Insights Daily Current Affairs, 17 February 2017
Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Supreme Court makes legal services affordable
The Supreme Court has introduced a self-supporting scheme known as Middle Income Group Scheme for providing legal services to the middle and relatively lower income groups.
Highlights of the scheme:
- It is a self supporting scheme which provides legal services to the middle income group citizens i.e. citizens whose gross income is not exceeding Rs.60, 000 per month or Rs. 7, 50, 000 per annum.
- The scheme will enable people in the middle income group, who cannot afford expensive litigation in the Supreme Court, to avail services of the society at a nominal amount.
- If an advocate, who is appointed under the scheme, is found negligent in pursuing the case entrusted to him, he would be required to return the brief together with the fee which he may have received from the applicant under the scheme.
- A society will be created. The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief of the society with Attorney General its ex-officio Vice President, Solicitor General its Honorary Secretary and other senior advocates of the apex court as its members.
- The society will not be responsible for the negligent conduct and the entire responsibility will be that of the advocate vis-a-vis the client. The name of the Advocate will, however, be struck off from the panel prepared under the scheme.
How cases ca be filed under the scheme?
- A sum of Rs 500 shall be payable to the Supreme Court Middle Income Group Legal Aid Society and a stipulated fee as per the schedule attached to the scheme.
- A case will be registered under the MIG Legal Aid Scheme and forwarded to Advocate-on-Record/Arguing Counsel/Senior Counsel on the panel for their opinion.
- If Advocate-on-Record is satisfied that it is a fit case, then the society will consider that applicant is entitled to legal aid. The view expressed by Advocate-on Record will be final in determining eligibility of the applicant for obtaining the benefit under the scheme.
- The scheme provides for creating a contingent fund to meet miscellaneous expenditure in connection with the case and the applicant would also be required to deposit Rs 750 to the fund.
- If the advocate takes a view that the case is not fit one for an appeal to the Supreme Court, then the entire amount after deducting Rs 750 towards minimum service charges of the committee shall be refunded to the applicant through cheque.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
SC to consider If personal law Constitutional or not
Questioning the validity of triple talaq, the Centre has sought a fresh debate on issues relating to limitations of freedom to profess, practise and propagate religion in the light of fundamental rights that guarantee every person equality and right to life and liberty.
- The Centre has also called for an authoritative ruling on whether personal laws — as a facet of freedom to practise religion — would be circumscribed by fundamental rights of equality and to live with dignity.
Amid a non-uniform body of Supreme Court decisions on the subject, the government appealed for a decisive ruling on four questions. The questions submitted by the government are:
- Whether the impugned practices of talaq-e-biddat, nikaah halala and polygamy are protected under Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India? Article 25(1) deals with freedom to practise religion.
- Whether Article 25(1) is subject to part III of the Constitution and in particular Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India? Articles 14 ensures right to equality while Article 21 guarantees right to life and liberty.
- Whether personal law is law under Article 13 of the Constitution? Article 13 lays down that all laws should conform to the fundamental rights.
- Whether the impugned practices of talaq-e-biddat, nikaah halala and polygamy are compatible with India’s obligations under International treaties and covenants to which India is a signatory?
In a number of cases, it has held that personal laws are not subject to Part III of the Constitution that deals with fundamental rights and hence, they cannot be challenged for violating rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 21. In Krishna Singh Vs Mathura Ahir, 1980, the top court held that “Part III of the Constitution does not touch upon the personal laws of the parties.”
- On the other hand, in a line of other judgments, the apex court has tested personal laws on the touchstone of fundamental rights and read down these laws or interpreted them so as to make them consistent with fundamental rights. In Anil Kumar Mhasi Vs Union of India, 1994, the court tested the validity of some sections of the Indian Divorce Act (a personal law for Christians) on the touchstone of fundamental rights.
The court has hinted that a Constitution Bench may be formed to take up the matter during the summer vacation. Laws that violate fundamental rights can be struck down by a constitutional court but the Supreme Court has exhibited an inconsistent attitude in testing constitutionality of personal laws.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Multilateral FIs allowed to invest in ‘masala bonds’
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted multilateral and regional financial institutions to invest in rupee-denominated bonds.
- This decision aims to provide more choices of investors to Indian entities issuing rupee-denominated bonds abroad.
- With this, agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the BRICS led New Development Bank can also invest in these bonds.
What are Masala bonds?
Masala bonds are bonds issued outside India but denominated in Indian Rupees, rather than the local currency. The term was used by IFC to evoke the culture and cuisine of India. Unlike dollar bonds, where the borrower takes the currency risk, masala bond makes the investors bear the risk.
The first Masala bond was issued by the World Bank backed International Finance Corporation in November 2014 when it raised 1,000 crore bond to fund infrastructure projects in India. Later in August 2015 International Financial Corporation for the first time issued green masala bonds and raised Rupees 3.15 Billion to be used for private sector investments that address climate change in India.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India hopes for Bhutan’s ratification of BBIN soon
Ahead of the implementation of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA), India remains hopeful that Bhutan would ratify the accord soon.
The four South Asian nations have already signed the BBIN Agreement in June 2016 in Thimphu and the accord was seen as a significant symbol of sub-regional unity. Despite ratifications by three partner countries, Bhutan’s Upper House has not yet ratified the deal, citing environmental as well as livelihood concerns.
About BBIN agreement:
The agreement encapsulates the spirit of economic integration emphasised in the SAARC Charter. The main objective of the agreement is to provide seamless people-to-people contact and enhance economic interaction by facilitating cross border movement of people and goods.
- It would permit unhindered movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries. Cargo vehicles do not have to be changed at the border, a practice that has prevailed until now. As per the agreement, member countries would allow vehicles registered in the other countries to enter their territory under certain terms and conditions. Customs and tariffs will be decided by the respective countries and these would be finalised at bilateral and trilateral forums.
- Signing of the BBIN agreement will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Set up mechanism to delete sex determination ads: SC
The Supreme Court has ordered three Internet giants — Google, Microsoft and Yahoo — to immediately set up their own in-house expert bodies to keep tabs on and delete online pre-natal sex determination advertisements. The court said the intent of the order was to make these search engines “responsive to Indian law.”
- This step is in addition to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s move to set up a nodal agency to receive complaints on violation of Section 22 of the 1994 Act.
Section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994 prohibits advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and imposes punishment. However, ads continue to appear online, rendering the law toothless.
What else has the court said?
- The court ordered that the search engines “shall appoint their ‘In-House Expert Body’ which shall take steps to see that if any words or any key words that can be shown on the Internet which has the potentiality to go counter to Section 22 of the 1994 Act, should be deleted forthwith.”
- It also said that the in-house expert body “shall on its own understanding” delete anything that violates the letter and spirit of language of Section 22 of the 1994 Act. In case of doubt, they are free to approach the Ministry’s nodal agency and be guided by the latter.
About PCPNDT Act:
The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection. The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act. The amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board was constituted. In 1988, the State of Maharashtra became the first in the country to ban pre-natal sex determination through enacting the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
JPL’s Spitzer Space Telescope Hears Stellar ‘Heartbeat’ from Planetary Companion
JPL’s Spitzer Space Telescope has detected unusual pulsations in the outer shell of a star called HAT-P-2. Scientists’ best guess is that a closely orbiting planet, called HAT-P-2b, causes these vibrations each time it gets close to the star in its orbit.
- The star’s pulsations are the most subtle variations of light from any source that Spitzer has ever measured. A similar effect had been observed in binary systems called “heartbeat stars” in the past, but never before between a star and a planet.
Weighing in at about eight times the mass of Jupiter, HAT-P-2b is a relatively massive planet. It’s a “hot Jupiter,” meaning an exoplanet that is extremely warm and orbits its star tightly. But this hot Jupiter is tiny in relation to its host star, which is about 100 times more massive. That size difference makes the pulsation effect all the more unusual (For comparison, our sun is about 1,000 times more massive than Jupiter).
- Known to the exoplanet community since 2007, HAT-P-2b was initially interesting to astronomers because of its “eccentric,” or elliptical orbit. The planet spends most of its time relatively far from the star, but comes around for a close encounter every 5.6 days. Those are indeed hot dates for this planet, as it receives as much as 10 times the amount of light per unit area at closest approach than at its farthest point in the orbit.
- Each time the planet swings around for that close approach, it appears to gives its star a little “kiss” as the gravitational forces of these two bodies interact. The star, in turn, beats like a heart as the planet travels around in its orbit again.
About Spitzer Space Telescope:
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 to study the universe in the infrared. It is the last mission of the NASA Great Observatories program, which saw four specialized telescopes (including the Hubble Space Telescope) launched between 1990 and 2003.
- The goal of the Great Observatories is to observe the universe in distinct wavelengths of light. Spitzer focuses on the infrared band, which normally represents heat radiation from objects. The other observatories looked at visible light (Hubble, still operational), gamma-rays (Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, no longer operational) and X-rays (the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, still operational.)
- Spitzer’s highly sensitive instruments allow scientists to peer into cosmic regions that are hidden from optical telescopes, including dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems.
- Spitzer’s infrared eyes also allows astronomers see cooler objects in space, like failed stars (brown dwarfs), extrasolar planets, giant molecular clouds, and organic molecules that may hold the secret to life on other planets.
Sources: the hindu.