General Assembly of the United Nations
The General Assembly (GA) is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN established under the charter of the United Nations in 1945 comprising all 193 members of the United Nations. It is the only organ of the United Nations in which all members nations have equal representation.
Each country has one vote. Some Member States in arrear of payment may be granted the right to vote. Votes taken on designated important issues — such as recommendations on peace and security, the election of Security Council and Economic and Social Council members, and budgetary questions — require a two-thirds majority of Member States, but other questions are decided by simple majority.
The Assembly has initiated actions — political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal — which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world.
Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members.
The Assembly may make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration.
Functions and powers of the General Assembly:
- Consider and approve the United Nations budget and establish the financial assessments of Member States;
- Elect the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of other United Nations councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General;
- Consider and make recommendations on the general principles of cooperation for maintaining international peace and security, including disarmament;
- Discuss any question relating to international peace and security and, except where a dispute or situation is currently being discussed by the Security Council, make recommendations on it;
- Consider reports from the Security Council and other United Nations organs.
For further reference: http://www.un.org/en/ga/about/background.shtml.
Sources: The Hindu, WIKI, un.org.
Changes to MGNREGS
Union Minister of Rural Development has proposed that the MGNREGS be restricted to only tribal and poor areas and the permissible labour to material ratio of expenses be changed from the current 60:40 to 51:49.
This has been strongly opposed by opposition parties, who think it will dilute the universal spirit of the scheme.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005, also known as the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’ and ensure livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
In addition to this the aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets that would augment the basic resources available to the poor.
- The Act aims to follow the Directive Principles of State Policy enunciated in Part IV of the Constitution of India and conforms to the Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that defines the right to work as a basic human right.
- The provisions of the law also adhere to the principles enunciated in the Constitution of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India that guarantees the right to life with dignity to every citizen of India.
- This law guarantees the right to work to the people of India and hence is termed as a “People’s Act”.
- It is believed that targeting poverty through employment generation is the effective way to alleviate poverty.
- Employment under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA is a guaranteed legal right.
- The major responsibility of the implementation rests with Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Previous employment guarantee schemes (EGS) like ‘Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana’ (SGRY) Programme and National Food For Work Programme (NFFWP) were merged with MGNREGA to make it more effective.
- The Act sets a minimum limit to the wages, to be paid with gender equality. The states are required to evolve a set of norms for the measurement of works and schedule of rates. The unemployment allowance must be paid if the work is not provided within the statutory limit of 15 days.
For further reference: http://nrega.nic.in/nregarpt_eng.pdf.
Sources: WIKI, http://nrega.nic.in/.
Allow detainees to vote, says EC
The Election Commission has pointed out that sub-section (5) of Section 62 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, confers voting rights on “electors subjected to preventive detention.” And Rule 18 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, states that such detainees are entitled to cast their vote through postal ballot.
Uner Rule 21(1) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, the appropriate government has to intimate Returning Officers of the names of voters under preventive detention.
Sources: The Hindu.
Replacement for Plan panel still under study
The proposal to replace the Planning Commission with a new body is still under the consideration of the government.
The Prime Minister is the Chairman of the Planning Commission, which works under the overall guidance of the National Development Council, according to its present mandate.
- It was set up in 1950 by the CABINET RESOLUTION without resorting to legislation.
- It is an extra‐constitutional, non‐statutory and advisory body under the chairmanship of Prime Minister of India.
- It is an autonomous body and linked to the union cabinet at the secretariat level. And its demand for grant is included in the budget demand for cabinet secretariat.
- It is a technical body with executive powers.
- Prime minister is the Chairman.
- Deputy Chairman is the full time functional head. He is responsible to draft and present the FYP. He is appointed by the central cabinet and he attends all the cabinet meetings without voting right.
- Finance and planning ministers are ex officio members. Some central ministers are appointed as part time members.
- It is a wholly a centre constituted body. States are not represented.
Although it was set up with the sole purpose of planning , its functions have extended over the entire spectrum of administration.
It is described as the economic cabinet of the country as a whole.
It is not accountable to the parliament.
Its main functions are:
- to assess the resources and augment them.
- prepare plan and implement it with the help of state level personnel.
- appraise plan from time to time and make recommendations for necessary changes.
From 10th Five Year Plan,two new functions have been assigned.
- to monitor the plan implementation with special reference to the process of economic reforms with the help of steering committees.
- to monitor the progress of central ministries and set the monitorable targets for each ministry.
hence it has emerged as a super cabinet.
Planning Commission sets monitorable targets even for the state departments.
Sources: The Hindu, planningcommission.nic.in.
Surrogacy in India
(A surrogacy arrangement or surrogacy agreement is the carrying of a pregnancy for intended parents).
Social activists are batting for a ban on commercial surrogacy and have demanded that the practice be regulated like organ donation saying that in the absence of regulation, surrogacy has transformed into an unfettered, multi-million dollar industry.
A report titled ” Surrogacy Motherhood: Ethical or Commercial? ” compiled by the Centre for Social Research, with the support of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, illustrates that surrogacy has become a “commercial industry” where the rights of surrogate mothers, who are compelled by economic reasons, are violated.
The report cites that commercial surrogacy has also aggravated the problems of biased sex selection, skewed sex ratio and trafficking of women.
Important observations made by the report:
- According to the report, 82 per cent of the respondents [surrogates] in Delhi and 69 per cent in Mumbai were married, 12 per cent respondents in each city were divorced. In Mumbai, 14 per cent of the respondents were abandoned and six per cent were separated.
- About 27.85 per cent of the respondents in Delhi and 46.91 percent in Mumbai stated that it is poverty that had driven them to take the decision to enter into a surrogacy arrangement. However, 15.82 per cent of the surrogate mothers in Delhi, and 23.46 per cent of them in Mumbai, stated that education of their children had been another driving factor to opt for becoming a surrogate mother. 26.58 per cent of the respondents in Delhi and 17.28 in Mumbai had been approached by the agencies or clinics to become surrogate mothers.
- Poverty, approach by agents, unemployment and education of children stand out to be major compelling factors for surrogate mothers to enter into surrogacy arrangements
Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002.
Surrogacy in India is relatively low cost and the legal environment is favorable. In 2008, the Supreme Court of India in the Manji’s case (Japanese Baby) has held that commercial surrogacy is permitted in India with a direction to the Legislature to pass an appropriate Law governing Surrogacy in India. At present the Surrogacy Contract between the parties and the Assisted Reproductive Technique (ART) Clinics guidelines are the guiding force.
The Law Commission of India has submitted the 228th Report on “NEED FOR LEGISLATION TO REGULATE ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY CLINICS AS WELL AS RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF PARTIES TO A SURROGACY.”
Important observations made by The Law Commission: http://www.surrogacylawsindia.com/legality.php?id=%207&menu_id=71.
Sources: The Hindu, WIKI.
Revenue-sharing system for oil exploration contracts
The Centre is moving towards a revenue-sharing system for oil exploration contracts from the time-tested policy of production sharing. Faulty contract management has necessitated this change in the policy.
Production Sharing Contract(PSC) model would encourage investors to take higher exploration risks, and in the event of success, the costs could be recovered.
The Revenue Sharing Contract model tries to introduce the concept of escrow account in a contract which is meant to attract risk capital to first find resources before the revenue could be shared. (An escrow account, by definition, is a temporary pass-through account).
A Production Sharing Contract (PSC) is a contractual regime entered into by the Government and the Contractor for the purpose of E&P(exploration and production) of hydrocarbon resources, namely, crude oil and natural gas.
- PSCs are now the dominant mode of hydrocarbon administration in the country. These contracts are basically regulatory contracts by virtue of derivation from article 297 of the Constitution of India. Article 297 provides that petroleum in its natural state in the territorial waters and the continental shelf of India is vested in the Union of India. The Oil Fields (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948 and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules, 1959 made thereunder make provisions for the regulation of petroleum operations.
- The fiscal regime in existing PSCs for conventional oil and gas is based on the Contractor doing petroleum operations at his risk and cost, and, sharing of profit petroleum with the Government after cost recovery, the calculation of which is based on a Pre-Tax Investment Multiple (PTIM).
- Government’s share of profit petroleum forms part of Government receipts and is credited under a separate accounting head operated for profit petroleum. However, cost recovery made by the contractor is deemed to be expenditure incurred on exploration.
For further reference: http://eac.gov.in/reports/rep_psc0201.pdf.
Sources: The Hindu, http://eac.gov.in.
Relying on Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph, R.F. Nariman and Chief Justice R.M. Lodha directed all States to release undertrials in prison for more than half the sentence they would serve if convicted within a period of two months. The bench also directed the Central government to provide a road map for “fast-tracking” the entire criminal justice system
Section 436A was introduced into the CrPC in 2005 to mandatorily release on bail all undertrials who have already served half the period of their sentence if convicted. The Supreme Court, in its recent order, and civil society groups have invoked Section 436A of the CrPC as the primary strategy to reduce the undertrial population.
This strategy would work if undertrials are in fact detained for inordinately long periods of time.
- The primary constitutional and moral concern with undertrial detention is that it violates the normative principle that there should be no punishment before a finding of guilt by due process.
- The proportion of the Undertrial to convicts in prisons is also very high. In 2012, undertrials comprised 66 per cent of the prison population, and in the period 2001-2010 this rate has on average been a stubborn 67 per cent.
A high undertrial proportion in the prison population may be the result of too many arrests during the investigation and trial process or too few convictions at the end of trial.
- Over representation of the illiterate, lower castes and members of religious minorities are a cause of concern.In 2012, close to 74 per cent was either illiterate or had studied below Class 10. Similarly, Muslims , Scheduled Castes , Scheduled Tribes are over-represented.
- The high proportion of undertrials is a reflection of the pathological failure of the criminal justice system to successfully convict and thereby secure peace and security. This failure must be resolved by focussing on systematic institutional reform of the investigation and prosecution of offences.
- New rules mandating release on the filing of a charge sheet — barring limited exceptional circumstances — along with a Centrally sponsored public defenders programme that weeds out the overt or structural discrimination in the criminal justice system is the best bet for a targeted intervention to reduce the length and eliminate the disparate impact in undertrial detention in India.
p style=”text-align: right”>Sources: The Hindu.