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1.The dilemmas of delimitation (The Hindu)

2.Don’t shoot the messenger The Hindu)

 

1.The dilemmas of delimitation (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the delimitation of constituencies and challenges need to be addressed before the lifting of the freeze imposed. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Recently a brand new Parliament Annexe building has been inaugurated which will afford our lawmakers more space and enable better functioning. In the coming years there might be need for a new building for Parliament altogether due to likely increase in number of seats in both Houses after the lifting of the freeze imposed by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, which is due in 2026.
  • Lifting of the frozen delimitation by the Forty-second Constitution Amendment Act, 1976 has now gained debate around issues with constitutional dimensions of far-reaching importance, how these additional seats will be allocated to the States, and how to address the concerns which necessitated the freezing of the allocation of seats on the basis of the 1971 Census figures. 

Delimitation

  • Under Article 82 of the Constitution, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. After coming into force commencement of the Act, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission.
  • This Delimitation Commission demarcates the boundaries of the Parliamentary Constituencies as per provisions of the Delimitation Act. The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census figures under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • Notwithstanding the above, the Constitution of India was specifically amended in 2002 not to have delimitation of constituencies till the first census after 2026. Thus, the present Constituencies carved out on the basis of 2001 census shall continue to be in operation till the first census after 2026.

Background 

  • Article 81 of Indian constitution provides for composition of the House of the People. Article 81(1) Subject to the provisions of Article 331 the House of the People shall consist of-
  1. Not more than five hundred and thirty members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the States, and
  2. Not more than twenty members to represent the Union territories, chosen in such manner as parliament may by law provide
  • Article 81(b) provided that for the purposes of sub-clause (a) of clause (1), there shall be allotted to each State a number of seats in the House of the People in such manner that the ratio between that number and the population of the State is, so far as practicable, the same for all States.
  • Further article 81(3) defined the expression “population” for the purposes of Article 81 to mean the population as ascertained at the last preceding Census of which the relevant figures have been published.
  • As result of above mandate, States which took a lead in population control faced the prospect of their number of seats getting reduced and States which had higher population figures stood to gain by increase in the number of seats in Lok Sabha.
  • To address this problem Forty-second Constitution Amendment Act, 1976 affected a freeze on the population figure till the year 2000 with reference to the 1971 Census. The 84thAmendment Act 2002 extended the freeze till the year 2026. This was based upon the calculations of the population planners that by 2026 India will be able to stabilize the population.
  • The 84th amendment Act,2002, also decided to undertake readjustment and rationalization of territorial constituencies in the States, without altering the number of seats allotted to each State in the House of the People and Legislative Assemblies of the States, including the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes constituencies, on the basis of the population ascertained at the census for the year 1991, so as to remove the imbalance caused due to uneven growth of population/electorate in different constituencies.

New scenario

  • According to the 2011 Census, the population of our country stands at 121crore. Basing the 1971 Census figure of 54.81crore to represent today’s population presents a distorted version of our democratic polity and is contrary to what is mandated under Article 81 of the Constitution.
  • When the figure will be available after 2026 that is, in 2031, there will be need of a fresh delimitation which will dramatically alter the present arrangement of seat allocation to the States in Parliament.
  • Apart from addressing the problem of accommodating the increase in numbers, there are more important questions that require to be debated. For example the concerns expressed by the States in 1976 which necessitated the freezing of seat allocation on the basis of 1971 population figures would appear to hold good even today and have to be addressed to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
  • With the current strength of 543 members, the Speaker finds it extremely difficult to conduct the proceedings of the House. Members do not show much heed to the entreaties of the Speaker, thereby making smooth conduct of House proceedings a difficult affair. With increasing numbers, members will be jostling with each other to capture the attention of the Speaker to raise issues in the House. The sudden increase in numbers will render the task of the Speaker more difficult.
  • There will be issue regarding the Zero Hour, Question Hour and the raising matters of urgent public importance, they will be subjected to severe strain because the 60-odd minutes which are available in the morning before the normal legislative business of the House begins will require our Parliament and Legislatures to sit for a longer duration each day during the session as well as have more number of sittings in a year than at present. 

Way ahead

  • While 2026 is still a few years away, there is need to start a debate now on how to deal with the problems that are likely to arise, otherwise it will be forced to postpone the lifting of the freeze to a future date as was done in 2001.
  • We need to give serious thought to increasing the number of seats in the Lok Sabha so that a uniform population-seat ratio is maintained in all the States without having any effect on the present total number of seats in the Lok Sabha to the less populated states.

Question– What do you mean by the delimitation of the constituencies? Throw light on the important constitutional amendment act associated with it?

2.Don’t shoot the messenger (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issued faced by Whistle Blower, why we need to protect whistle blowers. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • In India Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices. The wrongdoing might take the form of fraud, corruption or mismanagement.
  • Though the Act aims to protect people who bring to the notice of the authorities concerned allegations of corruption, wilful misuse of power or commission of a criminal offence against a public servant, but this did not help save their lives as the act has not been operationalise. 

Who is a Whistle-blower? 

  • A Whistle-blower can be defined as an individual (employee/former employee) who exposes information or practice of a wrongdoing, fraud, corruption, deviation from the set rules or mismanagement.
  • In defining who a whistle-blower is, the law goes beyond government officials who expose corruption they come across in the course of their work. It includes any other person or non-governmental organisation. 

Analysis

  • In the last few years, more than 65 people have been killed for exposing corruption in the government on the basis of information they obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.  As the RTI law has empowered the common man to have access to information from public authorities which only government officials were earlier privy to making every citizen a potential whistle-blower.
  • Though there is provision of concealing the identity of a whistle-blower, but many whistle blowers have lost their lives due to the leak of information. For example- a manager in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Satyendra K. Dubey’s, has been murdered in 2003 as he had highlighted corrupt practices in the NHAI and specifically requested that his identity be kept secret. But the information was leaked, leading to his murder.
  • The law affords protection against victimisation of the complainant or anyone who renders assistance in an inquiry. The law empowers the competent authorities to accord the whistle blower protection, which includes police protection and penalising those who victimise them. This is critical as whistle-blowers are routinely subjected to various forms of victimisation, suspensions, withholding of promotions, threats of violence and attacks.
  • Instead of operationalising the WBP law, in 2015, a amendment bill was introduced in Parliament which will fundamentally dilutes the law.

The new amendment Bill 

  • The amendment Bill seeks to remove immunity provided to whistle-blowers from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for disclosures made under the WBP law. Offences under the OSA are punishable by imprisonment of up to 14 years.
  • The basic purpose of the WBP Act is to encourage people to report wrongdoing. If whistle-blowers are prosecuted for disclosing information as part of their complaints and not granted immunity from the OSA, the very purpose of the law would be defeated. Threat of such stringent penalties would deter even genuine whistle-blowers.
  • The Bill seems to bring the WBP Act in line with the RTI Act; the amendment Bill says that complaint by whistle-blowers containing information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty, integrity, security or economic interests of the state shall not be inquired into.
  • Apart from this, certain categories of information cannot form part of the disclosure made by a whistle-blower, unless the information has been obtained under the RTI Act. This includes, matter relates to commercial confidence, trade secrets which would harm the competitive position of a third party, and information held in a fiduciary capacity.
  • The amendments ignore the fact that the two laws have completely different objectives. The RTI Act seeks to provide information to people, while the WBP Act provides a mechanism for disclosures to be made to competent authorities within the government to enable inquiry into allegations of corruption and provide protection to whistle-blowers. 

Way ahead

  • There is need of further reconsideration of proposed amendment; otherwise the very purpose of the law would be defeated. It is the moral obligation of the government to immediately promulgate the rules and implement the law to offer protection to those who expose wrongdoing.
  • There is a need to bring some provisions in Whistle blowers Act to protect witnesses that would provide confidence to those who expose corruption.

Question– What are the important safeguard measure for the protection of whistle-blowers? What more can be done to protect their identity?