Solicitor General of India

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  • Solicitor General is the second highest law officer in the country.
  • He is subordinate to the Attorney General of India, the highest law officer and works under him.
  • He also advises the government in legal matters.
  • Solicitor general is appointed for period of three years by Appointment Committee of Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister.
  • Note:  Office and duties of Attorney General is created by Constitution under Article 76.
  • While, Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor Generals’ office and duties are governed by Law Officers (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1987 and not by Constitution (thus they are statutory  posts and not constitutional).
  • Moreover, attorney generals has  right to participate in the proceedings of Parliament, but cannot vote.  
  • Whereas, Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor Generals’ do not have these rights wrt to participation in parliament.

Money Bill

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What is a Money Bill?   

  • A Bill is said to be a Money Bill if it only contains provisions related to
    1. taxation,
    2. borrowing of money by the government,
    3. expenditure from or receipt to the Consolidated Fund of India. Bills that only contain provisions that are incidental to these matters would also be regarded as Money Bills.
  • A Money Bill may only be introduced in Lok Sabha. This is done so on the recommendation of the President.
  • It must be passed in Lok Sabha by a simple majority of all members present and voting.  Following this, it may be sent to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations, which Lok Sabha may reject if it chooses to.  
  • If such recommendations are not given within 14 days, it will deemed to be passed by Parliament.

Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha

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  • It formulates Code of Conduct for members and suggest amendments to it from time to time.
  • It also oversee moral and ethical conduct of Members.
  • It examines complaints related to any unethical conduct by members of Lower House of Parliament.
  • It can also initiate suo motu investigation into matters related to unethical conduct of a member and make recommendations, as it may deem fit.

Legislative Council

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Legislative Council

  • India has bicameral system of legislature.
  • Just as Parliament has two Houses, States can have Legislative Council (LC) in addition to the Legislative Assembly if they choose to.
  • This option is available under Article 171 of the Constitution.

 

Constitutional provisions: 

  • Under Article 169, legislative council can be formed if state legislative assembly passes resolution to that effect by majority of total membership of assembly and by majority of not less than two-thirds of members of assembly present and voting (i.e. by Special Majority).
  • Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.
  • Currently, seven states have Legislative Councils viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Apart from these, Tamil Nadu Government had passed law to set up Council but it was withdrawn in 2010.
  • Andhra Pradesh’s Legislative Council, set up in 1958, was abolished in 1985, but was again reconstituted in 2007.
  • Proposals to create Councils in Rajasthan and Assam are pending in Parliament.

 

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Members of LC: 

  • Under Article 171 of Constitution, Legislative Council of state cannot have MLCs more than one-third of total number of MLAs of state assembly and not less than 40 members. 
  • Jammu & Kashmir is exception, as Section 50 of state’s Constitution, Assembly has 87 members and Legislative Council 36. 
  • The tenure of Member of Legislative Council (MLC) is six years (similar to Rajya Sabha MPs), with one-third of members retiring every two years.
  • One-third of MLCs are elected by state’s MLAs, another 1/3rd by special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards, 1/12th by electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members are appointed by Governor for distinguished services in various fields such as literature, science, art, co-operative movement and social service (in case Rajya Sabha, President can nominate 12 members from field of literature, science, art and social service).

 

Powers of LC vis-à-vis Rajya Sabha

  • The legislative powers of Legislative Councils are limited compared to Rajya Sabha and State Assembly.
  • Rajya Sabha has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, but Legislative Councils lacks constitutional mandate to do so.
  • State Assemblies can override suggestions and amendments made to legislation by Legislative Council.
  • Again, unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for President and Vice President.
  • Vice President is ex officio Chairperson of Rajya Sabha, whereas MLC elected by Council members is its Chairperson.

 

Arguments in of favour LC: 

  • It can help check hasty actions by directly elected House, and also enable non-elected and eminent personalities to contribute to legislative process.

 

Arguments against: 

Legislative Council can be used to delay legislation and to park political leaders who have not been able to win election.

Procedure of changing name of state

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  • Process for changing the name of a state can be initiated by state itself.
  • However, by virtue of article 3 of Constitution, Parliament has power to change name of state even if such proposal does not come from the concerned state.
  • If initiated by state assembly, it will first pass a resolution for such change and this passed resolution will be sent to Central government (Union Home Ministry).
  • Then Union Home Ministry prepares note for Union Cabinet for amendment to Schedule 1 of Constitution.
  • Thereafter, Constitution Amendment Bill is introduced in Parliament under Article 3 of Constitution, which has to be approved with simple majority, before President gives his assent to it.
  • Thereafter name of state will be changed.
  • The example of such change is change in name of Orissa to Odisha.
  • The Government of Orissa initiated this change in 2008 when it forwarded resolution passed by State Legislative Assembly to Union Government to change name of state from Orissa to Odisha.
  • This bill was passed by Parliament as Orissa (Alteration of Name) Act, 2010 to rename state.

No-Confidence Motion

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  • In a parliamentary democracy, government can be in power only if it commands majority in directly elected House.
  • Article 75(3) of our Constitution of India embodies this rule by specifying that Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha.
  • But there is no mention of a no-confidence motion in the constitution.
  • The Rule 198 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha provides mechanism for testing this collective responsibility.  
  • Rajya Sabha does not have procedure for moving of no-confidence motion against Government and also adjournment motion, censure motion.
  • The rule allows any Lok Sabha MP who can garner support of 50 colleagues, to introduce motion of no-confidence against the Council of Ministers.
  • Motion of No-confidence need not set out any grounds on which it is based.
  • If there are 50 MPs in favour, the motion is admitted and speaker allots date for discussion on the motion. Thereafter, discussion on motion takes place.
  • MPs who support motion highlight government’s shortcomings.
  • Then Prime Minister or ministers reply to the charges made.
  • If the government loses trust vote, it is expected to resign.

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Electoral bonds

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  • The electoral bonds scheme was announced in Union Budget 2017 with an aim for increasing transparency in political funding.
  • It makes India first country in the world to have such unique bonds for electoral funding.
  • These bonds are bearer instrument in nature of promissory note and interest-free banking instrument.
  • It aims at rooting out current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to generation of black money in the economy.
  • These electoral bonds can be bought for any value in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore after fulfilling all existing Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and making payments from bank account.
  • It will not carry name of payee.
  • The bond deposited by any eligible political party to its account shall be credited on the same day.
  • No payment shall be made to any payee political party if bond is deposited after expiry of validity period.
  • Eligible political parties can encash electoral bonds only through their bank accounts.
  • Electoral Bonds may be purchased by only citizen of India.
  • An individual can buy Electoral Bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Electoral Bonds are valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue.
  • Only registered political parties, that have secured not less than 1% of votes polled in last election of Lok Sabha or legislative assembly of state, will be eligible to receive electoral bonds.
  • The cash donation has been capped at Rs. 2000 and beyond that donations are via electoral bonds.

Model Code of Conduct

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What is MCC?

These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.

 

Aim: To ensure free and fair elections.

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When it comes into force?

  • The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission.
  • Election Commission (EC) has announced that Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately in states where legislative assemblies have been dissolved prematurely.
  • The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.

 

Status:

The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as rules of electoral morality. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.

 

Evolution:

The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.

 

What it contains?

The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.

 

Legal Status of MCC?

  • The MCC is not enforceable by law. However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • The Election Commission has argued against making the MCC legally binding; stating that elections must be completed within a relatively short time (close to 45 days), and judicial proceedings typically take longer, therefore it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.
  • On the other hand, in 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the MCC legally binding since most provisions of the MCC are already enforceable through corresponding provisions in other statutes, mentioned above.

 

The main points of the code are:

  • Government bodies are not to participate in any new recruitment process during the electoral process.
  • The contesting candidates and their campaigners must respect the home life of their rivals and should not disturb them by holding road shows or demonstrations in front of their houses. The code tells the candidates to keep it.
  • The election campaign rallies and road shows must not hinder the road traffic.
  • Candidates are asked to refrain from distributing liquor to voters. It is a widely known fact in India that during election campaigning, liquor may be distributed to the voters.
  • The election code in force hinders the government or running party leaders from launching new welfare programmes like construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities etc. or any ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
  • The code instructs that public spaces like meeting grounds, helipads, government guest houses and bungalows should be equally shared among the contesting candidates. These public spaces should not be monopolised by a few candidates.

Governor : Discretion

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Controversies:

  • TN Governor has come under intense scrutiny for not inviting AIADMK interim general secretary V.K. Sasikala to form the government despite the fact that her faction commanded a majority in the Legislative Assembly.
  • Decision on the remission of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Discretionary Powers:

  • Article 161 of the Constitution provides the Governor with the power to “remit or commute the sentence of any prisoner”.
  • However, the Governor’s decision will be subject to judicial review by the constitutional courts.
  • Currently, the immediate question is whether there is an independent, discretionary power vested with the Governor with regard to Articles 161 and 163 of the Constitution.

SC view:

  • In the Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker (2016) case, the  Supreme Court, speaking through a five-judge Bench, viewed that the discretionary power of the Governor is extremely limited and entirely amenable to judicial review.
  • As a matter of fact, time and again, the courts have spoken out against the Governor acting in the capacity of an “all-pervading super-constitutional authority”.
  • Pertaining to the exercise of discretion, in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974), a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had held that the Governor may do so only “in harmony with his Council of Ministers”.  
  • In an effort to do so, the Governor is prevented from taking a stand against the wishes of the Council of Ministers.

SC view in case of formation of new government:

A 2001 Supreme Court precedent holds that a State Governor should not always be swayed by “popular will” or the “brute” support a chief minister aspirant enjoys from her party MLAs. It said the Constitution empowers the Governor, while appointing a chief minister, to use his discretion to ensure a stable government.

  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had held in the B.R. Kapur versus State of Tamil Nadu in 2001 that the Constitution does not give elected members of a majority party unfettered right to elect an incompetent or disqualified person as chief minister.
  • The court also held that “the contention that in all eventualities whatsoever the Governor is bound by the decision of the majority party is not a correct proposition. The Governor cannot be totally deprived of element of discretion in performance of duties of his office, if ever any such exigency may so demand its exercise”.

Zonal Councils

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What are Zonal Councils?

  • Zonal councils have been established by the Parliament to promote interstate cooperation and coordination.
  • They are statutory bodies established under the States Reorganisation Act 1956 and not constitutional bodies.
  • They are only deliberative and advisory bodies

 

How many Zonal Councils are there?

There are 5 five Zonal councils namely:

  • The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
  • The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal.
  • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
  • The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

 

The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya (vii) Sikkim and (viii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.

What is the composition of Zonal Councils?

  • Chairman The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers- One person nominated by the Planning Commission (which has been replaced by NITI Ayog now) for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.
  • Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.

 

What is the objective of zonal councils?

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are:

  • Bringing out national integration.
  • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
  • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
  • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

 

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