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6th August Current Affairs

Bill to amend Scheduled Tribes list

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

In News:

The Rajya Sabha has passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Bill amends the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950.

Highlights of the Bill:

The Bill removes the Abor tribe from the list of identified STs in Arunachal Pradesh.

It replaces certain STs with other tribes. This includes Tai Khamti, Mishmi-Kaman (Miju Mishmi), Idu (Mishmi) and Taraon (Digaru Mishmi).

Who has the power to modify the list of notified STs?

The Constitution empowers the President to specify the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in various states and union territories. Further, it permits Parliament to modify this list of notified STs.

Definition of STs:

The Constitution does not define the criteria for recognition of Scheduled Tribes.

However, Article 366(25) of the Constitution only provides process to define Scheduled Tribes: “Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution.”

Article 342(1): The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor, by a public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory.

Constitutional Safeguards for STs:

  1. Educational & Cultural Safeguards:
  • 15(4):- Special provisions for advancement of other backward classes(which includes STs);
  • 29:- Protection of Interests of Minorities (which includes STs);
  • 46:- The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • 350:- Right to conserve distinct Language, Script or Culture;
  • 350:- Instruction in Mother Tongue.

II.Social Safeguard:

  • 23:- Prohibition of traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar form of forced labour;
  • 24:- Forbidding Child Labour.

III. Economic Safeguards:

  • 244:- Clause(1) Provisions of Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration & control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura which are covered under Sixth Schedule, under Clause (2) of this Article.
  • 275:- Grants in-Aid to specified States (STs&SAs) covered under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution.
  1. Political Safeguards:
  • 164(1):- Provides for Tribal Affairs Ministers in Bihar, MP and Orissa;
  • 330:- Reservation of seats for STs in Lok Sabha;
  • 337- Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures;
  • 334:- 10 years period for reservation (Amended several times to extend the period);
  • 243:- Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
  • 371:- Special provisions in respect of NE States and Sikkim.
  1. Service Safeguards:
  • (Under Art.16(4),16(4A),164(B) Art.335, and Art. 320(40).

Do we need a caste-based census for India?

(GS-I: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India)

In News:

The Bihar chief minister wants the central government to reconsider its refusal to hold a caste-based census, as he feels such data can help his government design more focused policies for the really needy among OBCs.

However, the Government of India has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise populations other than SCs and STs in Census.

How have caste details been collected so far?

While SC/ST details are collected as part of the census, details of other castes are not collected by the enumerators. The main method is by self-declaration to the enumerator.

So far, backward classes commissions in various States have been conducting their own counts to ascertain the population of backward castes.

What kind of caste data is published in the Census?

Every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but not on other castes. Before that, every Census until 1931 had data on caste.

What is SECC 2011?

The Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 was a major exercise to obtain data about the socio-economic status of various communities.

It had two components: a survey of the rural and urban households and ranking of these households based on pre-set parameters, and a caste census.

However, only the details of the economic conditions of the people in rural and urban households were released. The caste data has not been released till now.

Difference between Census & SECC:

The Census provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.

Since the Census falls under the Census Act of 1948, all data are considered confidential, whereas all the personal information given in the SECC is open for use by Government departments to grant and/or restrict benefits to households.

Pros of caste census:

The precise number of the population of each caste would help tailor the reservation policy to ensure equitable representation of all of them.

Concerns associated:

There is a possibility that it will lead to heartburn among some sections and spawn demands for larger or separate quotas.

It has been alleged that the mere act of labelling persons as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate the system.

Centre moves bill in House to stop retrospective tax

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

The government has introduced the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha.

The Bill aims to:

Amend the Income Tax Act, 1961, and the Finance Act, 2012.

Prevent the income tax department from raising tax demands retrospectively.

Implications:

Now, no tax demand shall be raised in future on the basis of the said retrospective amendment for any indirect transfer of Indian assets if the transaction was undertaken before 28th May, 2012 (i.e., the date on which the Finance Bill, 2012, received the assent of the President).

The demand raised for indirect transfer of Indian assets made before 28th May, 2012 shall be nullified on fulfilment of specified conditions.

It is also proposed to refund the amount paid in these cases without any interest thereon.

Eligibility:

To be eligible, the concerned taxpayers would have to drop all pending cases against the government and promise not to make any demands for damages or costs.

What’s the issue? When was the retrospective tax introduced? What were its implications?

The retrospective tax law was introduced through the Finance Act, 2012 after Vodafone won a case in the Supreme Court against the I-T department’s demand of ₹11,000 crore in tax dues.

This law became necessary after the Supreme Court, in 2012, ruled that gains arising from indirect transfer of Indian assets were not taxable under existing laws.

The retrospective tax provisions were also applied to Cairn, when it was exiting from Cairn India Ltd in January 2014. The initial demand was for ₹10,570 crore.

Significance of the move:

The move attempts to end long-pending disputes with foreign firms such as Vodafone Plc.

The move is also investor-friendly, and also brings to an end messy litigation and arbitration, especially with Cairn, which has seen the company staking claim to India’s overseas assets.

What is retrospective taxation?

It allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items or services and deals and charge companies from a time behind the date on which the law is passed.

Countries use this route to correct any anomalies in their taxation policies that have, in the past, allowed companies to take advantage of such loopholes.

Retrospective Taxation hurts companies that had knowingly or unknowingly interpreted the tax rules differently.