- A) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
- No-confidence motion and trust vote (TH)
- DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019 (TH)
- B) International Relations
- New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) (TH)
- C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
- Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF) (PIB)
- D) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
- Glass2Sand Initiative (TH)
- E) Miscellaneous
- Chauri Chaura centenary celebrations (PIB)
- Strategic Petroleum Reserves in India (PIB)
A) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
No-confidence motion and trust vote (TH)
- Context: The Haryana Congress Legislature Party decided to move a no-confidence motion against the BJP-JJP government in the next Assembly session on the Centre’s farm laws issue.
What is a no-confidence motion?
- Article 75/164 of the Constitution: The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha/State Assembly (not Parliament/State Legislature!).
- A no-confidence motion is usually moved by the opposition when it feels that the ruling government does not enjoy a majority in the House any longer.
- No reason is required to move such a motion.
- It can be moved against the entire Council of Ministers and not individual ministers or private members.
- A no-confidence motion can be moved by any member of the house and can be done only in the Lok Sabha/State Assembly and not the Rajya Sabha/Legislative Council.
- The Rajya Sabha/Legislative Council cannot remove the council of ministers by passing a no-confidence motion.
- This is because the Council of ministers is collectively responsible only to the Lok Sabha/State Assembly.
- But, the Rajya Sabha/Legislative Council can discuss and criticise the policies and activities of the government.
- Such a motion is moved under Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure (the term is not mentioned in the Constitution).
- A member has to give a written notice of the motion before 10 am, which is then read out by the Speaker of the House.
- Any Lok Sabha MP who can garner the support of 50 colleagues, can introduce a motion of no-confidence against the Council of Ministers. If the motion carries, the house debates and votes on the motion.
- If a majority of the members of the house vote in favour of the motion, the motion is passed and the Government is bound to vacate the office.
- If individuals or parties abstain from voting, those numbers will be removed from the overall strength of the House and then the majority will be taken into account.
- The question of the Union government/state government losing the confidence of the Lok Sabha/legislative assembly should be decided on the floor of the House and until that is done the ministry should not be unseated.
- Both censure motion and no-confidence motion can be moved in Lok Sabha or lower house in states.
- B. Kripalani moved the first-ever no-confidence motion in August 1963 against the Nehru government after the India-China war.
- Kripalani, an independent MP condemned the Nehru government for poor execution of plans, and even called Jawaharlal Nehru’s Panchsheel policy “five nonsenses.”
- The maximum number of such motions have been moved against Indira Gandhi during her various tenures as Prime Minister.
- The first motion that almost passed muster, and led to the falling of a government was that by Y.B. Chavan against the Morarji Desai government. Only almost, because Desai resigned before the motion could be put to vote.
What is a trust-vote?
- A confidence motion or a trust vote is a procedure for the government to prove its majority in the House.
- A trust vote can take place by way of a motion of confidence which is moved by the government or brought by the opposition.
- It is a motion normally proposed by the Prime Minister/Chief Minister to test the majority in the Lok Sabha/State Assembly.
- Such an exercise normally takes place when a new government is set to be formed. Any party will first have to prove its majority on the floor of the House before taking over.
- A trust vote can also be brought about if a government resigns and another party stakes a claim to form the government.
- If the confidence motion is negatived, it results in the fall of the government.
DNA Technology Regulation Bill, 2019 (TH)
- Context: Allowing investigating agencies to collect DNA samples from “suspects”, as laid down in the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, will give them “unbridled power that is easily capable of misuse and abuse” and amount to a “threat to the life, liberty, dignity and privacy of a person”, retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur has observed in a written submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology.
- While taking on board these concerns, the committee observed that it does not negate the need for such legislation, especially when DNA technology was in use. “Its use in recent months has exposed a false encounter in which innocents were killed contradicting initial claims made that they were militants,” the report said.
- 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 offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for civil matters such as paternity suits.
- Further, the Schedule includes DNA testing for matters related to 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.
B) International Relations
3.New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) (TH)
- Context:S. President Joe Biden’s administration extended the New START nuclear treaty with Russia by five years, saying it hoped to prevent an arms race despite rising tensions with Moscow.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed off on legislation extending the accord, meaning that the treaty — signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010 — will run until February 5, 2026.
- The last remaining arms reduction pact between the former Cold War rivals, New START caps to 1,550 the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by Moscow and Washington.
- Former President Donald Trump’s administration tore up previous agreements with Moscow and unsuccessfully sought to expand New START to cover China.
- The U.S. would use the coming five years to pursue diplomacy that addresses “all” of Russia’s nuclear weapons and to “reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal”.
- 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.
C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
4.Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF) (PIB)
- Context: In a written reply the Union Minister said that Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF) to promote and protect the welfare of the consumers has worked successfully under the extant Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF) Guidelines, 2019 and achieved the objective for which it has been set up.
- Consumer Welfare Fund has been setup under section 57 of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017.
- It is under administrative control of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
- Financial assistance from CWF is given to various Institutions including Universities, Voluntary Consumer Organization (VCOs) and States to promote and protect the welfare and interests of the consumers, create consumer awareness and strengthen consumer movement in the country.
- The Government has taken various steps including a Pan-India consumer awareness campaign “Jago Grahak Jago” to promote and protect the welfare of the consumers:
- Under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a three tier quasi-judicial mechanism, called Consumer Fora, has been established at the District, State and National levels to provide simple, inexpensive and speedy redressal to consumer disputes.
- To further improve the consumer protection legislation, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has recently been enacted to replace the existing Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
Key features of the Act include
Definition of consumer
- A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration.
- It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose.
Rights of consumers
- Six consumer rights have been defined in the Act, including the right to:
- (i) be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property;
- (ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services;
- (iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices;
- (iv) seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices;
- (v) be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate fora; and
- (vi) consumer awareness.
Central Consumer Protection Authority
- The central government will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.
- It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.
- CCPA will carry out the following functions, including:
- (i) inquiring into violations of consumer rights, investigating and launching prosecution at the appropriate forum;
- (ii) passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services that are hazardous, reimbursement of the price paid, and discontinuation of the unfair trade practices, as defined in the Act;
- (iii) issuing directions to the concerned trader/ manufacturer/ endorser/ advertiser/ publisher to either discontinue a false or misleading advertisement, or modify it;
- (iv) imposing penalties, and;
- (v) issuing safety notices to consumers against unsafe goods and services.
- CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to one year.
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
- Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) will be set up at the district, state, and national levels.
- A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to:
- (i) unfair or restrictive trade practices;
- (ii) defective goods or services;
- (iii) overcharging or deceptive charging; and
- (iv) the offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety.
- Complaints against an unfair contract can be filed with only the State and National
- Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC.
- Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC.
- Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.
- The new Act provides for simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer commissions, which include, among others,
- empowerment of the State and District Commissions to review their own orders,
- enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and file complaints in consumer Commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence,
- videoconferencing for hearing and
- deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.
- An Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism of Mediation has been provided in the new Act.
- A complaint will be referred by a Consumer Commission for mediation, wherever parties agree for it.
- Mediation will be held in the Mediation Cells to be established under the aegis of the Consumer Commissions.
- There will be no appeal against settlement through mediation.
- As per the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules, there will be no fee for filing cases up to Rs. 5 lakh.
- There are provisions for credit of amount due to unidentifiable consumers to Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF).
Jurisdiction of CDRCs
- The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore.
- The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore.
- Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.
- The Act sets up the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions as quasi-judicial bodies to adjudicate disputes.
- The Act empowers the central government to appoint, remove and prescribe conditions of service for members of the District, State and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions.
- The Act leaves the composition of the Commissions to the central government. This could affect the independence of these quasi-judicial bodies.
- The Act does not specify that the Commissions will comprise a judicial member. If the Commissions were to have members-only from the executive, the principal of separation of powers may be violated.
Consumer Protection Councils
- The Act sets up Consumer Protection Councils (CPCs) at the district, state, and national levels as advisory bodies.
- The Councils will advise on promotion and protection of consumer rights.
- Under the Act, the Central and State Council will be headed by the Minister-in-charge of Consumer Affairs at the central and state level, respectively.
- The Central Council, which has a three-year tenure, will have Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs from two States from each region- North, South, East, West, and NER.
- The District Council will be headed by the District Collector.
Unfair and restrictive trade practices
- An unfair trade practice includes:
- (i) making a false statement regarding the quality or standard of a good or service;
- (ii) selling of goods not complying with standards;
- (iii) manufacture of spurious goods;
- (iv) non-issuance of a receipt for a good or service sold;
- (v) refusing to withdraw or refund goods or services within 30 days; or
- (vi) disclosing personal information provided by a consumer to any other person.
- A restrictive trade practice is one that imposes unjustified costs or restrictions on consumers, including:
- (i) delays in supply that lead to increase in price; and
- (ii) requiring purchase of certain goods or services as a condition for procuring any other goods or services.
- The CCPA may take steps to prevent and discontinue unfair and restrictive trade practices.
- The District, State or National Commissions may order the discontinuation of unfair and restrictive trade practices.
Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020
- The Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, for prevention of unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms are also covered under the Consumer Protection Act.
- Under the Rules, the e-commerce entities will have to provide every detail relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options and so on.
- They will also have to mention the country of origin.
- The e-commerce platforms also have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act.
- And will also have to appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal.
- These rules are mandatory and not merely advisories as issued earlier.
- The rules prohibit the e-commerce companies from manipulating the price of the goods or services to gain unreasonable profit through unjustified prices.
- The New Act introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation.
D) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
5.Glass2Sand Initiative (TH)
- Context: Glass2Sand is an initiative by 19-year-old Udit Singhal selected by the United Nations as one of 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Glass2Sand stops glass bottles from being dumped in landfills and crushes them into commercially valuable silica sand.
- With the bottles crushed into fine sand, any possibility of counterfeiting is also “crushed”.
- The sand thus produced is used in construction activity, as lining in furnaces, for roads and other applications.
- The sand so formed will be of the colour of the bottle.
All about Glass
- Although most people think of glass as a man-made material, it is found in many forms in the natural world.
- In nature, glasses are formed when sand and/or rocks, often high in silica, are heated to high temperatures and then cooled rapidly
- Volcanic glass, for example, is molten rock that has quickly cooled, becoming rock in a glassy state.
- Tektites and Libyan Desert Glass are other forms of glassy rock created by the intense heat and force of meteoritic impacts on the earth millions of years ago.
- Fulgurites, which are made when lightning strikes sand, are brittle tubes of melted sand.
- Some marine creatures, such as microscopic algae and sea sponges, have siliceous (silica) skeletons, which are also a form of natural glass.
- When meteorites strike the earth, soil liquefication due to intense heat of the impact causes the silica present in the soil to turn into glass.
- Even lunar soils have presence of glass in them.
What is the State of Glass? – Amorphous Solids/Rigid Liquid
- Glass is a state of matter rather than a single material.
- Glass is made by heating ordinary sand (which is mostly made of silicon dioxide) until it melts and turns into a liquid.
- Sand melts at the incredibly high temperature of 1700°C (3090°F).
- Glass is created when a molten material cools so rapidly that there is not enough time for a crystalline structure to form.
- Crystalline structured materials e.g. diamond have their atoms arranged in perfectly ordered, lattice-like structures.
- In liquids, atoms and molecules are free to move about in a random way—which is why liquids can flow.
- In a glass, the atoms are held rigidly in place so it cannot flow. But they have not had time to arrange themselves in a perfectly ordered lattice. Neither a solid nor a liquid, glass is often called an amorphous solids or a rigid liquid.
6.Chauri Chaura centenary celebrations
- Prime Minister inaugurated a series of events to kick off the Chauri Chaura centenary celebrations in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district.
- The Chauri Chaura incident took place on February 4, 1922.
- In the incident, which led to the death of three civilians and 22 policemen, a large group of protesters participating in the Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement against the British colonial rule had clashed with police who opened fire on them. The demonstrators then attacked and set fire to a police station in Chauri Chaura.
Strategic Petroleum Reserves in India (PIB)
- Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL), a Government of India Special Purpose Vehicle, has established Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) facilities with total capacity of 5.33 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) (the total capacity is estimated to provide for about 5 days of crude oil requirement) at 3 locations, namely (i) Vishakhapatnam, (ii) Mangaluru and (iii) Padur (Karnatka)
- Under Phase II of the SPR Programme, the Government is about to establish two additional SPR facilities with total storage capacity of 6.5 MMT at two locations namely (i) Chandikhol in Odisha (4 MMT) and (ii) Padur in Karnataka (2.5 MMT).
Do you Know?
- Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in the country have storage facilities for crude oil and petroleum products for 64.5 days, thus the current total national capacity for storage of crude oil and petroleum products currently is 74 days
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