TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Gehlot govt. gears up for social accountability Bill 2. SC turns down petition on use of ‘Dalit’ by media C. GS3 Related SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Japan approves stem cells trial to treat spinal cord injuries 2. ‘Lack of cleaning in brain cells causes Alzheimer’s’ D. GS4 Related E. Editorials POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Not without an explanation 2. Discord in Puducherry F. Tidbits 1. In Arunachal, community hall completed in 2 days 2. Cement makers happy as MFN status to Pakistan withdrawn G. Prelims Facts 1. World Sustainable Development Summit H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
- The Rajasthan government has started the process for bringing the legislation on social accountability, which will make officials accountable for timely delivery of public goods and services as citizens’ entitlement. The Bill will also set up a grievance redressal mechanism starting from village panchayats.
Details of the initiative
- The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, led by social activist and Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy, had proposed a draft law to the State government. The official draft has incorporated the suggested provisions for transparency in governance, citizens’ participation, accountability in delivery of services, decentralisation of the process and establishment of an independent grievance redressal structure.
- The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangthan (MKSS), led by social activist and Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy, has proposed a draft Bill to the State government. The Bill has been divided into sections such as transparency in governance, citizens’ participation in governance, accountability in delivery of services, decentralisation of the process and establishment of an independent grievance redressal structure.
- Gehlot said social audit of the government’s functioning would be an important aspect of the new legislation. He called upon the non-government organisations to play a bigger role in making the administration accountable to people, while affirming that empowering the NGOs would bring pressure on the government right from the Pradhans of panchayat samitis to the top officers.
- Nikhil Dey of MKSS said the draft Bill’s provisions were based on best practices in the country and were an extension of the Right to Information.
- The Bill includes provisions for citizens’ charter, public hearing, social audit and information and facilitation centres.
- Through the Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, the government intends to ensure the right of every person or group of persons to get time-bound delivery of goods and services and be entitled for redressal of complaints, with the provision for penalty on erring officials and compensation to the public.
- Social Accountability (SAc) is a process of constructive engagement between citizens and government to check the conduct and performance of public officials, politicians, and service providers as they use public resources to deliver services, improve community welfare, and protect people’s rights.
- Through SAc action, citizens are connected to government. The action sustains their meaningful participation in decision-making that affects their most immediate needs, especially in health, education and community infrastructure.
- Social accountability contributes to advancing people’s welfare—that is, the improvement of more than just the lives of individuals and families but that of the entire community, and ultimately, the nation.
- In the same way, SAc reinforces basic human rights: the right to be heard (voice); the right to expression (information); the right to association (organization); and, the right to negotiate for change (participation).
- Two forces drive social accountability: citizen groups, who are direct beneficiaries of public services, and government, which provides the space for citizen participation in governance such as the monitoring public programs.
- Social audit is where information is to be proactively shared amongst people. They can, in turn, “performance audit” a service or programme.
- It involves people in planning, implementation and evaluation phases. Sharing information, recording comments and acting on findings are the processes involved.
- Social Audit is an independent evaluation of the performance of an organisation as it relates to the attainment of its social goals. It is an instrument of social accountability of an organisation.
- Social Audit of administration means understanding the administrative system and its internal dynamics from the angle of what they mean for the vast majority of the people, who are not essentially a part of the State or its machinery or the ruling class of the day, for whom they are meant to work.
- The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a petition challenging Centre’s notification advising the media not to use the term “Dalit” to describe members of Scheduled Castes.
- In its August 7, 2018, circular, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had advised that the media should refrain from using the word “Dalit” for members belonging to Scheduled Castes and had directed that ‘Scheduled Caste’ should alone be used for all official transaction, matters, dealings, certificates for denoting the persons belonging to the community.
- Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioner V.A. Ramesh Nathan, questioned the legality of the circular and said: “How can the government of India issue such a circular questioning my identity?”
“Dalit-Harijan-Depressed Class” Nomenclature Controversy
- The word “Dalit” comes from the Sanskrit root dal- and means “broken, ground-down, downtrodden, or oppressed”.
- “Dalit” refers to one’s caste rather than class; it applies to members of those menial castes which have historically borne the stigma of “untouchability” because their traditional occupations were deemed to be impure and polluted by the upper castes.
- Dalits, in a way, are ‘outcastes’ falling outside the traditional four-fold caste system consisting of the hereditary Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra classes; till a few decades ago, there were physically and socially excluded and isolated from the rest of the society.
- The term was believed to have been first used by Jyotirao Phule, founder of the Satya Shodak Samaj, in the nineteenth century. He used the term for ‘untouchables’ and victims of caste based oppressions.
- It was B R Ambedkar, the ‘father of Indian Constitution’ and a victim of caste oppression in his early years, who popularised the term ‘Depressed Classes’, which is the anglicized version of Dalit.
- ‘Harijan’, meaning ‘children of God’, was a term first used by Gandhi to refer to Scheduled Castes in 1932. He even started three journals in English, Hindi and Gujarati in the same name in 1933. The exact origin of the word is subject to debate.
- Gandhi’s idea of using the word ‘Harijan’, many argue, was to avoid other words like ‘untouchables’ or ‘bhangis’ which were then used to refer to Scheduled Castes, because they were strongly stigmatised.
C. GS3 Related
- A team of Japanese researchers will carry out an unprecedented trial using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries.
- The team at Tokyo’s Keio University has received government approval for the trial — which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body — to treat patients with serious spinal cord injuries.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC)
- Induced pluripotent stem cells are a type of pluripotent stem cell that can be generated directly from adult cells.
- The iPSC technology was pioneered by Shinya Yamanaka’s lab in Kyoto, Japan, who showed in 2006 that the introduction of four specific genes encoding transcription factors could convert adult cells into pluripotent stem cells.
- He was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize along with Sir John Gurdon “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.”
- Pluripotent stem cells hold promise in the field of regenerative medicine. Because they can propagate indefinitely, as well as give rise to every other cell type in the body (such as neurons, heart, pancreatic, and liver cells), they represent a single source of cells that could be used to replace those lost to damage or disease.
- The most well-known type of pluripotent stem cell is the embryonic stem cell. However, since the generation of embryonic stem cells involves destruction (or at least manipulation) of the pre-implantation stage embryo, there has been much controversy surrounding their use.
- Further, because embryonic stem cells can only be derived from embryos, it has so far not been feasible to create patient-matched embryonic stem cell lines.
- Since iPSCs can be derived directly from adult tissues, they not only bypass the need for embryos, but can be made in a patient-matched manner, which means that each individual could have their own pluripotent stem cell line.
- These unlimited supplies of autologous cells could be used to generate transplants without the risk of immune rejection.
- Yamanaka named iPSCs with a lower case “i” due to the popularity of the iPod and other products.
- A weakened cleaning system of the brain cells in animals and humans is central to developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study which may lead to new treatments for the neurodegenerative disorder.
- Researchers, including those from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, found that improving mitophagy — the cleaning system of the brain cells — nearly removed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the animals.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive brain disease which results in loss of memory and thinking skills.
- It destroys the brain cells which cause memory loss, memory changes, erratic behaviour and loss of body functions. This disease usually starts slowly but gets worse with time.
- One of the most common early symptoms of Alzheimer is difficulty in remembering the recent events. Alzheimer’s patient forgets the name of the people like longtime friend, address, even name of the roads and other things. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease.
- It starts with forgetting things and develops short memory loss which results in difficulty in remembering recent events, eventually resulting in the inability to look after daily activities and even basic needs.
- Alzheimer’s disease mostly affects elderly people. Since the population of elderly people is rising in India, this is the cause of alarm.
- The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known. Certain complex events occurring in the brain appear to cause this disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease as of now.
- Early detection benefits the patient in treating this disease effectively. The treatment modalities include medicinal, psychological and care giving aspects. Family and social support plays a key role.
D. GS4 Related
- There are important questions that need to be answered as far as judges and hearing of cases are concerned:
When must a judge disqualify herself from hearing a case?
2. Must decisions of this gravity be left to the wisdom of individual judges?
3. Under what circumstances does a decision of recusal (the withdrawal of a judge, prosecutor, or juror from a case on the grounds that they are unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality) transgress a judge’s general responsibility to sit and deliver impartial justice?
4. Should not a judge who disqualifies herself be compelled to deliver an order explaining her reasons for recusal?
Recusal of Cases (CBI Example):
- These questions have been brought to sharp focus with a rash of recusals made by judges of the Supreme Court.
- As a matter of fact, in one case alone — challenging the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation — three judges recused themselves.
- First Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi disqualified himself, purportedly because he was set to be a part of the selection committee tasked with choosing a new CBI Director.
- He then assigned a bench presided by Justice A.K. Sikri to hear the case. But Justice Sikri too recused, on grounds, one assumes, that he was part of a panel that removed the previous CBI Director Alok Verma from his post.
- Next, Justice N.V. Ramana recused himself for apparently personal reasons. “Nageswara Rao is from my home state and I have attended his daughter’s wedding,” he told the petitioner’s counsel.
- However, it is important to note that none of these orders of recusals was made in writing, and, by themselves, the professed oral reasons for the decisions do not quite point to why the judges ought to have thought themselves incapacitated.
- The recusals in the CBI case weren’t the only ones to make the news.
- As a matter of fact, in the month of January, 2019, Justice U.U. Lalit recused himself from hearing the dispute over land in Ayodhya after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that the judge had appeared for former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh in a related contest.
- Although Mr. Dhavan said he had no specific objection to Justice Lalit continuing to hear the case, the judge, the court’s order notes, “expressed his disinclination to participate in the hearing any further.”
- But because we don’t have a written order specifically justifying the recusal, it’s difficult to tell whether the disqualification was really required.
- In September 2018, two judges of the Gujarat High Court withdrew from a set of controversial cases by merely saying, “not before me.”
- Similar orders were passed by three judges of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, who refused to hear a plea filed by a lawyer Satish Uke concerning the death of Judge B.H. Loya.
- Unsurprisingly, though, none of the judges recorded their reasons in writing, allowing, in the process, plenty of scope for conjecture and surmise.
A Nuanced Perspective:
- It is important to note that in taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.
- While “fear and favour”, as Stephen Sedley, a former judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, has written, are “enemies of independence, which is a state of being”, affection and ill-will “undermine impartiality, which is a state of mind”.
- The purpose of recusal, Mr. Sedley added, is to underpin these twin pillars of independence and impartiality. A decision, therefore, on a demand for a judge’s disqualification is an especially solemn one.
- Experts opine that recusals, when uncalled for, much like a failure to recuse when faced with genuine conflicts of interest, maligns the rule of law.
- To withdraw from a case merely because a party suggests that a judge do so impairs judicial fairness.
- It allows parties to cherry-pick a bench of their choice.
Formulating rules: Different Perspectives
- Experts opine that given these implications, one can be forgiven for thinking there exists a set of concrete rules that tell us when a judge must recuse herself.
- However, as T.R. Andhyarujina wrote some years ago, what we really have are different elucidations of a principle against an apprehension of bias.
No doubt, in some cases, prejudice is presumed — for example, where a judge has appeared for one of the litigants at some stage in the same dispute.
- It’s also by now an axiomatic rule that no person should be a judge in her own cause. But there are cases where somebody else’s cause becomes the judge’s own.
- In disputes where a judge has a financial interest in the litigation, where a judge owns shares in a company which is party to the case, the fact of owning shares is, in and of itself, considered a disqualification.
- This rule is derived from an 1852 House of Lords judgment, which held that Lord Cottenham ought not to have delivered a verdict in a case where he owned shares in one of the parties to the litigation.
- Sedley cites the example of a 1980 appeal against Shell and BP in which “the registrar of civil appeals was unable to assemble three judges who had no shares in either defendant.” Invariably, therefore, when a judge owns shares in one of the litigants what we expect is disclosure of the fact, and if neither party objects one might think it’s acceptable for the judge to hear the case.
- However, it is important to note that in the absence of a well-defined rule that helps establish a basic standard, a decision of this kind can prove troubling somewhere down the line.
Working Out a definite rule: An Indian Perspective
- Some experts have opined that the closest we’ve come in India to carving out a definite rule was a formulation made by Justice J. Chelameswar in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015).
- Here, the 99th constitutional amendment was challenged, and a claim was made seeking Justice J.S. Khehar’s recusal.
- The plea was rejected, but Justice Chelameswar attempted to establish something akin to an elementary canon. “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken,” he wrote.
“But in other cases, such an inquiry is required, and the relevant test is the ‘real danger’ test.”
- Even with this formulation, what constitutes real danger of bias remains a matter of construal. And whether an individual judge should be allowed to decide for herself on pleas of recusal is equally a point of contention.
- Yet the test does provide a plausible solution, so long as judges make their choices by reducing their reasons to writing. For when judges choose without a rational motive, without expressing their decisions in writing, they hurt the very idea of judicial rectitude.
- Ultimately, a mistaken case of recusal can prove just as destructive to the rule of law as those cases where a judge refuses a recusal despite the existence of bias.
- As a matter of fact, we mustn’t allow recusals to be used as a tool to manoeuvre justice, as a means to picking benches of a party’s choice, and as an instrument to evade judicial work.
- As the Constitutional Court of South Africa held, in 1999, “the nature of the judicial function involves the performance of difficult and at times unpleasant tasks,” and to that end judicial officers “must resist all manner of pressure, regardless of where it comes from. This is the constitutional duty common to all judicial officers. If they deviate, the independence of the judiciary would be undermined, and in turn, the Constitution itself.”
- The recent round of conflict between Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy and Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi has been more serious than those in the past.
- Narayanasamy sat in protest for six days, before the two could meet to hold talks to resolve a set of issues he raised in a letter in the month of February, 2019.
- As a matter of fact, Mr. Narayanasamy has been opposing what he calls Ms. Bedi’s “high-handedness” and tendency to interfere in the administration.
- Both Mr. Narayanasamy and Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi have had differences on many issues over the last couple of years.
- Experts have opined that such problems are an obvious consequence of the political structure of Union Territories, in which the Administrator, as the nominee of the President, enjoys powers superior to the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers.
A Closer Look at the differences:
- The trigger for the latest stand-off seems to have been Ms. Bedi’s move to enforce the rule for two-wheeler riders to wear helmets.
- While the Chief Minister believes it can be enforced only after raising awareness, Ms. Bedi wants it implemented immediately.
- However, the Chief Minister insists that his protest has nothing to do with this.
- The Chief Minister lists the blocking of welfare schemes such as the free rice scheme and enhanced scholarship for Scheduled Caste students, among other actions of the L-G, as the real issues.
- Whatever be the origin of this conflict, the sight of a Chief Minister on an indefinite dharna is not seemly. It could not have gone on indefinitely, and the fact that a dialogue was formally initiated, albeit after much delay, is a welcome development.
Is the Lieutenant Governor acting within her powers?
- Central to the conflict is the question whether Ms. Bedi is acting within her powers or exceeding her brief in seeking to play a proactive role in the affairs of the Union Territory.
- Under the Constitution, the territory belongs to the President, who runs it through the L-G as Administrator. However, under Section 44 of the Union Territories Act, 1963, the Administrator has to act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers.
- At the same time, any difference of opinion between them can be referred to the President, and in the meantime the Administrator’s action prevails on any urgent matter.
- This scheme, which gives a clear edge to the Centre, can work only if there is harmony between the Council and the L-G. It would be unfortunate if individuals occupying Raj Nivas in any Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly get carried away and ignore or undermine the elected body.
- In the year 2018, ruling on the limits of the L-G’s powers in Delhi, the Supreme Court stressed the need for the L-G as well as people’s representatives to “function in harmony within constitutional parameters”.
- The L-G was cautioned against having a hostile attitude towards the Ministers.
- Experts opine that there is no reason why that principle cannot be extended to Puducherry, which has a longer record of elected governments.
- How long does a community hall with an estimated cost of ₹3 million take to be built? Such a building in Arunachal Pradesh was completed in two days. But, as a students’ body has found out, it exists only on paper.
- The District Rural Development Agency had undertaken the construction of an auditorium-cum-community hall at Liromoba in West Siang district under the Social and Infrastructure Development Fund for the 2016-17 financial year. The project was said to have been completed in a record time and a bill of ₹8 million paid to the contractor.
- The record time turned out to be an incredible two days, the Kargu Kardi Students’ Union found out through a petition under the Right to Information Act.
- According to the documents provided, work on the auditorium was started on March 29, 2017, and completed on March 31, 2017. The photographs of a hall for ‘gaonburahs’ (village headmen), completed some time ago, were provided as evidence of completion of work on the auditorium.
- Cement manufacturers are heaving a sigh of relief after India decided to withdraw most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and also slap 200% duty on imports from that country in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack.
- One of the major items of import from Pakistan is cement and the Centre’s action would erase the price advantage that the neighbouring country had enjoyed for quite some years.
- Cement industry sources had estimated imports from Pakistan in the range of 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes annually.
- “It is being mostly imported by local traders and small builders as it fetches higher margins. Compared with the India-made cement, it ranks very low in quality,” said A.V. Dharmakrishnan, chief executive officer, Ramco Cements Ltd.
- The usage of Pakistan cement, nevertheless, was rampant in the north, he added. Pakistan cement gets into the north through the road route. “Allowing import of cement from Pakistan at a subsidised rate when the Indian firms have built up huge capacity, goes against the Make-in-India concept,” a top official of a leading cement firm said.
G. Prelims Facts
- Recently (Between February 11 and 13) the World Sustainable Development Summit 2019 was held in New Delhi. It is organized by The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI.
World Sustainable Development Summit
- The World Sustainable Development Summit is the annual flagship event of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
- World Sustainable Development Summit is the sole Summit on global issues taking place in the developing world.
- It provides a platform for global leaders and practitioners to discuss and deliberate over climatic issues of universal importance.
- It strives to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of the global community by assembling the world’s most enlightened leaders and thinkers on a single platform.
- It is continuing the legacy of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) which was initiated in 2001 with the aim of making ‘sustainable development’ a globally shared goal.
The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI:
- The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for sustainable development of India and the Global South.
- TERI was established in 1974 as an information centre on energy issues. However, over the following decades, it made a mark as a research institute, whose policy and technology solutions transformed people’s lives and the environment.
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
Question 1.Consider the following statements about ‘Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006’
- It grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws
- It gives the community the right to protect and manage the forest
- It provides for rights to use and/or collect the ‘Minor forest produce’
Select the correct statements:
- Only 1
- Only 1 and 3
- All of the above
- Only 2 and 3
Question 2. Which of the following statements about CORDEX is correct?
- It is a regional climate change modelling programme.
- It is Food standardization programme
- It is a vaccination programme run by UNICEF
- It is internet sea cable laying programme of the WTU
Question 3. Who administers the oath of the President of India?
- Prime Minister of India
- Speaker, Lok Sabha
- Chief Justice of India
Question 4. Consider the following statements with respect to Private Members Bill:
- A private member bill can be introduced by ruling party MPs and non-ministers in either house of Parliament.
- One month prior notice is required to be given before introducing such bill.
- President can easily exercise his absolute veto power against such bills.
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?
- All of the above
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 2 and 3
- Only 3
I. UPSC Mains practice Questions
- According to the recently released Parliamentary standing committee report, the Centre has failed to not just reign in escalating drug prices but has also not been able to curb the business of substandard drugs,. Examine the statement (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
- Constructed as a marketplace of views, social media tends to favour privilege, and the privileged. Discuss (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
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