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GS-2

A balancing Act

News:

  1. R.K Raghavan, former CBI Director, expressed his views on the amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act .

Important Analysis:

  1. To tackle rising incidences of corruption in India, the Parliament has passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill recently.
  2. The amendment Bill will contain the following provisions.
  • It will mandate prior government approval of the Centre or State government to initiate investigation into corruption charges.
  • It widens the definition of criminal misconduct to include the bribe giver.
  • A person who had been coerced into giving a bribe cannot be proceeded against.
  • The amendments include a stipulation for a day-to-day trial and completion of court proceedings within two years.
  • Where this is not possible, the judge concerned will have to record reasons for prolongation of the trial and give himself an initial extension of six months.
  • Given the overburdening of the judiciary, even fast-track courts may be unable to stick to this deadline.
  • The primary objective of these amendments is to tone down law enforcement excesses without diluting the authority of agencies like the CBI;
  • Its objective is to strike a balance between enforcement overzealousness and the need for stringent action against corrupt public servants.
  • Protection to government servants from arbitrary and unilateral action by anti –corruption agencies without prior permission from the government was earlier available only to higher authorities
  • The latest amendment extends this protection to all public servants.
  1. However, the Bill is getting negative reactions from large sections of the public due to following concerns :
  • Risk involved in delegating authority to order commencement of investigations under the Act.
  • The Bill is enormous, given the size of India’s bureaucracy and the entrenched sophistication of dishonest practices.
  • Another problematic area is the deletion of the whole of clause (d) of sub-section (1) of Section 13, which defines ‘criminal misconduct’ as the acquisition of a ‘valuable thing’ or ‘pecuniary advantage’ in a dishonest manner.
  • The deleted clause was the sole effective weapon against a misbehaving senior official.
  • This is disappointing because corruption in high places is sophisticated and takes place in a highly clandestine manner.
  • Dilution of the definition of ‘known sources of income’ through the incorporation of the statement that this would include income received from any ‘lawful source’, an expression that has been left undefined.
  • This is critical because of the misconception that as long as tax has been paid on income received from an undisclosed and illegitimate source, such income becomes lawful.
  • The latest amendments to Section 13(1) could be in conflict with the spirit of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
  • Excessive authority to enforcement agencies could only lead to miscarriage of justice, without bringing about a corresponding reduction in criminal misconduct.
  1. The author has put forward the following suggestions:
  • With some civil servants complaining that they had been wronged for discharging their lawful duties, such a balance is the need of the hour.
  • Need to consider whether conferring greater autonomy on investigating outfits,
  • Shortening trial procedures through mechanisms such as fast-track courts, and
  • Making penalties more stringent will introduce the much-needed deterrence to prospective offenders.

 

The case for increasing the retirement age of judges

Article:

  1. Santosh Paul, an advocate in the Supreme Court discusses the reasons for increasing the retirement age of judges in India and he also compared it with western countries.

 Important Analysis:

  1. The increasing the age of retirement for judges was featured in the Venkatachaliah Report (Report of the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution) in 2002.
  2. In 2010 further attempts were made to bring the Constitution (114thAmendment) Bill to raise the retirement age of High Court judges to 65 from 62 years.
  3. The idea of increasing the retirement age of judges once again  brought into sharp focus by Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court
  4. Advantages of increasing the retirement age of judges:
  • It will bring the Indian judiciary in line with the norm worldwide.
  • It will ensure the continued presence of a strong talent pool of experienced judges.
  • New judges can be appointment without displacing existing judges.
  • It will address the problem of mounting arrears of pending cases.
  • It will be a buffer against impending litigation explosion.
  • It will render post-retirement assignments unattractive; as a result; strengthen the rule of law and independence of judiciary.
  1. Need for increasing the retirement age:

Presently, the judge-population ratio in India is among the lowest in the world at 19.66 judges per million (10 lakh) people. However, the western nations like U.K had 51 judges per million people in 2016. The figure stood at 107, 41, and 75 for U.S., Australia, and Canada respectively.

  • It is also necessary to increase the number of judges in the pool to enable the judiciary to deal with the enormous pendency of cases.
  • According to National Judicial Data Grid Data, more than 2.84 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, 43 lakh cases are pending before the High Court, and 57, 987 cases are pending before the Supreme Court.
  • As the India economy grows, the ratio of litigation to population will increase exponentially.
  • Advance economies such as Australia, Canada, France, the U.S. and U.K, and Japan have much higher litigation to-population ratios.
  1. Comparison with western countries:
  • Most Western liberal democracies of the world have retirement age of around 70 for judges.
  • In the Supreme Court of U.S., and in constitutional courts in Austria and Greece, judges are appointed for life.
  • In Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Australia, the retirement age for judges is 70 years.
  • Judges in Canada and Germany retire at 75 and 68 , respectively.
  1. Way ahead:
  • According to the author, the issue of increasing the retirement age of judges thus requires serious consideration beyond partisan politics.
  • It is a high time to deal with pending cases as arrears before the 24 High Courts in India for periods as long as 10-20 years.
  • Pendency of cases not only debilitate the justice redress system;it also make the rule of law a distant dream.

 

LS passes Bill on rape punishment

News:

  1. It provides for death sentence for those convicted of raping those aged under 12.

 News:

  1. Recently, the Lok Sabha passed the Criminal Law(Amendment) Bill, 2018.

Important facts:

  1. Key features of the Bill
  • It provides for death sentence for those convicted of raping those aged under 12.
  • Enhances the minimum punishment for rape of a woman from seven to 10 years.
  • It amends the IPC, CrPC, Indian Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
  • The Bill once passed, will replace the Criminal Law(Amendment )Ordinance promulgated in April 2018.
  • The minimum punishment for the rape of a girl under 12 will be 20 years of rigorous imprisonment. The maximum being death sentence or life imprisonment.
  • Earlier the punishment was rigorous imprisonment ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.
  • For gang-rape of a girl below 12, the punishment will be life imprisonment or death.
  • The minimum punishment for rape of girl under 16 will be 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, extendable to life imprisonment. Earlier, it was 10 years.
  • In the case of gang-rape of a girl below 16, the punishment will be life imprisonment. Earlier it was 10 years of rigorous imprisonemnt only.
  • The Bill also provides for investigation of rape cases within two months from the registration of an FIR.
  • For disposal of an appeal after conviction in lower court, the timeline would now be within six months. Earlier there was no timeline for this.

 

Centre for removal of ‘NOTA’ from RS poll

News:

1. Recently, the Supreme court reserved a PIL petition for judgment , seeking to scrap the ‘NOTA’ option in Upper House polls

Important facts:

  1. The Bench was led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
  2. According to the CJI, NOTA is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections and not for polls held by the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
  3. Critizing the system of NOTA, senior advocate A.M.Singhvi put forward the following arguments:
  • NOTA in indirect elections, such as in the Rajya Sabha, would lead to horse-trading, corruption and using of extra constitutional methods to defeat a party.
  • NOTA make the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote nugatory and otiose.
  • The Election Commission cannot sanction the use of NOTA by way of mere circulars, which have the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4)-proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote
  • The circular had negated the entire purpose of open voting brought in 2003 to further party discipline and adherence to party’s choice of candidate in the election to the Rajya Sabha.
  1. However, the Election Commission has gave the following counter arguments in support of NOTA:
  • A person, along with a right to vote, also has the right not to vote.
  • Even if it is an open ballot system, it does not take away his right to not vote.

 

SC slams custom of genital mutilation

News:

  1. Female genital mutilation has numerous health hazards associated with it and amounts to violation of right to life and dignity of a woman, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said recently.

Important facts:

  1. The apex court’s observation came while hearing a PIL petition filed to ban female genital mutilation performed by some communities on children as a religious practice.
  2. The petition said that the practice of female genital mutilation cannot be considered as an “essential practice” in religion as it can be brought under the ambit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
  3. The courts observations on the same:
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud remarked that a woman’s complete control over her genitalia is central to identity, dignity and autonomy.
  • Chief Justice Misra asked how such a practice can be imposed on women.
  • No one can violate the integrity and the bodily privacy of a woman in the name of religion.

5.The government has also urged the court to issue directions against the practice.

6.Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal has submitted that female genital mutilation is punished with seven years’ imprisonment.

7.The international community has also condemned this practice.

8.Counter arguments:

  • However, the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom, has contended that “khafz/female circumcision as practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community is not female genital mutilation.
  • It is an essential part of their religion and protected under the Constitution.

 

GS 3

Leg-up for private sector participation in defence equipment manufacturing

News:

  1. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approves implementation of Strategic Partnership guidelines

Important facts:

  1. Purpose:
  • It will revitalize defence industrial ecosystem and progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon system for future needs of armed forces.
  • It will help in boosting private sector participation in domestic defence manufacturing.
  • Under this policy one Indian private company would be selected in each segment which would tie-up with shortlisted global equipment manufacturers to manufacture the platforms in India under transfer technology.
  • The policy came into effect in May last year but progress was delayed due to the lack of specific guidelines.
  1. The SP model has four segments-

a) Submarines

b) Single engine fighter aircraft

c) Helicopters and

d) armoured carriers/main battle tanks

  1. Above mentioned segments would be specifically opened up for the private sector.
  2. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) also approved platform specific guidelines for procurement of Naval Utility helicopters.
  3. All procurements under the SP model would be executed by specially constituted Empowered Project Committees to “provide focused attention and ensure timely execution.”
  4. The DAC also gave approval for the acquisition of eight Fast Patrol Vessels (FPV) for the Coast Guard. This would be indigenously designed and manufactured.

 

Ban on oxytocin: doctors feel pinch

News:

  1. The government has recently banned oxytocin and its formulations for the domestic market.

Important facts:

  • The move came into effect from July 1, was intended to curb the hormone injections’s misuse in cattle but the impact is being felt by pregnant women, who require the medication the most.
  • The government’s ban involves removing chemists from the chain of supply of oxytocin and a complete ban on import of the medication as well.
  • A Karnataka-based public sector company has been appointed and authorised to make and supply the drug in the country.
  • However, many doctors are facing difficulties due to this  ban.
  • Oxytocin:
  • Known as a natural hormone, oxytocin helps in effective uterine contractions during labour and preventing post partum haemorrhage.
  • It can be use to stop bleeding post delivery

 

Stem cells will now fight Parkinson’s

News:

  1. Recently, Japanese scientists announced the first human trial to treat Parkinson’s disease by injecting stem cells into brain, building on an earlier trial on primates.

Important facts:

  1. The research team at Kyoto University plans to inject five million induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells, which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body, into a patient’s brain.
  2. The clinical test will consist seven participants aged between 50 and 69.
  3. The university will monitor the conditions of the patients for two years after the operation.
  4. They also confirmed that the iPS cells had not transformed into tumors during the two years after the implant.
  5. The iPS cells from healthy donors will be developed into dopamine-producing brain cells, which are no longer present in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  6. The clinical trials come after the researchers successfully used iPS cells to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys last year.
  7. In 2014, Riken, a Japanese government-backed research institution, carried out the world’s first surgery to implant iPS cells to treat a patient with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common medical condition that can lead to blindness in older people.

9.iPS cells:

  •  iPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialised, cells back into a juvenile state — basically cloning without the need for an embryo.
  • These can be derived from the patient, making them less likely to be rejected, while also sidestepping ethical qualms about taking cells from embryos.
  • The cells can be transformed into a range of different types of cells, and their use is a key sector of medical research.
  1. Parkinson’s disease:
  • Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body’s motor system, often causing shaking and other difficulties in movement.
  • Globally, about 10 million people have the illness, according to the Parkinson ’s disease Foundation.

 

Suicide reports in media can affect vulnerable people: study

News:

1.The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found significant associations between reporting details and suicide deaths.

Important facts:

  1. Findings of the report:
  • Reading details about suicide cases can push vulnerable people towards taking the extreme step.
  • The scientists stressed the need for understanding the impact of media reports on suicidal populations.
  • The study supports previous research that has shown that exposure to media reporting on suicide may lead some vulnerable people to similar behaviour, a phenomenon called suicide contagion.
  • When media reports include resources such as crisis services and messages of hope, it can have a positive impact on the public, and potentially help a person in crisis by reminding them that suicide isn’t the only option and that help is available.
  • Reporting on suicide can have a meaningful impact on suicide deaths
  • Researchers also examined the relationship between potentially harmful and helpful elements of print and online media reports about suicide.
  • They identified associations between several specific elements of media reports and suicide deaths.
  • The report suggested that:
  • The media organisations should carefully consider the specific content of reports before publication.
  • Responsible reporting is the need of the hour.

 

‘Bubble risk’ brews as unsecured loans rise

News:

1.Banks’ unsecured loans are at a record high, contributing 32% to the retail loan basket, which at 25% of the total loan book, is almost at its peak, according to a report by Jefferies.

 

Important facts:

2. According to the RBI data the overall credit growth as on May 25 was 10.9% year-on-year, while retail loans grew 18.6% and outstanding dues on credit cards grew 33.1%.

3. The RBI observed that retail loans come with their own caveats.

4. However, the delinquency rate, has remained steady, a TransUnion Cibil study showed.

5. Delinquencies for personal loans fell 19 basis points (bps) over the year to 0.52% at the end of March, while for credit cards it rose 9 bps to 1.7%.

6. Indian consumers continue to expand beyond cash-based purchases, these products provide access to short-term liquidity and transactional convenience.

7. The Jefferies report highlighted the following points:

  • The report, said unsecured personal loans grew the fastest, at 49%, driven by a 27% growth in customers and 19% growth in average ticket size.
  • The bigger worry is the growth in the ‘New to Credit’ segment (and the segment [contributes about] 65% of new origination.
  • The number of consumers with access to credit cards as well as aggregate balances had reached all-time highs.
  • Credit card outstandings grew 43% till March 2018.
  • Unsecured loans had grown at a compounded annual rate of 31% over the last four years for the top 5 private banks — HDFC, Axis, Yes, IndusInd and Kotak Mahindra.
  • Personal loans and dues on credit cards are examples of unsecured loans, while other retail loans include home and auto loans
  • Unsecured loans are riskier as they lack collateral that accompany home, auto loans.
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