23 June Daily Current Affairs

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Consider the following statements:

The President of India, in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 223, can appoint a judge of a high court as an Acting Chief Justice of the High Court.

An acting judge cannot hold office after attaining the age of 62 years.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

2)Consider the following statements with respective to Gain-of-function Research

It is a field of research focused on growing generations of microorganisms, under conditions that cause mutations in a virus.

It allow scientists to better predict emerging infectious diseases, and to develop vaccines and therapeutics.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

3)Suicide Worldwide Report is published by which of the following organizations?

a.   United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

b.   World Health Organization (WHO)

c.   Doctors without Borders

d.   United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Prelims Specific News Items

1)What is soft power?

Joseph Nye, who gave us the notion of soft power, suggests that it consists of foreign policy, cultural and political influence.

Foreign policy influence comes from the legitimacy and morality of one’s dealings with other countries.

Cultural influence is based on others’ respect for one’s culture.

Political influence is how much others are inspired by one’s political values.

Soft power is difficult to measure.

The Lowy Institute in Australia has produced various measures which correspond roughly to foreign policy influence, cultural influence and political influence.

Comparison of India and China in Soft Power

For instance, India has only nine brands in the list of the top 500 global brands whereas China lists 73.

On the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, India has 37 while China has 53.

Respect for the Indian passport also lags.

Chinese citizens can travel visa-free to 74 countries while Indians can only do so to 60.

The governance effectiveness index shows India scoring in the top 43 per cent countries worldwide and ranked 12th and China scoring in the top 32 per cent and ranked 10th.

On “political stability and absence of violence/terrorism”, India ranked 21st, and China ranked 15th.

2) What is the Recusal of Judges?

Recusal is the removal of oneself as a judge or policymaker in a particular matter, especially because of a conflict of interest.

Recusal usually takes place when a judge has a conflict of interest or has a prior association with the parties in the case.

For example, if the case pertains to a company in which the judge holds stakes, the apprehension would seem reasonable.

Similarly, if the judge has, in the past, appeared for one of the parties involved in a case, the call for recusal may seem right.

A recusal inevitably leads to delay. The case goes back to the Chief Justice, who has to constitute a fresh Bench.

There are no written rules on the recusal of judges from hearing cases listed before them in constitutional courts. It is left to the discretion of a judge.

3)The Chicago Convention of 1944

The Convention on International Civil Aviation, better known as the Chicago Convention of 1944, to which Belarus is a signatory state, prohibits any unlawful intervention against a civilian aircraft.

At the same time, it has various provisions under Article 9 which permit a sovereign state the right to impose restrictions.

This includes enforced landings at a designated airport in its territory, in “exceptional circumstances or during a period of emergency, or in the interest of public safety”.

Once a flight has landed, Article 16 provides the host country the right to board/search the aircraft.

This is probably the clause that provided cover for the local authorities to board Mr. Morales’s aircraft in Austria in 2013.

But the Chicago Convention applies only to civilian aircraft of the contracting parties.

Q.Consider the following :

  1. Star tortoise
  2. Monitor lizard
  3. Pygmy hog
  4. Spider monkey

Which of the above found in India?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

4) About Enforcement Directorate:

It is a Multi Disciplinary Organization mandated with the task of enforcing the provisions of two special fiscal laws – Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). 

Historical background:

The origin of this Directorate goes back to 1st May, 1956, when an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 (FERA ’47).

In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’. The administrative control of the Directorate was transferred from Department of Economic Affairs to Department of Revenue in 1960.

For a short period of 04 years (1973 – 1977), the Directorate also remained under the administrative jurisdiction of Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms. 

Powers:

The Directorate enforces two laws;

FEMA, a Civil Law having quasi judicial powers, for investigating suspected contraventions of the Exchange Control Laws and Regulations with the powers to impose penalties on those adjudged guilty.

PMLA, a Criminal Law, whereby the Officers are empowered to conduct enquiries to locate, provisionally attach/confiscate assets derived from acts of Schedules Offences besides arresting and prosecuting the Money Launderers.

Composition:

Besides directly recruiting personnel, the Directorate also draws officers from different Investigating Agencies, viz., Customs & Central Excise, Income Tax, Police, etc. on deputation.

Other functions:

Processing cases of fugitive/s from India under Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.

Sponsor cases of preventive detention under Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974(COFEPOSA) in regard to contraventions of FEMA.

Special courts:

For the trial of an offence punishable under section 4 of PMLA, the Central Government (in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court), designates one or more Sessions Court as Special Court(s). The court is also called “PMLA Court”.

Appeal can be filed in High court.

5)The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy will participate in an exercise with a US carrier strike group (CSG) in the Indian Ocean for two days starting Wednesday

The Navy said in a statement that its INS Kochi and Teg, along with P8I and MiG-29K aircraft will participate in a ‘Passage Exercise’ with US Navy CSG Ronald Reagan during its transit through Indian Ocean Region” on June 23 and June 24.

6) Grey Matter of Brain :- Grey matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. … The anterior grey column contains motor neurons.

Why in News :- Researchers are saying that the Covid is causing the Memory problems by loss of Grey Matter

7) All about CCI :-

Competition Commission of India (CCI) is a statutory body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002, it was duly constituted in March 2009.

  • The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 (MRTP Act) was repealed and replaced by the Competition Act, 2002, on the recommendations of Raghavan committee.
  • Competition Commission of India aims to establish a robust competitive environment.
    • Through proactive engagement with all stakeholders, including consumers, industry, government and international jurisdictions.
    • By being a knowledge intensive organization with high competence level.
    • Through professionalism, transparency, resolve and wisdom in enforcement.

Competition Act, 2002

  • The Competition Act was passed in 2002 and has been amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007. It follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
    • The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
    • In accordance with the provisions of the Amendment Act, the Competition Commission of India and the Competition Appellate Tribunal have been established.
    • Government replaced Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) with the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in 2017.

Composition of CCI

  • The Commission consists of one Chairperson and six Members as per the Competition Act who shall be appointed by the Central Government.
  • The commission is a quasi-judicial body which gives opinions to statutory authorities and also deals with other cases. The Chairperson and other Members shall be whole-time Members.
  • Eligibility of members: The Chairperson and every other Member shall be a person of ability, integrity and standing and who, has been, or is qualified to be a judge of a High Court, or, has special knowledge of, and professional experience of not less than fifteen years in international trade, economics, business, commerce, law, finance, accountancy, management, industry, public affairs, administration or in any other matter which, in the opinion of the Central Government, may be useful to the Commission.

Functions and Role of CCI

  • To eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  • To give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
  • The Competition Commission of India takes the following measures to achieve its objectives:
    • Consumer welfare: To make the markets work for the benefit and welfare of consumers.
    • Ensure fair and healthy competition in economic activities in the country for faster and inclusive growth and development of the economy.
    • Implement competition policies with an aim to effectuate the most efficient utilization of economic resources.
    • Develop and nurture effective relations and interactions with sectoral regulators to ensure smooth alignment of sectoral regulatory laws in tandem with the competition law.
    • Effectively carry out competition advocacy and spread the information on benefits of competition among all stakeholders to establish and nurture competition culture in Indian economy.
  • The Competition Commission is India’s competition regulator, and an antitrust watchdog for smaller organizations that are unable to defend themselves against large corporations.
  • CCI has the authority to notify organizations that sell to India if it feels they may be negatively influencing competition in India’s domestic market.
  • The Competition Act guarantees that no enterprise abuses their ‘dominant position’ in a market through the control of supply, manipulating purchase prices, or adopting practices that deny market access to other competing firms.
  • A foreign company seeking entry into India through an acquisition or merger will have to abide by the country’s competition laws.
    • Assets and turnover above a certain monetary value will bring the group under the purview of the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 01 : Issues with blended mode of teaching

Blended mode of teaching and its advantages

  • A recent circular by the University Grants Commission (UGC) proposes that all higher educational institutions (HEI) teach 40% of any course online and the rest 60% offline termed as blended learning (BL).
  • The UGC argues that this “blended mode of teaching” and learning paves the way for:
  • 1) Increased student engagement in learning.
  • 2) Enhanced student-teacher interactions.
  • 3) Improved student learning outcomes.
  • 4) More flexible teaching and learning environments, among other things.
  • 5) Other key benefits such as the increased opportunity for institutional collaborations at a distance and enhanced self-learning accruing from blended learning (BL).
  • 6) BL benefits the teachers as well. It shifts the role of the teacher from being a “knowledge provider to a coach and mentor”.
  • 7)  The note adds that BL introduces flexibility in assessment and evaluation patterns as well.

Challenges

  • All India Survey on Higher Education (2019-20) report shows that 60.56% of the 42,343 colleges in India are located in rural areas and 78.6% are privately managed.
  • Only big corporates are better placed to invest in technology and provide such learning.
  • Second, according to datareportal statistics, Internet penetration in India is only 45% as of January 2021.
  • This policy will only exacerbate the existing geographical and digital divide.
  • Third, BL leaves little room for all-round formation of the student that includes the development of their intelligent quotient, emotional quotient, social quotient, physical quotient and spiritual quotient.
  • The listening part and subsequent interactions with the teacher may get minimised.
  • Also, the concept note assumes that all students have similar learning styles and have a certain amount of digital literacy to cope with the suggested learning strategies of BL.
  • This is far from true. Education in India is driven by a teacher-centred approach.

Suggestions

  • The government should ensure equity in access to technology and bandwidth for all HEIs across the country free of cost.
  • Massive digital training programmes must be arranged for teachers.
  • Even the teacher-student ratio needs to be readjusted to implement BL effectively.
  • This may require the appointment of a greater number of teachers.
  • The design of the curriculum should be decentralised and based on a bottom-up approach.
  • More power in such education-related policymaking should be vested with the State governments.
  • Switching over from a teacher-centric mode of learning at schools to the BL mode at the tertiary level will be difficult for learners.
  • Hence, the government must think of overhauling the curriculum at the school level as well.
  • Finally, periodical discussions, feedback mechanisms and support services at all levels would revitalise the implementation of the learning programme of the National Education Policy 2020, BL.
  • It will also lead to the actualisation of the three cardinal principles of education policy: access, equity and quality.

Conclusion

Government must take steps to address the concerns with blended learning before implementing it.

Editorial 02 : The ‘Union government’ has a unifying effect

The Tamil Nadu government has decided to shun the usage of the term ‘Central government’ in its official communications and replace it with ‘Union government’. This is a major step towards regaining the consciousness of our Constitution.

India the union

  • Seventy-one years since we adopted the Constitution, it is time we regained the original intent of our founding fathers beautifully etched in the parchment as Article 1: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”.
  • The Constituent Assembly did not use the term ‘Centre’ or ‘Central government’ in all of its 395 Articles in 22 Parts and eight Schedules in the original Constitution.
  • What we have are the ‘Union’ and the ‘States’ with the executive powers of the Union wielded by the President acting on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

Where is Central Govt defined?

  • Even though we have no reference to the ‘Central government’ in the Constitution, the General Clauses Act, 1897 gives a definition for it.
  • The ‘Central government’ for all practical purposes is the President after the commencement of the Constitution.
  • Therefore, the real question is whether such definition for ‘Central government’ is constitutional as the Constitution itself does not approve of centralising power.

Intent of Constituent Assembly

  • On December 13, 1946, Pt Nehru introduced the aims and objects of the Assembly by resolving that India shall be a Union of territories willing to join the “Independent Sovereign Republic”.
  • The emphasis was on the consolidation and confluence of various provinces and territories to form a strong united country.
  • Many members of the Constituent Assembly were of the opinion that the principles of the British Cabinet Mission Plan (1946) be adopted, which contemplated a Central government with very limited powers whereas the provinces had substantial autonomy.
  • The Partition and the violence of 1947 in Kashmir forced the Constituent Assembly to revise its approach and it resolved in favour of a strong Centre.
  • The possibility of the secession of States from the Union weighed on the minds of the drafters of the Constitution and ensured that the Indian Union is “indestructible”.

Preventing the secession

  • In the Constituent Assembly, B.R Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, observed that the word ‘Union’ was advisedly used in order to negative the right of secession of States.
  • Ambedkar justified the usage of ‘Union of States’ saying that the Drafting Committee wanted to make it clear that though India was to be a federation, it was not the result of an agreement.
  • Therefore, no State has the right to secede from it. “The federation is a Union because it is indestructible,” Ambedkar said.

Then criticism of the ‘Union’

  • The usage of ‘Union of States’ by Ambedkar was not approved by all and faced criticisms from Maulana Hasrat Mohani.
  • He argued that Ambedkar was changing the very nature of the Constitution.
  • Mohani made a fiery speech in the Assembly on September 18, 1949 where he contended that the usage of the words ‘Union of States’ would obscure the word ‘Republic’.
  • Mohani went to the extent of saying that Ambedkar wanted the ‘Union’ to be “something like the Union proposed by Prince Bismarck in Germany, and after him adopted by Kaiser William and after him by Adolf Hitler”.

Dr. Ambedkar’s clarification

  • Ambedkar clarified that the Union is not a league of States, united in a loose relationship; nor are the States the agencies of the Union, deriving powers from it.
  • Both the Union and the States are created by the Constitution, both derive their respective authority from the Constitution.
  • The one is not subordinate to the other in its own field… the authority of one is coordinate with that of the other.

Features of Indian Union

  • The sharing of powers between the Union and the States is not restricted to the executive organ of the government.
  • The judiciary is designed in the Constitution to ensure that the Supreme Court, the tallest court in the country, has no superintendence over the High Courts.
  • Though the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction — not only over High Courts but also over other courts and tribunals — they are not declared to be subordinate to it.
  • In fact, the High Courts have wider powers to issue prerogative writs despite having the power of superintendence over the district and subordinate courts.
  • Parliament and Assemblies identify their boundaries and are circumspect to not cross their boundaries when it comes to the subject matter on which laws are made.
  • However, the Union Parliament will prevail if there is a conflict.

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