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Settingup of Enforcement Department (EFD) (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II)

2017-07-20

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has informed that they have set up an Enforcement Department (EFD). EFD would serve as a centralised department to speed up regulatory compliance.

Objectives of Enforcement Department
1. EFD would serve as a centralised department to speed up regulatory compliance.

2. EFD has been set up to separate those who oversee the possible rule breaches and those who decide on punitive actions so that enforcement process operates fairly and is evidence based.

3. The EFD has become functional with effect from April 03, 2017. The EFD has been entrusted with the responsibility of enforcement action on commercial banks.

(Adapted from the PIB)

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Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC)- Tackling Global Tax Risks (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II)

2017-07-20

India participated in the fourth Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) meeting reconvened in Paris to pursue the work on the Panama Papers in the last week of June 2017.

Progress in getting information about tax evaders
Demonstrating the value and strength of JITSIC, 30 project participant countries have continued to exchange, analyse and act on information about taxpayers and intermediaries connected to Mossack Fonseca. In the past six months, more than 570 requests for information have been sent to 32 countries. India has also sent several requests for information to various jurisdictions in the Panama Paper cases since the last meeting in January 2017.

JITSIC members have established the capability to allow for fast, effective and coordinated multilateral responses to any future data leaks and are sharing the same. JITSIC will continue to identify more arrangements as countries continue their investigations and share intelligence and new data comes to light. Collaboration with JITSIC has been useful for India in its fight against offshore tax evasion.

About Panama Papers
The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper SüddeutscheZeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

What do they reveal?
It reveals that for at least the past 40 years, more than 140 of famous and/or politically powered people have hidden their fortunes in anonymous, offshore (and legal) shell companies, allowing them to skirt tax laws and make major money moves in the shadows. These include President of Argentina, President of Ukraine, Iceland PM, King of Saudi Arabia, aides of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin among a few.

What is Mossack Fonseca?
It is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. It administers offshore firms for a yearly fee. Other services include wealth management.

Where is it based?
The firm is Panamanian but runs a worldwide operation. Its website boasts of a global network with 600 people working in 42 countries. It has franchises around the world. Mossack Fonseca operates in tax havens including Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

The Indian Link:
The Indian Express reported that over 500 Indians could have links to secret firms in overseas tax heavens.

The Indians on the list include:
1. Amitabh Bachchan
2. AishwariyaRai
3. K.P. Singh of DLF
4. Sameer Gehlaut of India Bulls

They have all said that all the money they transferred was legal and according to Indian laws.

Response of Centre govt.:
The Centre has formed a multi agency group comprising of Central Board of Direct Taxes, the Financial Intelligence Union , Foreign Tax and Tax Research and the RBI to look into leaks.

(Adapted from the PIB and Indian Express)

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Get real on Swachhta: manual scavenging menace (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II, III)

2017-07-20

Despite the most stringent penal provisions in the law against manual scavenging, it continues in parts of India. The recent order of the Madras High Court asking the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to ensure the strict enforcement of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, in the wake of the death of 30 people engaged in the activity in the State in recent years, points to the malaise. 
Evidently, the vigorous national campaign for the rehabilitation of those engaged to manually clean insanitary latrines, and urban structures into which human excreta flows without sewerage, has been unable to break governmental indifference and social prejudice.

Why does Manual Scavenging exist?
Manual scavenging persists mainly because of the continued presence of insanitary latrines, of which there are about 2.6 million that require cleaning by hand, according to the activist organisation-SafaiKarmachariAndolan.

Role of Central and State governments:
In spite of a legal obligation to do so, State governments are not keen to demolish and rebuild old facilities lacking sanitation, or conduct a full census of both the latrines and the people engaged in clearing such waste.

The Central government, which directly runs the self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of these workers, has reduced funds from Rs. 448 crore in the 2014-15 budget to Rs. 5 crore this year.

High allocation in the past has not meant substantial or effective utilisation. This is incongruous, as sanitation is high on the agenda of the ruling government, and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is one of the government’s favouriteprogrammes, to which the public was contributing a cess.

Solution to problem of manual scavenging
1. There should beorder for accurate survey of manual scavenging prevalent in various parts of the country.

2. Raising the confidence level among those engaged in manual cleaning is vital; even official data show their reluctance to take up self-employment.

3. Empowerment of manual scavengers holds the key to change, but that would depend on breaking caste barriers through education and economic uplift.

(Adapted from The Hindu)

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Kannada flag controversy (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II)

2017-07-20

A longstanding demand by Kannada activists for an official state flag exploded into a major controversy, triggering allegations of subverting the Tricolour, and playing the political field ahead of Assembly elections.

While Chief Minister Siddaramaiah maintained that nothing unconstitutional was afoot and dared the BJP to publicly reject the demand for an official flag for Karnataka.

The background
In 2014, a demand was made for an official flag for Karnataka.This year, the Kannada and Culture Department of the state government notified the setting up of a nine-member committee to examine the feasibility and legal issues around the demand.

What is the present scenario?
The matter had been reported in the local media at the time, but it was picked up again and projected as an effort by Karnataka’s Congress government to subvert the national flag and the laws that allow only Jammu and Kashmir to have its own flag.

BJP leaders alleged that the Congress was trying to whip up Kannada pride ahead of the 2018 elections. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who has often sided with pro-Kannada activists on issues of local pride, rejected the allegations.

A flag since the 60s
Incidentally, Karnataka has had an unofficial state flag since the mid 1960s when pro-Kannada groups were agitating against the screening of non-Kannada films in the state. The red and yellow flag was created for a pro-Kannada political party called the Kannada Paksha, after he observed that many parties representing non-Kannadigas had flags of their own.

This unofficial flag is flown every year on November 1, Karnataka’s foundation day, and is a common sight at public places. Pro-Kannada activists have virtually adopted the red and yellow flag as a symbol of state pride. During agitations and protests like those over the sharing of Cauvery water with Tamil Nadu, the red and yellow banner often serves as protection against attacks by mobs — and private vehicles fly the flag in an attempt at ensuring safe passage for themselves.

BJP flip-flop
In 2012, Karnataka’s BJP government accorded official status to the Karnataka flag through a notification. Chief Minister D V SadanandaGowda said in his 2012 Budget speech that it would be compulsory to hoist the state flag on government buildings, schools and colleges. The government then said it would not make it mandatory to fly the state flag. Eventually, on October 4, 2012, it withdrew the notification ordering the hoisting of the Kannada flag on government offices on November 1.

Political parties will serve their aim of pleasing the vote banks. It is for the people to realize why such issues are raised only prior to the elections. Also these issuesshouldn’t be allowed to destroy the peace and harmony of the society.

(Adapted from The Indian Express)

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SC nod for new MCI oversight panel(Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II)

2017-07-20

The Supreme Court agreed with the government’s proposal of five eminent medical practitioners to oversee the functioning and decisions of the Medical Council of India.

A new Oversight Committee had to be appointed as the tenure of the previous one led by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha had expired. The court recorded that the panel is clothed with “the authority to oversee the functioning of the MCI.”

Background
In June, 2016 Supreme Court used its rare and extraordinary powers under the Constitution to set up a three-member committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, to oversee the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for at least a year.

The SC endorsed the Parliamentary Standing Committee report of March 2016 that medical education and profession in the country is at its “lowest ebb” and suffering from “total system failure” due to corruption.

Background:
The Medical Council of India (MCI) an apex body was temporarily suspended in 2010 due to a corruption scandal and its president arrested for corruption charges. It is a paradox that MCI which sets ethical norms for medical professionals found itself to be headed by someone arrested for corruption.

About MCI:
The Medical Council of India was established in 1934 with the main function of establishing uniform standards of higher qualifications in medicine and recognition of medical qualifications in India.

Flaws in MCI:
1. It is alleged that the MCI’s policies have been influenced by people with vested interests, leading to a lack of uniform standards in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and mushrooming of private medical institutions, which are run as business ventures.

2. The MCI has failed to create a transparent system for accrediting medical colleges, leading to geographical mal-distribution and creation of ghost faculties in private medical colleges.

(Adapted from the Hindu)

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M P Sharma and Kharak Singh: The cases on Right to privacy (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II)

2017-07-20

While hearing the challenge to the Aadhaar Act, the Supreme Court decided that it must first consider the question of whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.

The judges noted that two earlier judgements of the court — M P Sharma’s case in 1954 and Kharak Singh’s case in 1962 — had held that privacy was not a fundamental right.

A nine-judge Bench will now decide this question.

What were the M P Sharmaand Kharak Singh cases?

M P Sharma & Others vsSatish Chandra, District Magistrate, Delhi & Others
The case related to search and seizure of documents of some Dalmia group companies following investigations into the affairs of MsDalmia Jain Airways Ltd, a group concern, which was registered in July 1946 and went into liquidation in June 1952. The probe indicated malpractices within the company and attempts to conceal from shareholders the actual state of affairs by submitting false accounts and balance sheets.

The DM issued the warrants, and searches were carried out. Voluminous records were seized. In writ petitions before the Supreme Court, the aggrieved parties challenged the constitutional validity of the searches saying their private records were taken away, and claimed that it violated their fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(f) — right to acquire, hold and dispose of property — and 20(3) — protection against self incrimination.

In its judgment, the eight-judge Bench held that “a power of search and seizure is, in any system of jurisprudence, an overriding power of the State for the protection of social security and that power is necessarily regulated by law.

Kharak Singh vs The State of U P & Others (December 18, 1962)
Petitioner Kharak Singh was challaned in a case of dacoity, but was released as there was no evidence against him. Uttar Pradesh Police subsequently opened a “history sheet” against him and brought him under “surveillance”.

This was done in exercise of the powers under Chapter XX of the Uttar Pradesh Police Regulations. Regulation 236 authorised six measures of “surveillance”: 
(a) secret picketing of the house or approaches to the house of suspects;

(b) domiciliary visits at night;

(c) through periodic inquiries by officers not below the rank of Sub-Inspector into repute, habits, associations, income, expenses and occupation;

(d) reporting by constables and chaukidars of movements and absence from home;

(e) verification of movements and absences by means of inquiry slips;

(f) collection and record on a history sheet of all information bearing on conduct.

In his writ petition, Singh challenged the constitutional validity of Chapter XX, and the powers conferred upon police officials thereunder on the ground that they violated his fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(d) — right to freedom of movement — and 21 — protection of life and personal liberty.

His petition was adjudicated by a six-judge Bench which struck down Clause (b) — domiciliary visits at night — of Regulation 236, but upheld the rest.

The Bench also held that “the right of privacy is not a guaranteed right under our Constitution, and therefore the attempt to ascertain the movements of an individual is merely a manner in which privacy is invaded and is not an infringement of a fundamental right guaranteed in Part III (fundamental rights)”.

(Adapted from the Indian Express)

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Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) of Reserve Bank of India(Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper III )

2017-07-20

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted an Internal Advisory Committee (IAC), which arrived at an objective, non-discretionary criterion for referring accounts for resolution under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).

What were the recommendations of Internal Advisory Committee (IAC)? 
In particular, the IAC recommended for IBC reference all accounts with outstanding amount greater than Rs.5000 crore and with 60% or more classified as non-performing by banks as of March 31, 2016.

IAC recommended that banks should finalize a resolution plan within six months.

In cases where a viable resolution plan is not agreed upon within six months, banks should be required to file for insolvency proceedings under the IBC.

Action taken by RBI
Accordingly, Reserve Bank of India has issued directions to certain banks for referring 12 accounts, qualifying under the aforesaid criteria, to initiate insolvency process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.  

(Adapted from the PIB)

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