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Daily Current Affairs 12.05.2023 ( Delhi govt. has control over officers, says Supreme Court , All eyes now on Speaker Narwekar for a decision on disqualification petitions , Governors can’t play a role in intra-party disputes, says court , Drugs and demographics in Manipur , GST e-invoicing to include smaller firms from August 1 )

Daily Current Affairs 12.05.2023 ( Delhi govt. has control over officers, says Supreme Court , All eyes now on Speaker Narwekar for a decision on disqualification petitions , Governors can’t play a role in intra-party disputes, says court , Drugs and demographics in Manipur , GST e-invoicing to include smaller firms from August 1 )

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1. Delhi govt. has control over officers, says Supreme Court

Delhi Cabinet Ministers greet Arvind Kejriwal as he arrives at the Secretariat after the SC ruling on regulation of services row. 

 In a blow to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave the Delhi government power to make laws and wield control over bureaucrats deputed to its departments while declaring that civil service officers are “politically neutral professionals” who serve the people and not parties.

“A constitutionally entrenched and democratically elected government needs to have control over its administration. The administration comprises several public officers, who are posted in the services of a particular government, irrespective of whether or not that government was involved in their recruitment,” Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud debunked the Centre’s argument that it retained “administrative control” over officers deputed to Delhi.

A Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, however, reiterated that the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD) would not have the power to legislate on public order, police and land.

“The legislative and executive power of NCTD over Entry 41 shall not extend over to services related to public order, police, and land. However, legislative and executive power over services such as Indian Administrative Services or Joint Cadre services, which are relevant for the implementation of policies and vision of NCTD in terms of the day-to-day administration of the region, shall lie with NCTD,” the Court laid down the law.

“The day-to-day decisions of the Council of Ministers are to be implemented by a neutral civil service, under the administrative control of the Ministers. Civil service officers thus are accountable to the Ministers of the elected government, under whom they function…,” the Chief Justice observed.

Delhi government’s appeal

The Delhi government had approached the Supreme Court amidst a scenario in which civil service officers were directly pushing policy files directly to the Lieutenant Governor rather than consulting elected Ministers of the Delhi government.

The Supreme Court said a principle of “triple-chain of collective responsibility” existed in the governance of the capital. This three-cornered command included civil service officers being accountable to Ministers, who are in turn accountable to the Parliament/Legislature, which is ultimately answerable to the electorate.

2. All eyes now on Speaker Narwekar for a decision on disqualification petitions

SC says the Speaker must decide on the disqualification petitions within a reasonable period.

With the Supreme Court on Thursday ruling in the Maharashtra political row case that “the Speaker must decide on the disqualification petitions within a reasonable period”, all eyes are now on Speaker Rahul Narwekar.

After the Eknath Shinde government was formed, on July 3, 2022, Mr. Narwekar became the Speaker, winning 164 votes.

The five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday did not decide on the disqualification petitions filed by former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. “This court cannot ordinarily adjudicate petitions for disqualification under the Tenth Schedule [disqualification on the ground of defection] in the first instance. There are no extraordinary circumstances in the instant case that warrant the exercise of jurisdiction by this court to adjudicate disqualification petitions. The Speaker must decide disqualification petitions within a reasonable period,” it said.

The court held Mr. Narwekar’s decision recognising Bharat Gogawale, a candidate of the Shinde group, as the Chief Whip of the Shiv Sena “illegal.”

Stressing the difference between the political and legislature wings of a party, the court said, “To hold that it is the legislature party which appoints the whip would be to sever the figurative umbilical cord which connects the member of the House to the political party.”

As for the recognition of Sunil Prabhu, who was originally appointed as the Chief Whip by the Shiv Sena, experts have opined that Mr. Narwekar must disqualify the 16 MLAs who violated the whip issued by Mr. Prabhu.

P.D.T. Achary, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, said, “The Speaker has no other option except to disqualify the MLAs from the Shinde faction. Because the Supreme Court has said that the whip can be issued by the political party, i.e. party headed by Uddhav Thackeray. This means the Shinde faction which defied the whip, is naturally liable to be disqualified.”

Nikhil Wagle, political analyst, said, “The Supreme Court has said the selection of the whip is illegal, then the entire process is illegal, so the Speaker doesn’t have much option. But Mr. Narwekar is openly partial, so I think he will delay the process.”

3. Governors can’t play a role in intra-party disputes, says court

The Supreme Court on Thursday said former Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had mistaken a section of Shiv Sena MLAs’ expression of “discontent” with the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government for their withdrawal of support, and called for a floor test in just two days’ time in June 2022.

The Governor’s call for the floor test on June 28 led to the resignation of Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister the next day. “Communication expressing discontent on the part of some MLAs is not sufficient for the Governor to call for a floor test,” a Constitution Bench held.

Dissent and disagreement within a political party must be resolved in accordance with the remedies prescribed under the party constitution, the court said.

“Floor test cannot be used as a medium to resolve internal party disputes or intra-party disputes… There is a marked difference between a party not supporting a government, and individuals within a party expressing their discontent with their party leadership,” Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out.

Neither the Constitution nor laws enacted by Parliament provide for a mechanism by which disputes amongst members of a particular political party can be settled. “They certainly do not empower the Governor to enter the political arena and play a role (however minute) either in inter-party disputes or in intra-party disputes,” the Chief Justice wrote.

The Governor could not have acted upon an inference that a section of the Shiv Sena wished to withdraw their support to the government.

4. Drugs and demographics in Manipur

Buildings and houses were set on fire or demolished by mobs during the violence in Churachandpur in Manipur recently. 

A State government source attributes the current wave of tensions between the majority Meitei community and the Kukis to the actions taken by the administration since 2017-18 against poppy cultivation in the hill districts; BJP legislator says no forum in the hills endorses opium trade.

On May 8, when Imphal was reeling under curfew in the aftermath of the May 3 violence, the Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) specialised unit of the State police raided a property in the Mantripukhri area of the city. It seized 77 gunny bags, suspected to contain poppy seeds, and 120 kyat, Myanmar’s currency.

The NAB said in a May 9 statement that it suspected that the house owner belonged to an international drug cartel.

Meitei civil society groups claim that the May 3 violence — which had claimed at least 65 lives — was actually retaliation by some tribal groups over a series of actions taken by the N. Biren Singh government, including the “war on drugs”, and clearing of reserve forest areas in the hills, removing allegedly illegal occupants. The Mantripukhri raid by the NAB shows that the State government was doubling down on narcotics even in the middle of a serious law-and-order situation where more than 35,000 persons were displaced.

Such actions are premised on a detailed note prepared by the State government on “unnatural growth in the number of villages and new settlements in some districts of Manipur.”

Sharing data and satellite images, a top source in the Manipur government said that in 1969, there were 587 villages in the Imphal valley, which is dominated by the non-tribal Meiteis. That dropped to 544 villages in 2021. On the other hand, in the hill districts — which are inhabited mostly by 34 Scheduled Tribes including the Kukis and the Nagas — there were 1,370 settlements and villages in 1969. By 2021, however, this had shot up to 2,244 villages, the source said.

Valley urbanisation

One of the possible explanations for the drop in the number of villages in the valley is the rapid urbanisation, compared with the hills. It cannot be determined whether the growth in settlements in the hills is commensurate with a growth in population, as the 2021 census is yet to be conducted.

Churachandpur — a hill district with a majority population of Kukis which was one of the main hotspots for last week’s violence — had 282 villages in 1969, which almost doubled to 544 in 2021.

Paolienlal Haokip, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Saikot in Churachandpur district, countered this narrative of demographic change. He explained that, according to Kuki traditions, whenever a clan grows they are given permission to make another village in the same area. This explains the increase in the number of villages in Kuki areas, he said.

“Those who say this [about the increase in number of villages] are not aware of Kuki customs. To say that these settlements are of illegal migrants from Myanmar is simply not true. It is true that after the junta (military rule) took over Myanmar [in 2021], some people fled to Manipur. But that number would be in hundreds, they have not set up any villages,” Mr. Haokip told The Hindu. He added that the increase in settlements in Kuki areas is also due to the ethnic tensions with the Nagas between 1992 and 1997.

Land vs population

The valley, with 10% of Manipur’s landmass, is dominated by the non-tribal Meiteis, most of whom are Hindus, who account for more than 64% of the population of the State and yield 40 of the State’s 60 MLAs. The hills make up 90% of the State’s area, but send only 20 members to the Assembly.

According to the website of the Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER), there was an increase of 0.9% in the State’s Scheduled Tribe population between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. The 2021 census is yet to be conducted, so the current population is not known.

The People’s Alliance for Peace and Progress Manipur (PAPPM), an influential Manipur-based civil society group, said in a statement on May 8 that “the Myanmar-origin Kuki immigrants occupying sensitive high positions in Indian government offices sustain uninterrupted entry of illegal Kuki migrants into Manipur. Both these are a threat to national security of India.”

At a press conference in Delhi on May 9, the group insisted that the violence that erupted on May 3 was rooted in the Kukis’ opposition to the government’s “war on drugs”.

The Manipur government source said that the current wave of tensions between the majority Meitei community and the Kukis lies in the actions taken since 2017-18 against illegal poppy cultivation in the hill districts.

The source said that since 2017-18, over 18,664 acres of poppy farms have been destroyed by the authorities, compared with just 1,889 acres of poppy destroyed between 2013 and 2016.

Mr. Haokip pointed out that there is no church or civil society organisation in the hills that endorses poppy cultivation. “All groups have issued advisories against such cultivation. It is the big investors from the valley who are the kingpins of this trade,” he said.

5. GST e-invoicing to include smaller firms from August 1

Centre lowers mandatory e-invoice filing threshold to 5 crore in annual turnover from 10 crore,

move seen helping expand the tax net; CBIC also rolls out an Automated Return Scrutiny Module

In a move that would add to the compliance requirements for small and medium businesses under the GST regime while expanding the tax net, the Centre has made it mandatory for all businesses with an annual turnover of ₹5 crore to use e-invoices from August 1.

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), which notified the reduction from the current ₹10-crore level, also rolled out an ‘Automated Return Scrutiny Module’ for GST returns. The module’s implementation has already commenced with the scrutiny of GST returns for the financial year 2019-20.

This module will enable the officers to carry out scrutiny of GST returns of Centre-administered taxpayers selected on the basis of data analytics and risks identified by the system,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

“In case customers accept invoices from such vendors without e-invoice compliance, their input tax credit would be denied, resulting in GST loss for them to the extent of 18% generally, which could severely impact their bottom lines,” said Vivek Jalan, partner at Tax Connect Advisory.

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