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GS Paper II – Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

25 years after Babri, where the conspiracy case stands

What’s Happening-

The Supreme Court has said there is ‘something peculiar’ about the clean chit given to top BJP leaders, and expressed concern over the delay in closing the matter.

Key Points discussed were:

Context:

  • Seven years after BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti were exonerated of conspiracy charges in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Supreme Court has said that prima facie it did not “think they can be discharged”.
  • The Bench asked why the two pending cases in the matter — in Lucknow and Rae Bareli — could not be tried together: “It cannot go on like this forever… We are concerned about the delay in conducting the trial.”

Who has gone to the Supreme Court?

  • CBI has appealed against the Allahabad High Court’s verdict of May 2010, in which the HC’s Lucknow Bench upheld a trial court order on dropping conspiracy charges against Advani and others.
  • The CBI appealed after 9 months, and Advani and others sought dismissal of the petition on grounds of delay.
  • The case has been stuck at the stage of maintainability, and the CBI has been told to satisfy the court on the reasons for the delay.

Petitioner issue:

  • In 2015, Haji Mehboob, a man in his late 70s, also filed an appeal. Mehboob pleaded that with the BJP in power, CBI may not press for restoration of the conspiracy case against top leaders of the party.
  • He has expressed concern that BJP leader Rajnath Singh is now Home Minister with administrative control over CBI, and another accused, Kalyan Singh, is Governor of Rajasthan.

Is this the only case pending in SC?

  • No. There is another — over a batch of appeals against a September 30, 2010 verdict delivered by the Allahabad HC in the title suit, directing that the 2.77 acres of land of the disputed site should be divided three ways among the Hindus, the Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara, an organised group of sadhus.
  • In May 2011, the court ordered status quo at the site, restoring its previous orders of 1994 and 2002.

Key Points discussed were:

How many cases are on in the trial court?

  • Two — one each in Lucknow and Rae Bareli
  • Conspiracy charges against Advani and the others were dropped by the Lucknow court on the technical ground that the CBI had sought to conduct a joint trial of all the accused without the concurrence of the High Court.
  • Advani and the others do not face conspiracy charges in their trial before the Rae Bareli court.

How has the matter in SC progressed of late?

  • The case has not been heard effectively for almost 2 years now.
  • The last development in the case happened in March 2015 when the court allowed Haji Mehboob to file his special leave petition along with the CBI’s appeal.
  • Later, with the retirement of the judges, the Bench changed.

What happens now that the Supreme Court has indicated it intends to speed up the case?

  • Counsel for Advani K K Venugopal said he would like to be heard before the apex court passed any order on conducting a joint trial of the two cases in Lucknow and Rae Bareli.
  • The Bench said that Venugopal would be heard, but the court would likely pass an order on the joint trial on the next date of hearing, which is March 22.
  • In case the apex court orders a joint trial, it would mean Advani and the others will be tried also for participating in a criminal conspiracy that led to the demolition of the mosque — and not just for instigating the crowd though provocative speeches.

GS Paper II -Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security

Aadhaar, midday meals and key questions in SC

What’s Happening-
Govt has linked Aadhaar to school midday meals, among several other schemes.

SC Key Questions:

How many children have midday meals?

  • The Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is the largest school feeding programme of its kind in the world, covering 10.03 crore students enrolled in government schools from Classes 1 to 8. 

How many children might theoretically be left out due to the Aadhaar link?

  • The HRD Ministry is currently collecting data on how many out of the 10.03 crore beneficiaries already have Aadhaar. However, the government has clarified that no student will be deprived of hot cooked meals in case he/she doesn’t have an Aadhaar number

What are the schemes and benefits in which Aadhaar is now mandatory?

  • Aadhaar is now mandatory for over 30 schemes, including ex-gratia to Bhopal gas leak victims, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, National Action Plan for Skill Training of Persons with Disabilities, National Water Mission and National Health Mission. The union government plans to make it compulsory for all 84 schemes covered under the direct subsidy benefit transfer programme.

Why are activists opposed to using Aadhaar to identify beneficiaries of the midday meal scheme?

  • Civil society groups, activists and opposition parties say it goes against the Supreme Court’s order that Aadhaar can’t be made mandatory for welfare schemes.
  • Also, critics say, there is no role for Aadhaar in MDMS, and it would subject children to lifelong tracking without the option to opt out later.

What is the government argument?

The government has justified the linking of Aadhaar to several DBT schemes saying it would-

  1. simplify delivery processes,
  2. encourage transparency and efficiency,
  3. enable citizens to get services easily,
  4. clean up databases by removing duplicates and ghost identities, and
  5. plug leaks in all DBT schemes.

What has the Supreme Court said about making Aadhaar mandatory?

  • While the validity of Aadhaar as a scheme remains to be decided in law, the court has passed a few interim orders, saying Aadhaar is not mandatory.
  • In September 2013, it said “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card”, and that it should be voluntary.
  • The first modification in this order came on August 11, 2015, when a 3-judge Bench referred the issue to a Constitution Bench but said the government could use Aadhaar for the public distribution system (PDS) and to distribute LPG cylinders. But it must “give wide publicity in the electronic and print media… that it is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card”.
  • On October 15, 2015, the court allowed the government to use Aadhaar also for MGNREGS, National Social Assistance Programme, PMJDY, EPFO.
  • But the 5-judge Constitution Bench reiterated: “We will also make it clear that the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this Court one way or the other.” The court has passed no other direction since then.

Background-
The Midday meal programme was first introduced in 1925 for disadvantaged children in Madras Municipal Corporation.
By the mid-1980s, three states — Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — had emulated the scheme’s success.
The union government launched the scheme on a pilot basis in 1995 for children in Classes 1 to 5. By October 2007, MDMS had been scaled up to Class 8.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 14

GS Paper II –International Relations

Compassion International to wind up India operations

What’s Happening-
The government dismissed a statement by American Christian NGO Compassion International that it is being forced to shut down its operations in India because of “ideological” reasons, while the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) that was also accused by the NGO distanced itself from the issue.

Key Points discussed were:

  • MEA official told, pointing to the MEA statement calling the allegation that an RSS activist in the U.S. had suggested that the Christian NGO re-route some of its funding through the RSS, “totally extraneous to the law enforcement action.”

Background-
In March 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs had put Compassion International on a “prior permission” watch list, effectively curtailing its ability to bring in funds for NGOs in India, some of which were accused of carrying out religious conversions.
After several appeals, CI announced that it is shutting down its India operations on March 15 this year.
According to the allegation carried in the NYT, the proposal forwarded was that the [Indian] government “might view Compassion International more favourably if the charity routed a portion of its $45 million in annual charitable donations away from churches and through non-Christian aid groups, including Hindu ones.”