28th March, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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Impeachment of Supreme Court Justices
(GS2: Structure, organization and functioning of the judiciary)
Issue: Some Opposition parties have revived the process of discussing the moving of an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Process of Impeachment
The procedure relating to the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court is regulated by the Judges Inquiry Act,1968, by the process of impeachment. There are two grounds for removal – proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
A judge of the Supreme Court can be removed from his office by an order of the President. The President can issue the removal order after an address by the Parliament, supported by a special majority of each House of Parliament (that is, a majority of the total membership of that House and a majority of not less than two thirds of the members of that house present and voting), has been presented to the President in the same session of Parliament for such a removal.
The step-wise process is:
1. A removal motion signed by 100 members (in case of Lok Sabha) or 50 members (in case of Rajya Sabha) is to be given to the Speaker/Chairman. (The removal motion can be introduced in any of the two Houses of Parliament).
2. The Speaker/Chairman may admit and reject the motion.
3. If it is admitted, then the Speaker/Chairman is to constitute a three-member committee to investigate into the charges. The Committee should consist of the Chief Justice or a judge of the Supreme Court, a chief justice of a high court and a distinguished jurist.
4. In the meantime, the Supreme Court justice on whom the charges are brought up should not be part of official business of the Supreme Court if the motion for his removal is accepted
5. If the committee finds the judge to be guilty of the charges (misbehaviour or incapacity), the House in which the motion was introduced, can take up the consideration of the motion.
6. Once, the House in which removal motion was introduced passes it with special majority, it goes to the second House which also has to pass it with special majority.
7. After the motion is passed by each House of the Parliament by special majority, an address is presented to the President for removal of the judge.
8. Finally, the President passes an order removing the judge.
(GS2: Indian Constitution: Fundamental Rights)
Issue: Coming down heavily on crimes committed in the name of honor, the Supreme Court upheld the choice of consenting adults to love and marry as a part of their fundamental rights. The apex court said, “Honor killing guillotines individual liberty, freedom of choice and one’s own perception of choice.”
What is honor killing?
An honor killing or shame killing is the homicide of a member of a family, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family, or has violated the principles of a community or a religion, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their family, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, engaging in non-heterosexual relations or renouncing a faith.
(GS2: Judicial bodies)
Issue: Criminals sentenced to imprisonment for six months or a year should be allocated social service duties rather than be put in already overflowing prisons, the Supreme Court advised the government.
Current situation in the prisons all over the country
The court’s amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal submitted that 240 jails across the country are housing inmates 150% above their normal capacity. Worse is the prison staff-prisoner ratio. Of about 77,000 sanctioned posts, 24500 lie vacant. Tamil Nadu and U.P. are some of the worst cases in prison staff-inmate ratio. Only about 5,000 prison staff monitors over 92,000 inmates in Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu has about 4,000 prison staffers to monitor 13,000 prisoners.
Other suggestions by the Supreme Court to the Government
1. More family visits for prisoners and use of phones and video-conferencing not only between a prisoner and family, but also his lawyers.
2. Respite for under-trials
3. It had directed the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) to conduct a study and performance audit of prisons. It wanted the government to constitute a Board of Visitors to initiate prison reforms.
What is Amicus Curiae?
Amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case and is not solicited by a party, but who assists a court by offering information that bears on the case. The decision on whether to admit the information lies at the discretion of the court. The phrase amicus curiae are legal Latin.
About National Legal Service Authority
Towards fulfilling the Preambular promise of securing to all the citizens, Justice – social, economic and political, Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law. In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament, which came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society. The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Hon’ble Judge, Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
Public awareness, equal opportunity and deliverable justice are the cornerstones on which the edifice of NALSA is based. The principal objective of NALSA is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. Apart from the abovementioned, functions of NALSA include spreading legal literacy and awareness, undertaking social justice litigations etc.
With the aim of reaching out to the diverse milieu of people belonging to different socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds, NALSA identifies specific categories of the marginalized and excluded groups from the diverse populace of the country and formulates various schemes for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes to be undertaken and implemented by the Legal Services Authorities at the various levels. In carrying out all these responsibilities, NALSA works in close coordination with the various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies for a regular exchange of relevant information, monitoring and updating on the implementation and progress of the various schemes in vogue and fostering a strategic and coordinated approach to ensure smooth and streamlined functioning of the various agencies and stakeholders.
(GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: The Union Cabinet’s decision recently to not only continue with the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) — ‘a Centrally sponsored scheme launched in 2013 to provide strategic funding to eligible State higher educational institutions’ — but also give it due importance augurs well for the system of higher education in India. That the government is backing the scheme speaks volumes about the robustness and relevance of the scheme.
What is RUSA?
Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions. The central funding (in the ratio of 60:40 for general category States, 90:10 for special category states and 100% for union territories) would be norm based and outcome dependent. The funding would flow from the central ministry through the state governments/union territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions. The funding to states would be made on the basis of critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans, which would describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education.
The salient objectives of RUSA are to;
- Improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
- Usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
- Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
- Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
- Create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to devote themselves to research and innovations.
- Expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
- Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by setting up institutions in unserved & underserved areas.
- Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes; promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons.
RUSA would create new universities through upgradation of existing autonomous colleges and conversion of colleges in a cluster. It would create new model degree colleges, new professional colleges and provide infrastructural support to universities and colleges. Faculty recruitment support, faculty improvements programmes and leadership development of educational administrators are also an important part of the scheme. In order to enhance skill development the existing central scheme of Polytechnics has been subsumed within RUSA. A separate component to synergise vocational education with higher education has also been included in RUSA. Besides these, RUSA also supports reforming, restructuring and building capacity of institutions in participating state.
The following are the primary components of RUSA that capture the key action and funding areas that must be pursued for the fulfillment of the targets:
- Up gradation of existing autonomous colleges to Universities
- Conversion of colleges to Cluster Universities
- Infrastructure grants to Universities
- New Model Colleges (General)
- Upgradation of existing degree colleges to model colleges
- New Colleges (Professional)
- Infrastructure grants to colleges
- Research, innovation and quality improvement
- Equity initiatives
- Faculty Recruitment Support
- Faculty improvements
- Vocationalization of Higher Education
- Leadership Development of Educational Administrators
- Institutional restructuring & reforms
- Capacity building & preparation, data collection & planning
RUSA is implemented by Ministry of Human Resources development
‘Monetary policy of RBI’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: After a gap of about one-and-a-half years, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has resumed the process of holding consultative meetings with industry groups and banks in the run-up to the monetary policy.
The RBI’s six member monetary policy committee (MPC) will hold its first bimonthly policy review of the new fiscal year on April 4-5.
The Monetary Policy Committee of India is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India that is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India. The meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee are held at least 4 times a year and it publishes its decisions after each such meeting.
The committee comprises six members – three officials of the Reserve Bank of India and three external members nominated by the Government of India. They need to observe a “silent period” seven days before and after the rate decision for “utmost confidentiality”. The Governor of Reserve Bank of India is the chairperson ex officio of the committee. Decisions are taken by majority with the Governor having the casting vote in case of a tie. The current mandate of the committee is to maintain 4% annual inflation until March 31, 2021 with an upper tolerance of 6% and a lower tolerance of 2%.
The committee was created in 2016 to bring transparency and accountability in fixing India’s Monetary Policy. Minutes are published after every meeting with each member explaining his/her opinions. The committee is answerable to the Government of India if the inflation exceeds the range prescribed for three consecutive months.
‘Great Barrier Reef’
(GS1: Geographical features and their location)
Issue: An ultra-fine biodegradable film some 50,000 times thinner than a human hair could be enlisted to protect the Great Barrier Reef from environmental degradation. The World Heritage-listed site is reeling from coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures.
Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Biology have been buoyed by test results of a floating “sun shield” made of calcium carbonate that has been shown to protect the reef from the effects of bleaching. It’s designed to sit on the surface of the water above the corals, rather than directly on the corals, to provide an effective barrier against the sun
About Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
A March 2016 report stated that coral bleaching was more widespread than previously thought, seriously affecting the northern parts of the reef as a result of warming ocean temperatures. In October 2016, Outside published an obituary for the reef; the article was criticized for being premature and hindering efforts to bolster the resilience of the reef. In March 2017, the journal Nature published a paper showing that huge sections of a 800-kilometre (500 mi) stretch in the northern part of the reef had died in the course of 2016 due to high water temperatures, an event that the authors put down to the effects of global climate change.
Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.
In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. The warm waters centered around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.
Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.
In January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death. Water temperatures dropped 12.06 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the typical temperatures observed at this time of year.
‘Next Generation Telescope’
Issue: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is delaying the launch of its next-generation space telescope, its highest science priority, until at least 2020.
Objective of the Telescope
The telescope will study planets orbiting other stars, while probing the earliest times of the cosmos. Unlike Hubble, which was serviced regularly by space shuttle astronauts, Webb will orbit the sun at a point about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, unreachable in case of a breakdown. Hubble lifted off in 1990 with a flawed mirror that blurred its vision; spacewalking astronauts had to fix it in 1993.
Nasa and its partner, the European Space Agency, will firm up a new launch date, now tentatively targeted for May 2020 from French Guiana.
Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS)
(GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors and issues arising from it)
Issue: A new central sector scheme namely “Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS)” has been approved for implementation during 2018-19 and 2019-20. The key objectives of the scheme are to integrate PDS system/portals of States/UTs with Central System/portals, introduction of National Portability, and de-duplication of ration cards/beneficiary, etc.
Highlights of the new scheme
The new scheme will bring more transparency and efficiency in distribution of food grains as it will improve the mechanism to identify fake/duplicate ration cards and provide the option to PDS beneficiaries to lift their entitled foodgrains from the Fair Price Shops of their choice at the national level.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution is the implementing agency for this programme
(GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: As per a report prepared by WHO, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) (also known as e-cigarettes) emits nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco products. In addition to dependence, nicotine can have adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy and may contribute to cardiovascular disease. The WHO report further says that although nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neurodegeneration. Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.
Strategic plan to tackle Dengue and Chikungunya
(GS2: Issues related to health)
Issue: Prevention and control of Dengue and Chikungunya is one of the components of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).
The strategies introduced under the programme are:
- Surveillance: Disease and Entomological Surveillance
- Case management: Laboratory diagnosis and Clinical management
- Vector management: Environmental management for Source Reduction, Chemical control, Personal protection and Legislation
- Outbreak response: Epidemic preparedness and Media management
- Capacity building: Training, Infrastructure development and Operational research
- Behaviour Change Communication: Social mobilization and Information Education and Communication (IEC)
- Inter-sectoral coordination: Health and non health sector
- Monitoring and Supervision: Review, field visit, feedback and Analysis of reports
- A network of 618 Sentinel Surveillance Hospitals supported by 16 Apex Referral Laboratories have been established where dengue kits are provided free of cost.
- Advisories are issued to the States for sensitization from time to time.
- Training is given on dengue and chikungunya case management.
- Financial and technical assistance are provided to the States.
The Directorate of National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme is the national level Technical Nodal office equipped with Technical Experts in the field of Public Health, Entomology, Toxicology and parasitology aspects of malaria. The Directorate is responsible for framing technical guidelines & policies as to guide the states for implementation of Programme strategies. It is also responsible for budgeting and planning the logistics pertaining to central sector. Monitoring of implementation through regular reports and returns of MIS is done. The Directorate carries out evaluation of Programme implementation from time to time. The resource gap is also assessed as to provide an equitable support based on the magnitude of the problem.
Under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, 17 Regional Offices for Health and Family Welfare (ROH & FW) are functioning. The offices are manned by technical people to coordinate and monitor all national health and family welfare Programmes in the concerned states through close liaison and field visits. They are also capable for providing technical advice as well as assistance to the state. Under National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme these offices are entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the entomological studies in collaboration with zonal entomological setup of the state, drug resistance studies, cross checking of blood slides for quality control, capacity building of the states, etc.
About Dengue and Chikungunya
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection. This may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. Recovery generally takes two to seven days. In a small proportion of cases, the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.
Dengue is spread by several species of mosquito of the Aedes type, principally A. aegypti. The virus has five different types; infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications. A number of tests are available to confirm the diagnosis including detecting antibodies to the virus or its RNA.
Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Symptoms include fever and joint pain. These typically occur two to twelve days after exposure. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and a rash. Most people are better within a week; however, occasionally the joint pain may last for months. The risk of death is around 1 in 1,000. The very young, old, and those with other health problems are at risk of more severe disease.
The virus is spread between people by two types of mosquitos: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. They mainly bite during the day. The virus may circulate within a number of animals including birds and rodents. Diagnosis is by either testing the blood for the virus’s RNA or antibodies to the virus. The symptoms can be mistaken for those of dengue fever and Zika fever. After a single infection it is believed most people become immune.