Topic 1: Supreme Court’s public interest immunity claim procedure
Context: The SC devised a procedure for “public interest immunity claim” as a less restrictive alternative to sealed covers for deciding claims involving state secrets.
What is the public interest immunity claim?
- It allows the State to remove the material from the proceedings on the ground that its disclosure would injure public interest.
- If such a claim by the State is allowed, the concerned document cannot be used in evidence.
- The Supreme Court said that the validity of a claim involving national security considerations must be based on the test of:
- whether there is material to conclude that the non-disclosure of information is in the interest of national security; and
- whether a reasonable prudent person would draw the same inference from the material on record.
- Comparison with sealed cover procedure:
- The court said that it assesses the validity of public interest immunity claims, which address the same harms as the sealed cover procedure, based on the “structured proportionality” standard.
- Public interest immunity claims constitute less restrictive means.
- While public interest immunity claims also impact the principles of natural justice, sealed cover proceedings go a step ahead and infringe on the principles of natural justice as well as the principles of open justice.
- It is only the court and the party seeking non-disclosure of the material who are privy to the public interest immunity proceedings.
- Concept of Amicus Curiae:
- To safeguard the claimant against a potential injury to procedural guarantees in public interest immunity proceeding the court has power to appoint an amicus curiae.
- The appointment of an amicus curiae will balance concerns of confidentiality with the need to preserve public confidence in the objectivity of the justice delivery process.
- How it is appointed:
- The court-appointed amicus, shall be given access to the materials sought to be withheld by the state.
- The amicus curiae will be allowed to interact with the applicant and their lawyer before the proceedings to ascertain their case, and enable them to make effective submissions on the necessity of disclosure.
- The amicus curiae shall not interact with the applicant or their counsel after the public interest immunity proceeding has begun and the counsel has viewed the document sought to be withheld.
- Finally, the amicus shall to the best of their ability represent the interests of the applicant and would be bound by oath to not disclose or discuss the material with any other person.
- Article 145:
- One of the overwhelming considerations behind the court giving directions to appoint an amicus was Article 145 of the Constitution.
- It warrants that all judgments of SC to be delivered in open court.
- Article 145(4) lays down that no judgment shall be delivered by the Supreme Court save in open Court.
- While the court recognised that public interest immunity proceedings will take place in a closed setting, it stated clearly that the Court is required to pass a reasoned order for allowing or dismissing the claim in open court.
|What is sealed cover jurisprudence?Sealed cover jurisprudence is a practise utilised by the Supreme Court and, in some cases, subordinate courts, in which material from government agencies is requested or accepted in sealed envelopes that can only be viewed by judges.|
Topic 2: National Party
Context: The Election Commission recognised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a national party, while revoking that status of the All India Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI).
What is a national party?
- The name suggests that a national party would be one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.
- National parties are usually India’s bigger parties, such as the Congress and BJP.
- Some smaller parties are also recognised as national parties. A certain stature is sometimes associated with being a national party, but this does not necessarily translate into having a lot of national political clout.
- Who grants the status?
- Election Commission of India.
When does the Election Commission of India grant a party ‘national’ status?
- To be granted national status, a political party must fulfil the following criteria:
- The party must secure at least 6% of the total valid votes polled in at least four states in a Lok Sabha or state assembly election.
- In addition, it must win at least four Lok Sabha seats from any state or states.
- If it does not fulfil the above criterion, it must have won at least 2% of the seats in the Lok Sabha from a minimum of three states.
- The party must be recognised as a state party in at least four states.
- The party must secure at least 6% of the total valid votes polled in at least four states in a Lok Sabha or state assembly election.
What are the criteria to be recognised as a state party?
- For a party to be recognised as a ‘state party’ an organisation needs to fulfil any of the following criteria:
- The party must win at least 6% of the total valid votes polled in an assembly election and win at least 2 seats.
- The party must bag at least 6% of the valid votes polled and win 1 or more seats in a Lok Sabha election.
- The party must win at least 3% of the total number of seats or at least 3 seats, whichever is more, in an assembly election.
- The party must have at least 1 seat for every 25 constituencies from a state in the Lok Sabha or an equivalent fraction as allocated to the state.
- The party must have won at least 8% of the total valid votes polled in an assembly or a Lok Sabha election.
- Apart from these key criteria, the party must also fulfil some additional conditions to be recognised as a state or national party.
Benefits of getting recognised as a national party in India
- Right to use a reserved symbol:
- A national party is given the right to use a reserved symbol for all elections held throughout the country.
- This symbol is exclusive to the party and cannot be used by any other party.
- National Presence:
- A national party can contest elections across the country and can field candidates in any state, which helps in expanding its base and influence.
- More ‘Star Campaigners’:
- A national party can engage 40 ‘star campaigners’ as opposed to 20 such campaigners allotted to a registered unrecognised party.
- Star campaigners’ expenses are not added to the party’s overall costs of running an election campaign.
- Government Land Allocation:
- A party with the ‘national’ status gets land from the government to build its headquarters.
- Single Proposer:
- ‘National’ parties need to have just one proposer to submit a nomination.
- They are given two free sets of electoral rolls during the roll revision.
- They also get one free electoral roll for each candidate during general elections.
- Influence on National Policy:
- National parties have a significant say in the formulation of national policies, and their opinions and positions are often given greater weightage than those of state parties.
Topic 3: UN Democracy Fund
Context: India and the US were prime movers behind the UN Democracy Fund in 2005, when they were negotiating the civilian nuclear co-operation deal.
- During Prime Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in July 2005, he and US President George Bush announced the US-India Global Democracy Initiative.
- Support to the UN Democracy Fund that had been set up a couple of months earlier with an inaugural contribution of $ 10 million each.
- The UNDEF was part of the World Summit’s outcome document.
- India’s contribution:
- India gave $5 million to the fund in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
- No contribution was made in 2007 and 2010.
- The contributions began dipping from 2012.
- Funding process:
- Each year, UNDEF solicits and receives upto 3,000 proposals from NGOs around the world.
- An Advisory Board considers these proposals, and recommends proposals for approval by the Secretary General.
- Between 30 to 50 are chosen every year.
- In 15 Rounds of Funding so far, UNDEF has supported over 880 two-year projects in more than 130 countries.
- How the advisory board is constituted?
- The Advisory Board, constituted by the Secretary General, includes eight largest Member State contributors and six other states to reflect diverse geographical representation, including one “small island” and developing states.
- India has been a member of the Board since the beginning.
Topic 4: How have recent weather events affected wheat crop?
Context: The unusual rise in temperature in February this year, followed by an untimely spell of widespread rain have left wheat-growing farmers worried as they anticipate a drop in yield (productivity), output (production) and quality.
How will the rains affect wheat crop?
- Fairly widespread rains along with stormy winds between 40-50 kilometers per hour lashed several parts of the major wheat-growing States in the country during March, under the influence of consecutive western disturbances.
- Rain spells accompanied by winds are not considered to be a good sign for the crop’s health if they are close to the ripening and harvesting stage.
- Unfortunately, there have been instances of crop flattening in fields, besides water logging, which could be detrimental for the ready-to-harvest wheat crop.
- Sowing and harvesting season for wheat:
- Wheat, a key rabi (winter) crop is sown between late October till December;
- It nears the ripening stage in the month of mid-March.
- Harvesting of the early sown varieties usually commences by the end of March itself.
How much output would be affected?
- The country’s wheat production in the agriculture year 2022-23 is likely to be 102.9 MT which is less than the Union government’s estimate of 112 MT.
- The government is optimistic that wheat production would be close to 112 MT on account of an increased acreage (area) of wheat and better yield this season.
- As per the government, the average wheat acreage this year (2022-23) has been more in comparison to the last five years (2017-2021).
- A sizable section of farmers assert that the inclement weather has adversely damaged the standing wheat crop.
- After the rains and winds, wherever the crop has flattened, it will be difficult to recover it, eventually hurting the crop’s yield.
- If the country’s wheat production drops below the government estimate it could lead to a hike in prices of wheat and wheat-based products in the domestic market.
- Any decline in wheat production can also lead to a potential foodgrain security issue.
|What are western disturbances?A western disturbance is an extratropical cyclone that originates in the Mediterranean region and provides heavy winter rain to the Indian subcontinent’s northern regions. A Western Disturbance is defined by as a low-pressure depression or trough over the surface or upper-air in the westerly winds regime north of 20 degrees north, causing pressure, wind pattern, and temperature fields to fluctuate.The term ‘Western’ alludes to the direction they came from in India.Because the air in low-pressure systems is unstable or disturbed, the term “disturbance” is used.It was coined by Indian meteorologists to describe systems moving from west to east.Most winter and pre-monsoon season rainfall in North-West India is due to Western Disturbances.Cloudy skies, warmer night temperatures, and unexpected rain are frequently linked with this event.Western disturbances are thought to account for around 5-10% of India’s total yearly rainfall.In the winter, western winds bring moderate to heavy rain to low-lying areas and heavy snow to the Indian subcontinent’s mountainous regions.Rain during the winter season is critical for rabi crops such as wheat, barley, mustard, gram, lentil, etc., one of India’s most important crops.Crop failure and water shortages are linked to weak western disturbances in north India.Farmers can benefit from strong western disturbances as it helps with water scarcity.|
Topic 5: Online gaming rules in Tamil Nadu vs the Centre
Context: The Tamil Nadu government received its Governor’s approval for a Bill banning online gambling, just one business day after the Centre notified fresh rules for online gaming.
- The Tamil Nadu Law:
- The Bill prohibits online gambling and online games of chance played for money or other stakes.
- While it specifically names Rummy and Poker as games of chance, it can go much wider in scop.
- It defines online games of chance as :
- those where both an element of chance and skill are involved, and the element of chance dominates over the element of skill;
- games are presented as games of chance;
- the element of chance can only be eliminated by superlative skill; or
- games involve cards, dice, or wheel which work on random event generators.
- It also establishes the Tamil Nadu Online Gaming Authority and empowers it to regulate online gaming companies.
- Companies that are based outside the state are required to follow specified due diligence or restrict access to prohibited games for people in Tamil Nadu.
- The state’s proposed gaming authority will identify games of chance and recommend them to be included in the Schedule of prohibited games.
- Centre vs Tamil Nadu
- The Bill comes just days after the Centre notified amendments to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, which brought in rules for regulating online real money games.
- The Centre said that state governments’ regulating online gambling is not required any more after the IT rules for online gaming have been notified.
- Online gaming companies had raised concerns around state governments passing competing legislations which could potentially go against norms prescribed under Centre’s rules.
- Ministry of electronics believes that while gambling is a state subject, activities that occur on the Internet – including online gambling and gaming – fall exclusively in its domain to regulate.
- Centre’s norms for online gaming
- It require the setting up of multiple self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) whose approval will be required for online games with a monetary element.
- Games that involve wagering on outcomes of events will not be allowed.
- Online gaming companies will also have to complete a KYC procedure for users when they first make a deposit in their accounts to play a game.
- KYC norms laid down by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for its regulated entities will have to be followed by them.
What is Online Gaming?
- The term online gaming refers to games that can only be played with an internet connection.
- This is a part of the sunrise industry with a growing demand for game access.
- With more than 13 crore players across more than 200 platforms, India is the world’s largest fantasy sports market.
How big is the online gaming market in India?
- The Indian mobile gaming industry is expected to reach USD 5 billion by 2025.
- Between 2017 and 2020, the country’s industry expanded at a CAGR of 38%, compared to 8% in China and 10% in the US.
- For the past two years, India’s proportion of New Paying Users (NPUs) in gaming has grown at the fastest rate in the world, rising from 40% in 2020 to 50% in 2021.
- Transaction-based games’ revenues increased by 26% in India and the number of paying players increased by 17.
Why online gaming is growing in India?
- Due to the restrictions and lockdown imposed by Covid 19, there were online schools and work-from-home and the growing popularity of digital payment contributed to increasing demand for online gaming.
- According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), mobile devices are the primary driver of India’s gaming industry.
- Affordable internet and the availability of faster smartphones with enhanced gaming capabilities have also fuelled the market.
Other laws to monitor the online gaming industry in India
- Any online gaming platform (domestic or foreign) offering real money online games to users of India will have to be a legal entity incorporated under Indian law.
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 will treat these platforms as “reporting entities.”
- These platforms will be required to notify the Financial Intelligence Unit India of any suspicious transactions.
- Most states allow skill-based games but some don’t allow games of chance, which are considered gambling and immoral.
- Games of skill have been restricted in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana.
Issues associated with online gaming
- An increasing number of people are developing online gaming addiction.
- Compulsive gaming by kids is influencing their exhibition in schools and affecting their social lives & relationships with family members.
- Following incidents of violence and suicide, online games like PUBG and the Blue Whale Challenge were restricted.
- This addiction is causing young people to have nearsightedness.
- Cheating, privacy violations, abuse, and bullying are all possible outcomes of the unintentional sharing of personal information.
Topic 6: The Gilens model
Context: A study on Norway’s democracy was undertaken to assess the extent of policy unresponsiveness in a democracy that has ‘gone furthest in reducing economic inequality and restricting money in politics’
The case for democracy
- One of the reasons that a democracy is held to be superior to other forms of governance is the promise it holds out that every citizen will have equal say in policy-making.
- This would indeed be the case in a perfect democracy where every individual is politically equal.
- But in the real world, no democracy is perfect, and what has typically been observed is that the affluent enjoy a disproportionately greater say in policy-making compared to the average citizen.
The Gilens model
- In a 2012 study it found that in the U.S., public policy decidedly favoured the preferences of the affluent, at the expense of the poor and the middle classes.
- American democracy, however, has certain unique features, such as:
- the heavy reliance of political parties on private campaign donations, which might make it far more unresponsive to the non-affluent.
- In Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden policy was once again found to be skewed in favour of the preferences of the affluent.