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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 07 July 2018
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
National Green Tribunal
Context: Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has been appointed the chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
About the National Green Tribunal (NGT):
What is it? NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
Ambit: The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
Sanctioned strength: currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (although the act allows for up to 20 of each).
Chairman: is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Selection: Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews. The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.
Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
For Prelims and Mains: NGT- establishment, composition, roles, powers and functions.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Chief Justice of India as ‘Master of Roster’
Context: The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the “master of the roster,” the Supreme Court has reaffirmed, declining to accept former law minister Shanti Bhushan’s suggestion that the CJI consult his collegium colleagues –the top four judges after him in seniority –in allocating cases to various benches.
Supreme Court’s observations:
Position of CJI: CJI is the master of roster in allocating cases to different benches and his power cannot be delegated to collegium comprising of CJI and four senior most judges. Although the constitution is silent on the CJI’s role as the master of the roster, his power is based on a healthy practice and “convention aimed at maintaining discipline and decorum.” He is described as “first among equals.”
Moral responsibility of CJI: SC highlighted that the CJI owes a moral responsibility to his colleagues and the public at large while flexing his powers as ‘Master of Roster’ to allocate cases. “Absolute discretion” cannot be confined in just one man, the CJI.
Qualities for a CJI: The court listed some of the qualities a CJI should possess as the Master of Roster, including balance, fortitude, moral courage and independence of mind. Also, as the court’s spokesperson, it is the CJI’s duty to usher in and administer reform as a continuous process.
What does ‘master of the roster’ mean?
- ‘Master of the Roster’ refers to the privilege of the Chief Justice to constitute Benches to hear cases.
- This privilege was emphasised in November last year, when a Constitution Bench, led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, declared that “the Chief Justice is the master of the roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted.”
- It further said that “no Judge can take up the matter on this own, unless allocated by the Chief Justice of India, as he is the master of the roster.”
- The immediate trigger for this was a direction by a two-judge Bench that a petition regarding a medical college corruption case, involving an alleged conspiracy to bribe Supreme Court judges, be heard by a Bench fo the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
Undoubtedly, the chief justices enjoy a special status and they alone can assign work to a judge sitting alone and to the judges sitting in division bench or full bench. They have the jurisdiction to decide which case will be heard by which bench. If judges were free to choose their jurisdiction or any choice was given to them to do whatever case they may like to hear and decide, the machinery would collapse and the judicial work of the court would cease by generation of internal strife on account of hankering for a particular jurisdiction or a particular case.
- For Prelims: CJI- appointment and powers.
- For Mains: Master of Roster- meaning, concerns and viable solutions, moral responsibilities of CJI.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Issues related to health.
National Health Stack
Context: NITI Aayog has proposed creation of National Health Stack (NHS), a centralized health record for all citizens of the country, in order to streamline the health information and facilitate effective management of the same.
Need for a database:
- India today is witnessing significant trends in health: increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases for instance, as well as marked demographic shifts. Climbing out-of-pocket costs is becoming difficult for most households.
- The proposed NHS is an approach to address the challenge and seeks to employ latest technology including Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning Artificial Intelligence, a state of the art Policy Mark-up Language and create a unified health identity of citizens – as they navigate across services across levels of care, i.e. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary and also across Public and Private.
The innovativeness of the proposed National Health Stack design lies in its ability to leverage a shared public good – a strong digital spine built with a deep understanding of the incentive structures of the system. Once implemented, the National Health Stack will significantly bring down the costs of health protection, converge disparate systems to ensure a cashless and seamlessly integrated experience for the poorest beneficiaries, and promote wellness across the population.
For Mains: NHS- need and significance.
Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Uttarakhand HC declares animal kingdom a legal entity
Context: The Uttarakhand high court has declared the entire animal kingdom, including birds and aquatic animals, as a legal entity having rights of a “living person”. The move aims to ensure “greater welfare” of animals.
- The entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic ones, are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
A legal entity means an entity which acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of law. This means the animal kingdom could be represented by a custodian.
- Invoking Article 21 of the Constitution, the court said: “Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word ‘life’ means animal world”.
- The court cited a 2014 Supreme Court judgment to say any disturbance from the “basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animals life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution”.
As part of the judgment, the court has issued following directions:
- Create an animal welfare committee in every district of the state. All citizens of Uttarakhand shall be “persons in loco parentis” (in the place of a parent). This gives them the responsibility to protect animals and ensure their welfare.
- The court also gave directions ranging from the amount of load allowed to be pulled by various animals in accordance with the kind of carriage being pulled to the amount of riders per carriage.
- Further banning the use of spike or other sharp tackle or equipment on the animal, the court also directed the state government to ensure that if temperature exceeds 37 degree Celsius or drops below 5 degree Celsius, no person be permitted to keep in harness any animal used for the purpose of drawing vehicles.
- The court also went into the aspect of animal safety, highlighting the need for fluorescent reflectors in carriages and animals, certificates of unladen weight of vehicles, compulsory shelter of suitable size for horses, bullocks and stray cattle and a direction to the veterinary doctors of Uttarakhand to treat any stray animals brought to them or by visiting them.
- The court said as the carts driven by animals have no mechanical devices, animal-drawn carriages have to be given Right of Way over other vehicles.
The order came in response to a public interest litigation seeking directions to restrict the movement of horse carts/tongas between Nepal and India through Champawat district and highlighted that ailing, infirm and old horses were being abandoned by the owners in the Indian territory.
This order will go a long way in building a compassionate society as it was illogical to treat sentient creatures as inanimate objects.
Facts for Prelims:
Uttarakhand high court in March last year accorded the status of “living entity” to the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, a decision subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court.
- For Prelims: Legal entity- meaning.
- For Mains: Animal Kingdom as a Legal entity- need, challenges in implementation of the judgment and solutions.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
IAS officers for village outreach
Context: A battalion of Central government IAS officers has been drafted to ensure on the ground implementation as the Centre races to saturate 117 “aspirational districts” with seven flagship social welfare schemes by Independence Day.
What’s the plan?
At least 800 Deputy Secretaries, Under-Secretaries and Director-level officers, drawn from Ministries as diverse as Defence and Urban Affairs, have been assigned about 75 villages to visit, as part of the Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (EGSA) from June 1 to August 15. In total, 49,178 villages — most with a majority SC/ST population — are being targeted.
- Over the two-and-a-half month period, these Central officials are being absorbed into EGSA duty for at least 15 working days.
- In each village, the Central team convenes a meeting of villagers and beneficiaries along with a State government or district official, a lead bank representative and local officials from the agencies responsible for enrolling people into the schemes.
Central officers could direct the local representatives to give immediate sanction for gas cylinders, bank accounts or electricity connections. The teams can also directly input the day’s progress into a data system.
Senior Ministry officials also make direct daily calls to a section of District Collectors to monitor progress, while third-party observers for each district —mostly from NGOs or academia — have been drafted in to do random checks of villages and report back to the Ministry.
The large-scale involvement of Central officers raises questions about the viability of such drives, and about roles in a federal democracy. Questions are being raised about Centre-State relations under this model, in an election year.
Direct connections to the district administration tend to bypass State administrations, while sending out large Central teams to do the work of local officials fails to empower local human resources.
About Gram Swaraj Abhiyan:
- The campaign, undertaken under the name of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Gaon, Sabka Vikas”, is to promote social harmony, spread awareness about pro-poor initiatives of government, reach out to poor households to enroll them as also to obtain their feedback on various welfare programmes.
- As a special endeavour during the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, saturation of eligible households/persons would be made under seven flagship pro-poor programmes in 21,058 identified villages.
- The programmes covered are Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya, Ujala scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Mission Indradhanush.
- For Prelims: Aspirational districts programme, Gram Swaraj Abhiyaan.
- For Mains: Deployment of Central officers- concerns, threat to the spirit of cooperative federalism and issues to be addressed.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications.
Nasscom unveils centre for data, AI
Context: The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), India’s premier software lobby, has opened a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Bangalore.
- Nasscom also signed a MoU with NITI Aayog to collaboratively foster applied research, accelerating adoption and ethics, privacy and security.
Centre of excellence:
The CoE initiative is a nationwide programme on innovation, focusing on solutions in smart manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy, IoT, banking and financial services, retail, telecom, and host of emerging technologies.
The center aims to “support SMBs, by fast-tracking their product development, provide market access to enterprises and assist them by co-creating programs along with other industry partners and start-ups to solve complex and real-world business problems.”
With the aim to strengthen the country’s AI ecosystem, the CoE and MoU, both aim to serve as a platform for intelligence-sharing and technology collaboration between stakeholders to build collective capabilities for the industry and country in the cutting-edge areas artificial intelligence.
- It is a trade association of Indian Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.
- Established in 1988, NASSCOM is a non-profit organisation.
- NASSCOM facilitates business and trade in software and services and encourages the advancement of research in software technology. It is registered under the Indian Societies Act, 1860.
- It has over 2000 members, of which over 250 are companies from China, EU, Japan, the U.S. and the UK.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: India has agreed to form a joint venture with Sri Lanka to operate the country’s loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota.
- It is dubbed as the “world’s emptiest airport” due to a lack of flights.
- The airport infrastructure was funded through high interest Chinese commercial loans. The airport was officially opened in March 2013.
- The only international flight operating from there was halted in May due to recurrent losses and flight safety issues.