9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 11, 2019

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NGT sets up Central monitoring panel

  1. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted a Central Monitoring Committee. NGT has entrusted the committee with the task of undertaking and executing a national plan to make river stretches across India pollution-free.
  2. The Committee will be composed of senior representatives of NITI Aayog, Secretaries of the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Chairman of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga
  3. The formation of the committee comes in the backdrop of proceedings which began after taking suo motucognisance of a 2018 newspaper report titled “More river stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB”. The report had highlighted that the issue of increased polluted river stretches and pegged the number at 351.
  4. Earlier, the NGT had ordered the CPCB, respective State pollution control boards and pollution control committees, to launch a nationwide programme on biodiversity monitoring and indexing of the rivers to assess the effectiveness of river cleaning programmes.
  5. It had also directed the Union Environment Ministry to formulate a policy for giving environmental awards to institutions and States that comply with orders and ensure reduction in pollution.
  6. The National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. The responsibility of the tribunal is to work on the disposal of cases related to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources.


Commerce ministry asks health ministry to frame law to ban manufacture, sale of e-cigarettes

  1. The commerce ministry has asked the Health Ministry to frame law banning manufacture and sale e-cigarettes in India. This is because unless it is banned under domestic laws, it would not be possible to put a blanket ban on its import as it would violate global trade norms.
  2. Earlier, health ministry had asked the commerce ministry to issue a notification banning import of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes and flavoured hookah.
  3. In August 2018, the health ministry had issued an advisory to all states and Union Territories (UTs) to stop the manufacture, sale and import of ENDS. The direction came in the backdrop of a Delhi High Court judgement where it had rebuked the Central government for its delay in taking appropriate measure to curb the public health from e-cigarettes.
  4. Similar advisory to stop the manufacture, sale and import of ENDS has also been issued recently by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) – the apex drug regulator in India.
  5. ENDS are non-combustible tobacco products. These include e-cigarettes, vapes etc. E-cigarettes are battery- operated devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporise a solution, which a user then inhales. The solutions contain propylene glycol, nicotine etc. which pose significant health risks, including cancer.
  6. According to WHO’s Global Tobacco Epidemic 2017 report, nearly 30 countries have banned ENDS. Examples include Mauritius, Australia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE.


Smokers spent $700 billion on cigarettes in 2017, says WHO

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that global cigarette sales in 2017 stood at $700 billion. WHO has noted that tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by manufacturers.
  2. Globally, around 6 million people die each year due to tobacco consumption. Tobacco use leads to cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and cancer. It also heightens the risk of getting communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.
  3. India accounts for less than 2% of global consumption of tobacco in form of cigarettes. However, consumption of smokeless tobacco is very high and accounts for 84% of the global consumption.
  4. The Indian government had launched National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) in 2008 to control tobacco consumption and minimize tobacco consumption related deaths. In 2016, the government has launched Tobacco Cessation program to provide targeted support to help people overcome the personal challenge of maintaining efforts to quit tobacco use.
  5. At the international level, the WHO has put in place WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), 2005. It provides a framework for supply and demand reduction measures for tobacco control at the national, regional and global level.


Release of PM Modi biopic deferred till further orders from EC

  1. The Election Commission (EC) has deferred the release of the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi till the elections are over.
  2. The EC has also prohibited public screening of any biopic material which could sub-serve the interest of a political party or candidate, while the Model Code of Conduct is in force. This has been done to ensure level playing field.
  3. The EC has further said that it would set up to examine and suggest appropriate actions against movies (certified by CBFC) which violate EC’s directives.
  4. The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) doesn’t explicitly prohibit screening of films based on a candidate or a political party. Thus, the Election Commission has invoked its powers under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution to stop the release of the biopic.
  5. Under Article 324 of the Constitution, superintendence, direction and control of elections are bestowed upon the Commission.  It is the duty of the Commission to take necessary measures to create a level playing field and provide a conducive electoral environment to all the stakeholders.
  6. Earlier, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea filed by an opposition party activist seeking a stay on the release of the biopic and asked him to raise the matter before the EC. The SC observed that it was too early to intervene as the Central Board of Film Certification had not yet certified the film.


Citizenship Bill clouds phase 1 polls in 14 Northeast LS seats

  1. Fourteen of Northeast’s 25 Parliamentary constituencies has gone to polls in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019 on 11thApril against the backdrop of protests across the region against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
  2. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955. The bill seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship.
  3. The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.
  4. The bill has been highly criticised and opposed by, different political parties and by common people across north-east India. The major grounds of criticism are: a) Violation of Article 14 (equality before the law) as it seeks to grant citizenship to illegal migrants on the basis of religion, b) against basic structure of the Constitution as it undermines secularism, c) undermines the rights of indigenous people of North-East India and would aggravate the migrant issue by allowing Hindu Bangladeshis.


How is Google’s GPay operating without authorisation, Delhi HC asks RBI

  1. The Delhi High Court has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to explain how Google was operating its payment services in India without taking any approvals or licence from the RBI. Google’s Google Pay uses BHIM unified payments Interface (BHIM UPI) for money transfers.
  2. The court’s query has come in the backdrop a plea which had alleged that Google Pay was acting as a payments system provider in violation of the Payments and Settlements (PSS) Act, 2007. This was because it is not listed in the RBI list of authorised payment systems operators.
  3. Further, the plea has also raised concerns that GooglePay might have violated RBI’s April 2018 Master Circular on Storage of Payment System Data and pose significant threat to privacy of citizens.
  4. RBI in its circular had mandated all system providers shall ensure that the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them are stored in a system only in India.
  5. The PSS Act provides for the regulation and supervision of payment systems in India and designates the Reserve Bank of India as the authority for that purpose and all related matters. A payment system refers to a system that enables payment to be effected between a payer and a beneficiary, involving clearing, payment or settlement service or all of them.
  6. Both bank and non-bank players are payment service providers in PSPs in India. Only bank-led PSPs have direct access to payment systems. Non-bank PSPs can access payment systems only through a member bank.


India Singapore Joint military exercises kicks off in Babina

  1. The 12th edition of India- Singapore joint military exercise called Bold Kurukshetra 2019 has began at Babina Cantonment, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh.
  2. The three-day exercise is aimed at a) bolstering cooperation against terrorism (b)developing defence technology and (c)improving maritime security.
  3. The exercise seeks to attain a high level of interoperability between the armies of both nations through mutual understanding and familiarisation with each other’s operational procedures and equipment.
  4. In 2017, India and Singapore had entered into an official agreement to strengthen defence ties between their respective armed forces. As per the agreement, personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces will receive training and undertake firing exercises along with the Indian Armed Forces.


SC rejects Centre’s plea to keep Rafale documents secret

  1. The Supreme Court has dismissed the central government’s plea that the documents related to the purchase of Rafale fighter jets should not be part of the review petition moved in the case.
  2. The government had argued that documents linked to the Rafale deal were stolen from the defence ministry and newspapers that published these files may have violated the Official Secrets Act. The government has also said that the documents are protected by privilege under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act.
  3. The petitioners had countered the submissions of government by saying that claim of privilege cannot be made over documents which are already in public domain. They highlighted that Section 123 of Indian Evidence Act only protected unpublished documents.
  4. The Supreme court has said that the newspaper has the right to publish those documents as the right of such publication is part of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Further, there was no law enacted by Parliament that specifically prohibited the publication of these documents.
  5. The Indian Evidence Act was originally passed in India by the Imperial Legislative Council in 1872 during the British Raj. It contains a set of rules and allied issues governing admissibility of evidence in the Indian courts of law.
  6. Section 123 of Indian Evidence Act states that no one shall be permitted to give any evidence derived from unpublished official records relating to any affairs of State. However, it can be done with the permission of the officer at the head of the department concerned, who shall give or withhold such permission as he thinks fit.
  7. Official Secrets Act is India’s anti espionage (Spy and Secret agent) act enacted in 1923 during the British Rule. It states clearly that any action which involves helping an enemy state against India is illegal.
  8. The disclosure of any information that is likely to affect the (a)sovereignty and integrity of India (b)the security of the State or (c)friendly relations with foreign States, is punishable by this act.


RTI Act supersedes official secrets law

  1. The Supreme Court has said that the Centre cannot withhold documents from disclosure under the RTI Act citing national security and relations with a foreign state. However, the applicant must establish that withholding of such information produces greater harm than disclosing it.
  2. The observation was made by a Supreme court judge in which the Court has allowed the plea based on leaked documents on Rafale deal. The petitioner has asked for review of the court’s judgement on the Rafale fighter jet deal.
  3. Further, the Supreme Court has countered the claim made by the government for privilege over Rafale purchase documents under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). The government has said that it affected national security and relations with France. But the court has said that the Right to Information (RTI) Act supersedes the OSA.
  4. The apex court has said that the (a)Section 22 of the RTI Act gave it an overriding effect over the Official Secrets Act (b)Under Section 24 of the RTI Act even security and intelligence establishments are not exempted from disclosing information in relation to corruption and human rights violations and (c)Section 8(2) provides that information exempted under sub-section(1) or exempted under the Official Secrets Act,1923 can be disclosed if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest.
  5. Official Secrets Act(OSA) is India’s anti espionage (Spy and Secret agent) act enacted in 1923 during the British Rule. It extends to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.
  6. Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information. The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to (a)empower the citizens (b)promote transparency accountability in the working of the Government (c)contain corruption and (d)make our democracy work for the people in real sense.


Rahul on the verge of contempt of court, says Nirmala Sitharaman

  1. Defence Minister has said that the Congress president’s comments on Rafale review petition amount to contempt of the Supreme Court.
  2. Earlier, Congress President has thanked the Supreme Court for rejecting the Centre’s objections over the admissibility of the leaked documents cited by petitions seeking a review of the Rafale verdict.
  3. Contempt of court is an offense of being disobedient to or being disrespectful towards a court of law. A judge may impose sanctions such as a fine or jail for someone found guilty of contempt of court.
  4. Article 129 and Article 215 empowers the Supreme Court and the High Court’s respectively, to punish people for their contempt. Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of courts to punish for their contempt and regulates their procedure.
  5. There are two types of contempt. Civil contempt has been defined as wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court and
  6. Criminal Contempt is any publication which may result in (a)Scandalising the Court by lowering its authority. (b)Interference in the due course of judicial proceeding and (c)Creates an obstruction in the administration of justice.
  7. The contempt proceeding can be initiated till 1 year from the commission of an offence. Apology also forms a defence under the contempt of Court act. However, it should be unconditional and should be in good faith with the promise to abide by the order of the Court.


Anonymity of poll bonds must go: EC

  1. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has told the Supreme Court that it was not opposed to the use of Electoral Bonds as an instrument but did not want the donations to remain anonymous.
  2. Earlier, the Election Commission had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court. It said that the introduction of electoral bonds and the removal of the cap on corporate funding by the government will have a serious impact on the transparency of political funding.
  3. EC has also said that any donation received by a political party through an electoral bond has been taken out from the ambit of reporting under the contribution report as prescribed under section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.This amendment would lead to difficulty in ascertaining if the political parties received donations from government companies or foreign sources.
  4. Government has defended the electoral bonds scheme in the apex court as (a)Electoral bonds have been introduced to promote transparency in funding and donations received by political parties (b)The scheme envisages building a transparent system of acquiring bonds with validated KYC and an audit trail and (c)The electoral bonds will prompt donors to take the banking route to donate, with their identity captured by the issuing authority. This will ensure transparency and accountability and is a big step towards electoral reform.
  5. Electoral bonds are bearer instrument in the nature of a promissory note and an interest-free banking instrument. A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India is eligible to purchase the bond. Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore from any of the specified branches of the State Bank of India.


SC Collegium recommends 5 new Chief Justices of HCs

  1. The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended names of five judges for appointment as chief justice of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka High Courts.
  2. The High court for Andhra Pradesh was created on January 1,2019. It was created following the division of a combined high court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
  3. Collegium system in India is the system by which the judges are appointed by the judges only also referred to as Judges-Selecting-Judges. It 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.
  4. The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior most judges of the court. A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
  5. Names recommended for appointment by a High Court collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court collegium. The government is bound to appoint a person as a Supreme Court judge if the collegium reiterates its recommendation.


High stock of non-performing assets in India, more progress needed: IMF

  1. According to the International Monetary Fund(IMF), The level of non-performing loans in India remains high. IMF has favoured strengthening the level of capitalisation of some banks, particularly government-owned banks.
  2. Further, the IMF has said that strengthening the level of capitalisation in banks was one of the recommendations of the Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) for India.
  3. The Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) is a joint program of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It was launched in 1999 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. The program brings together the World Bank and IMF expertise to help countries reduce the likelihood and severity of financial sector crises.
  4. The FSAP provides a comprehensive framework through which assessors and authorities in participating countries can identify financial system vulnerabilities and develop appropriate policy responses.
  5. The FSAP follows a three-pronged approach when looking at the country’s financial sector which are(a)The soundness of a financial system versus its vulnerabilities and risks that increase the likelihood or potential severity of financial sector crises (b)country’s developmental needs in terms of infrastructure, institutions and markets and (c)country’s compliance with the observance of selected financial sector standards and codes.
  6. Non-Performing Assets(NPA) are loans or advances that are in default or are in arrears on scheduled payments of principal or interest, usually for a period of 90 days. Before the period of 90 days, they are called Stressed Assets.


J&J baby care products: NCPCR summons officials of five states

  1. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has summoned senior state government officials from five states to update on the steps taken on safety issues regarding the use of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby care products.
  2. Recently, NCPCR had received a private complaint stating that objectionable contents have been found in the shampoo samples of J&J tested by the Rajasthan government.
  3. In 2016, The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had asked chief secretaries of five states to get J&J baby products tested in a laboratory accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories(NABL). J&J has been under scrutiny over reports of the presence of asbestos and formaldehyde in its products.
  4. The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in 2007 as a statutory body under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act,2005.
  5. It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development. The Commission’s mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes and Administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Defamation charges framed against Ramani

  1. The Delhi High Court has framed Criminal defamation charges against journalist in a case filed by ex-Union minister after she had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
  2. Defamation is the act of saying false things in order to make people have a bad opinion of someone or something. Defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offence in India. The difference between the two lies in the objects they seek to achieve.
  3. Section 499 of the IPC defines what amounts to criminal defamation.
    It states that defamation could be through words – spoken or intended to be read, through signs and also through visible representations. These can either be published or spoken about a person with the intention of damaging the reputation of that person or with the knowledge or reason to believe that the allegation will harm his reputation.
  4. Under the criminal suit, the complainant should be able to prove the accused intended to defame him. However, in the absence of intention it must be established that the alleged offender had knowledge that the publication was likely to defame the person. Further, criminal defamation is a compoundable offence and parties can seek a closure of the case by reaching a compromise.
  5. The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of Section 499 of IPC in various cases. The reasons given by SC are as follows.(a)One is bound to tolerate criticism, dissent and discordance but not expected to tolerate defamatory attack (b)Dissent is required, but it does not grant an unfettered right to damage a reputation. Like other rights, right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. It is subject to imposition of reasonable restrictions and (c)The court said that the reputation of a person is an integral part of the right to life granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Thus reputation of one cannot be allowed to be crucified at the altar of the other’s right of free speech.


How can a black hole be imaged?

  1. Scientists have recently revealed the first ever image of a black hole. The black hole is located at the centre of a distant galaxy called Messier 87 (M87) located in Virgo A constellation. It is supermassive-6.5 billion times the Solar mass.
  2. The image of the black hole was taken by the Event Horizon telescope (ETH). The ETH is a project comprised of eight different telescopes at different observatories around the world. It has been operating in synchronicity to image the black holes in the centre of M87 galaxy and Sagittarius A* black hole located at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.
  3. A black hole is a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape. These black holes consist a huge amount of matter packed densely into a small area, giving it an immense gravitational pull. Black holes are thought to be formed when very massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle.
  4. The black hole itself cannot be seen as light cannot pass through it. It possess an event horizon- a boundary designating the point of no return. Any object including light that falls within its event horizon is sucked into the black hole. However, if something that orbits the black hole outside the event horizon shines as it usually does, the black hole can be seen in shadow against this shine.
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