29 May 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. Sterlite Copper told to shut shop in T.N.
2. National parties under RTI Act, EC clarifies
3. VVPAT glitches pose a new headache for poll panel
4. States yet to decide on national anthem query
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. No sanctions on Iran: Sushma
2. Maritime dialogue resumes
3. Indian envoy summoned over ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ issue
C. GS3 Related
ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
1. EU proposes ban on straws, other single-use plastics
2. Bawa is first Indian to receive Linnean Medal
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
ECONOMY
1. The Jan-Dhan Yojana, four years later
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. The cost of deterrence
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Looking for a new clarity
F. Prelims Fact
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Sterlite Copper told to shut shop in T.N.

 

  • Sterlite Copper, the Vedanta Group’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, was sealed on Monday evening, shortly after the Tamil Nadu Environment and Forests Department issued a two-page Government Order for its “permanent” closure.
  • The decision to close down the factory that directly employed around 3,500 workers, including 2,500 on contract (since put on notice), comes against the backdrop of the killing of 13 persons in police firing at an anti-Sterlite rally a week ago.
  • Under Sections 18(1)(b) of the Water Act 1974, in the larger public interest, the government endorsed the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and also directed the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.
  • The Vedanta group said that they have contributed to the socio-economic development of the region for the past 22 years and have been responsible for both direct and indirect employment generation.

Legal experts divided

  • Legal experts are divided in their opinions over the decision of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to cut the electricity and shut down the Sterlite plant at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu.
  • However, former Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran said the Board flexed its wide powers under Section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of, 1974 and Section 31A of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 only after complying with the due process requirements.
  • He compared this use of executive power to the closure of over 900 tanneries, a place where the skins are processed, in Tamil Nadu.
  • The government order was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1996 in the Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum verdict, which said though industry is of vital importance to the country as it generates foreign exchange and provides employment avenues, it has no right to destroy the ecology, degrade the environment and pose as a health hazard.
  • If the Tamil Nadu Board’s closure order is challenged in court, the test would be whether the principles of natural justice were observed by the Board before the exercise of such power.
  • Justice Muralidhar, in the Splendor Landbase verdict, interprets the correct procedure for use of Section 31A and 33A to shut down an industry.
  • For one, no corrective steps can be taken by a Pollution Control Board under Section 31A and 33A without issuing a show cause notice and without giving an opportunity to the alleged violator to rectify the defects detected during an inspection of the premises carried out in accordance with the relevant rules.
  • Supreme Court has categorically held in its Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action case judgment that a Pollution Control Board can order closure of any industry or stop basic facilities to it only if such a direction is necessary for effective implementation of the provisions of the Water or Air Act.

2. National parties under RTI Act, EC clarifies

 

  • The Election Commission said national parties are public authorities under the RTI Act as declared by the Central Information Commission, a day after the poll panel’s appeal order on an RTI application saying political parties are out of the purview of RTI Act was reported.
  • The Election Commission of India clarified that it goes by the CIC order of June 3, 2013 that declared national parties as public authorities for the purposes of RTI Act.
  • The CIC order had said that all the information about the contributions received by these parties as well as their annual audited accounts, as and when submitted to the Commission, are put in public domain.

Background

  • The appeal order had come on an RTI applicant Vihar Dhurve who had sought details of donations, through electoral bonds, collected by the six national parties declared as public authorities under the RTI Act by the CIC — Congress, BJP, NCP, BSP, CPM and CPI.
  • In its order deciding his first appeal, the Election Commission had said, “Requisite information is not available in the Commission. This is related to political parties and they are out of purview of the RTI.”
  • The political parties were brought within the ambit of the RTI Act by the commission on June 3, 2013.

3. VVPAT glitches pose a new headache for poll panel

 

  • Yesterday, there were reports of malfunctioning of EVMs in many booths, especially in Kairana and Bhandra-Gondiya.
  • The Election Commission responded to the reports saying that the claims of large-scale malfunctioning were exaggerated.
  • But the Chief Election Officer, Uttar Pradesh also admitted in a statement that the commission received complaints of malfunctioning of VVPAT machines from 384 polling stations in Kairana following which replacement machines were used.
  • The VVPAT replacement rate, due to glitches in the machines that were deployed, was as high as 20.82% (way above the 5% limit seen as acceptable by the EC) in Kairana, 19.22% in Bhandara-Gondia and 13.16% in Palghar.
  • The high rate of VVPAT malfunctioning contrasted with the relatively low failures in control and ballot units — only Bhandara-Gondia recorded more than a 1% failure rate among the PCs which polled.
  • The failures were attributed to the fact that VVPATs were being used for the first time by polling staff (unlike the EVM itself), and the fact that these electronic devices were sensitive to extreme heat, placement under direct light and possible mishandling.
  • Similar reasons were attributed to the substantive number of VVPAT failures that were reported in other Assembly elections held recently. In the Karnataka Assembly elections, 1,702 VVPAT machines developed glitches during polling and others during testing, overall close to 4.2% of all machines.

What is VVPAT?

  • The VVPAT, or Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, is an EVM-connected verification printer device. It allows voters to verify if their vote has indeed gone to the intended candidate by leaving a paper trail of the vote cast.
  • It is an adjunct machine connected to the ballot and control units of the EVM. After the voter casts his or her mandate by pressing a button in the EVM, the VVPAT connected to it prints a slip containing the poll symbol and the name of the candidate.
  • Slips from a randomly selected polling booth from each constituency are then matched with the EVM tallies during counting to check for the accuracy of the process.
  • The VVPATs were added to bring in accountability to the voting process, with many parties questioning whether the EVMs were indeed malpractice or rigging-proof.
  • EVMs, in use since 1998 in India, have been gradually upgraded with security features and the ECI has suggested that it has robust procedural and technical safeguards to prevent EVM-tampering and electoral malpractices such as rigging.
  • The VVPATs were introduced in the past year and were universally used in the Assembly elections in Goa in February 2017.
  • But the addition of the VVPAT has also increased the complexity of the otherwise simple single programmable chip-based device, rendering it more prone to glitches.
  • The Technical Experts Committee of the ECI is tasked with finding remedial solutions in such situations.

Watch BYJU’S video on Electronic Voting Machine

4. States yet to decide on national anthem query

None of the States, including the 21 ruled by the BJP and its allies, has responded to the Centre’s letter seeking their opinion on playing of the national anthem in cinema halls and public places.

  • The Union Home Ministry had written to the States seeking their opinion on the issue. It sent a reminder to all the States again this month.
  • On December 5 last year, the Home Ministry notified the appointment of a 12-member inter-ministerial committee which would take a final call on the playing of the national anthem in cinemas and public places.
  • The panel, led by Special Secretary B.R. Sharma, is expected to give its report on the existing laws.

B.R. Sharma Committee

  • The committee would make recommendations on the regulations for playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the Acts and orders relating to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
  • The committee will have representations from the Ministries of Home Affairs, Defence, External Affairs, Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Culture, Parliamentary Affairs, Law, Minority Affairs and Information and Broadcasting, and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

Background

  • The Central government’s decision to set up the expert committee came after the Supreme Court in October last year observed that people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves” and it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she was “less patriotic.”

Rule book

  • The committee is expected to give recommendations regarding regulations on playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the acts and orders relating to the Insult of National Honour Act, 1971.
  • An earlier advisory of the Home Ministry said that audiences were not expected to stand if the national anthem was played as part of the film.

Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971

  • As provided in Section 3 of the Act, whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  • This act is applicable in whole of India (including Jammu & Kashmir) and it prohibits the desecration of or insult to the National Flag, Constitution, National Anthem, India’s Map etc.

Laws

  • Article 51A of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of every Citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flags and the National Anthem
  • The law is silent on ‘sitting’ or ‘standing’ while the Anthem is playing.
  • Kerala slapped IPC Section 124A (sedition) on seven people, including two women, after they failed to stand when the National Anthem was being played in a Thiruvananthapuram theatre.

Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala

  • The 1986 Supreme Court judgment in Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala dealing with the expulsion of three children who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect, for refusing to sing the national anthem in school, said this was contrary to fundamental rights of free speech and freedom to practise their religion.
  • Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing.

Shyam Narayan Chouksey case (National Anthem Order)

  • In Shyam Narayan Chouksey case (National Anthem Order), the Supreme Court directed all cinema halls to play national anthem at the start of movies.

Why such move?

  • According to the court, the practice would “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.” Also, the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem and flag is rooted in “our national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism.”
  • The court observed that it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951.

Read more on the National Anthem – Code of Conduct

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. No sanctions on Iran: Sushma

 

  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that India will not accept sanctions imposed, or to be imposed, by the United States on Iran.
  • The remark was a categorical rejection of U.S. decision to withdraw from the six-nation Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement and its plans to impose massive new sanctions on Iranian entities.

Not under pressure

  • Swaraj said that our foreign policy is not made under pressure from other countries and that we recognise UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn’t follow U.S. sanctions on previous occasions either.

Indo-Iran relations

  • Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier, and India has many areas of strategic engagement with Iran, including management of the Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar, co-development of the International North-South Transport Corridor to Russia, as well as bilateral trade of about $13 billion of which about $5 billion was in non-oil trade in 2016-17.
  • Swaraj’s comments and the visit by Mr. Zarif to Delhi indicate that the government intends to continue its engagement with Iran despite U.S. sanctions.
  • However, Ms. Swaraj did not explain how India would hope to get around banking and insurance restrictions that may come about as the U.S. increases pressure on European banks which the India-Iran trade depends on.

Watch BYJU’S video on India-Iran Relations

2. Maritime dialogue resumes

 

  • In a sign of the efforts to improve India-Pakistan relations in recent months, the heads of maritime security agencies of both sides met after a gap of two years and agreed to work on improving exchange of information regarding fishermen detained by each other.
  • The Indian side reiterated the need for instituting Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for immediate release and repatriation of fishermen who cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) inadvertently as the issue needs to be approached in humanitarian context.
  • Further, both sides also agreed on the need for expeditious exchange of the information about the apprehension of fishing boats and fishermen.

Maritime boundary

  • A maritime boundaryis a conceptual division of the Earth’s water surface areas using physiographic or geopolitical criteria. As such, it usually bounds areas of exclusive national rights over mineral and biological resources, encompassing maritime features, limits and zones. Generally, a maritime boundary is delineated at a particular distance from a jurisdiction’s coastline.

3. Indian envoy summoned over ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ issue

 

  • Pakistan on Monday summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh and issued a diplomatic demarche over India’s remarks on Gilgit-Baltistan.

Background

  • The Cabinet on May 21 approved ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018’ which was also endorsed by the assembly for the region. The order is being seen as part of Pakistan’s efforts towards incorporating the disputed region as its fifth Province.

India’s protest

  • India summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah in New Delhi and lodged a strong protest over Islamabad’s latest move.
  • Singh was summoned to register Pakistan’s categorical rejection of the Indian statement on the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 and its claim over Kashmir.

Gilgit-Baltistan

  • Pakistan has bifurcated the part of Kashmir under its occupation into two parts — Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Gilgit-Baltistan was treated as a separate geographical entity till now.
  • It is believed that China’s concerns about the unsettled status — as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through the region — prompted Pakistan to change its status.

Watch BYJU’S video on Gilgit-Baltistan Issue

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

1. EU proposes ban on straws, other single-use plastics

 

  • The European Union proposed a bloc-wide ban on single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds while urging the collection of most plastic drinks bottles by 2025.
  • The set of proposals are part of a growing EU drive to rid the environment of plastic waste which has begun showing up in the food chain.

No deadline set

  • These proposals will reduce single-use plastics through a range of measures. The proposals call for banning plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks, but it did not set a deadline.
  • These items must all be made from sustainable materials instead, according to the plan which must be approved by the 28 EU member countries and the European Parliament.
  • Member states must reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups, by promoting alternatives for sale or ensuring they are not offered free.
  • Producers must contribute to the costs of waste management and will be offered incentives to develop less polluting alternatives. For example, it calls for producers of plastic fishing gear to cover the cost of waste collection from port reception facilities.

Sustainable alternatives

  • Member countries must collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, through deposit refund schemes, for example. The plan calls for producers to clearly label products and inform consumers how the waste should be disposed of.
  • The proposals, plus one in January for all plastic packaging in Europe to be recyclable by 2030, follows China’s decision to ban imports of foreign waste products for recycling.

2. Bawa is first Indian to receive Linnean Medal

 

  • Indian botanist Kamaljit S. Bawa, president of Bengaluru-based non-profit Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), received the prestigious Linnean Medal in Botany from the Linnean Society of London.
  • Bawa is the first Indian to win the award ever since it was first constituted in 1888.
  • The scientist is being recognised for his pioneering research on the evolution of tropical plants, tropical deforestation, non-timber forest products and for decades of work on the biodiversity of forests in Central America, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalaya.

Noted contributions

  • Bawa’s efforts in establishing the open-access interdisciplinary journal Conservation and Society (which publishes peer-reviewed research exploring linkages between society, environment and development) in 2003, the online citizen-science repository ‘India Biodiversity Portal’ and ATREE (ranked second in Asia and 18th globally among the world’s environment think tanks, which generates interdisciplinary knowledge to inform policy and practice to achieve environmental conservation and sustainable development) were also cited.

The Linnean Medal

  • The Linnean Medal is awarded to a biologist every year by the Linnean Society of London (the world’s oldest active biological society founded in 1788 and named after famous Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus who gave us one of the systems of naming plants and animals).
  • According to the society’s website, it is awarded as an expression of the society’s esteem and appreciation for service to science.
  • Incidentally, the first scientist to receive the Linnean Medal was Sir Joseph D. Hooker who compiled the monumental seven-volume Flora of British India, the first ever comprehensive account of India’s plants.
  • Other recipients include Alfred Wallace (popularly known as the ‘father of biogeography’) in 1892 and Ernst Mayr — famous evolutionary biologist who proposed the ‘biological species concept’, which is the most widely-accepted definition of a species — in 1977.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: ECONOMY

1. The Jan-Dhan Yojana, four years later

PMJDY Flagship Scheme

  • Indebtedness shows no signs of abating as a result of the government’s flagship scheme
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), one of the flagship schemes of the present government, was launched in August 2014.
  • The ‘J’ in JDY is the ‘J’ in ‘JAM’ (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) through which the Economic Survey of 2015 claimed that “every tear from every eye” could be wiped.

Critical evaluation of PMJDY

  • As the Narendra Modi government enters its fifth year, evaluation of the scheme is in order, especially since this is one of the schemes through which the government is trying to battle its anti-poor image.
  • The recently released World Bank Global Findex data show that 80% of Indian adults now have a bank account, which is being celebrated as the success of the JDY.
  • While the increase in the proportion of adults having bank accounts is indeed impressive (80% in 2017 from 53% in 2014), 48% of those who have an account in a financial institution made no withdrawal or deposit in the past one year.
  • Financial inclusion is not just about opening bank accounts, but also about using these accounts and providing access to formal credit.

Limitations

  • In fact, the major limitation of the JDY has been that while it has managed to get many people to open bank accounts, there is no commensurate increase in the use of these accounts, availability of formal credit, or savings in financial institutions, especially among the country’s marginalised and poorer sections.

Access to formal credit

  • One of the ways in which access to credit can be assessed is the credit-deposit ratio, which tells us how much credit can be availed per Rs.100 of bank deposits by a particular population group.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) categorises the population into rural, semi-urban, urban, and metropolitan.
  • We look at the first two regions specifically where one would expect the poorer beneficiaries to be present in larger numbers.
  • Figure 1 shows that the credit-deposit ratio for the rural population increased from 41% in 1999 to 66.9% in 2016.
  • However, much of the rise took place before the JDY was launched, particularly during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance-1 government, when the credit-deposit ratio increased from 43.6% in 2004 to 57.1% in 2009.
  • Since 2014, it has more or less stagnated in rural areas and has deteriorated slightly from 58.2% in 2014 to 57.7% in 2016 for semi-urban populations.
  • Therefore, there is no sign, at least on this count, of increased access to formal credit that the PMJDY is supposed to have ensured for its beneficiaries.

Credit for Small borrowers

  • To get a more accurate picture of access to credit for poorer populations, we look at the data by credit size.
  • The RBI provides figures for credit at a disaggregated level in terms of small versus large borrowers. Small borrowers are defined as those with outstanding loans under Rs.2 lakh.

Falling credit for small borrowers

  • The share of small borrowers in total credit has also been falling in this government.
  • In fact, it has been falling since 2002. While the decline in the share during the 2004-14 period can be explained by the dramatic rise in corporate credit of large borrowers, there is no reversal in this trend even after the rate of growth of credit fell in general in more recent times as a result of rising non-performing assets and the debt overhang of public sector banks.
  • Even in 2016, the best year under Mr. Modi on this count, it merely matches the lowest rates of growth witnessed during the crisis period of 2009-10.
  • Based on these trends, it can be argued that there seems to be no increase in access to credit for the poor whether as a result of the JDY or otherwise.
  • At best, the status quo has been maintained.
  • To further probe access to credit for small borrowers, we look at these loans in two categories — agricultural credit and personal loanswhich are more likely to be the ones which JDY beneficiaries will be using as against industrial or other loans.
  • The data show that while the share of small agricultural credit has stagnated during this regime, that of the small personal loans, which covers home, vehicle, durable goods and so on, has fallen.

Dealing with money lenders

  • Poor households in India, in the absence of access to formal credit, have to deal with moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest.
  • A recent source that is available in this regard is the Household Survey on India’s Citizen Environment and Consumer Economy, 2016, which shows that while for the top 1% of the population, one in six are exposed to informal credit, within the poorest section of the population, the figure is four times as high, with two in three taking credit from informal sources.
  • Access to bank accounts seems to have had little effect on their dependence on private money lenders.
  • About the issue of money lenders, a study by the RBI in 2017 states: “We document high levels of unsecured debt, and perhaps more importantly, debt taken from non-institutional sources such as moneylenders.
  • Such debt generates high costs for Indian households, and is likely to lead to households becoming trapped in a long cycle of interest repayments.
  • We note that this phenomenon has been well-documented over the decades, but nevertheless remains stubbornly persistent.”
  • Therefore, it is not surprising that the report finds that nearly half of the households that take loans from moneylenders are not able to repay them in time, which is a typical condition for a debt trap.

Conclusion

  • The available evidence presented so far does not suggest that the precarious conditions of indebtedness that poor people of this country find themselves in has seen any signs of abating as a result of the JDY.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. The cost of deterrence

Why in news

  • An arms race consumes resources that could have been used in welfare.
  • India marked the 20th anniversary of the nuclear tests at Pokhran, which signalled its de facto status as the sixth nuclear power nation of the world.
  • On May 28, 1998, just a fortnight after India’s tests, Pakistan responded with a similar nuclear test, marking its emergence as a rival nuclear power to India.
  • On the occasion of this anniversary, while the development of South Asian nuclear capability has been analysed through the lens of India’s quest for nuclear power, it is also important to consider how the balance of strategic nuclear power has evolved over the past two decades.

Context

  • First, it is clear that Pakistan’s assertion of nuclear parity and India’s ‘no first use policy’ for its nuclear weapons provided Islamabad with the power of deterrence.
  • ‘Deterrence’ in this context implies one side discouraging the other from undertaking an action by instilling a fear of disproportionate consequences.
  • In the nuclear context, deterrence is a powerful force because of the overwhelmingly destructive nature of these weapons.
  • Pakistan’s nuclear test in response to India was a case of the country deterring India from undertaking any major action, conventional or nuclear, against it, even if the situation demanded it.
  • The December 2001 Parliament attack and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks are two such instances where India’s potential for military action seemed to be have been deterred by Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
  • It is difficult to say what course of action India could have taken on both these occasions had the two neighbours remained non-nuclear power states.
  • Being a responsible state which values the life of its citizens, India couldn’t afford to risk a nuclear strike by Pakistan in the face of Indian escalation, especially as India likely believed Pakistan’s intention of using its nuclear arsenals, including “theatre nukes”.
  • In this context, nuclear weapons programmes reduce the power gap between two unequal conventional weapon states.

Deterrence effect

  • Under multiple game-theoretic scenarios, the deterrence effect of nuclear weapons makes nuclear war less likely.
  • However, there is also the issue of responsible use. Some argue that a less responsible nuclear state is likely to intimidate a more responsible one by threatening to use nuclear weapons against the latter without fearing its own annihilation, in the event of a massive retaliation.
  • To a certain extent, the argument goes, this reflects the value of life imputed by the government of the smaller nuclear power to its people.
  • In building a nuclear arsenal, there is also the issue of cost, which, in the case of emerging countries such as India and Pakistan, is considerable.

Conclusion

  • The past few decades of a nuclear South Asia have not only been a story of nuclear deterrence, but also of proliferation and an arms race that has consumed on a vast scale scarce resources that could arguably have been deployed for non-military, welfare purposes.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Looking for a new clarity

Why in news

  • Protecting constitutional values requires an independent judiciary. For this, three issues need attention
  • The Supreme Court provided us with a useful reminder about its worth to our constitutional democracy.
  • Its intervention in the imbroglio over government formation in Karnataka was flawless. The hearings conducted in the early hours of the morning may have been theatrical, but the court’s ultimate decision certainly helped avert a subversion of the Constitution.
  • Yet, much as its decision here deserves appreciation, we must be careful not to allow any ascription of credit to veil the deeper wounds that afflict it, for a litany of problems continues to strike at the court’s independence.

Three of these are especially salient

  1. The first involves the rejection by the government of the collegium’s recommendation of K.M. Joseph, currently Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, for elevation to the Supreme Court.
  2. The second concerns the need for a systemic mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption in the higher judiciary.
  3. The third area of worry concerns the embroiled state of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, his position as the master of the roster, and the critical question of whether such powers ought to be vested in the hands of one individual.

 Recurring problems

  • At first glance, these issues might strike us as unique to the times that we live in, as examples of crises that will eventually pass.
  • But, on closer examination, it becomes clearer that these are, in fact, recurring problems left unaddressed for decades. In trying to resolve the issues, therefore, we must ask ourselves how we got here.
  • “We have not reached the nadir all of a sudden. The decline was long in process.”
  • India’s Constitution is possibly the longest written constitution in the world, but it too leaves much unsaid.
  • Article 124 It states that judges of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President, after consultation with certain authorities, including the CJI.
  • But it does not tell us how these consultations are to be made, or what criteria ought to be applied in deciding who becomes a judge.

Filling the voids

  • The building of conventions that nonetheless maintain a fidelity to the written word. In 1977, in Union of India v. Sankalchand Sheth, the Supreme Court sought to do precisely this, when it ruled that the word “consultation” can never mean “concurrence”.
  • But yet it held in the same case that the President can depart from the CJI’s opinion, in making a transfer or an appointment, as the case may be, only in exceptional circumstances.
  • And when the government does so, it must, wrote Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, in his concurring opinion, be prepared to establish in court that it possessed “cogent and convincing reasons” for rejecting the CJI’s advice.
  • As a result, in a bid to secure judicial independence, the court, as H.M. Seervai wrote, had read into the Constitution “a requirement which is not there, but which is implicit in the whole object of providing for consultation with the Chief Justice of India.”
  • Unfortunately, though, the court has in a series of cases rendered the verdict in Sheth nugatory.
  • The informed wisdom of Justice Krishna Iyer has been replaced by the undemocratic excesses of the “collegium system”.

Limitations of Collegium System

  • This method grants primacy to the judiciary (specifically to the CJI and his four most senior colleagues) in choosing its own members but allows government the power to reject recommendations on any ground whatsoever, with only one caveat: if the collegium were to re-recommend the same name, the government is obligated to accept the proposition.
  • In all of this, therefore, one thing has become abundantly clear: the collegium system is simply unworkable. Its ills are plain to see.
  • It’s not only opaque and inequitable, containing not a single constitutionally provided check or balance, but it has done nothing to either improve the judiciary’s independence or provide a seamless system of elevating well-qualified persons to the bench.

Way forward

  • Efforts to introduce a judicial appointments commission have already been scuttled, after the court struck down the 99th constitutional amendment.
  • But the trend across liberal, constitutional democracies is towards such a commission.
  • Hence, what we need now is how to reshape the composition of a potential judicial appointments panel, which will preserve, in some regards, the judiciary’s primacy (which the Supreme Court now enjoins us to do), while also divorcing its membership completely from the executive.
  • Simultaneously, as we make an endeavour to be rid of the collegium system, we must also work towards putting in place an independent mechanism to deal with allegations of corruption in the judiciary.
  • The quandary on how to guard the autonomy of the court while ensuring judges remain accountable is age-old.

Issue of the roster

  • Finally, the CJI’s position as the “master of the roster” requires serious rethinking.
  • The Constitution is silent on the administrative role that the CJI performs.
  • The central authority that he now enjoys, in deciding which cases get to be heard by which benches, is essentially a product of custom (since codified into the Supreme Court Rules of 2013).
  • But the framers could not have possibly envisaged the Supreme Court sitting in a multitude of panels of two and three judges.
  • The court’s poly-vocal character has been built over a period of time and has now resulted in the CJI wielding enormous power over what might have been originally thought of as a simple managerial task.

Conclusion

  • Any doctrine that looks to fill the gaps in the Constitution must conform to its basic idea of fairness; seeing the CJI as the master of the roster sans any concomitant accountability simply doesn’t fit with a proper constitutional imagination.
  • Thus, there’s a burning need to define with greater clarity the precise role of the CJI, and to amend the existing framework of rules and regulations on how benches are to be created, and on how work ought to be divided between the different panels.
  • The Constitution embodies a rousing vision. But it stands on brittle foundations.
  • Protecting its text and its values requires an independent judiciary that is not only committed to constitutionalism but that is also democratically accountable.
  • We cannot rely simply on good fortune to see us through today’s crises. To do so would amount to inviting an annihilation of our republican ethos.

F. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Which of the following statement/s regarding National Company Law Appellate 
Tribunal (NCLAT) is/are incorrect?
  1. NCLAT was constituted under the Companies Act, 2013.
  2. NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India.

Options:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements regarding Gaj-Yatra.
  1. It is a nationwide campaign to protect elephants.
  2. The campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).
  3. The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.
  4. The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states.

Which of the above statement/s is/are incorrect?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 2 and 4 only
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. Which of the following statements is incorrect with respect to Mycoplasma bovis?
  1. It mainly affects cattle and has little effect on other production animals.
  2. It does not affect horses and or pet animals, but other animals can be carriers for Mycoplasma bovis.
  3. It causes a constellation of diseases, including mastitis in dairy cows, arthritis in cows and calves, pneumonia in calves, and various other diseases likely including late-term abortion.
  4. It poses a food safety risk to humans.

See

Answer
Question 4. Which of the following statements is incorrect with respect to Right to 
Information Act?
  1. It mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.
  2. Under this any citizen of India may request information from a public authority.
  3. The Act covers the whole of India.
  4. Private bodies are not within the Act’s ambit directly.

See

Answer

H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. Development and environment are two sides of the same coin. Discuss.
  2. How can India strike a balance between tradition and modernisation? Discuss in the light of recent Rekla race and Jallikattu issue in Tamil Nadu.

 

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