The government has given itself the “master key” to access major consumer databases maintained by companies in different sectors. Under new regulations made under the Information Technology Act, government can ask companies to share sensitive personal information about their customers. Sensitive personal information would cover medical records and history, information about physical, physiological and mental health, sexual orientation, credit and debit cards, biometric information and passwords. Under the new rules any government agency required under law to obtain information for the purpose of verifying identity, or for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, and punishment of offences can ask a company to give sensitive personal information held by it about an individual. There are no checks on this power, except that the request for information be made in writing, and stating clearly the reason for seeking the information. Usually information requests have certain inbuilt checks. For example, search warrants in criminal cases are issued by a court. Tapping of telephones or interception of electronic communication can only be authorised by the Union or the State Home Secretary after following a prescribed process. The new Bill for Unique Identification Number (UID) permits such use only by the order of a court, or for national security (by an order of an authorised officer of at least Joint Secretary rank in the central government).
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha