Constitution & Law Current Affairs - 2020

Summary of latest bill and acts passed or pending in 2019 in Parliament of India with their salient features and issues for Current Affairs 2019 preparation for various examinations such as UPSC, SSC, State Civil Services, CLAT, Judicial Services etc.

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Key points in proposed Judicial Appointment Commission Bill

The controversy over the efficacy of the collegium system for appointing Supreme Court judges has gained momentum with many leaders and even eminent jurists including well-known names such as Markandey Katju have been candid on the failure of the current collegium system. There are demands for overhaul of the existing provisions.

To address this issue the government has proposed Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill as an alternative to the existing system.

Highlights of JAC Bill:

  • Establishment of a six-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) to make recommendations to the President on appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary.
  • It will encourage collaborations between the judiciary and executive.
  • The Chief Justice of India, two other senior most judges of the Supreme Court, the Union Minister for Law and Justice, and two eminent persons to be nominated by the Prime Minister, and the Leader of Opposition of the Lok Sabha will be its members. Law Commission of India Chairman and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah have suggested raising the strength of the body to seven.
  • JAC basic function: Making recommendations for appointments of the CJI, SC judges, Chief Justice and other High Court judges, and even the transfer of HC judges.
  • It would be empower the Parliament to pass a law providing for the composition, functions and procedures of the JAC.
  • Transparency will be the underlining feature of the entire process under the JAC. As per suggestions, the entire record of the process, starting from the nominations received up to the final recommendation made to the President, must be publicly disclosed.
  • As per Katju’s recommendation, JAC should hold a meeting and it should be televised so that all people in India can see it and there is total transparency. They should call the prospective candidate and ask him questions about his earlier functioning as a High Court judge and also his personal life, as is done in the United States.
  • Consensus will be criteria for arriving at decisions. In the case the consensus not clear, a simple majority may help decide, with all dissenting notes accompanied by reasons being recorded in writing.
  • The JAC will work in a stipulated time frame. It provides time periods within which vacancies will be filled up. Even the government has time limit of upto 2 months to intimate the Commission of the vacancy.
  • There are other suggestions to provide constitutional validation to the JAC, thus making it a permanent body and not an ad hoc measure. It is also suggested that its decision be made binding on the President and in case the President rejects any name, the same should be open to judicial review.

In December 2013, the Standing Committee report to Rajya Sabha noted that because of intrinsic deficiencies in the collegium, as many as approximately 275 posts of judges in various High Courts were lying vacant, which has direct impact upon justice delivery system and thereby affecting the 13 institutional credibility of judiciary.

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Union Government notifies Public Servants Rules, 2014

The Union Government notified Public Servants (Furnishing of Information and Annual Return of Assets and Liabilities and the Limits for Exemption of Assets in Filing Returns) Rules, 2014.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions notified the rules under Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

Under the new rules, it has been made mandatory for all Government employees to file declarations of their assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and dependent children.

As per Public Servants Rules, 2014

  • The Government will issue new forms that will seek information on cash in hand, bank deposits, investment in bonds, debentures, shares and units in companies or mutual funds, insurance policies, provident fund, personal loans and advance given to a person or any entity, among others.
  • The employees will have to declare motor vehicles, aircraft, yachts or ships, gold and silver jewellery and bullion possessed by them, their spouses and dependent children.
  • The employees will have to furnish detail of their immovable properties and statement of debts and other liabilities on first appointment or as on March 31 of every financial year.
  • These declarations are in addition to such returns being filed by the government employees under various services rules.
  • The employees, who have already filed their declarations, information and annual returns of property, shall file revised declarations as on 1 August 2014, to the competent authority on or before 15 September 15 2014.
  • The competent authority may exempt a public servant from filing the information in respect of any asset if its value does not exceed his or her 4 months basic pay or Rs 2 lakh, whichever is higher.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013:
As per the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 which received President’s assent January 1, 2014, a Lokpal for the Union as well as Lokayuktas for the States will be established in order to inquire the corruption charges against Government officials.

As per this Act, a public servant shall furnish to the competent authority the information relating to the assets of which he, his spouse and his dependent children, jointly or severally, own. The Act also makes it mandatory for a government servant to declare his liabilities and that of his spouse and his dependent children, as per the Act.

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