1.  What is Article 131, under which Kerala has moved SC against the CAA? How does this challenge differ from the other petitions filed against the law?

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

Recently, Kerala became the first state to challenge the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) before the Supreme Court. However, the legal route adopted by the state is different from the 60 petitions already pending before the court. The Kerala government has moved the apex court under Article 131 of the Constitution, the provision under which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to deal with any dispute between the Centre and a state; the Centre and a state on the one side and another state on the other side; and two or more states.

On Wednesday, the Chhattisgarh government filed a suit in the Supreme Court under Article 131, challenging the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act on the ground that it encroaches upon the state’s powers to maintain law and order.

What are the jurisdictions enjoyed by Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court has three kinds of jurisdictions: original, appellate and advisory.

Under its advisory jurisdiction, the President has the power to seek an opinion from the apex court under Article 143 of the Constitution. Under its appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts.

In its extraordinary original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has exclusive power to adjudicate upon disputes involving elections of the President and the Vice President, those that involve states and the Centre, and cases involving the violation of fundamental rights.

For a dispute to qualify as a dispute under Article 131, it has to necessarily be between states and the Centre, and must involve a question of law or fact on which the existence of a legal right of the state or the Centre depends. In a 1978 judgment, State of Karnataka v Union of India, Justice P N Bhagwati had said that for the Supreme Court to accept a suit under Article 131, the state need not show that its legal right is violated, but only that the dispute involves a legal question.

Article 131 cannot be used to settle political differences between state and central governments headed by different parties.

So how is a suit under Article 131 different from the other petitions challenging the CAA?

The other petitions challenging the CAA have been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, which gives the court the power to issue writs when fundamental rights are

violated. A state government cannot move the court under this provision because only people and citizens can claim fundamental rights.

Under Article 131, the challenge is made when the rights and power of a state or the Centre are in question.

However, the relief that the state (under Article 131) and petitioners under Article 32 have sought in the challenge to the CAA is the same — declaration of the law as being unconstitutional.

But can the Supreme Court declare legislation unconstitutional under Article 131?

Although earlier judgments had held that the constitutionality of a law can be examined under Article 131, a 2011 judgment in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v. Union of India ruled otherwise. However, the judges did not agree with the ruling.

Can the Centre too sue a state under Article 131?

The Centre has other powers to ensure that its laws are implemented. The Centre can issue directions to a state to implement the laws made by Parliament. If states do not comply with the directions, the Centre can move the court seeking a permanent injunction against the states to force them to comply with the law. Non-compliance of court orders can result in contempt of court, and the court usually hauls up the chief secretaries of the states responsible for implementing laws.

Is it unusual for states to challenge laws made by Parliament?

Under the Constitution, laws made by Parliament are presumed to be constitutional until a court holds otherwise. However, in India’s quasi-federal constitutional structure, inter-governmental disputes are not uncommon.

The framers of the Constitution expected such differences, and added the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for their resolution. The quasi-federal structure envisaged in 1950 has consolidated into defined powers of the states.

Under a powerful Centre with a clear majority in Parliament, faultlines in India’s federal structure are frequently exposed. Since 2014, when the Narendra Modi government came to power, debates around the 15th Finance Commission, the Goods and Services Tax, the linguistic divide on the National Education Policy, land acquisition, and the proposed All India Judicial Services have all emerged as flashpoints between the strong Centre and states ruled by the Opposition.

Source: The Indian Express

2. In a First, Sikhs to Be Counted as a Distinct Ethnic Group in 2020 US Census

Relevant for GS Prelims

Sikhs in the US will be counted as a separate ethnic group for the first time in the 2020 census. The move comes after a delegation of the United Sikhs held several meetings with the US Census.

The United Sikhs said that this would be the first time that the minority group would be counted and coded in the decennial US Census. According to the United Sikhs, there are currently 10 lakh Sikhs living in the US.

Distinct ethnic group

With a distinct unified appearance, culture, language, food and history, Sikhs fulfilled the criteria for representation in the US Census as a distinct ethnic group.

Need for recognition

For over two decades, the United Sikhs has advocated for a separate coding for Sikhs and has filed commentary with the US Federal Register asking for Sikhs to be added as an ethnic group so that action can be taken to address major Sikh issues such as bullying, intimidation and hate crimes against the community.

UK had rejected similar demand

Despite efforts of sikh community, the community has not been recognized as separate ethnic community in UK.

Source: The Wire

3. Russian PM quits as Putin plans to stay in power past 2024

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR

Vladimir Putin has proposed constitutional amendments that would enable him to hold onto power even after leaving the presidency in 2024.

In a surprise move, Russia’s government headed by Prime Minister resigned in full just hours after Putin announced plans for a national referendum that would shift power away from a successor to the presidency.

Tenure of Putin

The 67-year-old has in effect ruled Russia since 2000, making him the longest-serving leader since Stalin, and what he plans to do in 2024 remains the most important political question in the country.

On 9 August 1999, Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, and later on that day, was appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian

Federation by President Yeltsin. On 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the Constitution of Russia, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation.

Putin as president

Putin became president in year 2000. He became the president for the second time in 2004. The Russian constitution puts restrictions of two successive terms for an individual to be holding the position of president.

Second premiership

Consequently, from 2008-2012 Putin again became premier (prime minister) of the country. Dmitry Medvedev was appointed the President of Russia.

Again as President

In 2012, Putin again became president for third time. The tenure of president was extended to 6 years from 4 years. Now, the two consecutive terms of Putin was going to end in 2024. Putin seeks to extend his tenure beyond that.

In Russia, President is the head of State with real powers, and Prime Minister (Premier) is head of government and responsible to parliament.

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