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GS: 1


Society and women related issues:

Woman who had twins via surrogacy given leave(The Hindu)

Context:

The Central Administrative Tribunal has come to the aid of a woman, working in the Ministry of Law & Justice, who was denied maternity leave as she had begotten her children through surrogacy.

Backdrop

  • The woman had entered into Gestational Surrogacy Agreement with another woman.
  • The surrogate mother delivered twins on February 13 last year.
  • Being the biological mother she applied for grant of 180 days maternity leave to her with effect from the day the babies were born.
  • However, her application was rejected on the ground that according to Central Civil Services (CCS) Leave Rules, maternity leave cannot be granted to a government servant on getting baby through surrogacy.
  • The woman then moved the Tribunal seeking to quash the order denying her the maternity leave.

Argument by the Ministry

  • Responding to her plea, the Ministry had defended its decision to deny the maternity leave saying the issue has been dealt within Rule 43 of CCS (Leave) Rules
  • The rules make it absolutely clear that a commissioning mother or biological mother is not entitled for grant of maternity leave.

Tribunal’s Judgement:

The Tribunal has directed the Ministry to sanction 180 days of maternity leave to the woman citing three High Court verdicts which held that the commissioning mother is also entitled for grant of maternity leave.

Plea to raise minimum age for marriage(The Hindu)

Context:

A petition to raise the minimum age for marriage has been filed in the Supreme Court

Details

  • According to petitioner advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay “fertility depends on the age of marriage’’.
  • Therefore, it is necessary to raise the minimum age for marriage for men and women to 25 years and 21 years
  • The current minimum age for marriage for male and females is 21 years and 18 years respectively
  • The plea said the state had failed to implement effective population control strategy or programme to ensure the well-being of citizens, which was under peril due to the rampant rise in population.
  • The plea is likely to be listed before a Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

GS: 2


International relations:

India to help build nuclear plant in Bangladesh(The Hindu)

Context

  • India, Bangladesh and Russia have signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the construction of the Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.

Introduction:

  • The MoU was signed in Moscow by the Department of Atomic Energy of India, the Ministry of Science and Technology of Bangladesh and Rosatom.
  •  Russia is building the nuclear power plant in Bangladesh on a turnkey basis.
  •  Indian companies can be involved in construction and installation works and in the supply of equipment of a non-critical category .

‘Gwadar, Chabahar not comparable’(The Hindu)

Context:

Former Union Minister Manish Tewari has said that Gwadar port and Chabahar port could not be compared.

Points of Differences:

  • The development of the Chabahar port in Iran is a commercial enterprise,
  • On the other hand, development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan by China is a strategic-military enterprise with long-term implications on the region
  • Gwadar Port in the Baluchistan province is being built by China under a multi-billion economic corridor.
  • The Chabahar port in Iran is being considered by India, Iran and Afghanistan as a gateway to major opportunities for trade with central Asian countries.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

KRMB panel allows AP to draw 9 tmc ft water for irrigation(The Hindu)

Context:

Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) has allowed Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to avail 33 tmcft of Krishna waters till the March-end for meeting immediate irrigation needs.

Details:

  • The KRMB has allowed Andhra Pradesh to utilise 9 tmcft and Telangana 24 tmcft water to protect the standing crops under Nagarjunasagar Right and Left Canal systems
  • About 15 tmcft out of 33 tmcft to be drawn by the two States would be released from Srisailam to Nagarjunasagar after generation of power.

Backdrop:

  • The dispute over utilisation of Krishna water reached a flash point on February 28 when the irrigation officials and police from the two sides gathered at Srisailam Right Canal regulator at the reservoir site, following orders issued by KRMB to stop water release to the canal.
  • The officials from Andhra Pradesh were insisting upon withdrawal of water below the minimum draw down level (MDDL) in Nagarjunasagar – 510 ft level with storage of 131.669 tmc ft – in the name of saving the standing crop both under the Right and Left Canals in its territory
  • However, their Telangana counterparts opposed it strongly highlighting the difficulties in drawing drinking water, particularly to Hyderabad in 2017

KRMB Findings:

  • KRMB calculated available water above MDDL at 36.18 tmcft on February 27
  • MDDL of Nagarjunasagar fixed at 510 ft with storage of 131.67 tmcft and that of Srisailam at 834 ft with storage of 53.85 tmcft
  • Water level in Nagarjunasagar stood at 522.8 ft (154.43 tmcft) against FRL of 590 ft; Srisailam at 840.7 ft (62.94 tmcft) against FRL of 885 ft

Ministry denies vendetta against Prasar Bharati(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Prasar Bharati is bound by the government’s general financial rules and must sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Information & Broadcasting Ministry on financial targets and timelines for activities to use grants in a financial year, the Ministry said.

Why in news?

  • The Ministry’s statement comes in the wake of a public conflict between the Prasar Bharati Board and the Ministry and a media report that the Ministry had withheld funds after December 2017 in response to the Prasar Bharati Board’s differences with the Ministry.

Background:

  • At a meeting of the Prasar Bharati Board last month, at least three directives from the Ministry were rejected.
  • The Ministry’s directives were in “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act.

Fiscal prudence crucial’

  • Fiscal prudence and accountability is the very fulcrum of the functioning of any government organisation.
  • Prasar Bharati is bound by the General Financial Rules (GFR) of the Government of India.

Fear of forfeiture(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

The proposed law to seize the wealth of economic offenders is a welcome measure.

Shortcomings of the Previous Laws

  • Legal provisions to confiscate the assets of offenders already exist, but these are regarded as somewhat inadequate.
  • From the provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure for attachment of the property of ‘proclaimed offenders’, to sections in Acts targeting smugglers, foreign exchange offenders and traffickers in narcotics, proceedings for forfeiture of property have been marked by shortcomings and procedural delays.
  • The Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act, 1976, have not exactly been a success.
  • Experience has shown that disposal of confiscated assets is not easy, especially at a price sufficient to recoup losses or pay off all creditors.
  • The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill aims to make up for the shortcomings and provide a fresh legal framework that would enable the confiscation of the property of those evading prosecution by fleeing the country or remaining abroad.

About The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill:

  • The Bill aims to stop economic offenders who leave the country to avoid due process. Offences involving amounts of ₹100 crore or more fall under the purview of this law.
  • Economic offences are those that are defined under the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Corruption Act, the SEBI Act, the Customs Act, the Companies Act, Limited Liability Partnership Act, and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
  • According to the draft Bill, a fugitive economic offender is “any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a schedule offence has been issued by any court of India who, either leaves or has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution
  • Under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, confiscation is not limited to the proceeds of crime, and extends to any asset owned by an offender, including benami property.
  • The government has justified not linking the forfeiture clause to criminal conviction by citing the principle enshrined in the UN Convention against Corruption

About UN Convention against Corruption:

  • The convention envisages domestic laws for confiscation of property without a criminal conviction in cases in which the offenders cannot be prosecuted for reasons of death, flight or absence.
  • India ratified it in 2011

Way ahead:

  • The utility and effectiveness of laws are best assessed in the implementation,
  • However, it is important to ensure they are fair and reasonable.
  • The shortcomings in previous laws must be avoided, and the new legal regime impartially enforced.

‘Present laws adequate to deal with defaulters’(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Cabinet approves Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to deal with those escaping overseas to evade law.

National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA):

  • The Cabinet has also approved the establishment of National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), which will act as an independent regulator for the auditing profession which was one of the key changes brought in by the Companies Act, 2013.
  • Jurisdiction of NFRA for investigation of Chartered Accountants & their firms under Section 132 of the Act would extend to listed companies & large unlisted public companies, the thresholds for which shall be provided in the Rules

Purpose of the Bill:

  • The Bill will empower the government to confiscate any property owned by such persons in India.
  • The bill is aimed at deterring economic offenders like jeweller Nirav Modi from fleeing the country or not returning to face trial.
  • Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 has been brought to confiscation of assets of a fugitive, including Benami assets.
  • There will also be the provision to confiscate those assets outside India but cooperation of that country will be needed.
  • The proposed law, if it comes into force, will be applicable in cases where value of offences is over Rs 100 crore.
  • The Bill makes provisions for a court of law — Special Court under Prevention of Money Laundering Act — to declare a person a fugitive economic offender.

Fugitive Economic Offender:

  • A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person who has an arrest warrant issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.

GS: 3


Economy:

‘Effective regulation need of the hour in banking sector’(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Today, the banking sector needs effective regulation and supervision and not increased privatisation, as per the  group of prominent economists

Bank scams:

  • The Punjab National Bank scam involved the second largest public sector bank.
  • The reason was inadequate and faulty regulation and monitoring of the banking sector.

‘Curious turn’

  • “This affects all banks, regardless of ownership. But in a curious turn, fraud that was led by and benefited private players pursuing super-profits at any cost is being made the reason for handing control of the nation’s savings to the private sector,”
  • The poorly regulated private banks were even more prone to scams and failure, and that private profit orientation generated incentives for managements to exploit loopholes in rules and engage in risky behaviour, as shown by the U.S. and European bank behaviour leading up to the financial crisis of 2008-09.

Science and Technology:

Staying ahead of the double helix(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The Delhi High Court recently ruled against discrimination in health insurance by United India Insurance Company involving a person with a heart condition which was perceived to be a genetic disorder.

Court ruling:

  •  The court held, “Discrimination in health insurance against individuals based on their genetic disposition or genetic heritage, in the absence of appropriate genetic testing and laying down of intelligible differentia, is unconstitutional.”

Genetic discrimination (GD):

  •  Genetic discrimination (GD) is understood to be differential treatment of those not showing symptoms but who are nevertheless treated differently on the basis of any real or assumed genetic characteristics.

Eugenics:

  • There were robust policies of eugenics in the U.S. in the 1900s.
  • These led to laws in many States that made sterilisation compulsory for those who expressed a range of conditions believed to be inherited.
  • Such conditions covered those with disability, who were poor, had mental health problems, were promiscuous, and were dwarfs, and so on.
  • Eugenics was also practiced in many countries in Europe, not just in Nazi Germany.
  •  Nordic countries, for example, passed eugenics laws in the 1930s and some of those stayed in the books until the 1970s.

American precedent

  •   In the U.S., researchers working with the Council for Responsible Genetics in Cambridge, Massachusetts recorded hundreds of cases of misuse of genetic information.
  • There are many examples of employers and insurers using genetic information to engage in discriminatory policies.
  •  In the U.S., the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law in 2008.
  • GINA provides strong protection against access to genetic information and genetic discrimination in the context of health insurance and employment.
  • GINA prohibits insurers from “requesting or requiring” genetic tests from an individual or members of the person’s family, or using genetic information to determine eligibility or establish premiums.
  • It also prohibits employers from “requesting or requiring” genetic information for hiring or promotional decisions, or when determining eligibility for training programmes.

Genetic Non-Discrimination Act:

  • The Council of Europe has adopted a set of recommendations on the use of genetic information for the purpose of insurance.
  • Canada’s recent Genetic Non-Discrimination Act makes it illegal for insurers or employers to request DNA testing or results.
  • It is reported that insurers in the U.K. are currently under a voluntary moratorium agreed upon between the Association of British Insurers and the government until 2019.
  • Based on this agreement, results from genetic tests are not to be used for health or life insurance except for Huntington’s disease, which is dominantly inherited with a high penetrance.

A complex future

  • The situation is likely to get worse as people become more accepting of predictive genetic tests and insurance companies insist on them.
  • There are also serious concerns related to the protection and privacy of medical and genetic data.

Way ahead:

  • India needs a law that prevents genetic discrimination.
  • In this era of rampant genetic testing, there is  need to prevent discrimination and uphold “equal treatment under the law”.
  • There should therefore be no discrimination based on genetic information. Insurance is developed from pooling risks.
  •  Universal health care can therefore be a viable solution.
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