- A) International Relations
- West Asia Peace Conference (TH)
- New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START Treaty) (TH)
- B) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
- DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 (TH)
- Official Secrets Act (TH)
- What is the Collegium system of appointing judges to the High Court and Supreme Court? (TH)
- State Election Commission (TH)
- C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
- PRAGATI – Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PIB)
- D) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
- International Energy Agency (IEA) (PIB)
- E) Economic Developments: India and World
- Grant for Rural Local Bodies (PIB)
- F) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
- Elephant Corridor Case (TH)
- G) Miscellaneous
- Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant (PIB)
A) International Relations
West Asia Peace Conference (TH)
- Russia backed a Palestinian proposal for a West Asia peace conference.
- The U.S. — which sided with Israel under the administration of Donald Trump — said it intended to “restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis”.
- “The roughly 10 participants would include Israel, the Palestinians, the four members of the West Asia diplomatic quartet (Russia, the UN, the U.S. and the EU), along with four Arab states — Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE.
New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START Treaty) (TH)
- Context: Russian lawmakers approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control treaty (New START treaty), an action that comes just days before it’s due to expire.
- The New START accord, signed in 2010, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that Russia and the United States can deploy and due to lapse in February 2021.
- It is a bipartisan process of verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.
- In August 2020, the U.S. and Russia terminated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty that had limited the United States and Russia from fielding land-based missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, both conventional and nuclear.
- The INF Treaty was the first pact to include intensive verification measures, including on-site inspections.
- Now only one major bilateral agreement, New START, limits the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
B) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
3.DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 (TH)
- Context: Asaddudin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), and CPI leader Binoy Viswam have filed dissent notes to the parliamentary standing committee’s report on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 on the grounds that it does not take into account their concerns over privacy violations.
- They say if enacted, the Bill will target Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis by way of DNA sample collection and indefinite storage.
- In Aug 2020, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, in a draft report, has called the DNA Technology Regulation Bill “premature”.
- The Bill proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of crime or reported missing and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes.
- The committee said in the absence of a robust data protection legislation, the security of a huge number of DNA profiles that will be placed with the National DNA Data bank and its regional centres is questionable.
- The draft report also red-flagged certain provisions of the Bill.
- The Bill permits retention of DNA found at a crime scene in perpetuity, even if conviction of the offender has been overturned.
- The committee urged the government to amend the provisions to ensure that if the person has been found innocent his DNA profile must be removed immediately from the data bank.
- The committee recommended that independent scrutiny must be done of the proposals to destroy biological samples and remove DNA profiles from the database.
- The Bill also provides that DNA profiles for civil matters will be stored in the data banks, but without a clear and separate index.
- The committee questioned the necessity for storage of such profiles, pointing out that this violates the fundamental right to privacy and does not serve any public purpose.
- The committee, in its draft report, pointed out that DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
- The report also red-flagged disregard to an individual’s privacy and other safeguards.
- The Bill proposes to store DNA profiles of suspects, undertrials, victims and their relatives for future investigations.
- While there is a good case for a DNA database of convicts, so that repeat offenders may be easily identified, there is no legal or moral justification for a database with DNA of the other categories as noted above, given the high potential for misuse.
- In the Bill, if a person is arrested for an offence that carries punishment up to seven years, investigation authorities must take the person’s written consent before taking the DNA sample. But this consent is only “perfunctory”, the report said.
- The Bill refers to consent in several provisions, but in each of those, a magistrate can easily override consent, thereby in effect, making consent perfunctory.
- There is also no guidance in the Bill on the grounds and reasons when the magistrate can override consent, which could become a fatal flaw.
DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019
- The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 provides for the regulation of use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons.
Use of DNA Data
- Under the Bill, DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the Schedule to the Bill.
- These include offenses under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for civil matters such as paternity suits.
- Further, the Schedule includes DNA testing for matters related to the establishment of individual identity.
Collection of DNA
- Authorities are required to obtain consent for collection in certain situations.
- For arrested persons, authorities are required to obtain written consent if the offence carries a punishment of up to seven years.
- If the offence carries more than seven years of imprisonment or death, consent is not required.
- If consent is not given in these cases, the authorities can approach a Magistrate who may order the taking of bodily substances of such persons.
DNA Data Bank
- The Bill provides for the establishment of a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks, for every state, or two or more states.
- Every Data Bank will be required to maintain indices for the following categories of data:
- (i) a crime scene index,
- (ii) a suspects’ or undertrials’ index,
- (iii) an offenders’ index,
- (iv) a missing persons’ index, and
- (v) an unknown deceased persons’ index.
Removal of DNA profiles
- The Bill provides for removal of the DNA profiles of the following persons:
- (i) of a suspect if a police report is filed or court order given,
- (ii) of an undertrial if a court order is given, and
- (iii) on written request, for persons who are not a suspect, offender or undertrial, from the crime scene or missing persons’ index.
DNA Regulatory Board
- The Bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will supervise the DNA Data Banks and DNA laboratories.
- The Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, will be the ex officio Chairperson of the Board.
- The Board will comprise additional members including:
- (i) experts in the field of biological sciences,
- (ii) Director-General of the National Investigation Agency and
- (iii) the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Do you know?
- A typical adult has over three billion characteristics in her DNA and only about a dozen characteristics (13 to be precise) are required for a DNA profiling database.
- Short tandem repeat(STR) analysis is a technique used in genetic identification and is commonly associated with DNA testing in forensic laboratories, paternity disputes or missing persons cases.
Official Secrets Act (TH)
- Context: The Congress filed complaints with the Mumbai Commissioner of Police demanding action against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami under the Official Secrets Act.
- In a memorandum submitted to Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, the Congress highlighted the WhatsApp chats that are part of the charge sheet filed in the alleged TRP scam case.
What is the Official Secrets Act?
- OSA has its roots in the British colonial era. The original version was The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act XIV), 1889.
- This was brought in with the main objective of muzzling the voice of a large number of newspapers that had come up in several languages and were building political consciousness.
- It was amended and made more stringent in the form of The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904, during Lord Curzon’s tenure as Viceroy of India.
- In 1923, a newer version was notified. The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.
- It broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, covered under Section 3, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, under Section 5.
- Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information and the person receiving the information can be punished.
- For classifying a document, a government Ministry or Department follows the Manual of Departmental Security Instructions, 1994, not under OSA.
- Also, OSA itself does not say what a “secret” document is.
- It is the government’s discretion to decide what falls under the ambit of a “secret” document to be charged under OSA.
- It has often been argued that the law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Between the RTI Act and OSA, which has primacy?
- Section 22 of the RTI Act provides for its primacy vis-a-vis provisions of other laws, including OSA. So, if there is any inconsistency in OSA with regard to furnishing of information, it will be superseded by the RTI Act.
- However, under Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act, the government can refuse information.
- Effectively, if the government classifies a document as “secret” under OSA Clause 6, that document can be kept outside the ambit of the RTI Act, and the government can invoke Sections 8 or 9.
Has there been any effort to change the provisions of OSA?
- In 1971, the Law Commission in its report on ‘Offences Against National Security’, observed that “it agrees with the contention” that “merely because a circular is marked secret or confidential, it should not attract the provisions of the Act if the publication thereof is in the interest of the public and no question of national emergency and interest of the State as such arises”.
- The Law Commission, however, did not recommend any changes to the Act.
- In 2006, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended that OSA be repealed, and replaced with a chapter in the National Security Act containing provisions relating to official secrets.
What is the Collegium system of appointing judges to the High Court and Supreme Court? (TH)
- Context: The Supreme Court questioned the government about the delay in clearing Collegium recommendations for judicial appointments to various High Courts.
- Also, in May 2019, a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has dismissed a bunch of petitions seeking a review of the court’s judgment in the Second Judges Case in 1993, which led to the collegium system of appointment of judges.
- The 1993 judgment was the basis on which a five-judge Constitution Bench declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC) and the Constitutional (Ninety-Nine Amendment) Act, 2014 unconstitutional in October 2015.
Collegium System of appointing judges
- The Collegium is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court, and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
- The Constitution confers the power of appointment of judges on the President of India (i.e., the Government of India) to be made in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
- The Supreme Court Collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other seniormost judges of the court.
- A High Court Collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other seniormost judges of that court.
- Names recommended for appointment by a High Court Collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court Collegium.
- Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the Collegium system — and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the Collegium.
- The government’s role is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
- It can also raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the Collegium’s choices, but if the Collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound, under Constitution Bench judgments, to appoint them as judges.
- This system of appointments emerged out of three rulings of the Supreme Court collectively passed known as the Three Judges Case, culminating in the historic Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association Vs Union of India 1993 judgment.
- In its landmark 1993 judgment, the apex court held that the independence of the judiciary, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution, was being undermined by the primacy of the executive in key appointments.
- First Judges Case: Primacy of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was not really to be found in the Constitution.
- In the First Judges Case (1981), the apex court held (4-3) that in the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court, the word “consultation” in Article 124(2) and in Article 217(1) of the Constitution does not mean “concurrence”.
- In the event of a disagreement, the “ultimate power” would rest with the Union Government and not the CJI.
- The First Judges Case, therefore, was an instance where the apex court acted against its own interests.
- Second Judges Case:A specific procedure called ‘Collegium System’ for the appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary.
- In the Second Judges Case (1993), the court (7-2) overruled the First Judges Case, holding that in the event of conflict between the President and the CJI with regard to appointments of Judges, it was the Chief Justice of India whose opinion would not only have primacy, but would be determinative in the matter. Thus, the President’s recommendation was made non-binding.
- The 1993 verdict also gave birth to the Collegium System. This was the collection of the CJI and the two most senior judges of the SC or the HC, depending on the case.
- What this did was in effect “moderate” the CJI’s powers when it comes to the appointment of judges.
- Third Judges Case: Recommendation should be made by the CJI and his four seniormost colleagues, instead of two.
- Finally, in the Third Judges Case (1998), the SC reaffirmed its 1993 judgement and expanded the Collegium to include the CJI and the four most-senior judges of the court after the CJI.
What does the Constitution say?
- The procedure listed in the Constitution for judicial appointments comes under Articles 124(2) and 217.
- Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years.
- “Provided that in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India shall always be consulted,” says Article 124(2).
- “Every Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of High Court,” says Article 217.
State Election Commission (TH)
- Context: The Andhra Pradesh government has “objected” to the censure notices issued by the State Election Commissioner to two senior IAS officials over preparations for the local body elections.
- The State Election Commissioner had reached the conclusion that the two senior IAS officers were responsible for the adoption of old (2019) electoral rolls which jeopardised the right of nearly 3.6 lakh youth who attained 18 years as on January 1, 2021, to vote, and there was nothing personal about it.
- The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of all elections to the panchayats shall be vested in the state election commission.
- It consists of a state election commissioner to be appointed by the governor.
- His conditions of service and tenure of office shall also be determined by the governor.
- He shall not be removed from the office except in the manner and on the grounds prescribed for the removal of a judge of the state high court.
- A judge of a high court can be removed from his office by the president on the recommendation of the Parliament.
- This means that a state election commissioner cannot be removed by the governor, though appointed by him.
- His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
- The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats.
C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
7.PRAGATI – Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PIB)
- Context: Prime Minister chaired the meeting of 35th edition of PRAGATI, the ICT based multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation, involving Central and State governments.
- The platform was launched in March 2015.
- The platform is aimed at:
- addressing common man’s grievances
- monitoring and reviewing important programs and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
- The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies:
- Digital data management
- Geo-spatial technology.
- It also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
- It has three objectives:
- Grievance Redressal
- Program Implementation
- Project Monitoring
Key features of the PRAGATI application are as follows:
- It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States).
- Prime Minister will hold a monthly program (on Fourth Wednesday at 3.30 PM-to be known as PRAGATI Day) where he will interact with the Government of India Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries through Video-conferencing enabled by data and geo-informatics visuals.
- The system has been designed in-house by the PMO team with the help of National Informatics Center (NIC).
D) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
8.International Energy Agency (IEA) (PIB)
- Context: India signs Strategic Partnership Agreement with International Energy Agency (IEA).
International Energy Agency (IEA)
- Founded in 1974, the IEA was initially designed to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in the supply of oil, such as the crisis of 1973/4.
- While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded significantly to examine the full spectrum of energy issues including oil, gas and coal supply and demand, renewable energy technologies, electricity markets, energy efficiency, access to energy, demand side management and much more.
- The four main areas of IEA focus are:
- Energy Security: Promoting diversity, efficiency, flexibility and reliability for all fuels and energy sources;
- Economic Development: Supporting free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty;
- Environmental Awareness: Analysing policy options to offset the impact of energy production and use on the environment, especially for tackling climate change and air pollution; and
- Engagement Worldwide: Working closely with partner countries, especially major emerging economies, to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns.
- Global Energy Review, World Energy Outlookand Key World Energy Statistics are some of the important publications of IEA.
- The Governing Board is the main decision-making body of the IEA.
- It is composed of energy ministers or their senior representatives from each Member country.
- The Governing Board holds three to four meetings at the Director-General (or equivalent) level each year to discuss global energy developments.
- The IEA Ministerial Meeting takes place every two years.
- The IEA is made up of 30 member countries.
- In addition, thanks to its successful open-door policy to emerging countries, the IEA family also includes eight association countries.
Criteria for membership
- To be a member country of the IEA, a country must also be a member country of the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
- However, membership in the OECD does not automatically result in membership in the IEA.
- China and India are not the members of IEA.
- In addition, it must demonstrate several requirements. These are:
- Crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports;
- A demand restraint program to reduce national oil consumption by up to 10%;
- Legislation and organization to operate the Co-ordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM) on a national basis;
- Legislation and measures to ensure that all oil companies under its jurisdiction report information upon request;
- Measures in place to ensure the capability of contributing its share of an IEA collective action.
- An IEA collective action would be initiated in response to a significant global oil supply disruption and would involve IEA Member Countries making additional volumes of crude and/or product available to the global market (either through increasing supply or reducing demand), with each country’s share based on national consumption as part of the IEA total oil consumption.
E) Economic Developments: India and World
9.Grant for Rural Local Bodies (PIB)
- Context: The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance has released grants to the Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) as per the recommendations of the 15thFinance Commission to create community assets and improve financial viability of the RLBs.
- The grants are provided to all the three tiers of Panchayati Raj – Village, Block and District to enable pooling of resources across villages and blocks.
- The 15thFinance Commission has recommended two types of grants to the RLBs – basic and tied grants.
- Basic grants are untied and can be used by the local bodies for location specific felt needs except for salary or other establishment expenditure.
- The tied grants can be used for the basic services of (a) sanitation and maintenance of Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and (b) supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling.
- The grants are meant to ensure additional funds to RLBs over and above the funds allocated by the Centre and the State for sanitation and drinking water under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes like Swachh Bharat and Jal Jeevan Mission.
- The States are required to transfer the grants to the RLBs within 10 working days of receipt from the Union Government.
- Any delay beyond 10 working days requires the State Governments to release the grants with interest.
F) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
10.Elephant Corridor Case (TH)
- Context: The Supreme Court-appointed conservationist Nandita Hazarika as Member of a Technical Committee constituted by it on October 14 last year to hear complaints by land owners against the action taken by the Nilgris Collector, which included sealing of their buildings and allegations about the “arbitrary variance in acreage of the elephant corridor.”
- On October 14, the top court upheld the Tamil Nadu government’s authority to notify an ‘elephant corridor’ and protect the migratory path of the animals through the Nilgiri biosphere reserve.
- The reserve is the largest protected forest area in India, spanning across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
- The corridor is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau, which connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats and sustains elephant populations, a “keystone species”, and their genetic diversity.
- The elephants cross the plateau in search of food and water.
11.Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant (PIB)
- Bharat Ratna Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Premier of United Provinces (1937 – 1939), First Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (1946 -1954) and Union Home Minister (1955 – 1961) was a recipient of the highest civilian award for Public Service, the Bharat Ratna in 1957, besides being the leader of the Rajya Sabha.