TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related GOVERNANCE 1. A.P., West Bengal withdraw ‘general consent’ to CBI 2. Maternity leave: govt. for incentive scheme INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. India’s Act East policy can meet OBOR: Chinese envoy C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. SBI sells over ₹400 cr. electoral bonds 2. Indecision on appointment hits release of back series GDP data D. GS4 Related E. Editorials SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Unnecessary, destabilising and expensive (INS Arihant) POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. A crippling shortage (Pendency of cases in the Judiciary) F. Tidbits 1. NGT asks Volkswagen to deposit ₹100 crore G. Prelims Fact 1. Kg gets a new definition H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
In the light of serious allegations against the CBI, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have withdrawn the “general consent” granted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
What is General Consent?
- General Consent is the approval given by a State government concerned from time to time to the CBI (the agency originated from the Special Police Establishment) and other agencies covered by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946.
- Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act talks about the Consent of State Government to exercise of powers and jurisdiction.
- The CBI functions under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, under which provides a state government “routinely” grants consent to the CBI for exercising its authority in the state.
- The consent is necessary as the jurisdiction of these agencies is confined to Delhi and Union Territories under this Act.
- The withdrawal of General Consent effectively curtails CBI’s powers in the State without prior permission.
- It also means that the CBI officers lose police powers under the Criminal Procedure Code in the State concerned and for registering each case, the agency has to seek a specific consent from the State government.
- The general consent was accorded to the CBI in West Bengal by the then Left Front government in West Bengal in 1989.
- The reason cited to withdraw the consent was recent allegations against top CBI officials.
- The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and all agencies under the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946 would now need permission from the respective state governments to carry out any sort of investigation in these states on a case by case basis, except those ordered by the courts and against central government officials.
- However, the withdrawal of general consent may not have any bearing on the existing cases, ongoing investigations and the filing of charge sheets by the CBI.
- A Supreme Court judgment in Kazi Lhendup Dorji v. Central Bureau of Investigation & Ors (1994)to stresses that it would not impact the already instituted cases.
- In that judgment, the Supreme Court had held that: “An Order revoking an Order giving Consent under Section of the Act [Delhi Special Police Establishment Act], can only have prospective operation and would not affect matters in which action has been initiated prior to the issuance of the Order of Revocation.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment is, therefore, working on an incentive scheme whereby the government would bear the cost of maternity leave wages for seven weeks, subject to certain conditions.
Maternity Benefit Act:
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in factories, mines, plantation, shops & establishments and other entities.
- The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child birth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
- The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, which, inter alia, has increased the paid maternity leave to women employees from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
- Under the scheme, the employer will be refunded for seven weeks’ worth of wages for women workers (on maternity leave) with a wage ceiling up to ₹ 15,000 per month.
- The Ministry is in the process of getting budgetary approvals for the ₹400 crore incentive scheme.
- The extension in maternity benefit would be from the government budget and NOT from any labour welfare cess (there exists no such cess under the ministry).
What is the need for such an incentive Scheme?
- The ministry noted that while the implementation of the provision (26 weeks’ maternity leave) is good in public sector, there are reports that it is not good in private sector and in contract jobs.
- There is also a wide perception that private entities are not encouraging women employees because if they are employed, they may have to provide maternity benefit to them, particularly 26 weeks of paid holiday
- The ministry is also getting complaints from various quarters that when the employers come to know that their woman employee is in the family way or applies for maternity leave, the contracts are terminated on some flimsy grounds.
- There have been several representations before the Labour Ministry on how the extended maternity leave has become a deterrent for female employees who are asked to quit or retrenched on various grounds before they go on maternity leave
- It is a bid to encourage employers, especially in the private sector, to implement the extended 26-week maternity leave law.
- If the scheme is approved and implemented, it shall ensure the women in this country an equal access to employment and other benefits, along with adequate safety and secure environment.
- Also, the women shall continue to bear the major share of household work as well as child care.
- The workplaces will be more and more responsive to the family needs of the working women.
China’s Ambassador made a pitch for India to join China’s OBOR.
Read more about
China’s Belt and Road Initiative: OBOR
India’s Act East Policy: Act East Policy
Why has India Not joined the OBOR?
- India’s reasons for objecting the BRI are threefold
- The corridor includes projects in land belonging to India
- The projects could push smaller countries on the road into a crushing debt cycle, destroy the ecology and disrupt local communities.
- China’s agenda was unclear, with the implied accusation that this was more about enhancing its political influence, not just its physical networks.
- India has cited the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as the main reason for refusing to participate in the summit. It raises Sovereignty and territorial integrity concerns.
- The fact that the Chinese have begun to deploy “security personnel” to protect the projects along the CPEC route makes it an active player in the politics of the Indian sub-continent.
- The ambassador made a bid that India’s Act East policy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (One Belt One Road or OBOR) are a “natural” area of cooperation between the two countries.
- Luo suggested that the cooperation could come through the “China-India-Myanmar” BCIM corridor to India’s North-East.
- He also cited consensus arrived upon BCIM (Bangladesh China India and Myanmar) economic corridor in 2013 as a case of multilateral cooperation moving forward.
- “China and India have the same policy on connectivity and free trade. Also in AIIB (Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank) India is one of the largest donor countries and largest beneficiaries,” he said.
- The Chinese must be sensitive to India’s claims in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
- Transparency in its true sense must be brought about in the project
- Mutual agreements on infrastructure projects should be transparent and debt repayments be made easier for recipient countries.
- Act East and OBOR must be synergised together between the two countries to benefit from cooperation and development.
C. GS3 Related
More than ₹400 crore worth of electoral bonds were sold by the State Bank of India (SBI) in the 10-day window of October.
These Electoral bonds are instruments/securities which will be used to donate funds to the political parties. These bonds will be on the lines of bearer bonds or promissory notes wherein the issuer (bank) will be the custodian and will pay the one who holds the bonds (political party). The features of electoral bonds and the process involved is:
- These bonds will be issued by notified banks
- The donor to the political party may approach these banks and purchase the bonds
- The donor will be allowed to purchase the bonds through cheque/digital payment. Hence the identity of the donors will be protected (if the donors are identified, they may get caught up in political rivalry-especially if the donor is a businessman)
- The donor will donate these bonds to the political party
- The political party has to encash it into the account which is registered with the Election Commission of India
- As per the information provided so far, these bonds will have a short tenure (in terms of few days)
- These bonds will not provide any kind of tax benefits
- The deadline for implementation of this is 1stApril 2018
- The parties will be asked to file returns of donations under the IT Act
- The electoral bond data assumes significance against the backdrop of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram.
- The RTI data, released in response to queries by Factly, also shows that there is next-to-no demand for electoral bonds of smaller denominations and the majority of the bonds sold were in the highest denomination of ₹1 crore.
Importance of the Electoral Bonds:
- Electoral bonds ensure that the funds being collected by the political parties is accounted money or clean money.
- It is the first step in cleansing political funding in India.
- The entire transactions would be through banking instruments. As against a total non-transparency in the system of cash donations where the donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed, some element of transparency is introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received.
The deadline to release the back series GDP data has been pushed further to the end of December.
- Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) and NITI Aayog were not adequately prepared to address the questions of the experts during the meeting, following which the back series data was to be released.
- One important reason for the delay in releasing the back series of the GDP data is the fact that the government took so long in appointing a new Chief Statistician of India
- The office was vacant for eight months.
- Gathering reliable economic data in India is challenging enough. It’s been made more difficult that the nation was without a chief statistician for eight months.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
- On November 5, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India’s first indigenous ballistic-missile armed nuclear submarine (SSBN), Arihant, had successfully completed its first “deterrence patrol” and asserted that this accomplishment would “always be remembered in our history”.
- As a responsible nation, India has put in place a robust nuclear command and control structure, effective safety assurance architecture and strict political control, under its Nuclear Command Authority. It remains committed to the doctrine of Credible Minimum Deterrence and No First Use, as enshrined in the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security in its meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on January 04, 2003.
- The indigenous development of the SSBN and its operationalisation attest to the country’s technological prowess and the synergy and coordination among all concerned.
What is a nuclear submarine?
- A nuclear submarine is fuelled by an onboard nuclear reactor, which allows it to operate underwater for long periods of time. In contrast, a conventional diesel submarine uses batteries to operate underwater, but is forced to surface periodically to recharge its batteries using diesel-combustion engines that require oxygen.
- From a historical perspective, SSBNs were first deployed during the Cold War and justified as a tool of last resort. If an adversary were to launch a devastating first-strike on a country, destroying its land-based missiles and paralysing its air force, the submarine — undetected at sea — could still deliver a counter-strike, assuring the “mutual destruction” of both countries.
- Unlike land-based missiles and fighter-bombers that can conceivably be destroyed in pre-emptive enemy strikes, SSBNs can remain undetected in deep seas for months at end. Conversely, it is far easier to detect conventional submarines because they have to surface or “snorkel” every few days to get oxygen to re-charge their diesel-electric batteries.
Critics ask some fundamental questions. For example:
- Why does India need such a submarine?
- Are the enormous resources spent on the nuclear-submarine programme justified?
- Critics point out that the strategic function makes little sense in the modern Indian context.
- They assert that there is no realistic threat, which the Arihant could counter, that could wipe out India’s existing nuclear deterrent. The range of the missiles carried by the Arihant is about 750 km, and so it can only target Pakistan and perhaps China.
A Perspective on Pakistan and China:
- Some critical strategic thinkers have pointed out that the Pakistan government has threatened to use “tactical nuclear weapons” to counter India’s cold-start doctrine that envisions a limited invasion of Pakistan. The further point out that these are relatively small nuclear weapons that could devastate a battlefield but would not affect the Indian military’s ability to launch a counter-strike using its existing land or air-based forces.
- They also assert the fact that China has consistently pledged, for more than 50 years, that it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. Even if China were to suddenly change its policy, any attempt to disable India’s nuclear weapons would be fraught with unacceptable risks regardless of whether India possesses SSBNs.
- Crucially, even the United States, which maintains such a large nuclear stockpile, is unwilling to militarily engage a limited nuclear power such as North Korea since it understands that it cannot reliably disable Pyongyang’s land-based deterrent.
- Another significant point to note is that much of the rest of the world has moved against nuclear weapons. For example, last year (2017), 122 nations voted in favour of the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”.
Potential for Risks:
- Some experts point out that nuclear-armed submarines increase the risks of an accidental conflict. Traditionally, for example, nuclear weapons in India have been kept under civilian control, and separate from their delivery systems.
- However, this is not the case with a nuclear-armed submarine. The crew of a nuclear-armed submarine will have both the custody of nuclear weapons and the ability to launch them at short notice. Even though reports suggest that nuclear weapons on Indian SSBNs will be safeguarded by electronic switches, called “permissive action links”, such a setup can dangerously weaken the civilian command-and-control structure, as declassified documents from the Cuban missile crisis show.
What happened during the Cuban missile crisis?
- During the crisis, U.S. warships recklessly attacked a Soviet submarine with practice depth charges to force it to surface.
- The captain of the submarine, which had been sailing under difficult conditions and was out of radio contact with the Soviet leadership, thought that war had broken out and decided to respond with nuclear torpedoes. It was only the sober intervention of another senior officer on the submarine, Vasili Arkhipov, that prevented the outbreak of large-scale nuclear hostilities. For his actions, which averted a civilisation-threatening event, Arkhipov was posthumously awarded the “Future of Life” award last year (2017).
- In conclusion, critics of the SSBN programme point out that given its uncertain, and even adverse, impact on the country’s security, it is especially important to examine the costs of the SSBN programme.
- Media reports suggest that the Indian Navy would eventually like about four SSBNs. The government has not released precise figures, but the international experience can be used to estimate the costs of such a fleet.
A Look at the Cost Dimension:
- The British government recently estimated that the cost of four new SSBNs would be £31 billion, or about ₹70,000 crore per submarine.
- This is similar to the U.S. Navy’s estimate of the cost of a new “Columbia-class” SSBN. It is important to note that the lifetime costs of operating such submarines are even larger than these initial costs; British and American estimates suggest that each SSBN requires between ₹2,000 crore and ₹5,000 crore in annual operational costs.
- Experts point out that the Indian submarines will be smaller, and perhaps cheaper. However, even if their costs are only half as large as the lower end of the British and American estimates, the total cost of maintaining a fleet of four SSBNs, over a 40-year life cycle, will be at least ₹3 lakh crore.
- On a critical note, experts have questioned the need to spend this money on nuclear submarines when thousands of lives are lost each year because the state pleads that it lacks resources for basic health care and nutrition.
- Articles 124 to 147 in Part V of the Constitution deal with the organization, independence, jurisdiction, powers, procedures and so on of the Supreme Court.
- Earlier this year (2018), the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra had written to all High Court Chief Justices’, advising them to setup disposal review mechanisms to clear cases on priority. He had also recommended that High Courts’ take stock of cases that are filed and disposed every month in lower courts as well.
- Currently, our judiciary is struggling under a tremendous workload. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, lakhs of people who are lodged in jail are waiting for their pleas to be heard.
- Thousands are in jail for petty crimes and have spent more jail time than are required by law.
Reasons for judicial delays:
- There are a large number of reasons that account for judicial delays.
- These include but are not restricted to:
- Large number of unfilled judicial vacancies
- A long drawn judicial process: This is compounded by the fact that often witnesses are not willing to come forward. The process concerning criminal cases also takes time; this is exacerbated by the fact that it takes time for reports such as medical reports, forensic reports, etc. to be given. There are at times even strikes in Courts that delay the process.
- Fast growing population
- Lack of Infrastructure: Former Chief Justice, Dipak Misra has described that the lack of infrastructure, as one of the causes.
- Lack of good quality judges
- Salaries and Perks of judges: If better salaries and better perks are provided, then better lawyers would be interested in becoming judges. Today, the quality of lawyers interested in becoming judges is poor, because of which the quality of judges is down and because of which the justice delivery system is also suffering.
- An increasing number of states and central laws
- Mounting number of appeals
- Shortage of judges in courts
- Delay in hearing of cases of common civil rights in High Courts
- Increase in Appeals in High Courts against the orders of the quasi-judicial bodies
- Continuous adjournment
- Indiscriminate utilisation of writ rights
- Inadequate system of monitoring cases
- Difficulties in tracking trials
- Efforts to prevent a case during hearing
- Lack of will and capability to decide cases
- Apart from these, there are delays during pre-trial and trial of cases
- In the courts, we have a certain number of backlog cases that are listed along with regular matters that are being heard. Thus, the judge doesn’t have enough time to finish hearing regular matters, and thereafter go onto backlog matters. Thus, hearings keep getting adjourned, or they keep getting pushed back into the system.
- Over and above the reasons listed above, there are certain other reasons as well. For example, In the courts, we have a certain number of backlog cases that are listed along with regular matters that are being heard. Thus, the judge doesn’t have enough time to finish hearing regular matters, and thereafter go onto backlog matters. Thus, hearings keep getting adjourned, or they keep getting pushed back into the system. This also ties into the fact that lawyers know that the system works this way, so they don’t necessarily prepare for these backlog cases and come and therefore, they ask for adjournments and adjournments are given quite liberally in many courts as well. Thus, this creates a system where backlog cases continue to exist.
A Look at some important Statistics:
- Apart from corruption, there is a long and costly judicial process and delays in delivering decisions. As far as pending cases are concerned, the Supreme Court has 60,000 pending cases, waiting to be disposed of 38 lakh cases are in the High Courts, and 2 crore, 30 lakh are in the district and subordinate courts, which are waiting to be considered.
- In Delhi, there are so many cases that are pending that even if 5 minutes is given to each lawsuit, it would take 466 years to settle all the cases. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, over 2 crore, 72 lakh cases are pending in Indian courts. Out of these, 83 lakh cases are civil lawsuits, and over 1 crore, 90 lakh are criminal cases.
- Some of these have to be addressed by the Government; some of them have to be addressed by the collegium system. Both should work together and ensure that everything is in place. Unfortunately, this kind of a concerted effort is not there. It is because of the lack of that concerted effort, that no substantial progress is being made in the matter of disposal of cases.
- Experts also point out the chronic shortage of judges and severe understaffing of the courts they preside over are significant reasons.
- It is important to note that more than a decade after the Supreme Court laid down guidelines in 2007 for making appointments in the lower judiciary within a set time frame, a similar issue is back before the highest court.
- The immediate context is the existence of more than 5,000 vacancies in the subordinate courts.
- A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has pulled up State governments and the administration of various High Courts for the delay in filling these vacancies.
- As a matter of fact, answers provided in the Rajya Sabha reveal that as on March 31, 2018, nearly a quarter of the total number of posts in the subordinate courts remained vacant.
- The court has put the actual figure at 5,133 out 22,036 sanctioned posts.
- The State-wise figures are quite alarming, with Uttar Pradesh having a vacancy percentage of 42.18 and Bihar 37.23. Among the smaller States, Meghalaya has a vacancy level of 59.79%.
- Experts point out an important reason: the tardiness in the process of calling for applications, holding recruitment examinations and declaring the results, and, more significantly, finding the funds to pay and accommodate the newly appointed judges and magistrates. Moreover, Public Service Commissions should recruit the staff to assist these judges, while State governments build courts or identify space for them.
A Closer Look:
- According to the Constitution of India, district judges are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the High Court.
- Other subordinate judicial officers are appointed as per rules framed by the Governor in consultation with the High Court and the State Public Service Commission.
- Thus, in effect, the High Courts have a significant role to play.
- A smooth and time-bound process of making appointments would, therefore, require close coordination between the High Courts and the State Public Service Commissions.
- As a matter of fact, a study released last year by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy revealed that the recruitment cycle in most States far exceeded the time limit prescribed by the Supreme Court.
- This time limit is 153 days for a two-tier recruitment process and 273 days for a three-tier process. It is important to note that most states took longer to appoint junior civil judges as well as district judges by direct recruitment.
- Experts point out that this situation demands a massive infusion of both manpower and resources.
- Subordinate courts perform the most critical judicial functions that affect the life of the common man: conducting trials, settling civil disputes, and implementing the bare bones of the law.
- Any failure to allocate the required human and financial resources may lead to the crippling of judicial work in the subordinate courts. It will also amount to letting down poor litigants and undertrials, who stand to suffer the most due to judicial delay.
- In conclusion, it is hoped that through the infrastructural development of the judiciary, and in particular, the subordinate judiciary, training of judicial officers, training of public prosecutors, implementing e-courts project for lower judiciary, over and above the reasons highlighted as above would go a long way towards building capacity and reducing the pendency of cases.
- It is also hoped that the third pillar of democracy is empowered to move quickly on the pending cases, and a critical determinant of this would be the political will that can be garnered in Parliament over and above the renewed attention which this long-pending issue should receive from various stakeholders- importantly, the media, and the citizenry.
The National Green Tribunal directed the auto major Volkswagen to deposit an interim amount of ₹100 crore with the CPCB, following a plea that alleged that the company used “cheat devices” in emission tests in its diesel vehicles.
G. Prelims Fact
- In a historic vote, nations unanimously approved a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements, uniting together behind new scientific definitions for the kilogram and other units.
- For more than a century, the kilogram has been defined as the mass of a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy kept in a high-security vault in France.
- That artefact, nicknamed ‘Le Grand K,’ has been the world’s sole true kilogram since 1889.
- But now, the kilogram and all of the other main measurement units will be defined using numerical values that fit handily onto a wallet card.
- Nobel laureate William Phillips called the update “the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution,” which ushered in the metric system of meters and kilograms.
- Unlike a physical object, the new formula for the kilo, also known as “the electric kilo,” cannot pick up particles of dust, decay with time or be dropped and damaged. It is expected to be more accurate when measuring very, very small or very, very large masses and help usher in innovations in science, industry, climate study and other fields.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Which is the country to have launched the world’s first Sovereign Blue Bond?
- United Kingdom
Question 2. Who is the chairperson of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)?
- SEBI Chairman
- RBI Governor
- Prime Minister
- Finance Minister
Question 3. Which of the following is NOT a Bio-Magnifier?
Question 4. Which of the following global biodiversity hot spots are located in India either partly/completely?
- Eastern Himalayas
- Indo-Burma Region
- Western Ghats
Answer as per the codes given below:
- i and iii only
- ii, iii and iv
- i, iii and iv
- i, ii, iii and iv
I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam
- What significance does alternate dispute resolution hold in India? Explain by taking suitable examples.
A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent and duration of extreme weather and climate events. Explain in the context of recent extreme weather and climate events in India.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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