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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Supreme Court directs Centre to set up National Regulator for granting all Green Clearances

The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to establish a national regulator for environmental clearances. The apex regulator will supervise grant of clearances and implementation of forest policy and environmental laws. The apex court has given the Centre time till March 31 to appoint the regulator and set up offices in “as many States” as possible under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

Why does the Supreme Court want a national regulator for green clearances? 

It has come to the notice of the apex court that the current mechanism under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification dated September 14, 2006, issued by the Government with regard to processing, appraisals, and approval of the projects for environmental clearance is deficient in many respects. It, therefore, felt the need for a regulator at the national level with its offices in all the States which can conduct an independent, objective and transparent appraisal and approval of the projects for environmental clearances which can also monitor the implementation of the conditions laid down in the environmental clearances.

How may this decision affect Centre’s power?

The granting of environmental clearances has so far remained a suspect due to absolute Government control over Forest Advisory Committees, entrusted under the Act to oversee adherence to environmental norms. The latest decision will not only deprive the Centre of its arbitrary power to take decisions on projects, but would also ensure that those found guilty of violations are awarded sizeable penalties under the “polluter pays” principle.

What is the reaction of MoEF over this decision?

The MoEF has strongly objected to this direction as it believes that it would not be feasible for a single authority with limited number of experts to look into the diverse and inter-linked nature of issues involved in the grant of environment clearances to various categories of projects. It further says that the volume of work being dealt by six expert advisory panels could not be done by single regulator, instead, it may result in financial pressure on the government exchequer which otherwise could be utilized to strengthen the existing regulatory mechanism.

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CAG can audit Telecom firms’ accounts: Delhi HC

As per the ruling of the Delhi High Court, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) can audit the accounts of mobile companies on a condition that the audit has to be only an audit relating to the receipts (revenues) and nothing else.

The Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India and Cellular operators had argued in its plea to the court that that under Article 149 of the Constitution, CAG is empowered only to audit the accounts of the Union and of the State governments and such authorities or bodies as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament. They also argued that if a constitutional provision (Article 149) imposed restrictions on the power of a constitutional authority, no law made by Parliament could widen that power.

What is the issue?

The Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India and Cellular petitioners had moved the Court following issuance of three letters to all telecom service providers; one by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the other two by the Director General of Audit, Post & Telecommunications requiring all the telecom firms to produce their books of accounts and other documents having a bearing on the verification of the revenue to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India from 2006-07 onwards.

 

What did the Delhi HC say?

Dismissing the writ petitions, the court held that the accounts of the licensees (telecom companies), pertaining to the revenue receipts can be said to be the accounts of the Central Government and thus subject to a revenue audit as per Section 16 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971. However, it directed that the CAG’s audit has to be only an audit pertaining to the receipts and no more and that the CAG would not confuse himself with his extensive all encompassing power under Section 14(2) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971 which includes inquiries into aspects like faithfulness, wisdom and economy in expenditures.

What does Article 149 of the Constitution of India say?

Article 149 is about Duties and powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General. It says, the Comptroller and Auditor General shall perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the Union and of the States and of any other authority or body as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, shall perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the Union and of the States as were conferred on or exercisable by the Auditor General of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution in relation to the accounts of the Dominion of India and of the Provinces respectively.

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