17th April – State funding of elections

State Funding

Why state financing is the only way to ensure fair and transparent poll funding?

In just 28 days since the announcement of the general election, the Election Commission (EC) has seized cash, drugs, alcohol, precious metals and other items worth Rs 1,800 crore. Compare this to the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate — Rs 70 lakh. Simple arithmetic would show that the seized amount can fully finance up to five candidates from each of the 543 constituencies.

State funding

What is the solution?

State funding of the recognised political parties and outlawing of corporate funding could be instrumental in making the electoral process fairer and more participatory.

Background –

  • In 1962, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved a Private Member’s Bill to prevent electoral donations by corporates. It was argued that since all shareholders need not subscribe to the political endorsement by a corporate, it was immoral to allow donations against their consent.
  • Vajpayee had propositioned that such funding would only serve corporate interests. While all political parties welcomed the bill, the then ruling party did not vote in its favour. Never again was such a bill introduced.

Electoral funding provisions –

  • Under Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act 1951, political parties are free to accept donations from any person, except from a foreign source.
  • Two inferences can be drawn from this — first, money wields the ability to disrupt political agenda; second, foreign money dilutes electoral integrity.
  • Both reasons would equally be valid for any person who is alien to the election process — a non-voter.
  • The concerns that arise from foreign-funding are equally applicable to funding from corporates, with the distinction that while the former is a jurisdictional alien; the latter, on account of being a non-participant, is an alien. However, party interests deter further expansion in the law.

Limitation of Electoral Bonds –

  • Of the Rs 2,722 crore donated through the scheme in the last 15 months, almost 95 per cent has gone to the ruling party, which enjoys a 31.34 per cent vote share.
  • The remaining contestants with a 68.66 per cent vote share could only garner 5 per cent funding. The anonymity provision under the scheme is antagonistic to transparency — the bonds merely enable an “on-the-books” secretive transfer.
  • The State Bank as the facilitator would be privy to the details of the depositor and the political party funded, therefore allowing the ruling party to monitor its rivals. What would be unknown to others will be known by the ruling party.

Role of corporates –

  • Corporates have long defended their political donations on the grounds of freedom of speech. Like citizens, they seek to endorse their economic and political views through contributions to campaign finance.
  • Corporates are associations that further economic interests of their members who enjoy a freedom of trade. Therefore, their freedom of speech is based on their exercise of the freedom of trade, which is essentially for a commercial purpose.
  • Citizens, on the other hand, enjoy an unfettered freedom of speech which extends onto the political domain. Since corporates are not participants as voters, they have no claim to freedom of “political” speech and expression. Therefore, while citizen-voters can donate to a political party pursuant to free speech, corporates must refrain from donating to a political party.

Way forward –

  • In realpolitik terms, there is no incentive for any ruling political party to reform the law as it stands. Thus, necessity would dictate that the task of electoral funding be given to the EC under Article 324.
  • A fair and transparent manner to finance the political parties would require a censure of unaccounted money and direct donations by corporates and non-voters to political parties.
  • State funding of recognised political parties is a viable alternative. A state funding scheme would be viable through the levy of an election cess on the direct taxes.
  • A National Election Fund could be maintained by the EC, into which the proceeds from this cess may be deposited. At the current GDP-Direct Tax ratio and voter numbers, a 1 per cent election cess can fund Rs 500 for each vote cast in elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
  • The cess being progressive would spare the poorer candidates from the costs of funding elections. Direct donations to political parties may be permitted only from persons who are entitled to vote. Those not entitled to vote may contribute to the neutral National Election Fund.
  • Donations from corporates into this fund will not distort the election process, but would instead improve the integrity of the peoples’ electoral choice.
  • Parties would be inclined to adopt a more inclusive agenda when in government since more votes will translate into more state funding.
  • Parties will also vie for votes in absolute numbers than merely be the first past the post. Democracy will then truly be of the people, for the people and by the people.

SourceThe Indian Express

Also Read: 16th April – Necessary steps to ending poverty

123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill

The 123rd Amendment Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment on April 5, 2017.

Aim | 123rd Amendment Bill

It seeks to grant the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

Present status | 123rd Amendment Bill

  • Currently, under the Constitution the NCSC has the power to look into complaints and welfare measures with regard to Scheduled Castes, backward classes and Anglo-Indians.
  • The Bill seeks to remove the power of the NCSC to examine matters related to backward classes.
  • The NCBC is a body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.  It has the power to examine complaints regarding inclusion or exclusion of groups within the list of backward classes, and advise the central government in this regard.

Highlights | 123rd Amendment Bill

  • The Bill seeks to establish the NCBC under the Constitution, and provide it the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The Bill states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories.  He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.  However, a law of Parliament will be required if the list of backward classes is to be amended.
  • Under the bill, the NCBC will comprise of five members appointed by the President.  Their tenure and conditions of service will also be decided by the President through rules.
  • The central and state governments will be required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.

Functions | 123rd Amendment Bill

  • Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the duties of the NCBC will include –
  1. investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented,
  2. inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights, and
  3. advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes.
  • The NCBC will be required to present annual reports to the President on working of the safeguards for backward classes.  These reports will be tabled in Parliament, and in the state legislative assemblies of the concerned states.
  • The NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any compla These powers include –
  1. summoning people and examining them on oath,
  2. requiring production of any document or public record, and
  3. receiving evidence.

Analysis | 123rd Amendment Bill

  • OBCs at par with SCs and STs – special provisioning for SCs and STs is premised on their historical and social discrimination. The Amendment delinks the Commission for Backward Classes from Article 340 (which provides for socially and economically backward classes) and by introducing Article 338B (on the lines of 338 and 338A) puts OBCs on par with SCs and STs. It thus blurs the line between caste and class based discrimination – developmental issues related to OBCs stand to be put on par with caste discrimination and untouchability suffered by SCs and STs.
  • Expanded definition of OBCs – the Act will amend Article 366 which contains basic definitions of important terms – herein SC and ST are defined. There is now anticipation of an altered definition of OBCs, taking it beyond its current confinement to social and educational criteria. This can have political fallouts like a possible extension of reservation to socially dominant castes like Jats, Marathas and Patidars etc. Any such extension of reservation would breach the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court on reservations.
  • However, a positive implication is inclusion/ exclusion of OBC list will now be sanctioned by the Parliament. This will prevent petty state politics based on appeasing classes for political benefit.

Conclusion | 123rd Amendment Bill

Welfare system of any modern state must be based on a progressive social justice architecture. Reservations must not be relied on as a welfare programme. The way out is a development paradigm that is inclusive in its provisioning of opportunities for growth, not in its provisioning of reservations.

Ancient Monuments And Archaeological Sites And Remains Act, 1958

Ancient Monuments Act 1958 has been proposed to be amended

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the introduction of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament.

Aim | Ancient Monuments Act 1958

To make way for certain constructions limited strictly to public works and projects essential to the public within the prohibited area.

Proposed Amendments | Ancient Monuments Act 1958

  • Insertion of a new definition of “public works” in section 2 of the Act.
  • Amendment to section 20A of the Act so as to allow any Department or Office of the Central Government to carry out public works in the prohibited area after obtaining permission from the Central Government.
  • Insertion of a new clause (EA) to section 20-I of the principal Act.

Background | Ancient Monuments Act 1958

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Remains Act, 1958 (as amended in the year 2010) prohibits the grant of any permission for new construction within the prohibited area of a centrally protected monument/ site.
  • Prohibition of new construction within prohibited area is adversely impacting various public works and developmental projects of the Central Government.
  • The amendment will pave way for certain constructions limited strictly to public works and projects essential to the public within the prohibited area and benefit the public at large.

Public Premises Act, 1971 (Amendment )

Aim – Public Premises Act is to enable summary eviction proceedings in Residential Accommodation 

Introduction | Public Premises Act

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for amendment in Section 2 and Section 3 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 (PPE Act, 1971), by inserting definition of ‘residential accommodation occupation’ in a new clause in section 2 of the Act and inserting provisions relating to eviction from ‘residential accommodation occupation’ in a new sub-section 3B below sub-section 3A of Section 3 of the Act

Highlights | Public Premises Act

  • The Amendment will enable the Estate officer to apply summary proceedings for evicting unauthorized occupants from residential accommodations allotted for a fixed tenure or for a period he/she holds office on the basis of an order of allotment on a license basis, as non-vacation of such residences leads to unavailability of houses to new incumbents.
  • Thus, now, the Estate Officer can make such inquiry as he deems expedient in the circumstances of the case and thus do not have to follow the elaborate procedures prescribed as per sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Act.
  • Estate Officers can even make an order for the eviction of such persons forthwith following the procedure proposed in the new section. If such persons refuse or fail to comply with the said order of eviction, Estate Officer may evict them from premises and take possession thereof and may, for that purpose, use such force as may be necessary.
  • As a consequence, to these amendments, Government of India can now ensure that the unauthorized occupants are evicted from government residence in a speedy and smooth manner and the vacated accommodations are made available to eligible Govt. employees thus reducing the waiting period.

Significance | Public Premises Act

  • The amendments will facilitate smooth and speedy eviction of unauthorized occupants from government residence, as non-vacation in time leads to unavailability of houses to new incumbents and will increase the availability of the residential accommodation benefitting the waitlisted persons. 
  • The beneficiaries include the employees of the Central Government offices who are eligible for General Pool Residential Accommodation (GPRA) and waiting for the maturity of their turn.

Background | Public Premises Act

The Government of India has to evict unauthorized occupants from Government accommodations under the provisions of PPE Act, 1971. However, the eviction proceedings take unusually long time, thereby reducing the availability of Government accommodations to new incumbents.

Real Estate Act Comes Into Force | PIB Summary

Ending the nine year long wait, regulation of real estate sector involving over 76,000 companies across the county becomes a reality from tomorrow i.e May 1, 2017 with the Real Estate Act (Regulation & Development), 2016 coming into force. 

Real Estate Act | Highlights

  • With all the 92 Sections of the Act coming into effect from tomorrow, developers shall get all the ongoing projects that have not received Completion Certificate and the new projects registered with Regulatory Authorities within three months i.e by July end. This enables the buyers to enforce their rights and seek redressal of grievances after such registration. 
  • Real Estate Act coming into force after a nine year wait marks the beginning of a new era making buyer the King while developers benefit from the confidence of the King in the regulated environment.
  • The Act ushers in the much desired accountability, transparency and efficiency in the sector with the Act defining the rights and obligations of both the buyers and developers.

Real Estate Act | Regulations

  • Ahead of the Act coming into force, Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation has formulated and circulated Model Real Estate Regulations for adoption by the Regulatory Authorities in the States/UTs.
  • Under these Regulations, developers are required to display sanctioned plans and layout plans of at least 3 feet X 2 feet size at all marketing offices, other offices where properties are sold, all branch offices and head office of the promoters in addition to the site of project.
  • Real Estate Regulatory Authorities may take decisions on all issues preferably through consensus failing which through voting with Chairman using Casting Vote in case of a tie. There shall be quorum for the meetings of the Regulatory Authorities and if a meeting is adjourned due to lack of such quorum, such meeting can take place without quorum. Members of Regulatory Authorities shall declare interest if any in the matters coming up for discussion and shall not participate therein.

Provisions of Real Estate Act

  1. Depositing 70% of the funds collected from buyers in a separate bank account in case of new projects and 70% of unused funds in case of ongoing projects;
  2. Projects with plot size of minimum 500 sq.mt or 8 apartments shall be registered with Regulatory Authorities;
  3. Both developers and buyers to pay the same penal interest of SBI’s Marginal Cost of Lending Rate plus 2% in case of delays;
  4. Liability of developers for structural defects for five years; and
  5. Imprisonment of up to three years for developers and up to one year in case of agents and buyers for violation of orders of Appellate Tribunals and Regulatory Authorities.

National Court of Appeal

What is a National Court of Appeal?

The National Court of Appeal with regional benches in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata is meant to act as final court of justice in dealing with appeals from the decisions of the High Courts and tribunals within their region in civil, criminal, labour and revenue matters. In such a scenario, a much-relieved Supreme Court of India situated in Delhi would only hear matters of constitutional law and public law.

However, the Centre has rejected this idea. It cites three grounds for rejecting the idea —

  1. The Supreme Court always sits in Delhi as per the Constitution.
  2. The Chief Justices of India in the past have “consistently opposed” the idea of an NCA or regional benches to the Supreme Court.
  3. An NCA would “completely change the constitution of the Supreme Court”.

National Court of Appeal | Why this is a good idea?

  • A National Court of Appeals makes sense, with the Supreme Court being burdened with cases of all kinds. The Supreme Court was meant to be a Constitutional Court. However, the sheer weight of its case backlog leaves the court with little time for its primal functions.
  • Geographical proximity to the court is definitely an aspect of access to justice. The fact that the Supreme Court sits only in New Delhi limits accessibility to litigants from south India. High Courts meant for facilitating easy access to justice are losing their sheen in many ways.
  • If a court of appeal is established, the majority of appeals from high courts can be addressed in these courts.
  • A court of appeal can work as an excellent mechanism to sieve cases. If there are areas of law that are particularly unsettled and need clarification, the court of appeal can club them together and send these forward to the Supreme Court. Not only can a number of individual cases be disposed of but areas of law can also be settled and a clear precedent set.
  • If the Supreme Court only deals with crucial cases, the process will become streamlined and will save a lot of time and expense, for both litigants and the courts.
  • It would relieve the Supreme Court of the weight of hearing regular civil and criminal appeals, allowing the court to concentrate on determining only fundamental questions of constitutional importance.

National Court of Appeal | Why this is not a good idea?

  • Splitting the Supreme Court will be a very regrettable step. The Supreme Court has to be at one place and there can’t be circuit benches like high courts.
  • Dilution of the Supreme Court and its aura as an apex court may not be in line with the concept of the Supreme Court envisioned by the architects of the Constitution.
  • The issue of proximity is relevant only up to high courts and can’t be extended to the Supreme Court. There are enough high court benches to address that issue.
  • This suggestion would require an amendment in Article 130 of the Constitution which is impermissible as this would change the constitution of the Supreme Court completely.
  • Also, NCA will mean more expense and hardship to litigant.

What else can be done?

Efforts should be to strengthen subordinate judiciary (high courts) so that proper justice can be dispensed with.

  • The Supreme Court should discourage the usage of the High Court as a mere stepping-stone towards the end of judicial hierarchy. The glory and resplendence of High Courts should be reclaimed.
  • All High Courts must entertain writs, including in the burgeoning service matters, only before Single Benches in the first instance and then to a Division Bench in the form of a Letter Patents Appeal so as to provide at least a two-tier accessible hierarchy of approach.
  • The challenges to orders of tribunals, irrespective of the former status of their adjudicating Members or Chairpersons, must only be allowed to be entertained by Division Benches of High Courts and not directly to the Supreme Court since the highest Court cannot be rendered the first appellate Court from statutory tribunals and neither can justice be made unaffordable for our citizens.

National Court of Appeal | Conclusion:

A National Court of Appeal is being advocated as an intermediate forum between the Supreme Court and the various high courts of India. But a better solution to ease the higher judiciary’s burden may lie in strengthening that of the lower. Before adverting to a new layer, the conception of which may be difficult to achieve, we need to strategise and reconfigure our existing judicial hierarchy to the rising challenges before us. The only way to do it is to revitalise our High Courts and restore them to their pinnacle.

 

State Governments For External Assistance | PIB Summary

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the policy guidelines to allow financially sound State Governments to borrow directly from bilateral ODA (Official development Assistance) partners for implementation of vital infrastructure projects.

State Governments For External Assistance | About the approval

  • The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), a State Government entity, has also been allowed to borrow directly from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan for implementation of Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project.
  • The estimated project cost for Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) is Rs.17,854 crore, out of which JICA loan portion is expected to be Rs.15,109 crore.

State Governments For External Assistance | Significance of approval

  • The guidelines will facilitate the State Government entities to directly borrow from the external bilateral funding agencies subject to fulfilment of certain conditions and all repayments of loans and interests to the funding agencies will be directly remitted by the concerned borrower.
  • The concerned State Government will furnish guarantee for the Loan. The Government of India will provide counter guarantee for the loan.

State Governments For External Assistance | Significance of external assistance

  • External assistance today plays a supportive role in financing major infrastructure projects, social sector projects and in building up institutional capacity.
  • The role of external assistance has gained further significance in view of the large gap in funding requirements for major infrastructure projects implemented by the State Governments in order to acquire competitive strength under the globalized economic framework.
  • Several State agencies are implementing major infrastructure projects of national importance. These projects, even if viable and sound, have huge funding requirements and borrowing by the State Governments for such projects may exhaust their respective borrowing limits. Therefore, in order to accelerate the pace of investment in major infrastructure projects in the country without compromising the need for external assistance for other sectors, an enabling provision in the existing guidelines was considered necessary to facilitate direct borrowing by the State Government entities from bilateral external agencies.
  • This dispensation will allow the financially sound State entities to directly borrow and repay the loan required for major infrastructure projects without burdening the State exchequer. The approval of these guidelines reiterates Government’s commitment to promote inclusive growth and strengthen the economy.

State Governments For External Assistance | Background

Presently, external development assistance from bilateral and multilateral sources is received by the Government of India

  1. for projects/programmes in the Central sector;
  2. for projects executed by Central Public Sector Undertakings; and
  3. on behalf of the State Governments for State sector projects/programmes to be implemented by the State Governments and/or local bodies and public sector undertakings. The existing guidelines do not allow direct borrowings by the State Government entities from external agencies.

National Commission For Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017 | PIB Summary

National Commission For Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given

  1. Ex-post facto approval for introduction of –
  • Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill 2017 and
  • National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament; and
  1. Approval for retention of posts/incumbents and office premises held by the existing Commission by the proposed new National Commission

Proposed amendments

  • Constitution of a Commission under Article 338B for socially and educationally backward classes by name of National Commission for Backward Classes; and
  • insertion of Clause (26C) under Article 366 with modified definition viz. “socially and educationally backward classes” means such backward classes as are so deemed under Article 342A for the purpose, this Constitution and,

Purpose of Bill

  • Repeal of the Act, along with Savings Clause for namely the National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017; and
  • Dissolution of the Commission for Backward Classes with effect from such date as the Central Government may appoint in this behalf and the Commission for Backward Classes constituted under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the said Act shall stand dissolved.

Appropriation of posts

  • Appropriation of the sanctioned 52 posts, along with incumbents wherever filled of the existing National Commission for Backward Classes in the proposed Commission for Backward Classes to be constituted under Article 338B; and
  • Retention of the office premises of the existing Commission (for Backward Classes), by the Commission (for Backward Classes) to be constituted under Article 338B.
    The above decisions will lead to overall welfare of socially and educationally backward classes.

The proposed Act of repeal is necessary in view of setting up of the Commission for (Backward Classes) by insertion of Article 338B of the Constitution. The decision will also enable effecting continuity in the functioning of the National Commission (for Backward Classes) under Article 338B.

Security Features – ECI-EVMs | PIB Summary

VERY IMPORTANT for Prelims + GS 2 Governance, Polity + GS 4 Ethics

In the recent past, there have been some queries in the minds of common people about the security features of Electronic Voting Machines – EVMs  of Election Commission of India (ECI). The Election Commission has, time and again, stated that ECI – EVMs and its systems are robust, secure and tamper-proof.

What is meant by Tampering of EVM?

Tampering means alteration in the software program written either on existing microchips of Control Unit (CU) or introducing malicious software program by inserting new microchips in CU and also making keys – pressed in Ballot Unit (BU) not record faithfully in the Control Unit.

Are the ECI- EVMs hackable?

NO

M1 (model one) of EVM machines were manufactured till 2006 and had all necessary technical features making M1 non-hackable contrary to claims made by some activists.

On the recommendations of the Technical Evaluation Committee in 2006, M2 model of EVMs produced after 2006 and up to 2012 incorporated dynamic coding of key codes thereby enabling transfer of the key – press message from  Ballot Unit (BUs) to  Control Unit (CUs), in an encrypted form as an additional security feature. It also contains Real time setting of each key press so that sequencing of key presses including so called malicious sequenced key presses can be detected and wrapped.

Further, the ECI- EVMs are not computer controlled, are stand alone machines and not connected to the internet and /or any other network at any point of time. Hence, there is no chance of hacking by remote devices.

The ECI-EVMs do not have any frequency receiver or decoder for data for wireless or any external hardware port for connection to any other non-EVM accessory or device. Hence no tampering is possible either through hardware port or through Wireless, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth device because CU accepts only encrypted and dynamically coded data from BU. No other kind of data can be accepted by CU.

Can ECI – EVMs be manipulated by Manufacturers?

Not Possible

There is very stringent security protocol at manufacturer level regarding security of software. The Machines have been manufactured in different years starting from 2006. After manufacturing, EVMs are sent to State and district to district within a State. The manufacturers are in no position to know several years ahead which candidate will be contesting from a particular constituency and what will be the sequence of the candidates on the BU. Also, each ECI-EVM has a serial number and the Election Commission by use of EVM – tracking software can find out from its database which machine is located where. So, any manipulation at manufacturing stage is ruled out. 

Can Trojan Horse be incorporated into the chip in CU?

Sequence of voting in EVM eliminates the possibility of injection of Trojan Horse as mentioned below. The stringent security measures by ECI make it impossible to introduce Trojan Horse in the field.

Once a ballot key is pressed in CU, the CU enables BU for registering the vote and waits for the key pressing in the BU.  During this period, all keys in the CU become Inactive till the entire sequence of casting of that vote is complete.  Once any of the keys (candidates vote button) is pressed by a voter in BU, the BU transmits the key information to CU.  The CU gets the data and acknowledges it by glowing the corresponding LED lamps in BU.  After the enabling of ballot in CU, only the ‘first key press’ is sensed and accepted by CU.  After this, even if a voter keeps on pressing the other buttons that is of no use as there will not be any communication between CU and BU as the result of those subsequent key presses, nor will BU register any key press.  To put it in other words, there can be only one valid key press (the first key press) for every ballot enabled using CU.  Once a valid key press (voting process) is complete, until another ballot enabling key press is made there will not be any activity between the CU and the BU.  Hence, sending of any malicious signal, by way of so called ‘sequenced key presses’, is impossible in the Electronic Voting Machines being used in the country.

Are Old model ECI-  EVMs still in use?

M1 model of EVM machines were produced up to 2006 and were last used in 2014 General Elections. In 2014, EVM machines which completed 15 years of economic life and also because M1 were not compatible with VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail), ECI decided to discontinue use of all M1 EVMs manufactured upto 2006. There is a Standard Operating Procedure laid down by ECI to discard EVMs. The process of destruction of EVM & its chip is carried out in the presence of Chief Electoral Officer of the state or his representatives inside the factory of manufacturers. 

Can ECI – EVMs be Physically Tampered with/ their components be changed without anyone noticing?

In addition to the existing security features in earlier models M1 & M2 of ECI-EVMs, the new M3 EVM produced after 2013 have additional features like Tamper Detection and Self Diagnostics. The tamper detection feature makes an EVM inoperative the moment anyone tries to open the machine. The Self diagnostic feature checks the EVM fully every time it is switched on. Any change in its hardware or software will be detected.  

A prototype of a new model M3 with above features is going to be ready shortly. A Technical Experts Committee will examine it and then production will commence. About Rs. 2,000 crores have been released by the Government to procure M3 EVMs with above additional features and new technological advancements.

What are the latest technological features to make ECI – EVMs tamper proof?

The ECI-EVMs use some of the most sophisticated technological features like one time programmable (OTP) microcontrollers, dynamic coding of key codes, date and time stamping of each and every key press, advanced encryption technology and EVM-tracking software to handle EVM logistics, among others to make the machine 100% tamper proof. In addition to these, new model M3 EVMs also have tamper detection and self-diagnostics as added features. Since, software is based on OTP the program cannot be altered, re-written or Re-read. Thus, making EVM tamper proof. If anyone make, attempt, the machine will become in operative.

Do the ECI-EVMs use foreign technology?

Contrary to misinformation and as alleged by some, India do not use any EVMs produced abroad.  EVMs are produced indigenously by 2 PSUs viz. Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad. The Software Programme Code is written in-house, by these two companies, not outsourced, and subjected to security procedures at factory level to maintain the highest levels of integrity. The programme is converted into machine code and only then given to the chip manufacturer abroad because we don’t have the capability of producing semi-conductor microchips within the country.

Every microchip has an identification number embedded into memory and the producers have their digital signatures on them. So, the question of their replacement does not arise at all because microchips are subjected to functional tests with regard to the software. Any attempt to replace microchip is detectable and can make EVM in-operative. Thus, both changing existing programme or introducing new one are detectable making EVM in-operative.

What are the possibilities of manipulation at the place of storage?

At the district headquarters, EVMs are kept in a double-lock system under appropriate securityTheir safety is periodically checked. The officers do not open the strong room, but they check whether it’s fully protected and whether the lock is in proper condition or not. No Unauthorized person can get access to the EVMs at any point of timeDuring non-election period, Annual Physical Verification of all EVMs is done by DEOs and report sent to ECI. Inspection & checking have recently been completed.

To what extent are allegations of EVM tampering in local body polls true?

There is a misunderstanding in this regard due to lack of knowledge about jurisdiction. In case of elections to Municipal bodies or Rural bodies like Panchayat Elections, the EVMs used do not belong to the Election Commission of India. Above local bodies elections come under the jurisdiction of State Election Commission/s (SECs), which procure their own machines and have their own handling system. ECI is not responsible for functioning of EVMs used by SECs in above elections.

What are the different levels of checks and balances ensuring tamper proofing of ECI-EVMs?

First Level Checking: BEL/ECIL engineers certify originality of components after technical and physical examination of each EVM, undertaken in front of representatives of political parties. Defective EVMs are sent back to factory. The FLC Hall is sanitized, entry is restricted and no camera, mobile phone or spy pen is allowed inside. Mock poll of at least 1000 votes is conducted on 5% EVMs selected randomly by reps of political parties and the result shown to them. The entire process is video graphed.

Randomization: EVMs are randomized twice while being allocated to an Assembly and then to a polling booth ruling out any fixed allocation. Mock Poll at polling station is conducted in front of polling agents of candidates on the poll day, before polls begin.

After Poll, EVMs are sealed and polling agents put their signature on the seal. Polling agents can travel upto strong room during transportations.

Strong Rooms: Candidates or their representatives can put their own seals on the strong rooms where polled EVMs are stored after the poll and also camp in front of strong room.  These strong rooms are guarded 24×7 in multilayers.

Counting Centres: The polled EVMs are brought to the Counting Centres and Unique IDs of the seals and CU are shown to reps of candidates before start of counting.

Can a manipulated ECI- EVMs be re-inducted in the polling process without anyone coming to know?

Question does not arise.

Looking at the above series of fool-proof checks and balances that are undertaken by the ECI to make EVMs tamper proof, it is evident that neither the machines can be tampered-with nor defective machines can get re-inducted into the polling process at any point of time because Non ECI -EVMs will get detected by the above process and mismatch of BU & CU. Due to different level of stringent checks and balances neither ECI-EVMs can leave the ECI system nor any outside machine (Non-ECI –EVM) can be inducted into the system.

Why have Developed Nations like the US and European Union not adopted EVMs and some have discontinued?

Some countries have experimented with electronic voting in the past. The problem faced with the machines in these countries was that they were computer controlled and connected to the network, which in turn, made them prone to hacking and hence totally defeating the purpose.  Moreover, there were not adequate security measures and safeguards in their corresponding laws regulations for security, safety and protection. In some countries, Courts struck down the use of EVMs on these legal grounds only.

Indian EVM is stand-alone whereas, USA, The Netherlands, Ireland & Germany had direct recording machines.  India has introduced paper audit trail, though partly.  Others did not have audit trail. Source code is closed during polling in all of the above countries. India also has closed source burnt into memory and is OTP.

ECI-EVMs, on the other hand, are stand-alone devices not connected to any network, thus making it impossible for anyone to tamper with over 1.4 million machines in India individually. EVMs are most suited for India, looking at the country’s past poll violence and other electoral malpractices like rigging, booth capturing etc. during the polls.

It is worth mentioning that in contrast with countries like Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. Indian Laws & ECI regulations have in-built adequate safeguards for security & safety of EVMs.  Besides Indian EVMs are far superior on account of secured technological features. Indian EVMs also stand apart because VVPATs going to be used with EVMs in phases to make entire process transparent for voters.

In case of The Netherlands, rules regarding storage, transport and security of machine were lacking. Machines produced in The Netherlands were also used in Ireland & Germany. In a judgment in 2005, German Court found voting device ordnance unconstitutional on the ground of violation of the privilege of the public nature of election& the basic law. So, these countries discontinued the use of machines produced in The Netherlands.  Even, today many countries including USA are using machines for voting

ECI – EVMs are fundamentally different from the voting machines and processes adopted in foreign countries. Any comparison based on computer controlled, operating system based machines elsewhere will be erroneous and ECI – EVM cannot be compared with.

What is the status of VVPAT enabled machines?

The ECI has conducted elections in 255 assembly constituencies and nine Lok Sabha constituencies using Voters Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The use of M2 and new-generation M3 EVMs along with VVPAT is the way forward for further confidence and transparency of the voters.

Inter State Water Dispute

India is a country where several rivers run connecting multiple states and many of them are infested with inter-state disputes, specifically the Inter State Water Dispute. Recently, the Honourable Supreme Court gave a verdict on Cauvery water dispute where it asked the Government of Karnataka to ‘live and let live’.

Last year on 15th of December, the Union Cabinet announced wide range of amendments to the Inter-State Water Disputes Act 1956.

Inter State Water Dispute | Amendments proposed

  • The Cabinet has proposed an agency to gather and retain water data including those pertaining to irrigation, rainfall and others.
  • Ithas also decided to establish a permanent tribunal to adjudicate on all inter-state water disputes prevalent in the country. It would mean doing away with the current practice of having a separate tribunal for every inter-state water

Inter State Water Dispute | Background

  • Inter-State River Water Disputes Act 1956 extends to the whole of India and provides for adjudication of water disputes.
  • Inter-state water disputes are different from other Inter-state disputes in the term that Constitution bars the jurisdiction of any other court over water disputes. These disputes are to be adjudicated by temporary, ad-hoc and exclusive tribunals as the tribunals are dissolved after they give away the awards. Awards carry the force of a Supreme Court decree and are legally binding on the states for a period of 25-30
  • This arrangement has been ineffective and suffered from several governance challenges. When states approach the Supreme Court, the bar on its jurisdiction puts restrictions on the court. SC has had to limit its role to providing clarifications, leaving states discontented.

Inter State Water Dispute | Shortcomings of the existing provisions

  • The existing Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 does not fix any time limit for resolving river water disputes.
  • It should be noted that the Cauvery Water Tribunal has taken almost 26 years and 3 months but the issue is still pending before the Supreme Court.
  • Therefore, it is being proposed to set a time limit for Dispute Redressal Committees to resolve disputes cordially.

Inter State Water Dispute | Causes of Inter-State Water Dispute

  • Water is a limited resource and the demand of it has increased numerous times in agricultural, industrial and domestic sector as compared to its current availability. The country is developing and lifestyle changes such as increased urbanization has put a strain on our natural resources.
  • The moment water is amassed at a large scale, it paves the way for a dispute where commissions come into play and this goes on and on. Honestly. this is more of a political issue than a regional one because these disputes are used as emotive issues by all the parties during elections and several vested interest are created that leads to more serious issues like bandhs, strikes and riot like situations.
  • There is an ongoing debate on development/growth imperative on our environment and ecology. Issues are also related with the storage of water such as dams and subsequent usage of it for production of electricity and other uses, which lead to disputes among the states.
  • Quite seriously, there is an administrative system which is in conflict with what people want. The supply side incapability of the administration is neutralised through changing the nature of demand by the administration.

Inter State Water Dispute | Solutions

  • Primary requirement in this case is to involve the people who are actually using the river water such as farmers and create a broader consensus on how water should be used. India has ample examples from the history on water management techniques and taking a leaf out of the pages of history is significant both politically and ecologically.
  • Although water is a state subject (Entry 17), the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys in the public interest is in the Union list (Entry 56). However, the Centre has generally taken a back seat, allowing states to take control over such critical issues. It would be prudent to shift Entry 17 of State List to the Concurrent List.
  • It is very important to prevent the destruction of sources of water (catchment areas of Cauvery river have been destroyed due to multiple reasons) to meet the demands of people during critical times.
  • Optimum utilisation and sustainable use of water resources in cropping patterns, irrigation systems and demand management.
  • Establishment of a single, permanent tribunal to hear all inter-state water dispute cases to deal with procedural complexities involving numerous stakeholders across governments and agencies.

Inter State Water Dispute | Conclusion

A robust institutional framework to ensure transparency and cooperation is necessary to adjudicate inter-state water disputes in letter and spirit. Political situations should be dealt politically and legal safeguards should be seldom applied in order to enhance the spirit of cooperative federalism.

NOTE For Prelims

Examples of Inter State Water Dispute in India

  • Narmada Water Dispute- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
  • Mahi River Dispute- Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
  • Ravi and Beas Water Dispute- Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi
  • Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Dispute- Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan
  • Yamuna River Water Dispute- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
  • Karmnasa River Water Dispute- Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
  • Barak River Water Dispute- Assam and Manipur
  • Cauvery Water Dispute- Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
  • Krishna Water Dispute- Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
  • Tungabhadra Water Dispute- Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
  • Aliyar and Bhivani River Water Dispute- Tamil Nadu and Kerala
  • Godavari River Water Dispute- Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh