Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 September 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
SC moves away from death penalty
The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of a youth for raping and killing a seven-year-old girl but awarded him 25 year jail term, saying that judicial innovation was required in awarding appropriate punishment between death sentence and life imprisonment in heinous crimes.
What has the court said?
- The court has said that the offence did not come within the ambit of rarest of rare case but also held that life imprisonment of 14 years would not be sufficient punishment for the crime committed.
- Holding that innovative approach is needed to award sentence in such cases, the court directed that the convict must spent 25 years behind the jail.
- The court has also held that judicial innovation for bridging the gap between death sentence on the one extreme and only 14 years of actual imprisonment in the name of life imprisonment on the other, serves a laudable purpose and does not violate any law in the Indian Penal Code or in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Significance of this judgment:
The innovative approach reflected in this case, on the one hand helps the convict in getting rid of death penalty in appropriate cases, on the other it takes care of genuine concerns of the victim including the society by ensuring that life imprisonment shall actually mean imprisonment for whole of the natural life or to a lesser extent as indicated by the court in the light of facts of a particular case.
A judicial innovation was formalised by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Rajiv Gandhi killers’ case in December 2015, instead of the death penalty.
This judicial innovation helps get rid of death penalty and addresses the genuine concerns of the society to see justice done.
- This innovative approach veering away from capital punishment was formalised after the Supreme Court gave itself the authority to tweak the sentencing laws and evolve a special category of sentence in its judgment in Union of India versus Sriharan alias Murugan last year.
- The innovation is an endeavour by the apex court to make “no party (convict or the society) a loser”.
What is special category?
The innovation involves substituting death penalty with a “special category” of life imprisonment without the benefit of release on remission for prolonged periods ranging from 25 to 30 years, if not more.
The special category is to be limited to a “very few cases”. This special category finds its first mention in the Swami Shraddananda versus State of Karnataka judgment of the Supreme Court in 2008.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Cambodia emerges as surrogacy hub
- Surrogacy service seekers and even doctors have started moving to destinations that still allow this service including Cambodia.
- Besides Cambodia, countries such as Ukraine and Kenya are also attracting doctors from India.
Why Cambodia has emerged as an attractive destination?
As in the early days of surrogacy in India, the lack of proper laws or guidelines in Cambodia has proved a big attraction.
Why India is becoming unattractive for surrogacy?
Surrogacy laws in India are becoming tougher. India banned commercial surrogacy in November, 2015. The Cabinet also recently cleared the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016. The bill has made the government’s intent to ban commercial surrogacy clear.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Simplify factory inspections for ‘ease of doing business’: CII
Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has released its white paper titled ‘Inspections and Regulatory Enforcements for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in India.’
What has the CII said?
In its report, the CII notes that the factory inspection system in India needs a complete overhaul to bring India among the top 50 countries in terms of ‘ease of doing business’ in the next two years.
According to the report, the excessive number of inspections in India weighs down on the competitive advantage and the ‘ease of doing business’ of Indian businesses.
What are the challenges faced by MSMEs in India, according to the report?
- A manufacturing company in India has to comply with around 70 laws and regulations.
- Besides, 40 inspectors and government officials visit factories on an average with the ulterior motive to fleece the company promoters and owners. Most of the inspections conducted are related to environment or labour law compliances.
- Apart from multiple inspections, a company has to file around 100 returns every year.
- Inspections in India have also been found to be excessive, duplicate and complicated, imposing significant costs on businesses, especially MSMEs. While most inspections are selected locally, without any objective criteria, inspectors act over-zealously and make extortionist demands from factories.
- There are also variations in inspections conducted on small factories across the country. While inspectors for labour compliances visit most SMEs once or twice a year, it has been observed that in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, SMEs are visited by labour inspectors once every month.
What needs to be done?
- CII has called for an integrated inspection system and highlighted the need for inculcating a risk-based approach in the inspection system which will rationalise the number of inspections and weed out the redundancy and duplicity.
- A portal could be created for automatically updating invoices related to excise, sales tax, customs and the like by SMEs and this could be used by regulators and inspectors in lieu of physically visiting the factory premises. Audited accounts of SMEs could be used by inspectors while performing verification.
- CII has also urged the central government to encourage the states to pursue a process for simplification of labour laws and compliance.
India is currently placed at 130 out of 189 countries in the ‘ease of doing business’ rankings.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Rich Indians worry as ‘dollar’ visa set to end
Many high net worth individuals the world over, including in India, are worried as the controversial immigrant visa programme for the wealthy in the US- EB-5 Programme, is set to expire this month-end.
What is EB-5 Programme?
It is popularly called as the ‘Green Card for greenback’ scheme. The EB-5 programme was created in 1990 with the approval of the US Congress — America’s highest law-making body.
- It aims to boost the American economy by attracting investment from foreign nationals and generating employment for locals. In 1992, its scope was widened through an Immigrant Investor Programme, or the Regional Centre Programme.
- Simply put, the programme grants rich entrepreneurs — as well as their spouses and unmarried children below the age of 21 — an opportunity to bag the coveted U.S. Green Card (or status of permanent residence) and Citizenship.
- The programme is named EB-5 as it is the fifth preference category under the Employment-Based (EB) immigration visas.
How this scheme operates?
- Rich entrepreneurs have to invest in over half a million dollars in the U.S. and ensure that the funds help generate at least ten full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.
- The visa, given in exchange for investments, grants the holder a conditional permanent residence status.
- After two years, the conditions may be removed, when it becomes permanent green card that can lead to citizenship, provided it has resulted in the creation of 10 jobs.
- In order to be considered for permanent residency status in the U.S., the Programme mandates a qualified foreign investor to invest at least $1 million — or a minimum of $500,000 if the investment is made in certain rural areas or regions with high unemployment — and show that ten or more full-time positions were generated or preserved directly or indirectly as a result of that investment.
- These EB-5 investments can be stand-alone or made through Regional Centres, with the former (direct investments) carrying a greater risk than investments made through over 860 approved Regional Centres that have more on-the-ground knowledge.
- Regional Centres are certain designated organisations permitted to collect money from overseas investors seeking the EB-5 visas, and then pump such foreign investment into officially approved projects.
Why Indians are concerned?
In 2015, the U.S. authorities issued 111 EB-5 visas to Indians — that is 15 more than the previous year, and 74 more than the number of such immigrant visas issued in 2011. The rapid rise in the number of EB-5 visas to Indians in the last few years had led to the filing of over a thousand applications under that category from India this year.
However, in the backdrop of allegations of fraud and corruption — including against Indian-origin individuals — related to the programme, the U.S. Congress is planning to consider whether to renew it or to pay heed to growing criticism and wind it up altogether.
- According to U.S. government data, applicants from China managed to get 8,156 visas under this programme.
- This was followed by Vietnam (280), China/Taiwan-born (139), South Korea (116), India (111), Russia (88), UK (84), Mexico (77) and Iran (62).
EB-5 programme has so far attracted FDI worth around $16.8 billion. It has also contributed $9.62 billion to the U.S. GDP, supported 29,300 jobs annually and generated $2.08 billion in tax revenue. Now, it remains to be seen how the U.S. Congress will do a balancing act especially since it is estimated that if the programme fails to get re-authorised, it could not only adversely impact over $20 billion worth of investments, but also lead to many court cases in addition to a loss of an estimated over three lakh jobs.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
- Mormugao: It is indigenously built Guided Missile Destroyer. It was recently commissioned. It is the second ship of Project 15B. Project 15B ships feature cutting edge advanced technology and are comparable to the best ships of similar class anywhere in the world. These ships have been designed indigenously by the Directorate of Naval Design, New Delhi. Each ship spans 163 metres in length and 17.4 metres at beam and displaces 7300 tonnes. These ships will be propelled by four gas turbines to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots. The P15B destroyers incorporate new design concepts for improved survivability, sea keeping, stealth and ship manoeuvrability.
- Giant African Land Snail (GALS): It was recently sighted in Goa university.It has been listed in the world’s top 100 invasive species. According to experts, the presence of this snail in Goa could be showing indicators of impact of gross human interference in the natural ecosystem. Ecologically, the species are dangerous as they reproduce faster and take over entire ecosystems, this becoming a menace to crops.