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21st December Current Affairs

NDPS Bill, 2021

(GS-II: Government policies and issues surrounding)

In News:

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was recently passed in Parliament.

It seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated on September 30 this year.

Objective of the Bill?

The bill was introduced by the government to rectify an error that made provisions in Section 27 of the Act — providing for punishment of those financing illicit trafficking — inoperable.

This happened in 2014, when the Act was amended in 2014 to ease access of narcotic drugs for medical necessities, but the penal provision was not amended accordingly.

In June 2021, the Tripura High Court found the oversight in the law and directed the Union Home Ministry to amend the provisions of Section 27.

What necessitated this amendment?

The drafting error was highlighted when an accused moved a special court in Tripura contending that he could not be charged for the offence as Section 27 A is referred to a blank list. The Tripura High Court subsequently asked the Centre to amend the law.

What was the error?

The anomaly crept in when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was amended in 2014 to allow better medical access to narcotic drugs, removing state barriers in transporting and licensing of “essential narcotic drugs”.

Prior to the 2014 amendment, clause (viiia) of Section 2 of the Act, contained sub-clauses (i) to (v), wherein the term ‘illicit traffic’ had been defined.

This clause was re-lettered as clause (viiib) by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014, as a new clause (viiia) in section 2 defining ‘essential narcotic drugs’ was inserted. However, inadvertently consequential change was not carried out in section 27A of the NDPS Act.

Criticisms surrounding the Bill:

Few experts have observed that the Bill violated the fundamental rights of a citizen as it provides retrospective effect to offences starting 2014.

It also violates the fundamental rights in Article 21 because you can be punished for an offence for which there is a law in existence at the time of commission of the offence.

NDPS Act:

It prohibits a person from producing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, storing, and/or consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.

The NDPS Act has since been amended thrice – in 1988, 2001 and 2014.

The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.

Indian Government has taken several policy and other initiatives to deal with drug trafficking problem:

The ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ or a ‘Drugs-Free India Campaign’ was flagged off on 15th August 2020 across 272 districts of the country found to be most vulnerable based on the data available from various sources.

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has begun implementation of a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025.

The government has constituted Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) in November, 2016.

The government has constituted a fund called “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; rehabilitating addicts, and educating public against drug abuse, etc.

India-Taiwan relations

(GS-II: India and its neighbours)

In News:

India and Taiwan have started negotiations for a free-trade agreement and the setting up of a semiconductor manufacturing facility by a Taiwanese firm in India, in a significant step signalling their resolve to broad-base the overall bilateral economic engagement.

Details:

If the move to set up the semiconductor manufacturing plant succeeds, then it will be the second such facility to be set up by a Taiwanese company in a foreign country after a similar hub in the United States.

India’s position on Taiwan:

India’s policy on Taiwan is clear and consistent and it is focused on promoting interactions in areas of trade, investment and tourism among others.

Government facilitates and promotes interactions in areas of trade, investment, tourism, culture, education and other such people-to-people exchanges.

However, India doesn’t have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but both sides have trade and people-to-people ties.

Indo- Taiwan relations:

Although they do not have formal diplomatic ties, Taiwan and India have been cooperating in various fields.

India has refused to endorse the “one-China” policy since 2010.

Significance of India for Taiwan:

Taiwan is keen to deepen relations with various countries.

Also, China has ramped up military pressure, including repeated missions by Chinese warplanes near democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own and has not ruled out taking by force.

Way ahead:

India and Taiwan are celebrating 25 years of their partnership.

Mutual efforts between Delhi and Taipei have enabled a range of bilateral agreements covering agriculture, investment, customs cooperation, civil aviation, industrial cooperation and other areas. This growing relationship indicates that the time has come to recalibrate India-Taiwan relations.

What needs to be done?

Both sides can create a group of empowered persons or a task force to chart out a road map in a given time frame.

The time is ripe to expand cooperation in the field of healthcare.

Taiwan could be a valuable partner in dealing with this challenge through its bio-friendly technologies.

China- Taiwan relations- Background:

China has claimed Taiwan through its “one China” policy since the Chinese civil war forced the defeated Kuomintang, or Nationalist, to flee to the island in 1949 and has vowed to bring it under Beijing’s rule, by force if necessary.

While Taiwan is self-governed and de facto independent, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.

Under the “one country, two systems” formula, Taiwan would have the right to run its own affairs; a similar arrangement is used in Hong Kong.

Presently, Taiwan is claimed by China, which refuses diplomatic relations with countries that recognise the region.

Questioning the impartiality of the Election Commission

(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

The opposition has questioned the impartiality of the upcoming elections in five states after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and Election Commissioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey attended an online interaction called by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Critics have said that the PMO cannot call the EC for such interactions as the poll panel is an independent body.

What has the Centre said?

An official communication from the Law Ministry, which is the administrative ministry of the Commission, said the meeting had been called to discuss electoral reforms. Also, the Ministry claimed that the session was an “informal interaction”.

What’s the issue now?

The “directive” from the PMO has raised concerns about the independent functioning of the Commission, whose autonomy successive CECs have sought to protect zealously.

The “informal interaction” has also raised questions about the neutrality of the Commission, especially when elections to crucial States are around the corner.

How independence of the EC is ensured by the Constitution?

The Election Commission is a constitutional authority whose responsibilities and powers are prescribed in the Constitution of India under Article 324.

The Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.

It is the Commission which decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections.

It is the Commission which decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centres, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.

The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of India by appropriate petitions.

By long-standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.

Communication between EC and the Government:

The EC’s communication with the Government on election matters is through the bureaucracy — either with its administrative ministry — the Law Ministry or the Home Ministry for the deployment of security forces during elections.

In such cases, the Home Secretary is often invited in front of a full commission where the three commissioners are also present.

The Law Ministry spells out the fine print on law for the country and is expected not to breach the constitutional safeguard provided to the commission to ensure its autonomy.

Recent such incidents:

During the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the EC under Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in an election rally in Latur, had referenced his campaign with an appeal on behalf of the armed forces.

There have also been various violations of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

This year, the Commission’s belated decision in banning election campaigns in the midst of a rampaging pandemic, raised eyebrows.

Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission (headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai), has made the following recommendations:

Increase six seats for the Jammu division and one for the Kashmir division.

Reserve 16 seats for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Schedule Tribe (ST) communities.

Implications:

J&K will have a 90-member Legislative Assembly now, up from 87 prior to the Centre’s decision to end J&K’s special constitutional position.

Basis of these recommendations:

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission has said that it will base its final report on the 2011 Census and will also take into account the topography, difficult terrain, means of communication and convenience available for the ongoing delimitation exercise.

Delimitation exercise in J&K- a timeline:

The first delimitation exercise, carving out 25 assembly constituencies in the then state, was carried out by a Delimitation Committee in 1951.

The first full-fledged Delimitation Commission was formed in 1981 and it submitted its recommendations in 1995 on the basis of 1981 Census. Since then, there has been no delimitation.

In 2020, the Delimitation Commission was constituted to carry out the exercise on the basis of 2011 Census, with a mandate to add seven more seats to the Union Territory’ and grant reservations to SC and ST communities.

Now, the total number of seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be raised to 90 from the previous 83. This is apart from 24 seats which have been reserved for areas of PoK and have to be kept vacant in the Assembly.

What is delimitation and why is it needed?

The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was constituted by the Centre on March 6 last year to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002, passed by the Centre in August 2019 along with other J&K-specific Bills.

Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.

Who carries out the exercise?

Delimitation is undertaken by a highly powerful commission. They are formally known as Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission.

These bodies are so powerful that its orders have the force of law and they cannot be challenged before any court.

Composition of the Commission:

According to the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission will have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.

Constitutional Provisions:

Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.

Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.