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6th Feb Current Affairs

Indian Telegraph Act, 1885

In News:

Following violent protests, the Union Home Ministry has issued orders to suspend Internet in some areas in Delhi under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety Rules 2017) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.

The order under this act had been issued only twice before — in Delhi on December 19 and 20, 2019, at the height of the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Implications:

The rules framed in 2017 empower the Union Home Secretary and a State’s Home Secretary to pass directions to suspend the telecom services, including the Internet, “due to public emergency or public safety.”

About the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885:

It governs the use of wired and wireless telegraphy, telephones, teletype, radio communications and digital data communications.

It gives the Government of India exclusive jurisdiction and privileges for establishing, maintaining, operating, licensing and oversight of all forms of wired and wireless communications within Indian territory.

It also authorizes government law enforcement agencies to monitor/intercept communications and tap phone lines under conditions defined within the Indian Constitution.

Section 5(2) of the act allows central and state governments to prevent the transmission of messaging during a “public emergency or in the interest of public safety”, or “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state”.

President’s address

In News:

As many as 18 Opposition parties have announced their decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.

President’s Address to the Parliament- Constitutional Provisions:

Article 87(1) says: “At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.”

First Constitutional Amendment: Originally, the Constitution required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of “every session”. This requirement was changed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

What is in President’s address?

The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.

Motion of thanks:

The address is followed by a motion of thanks moved in each House by ruling party MPs. During the session, political parties discuss the motion of thanks also suggesting amendments.

What procedures follow the address?

After the President or Governor delivers the address, a debate takes place not only on the contents of the address but also the broad issues of governance in the country. This then paves the way for discussion on the Budget.

If the President disagrees with the text of the speech, are they still bound to read it?

The President or a Governor cannot refuse to perform the constitutional duty of delivering an address to the legislature. But there can be situations when they deviate from the text of the speech prepared by the government.

So far, there have been no instances of President doing so. But there has been an occasion when a Governor skipped a portion of the address to the Assembly.

In 1969, the Governor of West Bengal, Dharma Vira, skipped two paragraphs of the address prepared by the United Front government. The skipped portion described as unconstitutional the dismissal of the first United Front government by the Congress-ruled central government.

Are there parallels in other countries?

Similar provisions exist in other democracies.

In the United States, it is referred to as the “State of the Union”. The phrase comes from an article in the US Constitution which specifies that the President, “from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

In the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Queen’s Speech and is part of the ceremony to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year.

SEC censures two IAS officers, A.P. govt. objects

In News:

The Andhra Pradesh government has “objected” to the censure notices issued by State Election Commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar to two senior IAS officials over preparations for the local body elections.

What’s the issue?

The State Election Commissioner had censured Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi and PR Commissioner M Girija Shankar for their ‘failure’ to publish 2021 electoral rolls.

In the censure proceedings, Ramesh Kumar recommended compulsory retirement of the two IAS officers.

What has the state government said?

The State government has argued that this power is not in the domain of state election commissioner.

As per the guidelines, Election Commission is empowered to suspend:

Any officer or police personnel working under the Central government or public sector undertaking or an autonomous body fully or partially funded by the government for insubordination or dereliction of duty, besides making recommendations to the competent authority for taking disciplinary action, while engaged in preparation of electoral rolls or election duty.

However, censure is a penalty classified under minor penalties and the State government is the competent authority to impose the said penalty on a member of service serving with the affairs of the State and it has to be imposed by following the procedure laid down under Rule 10 of the AIS (D&A) Rules, 1969.

Rajasthan becomes the 5th State to complete Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms

In News:

Rajasthan has become the 5thState in the country to successfully undertake Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms.

Details:

Rajasthan has joined four other States namely, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Telangana, who have completed ULB reforms.

These reforms have been stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.

Implications:

Rajasthan has thus become eligible for additional reform linked borrowing.

Accordingly, the State has been granted permission by the Department of Expenditure to mobilise additional financial resources of Rs.2,731crore through Open Market Borrowings.

The set of reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure are:

The State will notify:

Floor rates of property tax in ULBs which are in consonance with the prevailing circle rates (i.e. guideline rates for property transactions) and;

Floor rates of user charges in respect of the provision of water-supply, drainage and sewerage which reflect current costs/past inflation.

The State will put in place a system of periodic increase in floor rates of property tax/ user charges in line with price increases.

Besides, the centre had identified four citizen centric areas for reforms. They are:

  • Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System
  • Ease of doing business reform
  • Urban Local body/ utility reforms
  • Power Sector reforms.