Mitras Analysis of News : 29-03-2017

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1. Unique distinction (The Hindu)

2. When an open door policy is not enough (The Indian Express)

3.Supreme Court now open for Camera proceedings

 

1.Unique distinction (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the decision of the Supreme Court regarding Aadhar usage.(GS paper II)

Overview

  • Government has been constantly battling to use the Aadhar for availing almost all the government services.
  • However, the court has repeatedly tried to limit the scope of Aadhar in government services. But recently, the court has ruled that Aadhar can be used for non-welfare services.

The ruling

  • The Supreme Court had earlier directed that no one should be denied state benefits for lack of Aadhaar, which is a voluntary identity document. However, the court has observed that the government can insist on Aadhaar if benefit is not anticipated.
  • These include filing income tax returns, opening bank accounts or getting a mobile phone connection. This assumes significance as the government announced two such changes over the past week itself. First, it included amendments to the Finance Bill of 2017, now approved by the Lok Sabha, making Aadhaar mandatory for all applications for PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards and filing of income tax returns.
  • This brings lucidity on a controversial issue and the government can now go ahead and make Aadhaar the axis of the financial system.

Implications of the ruling

  • Court’s ruling has dispelled some of the ambiguity relating to the scope, even the future, of Aadhaar. Now aadhar can function as a transformative database to usher an era of transparency.
  • However, the issue of privacy which stood at the heart of the Aadhaar controversy, remains unaddressed and no credible solution has been found to resolve the crisis. The ruling further opens the grey area for privacy controversy.
  • Moreover, it has set the stage for the Unique Identification (UID) numbers being used as the basic identity proof for all residents. Biometrics captured under the Aadhaar enrolment process will ensure that no individual can hold more than one PAN card to evade tax dues.

Way ahead

  • Aadhar data must be safeguarded by law, apart from technology. Simple questions need to be addressed such as who is authorised to collect, store and transmit data? Who can edit queries or redesign the database, or make connections to it? What penalties would a breach attract?
  • Such issues should not be addressed by multiple legislation, as they are now, by the IT Act of 2000 and the rules of 2011. For general acceptance, Aadhaar must be secured by a single, unified data protection law with exemplary penalties, as in the European Union.

Question: Government has not been able to leverage the optimum potential of Aadhar due to various systemic loopholes. How government should overcome the pending issues?

2.When an open door policy is not enough (The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of quick fix to acute problem of toilets without looking at the full system. (GS paper I)

Overview

  • Recently the Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has announced that from 1st April, it will be mandatory for all hotels and restaurants in its jurisdiction to open their toilets to the public; with an option of charging up to Rs. 5 per use of the toilet.
  • The move has been applauded but shifting attention away from the inaction of the government and offering an incomplete solution is not the effective solution.

Key Issues involved

  1. The move can be seen as an excessive and unjustifiable encroachment on private property.
  1. It is an example of a quick fix, without looking at the full system including the availability of toilets, water for flushing, the sewerage network, sewage treatment and provisions for discharge of the treated sewage into water bodies.
  1. The restaurants are concerned about hygiene, particularly because of the inadequate availability of water, to take on extra users, security related issues.
  1. The SDMC direction is a typical example of a quick fix, without looking at the full system, including the availability of toilets, water for flushing, the sewerage network, sewage treatment and provisions for discharge of the treated sewage into waterbodies.
  1. Moreover, it also involves the issues of right to reserve admission into private property versus the right to access a toilet in a public place The restaurants have responded that they are willing to open their toilets to ladies (some were already following this practice), but they have security concerns in opening the same to men. Hence, the entire spectrum of problem remains unaddressed.
  1. Since many restaurants are normally open only during meal times, this, in any case, is not a solution round the clock.

Challenges of sewage

  • Only 50 per cent of the toilets in Delhi are connected to a sewerage network — and only 30 per cent of the sewage is treated before discharge. The result is that the river Yamuna, once the pride of Delhi, now declared a legal person, is heavily polluted.
  • The installed capacity for sewage treatment can treat 37 per cent of the total requirement, but even this meagre capacity is underutilised because sewage treatment plants are often located where sewage cannot be conveyed, or because electricity and the necessary chemicals are not available.
  • Worse still, sometimes this capacity is redundantly utilised when treated sewage is discharged into open drains, where it mixes with untreated sewage, and we are back to square one.

Way Forward

  • The solution lies in building more public toilets and ensuring they are properly maintained and financially sustainable. For example, most public toilets are single-storey buildings; they could easily have another floor of toilets, thereby doubling the capacity without any need for additional land.
  • While the move has been put seeing women, while men and children resort to public urination when they cannot find public toilets but women and persons with medical conditions land in terrible fix.
  • A possible approach would be to use public-private partnership for not only to build toilets, but provide and fix the different links in the supply chain of managing and disposing waste.
  • Community toilets are also good alternative to operate in market places and other public areas in a public-private partnership framework, allowing user charges and advertisement charges on the walls of these toilets. Similarly, NGOs should also be invited to maintain and run public toilets.
  • For the success of Swachh Bharat abhiyan a better framework approach is need of an hour.

Question: Instead of creating makeshift arrangements, the government should focus on making concrete plans for sanitation. What should be government’s approach in light of decision by SDMC?

3.Explained

Supreme Court now open for Camera proceedings

Introduction

  • In an unprecedented order by the apex judiciary, The Supreme Court has directed 24 high courts across the country to make sure district and sessions courts in a minimum of two districts in every state and union territories have CCTV cameras installed inside courtrooms within three months.
  • The order has come after following several rounds of deliberations between the Central government and the top judiciary on the issue of audio-video recording of court proceedings.

The Decision

  • The order came on a petition moved by a man, who had sought audio-video recording of the trial proceedings of his matrimonial dispute to ensure a fair trial
  • SC has entrusted the respective high court concerned with overseeing installation of cameras and their working while District and Sessions Judges, who is the administrative head of courts in a particular district, have been asked to monitor the courtroom proceedings in his or her chambers.
  • However, cameras will be accompanied with only video recording and no audio recording facility is allowed yet.
  • The court also ruled that footage of the CCTV camera will not be available under the RTI (Right To Information Act) and will not be supplied to anyone without permission of the concerned high court.

Brief ground

  • Government had earlier also proposed to introduce the facility of audio-video recording in courtrooms under Phase II of the eCourts Project.
  • Several PILs demanding audio-video recording of proceedings had been dismissed in the past even though Law Commissions have made recommendations favouring audio-video recording.
  • There were also huge demands from civil society and litigants seeking transparency in functioning of the judiciary. While the Supreme Court was earlier upon such demands, some judges subsequently did not mind recording their view in favour of the proposal. And now even the government had joined by backing the proposal primarily to usher in transparency and to deal with the menace of witnesses retracting statements during trial.

Advantages

  • The computerisation of courts has already enhanced operational efficiency of judiciary and now audio-video recording could help deliver quality justice by minimising scope for errors as well.
  • Apart from the advantages of relying on transcripts at the end of long-drawn trials and at the stage of appeals like in some other countries, pressure seems to be mounting with dissenting voices from within as well.
  • Renowned jurist HM Seervai also mooted the idea of recording the court proceedings to assist the judge in passing the final judgement. It can be a nail in the heels of a judge and a counsel who thrived on lies. “The recollections of judges may differ, or if the case has gone for a long time, judges may have no recollection,” he said, while stressing on the advantage.
  • Even the member of judiciary has been optimistic to the idea of camera recording as in past while taking note of an application seeking recording of proceedings in a case, a Bombay High Court judge said in 2011 that since the video recording would involve scrutiny of the conduct of all the actors in the court, this application has possibly “more far-reaching consequences than the main petition itself”. “It may change the course of conduct of the courts.

Question: What can be the possible implications of court’s order of camera proceedings? How it can usher an era of transparency?

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