Newspaper notes for UPSC 03-07-18

Hello friends, this is Newspaper notes for UPSC of 02-07-18, Please do leave your valuable comments , feedback and suggestions, kalyan@iksa.in , telegram: @naylak .

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Cauvery authority directs Karnataka to release water

  • The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), at its first meeting , directed Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu and other States but did not discuss Karnataka’s decision to challenge the constitution of the CWMA in the Supreme Court.
  • The Karnataka government on Saturday decided to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the setting up of the CWMA and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC).
  • The CWMA, which is yet to appoint full-time members, is scheduled to meet every 10 days during the monsoon months. Based on the storage of water in various reservoirs — Hemavathy, Harangi, Krishnarajasagar, Kabini, Mettur, Bhavanisagar, Amaravathy and Banasurasagar — it will recommend how much water ought to be released in keeping with the Supreme Court’s recent verdict in these blocks of 10 days.
  • The apex court’s February verdict had said Karnataka will get 284.75 tmcft, Tamil Nadu 404.25 tmcft and Kerala and Puducherry 30 and 7 tmcft respectively.

2021 census data to be stored electronically

  • The data collected during the 2021 Census will be stored electronically, the first time since the decennial exercise was conducted in 1951 in Independent India,according to an amended rule notified by the Registrar-General of India (RGI).
  • Till now the “schedules” (a tabular form containing details of individuals), carried by enumerators to households, were being stored in a physical form at the government’s storehouse in Delhi. It is based on these schedules that the relevant statistical information on population, language and occupation are sorted and published.
  • The records, running into crores of pages, were occupying space in government office and it has now been decided that they will be stored in an electronic format. Any tampering with the data will invite punishment under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Rijiju tells States to fight fake news

  • Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said on Monday that “rumours and fake news” had become a big menace, amid reports that around 20 people had been lynched in different parts of the country in the past one month following child-lifting rumours spread primarily through WhatsApp.
  • State governments and all government agencies, along with NGOs, need to come together and create better awareness.

Intellectual Property rules amended

  • The Union Ministry of Finance has amended Intellectual Property rules to revoke the power vested with Customs authorities to seize imported products based on complaints of patent infringement.
  • On June 22, the Ministry made two amendments to the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules, 2007. Firstly, the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Amendment Rules, 2018, omits all reference to the Patents Act, 1970.
  • Another amendment incorporates further conditions that oblige the right-holder to notify the Commissioner of Customs of any amendment, cancellation, suspension or reaction that concern Intellectual Property rights, and require the Customs authorities to accordingly amend, suspend or cancel the corresponding protection provided by them.
  • Now, the amended law will permit the Customs authorities to cancel his patent from its records based on the order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB)

Court notice on vacancies in information panels

  • The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and eight State governments to respond to a petition highlighting that a large number of vacancies in the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions have crippled the Right to Information Act and resulted in huge backlog.
  • Centre and the State governments have attempted “to stifle the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointment of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions, in a timely manner.
  • The petition said that due to non-appointment of information commissioners, several information commissions take many months, and in some cases even years, to decide on appeals and complaints due to accumulation of pending appeals/complaints, defeating the entire object of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • Currently, there are four vacancies in the Central Information Commission, though more than 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending.
  • The Andhra Pradesh Commission is completely non-functional as not a single information commissioner has been appointed.
  • The effective functioning of information commissioners, the final adjudicators under the RTI Act, is critical for the health of the transparency regime in the country, the petition said.

Court seeks response on FCRA amendments

  • The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the government on amendments made in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) which benefit the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress, both held guilty by the Delhi High Court in 2014 for receiving foreign funds from two subsidiaries of Vedanta, a U.K.-based company.
  • A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra agreed to examine the petition filed by NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, challenging the amendments made in the FCRA through the Finance Act, 2016 and Finance Act, 2018. The amendments were passed as a Money Bill with retrospective effect from the year 1976.
  • The petition, represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Neha Rathi, contended the amendments were made to counter a March 28, 2014 decision of the Delhi High Court. The High Court had held the two major national political parties — the BJP and the Congress — guilty of taking foreign funding. It had directed the Centre and the Election Commission of India to take action against the two parties within six months.
  • The Representation of the People Act bars political parties from receiving foreign funds. The petition argued that the “amendments have opened doors to unlimited political donations from foreign companies and thereby legitimising financial contributions received from foreign sources”.

Interpol Red Notice against Nirav Modi

  • The Interpol has issued the Red Notice against diamond merchant Nirav Modi, his brother Neeshal Modi, and their employee Shubash Parab on the request of the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI in connection with the Rs. 13,578-crore Punjab National Bank fraud.
  • The Red Notice not only restricts a fugitive’s movement in the 192 member-countries of the Interpol but also empowers enforcement agencies in the respective foreign jurisdictions to detain the person for deportation or extradition to the requesting country.
  • The ED has launched a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against the accused persons on the basis of FIRs registered by the CBI.
  • Both the agencies have filed initial chargesheets and had requested the Interpol to issue Red Notice seeking his location and detention.
  • The ED has also moved the Mumbai Special Court seeking approval for sending a request to extradite him. While the application is expected to be sent to the U.K., the agency will write to other countries requesting cooperation in his arrest.

China aims to outstrip NASA with super-powerful rocket

  • China is working on a super-powerful rocket that would be capable of delivering heavier payloads into low orbit than NASA.
  • By 2030, the Long March-9 rocket under development will be able to carry 140 tonnes into low-Earth orbit — where TV and earth observation satellites currently fly.
  • This compares to the 20 tonnes deliverable by Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket or the 64 tonnes by Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy.
  • It would also outstrip the 130 tonnes of NASA’s Space Launch System, which is due to become operational in 2020.
  • The rocket could be used in manned lunar landings, deep space exploration or constructing a space-based solar power plant.
  • In addition, China is working on a reusable space rocket, which is expected to make its maiden flight in 2021.

Editorials and Opinions :

How to list cases better

  • Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra recently flagged rising pendency in appeals lying with High Courts based on the findings of the Supreme Court’s Arrears Committee. He has since directed High Courts to prepare action plans for disposal of five and 10-year-old cases.
  • He has also asked for High Court Arrears Committees to periodically review the situation. While it is crucial that a disposal review mechanism is put in place, the manner in which judicial performance is measured and accountability is exercised must be carefully revisited.
  • For decades, the primary measure of court efficiency has been case disposal rates. Public perception of court performance and individual judges now hinges on the number of cases pending before them.
  • Though a crucial indicator it does not consider the quality of adjudication itself. Neither does it shed light on the exact nature of cases that have remained pending the longest, or the stage at which pendency recurs the most. Since these parameters are not measured, they are often disregarded in the discourse on court performance.
  • The discourse on case pendency has largely revolved around delayed appointments and vacancies.   xcxvbn
  • The study showed how certain cases listing practices influenced case movement and harboured pendency.
  • First, listing patterns were generally erratic, with the number of matters listed for the same courtroom ranging from 1 to 126 a month. In some courtrooms, it was 80-120 cases for a month.
  • Second, a large number of cases listed in a day meant that inevitably, matters listed towards the end of the day remained left over. Thus, cases in the final stages of hearing most often clogged the case pipeline.
  • Third, old pending matters barely made it to court. Our case data over three years showed that 91% of them remained unheard despite being allotted a separate day and specific judges.
  • One way to accelerate case movement is by making case listing more systematic. Here, courts must assess their performance based on the actual number of cases being heard.
  • Cause list preparation can be made more scientific if supported by a consistent study of the variance in the number of cases listed across courts, identifying the exact stages at which cases are clogging the pipeline for the longest duration, and the nature of cases left over.
  • Second, the cause list should have cases methodically distributed by type and stage. The court can decide on a minimum and maximum number for particular matters.
  • Third, disposing of old and pending matters must be prioritised. Despite allotting two days in week to hearing these matters for most of the day, the High Court we studied had a massive docket of old pending cases.
  • Scientific listing has clear benefits. It will introduce standardisation across courts and help disincentivise judges from using discretionary practices in the number and nature of cases listed before them.
  • Another benefit would be better quality of adjudication.
  • The quality and efficiency of court functioning can be improved with simple tweaks. Therefore, it is time that the judiciary as an institution opens itself to the services of competent external agencies that can help them record, manage and analyse their data better, to build and sustain a healthy institution.

Pending cases in India

  • There were over 2 million cases pending in the 24 high courts of India on 4 February 2018, according to the National Judicial Data Grid, with 49 percent of these cases being more than five years old.
  • Data from central ministries show that infrastructure projects of close to Rs 52,000 crore are affected by court orders, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18.
  • Chief Justice Dipak Misra sounded the alarm on rising pendency at a time when the situation is almost getting out of hand with the backlog touching 3.3 crore cases. While 84 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, the backlog clogging the High Courts and Supreme Court (SC) is 43 lakh and 57,987 cases, respectively.
  • According to National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the five states which account for the highest pendency are Uttar Pradesh (61.58 lakh), Maharashtra (33.22 lakh), West Bengal (17.59 lakh), Bihar (16.58 lakh) and Gujarat (16.45 lakh).
  • The CJI is particularly concerned as large number of undertrials languishes in jails across the country as they don’t get bail and many even spend more than their sentence once they are convicted. Of all the pending cases, 60% are more than two years old, while 40% are more than five year old. In the Supreme Court, more than 30% of pending cases are more than five years old.
  • A study conducted by a Bengaluru-based non-government organisation (NGO) has shown that a judge in a high court spends less than five minutes hearing a case, on an average.The most relaxed high court judges in the country have 15-16 minutes to hear a case, while the busiest have just about 2.5 minutes to hear a case and, on average, they have approximately five-six minutes to decide a case .
  • The report also said that there is one judge for every 73,000 people in India, seven times worse than in the United States.

Measures :

  • A study by data journalism website IndiaSpend has found no strong direct correlation between judicial vacancies and the performance of a court. The study looked at the lower courts in Tamil Nadu and found that while all courts had missing judges, there was still significant variation in their performances. For example, while a civil case anywhere in the state takes on an average about 2.95 years to be resolved, in the district of Ariyalur, it takes an average of 4.65 years. Similarly, while Chennai’s lower courts dispose criminal cases the quickest, Coimbatore’s lower courts are the slowest.
  • This is not to suggest that the large number of judicial vacancies isn’t a problem. But there are other effective ways to address the problem as well.
  • Judicial case management is one important measure. Here, the court sets a timetable for the case and the judge actively monitors progress. This marks a fundamental shift in the management of cases—the responsibility for which moves from the litigants and their lawyers to the court.
  • The Law Commission of India in its 230th report has also offered a long list of measures to deal with the pendency of cases.
    • These include providing strict guidelines for the grant of adjournments,
    • curtailing vacation time in the higher judiciary,
    • reducing the time for oral arguments unless the case involves a complicated question of law,
    • and framing clear and decisive judgements to avoid further litigation.
  • In addition, the courts should also seriously consider incorporating technology into the system; digitizing courts records has been a good start in this context but a lot more can be done. For example, just like automation powered by Artificial Intelligence is already helping doctors, it can also be leveraged to assist judges and lawyers.

Undertrial :

  • The ‘Prison Statistics India 2015’ report is released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) The report calls overcrowding as “one of the biggest problems faced by prison inmates.”
  • The occupancy rate at the all India level at the end of 2015 was 114.4 per cent.
  • Sixty-seven per cent of the people in Indian jails are undertrials — people not convicted of any crime and currently on trial in a court of law.
  • Marginalised communities form the bulk of the undertrial population – 53% are Muslim, Dalit and Adivasi. This is a disproportionately high number given these communities together make up only 39% of India’s population.
  • Most undertrials are poorly educated. Around 29% are illiterate and 42% have not completed secondary education.
  • If undertrials are held for a period equal to half their potential sentence, then under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, they are eligible for release on a personal bond. After release, they are required to appear at all future court dates.
  • In December 2017, a public interest litigation (PIL) had brought up the issue of over 300 undertrials, who despite being granted bail by courts were languishing in capital’s jails due to their inability to furnish bail bonds and surety bonds.

In a reply in Lok Sabha  the government acknowledged the large number of undertrials as a major reason for overcrowding, and listed various measures taken to address the problem:

  • Establishing fast-track courts
  • Establishing open prisons in states and UTs
  • Launching a National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms
  • Introducing the concept of plea bargaining through Section 265 of CrPC
  • Insertion of Section 436A that sets a limit for the maximum period for which an undertrial prisoner can be  detained
  • Promotion of plea bargaining by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) within CrPC parameters
  • Free legal services being provided to all undertrial prisoners by NALSA’s legal service clinics.
  • Under entry 4 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, prisons are governed by the Prisons Act, 1894, and the Prison Manuals of respective state governments. Thus, states have the primary role, responsibility and authority to change the current prison laws, rules and regulations.

One year after

  • Since its midnight launch on July 1 last year, India’s Goods and Services Tax regime has evolved significantly.
  • Industry had anxieties about the multiple tax rates, ranging from zero to 28%, with a cess on demerit goods. But gradually, the number of goods under the 28% bracket has been brought down to 50 from around 200.
  • A unique component envisaged in India’s GST regime, matching of invoices for granting tax credits, has been kept on hold for fear of adding to taxpayers’ transition pains. Despite its glitches and snarls, the new tax has taken firm root and is altering the economic landscape positively. The strongest sign of this is the entry of over 4.5 million entities in the country’s tax net, many of which would have so far been part of the cash-driven, informal economy. This expansion of the tax net will also help increase direct tax collections.
  • The government was eyeing a little over Rs. 90,000 crore a month to make up for the revenues earned under the earlier regime and to compensate States for any losses due to the GST. Finance Minister is confident that the average monthly collections this year could touch Rs. 110,000 crore.
  • This surge must allay the fiscal concerns of the Centre and the States, and nudge policy-makers towards further rationalising the GST structure.
  • In its second year, the GST Council must pursue a time-bound approach to execute plans already announced to ease taxpayers’ woes, such as an e-wallet for exporters and a simpler return form. Besides, there must be a road map to bring excluded products — petroleum, real estate, electricity, alcohol — into the GST net.

Reforming higher education

  • Once the draft is approved technical details like composition and all can be discussed and criticized, so left out some parts of the article.
  • The draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECT) Bill is now in the public domain. The HECI will replace the main regulatory authority, the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • The main point of departure in the proposed Bill is a clear separation between academic functions and grant-giving ones, the former to be discharged by the HECI and the latter by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) directly.
  • The need for a single regulatory body arose largely in the context of multiple bodies set up over the years trying to cope with the ever increasing complexity of the sector, both in terms of rapidly expanding number of institutions to meet the demands of surging student enrolment, and the uneven and perhaps deteriorating standards in the quality of student output against the requirements of the job market.
  • The regime of multiple regulators started in the mid-1980s and various professional bodies also started asserting themselves as regulators from around the early 1990s when the country embraced the new challenges of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
  • It can be observed that the heavy hands of multiple regulators (like the UGC and All India Council for Technical Education), together with the empowerment of professional bodies (like the Bar Council of India and Council of Architecture) have not yielded the desired dividends. Mushrooming of institutions and a steady decline of standards in most of them have not done much good to the image of the government and the architecture of regulation.
  • Question of funds : As of today, the MHRD has been directly funding more than a hundred institutions of national importance, including the Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research. Funding 47 Central universities should not pose a problem for the ministry. The funding scheme of State universities, which account for more than 50% of the student enrolment, requires to be clearly worked out.
  • On the one hand, the HECI is being conceived as an overarching regulato, and on the other it is sought to develop mechanisms so that more institutions are encouraged to move out of its regulatory ambit.
  • Of the many functions of the HECI, specifying norms and standards for grant of autonomy and of graded autonomy is an important one. Linked with the issue are the recent initiatives to encourage public institutions to raise user charges so that they become self-sustaining as also to allow such institutions to take loan from the Higher Education Funding Agency to meet developmental costs.
  • These are bold initiatives with major consequences, inducing institutions to abandon courses that have hardly any job prospects and starting ones that are market-friendly. Besides, the high fees to be paid by students for such courses might compel them to take concessional student loans. The first militates against the idea of higher education and the concept of the university and the second may result in the student loan crisis reaching alarming proportions on account of delay in payment and default.
  • Despite some apparent infirmities, the proposed Bill shows the resolve of the government to move forward in reforming the sector. While many questions remain unanswered, the proposal appears to be a plausible one, if the public expenditure in the sector continues to hover around the present level of over 1% of GDP, against the minimum requirement of 2%. Major issues like making the universities the hub of scientific and technological research, restoring the value of education in social sciences and the humanities, ensuring that poor and meritorious students can afford to be educated in subjects of their choice, improving the quality of instruction to enhance the employability of the students, addressing the concerns of faculty shortage, etc. require a quantum jump in allocation of public resources to this sector.

Triggered by bad air

  • Particulate matter that exists as fine dust in the air can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, particularly in low-income countries such as India.
  • Analysis of the burden of pollution-linked diabetes (in the journal, Lancet Planetary Health ) estimates that in 2016, air pollution resulted in as many as 3.2 million new cases of diabetes.
  • This is 14% of all new diabetes cases for that year, and India’s share was 20% of new cases. Annually, the researchers estimated that pollution-linked diabetes caused more than 2 lakh deaths in 2016.
  • the risk of incident diabetes increased with rising concentrations of PM2.5 (fine dust less than 2.5 microns in diameter), even reaching significant impact at concentrations of 12 micrograms per cubic meter (m3).
  • This level is considered “safe” by Indian standards which sets a limit of 40 micrograms per m3) and is far below what is experienced in cities. In Delhi, for instance, PM2.5 can touch nearly 100 micrograms per m3.
  • Studies have shown that this fine dust enters the bloodstream through the lungs, reducing insulin production and triggering inflammation. This factor adds to the diabetes burden which affects more than 420 million people globally.
  • India tops the list in terms of ‘Disability-Adjusted Life Years’, which measures years of healthy life lost due to pollution-linked diabetes. Researchers estimate that nearly 8.2 million years of healthy life were lost globally in 2016, and India lost 1.625 million healthy years.
  • Where high economic growth has lead to higher pollution burdens, lower-income countries such as India are affected the most. After all, while the global PM2.5 average was 42.3 micrograms per c3, in India, it was 72.6 per m3. The study finds that a modest reduction in PM2.5 levels may lead to a reduction in diabetes cases in India.
Download the PDF Notes : Newspaper notes for UPSC of 03-07-18

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