SC agrees to hear plea challenging Finance Act, 2017

SC agrees to hear plea challenging Finance Act, 2017
SC agrees to hear plea challenging Finance Act, 2017

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a plea of Congress leader Jairam Ramesh challenging the constitutional validity of some provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 on the ground that these would destroy the independent functioning of the NGT and 18 other tribunals.

A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said that it would tag the plea with a similar pending petition filed by NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE).

Senior advocate Mohan Parasaran, appearing for Ramesh, submitted that the power of judiciary has been compromised by the provisions of the new law.

The Finance Act, which came into effect from April 1, led to framing of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 and these allegedly gave “unbridled” powers to the Executive to decide the qualification of the members, their appointment and removal among other issues.

The Congress leader sought declaration of various section of the Act as unconstitutional, null and void and the rules as “ultra vires” of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010 and the Constitution.

In the earlier plea, the NGO had sought quashing of Part 14 of the Finance Act and Rules framed under it.

The bench, which had asked the ministries of law and justice and finance to respond to the plea, however, had refused to stay the operation of the provisions of the Act and the rules.

The petition has said the changes brought about by the Act would weaken functioning of tribunals including the NGT and curtail their powers.

It has said the tribunal rules gave primacy to the Executive in the appointment and removal process of the chairperson or president and judicial members of the statutory tribunals and authorities and it amounted to attempting to usurp judicial appointment powers and influence the administration of justice.

( Source – PTI )

New land act not anti-industry: Jairam Ramesh

Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh on Sunday allayed fears of Indian industry and said the new Land Acquisition Act would make projects economically viable.
Terming the new act “historic”, Ramesh said it was “humane, its thrust is on rehabilitation and resettlement and in the national interest, as it promotes the welfare of tribals and marginal farmers”.
In order to represent this spirit, the new act, to be notified early 2014, has been re-christened “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement,” Ramesh said.

Addressing apprehensions of the industry, Ramesh said the new act would apply only to land acquired by the central and state authorities for a public purpose, and there would be no bar on purchase of private land.

“The industry must look beyond land acquisition by the government and explore land purchase opportunities. In fact, in 20 years, there should only be land purchase and no land acquisition,” Ramesh said.

Ramesh said that a bill seeking to amend the Registration Act, 1908, has been introduced in parliament. After it is passed, all land sales and registration records will come into the public domain. With increased transparency, it will be easier for corporates to purchase lands, he said.

Terming the old law “anti-democratic” as governments bought land from people at low prices and sold it to business houses at a premium, he said it created public anger nationwide and led to mass movements in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha.

Under the new act, the collector’s powers have been considerably curtailed, and the purpose of land acquisition has been clearly spelt out, with major emphasis on rehabilitation and resettlement.

“The consent of Gram Sabhas in Schedule V areas, mostly tribal-dominated, and consultation with the gram sabha in other areas has been made mandatory. If the government failed to utilise the land so acquired for public purpose within five years, it will be required to return it to its owners,” Ramesh said.

On compensation, the minister said that farmers and others who lose their lands would be entitled to twice the rate of a three-year average of highest selling prices in urban areas and up to four times the average highest sale price in rural areas.

“There is also a provision of leasing the land instead of selling, thereby opting to receive a regular income over a longer period of time,” Ramesh said.

Since it is under the concurrent list of the constitution, states could improve upon the compensation and other provisions in favour of the landowners and farmers, Ramesh said.

Due to be notified either January 1 or April 1, 2014, the act should be implemented by all states in the right spirit, he said .

Reiterating that land acquisition should become an act of “last resort”, Ramesh said his ministry has been working towards improving land records management and promoting transparency in land sales across India.

A Rs 10 billion (Rs.1,000 crore) National Land Record Modernisation Programme is being implemented with focus on computerisation of land records, digitisation of maps and surveys.

While Maharashtra has progressed well on this front, it has yet to catch up with states like Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tripura, he added.

(Source: IANS)

Corruption cases continue to haunt Mayawati

Mayawati,Bahajun Samaj Party(BSP) supremo and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) may have got relief in the disproportionate assets (DA) case from the Supreme Court but corruption cases will continue to chase her.

While the 2003 Taj Heritage Corridor Scam is still pending in the Allahabad high court, her name is also being taken in the anomalies in construction of dalit memorials in the state during her rule and in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam. Significantly, the DA case had come out during investigation for Taj Heritage Corridor case. Though DA case has been quashed, the next hearing of the Taj Heritage Corridor scam is scheduled before a bench of Justices Imtiyaz Murtaza and SC Chaurasia on July 10.

 In 2002, the Supreme Court had ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the Taj Heritage Corridor case on a petition. She was accused of swindling Rs 17 crore that was meant to develop and upgrade the area and tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal. The project was then cancelled for environmental reasons.

 In 2003, while investigating the Taj case, the CBI filed the DA case against her. She was accused of misusing her term as the chief minister for personal gain. Mayawati took plea that they money she has was ‘gift’ and ‘donations’ from party workers. The investigations in Taj corridor case also continued. The CBI filed a chargesheet against Mayawati, her close aide and former minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui, former principal secretary of environment RK Sharma and former environment secretary Rajendra Prasad under IPC sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 before a special CBI court in 2007. Bureaucrat PL Punia, who was close to Mayawati in 2003, was also named by the CBI but he turned approver and after retirement from the services joined Congress and won Lok Sabha election from Barabanki in 2009. The CBI court denied to admit the chargesheet against Mayawati because then UP governor TV Rajeswar, appointed by the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, refused permission to the CBI to prosecute Mayawati, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence. The CBI approached Supreme Court against governor’s decision but its plea was rejected. The case was closed but in 2009 a fresh public interest litigation was filed in the Allahabad high court seeking prosecution of bigwigs allegedly involved in the scam.

 The CBI is also looking for legal remedies in the DA case. The Supreme Court, in its verdict on Friday, said that the CBI exceeded its jurisdiction in filing a DA case against BSP supremo as in 2003 it was instructed to go ahead only with the Taj case. However, the CBI says that the apex court on October 25, 2004 had delinked the two cases and asked the agency to proceed with the investigations.

 Now using the 2004 order, the CBI may file a review petition. The agency is also probing the role of BSP chief in over Rs 5000 crore NRHM scam in the state during her rule.

 On the other hand, the SP government in UP is contemplating to refer the multi-crore scam in implementation of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in the state to the CBI. SP leader and urban development minister Azam Khan has written to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav that JNNURM scam is bigger than NRHM scam and requires a thorough probe by the CBI. The complaints of anomalies in construction of dalit memorials in Lucknow and Noida during the BSP rule has already been referred to the Lokayukta by the SP government. Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has asked UP government to refer CBI inquiry into the scam in implemenation of MNERGA. A petition has been filed by a retired judge in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad high court seeking probe into all the alleged scams reported during Maya rule. They include Rs 300 crore dalit memorial scam, Noida land scam, Rs 1200 crore scam in sale of 21 government sugar mills, scam in appointment of 72,000 government teachers and scams in excise and mining departments among others.

No discrimination against Jharkhand: Jairam Ramesh

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh Sunday said Sunday that Jharkhand was not being discriminated against as far as development funds are concerned and it could more if it develops the capacity to spend the money properly.

 

‘There are allegations of discrimination with Jharkhand. Such allegation are wrong. The central rural development ministry is always ready to provide funds but the state government should have capacity to spend the funds,’ Ramesh told reporters here.

 

‘The rural development ministry spends Rs.1 lakh crore on different schemes and Jharkhand gets only Rs.1,000 to Rs.1,500 crore. If poverty is taken into consideration, then Jharkhand should get at least Rs.5,000 to Rs.6,000 per annum, said the minister, who was in the state to review the schemes of his ministry.

 

‘There should be proper monitoring of the expenditure. Under MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act), Jharkhand’s labour budget is only Rs.1,500 crore annum against Chhattisgarh’s labour budget of Rs.3,000 crore. We will provide funds of Rs.5,000 crore per annum if Jharkhand demands and it develops capacity to spend the money,’ he said.

 

He said there was a demand to include construction of playgrounds in each villages under MNREGA. ‘We will consider the demand and try to incorporate it.’

 

Ramesh said that for effective implementation of rural job guarantee scheme in Jharkhand, the state government had been asked to appoint a junior engineer and panchayat officer in each panchayat, for which the central government would bear 75 percent expenditure for the next 10 years.

 

Montek, Ramesh consensus on poverty line definition

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Monday said the panel and the government had come to a consensus on the issue of defining people below the poverty line, which had triggered strong opposition from activists.

“We have reached a consensus over the issue. He (Ramesh) would be joining me to address a press conference, where we will outline the agreement,” Singh told reporters here after meeting the Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.