1. SUPREME COURT RULING ON JALLIKATTU
TAGS: PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
THE CONTEXT: A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the amendments made by the legislatures of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, allowing bull-taming sports like jallikattu, kambala, and bullock-cart races.
2014 ruling of Supreme Court:
- Animal Welfare Board of India, which is a statutory body under the Centre, and animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), provided documentary evidence to the court suggesting that the jallikattu animals were physically and mentally tortured.
- In 2014 SC ruling has then held that “bovine sports” were contrary to the provisions of Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and (m) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 which relate to the “duties of persons having charge of animals” and define animal cruelty respectively.
Notification by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change:
- On January 7, 2016, a notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change prohibiting the “exhibition or training of bulls as performing animals”.
- However, an exception was carved in the notification, which specified that bulls might still be trained as performing animals at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, according to the customs and culture of different communities.
- It was also specified that this exception is subject to conditions such as reducing the pain and suffering of bulls utilised in such sports.
Amendment by States:
- Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka had in 2017 passed amendments to the central law against cruelty to animals in order to allow traditional sports such as the taming of bulls during Pongal.
- Following this, a SC Bench comprising then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Nariman opined that the jallikattu issue involved substantial questions of interpretation of the Constitution, and referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.
- The Bench was tasked with deciding whether Tamil Nadu could preserve jallikattu as its cultural right under Article 29(1) of the Constitution, which states that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.
- Five-judge Bench overruled the view taken by a two-judge Bench of the court in its 2014 ruling in ‘Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja’, banning such sports including jallikattu.
- Bench led by Justice KM Joseph ruled that the amendments, made in 2017 were “valid legislations”, it said that the jallikattu issue was “debatable”, and must ultimately be decided by the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
- Adding that the 2017 amendment “minimises cruelty to animals in the concerned sports”, the court held that once it’s implemented and read with the rules, the sports will not come under the definition of cruelty defined in the 1960 Act.
- Jallikattu” as bovine sports have to be isolated from the manner in which they were earlier practised and organising the sports itself would be permissible, in terms of the Tamil Nadu Rules.
- The court also said that the 2017 amendment does not violate Articles 51-A (g) and 51-A (h), which impose duties on Indian citizens to protect the environment and develop a scientific temper, humanism, spirit of inquiry, and reform, respectively. Further, it also held that the amendment didn’t violate Articles 14 (Right to Equality) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.
What is Jallikattu?
- Jallikattu, also known as eruthazhuvuthal, is a bull-taming sport traditionally played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.
- The festival is a celebration of nature, and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, of which cattle-worship is part.
- However, the practice of jallikattu has long been contested, with animal rights groups and the courts expressing concern over cruelty to animals and the bloody and dangerous nature of the sport that sometimes causes death and injuries to both the bulls and human participants.
Stand of Other states
- Karnataka cabinet in January 2017 decided to amend the PCA Act, 1960, to pave the way for kambala, a sport involving a pair of buffaloes tied to the plough and anchored by one person. The buffaloes are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins.
- Maharashtra passed an amendment to the PCA Act, 1960, allowing “bullock cart races” involving bulls to conduct a race, “whether tied to cart with the help of wooden yoke or not (by whatever name called), with or without a cartman with a view to follow tradition and culture on such days”.
Animal Welfare Board of India
- Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body on Animal Welfare Laws and promotes animal welfare in the country.
- It is established in 1962 under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
- The Board consists of 28 Members including 6 Members of Parliament (2 Members of Parliament from Rajya Sabha and 4 Members of Parliament from Lok Sabha).The term of office of Members is for a period of 3 years.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960
- The Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 is one of the most comprehensive laws on the subject of animal welfare in India. It is an Act of the Parliament passed on 26 December 1960 with a vision to prevent cruelties on animals.
The main objective of the Act is:
- The Act prevents unnecessary pain or suffering on animals.
- The Act enshrines provisions for establishing the Animal Welfare Board of India, its powers, functions, constitution, and term of the office of members of the Board.
- The Act enshrines the guidelines regarding the experimentation on animals for scientific purposes and empowers a committee to make rules with regards to such experiments.
- The Act restricts the exhibition and training of performing animals. Both the terms ‘exhibit’ and ‘train’ are separately defined under Section 21 of the Act.
2. OPEN NETWORK FOR DIGITAL COMMERCE (ONDC)
TAGS: GS 3: ECONOMY; GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
THE CONTEXT: After the revolution brought in the realm of digital payments by the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is set to break new ground in the country’s digital commerce ecosystem.
What is ONDC, and how does it work?
- ONDC is an interoperable network based on the BeckN protocol that anyone can piggyback on. It seeks to break down silos in digital commerce by enabling platforms of varying configurations (big or small) to connect and operate seamlessly on it.
- It comprises different entities called ‘Network Participants’, including Buyer Applications, Seller Applications, and Gateways that perform the search and discovery function.
Features of ONDC:
- It employs cutting-edge digital infrastructure, seeking to democratise digital commerce in India and make it more accessible and inclusive.
- ONDC with its network-centric approach and inclusive governance framework, will transform the digital commerce landscape in India and serve as an important reference point for a forward-looking Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) governance framework.
- By moving the exchange of goods and services from a platform-centric approach to a network-centric approach, ONDC eliminates the need for buyers and sellers to use the same application, and promotes the discoverability of local digital stores across industries.
- From the buyer’s perspective, ONDC offers greater freedom of choice, reducing the overwhelming reliance on a single platform.
- Sellers also stand to benefit greatly: the network-centric approach of ONDC reduces the skewed bargaining power in favour of the platforms, which often results in higher entry barriers and lower margins for selle
- ONDC’s network-centric approach levels the playing field by making goods and services equitably accessible to all and benefiting all participants in the ecosystem.
ONDC’s inclusive governance approach:
- ONDC entity, a not-for-profit company incorporated under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, manages and operates the ONDC Network.
- It is responsible for building and maintaining the underlying infrastructure (common registries and protocols) as well as defining the rules of engagement and code of conduct for the Network Participants through the ONDC Network Policy and the ONDC Network Participant Agreement.
- Moving a step forward from previous Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) governance models such as those of Aadhar and UPI, ONDC takes a more representative and multistakeholder approach to the governance that prioritises the evolving needs of its users.
How will the system be funded?
- The ONDC entity was initially promoted by the Quality Council of India and has since raised from multiple investors including private and public sector banks, depositories, development banks, and other financial institutions.
- While initial funding was obtained through share allotments, the ONDC entity aims to develop a self-sustaining financial model in the future.
- One potential revenue stream could include charging a small fee from platforms to fund ongoing and expansion-related activities independently.
Involvement of Government in ONDC:
- ONDC has been endorsed by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry. DPIIT is not involved in ONDC’s funding, but is at the forefront of its evangelisation through light-touch governmental oversight.
- To ensure a market+community driven approach to decision-making, the board includes representatives from banks, the government, and independent industry and civil society members.
- It will establish a User Council, comprising representatives from Network Participants and civil society. The User Council will provide regular guidance on various aspects of the network’s functioning and governance, serving as a liaison between Network Participants, Consumers, and the network.
3. THE ISSUE OF DOTTED LAND
TAGS: GS 3: ECONOMY
THE CONTEXT: The Andhra Pradesh government has started removing “dotted lands” in the state from the prohibited list, restoring full rights of selling or pledging these lands to the farmers who own them. Over 2 lakh acres of these British-era dotted lands have been identified for permanent denotification.
What kind of lands are dotted lands?
- Dotted lands are disputed lands for which there are no clear ownership documents.
- Typically, one or more individuals as well as the government’s Revenue Department lay claim over the land.
- These lands were also noted as disputed lands in the resettlement register or land records register. The dots on the land documents indicated their disputed status.
- These lands came to be known as “dotted lands’’ because when, during the British era, land ownership surveys and resettlement of land records were taken up, local revenue officials who were tasked with identifying government-owned and privately-owned lands put dots in the ownership column if more than one person claimed ownership, or if ownership could not be clearly established.
- In urban areas, dotted lands have been illegally sold and houses have been constructed, which cannot be taxed. With lakhs of acres under dispute, the government also loses on stamp duty revenue.
How did these ownership disputes arise?
- If landowners did not leave clear wills passing on land to their heirs or children, and if a dispute arose because more than one heir lay claim over the land.
- Some of the land records in question are more than 100 years old, and had been locked up in the prohibited list in and registers.
- During subsequent surveys, government officials left the ownership column blank indicating their disputed status as per Section 22A of the Registration Act.
How will this step benefit landowners/farmers?
- Government introduced a Bill in march, 2023 to amend the Revenue Act to grant titles to farmers who have been cultivating dotted lands for more than 12 years.
- The dots, and entries in land registers, will be removed and these farmers will be given clear land ownership documents.
- As financial institutions do not recognise dotted land documents as clear ownership documents. Those farmers who were using the land, they could not procure loans from banks and financial institutions by putting up the land as collateral.
- With the lands now being taken off the prohibited list, landowners/farmers will get full rights over the lands, and enjoy all usual rights as land owners.
- They can apply for financial assistance for crop support, purchase seeds and fertilisers, and procure farm equipment. The landowners/farmers can also sell the lands or gift to kin or relatives.
4. RBI REGULATION OF GREEN DEPOSITS
TAGS: GS 3: ECONOMY
THE CONTEXT: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) came up with a regulatory framework for banks to accept green deposits from customers. Under the new framework, banks that accept green deposits will have to disclose more information on how they invest these deposits.
What are green deposits?
- Green deposits are not very different from the regular deposits that banks accept from their customers. The only major difference is that banks promise to earmark the money that they receive as green deposits towards environment-friendly projects.
- Deposit raised under this banner should be deployed towards projects earmarked for green financing. Green financing is lending to or investing in projects which contribute towards climate risk mitigation, climate adaptation and resilience, and other climate-related or environmental objectives including biodiversity management and nature-based solutions.
- For example, a bank may promise that green deposits will be used towards financing renewable energy projects that fight climate change.
- This apart, all the rules applicable to normal deposits will be applicable to green deposits.
- A green deposit is just one product in a wide array of other financial products such as green bonds that help investors put money into environmentally sustainable projects.
RBI’s regulatory framework:
- The RBI’s framework for the acceptance of green deposits lays down certain conditions that banks must fulfill to accept green deposits from customers.
- Firstly, banks will have to come up with a set of rules or policies approved by their respective Boards that need to be followed while investing green deposits from customers.
- These rules need to be made public on the banks’ websites and banks will have to disclose regular information about the amount of green deposits received, how these deposits were allocated towards various green projects, and the impact of such investments on the environment.
- A third-party will have to verify the claims made by banks regarding the projects in which the banks invest their green deposits as well as the sustainability credentials of these business projects.
- The registered entities shall issue green deposits as cumulative or non-cumulative deposits.
- On maturity, the green deposits would be renewed or withdrawn at the option of the depositor. The green deposits shall be denominated in Indian Rupees only. The tenor, size, interest rate and other terms and conditions are defined in the Master Direction of the Reserve Bank.
- The framework is applicable to Scheduled Commercial Banks including Small Finance Banks excluding Regional Rural Banks, Local Area Banks and Payments Banks and all deposit-taking Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), including Housing Finance Companies.
- The RBI has come up with a list of sectors that can be classified as sustainable and thus eligible to receive green deposits.
- These include renewable energy, clean transportation including electric vehicles, climate change adaption, sustainable water and waste management, pollution control terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity conservation, energy efficiency, and afforestation and so on.
- Banks will be barred from investing green deposits in business projects involving fossil fuels, nuclear power, tobacco, etc.
- It aims to satisfy depositors who care about the environment by investing their money in environmentally sustainable investment products.
- It is aimed at preventing greenwashing, which refers to making misleading claims about the positive environmental impact of an activity.
- The idea is to foster and develop a green finance ecosystem in the country.
- The framework is intended to “encourage regulated entities (REs) to offer green deposits to customers, protect interest of the depositors, aid customers to achieve their sustainability agenda, and help augment the flow of credit to green activities/projects.
5. LIBERALISED REMITTANCE SCHEME (LRS)
TAGS: GS 3: ECONOMY
THE CONTEXT: The government sought to clarify its decision to bring overseas credit card spends under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) for forex outgo.
- Earlier debit card spends were covered under the LRS, but international credit card were not under purview and data collected from top money remitters under the scheme revealed that international credit cards were being issued with limits in excess of the norm.
- Finance Ministry announced that international credit card payments will come under the RBI’s liberalised remittance scheme, or LRS. This means any remittance over $2.5 lakh or its equivalent in a foreign currency will need the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) approval.
- Ministry assured that the scheme will not cover bona fide business visits overseas by employees and said the imposition of 20% tax collection on source or TCS for foreign remittances will primarily impact tour travel packages, gifts to non-residents and domestic high net-worth individuals investing in assets such as real estate, bonds, stocks outside India.
- The main impact will only be on investment in assets such as real estate, bonds and stocks outside India by high net worth people using their credit cards; tour and travel packages, and expensive gifts to non-residents.
The Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS):
- It is part of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 which lays down the guidelines for outward remittance from India.
- The Scheme was introduced on February 4, 2004, with a limit of USD 25,000. The LRS limit has been revised in stages consistent with prevailing macro and micro economic conditions.
- Under LRS, all resident individuals, including minors, are allowed to freely remit up to USD250,000 per financial year (April – March). In case of remitter being a minor, the LRS declaration form must be countersigned by the minor’s natural guardian.
- This can be for any permissible current or capital account transaction, or a combination of both.
- Authorised dealers, such as banks, enable such transactions between residents and their overseas dependents, using only your PAN card for verification.
- Besides remittances, LRS can also offer foreign exchange services to Indian citizens for medical expenses or travelling.
- However, corporates, partnership firms, Hindu Undivided Family and charitable trusts are not eligible to use the LRS.
Prohibited items under the Scheme:
- Remittance for any purpose specifically prohibited under Schedule-I (like purchase of lottery tickets/sweep stakes, proscribed magazines, etc.) or any item restricted under Schedule II of Foreign Exchange Management (Current Account Transactions) Rules, 2000.
- Remittance from India for margins or margin calls to overseas exchanges / overseas counterparty.
- Remittances for purchase of FCCBs issued by Indian companies in the overseas secondary market.
- Remittance for trading in foreign exchange abroad.
- Capital account remittances, directly or indirectly, to countries identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as “non- cooperative countries and territories”, from time to time.
- Remittances directly or indirectly to those individuals and entities identified as posing significant risk of committing acts of terrorism as advised separately by the Reserve Bank to the banks.
- Gifting by a resident to another resident, in foreign currency, for the credit of the latter’s foreign currency account held abroad under LRS.
Individuals can avail of foreign exchange facility for the following purposes within the LRS limit of USD 2,50,000 on financial year basis:
- Private visits to any country (except Nepal and Bhutan)
- Gift or donation
- Going abroad for employment
- Maintenance of close relatives abroad
- Travel for business, or attending a conference or specialised training or for meeting expenses for meeting medical expenses, or check-up abroad, or for accompanying as attendant to a patient going abroad for medical treatment/ check-up
- Expenses in connection with medical treatment abroad
- Studies abroad
- Any other current account transaction which is not covered under the definition of current account in FEMA 1999.