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7th March Current Affairs

What is ‘general consent’ for the CBI, now withdrawn by Meghalaya?

(GS-II: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)

In News:

Meghalaya has withdrawn consent to the CBI to investigate cases in the state, becoming the ninth state to have taken this step.

Details:

Eight other states which had withdrawn consent to the CBI: Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, and Mizoram.

How withdrawal of consent affects investigations?

In November last year, the Supreme Court had expressed concern over a submission by the CBI that since 2018, around 150 requests for sanction to investigate had been pending with the eight state governments who had withdrawn general consent until then.

Why is consent necessary?

The CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that makes consent of a state government mandatory for conducting investigation in that state.

There are two kinds of consent:

Case-specific and general– Given that the CBI has jurisdiction only over central government departments and employees, it can investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a given state only after that state government gives its consent.

“General consent” is normally given to help the CBI seamlessly conduct its investigation into cases of corruption against central government employees in the concerned state.

What does withdrawal mean?

It simply means that CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.

The decision means the CBI will now have to get consent from the state government for every case it registers in Meghalaya.

Under what provision can general consent be withdrawn?

In exercise of power conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the state governments can withdraw the general consent accorded.

Can withdrawal mean that the CBI can no longer probe any case?

No. The CBI would still have the power to investigate old cases registered when general consent existed. Also, cases registered anywhere else in the country, but involving people stationed in states which have withdrawn consent, would allow CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states.

Calcutta High Court verdict:

Calcutta High Court recently ruled in a case of illegal coal mining and cattle smuggling being investigated by the CBI, that the central agency cannot be stopped from probing an employee of the central government in another state. The order has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

In Vinay Mishra vs the CBI, Calcutta HC ruled in July this year that corruption cases must be treated equally across the country, and a central government employee could not be “distinguished” just because his office was located in a state that had withdrawn general consent.

The HC also said that withdrawal of consent would apply in cases where only employees of the state government were involved.

Issues with CBI Autonomy:

After the 2018 amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Centre has come to exercise power over the CBI not just administratively, but also legally.

In 2018, the government pushed through Parliament amendments to Section 17A of the Act making it mandatory for the CBI to seek the Centre’s permission before registering a case of corruption against any government servant.

Haryana govt’s anti-conversion Bill

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

In News:

Dr. Raghuvir Singh Kadian, a six-time MLA, was suspended in Haryana Assembly after he tore a copy of the Bill on the floor of the House.

So far Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have enacted legislations to prevent unlawful religious conversions.

About the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022:

Aimed at prohibiting religious conversions which are affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offense.

Punishment: The Bill provides for greater punishment for such conversions in respect of minor, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

The burden of proof: It also provides for that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.

Declaration: Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected through was not misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage and such authority shall make an inquiry in such cases.

Rationale behind the introduction of this Bill:

The Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion.

However, the individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize; for the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted.

Still, there have been umpteen cases of religious conversions, both mass and individual.

Rationale behind the enactment of anti-conversion laws:

Threats of forceful conversion.

Problem of Inducement or allurement.

Religious conversion is not a Fundamental Right.

What do critics say?

Such laws have come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis.

They have pointed to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.

Also, under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and conversion of religion of one’s choice including not following any religion, are also guaranteed.

Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion:

The Apex Court of India in its several judgments has held that the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.

The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.

Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case of Allahabad High Court 2020: The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21).

Need of the hour:

There is a need for uniformity: Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith. Since it is a state subject, the Centre can frame a model law like Model law on contract farming etc.

States while enacting anti-conversion laws should not put any vague or ambiguous provisions for the person who wanted to convert of his own will.

The anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for conversion by minority community institutions.

People also need to be educated about the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or allurement, etc.

What is Predatory pricing?

(GS-III: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth)

In News:

The Competition Commission of India has dismissed allegations of predatory pricing against e-commerce platform Shopee.

What were the allegations of violation of competition norms against Shopee?

Shopee sells various products at extremely low prices with the intention to eliminate competition from small retailers.

For example, Shopee’s deep discounting tactics, including flash sales of products for Re.1, Rs 9 and Rs 49, were aimed at attracting a large base of customers and consumer preference data which the company could use to its advantage.

What is Shopee?

Shopee is a Singaporean multinational technology company which focuses mainly on e-commerce.

Shopee is owned by SEA Limited, which also owns Garena: Free Fire, a popular mobile game that was among the 54 apps restricted in India.

As of 2021, it is widely considered as the largest e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia.

What has the CCI ruled?

Shopee did not hold significant market power as it is a relatively new entrant in a market with well established players.

What is Predatory pricing?

Predatory pricing is the illegal act of setting prices low to attempt to eliminate the competition.

Predatory pricing violates antitrust laws, as it makes markets more vulnerable to a monopoly.

Establishing that a business is engaging in predatory pricing requires that:

The enterprise be a dominant player in the relevant market.

Its goods or services are being marketed below cost.

Sub-tactics are being used with the intention to eliminate competition.

About the Competition Commission Of India:

Established under the Competition Act, 2002 for the administration, implementation and enforcement of the Act, and was duly constituted in March 2009.

Chairman and members are appointed by the central government.

Functions of the commission:

To eliminate practices having adverse effects on competition.

Promote and sustain competition.

Protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.

The Competition Act:

The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 (MRTP Act) was repealed and replaced by the Competition Act, 2002, on the recommendations of the Raghavan committee.

The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.