The Hindu Editorial Notes or Summary
QUESTION : Explain with reasons why Iran dropped India from Chahbahar Rail Project.
Topic-IRAN TIES NEED QUIET DIPLOMACY
- India-Iran- China Relationship
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Iranian government had recently decided to proceed with the construction of the Chabahar¬-Zahedan railway project on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in funding and starting the project.
- It happened just as China and Iran were close to signing a deal on an economic and security partnership.
Chabahar port project :
- The project was signed in 2003, and it has been a symbol of traditionally important India-Iran ties.
- Connected by sea lanes to ports on India’s west coast, Chabahar would form the fulcrum of India’s outreach to Russia and Central Asia.
- The project is expected to enhance connectivity, energy supplies, and trade.
CHAHBAHAR IMPORTANCE FOR INDIA:
- With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
CHAHBAHAR – ZAHEDAN RAIL PROJECT :
- Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON) had promised to provide all services, superstructure work, and financing for the project.
- Fear of US sanctions and no beginning of the actual work
- The U.S. government in fact had provided a sanctions waiver for the Chabahar port and the rail line to Zahedan.
- However, it has been difficult to find equipment suppliers and partners due to worries they could be targeted by the U.S.
- On the other hand, India has already “zeroed out” its oil imports from Iran due to U.S. sanctions.
- There is a difficulty under the sanctions regime in finding international suppliers for material
FARZAD-B GAS FIELD PROJECT :
- For the project ONGC had originally signed an agreement for exploration in 2002, investing approximately $100 million.
- In January 2020, India was informed that in the immediate future, Iran would develop the field on its own.
GROWING IRAN-CHINA NEXUS :
- In 2016, just as sanctions were eased, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran and proposed a long-term comprehensive, strategic partnership.
- Iran kept the negotiations going for years because of reluctance to grow too close to China.
- Meanwhile, tensions in the region have been growing since last year with missile strikes in Saudi Arabia and a U.S. drone strike killing Gen. Qassim Soleimani.
- As a veto-wielding member, China can help Iran at the UNSC.
- Even so, the Iran- China comprehensive, strategic partnership road map has run into opposition in the Majlis[Iranian Parliament].
CONCERNS FOR INDIA :
- Beijing is also concluding a security and military partnership with Tehran.
- Iran’s growing proximity to China.
- Initial reports in Iran have suggested China will deploy 5,000 security personnel to protect its projects in Iran.
- Questions on strategic autonomy of India: The impression that India wavered due to U.S. pressure, especially after India canceled oil imports from Iran, also questions India’s commitment to strategic autonomy
- With a growing Chinese presence, India is also concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project
- Progress of India’s main investment in the Chabahar Port
- The Indian government acted quickly to develop Chabahar port facilities and sent exports to Afghanistan in 2018.
- It has moved over half-a-million tonnes of cargo, including grains and food supplies, for Afghanistan again, through the port.
- The port is currently handling 82 ships with 12 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo in 8200 containers since December 2018.
- Proactive measures are also currently underway to increase the usage of Chabahar Port, both for Afghanistan and Central Asia.
WAY FORWARD FOR INDIA :
- Iran and India also share an antipathy to a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.This is why Iran would like to keep the door open.
- Nevertheless, India needs to improve its implementation record of infrastructure projects in its neighbourhood.
- India needs to play a balancing act between the USA and Iran.
- Further, India needs to closely watch the space created by its exit.
- India’s loss on account of these projects can become gain for some other country, especially China.
QUESTION : Discuss the concerns against anti-defection laws suggest the possible reforms that can be made.
Topic- BEYOND THE PALE
- Challenge to Anti Defection Law
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recently, the 19 rebel MLAs of Rajasthan’s ruling party (Congress) have filed a petition before the High Court challenging the disqualification notices issued to them by the Assembly Speaker under Anti Defection Law.
POINTS TO BE NOTED :
Rebel MLAs Arguments:
- In their writ petition, citing violation of their freedom of speech and expression the legislators argued that they had neither given up their membership of the House nor did their failure to attend the two CLP meetings render them liable for disqualification on the ground of defection.
- Therefore they challenged Clause 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, and the validity of the Rajasthan Assembly Members (Disqualification on the Grounds of Changing Party) Rules, 1989.
- Supreme Court’s Ruling: The Supreme Court in the Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillu and Others, 1992 has said that judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman.
Reason for Limited Role of Courts:
- The Bench explained that the reason for limiting the role of courts in ongoing defection proceedings is that the office of the Speaker is held in the highest respect and esteem in parliamentary traditions.
- It had said that even the scope of judicial review against an order of a Speaker or Chairman in anti-defection proceedings would be confined to jurisdictional errors, that is infirmities based on violation of constitutional mandate, mala fide actions and non-compliance with rules of natural justice.
UNDERSTANDING ANTI DEFECTION LAW :
The 10th Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act.
- It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
- The decision on question as to disqualification on ground of defection is referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, and his decision is final.
- The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
If a member of a house belonging to a political party:
- Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or
- Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party.
- If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
- If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.
91st CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ACT-2003 :
- It aimed at limiting the size of the Council of Ministers to debar defectors from holding public offices, and to strengthen the anti-defection law.
- Earlier, a defection by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a ‘merger’. The amendment changed it to at least two-thirds.
ADVANTAGES-ANTI DEFECTION LAW :
- Provides stability to the government by preventing shifts of party allegiance.
- Ensures that candidates remain loyal to the party as well the citizens voting for him.
- Promotes party discipline.
- Facilitates merger of political parties without attracting the provisions of Anti-defection
- Expected to reduce corruption at the political level.
- Provides for punitive measures against a member who defects from one party to another.
Exceptions to the Disqualification on the Ground of Defection:
- If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such a merger.
- If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office.
POWERS OF SPEAKER :
- Any question arising out of defection is to be decided by the presiding officer of the House.
ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH DEFECTION :
- Subversion of electoral mandates: Defection is the subversion of electoral mandates by legislators who get elected on the ticket of one party but then find it convenient to shift to another, due to the lure of ministerial berths or financial gains.
- Affects the normal functioning of government: The infamous “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” slogan was coined against the background of continuous defections by the legislators in the 1960s. The defection leads to instability in the government and affects the administration.
- Defection also promotes horse-trading of legislators which clearly go against the mandate of a democratic setup.
- Against the true spirit of representative democracy: The anti-defection law seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides.
- Impedes legislative control on government: The anti-defection law impedes the oversight function of the legislature over the government, by ensuring that members vote based on the decisions taken by the party leadership.
- In short, if legislators are not able to vote on laws independently, they would not act as an effective check on the government.
- The Anti-Defection Law, in effect, dilutes the separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature – and centralises power in the hands of the executives.
- Role of presiding officer of the house: there are many instances when presiding officers play a part with the vested interests of a political party/government in power.
- The decision thus is sometimes based on the whims and fancies of the presiding officer.
- Affects the debate and discussion: The Anti-Defection Law has created a democracy of parties and numbers in India, rather than a democracy of debate and discussion.
STEPS TO BE FOLLOWED :
- Rational use of the anti-defection law: law should be valid only for those votes that determine the stability of the government.
- Advice of Election Commission: Various commissions including National Commission to review the working of the constitution (NCRWC) have recommended that rather than the Presiding Officer, the decision to disqualify a member should be made by the President (in case of MPs) or the Governor (in case of MLAs) on the advice of the Election Commission.
- Independent authority to deal with disqualification: Justice Verma in Hollohan judgment said that tenure of the Speaker is dependent on the continuous support of the majority in the House and therefore, he does not satisfy the requirement of such independent adjudicatory authority.
- Promoting the principle of intra-party democracy: 170th Law Commission report underscored the importance of intra-party democracy by arguing that a political party cannot be a dictatorship internally and democratic in its functioning outside.