarifications and rate adjustments were welcomed, but the Council\’s decision not to tax extra-neutral alcohol (ENA) used in alcoholic beverages was significant. 
  • ENA had been a contentious issue, as its tax could not be offset against state levies on the final product, considering alcoholic beverages are outside the GST framework.
  • It\’s worth noting that the GST Council has become more active, holding multiple meetings this year, including those aimed at resolving recent decision anomalies. The harmonization of age norms for the GST Appellate Tribunals with other tribunals is another positive development. 
  • However, the Council\’s forthcoming meeting to discuss the future of the GST Compensation Cess and potential surcharges is of paramount importance. 
  • Originally introduced to compensate states for revenue losses during the first five years of GST, this cess was extended until March 2026 due to the pandemic\’s impact on tax collections. While discouraging certain goods through this cess may be justified, it should be part of a broader GST restructuring effort.

 

Way forward: 

  • Despite robust revenue inflows, the comprehensive reform and rationalization of the complex multiple-rate structure in the GST regime initiated two years ago, remains unresolved. 
  • To truly reform the GST system, a holistic plan is needed, including addressing excluded items like electricity, petroleum, and alcohol.

 

Fact for Prelims

Operation Ajay

  • India recently announced that it was launching Operation Ajay to repatriate its citizens from Israel and Palestine. 
  • The Indian government will facilitate the return of Indian citizens through specially chartered flights. Indian Navy ships will also be pressed into service should the need arise.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs set up a 24-hour control room as Israel continued to pound Hamas-ruled Gaza with air strikes.
  • The objective of the control room is to help monitor the situation and provide information and assistance.

 

International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)

  • It is a global partnership dedicated to the preservation and sustainable management of coral reefs. 
  • ICRI operates as a voluntary organization that brings together governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientific organizations, and other stakeholders to address the various challenges facing coral reefs worldwide. 
  • The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) was established in 1994 with the participation of eight founding governments: Australia, France, Japan, Jamaica, the Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
  • The announcement regarding its establishment was made during the initial Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994.
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