Year in Review: Citizenship Act to Ayodhya verdict, key decisions of 2019

In the year 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came back to power at the Centre with a bigger mandate than in 2014, gaining a sway across the nation to win 303 seats in the Lok Sabha. In less than 70 days of the government's second term in office, the Narendra Modi-led regime scrapped Article 370, which gave a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, paving the way for bigger ideas to be implemented in the months to come. Before that, on February 12, the Union Cabinet had cleared key amendment to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, making it easier for buyers to take over stressed assets.

The Supreme Court also did not hold back, the then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, making a number of landmark judgments -- from the long-awaited Ayodhya title suit to Sabarimala. Towards the fag end of the year, a few legislation brought by the government, such as the Personal Data Protection Bill and the Bill to set up a unified authority for regulating all financial activities in international financial services sparked controversy, and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill drew opposition from politicians and citizens alike.

The rest of the year was also quite eventful, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performing ‘Shashtra Puja’ upon the first delivery of the Rafale fighter jet, brushing aside the Congress’ criticism, CJI Gogoi was cleared by a panel of sexual harassment allegations. And the Cabinet approved strategic divestment in BPCL and SCI in its bid to meet its FY20 divestment target of Rs 1.76 trillion.

Days before curtains come down on 2019, Business Standard takes a look at  the key decisions and ideas that shaped the year.

Cabinet approves IBC (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (February 8)

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Cabinet clears key amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, making it easier for buyers to take over stressed assets and raising the threshold for initiating proceedings against realtors

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given Ex-post facto approval to the modifications carried out in the replacement Bill, which replaced the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill 2017, and which has been passed by the Parliament as the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Act, 2018. Read more...

Ex-employee alleges sexual harassment against CJI Gogoi (April 19)

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A former employee wrote to all the judges of the Supreme Court alleging sexual harassment and victimisation by then Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. By May, a court-appointed committee, which followed none of the prescribed procedures for such cases, cleared Gogoi of all charges.

The three-judge in-house committee of the Supreme Court (SC) set up to examine allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice Ranjan Gogoi has cleared him of all charges and said it has ‘found no substance in the allegations’ made in the April 19 complaint. A copy of the report has been given to Justice S A Bobde and CJI Gogoi, the secretary general said in a statement. The details of the report of the committee are not liable to be made public, according to a former judgment of the court, the statement said. Read more...

Rajnath Singh receives first Rafale fighter (October 7)

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Ignoring the Congress’ objections, the government takes delivery of the French-made Rafale fighter-jet, the first of 36 India has ordered. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in the picture.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday formally received the Indian Air Force's first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 such aircraft purchased from France. Singh attended the handover ceremony along with his French counterpart Florence Parly at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France. The minister performed a brief Shastra Puja on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an 'Om' tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he was to take off in it for a sortie. He was joined by senior representatives of the Indian Armed Forces to mark the induction ceremony. Read more...

Ayodhya verdict: SC gives disputed land for Ram temple (November 9)

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The Supreme Court’s verdict on a 70-year-old case handed the disputed site at Ayodhya to a government trust to build a Ram temple and directed the government to give the Sunni Waqf Board an alternate site for a mosque. In December, the apex court rejected all review petitions on the verdict.

A five-judge Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, in a unanimous decision on Saturday, cleared the way for constructing a Ram Temple in Ayodhya at the disputed site, which would be given to a government-run trust. It directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque Seeking to end a dispute that is about 150 years old and has significantly shaped India’s politics at least since 1989, the court said the mosque should be constructed at a “prominent site”, allotted either by the Centre or the Uttar Pradesh government, and a trust should be formed within three months for constructing the temple. Read more...

Govt gives nod to BPCL, SCI privatisation (November 20)

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Cabinet approves the strategic disinvestment of the Centre’s entire stake in Bharat Petroleum and Shipping Corp, among others, a revival of the privatisation agenda after nearly two decades, to meet its highest-ever divestment target of ~1.05 trillion for 2019-20.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved the strategic disinvestment of the Centre’s entire stake in Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), Shipping Corp, THDC India, and NEEPCO, and most of its stake in Container Corp, while giving up management control in these companies. It also gave an in-principle approval for the government to reduce stake in certain state-owned companies to below 51 per cent in some while retaining majority stake management control. These major divestment decisions were taken even as the government races against time to meet its highest ever divestment target of Rs 1.05 trillion for 2019-20. The Centre hopes that disinvestment proceeds will make up for some of the revenue shortfall that is expected this year. Read more...

15th Finance Commission gets extension (November 26)

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The 15th Finance Commission headed by N K Singh (pictured) is given a year’s extension (to October 2020) after its terms of reference have been added to twice. This is only the second time a Finance Commission’s term has been extended (the 11th was the first, but only for a month)

The union cabinet on Wednesday extended to the term of the Fifteenth Finance Commission by a year, asking it to submit an interim report for fiscal year 2020-21 and a full report for fiscal years 2021-22 to 2025-26—a decision apparently taken to factor in Jammu and Kashmir’s new status. “The extension of the term will enable the Commission to examine various comparable estimates for financial projections in view of reforms and the new realities to finalize its recommendations for the period 2020-2026,” said a government press release. The cabinet decision means the Commission will recommend its award to six fiscal years, instead of the usual five. Sources said the cabinet decision does not fall foul of the Constitution. Read more...

LS passes bill for regulating financial activities (December 11)

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The Lok Sabha passes a Bill to set up a unified authority for regulating all financial activities in international financial services centres in the country, raising concerns about regulatory overlap in the financial sector.

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill to set up a unified authority for regulating all financial activities in international financial services centres (IFSCs) in the country. The first IFSC in India was set up at Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. "... we are bringing several regulators together as one unit to the limited extent of dealing with various institutions which are present in the IFSC," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. The unified authority will act as a single-window for regulating various financial activities in the IFSC, she said. Read more..

Personal Data Protection Bill presented in Parliament (December 11)

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The Personal Data Protection Bill is presented in Parliament and referred to a joint parliamentary committee. Critics raise concerns about the impact of the Bill on foreign investment, personal safeguards and the powers it gives the Centre.

The Personal Data Protection Bill, which was cleared by the Cabinet last week, gives the Centre powers to exempt any agency from the provisions of the legislation. The Draft Bill was circulated to Lok Sabha members on Tuesday, and is scheduled to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday. It may possibly be referred to a joint select committee subsequently.

The exemption clauses in the Bill, reviewed by Business Standard, have left large technology companies and digital commerce firms worried about continuing their business in the country. The Bill states that the central government can decide in the interest of “sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order” or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to certain conditions, and direct that “all or any of the provisions” of the Personal Data Protection Bill would not apply to “any agency of the Government”. Read more..

Parliament passes Citizenship Amendment Act (December 11)

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Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act providing a path to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from Muslim majority countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. This marks the first time religion has been used as a criterion for Indian citizenship and sparked countrywide protests.

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) with 311 in favour and 80 against. The Bill is likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. In his reply to over six-hour-long debate on the Bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah insisted that the proposed law does not discriminate against Indian Muslims but aimed at protecting continued persecution of minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. He said the Bill was a result of the failure of the 1950 Nehru-Liaquat pact. The home minister said there is a distinction between illegal immigrants and refugees. Members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left parties and others disputed this, terming it divisive and that it was a ‘trap’ and inextricably linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise, which has ‘failed’ in Assam. Read more...

Govt announces 16th NPR (December 24)

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After the PM stated that the government had no plans to implement the contentious National Register of Citizens, Union minister Prakash Javadekar announced that the 16th Census and the National Population Register (NPR) will be conducted between 2020 and 2021. The government has allotted Rs 13,000 crore for both NPR and the Census.

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved Rs 3,941.35 crore for updating the National Population Register (NPR), and another Rs 8,500 crore for the Census 2021 exercise. Contradicting its earlier statements on the issue, the Centre claimed that there was “no link” between the NPR and the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC). In an interview to a private news agency, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asserted that not just was there no “link”, but also that no NRC would be conducted. He said the NPR was a decennial exercise, first conducted under the Congress-led UPA government in 2010-11, and it was intriguing that no questions were asked then. The decision of the Union Cabinet and Shah’s comments come in the wake of over 10-day of nationwide protests by students, activists and political parties, some of which have turned violent, and nearly two dozen people killed in police action. Shah said he wants to assure minorities that NPR data would not be used for preparing an NRC. Read more...


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AYODHYA CASE

YEAR ENDER 2019

CURATED CONTENT

CITIZENSHIP ACT

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER

PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION BILL 2018

INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE

CJI RANJAN GOGOI

RAJNATH SINGH

RAFALE DEAL

BPCL

SHIPPING CORPORATION

PRIVATISATION

15TH FINANCE COMMISSION

YEAR END SPECIALS

SUPREME COURT

CURRENT AFFAIRS

NATIONAL


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