09 Jan 2019: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. 25 held for ‘social boycott’ in Telangana village
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. SC reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director, but clips his wings
2. Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Bill amidst Congress walkout
3. 10% quota for the poor gets LS approval
4. Mixed response to ST status to 6 Assam groups
5. SC refuses to stay NGT order on Sterlite plant
C. GS3 Related
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Lok Sabha passes DNA technology Bill
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Quota questions (10% quota for economically weaker sections)
2. A renewed attack on privacy (The Aadhaar Bill- Right to Privacy Debate)
F. Tidbits
1. SC sets aside Delhi HC ruling against Monsanto
G. Prelims Fact
1. NASA’s probe discovers a new planet
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. 25 held for ‘social boycott’ in Telangana village

 

Context

  • Twenty-five people were arrested earlier this week for the alleged social boycott of members of a Scheduled Caste community over the construction of an Ambedkar Sangam building in Nizamabad district of Telangana, the police said on Tuesday.
  • Members of the village development committee of Marampally allegedly began a social boycott of the SC people since December 24 last year after the latter ignored threats and began construction on open land near the village tank, the police said.

Social Boycott

  • A social boycott is an act of voluntary and intentional abstention from dealing with a person, organization, as an expression of protest, usually for social, political reasons.
  • In India, it is frequent that particular Indudival or group of Indudival are boycotted by other set of majority in the name of caste, religion, rituals, and traditions.
  • It was categorically stated that social boycott for reasons such as religious rituals, inter-caste marriage, lifestyle, dress or vocation are happening.

Maharashtra’s law against Social Boycott

  • The Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016 – the first law that treats social boycott as a serious crime
  • The law disallows social boycott in the name of caste, community, religion, rituals or customs. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that a “progressive state like Maharashtra” cannot allow social evils in the garb of caste panchayat diktats or rituals.

How to overcome the challenges?

  • A social movement to spread awareness needs to be taken up
  • The attitude of the people needs to be addressed. This can be done through regular awareness weeks in schools, colleges, specialised training workshops and so on
  • The administration should make a concerted effort to popularise the achievements of people who broke this barrier and were successful in their lives.
  • Experts opine legal mechanisms are only a part of the solution. The masses need to be educated through workshops, celebrating Anti-boycott weeks etc
  • The sensitivity training needs to be imparted to the administration at all levels
  • The registration of cases needs to be tracked using technology like CCTNS projects so that Police do not use their discretion to avoid registering cases.
  • Various stakeholders like NGO’s Media groups, public policy advocacy groups need to be engaged meaningfully to ensure effective implementation of the act.
  • To address the various layers of exclusion as mentioned above, a comprehensive anti-discrimination law is required, on the lines of the Civil Rights enactments in the United States and the United Kingdom.

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. SC reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director, but clips his wings

Context

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday “reinstated” exiled CBI Director Alok Verma, but ordered him to “cease and desist” from taking any major policy decisions till a high-power committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decides the question of his divestment in a week.
  • Now, with just a few days left before the end of his tenure as CBI Director, Mr. Verma’s fate hinges on the decision of this committee comprising Mr. Modi, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge, as Leader of the Opposition.
  • The judgment, delivered by a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi, however, concluded that the CVC and the government acted outside their authority to unilaterally divest Mr. Verma and appoint M. Nageshwar Rao as the interim CBI Director in back-to-back decisions taken overnight on October 23 last year. The court set aside both orders.

Background

  • The tussle between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana started in 2017. It all started with Asthana’s appointment to CBI.
  • Verma handed over a confidential letter to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) over Asthana’s promotion to the post of CBI special director, claiming the latter was under investigation in the 2017 Sterling Biotech bribery case. However, Asthana’s promotion was cleared.
  • In June 2018, Alok Verma wrote another letter to the CVC that Asthana could not represent him in his absence since the latter faces allegations of corruption.
  • Later, Asthana shot back and filed a complaint against Verma accusing him of interfering in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) corruption case involving the family members of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.
  • This bureaucratic infight between Verma and Asthana came to a head when the CBI named Asthana in a First Information Report (FIR) in a bribery case and the allegations escalated.
  • On October 21, the CBI charged Rakesh Asthana, a 1984-batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who was under probe in the Moin Qureshi case in order to “wreck” the investigation.
  • The CBI has alleged that bribes were given at least five times between December 2017 and October 2018.
  • The charges against Asthana came to light after Dubai-based middleman Manoj Kumar gave a confessional statement before a magistrate stating that he paid Rs 2 crore to Asthana on behalf of Moin Qureshi, who is being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges of money laundering. Qureshi was arrested by the ED in August 2017 under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
  • On October 22, the CBI arrested its own DSP Devender Kumar in connection with the bribery allegations against Asthana. Kumar has been accused of fabricating the statements given by Sathish Babu Sana, a witness in the Qureshi case, showing that he had recorded a statement on September 26, 2016, in New Delhi. However, after investigation, it was found that Sana was never in New Delhi but in Hyderabad and joined the probe only on October 1, 2018.
  • Rakesh Asthana has been sent on leave, while CBI Director Alok Verma was relieved of his post and Deputy SP Devender Kumar has been suspended and sent to a seven-day CBI custody, M Nageshwar Rao appointed as the Interim CBI Director.
  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recently asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, to explain the exigency that prompted it to take an “overnight” decision to divest Alok Verma of his powers as CBI Director.
  • At one point, the CJI asked senior advocate Fali Nariman whether the Supreme Court, if the necessity arose, had the power to appoint an interim CBI Director.
  • Nariman, who has been appearing for Mr. Verma, considered the question for a moment before replying that the court could, indeed, do so in exercise of its “inherent powers” as the final interpreter of the Constitution.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • The CBI was established as the Special Police Establishment in 1941, to enquire into cases of corruption in the procurement during the Second World War.
  • The Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption recommends the establishment of CBI. The CBI was then established by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry of Personnel eventually took over the responsibility of CBI and now it plays the role of an attached office.
  • The CBI is the premier investigating agency of the Central Government. It is not a statutory body; it derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • The important role of CBI is prevention of corruption and maintaining integrity in administration. It works under the overall supervision of Central Vigilance Commission in matters related to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • The CVC act provides for a security of two year tenure in office for CBI Director. The CVC Act also provides the mechanism for the selection of the Director of CBI and other officers of the rank of SP and above in the CBI.
  • Central government appoints The CBI director based on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Central Vigilance Commissioner as Chairperson, the Vigilance Commissioners, the Secretary to the Government of India in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Secretary (Coordination and Public Grievances) in the Cabinet Secretariat.
  • Section 4B(2) of the DSPE Act lays down guidelines for removal of CBI Director, which mandates that the CBI Director cannot be “transferred” without the previous consent of a high-power committee chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • All the major crimes in the country having National and International ramifications will be investigated by CBI. It is also involved in collection of criminal intelligence pertaining to three of its main areas of operation, viz., Special Crimes, Economic Crimes and Anti-Corruption.

2. Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Bill amidst Congress walkout

Context

  • The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, that seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha, said the six communities — Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — faced “discrimination and religious persecution” and they “have no place to go, except India.”

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

  • The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction.
  • However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who also face persecution in Pakistan.
  • The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.
  • According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents. Or, a person who stays beyond the visa permit.

3. 10% quota for the poor gets LS approval

Context

  • The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a Bill allowing 10% quota in employment and education for the general category candidates who belong to the economically weaker sections.
  • The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, introduced by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, was cleared with a majority of the members (319) voting for it, and four against. The Rajya Sabha will take it up on Wednesday.
  • The 10% reservation will be over and above the 50% stipulated by the Supreme Court and is expected to benefit a huge section of upper castes, including Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas and Bhumihars and trading castes such as Kapus and Kammas.
  • The economically deprived among the poor in the other religions will also benefit.

Who will the new 10% quota apply to?

  • To all those who are not covered in existing quotas and have a family income below ₹8 lakh a year or agricultural land below 5 acres
  • Those who have a house above 1,000 square feet or a 100-yard plot or above in a notified municipal area or a 200-yard plot or above in a non-notified municipal area are not eligible.

What steps are necessary for its implementation?

  • The 124th Constitution Amendment Bill, 2019, which the Lok Sabha passed on Tuesday, will have to be passed by the Rajya Sabha by a special majority of two-thirds of the members present and voting, which should not be less than one-half of the total strength of the House.
  • If it is not passed by both the Houses within the term of this Lok Sabha, it will lapse. The Bill will also have to be ratified by at least half the State Assemblies.
  • Once the Constitution is amended to add economic backwardness as a ground for reservations, it will most likely have to stand the test of judicial scrutiny, as the Supreme Court had in the Indra Sawhney case capped quotas at 50% of the available seats.

What are the future implications, should the Bill stand judicial scrutiny?

  • If the Supreme Court indeed agrees to lift the 50% cap, all States of India can extend the quantum of reservation and “upper castes” will stand to lose in State services.
  • If the Supreme Court rejects the idea of breaching the 50% cap, Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quotas can be provided only by eating into the SC, ST and OBC quota pie, which will have social and political implications.

4. Mixed response to ST status to 6 Assam groups

Context

  • Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday welcomed the Union Cabinet’s nod for granting Scheduled Tribe status to six communities listed as Other Backward Classes in Assam.
  • These six communities – Chutia, Motok, Moran, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom and Tea Tribes/Adivasis -– have been agitating for a long time demanding ST status.
  • Soon after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that a draft Bill, adopted by the Union Cabinet, would be tabled in Parliament, Mr. Sonowal said granting ST status would go a long way in protecting land and political rights of the indigenous people of Assam.

Who are the Scheduled Tribes?

  • A tribe is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect. A tribe possesses certain qualities and characteristics that make it a unique cultural, social, and political entity.
  • The nature of what constitutes an Indian tribe and the very nature of tribes have changed considerably over the course of centuries. Constitution of India has recognized tribal communities in India under ‘Schedule 5’ of the constitution. Hence the tribes recognized by the Constitution are known as ‘ Scheduled Tribes’.
  • The Constitution ensures certain protection and benefits for communities deemed as having Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
  • Social and political mobilisation has led to the increase of number of STs 225 in 1960 to 700 today.
  • As the number of communities demanding ST status expands, it brings the criteria of the recognition and the legitimacy of the process under scrutiny. The Constitution only states that STs are specified by the President after consultation with the Governor. It does not define or specify a particular criterion.

According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the criterion includes

  • Indication of primitive traits
  • Distinctive culture
  • Geographical isolation
  • Shyness of connect with the community at large &
  • Backwardness

5. SC refuses to stay NGT order on Sterlite plant

Context

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the decision of the National Green Tribunal to process the reopening of the Sterlite copper plant at Thoothukudi, which was ordered to be closed down due to environmental pollution.
  • The SC Bench also stayed an order passed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court that the status quo “as on today” should be maintained till January 21 in respect of reopening of the plant. Vedanta, which runs the plant, had moved the top court against the Madurai Bench’s decision.

Sterlite Copper

  • Sterlite Copper is a copper smelting unit and is a subsidiary of the London-based Vedanta Group. Sterlite produces non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminium and zinc, along with chemicals such as sulphuric acid and phosporic acid.
  • The plant in Thoothukudi is one of two copper plants in the country, the other one being in Silvassa, Daman & Diu.
  • The copper unit in Tuticorin has the capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes of copper cathode a year.
  • The company plans to double its production, increasing it up to 800,000 tonnes of copper cathode per year.

Why are the residents protesting against the copper production unit?

  • Residents have been protesting for the immediate closure of the unit since February of last year. They allege that the pollution generated by the unit has contaminated the water bodies in the region, claiming that they are facing severe health problems.
  • Environmental activists have also expressed concern since copper smelting leads to various kinds of pollution and they must be located far away from the residential areas.

Sterlite Copper’s response to the protest

  • Responding to the allegations against it, the company said that the plant has received necessary permits and has not violated any norms.
  • The company had offered to open its gates for people to see for themselves than believe rumours and half-truths.
  • However, the offer was turned down by activists insisting that it was not what happened inside the factory, but the environmental damage caused by it.

C. GS3 Related

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Lok Sabha passes DNA technology Bill

Context

  • The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill that allows regulated use of DNA technology to establish the identity of certain defined categories of persons, including offenders, suspects, and undertrials.

Background

  • Forensic DNA profiling is of proven value in solving cases involving offences that are categorized as affecting the human body (such as murder, rape, human trafficking, or grievous hurt), and those against property (including theft, burglary, and dacoity).
  • The aggregate incidence of such crimes in the country, as per the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, is in excess of 3 lakhs per year.
  • Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present. It is expected that the expanded use of this technology in these categories of cases would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).

Salient features of the bill

  • DNA regulation board – The board will certify labs authorized to carry out DNA testing and lay down procedure and guidelines for collection, storage, sharing and deletion of DNA information. The Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology has been made the ex-officio chairman of the proposed DNA Regulatory Board.
  • National DNA Data Bank: A National DNA Databank and certain regional DNA Databanks will store DNA profiles received from DNA labs in a specified format.
  • Limited purpose of identification: The Bill states that DNA data contained in any DNA labs and Databank “shall be used for the purpose of facilitating identification of the person and not for any other purpose”. It will only be made available to facilitate the identification of persons in criminal cases.
  • Safeguard against misuse: The Bill states that disclosure of DNA information to unauthorized persons, or for unauthorized purposes, shall lead to penalties upto three years in jail or up to Rs 1 lakh as fine.
  • The proposed legislation will enable cross-matching of DNA of persons reported missing and unidentified dead bodies and also for establishing the identity of victims during mass disasters.
  • It seeks to ensure that DNA test results are reliable and the data is protected from misuse or abuse in terms of people’s privacy rights.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Quota questions (10% quota for economically weaker sections)

Context

  • The Lok Sabha passed a landmark bill providing 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to “economically weaker” sections in the General category.

Current Status

  • A nine-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had in the Indira Sawhney case capped the reservation at 50%.
    • It had struck down a provision that earmarked 10% for the economically backward on the ground that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis to determine backwardness.
  • The Constitution provides only for reservation based on social and educational backwardness, such additional quota would need legislative action, including Constitutional amendments.
  • Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution will have to be amended for implementation of the decision

124th Constitution Amendment Bill

  • It will provide 10% reservation to economically backward sections in the general category
  • The Bill will also cover those from the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and other minority communities.
  • The quota will be over and above the existing 50% reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
  • Those who have an annual salary of less than Rs. 8 lakh per year and possess less than 5 acres of land will be able to avail reservation in educational institutions and jobs.
  • The quota will be available to only those economically backward poor people not availing the benefit of reservation as of now, who have a residential house below 1,000 square feet, a residential plot below 100 square yards in a notified municipality, residential plot below 200 square yards in non-notified municipality area.

Concerns

  • If the Supreme Court indeed agrees to lift the 50% cap, all States of India can extend the quantum of reservation and “upper castes” will stand to lose in State services and merit will be the casualty.
  • If the Supreme Court rejects the idea of breaching the 50% cap, Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quotas can be provided only by eating into the SC, ST and OBC quota pie, which will have social and political implications.

It violates Equality Principle

  • There have been issues where the quotas were increased by State governments exceeding the 50% limit thereby offending the equality norm.
  • In Nagaraj (2006), a Constitution Bench ruled that equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • It said the 50% ceiling, among other things, was a constitutional requirement without which the structure of equality of opportunity would collapse. There has been a string of judgments against reservations that breach the 50% limit.

Lack of data on representation

  • Another question is whether reservations can go to a section that is already adequately represented in public employment.
  • It is not clear if the government has quantifiable data to show that people from lower income groups are under-represented in its service.
  • Reservations have been traditionally provided to undo historical injustice and social exclusion suffered over a period of time, and the question is whether they should be extended to those with social and educational capital solely on the basis of what they earn.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Finally, it is important to note that if the EWS is treated as a category just like the SC, ST and OBC, a large chunk of general category candidates will apply for just 10% seats and the cut-offs can rise.

  • While ideally the non-reserved 40% open seats should be open seats based on merit, there are complexities here too.

  • For example, the UPSC accepts a reserved candidate in the civil services examination making it in the general merit list as general only if she has not benefited from reservation in the preliminary, mains, service choice (if one gets a better service, say IAS or IPS, due to reservation, one is counted as reserved irrespective of one’s overall rank) and State cadre choice (if a reserved candidate is in the general merit list but is getting a cadre of her choice as a reserved candidate, she is counted as reserved), say bureaucrats. So, many who are above the general cut-off may still occupy this 10% quota, as they get a better service or cadre in it.

  • Currently, it remains to be seen whether this initiative from the Government would stand the test of judicial scrutiny- the courts would now need to check whether it is violative of Article 15 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution.

2. A renewed attack on privacy (The Aadhaar Bill- Right to Privacy Debate)

  • On 4th January, 2019, the Lok Sabha, without any attendant discussion, passed the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

  • Some critics point out that on any reasonable reading it should be apparent that the Bill flagrantly flouts both the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s judgment which gave the Aadhaar programme a conditional approval.

  • Critics further allege that the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 has been proposed despite the government’s abject failure to enact comprehensive legislation protecting our data and our privacy.

  • They further point out that unless the Rajya Sabha places a constraint on the government’s impudence, the consequences will prove devastating.

The Period between September 2018 and the Present:

  • Experts opine that there is no doubt that the Supreme Court’s judgment, delivered in September 2018, enjoined Parliament to make certain specific legislative changes.

  • To that end, experts suggest that some of the court’s concerns are addressed by the Bill, such as the inclusion of a clause intended at ensuring that children are not denied benefits on account of a failure to possess Aadhaar.

  • However, it is important to note that this policy places an onus on the ministry introducing a law to publish the draft of any proposed legislation, together with, among other things, the objectives behind the law and an estimated assessment of the impact that such legislation may have on fundamental rights, and to thereafter invite comments from the public.

  • Critics allege that the Bill, which makes amendments not only to the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, but also to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), was introduced without any prior consultation, leading to a credible belief that the proposed changes are an act of subterfuge (deceit).

  • It is important to note that originally, Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act allowed both the state and private entities to use the programme to establish an individual’s identity pursuant to a law or a contract.

  • As a matter of fact, it was on this basis that various notifications were issued allowing corporations of different kinds, including telecom operators, e-commerce firms and banks, to use Aadhaar. However, when the Supreme Court ruled on the validity of the legislation, although it upheld vast portions of the law through a 4:1 majority, it unanimously struck down Section 57 insofar as it applied to private entities.

A Case for Commercial exploitation

  • Justice A.K. Sikri, in his judgment for the majority, wrote: “Even if we presume that legislature did not intend so, the impact of the aforesaid features would be to enable commercial exploitation of an individual biometric and demographic information by the private entities. Thus, this part of the provision which enables body corporate and individuals also to seek authentication, that too on the basis of a contract between the individual and such body corporate or person, would impinge upon the right to privacy of such individuals. This part of the section, thus, is declared unconstitutional.”

  • Experts believe that although this leaves little room for doubt, the government, for its part, may well defend the Bill by arguing that the majority’s judgment nonetheless permits the enactment of a new law allowing the use of Aadhaar by private entities so long as a person voluntarily consents to such authentication.

A Closer Look:

    • In its aid, experts have pointed out that the government will likely point to paragraph 367 of Justice Sikri’s opinion. “The respondents may be right in their explanation that it is only an enabling provision which entitles Aadhaar number holder to take the help of Aadhaar for the purpose of establishing his/her identity,” he wrote. “If such a person [voluntarily] wants to offer Aadhaar card as a proof of his/her identity, there may not be a problem.”

    • However, this passage scarcely expresses an opinion on private entities. To the contrary, it merely reaffirms the position that even for the state to utilise Aadhaar, in cases not involving the drawing of subsidies, benefits or services from the Consolidated Fund of India, the authentication must be voluntary and backed by separate legislation.

    • Further, experts have pointed out that while there are indeed portions of the majority’s ruling that are vague and indeterminate, on Section 57 the opinion is unequivocal.

  • In as much as the provision allows private companies the authority to authenticate identity through Aadhaar, even by securing an individual’s informed consent, the clause, Justice Sikri held, disproportionately contravened the right to privacy.

    • Since the Supreme Court has found that the operation of Aadhaar by private entities violates fundamental rights, there is today no avenue available for fresh legislative intervention, unless the government chooses to amend the Constitution.

    • In any event, the proposed legislative amendments virtually seek to impose Aadhaar as a prerequisite for the availing of certain basic services.

  • For example, the amendments proposed to the Telegraph Act and the PMLA state that service providers — telecom companies and banks, respectively, — ought to identify their customers by one of four means: authentication under the Aadhaar Act; offline verification under the Aadhaar Act; use of passport; or the use of any other officially valid document that the government may notify.

Issue of fraud:

    • Therefore, experts point out that if the government fails to notify any new form of identification, a person’s identity will necessarily have to be authenticated through Aadhaar or through her passport.

    • Given that only a peripheral portion of India’s population possess passports, Aadhaar is effectively made compulsory. Allowing private corporations to access and commercially exploit the Aadhaar architecture, as we have already seen, comes with disastrous consequences — the evidence of reports of fraud emanating out of seeding Aadhaar with different services is ever-growing.

  • Hence, the amendments not only fly in the face of the Supreme Court’s verdict but are also wholly remiss in attending to the dangers both of slapdash data protection and of corruption and scamming.

  • Lastly it is important to note that this move, to restore the use of Aadhaar by telecom companies and banks, however, is not the Bill’s only problem. There is a hatful of other concerns, including:
  1. the re-introduction of a marginally refurbished Section 33(2).
  2. In its original form, the clause had allowed an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India to direct disclosure of Aadhaar information in the “interest of national security”. The Supreme Court declared the clause unconstitutional and ruled that while disclosure in the interest of national security may be important, such disclosure should spring out of a request of a “higher ranking officer”.
  3. What is more, in order to avoid any misuse of the provision, requests of this kind, the court held, ought to require separate scrutiny, and, therefore, “a Judicial Officer (preferably a sitting High Court judge) should also be associated with” the process. However, the Bill, merely seeks to substitute the words “Joint Secretary” with “Secretary” in Section 33(2), completely disregarding the Supreme Court’s order demanding inquiry by a judge.

Concluding Remarks:

  • In conclusion, the Bill seeks to pave the path for the Aadhaar to permeate through every conceivable sphere of human activity, transferring all authority over our bodies, in the process, from the citizen to the state, and, in many cases, from the citizen to private corporations.
  • Experts suggest that the Rajya Sabha, therefore, should resist any developing sense of ennui around the programme, and reject this Bill, for the utter contempt of democracy that it represents.

F. Tidbits

1. SC sets aside Delhi HC ruling against Monsanto

Context

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a Delhi High Court Division Bench decision that held that U.S. agro major Monsanto did not have patent for its genetically modified BT cotton seed variants and had allowed it to claim registration under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001.
  • The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and Navin Sinha held that the High Court’s Division Bench had no business to go into the merits of the patent rights and should have just confined itself to the validity of an injunction granted earlier by a Single Judge of the High Court in March 2017.
  • The judgment, authored by Justice Sinha, restored the decision of the Single Judge. It remanded the case back to the Single Judge for disposal of the patent suit between Monsanto and Indian end-users like Nuziveedu.
  • Monsanto had sought a restraint on these Indian companies from selling, using seeds/hybrid seeds bearing its patented technology.

Background

  • The issue dates back to 2004 when Monsanto entered into a sub-licence agreement with companies like Nuziveedu for an initial period of 10 years.
  • The agreement had entitled the Indian firms to genetically modified hybrid cotton planting seeds with help of Monsanto’s technology and to commercially exploit it within the limits of the agreement on the payment of a licence fee.
  • However, the agreement was terminated in November 2015, giving rise to the patent suit. The Single Judge, in March 2017, in an interim relief, restored the agreement and ordered the parties (Monsanto and companies like Nuziveedu) to adhere to their obligations under it.
  • Now, the Supreme Court has restored this Single Judge decision.

G. Prelims Fact

1. NASA’s probe discovers a new planet

Context

  • NASA’s latest planet-hunting probe has discovered a new world outside our solar system, orbiting a dwarf star 53 light years away.
  • This is the third new planet confirmed by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) since its launch in April last year.
  • The planet, named HD 21749b, orbits a bright, nearby dwarf star about 53 light years away, in the constellation Reticulum, and appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by TESS.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is the step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, including those that could support life.
  • The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits. TESS will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets.
  • TESS scientists expect the mission will catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets.
  • Of these, approximately 300 are expected to be Earth-sized and super-Earth-sized exoplanets, which are worlds no larger than twice the size of Earth. TESS will find the most promising exoplanets orbiting our nearest and brightest stars, giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements:
  1. The powers, salaries, allowances of Chief Election Commissions and other Election Commissioners are equal.
  2. The term of the Chief Election Commissioner is 6 years or of the age of 70 years (whichever is earlier).

Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 2. Sills, dykes and lopoliths is typical characteristics of
  1. Extrusive volcanic landforms
  2. Intrusive volcanic landforms
  3. Landforms due to glaciation
  4. Faulting

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Answer
Question 3. Atmospheric Brown Cloud is: 
  1. A cloud made up of ‘black carbon’ containing soot and smog.
  2. Name of Cloud services provided by Amazon Web Services
  3. Upcoming Project of ISRO to launch a weather satellite
  4. Recent Mission of UNEP to combat forest fires.

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Industries and services are concentrated in high density economically developed area and engines of growth have failed to spread to less dense secondary cities. Discuss the statement in the context of India. (10 Marks; 150 words)
  2. Recently Vijay Mallya has become the first person to be declared a fugitive economic offender. In this context, explain the provisions of fugitive economic offenders act, 2018 and critically examine its impact? (12.5 Marks; 200 words)

See previous CNA