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Syllabus GS II Parliament

Parliament and State legislatures

Syllabus GS II Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these. 

1.Discuss the Constitutional assembly debate regarding presidential elections and also explain the poll method and president’s decision making power.

Choosing the presidential candidate is an intensely political exercise. Deep political calculations go into it. It is for this reason that the country is often taken by surprise by the choice the ruling party makes.

Constitutional assembly debate:

  • There was a great deal of debate in the Constituent Assembly on the President.
  • The main question debated therein was whether India should have a directly elected President or an indirectly elected one.
  • Our President is merely a nominal figurehead. He has no discretion; he has no powers of administration at all.
  • Article 53 of the Constitution says that “the executive power of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with this Constitution.” It means the President exercises these powers only on the aid and the advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • The way some of our Presidents have acted in the past reinforces that public perception.

Poll method, people’s role

  • It is an indirect election in the sense that the people do not directly elect the President. Under Article 54, the President is elected by an electoral college consisting of only the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the State and Union Territory Assemblies.
  • A matter of importance in this context is the vote value of Members of the Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and the formula for its computation.
  • The vote of an MLA, though one, is assigned a certain higher value.
  • The result is the value of a vote. Calculated this way, the vote value of an MLA in the State of Uttar Pradesh, for example, is 208.
  • The point is that in the computation of the value, the population of the State figures in a significant way. In other words, the population of the country is a crucial factor in the election of the President, which means the people’s presence in the process of electing the President is very much visible.
  • This gives a wider base to the President than a mere vote by the legislators on the basis of one member, one vote.
  • This also gives the President a greater moral authority. So, the Indian President is not and cannot be a mere rubber stamp. He does not directly exercise the executive authority of the Union, but he can disagree with the decision of the Council of Ministers, caution them, counsel them, and so on.

President’s decision making as per the constitution:

  • The President can ask the Cabinet to reconsider its decisions. It is another matter that if the Cabinet, after such reconsideration, sends the same proposal back without any change, the President will have to sign it.
  • That is because under the Cabinet system of government, it is the Cabinet which is responsible for the government’s decisions. The President is in no way personally responsible for those decisions which he or she approves.
  • The Constitution of India wants the President to be vigilant and responsive, and gives the freedom to him or her to take a broader view of things uninfluenced by the narrow political view of the executive.
  • This point becomes clearer when we take a look at the oath the President takes before entering office. The oath contains two solemn promises.
  • First, the President shall preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Second, the President shall devote himself or herself to the service and the well-being of the people of India.
  • There are very few democratic countries in the world where the executive has concentrated so much power in itself as in India.

Way forward:

  1. When the omnipotent executive moves to crush the liberty of citizens, the people do not, in the normal course, think of approaching the President who is otherwise oath-bound to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.
  2. The reason is that Presidents are not normally found interceding on behalf of aggrieved citizens even when there is an egregious violation of the rule of law and constitutional guarantees given to the citizens.
  3. There were Presidents such as Rajendra Prasad and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who openly differed with the government on certain policy issues and could exert tremendous influence on the government.
  4. It is possible for a President to disagree with the government or intervene on behalf of the citizenry against the tyranny of the executive and persuade it to give up its ways.
  5. The solemn oath the President takes requires him or her to do it. Such persons alone can rise to the level of the President; others can only be presidential office holders. India needs Presidents, not presidential office holders.

~Source The Hindu

Syllabus GS III Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment. 

Explain the Forest Conservation rules and also discuss the recently amended rules?

Forest Conservation Rules prescribe the procedure to be followed for forest land to be diverted for non-forestry uses such as road construction, and highway development.

Forest Conservation rules:

  • The Forest Conservation Rules deal with the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980. They prescribe the procedure to be followed for forest land to be diverted for non-forestry uses such as road construction, highway development, railway lines, and mining.
  • The broad aims of the Forest Conservation Act are to protect forest and wildlife, put brakes on State governments’ attempts to hive off forest land for commercial projects and striving to increase the area under forests.
  • For forest land beyond five hectares, approval for diverting land must be given by the Central government. This is via a specially constituted committee, called the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
  • This committee examines whether the user agency, or those who have requested forest land, have made a convincing case for the upheaval of that specific parcel of land, whether they have a plan in place to ensure that the ensuing damage from felling of trees in that area, denuding the local landscape will be minimal and the said piece of land doesn’t cause damage to wildlife habitat.
  • Once the FAC is convinced and approves (or rejects a proposal), it is forwarded to the concerned State government where the land is located, who then has to ensure that provisions of the Forest Right Act, 2006, a separate Act that protects the rights of forest dwellers and tribals over their land, are complied with.
  • The FAC approval also means that the future users of the land must provide compensatory land for afforestation as well as pay the net present value (ranging between ₹10-15 lakh per hectare.)

Recently amended rules:

  • The rules make a provision for private parties to cultivate plantations and sell them as land to companies who need to meet compensatory afforestation targets.
  • This  will help India increase forest cover as well as solve the problems of the States of not finding land within their jurisdiction for compensatory purposes.
  • The latest point of contention is the absence of wording, in the updated Forest Conservation Rules, of what happens to tribals and forest-dwelling communities whose land would be hived off for developmental work.
  • Prior to the updated rules, state bodies would forward documents to the FAC that would also include information on the status of whether the forest rights of locals in the area were settled.
  • The Environment Ministry passed an order mandating that proposals would not be entertained by the FAC unless there was a letter from the State specifying that the forest rights in the place had been “settled” and the gram sabha, or the governing body in villages in the area, had given their written consent to the diversion of forest.
  • The new rules formally codify this and say that a project, once approved by the FAC, will then be passed on to the State authorities who will collect the compensatory fund and land, and process it for final approval.

The government has started to rank state environment impact assessment authorities (SEIAAs) based on the speed at which they cleared proposals and provided environmental clearance for projects.

~Source The Hindu