The Budget session 2013 commenced with the President, Pranab Mukherjee, addressing Parliament on February 21, 2013. The address is a statement of the policy of the government. Yesterday a Motion of Thanks was moved in the Lok Sabha and a detailed discussion took place on the President’s address. (The significance of the President’s speech has been discussed in an article published in the Indian Express.) Below are some legislative and policy items from the agenda of the central government outlined in the speech.
Legislative and policyagenda outlined in President’s addresses between 2009-2012 and their status
Legislations mentioned in the President’s Address between 2009-12
|To be introduced|
|Goods and Services Tax||Constitutional Amendment Bill introduced|
|The National Food Security Bill||Introduced|
|Amend the Land Acquisition Act and enact the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill||Introduced|
|Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Bill||Passed|
|The Whistleblower Bill||Pending|
|The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill||Pending|
|The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill||Pending|
|A model Public Services Law (to cover officials providing important social services and commits them to their duties)||Two bills introduced: the Electronic Services Delivery Bill and the Citizen’s Charter Bill|
|The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill||Passed|
|The National Council for Higher Education Bill||Introduced|
|Foreign Educational Institutions Bill||Introduced|
|Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill||Passed|
|The Women’s Reservation Bill||Pending|
|The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill||Introduced|
|The Public Procurement Bill||Introduced|
|The General Anti-Avoidance Rules||Scheduled for 2016|
|Amend of RTI Act (to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas)||To be introduced|
Policy items mentioned in the President’s Addresses between 2009-2012
|National Mission for Female Literacy – all women to be literate by 2013-14||National Literacy Mission recast in September 2009 to focus on female literacy; as per 2011 census the female literacy rate in India is 65.46%|
|Disposal of remaining claims in 2010 under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act||As on February 28, 2010, 27.16 lakh claims had been filed, 7.59 lakh titles had been distributed and 36,000 titles were ready for distribution; as on July 31, 2012, the number of claims filed for the recognition of forest rights and titles distributed are 32.28 lakh and 12.68 lakh respectively|
|Introduction of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) being considered||Based on the recommendations of the Committee constituted by Ministry of Panchayati Raj to look into aspects of MSP, Value addition and marketing of MFP in Fifth Schedule Areas, a Central Sector Scheme of MSP for MFP has been contemplated|
|Voting rights for Indian citizens living abroad||Bill passed; NRIs can vote at the place of residence mentioned in their passport|
|12th Plan target growth 9% with 4% growth for the agricultural sector||GDP grew by 5.4% and the agriculture sector by 1.8% in the first half of the current fiscal year (2012-13)|
|Establish national investment and manufacturing zones to promote growth in manufacturing||Under the National Manufacturing Policy, 12 National Investment and Manufacturing Zones are notified, 8 of them along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and 4 others at Nagpur, Tumkur, Chittor and Medak|
|Strengthening public accountability of flagship programmes by the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office.||Government has approved setting up of an Independent Evaluation Office and the Governing Board will be chaired by Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission|
|Unique Identity Card scheme to be implemented by 2011-12||Bill to give statutory status pending in Parliament; enrollment until February 2013 is approximately 28 crore|
|Establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Centre||Proposed launch of NCTC in March 2011 on hold as consultation with states is on; meeting held by the union government with the Chief Ministers of all the States in May 2012|
|Conversion of analog cable TV system to digital by December 2014||Government has implemented the first phase of digitization in Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai; by March 31, 2013, 38 cities with a population of more than one million will be covered|
|A roadmap for judicial reform to be outlined by the end of 2009 and implemented in a time-bound manner||Vision statement formulated in 2009 outlining road map for improving justice delivery and legal reforms and steps to reduce pendency in Courts; setting up of a National Mission for the Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms to improve court administration and reduce pendency was approved in June 2011|
*Introduced means introduced in one House; Pending means passed by one House and pending in the other House; Passed means passed by both Houses of Parliament.
 “Major Recommendations of Expert Committee on GAAR Accepted”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, January 14, 2013.
 Lok Sabha, Starred Question No. 175, December 5, 2012, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
 Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 2672, March 12, 2010, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
 Lok Sabha, Starred Question No. 108, August 17, 2012, Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
 “PM approves Constitution of National Council for Senior Citizens”, Press Information Bureau, February 1, 2012, Prime Minister’s Office.
Tribunals function as a parallel mechanism to the traditional court system. Tribunals were established for two main reasons - allowing for specialised subject knowledge in disputes on technical matters and reducing the burden on the court system. In India, some tribunals are at the level of subordinate courts with appeals lying with the High Court, while some others are at the level of High Courts with appeals lying with the Supreme Court. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament may create an alternative to High Courts provided that they have the same efficacy as the High Courts. For an overview of the tribunal system in India, see our note here.
In April 2021, the central government promulgated an Ordinance, which specified provisions related to the composition of the search-cum-selection committees for the selection of members of 15 Tribunals, and the term of office for members. Further, it empowered the central government to notify qualifications and other terms and conditions of service (such as salaries) for the Chairperson and members of these tribunals. In July 2021, the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of the Ordinance (such as the provision specifying a four-year term for members) stating that these impinged on the independence of the judiciary from the government. In several earlier judgements, the Supreme Court has laid out guidelines for the composition of Tribunals and service conditions to ensure that these Tribunals have the same level of independence from the Executive as the High Courts they replace.
However, Parliament passed the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 in August 2021, which is almost identical to the April Ordinance and includes the provisions which had been struck down. This Act has been challenged in the Supreme Court. For a PRS analysis of the Bill, please see here.
On 16th September 2021, the central government notified The Tribunal (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2021 under the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021. A couple of the provisions under these Rules may contravene principles laid out by the Supreme Court:
Appointment of the Administrative Member of the Central Administrative Tribunal as the Chairman
In case of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Rules specify that a person with at least three years of experience as the Judicial Member or Administrative Member may be appointed as the Chairman. This may violate the principles laid down by the past Supreme Court judgements.
The CAT supplants High Courts. In 1986, the Supreme Court stated that if an administrative tribunal supplants the High Courts, the office of the Chairman of the tribunal should be equated with that of the Chief Justice of the High Court. Therefore, the Chairman of the tribunal must be a current or former High Court Judge. Further, in 2019, the Supreme Court stated – “the knowledge, training, and experience of members or presiding officers of a tribunal must mirror, as far as possible, that of the Court it seeks to substitute”.
The Administrative Member of the CAT may be a person who has been an Additional Secretary to the central government or a central government officer with pay at least that of the Additional Secretary. Hence, the Administrative Member may not have the required judicial experience for appointment as the Chairman of CAT.
Leave Sanctioning Authority
The Rules specify that the central government will be the leave sanctioning authority for the Chairperson of tribunals, and Members (in case of absence of the Chairperson). In 2014, the Supreme Court specified that the central government (Executive) should not have any administrative involvement with the members of the tribunal as it may influence the independence and fairness of the tribunal members. In addition, it had observed that the Executive may be a litigant party and its involvement in administrative matters of tribunals may influence the fairness of the adjudication process. In judgements in 1997 and 2014, the Supreme Court recommended that the administration of all Tribunals should be under a nodal ministry such as the Law Ministry, and not the respective administrative ministry. In 2020, it recommended setting up of a National Tribunals Commission to supervise appointments and administration of Tribunals. The Rules are not in consonance with these recommendations.