1. Consider the following statement regarding the Leader of Opposition (LOP).
1. The LOP is leader of the largest party that has not less than one-tenth of the total strength of the house.
2. It is a statutory post defined in the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
3. In the case of the LokSabha, however, this is subject to recognition of the leader by the Speaker.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Leader of Opposition
Who is the Leader of Opposition?
The LOP is leader of the largest party that has not less than one-tenth of the total strength of the house.
It is a statutory post defined in the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
The Act extends to LoPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha the same official status, allowances and perks that are admissible to Cabinet Ministers.
Largest party in opposition and its leader is recognized by the Speaker / Chairman as a matter of convention established by 1st lok sabha speaker GV Mavlankar.
The convention was later incorporated in Direction 121c, Directions by the Speaker.
In the case of the Lok Sabha, however, this is subject to recognition of the leader by the Speaker.
Significance of the office:
LoP is referred to as the ‘shadow Prime Minister’.
She/he is expected to be ready to take over if the government falls.
The LoP also plays an important role in bringing cohesiveness and effectiveness to the opposition’s functioning in policy and legislative work.
LoP plays a crucial role in bringing bipartisanship and neutrality to the appointments in institutions of accountability and transparency – CVC, CBI, CIC, Lokpal etc.
What reforms are needed?
In such situations, the numerically largest party in the opposition should have the right to have a leader recognised as leader of the opposition by the speaker.
Besides, the 10% formulation is inconsistent with the law ‘the salary and allowances of leaders of opposition in Parliament Act, 1977’ which only says that the largest opposition party should get the post.
Salary and allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977
The 1977 Act defines LoP as that member of the House who is the “Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman of the Council of States or the Speaker of the House of the People, as the case may be.”
The Speaker’s decisions in this regard have so far been determined by Direction 121(c) which laid down one of the conditions for recognition of party or group as having “at least strength equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a
sitting of the House that is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House”.
The Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (Facilities) Act, 1998 also refers to a recognised party in the LokSabha as a party that has not less than 55 members.
Therefore, it is important for the opposition to have a leader who can represent the interests of the non-dominant parties in these roles. The absence of an opposition leader will weaken India as the opposition will not be able to put up a unified front against the ruling party.
2. Consider the following statements regarding the Attorney General for India (AGI).
1. AGI is appointed by the President of India under Article 76(1) of the Constitution and holds office during the pleasure of the President.
2. AGI has the right of audience in all Courts in India as well as the right to participate in the proceedings of the Parliament and has right to vote.
3. AGI also represents the Government of India in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution.
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
The Attorney General for India
Appointment and Term
The Attorney General for India is the Indian Government’s chief legal advisor, and its primary lawyer in the Supreme Court of India. He is appointed by the President of India under Article 76(1) of the Constitution and holds office during the pleasure of the President.
He must be a person qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, also must have been a judge of some high court for five years or an advocate of some high court for ten years or an eminent jurist, in the opinion of the President and must be a citizen of India.
The term of office of the Attorney General is not fixed by the Constitution. Further, the Constitution does not contain the procedure and grounds for his removal. He holds office during the pleasure of the President. This means that he may be removed by the President at any time.
Duties and Functions
The Attorney General is necessary for giving advice to the Government of India in legal matters referred to him.
He also performs other legal duties assigned to him by the President. The Attorney General has the right of audience in all Courts in India as well as the right to participate in the proceedings of the Parliament, though not to vote.
The Attorney General appears on behalf of Government of India in all cases (including suits, appeals and other proceedings) in the Supreme Court in which the Government of India is concerned. He also represents the Government of India in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution.
Unlike the Attorney General of the United States, the Attorney General for India does not have any executive authority. Those functions are performed by the Law Minister of India. Also, he is not a government servant and is not debarred from private legal practice.
The Attorney General can accept briefs but cannot appear against the Government. He cannot defend an accused in the criminal proceedings and accept the directorship of a company without the permission of the Government.
The Attorney General is assisted by a Solicitor General and four additional Solicitors General. The Attorney General is to be consulted only in legal matters of real importance and only after the Ministry of Law has been consulted. All references to the Attorney General are made by the Law Ministry
Rights and Limitations
Article 76 envisages exclusively the provisions for the Attorney General. This Article has four clauses which collectively fulfill the provisions in respect to him.
Clause (1) of the Article prescribes that the Attorney General is appointed by the President and his qualification is equivalent to the qualification of a puisne Judge of the Supreme Court.
Clause (2) states his advisory duty to the Government of India.
Clause (3) speaks of his right to audience in all courts in India.
And, Clause (4) provides that his tenure of office is subject to pleasure of the President of India and his remuneration shall also be determined by the President.
The Attorney General is the first Law Officer of India. He is the Chief Legal Advisor to the Central Government and also acts as a lawyer in the Supreme Court on behalf of it.
He also represents to the Government of India in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution. All references are made to the Attorney General by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
The Solicitor General of India is below the Attorney General for India, who is the Indian government’s chief legal advisor, and its primary lawyer in the Supreme Court of India.
The Solicitor General of India is appointed for the period of 3 years. The Solicitor General of India is the secondary law officer of the country, assists the Attorney General, and is himself assisted by several Additional Solicitors General of India.
Like the Attorney General for India, the Solicitor General and the Additional Solicitors General advise the Government and appear on behalf of the Union of India in terms of the Law Officers (Terms and Conditions) Rules, 1972.
However, unlike the post of Attorney General for India, which is a Constitutional post under Article 76 of the Constitution of India, the posts of the Solicitor General and the Additional Solicitors General are merely statutory.
3. Consider the following statements regarding the Public interest litigation (PIL).
1. The expression ‘Public Interest Litigation’ has been borrowed from American jurisprudence.
2. A new era of the PIL movement was heralded by Justice P.N. Bhagawati in the case of S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India.
3. Any citizen can file a public case by filing a petition under Art 32 and Art 226 of the Indian Constitution and Sec. 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Public Interest Litigation
The expression ‘Public Interest Litigation’ has been borrowed from American jurisprudence, where it was designed to provide legal representation to previously unrepresented groups like the poor, the racial minorities, unorganised consumers, citizens who were passionate about the environmental issues, etc.
Public interest Litigation (PIL) means litigation filed in a court of law, for the protection of “Public Interest”, such as Pollution, Terrorism, Road safety, Constructional hazards etc. Any matter where the interest of public at large is affected can be redressed by filing a Public Interest Litigation in a court of law.
Public interest litigation is not defined in any statute or in any act. It has been interpreted by judges to consider the intent of public at large.
Public interest litigation is the power given to the public by courts through judicial activism. However, the person filing the petition must prove to the satisfaction of the court that the petition is being filed for a public interest and not just as a frivolous litigation by a busy body.
The court can itself take cognizance of the matter and proceed suo motu or cases can commence on the petition of any public spirited individual.
Some of the matters which are entertained under PIL are:
o Bonded Labour matters
o Neglected Children
o Non-payment of minimum wages to workers and exploitation of casual workers
o Atrocities on women
o Environmental pollution and disturbance of ecological balance
o Food adulteration
o Maintenance of heritage and culture
Genesis and Evolution of PIL in India: Some Landmark Judgements
The seeds of the concept of public interest litigation were initially sown in India by Justice Krishna Iyer, in 1976 in Mumbai Kamagar Sabha vs. Abdul Thai.
The first reported case of PIL was Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar (1979) that focused on the inhuman conditions of prisons and under trial prisoners that led to the release of more than 40,000 under trial prisoners.
Right to speedy justice emerged as a basic fundamental right which had been denied to these prisoners. The same set pattern was adopted in subsequent cases.
A new era of the PIL movement was heralded by Justice P.N. Bhagawati in the case of S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India.
In this case it was held that “any member of the public or social action group acting bonafide” can invoke the Writ Jurisdiction of the High Court’s (under article 226) or the Supreme Court (under Article 32) seeking redressal against violation of legal or constitutional rights of persons who due to social or economic or any other disability cannot approach the Court.
By this judgment PIL became a potent weapon for the enforcement of “public duties” where executive action or misdeed resulted in public injury. And as a result any citizen of India or any consumer groups or social action groups can now approach the apex court of the country seeking legal remedies in all cases where the interests of general public or a section of the public are at stake.
Justice Bhagwati did a lot to ensure that the concept of PILs was clearly enunciated. He did not insist on the observance of procedural technicalities and even treated ordinary letters from public-minded individuals as writ petitions.
The Supreme Court in Indian Banks’ Association, Bombay & Ors. vs. M/s Devkala Consultancy Service and Ors held :- “In an appropriate case, where the petitioner might have moved a court in her private interest and for redressal of the personal grievance, the court in furtherance of Public Interest may treat it a necessity to enquire into the state of affairs of the subject of litigation in the interest of justice.” Thus, a private interest case can also be treated as public interest case.
M.C Mehta vs. Union of India: In a Public Interest Litigation brought against Ganga water pollution so as to prevent any further pollution of Ganga water. Supreme Court held that petitioner although not a riparian owner is entitled to move the court for the enforcement of statutory provisions, as he is the person interested in protecting the lives of the people who make use of Ganga water.
Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan: The judgement of the case recognized sexual harassment as a violation of the fundamental constitutional rights of Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21. The guidelines also directed for the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Factors Responsible for the Growth of PIL in India
The character of the Indian Constitution. India has a written constitution which through Part III (Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) provides a framework for regulating relations between the state and its citizens and between citizens inter-se.
India has some of the most progressive social legislations to be found anywhere in the world whether it be relating to bonded labor, minimum wages, land ceiling, environmental protection, etc. This has made it easier for the courts to haul up the executive when it is not performing its duties in ensuring the rights of the poor as per the law of the land.
The liberal interpretation of locus standi where any person can apply to the court on behalf of those who are economically or physically unable to come before it has helped. Judges themselves have in some cases initiated suo moto action based on newspaper articles or letters received.
Although social and economic rights given in the Indian Constitution under Part IV are not legally enforceable, courts have creatively read these into fundamental rights thereby making them judicially enforceable. For instance the “right to life” in Article 21 has been expanded to include right to free legal aid, right to live with dignity, right to education, right to work, freedom from torture, bar fetters and hand cuffing in prisons, etc.
Judicial innovations to help the poor and marginalised: For instance, in the Bandhua Mukti Morcha, the Supreme Court put the burden of proof on the respondent stating it would treat every case of forced labor as a case of bonded labor unless proven otherwise by the employer. Similarly in the Asiad Workers judgment case, Justice P.N. Bhagwati held that anyone getting less than the minimum wage can approach the Supreme Court directly without going through the labor commissioner and lower courts.
In PIL cases where the petitioner is not in a position to provide all the necessary evidence, either because it is voluminous or because the parties are weak socially or economically, courts have appointed commissions to collect information on facts and present it before the bench.
Who Can File a PIL and Against Whom?
Any citizen can file a public case by filing a petition:
o Under Art 32 of the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme Court.
o Under Art 226 of the Indian Constitution, in the High Court.
o Under sec. 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in the Court of Magistrate.
However, the court must be satisfied that the Writ petition fulfils some basic needs for PIL as the letter is addressed by the aggrieved person, public spirited individual and a social action group for the enforcement of legal or Constitutional rights to any person who are not able to approach the court for redress.
A Public Interest Litigation can be filed against a State/ Central Govt., Municipal Authorities, and not any private party. The definition of State is the same as given under Article 12 of the Constitution and this includes the Governmental and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.
4. Articles 21, 48-A and 51-A (g), which aim to protect and improve the environment and safe guard forests and wildlife, incorporate which of the following principles of environmental law?
(a) Polluter pays principle
(b) Precautionary principle
(c) Principle of strict liability
(d) Moral duty of the state
The precautionary principle
In the case of many activities that entail some change to the environment, it is impossible to determine precisely what effects the activity will have on the quality of the environment or on human health.
It is generally impossible to know, for example, whether a certain level of air pollution will result in an increase in mortality from respiratory disease, whether a certain level of water pollution will reduce a healthy fish population, or whether oil development in an environmentally sensitive area will significantly disturb the native wildlife.
The precautionary principle requires that, if there is a strong suspicion that a certain activity may have environmentally harmful consequences, it is better to control that activity now rather than to wait for incontrovertible scientific evidence.
This principle is expressed in the Rio Declaration, which stipulates that, where there are “threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
In the United States the precautionary principle was incorporated into the design of habitat-conservation plans required under the aegis of the Endangered Species Act.
In 1989 the EC invoked the precautionary principle when it banned the importation of U.S. hormone-fed beef, and in 2000 the organization adopted the principle as a “full-fledged and general principle of international law.
In 1999 Australia and New Zealand invoked the precautionary principle in their suit against Japan for its alleged overfishing of southern bluefin tuna.
5. Consider the following statements regarding the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
1. Exothermic reaction took place releasing large amount of heat and the volume of gas increased and a cloud of gases phosgene, carbon monoxide and Methyl Iso Cyanide (MIC) started coming out and thus led to Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
2. On the night of 2 December 1984, a gas leak at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal led to the deaths of about 4000 people and affected lakhs of people’s health adversely.
Which of the following statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Post-midnight on December 3, 1984, Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) (Chemical formula- CH3NCO or C2H3NO) leaked from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical’s), an MNC, in Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal.
It is estimated that about 40 tonnes of gas and other chemicals leaked from the Union Carbide factory.
Methyl isocyanate is extremely toxic gas and if its concentration in the air touches 21ppm (parts per million), it can cause death within minutes of inhaling the gas.
It is one of the worst chemical disasters globally and still continues to have its ill effects on the people of the affected areas.
After the tragedy, the government of India enacted a Public Liability Insurance Act (1991), making it mandatory for industries to get insurance the premium for this insurance would contribute to an Environment Relief Fund to provide compensation to victims of a Bhopal-like disaster.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
There was a leakage in the water pipe and as result water entered into methyl iso cyanide(MIC) tank. Also refrigeration system was not working to cool MIC and prevent chemical reaction. Due to this, exothermic reaction took place releasing large amount of heat and the volume of gas increased and a cloud of gases phosgene, carbon monoxide and MIC started coming out. As it was very spontaneous and rapidly it spread and soon a very dense cloud was formed over the city of Bhopal exposing half a million people.
UCIL was a pesticide plant which manufactured the pesticide carbaryl (chemical name: 1-naphthyl methylcarbamate) under the brand name Sevin.
Carbaryl was discovered by an American company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) which was UCIL’s parent company holding majority stake. Minority stakes were held by Indian banks and public.
UCIL manufactured carbaryl using methyl isocyanate (MIC) as an intermediate. Although there are other methods to produce the end-product, they cost more.
MIC is highly toxic chemical and extremely dangerous to human health.
Around midnight of 2 December 1984, residents of Bhopal surrounding the pesticide plant began to feel the irritating effects of MIC and started fleeing from the city. However, thousands were dead by morning.
The government of India and activists blame UCIL for flouting safety norms and neglecting proper maintenance and safety procedures. During the build-up to the leak, the plant’s safety systems for the extremely poisonous MIC were not functioning.
Many valves and lines were in disrepair, and many vent gas scrubbers as well as the steam boiler meant for cleaning the pipes were out of service.
There were three tanks were MIC was stored and the leak occurred in tank E610. This tank contained 42 tons of MIC when it should have contained only 30 tons as per safety rules.
During the late hours of that fateful night, water is believed to have entered a side pipe and into the tank when workers were trying to unclog it. This caused an exothermic reaction in the tank and increased the tank’s pressure slowly which led to the atmospheric venting of the gas.
By 11:30 PM, the workers inside the plant were beginning to experience the effects of the toxin.
There were three safety devices in the plant which could have averted the disaster had they been working properly – a refrigeration system, a flare tower and a vent gas scrubber. The refrigeration system was meant to cool the MIC tank, the flare tower was meant to burn the escaping MIC and the gas scrubber, which had been turned off at that time, was too small to handle a calamity of this scale.
About 40 metric tons of MIC escaped into the atmosphere within 2 hours.
The police in Bhopal were informed of the leak by about 1:00 AM. The public became aware of the leak mostly through direct contact with the gas and also by coming out into the public to see what the commotion was about. A timely warning that they should have looked for shelter might also have mitigated the effects of the tragedy.
Initial effects of exposure:
• Feeling of suffocation
• Severe eye irritation
• Burning in the respiratory tract
• Stomach pain and vomiting
• Blepharospasm (abnormal contraction or twitching of the eyelid)
By the morning of 3rd December, thousands of people had perished due to choking, pulmonary oedema and reflexogenic circulatory collapse. Autopsies indicated that not only lungs, people’s brains, kidneys and liver were also affected.
The stillbirth rate went up by 300% and the neonatal mortality rate shot up by 200%.
There were mass burials and cremations in Bhopal.
Flora and fauna were also severely affected with large number of animal carcasses being seen in the vicinity. Trees became barren within a few days. Supply of food became scarce due to fear of contamination. Fishing was also prohibited.
The Indian government passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act in March 1985 which gave the government the rights to legally represent all victims of the disaster whether in India or elsewhere.
At least 200,000 children were exposed to the gas and they were more vulnerable owing to their small heights.
Hospitals and clinics were flooded with victims and the medical staff was not adequately trained to handle MIC exposure.
Lawsuits were filed against UCC in the US federal court. In one lawsuit, the court suggested UCC to provide between $5 million and $10 million to help the victims. UCC agreed to pay $5 million. But the Indian government refused this offer and claimed $3.3 billion.
An out-of-court settlement was reached in 1989 when UCC agreed to pay $470 million for damages caused and paid the sum immediately.
In 1991, Bhopal authorities charged Warren Anderson, the CEO and Chairman of UCC at the time of the tragedy with manslaughter. He had come to Bhopal immediately after the disaster and was ordered by the Indian government to leave. After being charged, he failed to turn up in court and was declared a fugitive from justice by the Bhopal court February 1992. Even though the central government pressed the US for extraditing Anderson, nothing came of it. Anderson died in 2014 never having faced trial.
In 2010, 7 former UCIL employees were sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and fined Rs 1 lakh for causing death by negligence. Most of them were in their seventies and were released on bail.
The gas leak has significant long-term health effects because of which people who were exposed are suffering till date. Problems include chronic eye problems, problems in the respiratory tract, neurological and psychological problems due to the trauma. Children who were exposed have problems such as stunted growth and intellectual impairments.
A 2014 report said that survivors still suffer from serious medical conditions including birth defects for subsequent generations and heightened rates of cancer and tuberculosis.
The disposal of toxic waste lying inside and in the vicinity of the factory is still a problem. The groundwater and the soil have also been severely polluted.
The fight for justice by the victims of this man-made disaster is still going on.
UCIL is now owned by Dow Chemical Company. UCC still maintains that the accident was a result of sabotage by disgruntled employees.