Current Affairs ONLY (Daily Editorials Analysis, Date: 11th July 2018)

EDITORIALS

1. Poll position: on electoral reforms beyond simultaneous elections

2. Rhetoric and reality: on the UNHRC and human rights


2. Poll position: on electoral reforms beyond simultaneous elections

CONTEXT:

There are meaningful electoral reforms beyond simultaneous elections.

Why In News:

It is perhaps no surprise that political parties are deeply divided over the idea of holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies. During consultations initiated by the Law Commission of India, nine parties opposed it, arguing that it went against the constitutional fabric and that it would be impractical. Four parties backed the concept. The BJP has sought time for a detailed response, though it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been advocating the idea.

Important Points:

  • The BJP has sought time for a detailed response, though it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been advocating the idea.
  • The Congress has now spoken out against the proposal. In principle, there are obvious advantages to the ‘one nation, one election’ idea — election expenditure will be drastically cut and ruling dispensations will be able to focus on legislation and governance rather than having to be in campaign mode forever.
  • However, as many of the naysayers have pointed out, the idea is fraught with practical difficulties.
  • Also, some parties fear that a simultaneous poll, particularly in this era where news is easily and widely disseminated, will privilege national issues over regional ones even if, arguably, the reverse may happen too.
  • The issue is that synchronisation would involve curtailment or extension of the tenure of a House — the legal propriety of which is questionable.
  • The key proposal is that Assemblies be bunched into two categories based on whether their terms end close to the 2019 or the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
  • Elections could be held for one group in 2019, and for another in 2024 so that subsequent elections could be synchronised.
  • Or, polls could be held for one group along with the 2019 election,and for the rest 30 months later, so that there is a round of elections every two and a half years.
  • These two recommendations may partially address the question raised by the DMK on whether all Assemblies would be dissolved too if the Lok Sabha has to be prematurely dissolved.
  • There are many pressing reforms needed in the electoral space including curbing the use of black money to fund elections and tackling the staggered manner in which elections are held in many States.

2. Rhetoric and reality: on the UNHRC and human rights

CONTEXT:

By ceding a role at the HRC, a state foregoes a chance at genuine engagement in human rights monitoring.

 

Why In News:

The withdrawal of the U.S. from the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations in June this year sent shock waves through the international community, foreign-policy think-tanks and human rights non-governmental organisations. However, some feel this was the right decision and are now advocating withdrawal by other countries; this includes those in India.

Important Points:

  • The antecedents and functioning of the much vilified HRC are worth examining. The main criticism against it is that it is made up of states not known for their human rights records; that many are in fact egregious violators of human rights.

 Integral to rights system:

  • The HRC was established in 2006, as part of the UN’s reform process, replacing the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • Council members are elected by the General Assembly with three-year terms, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
  • It was to serve as a forum for all states to examine and ‘peer review’ the record on human rights.
  • The ‘Universal Periodic Review’ process, where all states are scrutinised, is currently in its third cycle (2017-2021).
  • No state is exempt from this process, including Security Council members.
  • Politics is unavoidable, with states using the opportunity to highlight the records of other states.
  • The HRC is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law that states themselves have undertaken.
  • Engagement on their track record, in defence of rights is critical.
  • This forum for advocacy and scrutiny, with its pitfalls, is an important component of the UN rights system.

 Multiple strands

  • Another aspect overseen by the HRC is the appointment of special rapporteurs — independent mandate holders — on issues including internal displacement, torture, racial discrimination, as well as country specific mandates.
  • In addition, there are distinct international commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions into particular violations.
  • It is also worth pointing out that the role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is often confused with the HRC.
  • It is a separate institution which presents reports independent of the HRC, the recent report on Kashmir being an example.
  • Coming back to the U.S., the factor that precipitated its withdrawal is the alleged targeting of Israel by the HRC. However, the background to this is also one of impatience and a failure to stay the course on an important multilateral process — that of HRC reform.
  • Ultimately, we are all the poorer for such actions. Not just states but also individuals who are in need of a more robust defence of their rights stand to lose much. It is worth instead contemplating the need to reduce rhetoric and, rather, increase substantive engagement with issues concerning the rights of individuals.

 

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