Cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances: SC - Business Guardian
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Cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances: SC

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It would be very pertinent to note that the Apex Court in a notable judgment titled Deepak Yadav vs State of UP in Criminal Appeal No. 861 of 2022 (Arising out of S.L.P (Crl.) No. 9655 of 2021) pronounced on 20 May, 2022 has minced just no words to hold unambiguously that, “Cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances.” We thus see that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli observed so while it allowed the appeal against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court which granted bail to a murder accused. It merits mentioning that the Bench while setting aside the bail observed that the High Court has not taken into consideration the criminal history of the accused, nature of crime, material evidences available, involvement of the accused in the said crime and recovery of weapon from his possession. The Court rightly added that the cancellation of bail cannot be limited only to the occurrence of supervening possibilities.

At the outset, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by Justice Krishna Murari for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, himself and Justice Hima Kohli sets the pitch in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “The present appeal is directed against the judgment and order dated 22.10.2021 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, Lucknow Bench (hereinafter referred to as “High Court”) in Bail No. 11848 of 2021 filed by Respondent No.2 – Accused with a prayer to release him on bail in Case Crime No. 16 of 2021 registered at PS Para, Lucknow under Sections 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as “IPC”) during pendency of trial. By the said judgment, the High Court granted bail to Respondent No.2/Accused on furnishing a personal bond and two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the trial court subject to certain conditions.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “Briefly, the facts relevant for the purpose of this appeal are that the Appellant/Informant Deepak Yadav lodged an FIR being Crime Case No. 16 /2021 on 09.01.2021 at PS Para, Lucknow under Section 307 IPC against Respondent No. 2/Accused Harjeet Yadav, co-accused Sushil Kumar Yadav and two unknown persons. The allegations against the said accused persons were that on the night of 08.01.2021, at around 8.30 PM, Appellant’s father Mr. Virendera Yadav (deceased) was on way to his home from the lawn located near Jaipuria School and at the same time, the accused persons took position on Kulhad Katta Bridge and fired at him with the common intention to kill the deceased. The bullet shot hit his right cheek and made its exit through the other side leaving him severely injured. In view of his serious condition, the people present on the spot informed the local police station and admitted him at the Trauma Centre, Medical College, Lucknow. The Appellant/Informant, on receiving the information about his injured father rushed to the Trauma Centre with his mother Smt. Sunita Yadav and elder sister Ms. Jyoti Yadav. The Appellant’s mother asked her husband about the incident to which he replied that he was shot by Respondent No.2/Accused Harjeet Yadav and one, Sushil Yadav and that they were accompanied by two other persons as well. The statement given by the deceased was noted down by Sri Mahesh Kumar Chaurasia, DSP/ACP Chowk, Lucknow and Sri. Ashok Kumar Singh, SI/First Investigating Officer.”

While narrating further on the chain of events, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “Respondent No. 2/Accused was arrested by the police on 13.01.2021 and one country made pistol with two live cartages were recovered from him. The Appellant/Informant’s father passed away on 14.01.2021 on account of which the case was converted to one under Section 302 IPC. The co-accused, Sushil Kumar Yadav surrendered before the Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow on 16.01.2021.”

Still more, the Bench then states in para 5 that, “After completion of investigation and upon finding sufficient evidence, charge sheet was filed before the trial Court on 06.04.2021 against Respondent No.2/Accused and co-accused Sushil Kumar Yadav under Sections 302 and 34 IPC. Furthermore, investigation against two unknown accused persons is pending.”

As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 6 that, “Respondent No.2/Accused filed Bail Application No. 3340/2021 before the Sessions Judge, Lucknow and the same was rejected vide order dated 28.06.2021 on the ground that he has been named on the basis of the information provided by the deceased himself and that the same has been clarified after the perusal of the documents/forms that the bullet was shot by Respondent No. 2/Accused himself.”

As things stand, the Bench then reveals in para 7 that, “Respondent No. 2/Accused then moved the High Court for grant of regular bail vide Bail No. 11848/2021 wherein Counsel for the Respondent No.2/Accused contended that the co-accused, Sushil Kumar Yadav has been granted bail by the High Court on 18.10.2021 in Bail No. 8501 of 2021 and that the case of the Respondent No. 2 stands on identical footing making him entitled for bail on the ground of parity. The said bail application was allowed vide impugned judgment/order dated 22.10.2021. The operative portion of the judgment reads as under : –

“Keeping in view the nature of the offence, arguments advanced on behalf of the parties, evidence on record regarding complicity of the accused, larger mandate of the Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the dictum of Apex Court in the case of Dataram Singh Vs. State of U.P. & Anr (2018) 3 SCC 22 and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Court is of the view that the applicant has made out a case for bail. The bail application is allowed.

Let the applicant be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond and two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned subject to following conditions. Further, before issuing the release order, the sureties be verified.

1. The applicant shall not tamper with the prosecution evidence by intimidating/ pressurizing the witnesses, during the investigation or trial;

2. The applicant shall cooperate in the trial sincerely without seeking any adjournment;

3. The applicant shall not indulge in any criminal activity or commission of any crime after being released on bail;

4. That the applicant shall not, directly or indirectly, make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to any police officer;

5. The applicant shall file an undertaking to the effect that he shall not seek any adjournment on the dates fixed for evidence and the witnesses are present in court. In case of default of this condition, it shall be open for the trial court to treat it as abuse of liberty of bail and pass orders in accordance with law to ensure presence of the applicant;

6. The applicant shall remain present, in person, before the trial court on the dates fixed for (i) opening of the case, (ii) framing of charge and (iii) recording of statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. If in the opinion of the trial court, default of this condition is deliberate or without sufficient cause, then it shall be open for the trial court to treat such default as abuse of liberty of his bail and proceed against him in accordance with law;

7. The party shall file computer generated copy of such order downloaded from the official website of High Court Allahabad;

8. The concerned court/authority/official shall verify the authenticity of such computerized copy of the order from the official website of High Court Allahabad and shall make a declaration of such verification in writing. In case of breach of any of the above conditions, it shall be a ground for cancellation of bail.””

Be it noted, the Bench then enunciates in para 26 that, “The importance of assigning reasoning for grant or denial of bail can never be undermined. There is prima facie need to indicate reasons particularly in cases of grant or denial of bail where the accused is charged with a serious offence. The sound reasoning in a particular case is a reassurance that discretion has been exercised by the decision maker after considering all the relevant grounds and by disregarding extraneous considerations.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then observes in para 30 that, “This Court has reiterated in several instances that bail once granted, should not be cancelled in a mechanical manner without considering whether any supervening circumstances have rendered it no longer conducive to a fair trial to allow the accused to retain his freedom by enjoying the concession of bail during trial. Having said that, in case of cancellation of bail, very cogent and overwhelming circumstances are necessary for an order directing cancellation of bail (which was already granted). A two-Judge Bench of this Court in Dolat Ram And Others Vs. State of Haryana (1995) 1 SCC 349 laid down the grounds for cancellation of bail which are :-

(i) interference or attempt to interfere with the due course of administration of Justice

(ii) evasion or attempt to evade the due course of justice

(iii) abuse of the concession granted to the accused in any manner

(iv) Possibility of accused absconding

(v) Likelihood of/actual misuse of bail

(vi) Likelihood of the accused tampering with the evidence or threatening witnesses.”

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to hold in para 31 that, “It is no doubt true that cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances. This Court certainly has the inherent powers and discretion to cancel the bail of an accused even in the absence of supervening circumstances. Following are the illustrative circumstances where the bail can be cancelled :-

a) Where the court granting bail takes into account irrelevant material of substantial nature and not trivial nature while ignoring relevant material on record.

b) Where the court granting bail overlooks the influential position of the accused in comparison to the victim of abuse or the witnesses especially when there is prima facie misuse of position and power over the victim.

c) Where the past criminal record and conduct of the accused is completely ignored while granting bail.

d) Where bail has been granted on untenable grounds.

e) Where serious discrepancies are found in the order granting bail thereby causing prejudice to justice.

f) Where the grant of bail was not appropriate in the first place given the very serious nature of the charges against the accused which disentitles him for bail and thus cannot be justified.

g) When the order granting bail is apparently whimsical, capricious and perverse in the facts of the given case.”

It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then points out in para 35 that, “Coming to the present case at hand, the Respondent No.2/Accused was arrested on 13.01.2021 subsequent to which, he had applied for regular bail before the Sessions Court which was rejected on the ground that he is named in the FIR on the basis of the information provided by the deceased himself and that the same has been clarified after perusal of the documents/forms that the bullet was shot by the Respondent No. 2/Accused himself. Being aggrieved by the same, Respondent No.2/Accused filed an application under Section 439 Cr.P.C before the High Court seeking regular bail. The High Court vide its impugned order granted bail to the Respondent No.2/Accused without considering the relevant facts and circumstances.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then lays bare in para 36 that, “A bare perusal of the impugned order reveals that the High Court has failed to take into consideration the following:-

· espondent No.2/Accused has been named in the FIR bearing Crime Case No. 16/2021 lodged under Sections 302 and 34 IPC and was the main assailant who had a weapon in his hand.

· The main role of Respondent No.2/Accused was that he opened fire at the deceased due to which the bullet hit his right cheek and made its exit through the other side.

· The deceased succumbed to his injuries on 14.01.2021.

· Respondent No.2/Accused had the intention to murder the deceased as there was previous enmity between him and the deceased with regard to some land which Respondent No.2 threatened to grab.

· On being asked about the incident by the Appellant/Informant’s mother, the deceased replied “Ratipal ka dusra number ka ladka aur ram asre ka putra Sushil Yadav ne pull par gaadi rukwakar goli maar di hai or unke sath 2 ladke aur the”. On re-clarifying, the deceased replied “Ratipal ka dusra number ka ladka matlab Harjeet Yadav”.

· Respondent No.2/accused has clearly been named by the deceased and he was actively involved in opening fire which caused the death of the deceased.

· Respondent No. 2/Accused’s statement was recorded by the then IO under Section 161 Cr.P.C in which he admitted to having committed the offence.

· Respondent No. 2 has a criminal history and several criminal matters have been lodged against him:

(1) Case Crime no. 016/2021 u/s 302/34 IPC

(2) Case Crime no. 020/2021 u/s 25 of the Arms Act

(3) Proceedings of 110G on 05.11.2021

(4) Beat Information (G.D No. 33) dated 18.12.2021

(5) Beat Information (G.D. No. 44) dated 19.12.2021.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench then mandates in para 37 that, “There is certainly no straight jacket formula which exists for courts to assess an application for grant or rejection of bail but the determination of whether a case is fit for the grant of bail involves balancing of numerous factors, among which the nature of the offence, the severity of the punishment and a prima facie view of the involvement of the accused are important. This Court does not normally interfere with an order passed by the High Court granting or rejecting bail to the accused. However, it is equally incumbent upon the High Court to exercise its discretion judiciously, cautiously and strictly in compliance with basic principles laid down in a catena of judgments by this Court.”

It must be noted that the Bench then in the same vein adds in para 38 that, “However having said that, in the case at hand, it is manifestly incorrect on the part of the High Court to have granted bail to the Respondent No.2/Accused without taking into consideration the relevant facts and circumstances and appropriate evidence which proves that the Respondent No.2/Accused has been charged with a serious offence.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then observes in para 39 that, “Grant of bail to the Respondent No.2/Accused only on the basis of parity shows that the impugned order passed by the High Court suffers from the vice of non-application of mind rendering it unsustainable. The High Court has not taken into consideration the criminal history of the Respondent No.2/Accused, nature of crime, material evidences available, involvement of Respondent No.2/Accused in the said crime and recovery of weapon from his possession.”

Furthermore, the Bench then directs in para 40 that, “Having considered the aforesaid facts of the present case in juxtaposition with the judgments referred to above, we are of the opinion that the impugned order passed by the High Court is not liable to be sustained and is hereby set aside. The bail bonds of Respondent No.2/Accused stand cancelled and he is hereby directed to surrender within one week from the date of passing of this order, failing which, the concerned police authorities shall take him into custody.”

For sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in para 41 stating that, “It is however clarified that observations made hereinabove are limited to our consideration of the issue of cancellation of bail, as raised by the appellant. They shall not come in the way of final adjudication before the trial Court. At the cost of repetition, it is stated that the trial Court is to consider the matter pending before it, uninfluenced by any of the observations made, strictly on the basis of evidence that shall be brought on record. This order shall also not preclude the Respondent No. 2/Accused from applying afresh for bail at a later stage, if any, new circumstances are brought to light.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 42 that, “As a result, appeal stands allowed.”

In conclusion, the Apex Court has made it indubitably clear that the cancellation of bail cannot be limited to the occurrence of supervening circumstances. It thus merits no reiteration that the bail thus granted by the Allahabad High Court to the murder accused was cancelled by the top court. Very rightly so!

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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Policy&Politics

India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability

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The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Economic

Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital

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India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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