‘Ease of doing business’ refers to the regulatory environment in a country to set up and operate a business. Every year, the World Bank compares the business environment in 190 countries in its Ease of Doing Business Report. In its report released yesterday, India’s rank improved to 100 out of 190 countries in 2017, from its rank of 130 in the previous year., In this context, we explain the parameters on which each country is ranked, what has led to India’s improvement in rankings, and some recommendations made by committees to further improve the business environment in the country.
What parameters is a country ranked on?
The ease of doing business rankings are based on a country’s performance on 10 parameters such as enforcing contracts and starting a business. In India, these rankings are based on the business environment in Mumbai and Delhi. A lower rank indicates better performance on that parameter, whereas a higher rank indicates worse performance on the indicator. India’s ranking improved in six out of the 10 parameters over the previous year, while it remained the same or fell in the remaining four (see Table 1).
Note that these parameters are regulated by different agencies across the three tiers of government (i.e. central, state and municipal). For example, for starting a business, registration and other clearances are granted by central ministries such as Finance and Corporate Affairs. Electricity and water connections for a business are granted by the state electricity and water boards. The municipal corporations grant building permits and various other no objection certificates to businesses.
What has led to an improvement in India’s ease of doing business rankings?
According to the 2017 report, India introduced changes in some of these parameters, which helped in improving its ranking.1 Some of these changes include:
What are some of the other recommendations to improve the business environment in India?
Over the last few years various committees, such as an Expert Committee constituted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Standing Committee of Commerce, have studied the the regulatory requirements for starting a business in India and the made recommendations on the ease of doing business.,, Some of the issues and recommendations made by these committees are discussed below.
Starting a business: The Standing Committee observed that regulations and procedures for starting a business are time-consuming.8 The Committee observed that as a consequence, a large number of start-ups are moving out of India and setting base in countries like Singapore where such procedures are easier. It emphasised on the need to streamline regulations to give businesses in India a boost. Note that the government announced the ‘Start-up India Action Plan in January 2016. The 19-point plan identified steps to simplify the process for registering and operating start-ups. It also proposed to grant tax exemptions to these businesses.
The Committee had suggested that the procedures and time period for registration of companies should be reduced. In addition, a unique business ID should be created to integrate all information related to a debtor. This ID should be used as sole reference for the business.
Acquiring land, registering property: Under the current legal framework there are delays in acquiring land and getting necessary permissions to use it. These delays are on account of multiple reasons including the availability of suitable land and disputes related to land titles. It has been noted that land titles in India are unclear due to various reasons including legacy of the zamindari system, gaps in the legal framework and poor administration of land records.
The Standing Committee observed that the process of updating and digitising land records has been going on for three decades. It recommended that this process should be completed at the earliest. The digitised records would assist in removing ambiguity in land titles and help in its smooth transfer. It also suggested that land ownership may be ascertained by integrating space technology and identification documents such as Aadhaar. Note that as of September 2017, land records had been linked with Aadhaar in 4% of the villages across the country.
Several states have taken steps to improve regulations related to land and transfer of property.8 These steps include integration of land records and land registration by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, and the passage of a law to certify land titles in urban areas by Rajasthan. The Committee also recommended creating a single window for registration of property, to reduce delays.8
Construction permits: In India, obtaining construction permits involves multiple procedures and is time consuming. The Standing Committee had observed that it took 33 procedures (such as getting no objection certificates from individual departments) over 192 days to obtain a construction permit in India.8 On the other hand, obtaining a similar permit in Singapore involved 10 procedures and took 26 days.
Taxation: The Standing Committee had noted that the tax administration in India was complex, and arbitration proceedings were time-consuming. It observed that the controversies on the Minimum Alternate Tax on capital gains and the tax disputes with companies like Vodafone and Shell had harmed India’s image on taxation matters. Such policy uncertainty and tax disputes have made foreign companies hesitant to do business in India.8
The Committee observed that for ‘Make in India’ to succeed, there is a need for a fair, judicious and stable tax administration in the country. Further, it suggested that to reduce harassment of tax payers, an electronic tax administration system should be created.8 Such a system would reduce human interface during dispute resolution. Note that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced across the country from July 1, 2017. The GST framework allows for electronic filling of tax returns, among other measures.
Enforcing contracts: Enforcing contracts requires the involvement of the judicial system. The time taken to enforce contracts in India is long. For instance, the Standing Committee noted that it took close to four years in India for enforcing contracts. On the other hand, it took less than six months for contract enforcement in Singapore. This may be due to various reasons including complex litigation procedures, confusion related to jurisdiction of courts and high existing pendency of cases.8
The Standing Committee recommended that an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and fast track courts should be set up to expedite disposal of contract enforcement cases. It suggested that efforts should be made to limit adjournments to exceptional circumstances only. It also recommended that certified practitioners should be created, to assist dispute resolution.8
 ‘Doing Business 2018’, World Bank, http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB2018-Full-Report.pdf.
 ‘Doing Business 2017’, World Bank, http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Annual-Reports/English/DB17-Full-Report.pdf.
 Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-insolvency-and-bankruptcy-bill-2015-4100/.
 G.S.R. 436 (E), G.S.R. 437 (E) and G.S.R. 438 (E), Gazette of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment, May 4, 2017, http://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/Notifications%20for%20amendment%20under%20EPF%2C%20EPS%20and%20EDLI%20Schemes%20for%20e-Payment_0.pdf.
 Finance Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-finance-bill-2017-4681/; Memorandum explaining the provisions of the Finance Bill, 2017, http://unionbudget.nic.in/ub2017-18/memo/memo.pdf.
 Report of the Expert Committee on Prior Permissions and Regulatory Mechanism, Department of Industrial Policy Promotion, February 27, 2016.
 ‘Ease of Doing Business’, 122nd Report of the Department Related Standing Committee on Commerce, December 21, 2015, http://18.104.22.168/newcommittee/reports/EnglishCommittees/Committee%20on%20Commerce/122.pdf.
 Ease of Doing Business: An Enterprise of Survey of Indian States, NITI Aayog, August 28, 2017, http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/EoDB_Single.pdf.
 Start Up India Action Plan, January 2016, http://www.startupindia.gov.in/pdffile.php?title=Startup%20India%20Action%20Plan&type=Action&q=Action%20Plan.pdf&content_type=Action&submenupoint=action.
 Land Records and Titles in India, September 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/parliamenttrack/analytical-reports/land-records-and-titles-in-india-4941/.
 The Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-central-goods-and-services-tax-bill-2017-4697/.
Yesterday, the Governor of Karnataka promulgated the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022. The Ordinance prohibits forced religious conversions. A Bill with the same provisions as the Ordinance was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in December 2021. The Bill was pending introduction in the Legislative Council.
In the recent past, Haryana (2022), Madhya Pradesh (2021), and Uttar Pradesh (2021) have passed laws regulating religious conversions. In this blog post, we discuss the key provisions of the Karnataka Ordinance and compare it with existing laws in other states (Table 2).
What religious conversions does the Karnataka Ordinance prohibit?
The Ordinance prohibits forced religious conversions through misrepresentation, coercion, allurement, fraud, or the promise of marriage. Any person who converts another person unlawfully will be penalised, and all offences will be cognizable and non-bailable. Penalties for attempting to forcibly convert someone are highlighted in Table 1. If an institution (such as an orphanage, old age home, or NGO) violates the provisions of the Ordinance, the persons in charge of the institution will be punished as per the provisions in Table 1.
Table 1: Penalties for forced conversion
Fine (in Rs)
Any person through specified means
Minor, woman, SC/ST, or a person of unsound mind
Two or more persons (Mass conversion)
Sources: Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022; PRS.
Re-converting to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion under the Ordinance. Further, any marriage done for the sole purpose of an unlawful conversion will be prohibited, unless the procedure for religious conversion is followed.
How may one convert their religion?
As per the Ordinance, a person intending to convert their religion is required to send a declaration to the District Magistrate (DM), before and after a conversion ceremony takes place. The pre-conversion declaration must be submitted by both parties (the person converting their religion, and the religious converter), at least 30 days in advance. The Ordinance prescribes penalties for both parties for failing to follow procedure.
After receiving the pre-conversion declarations, the DM will notify the proposed religious conversion in public, and invite objections to the proposed conversion for a period of 30 days. Once a public objection is recorded, the DM will order an enquiry to prove the cause, purpose, and genuine intent of the conversion. If the enquiry finds that an offence has been committed, the DM may initiate criminal action against the convertor. A similar procedure is specified for a post-conversion declaration (by the converted person).
Note that among other states, only Uttar Pradesh requires a post-conversion declaration and a pre-conversion declaration.
After the religious conversion has taken place, the converted person must submit a post-conversion declaration to the DM, within 30 days of the conversion. Further, the converted person must also appear before the DM to confirm their identity and the contents of the declaration. If no complaints are received during this time, the DM will notify the conversion, and inform concerned authorities (employer, officials of various government departments, local government bodies, and heads of educational institutions).
Who may file a complaint?
Similar to laws in other states, any person who has been unlawfully converted, or a person associated to them by blood, marriage, or adoption may file a complaint against an unlawful conversion. Laws in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh allow certain people (those related by blood, adoption, custodianship, or marriage) to file complaints, after seeking permission from the Court. Note that the Karnataka Ordinance allows colleagues (or any associated person) to file a complaint against an unlawful conversion.
*In Chirag Singhvi v. State of Rajasthan, the Rajasthan High Court framed guidelines to regulate religious conversions in the state.