Indian Constitution and Polity:
A petition before SC that a public servant cannot practise as an advocate but however legislators are practising in various courts which is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before law).
What has happened?
The Bar Council of India has said it cannot stop legislators from practising as lawyers. However, it can ban lawyer-legislators from taking part in an impeachment motion against a judge
Conflict of Interest
- MPs have the power of voting on impeachment of judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
- Therefore, allowing them to practise as an advocate in the Supreme Court and the High Courts is a very serious ‘conflict of interest’ because it may allow the judges to feel beholden to them and to oblige them
The lawyer-MPs or MLAs, if they start any motion of impeachment or a removal proceeding against any High Court or Supreme Court judge, they will not be allowed to practise in that particular court
The resolution was not meant as a curb on the functions of a legislator, but a preventive measure taken against “misuse of privilege” in the lawmaker’s role as a lawyer.
The hearing on this petition is fixed for April 23.
Donate floral offerings to shelter homes: SC(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The Supreme Court has urged temple towns across the country to follow in the footsteps of the Uttar Pradesh Women Welfare department’s initiative to donate “huge” floral offerings received at temples to destitute women and widows’ shelter homes
Widows can make eco-friendly products
The inmates of these shelters use the flowers to make eco-friendly products like sugandh essence, sugandhjal, agarbatti, etc, with the technical support of Floral and Fragrance Development Centre, Kannauj, under the Union Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry
Source of Rehabilitation
Earlier dumped as garbage, the flowers are now a major source of rehabilitation, dignity and earning for the Vrindavan widows, the Supreme Court acknowledged the novel initiative
- To direct the temples and local administrative authorities of Vrindavan and Mathura to deposit floral offerings only to the premises of widow and destitute shelter homes run by Uttar Pradesh MahilaKalyan Nigam in Vrindavan and not to dump these offerings at any other place or send them elsewhere
- The court directed the Nagar Nigam Mathura to ensure that the flower offerings are collected and deposited with shelter home premises of the Uttar Pradesh MahilaKalyan Nigam
Possibilities of implementation at other places
Finally, the court asked the National Commission for Women to examine if similar initiatives can be taken in other temple towns like Puri, Varanasi, etc.
A rude wake-up call(The Hindu Opinion)
Should there be some safeguards before the motion, tabled by the requisite number of Members of Parliament, is admitted?
Loss of credibility and reputation:The incalculable damage that even a mere admission of an impeachment motion can cause, and the consequential loss of reputation, that can never be redeemed, need to be primarily addressed.
Protection of honest judges:While a corrupt judge should be impeached without doubt, it must be ensured that the large body of independent judges is protected and they are not inhibited and shackled while going about their work with any possible threat of an impeachment looming large
Blow to the economy:In the eyes of the international community, the executive government also will be shown in a bad light if the judiciary in the country is not independent and strong. Business will not be forthcoming. Tourism will suffer. There will be fear and insecurity. The rule of law will be a far cry. All this will deliver a serious blow to the economy
Procedure suggested by the author
- Concurrence of the full court of SC: Article 124(4) of the Constitution and the provisions of the Judges (Inquiry) Act, should be so interpreted that before admitting a motion of impeachment against a judge of a high court or the Supreme Court, the presiding officers in Parliament should be obliged to obtain the concurrence of the full court of the Supreme Court and if it involves a judge of the apex court, that judge would not participate in the sitting
- Within 4 weeks:If no response from SC within 4 weeks then it would be a deemed concurrence
- Illegal and void:Admission without concurrence would render the motion illegal
Reasons why the above procedure would best serve the constitution
- Both removal and appointment by the SC: After the Second Judges case, today the power to appoint judges of the higher judiciary vests in the apex court. Removal being directly connected to appointment, it is only logical that the first filter in the process vest with the judiciary.
- Independence of the judiciary in the removal process also: The principle of independence of the judiciary on which the Second Judges Case was founded for the aspect of appointment should apply with full vigour to the initiation of the removal process. In a matter like this, which is so integral to the judiciary and to its independence, such a safeguard ought not to be seen as diluting the powers of the presiding officers of Parliament.
- Safeguarding the honest judges: The Judges (Inquiry) Act expressly provides that the presiding officers, before admitting a motion for impeachment, will consult such persons as they deem fit. It can be safely presumed that while the peer group will immediately concur to get rid of the black sheep from their midst, they will zealously safeguard a judge who is unfairly targeted.
Steps need to be taken by the judiciary
Message should be sent from top: It is time that by a judicial order the Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) is set out and a mandamus issued to government to follow the same and clear pending appointments in a time-bound manner
After all, there is no reason for any clean government to fear a judiciary that is strong, fearless and independent.
CVC wants to keep an eye on private banks(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has urged the Prime Minister’s Office to bring private sector banks under its watch, citing the fact that they have been involved in many recent instances of malfeasance.
Private sector banks are out of the CVC’s purview, but are subjected to statutory audits from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
CBI suspects a nexus between ICICI and Videocon
It has initiated a preliminary inquiry into loans granted by the country’s largest private lender ICICI Bank to Videocon Industries as it suspects a nexus between Deepak Kochhar, husband of the bank’s CEO and managing director ChandaKochhar, and Videocon chairman VenugopalDhoot
Finance panel gets long wish list(The Hindu)
15th Finance Commission
Suggestion for FC’s terms of reference
- A financial buffer against rising crude oil prices: A financial buffer should be created to insulate the economy from the volatility of rising crude prices and closer integration into the global economy
- Funds to deal with floods
- Bihar: 3% target for fiscal deficit under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act was “iniquitous” (grossly unfair and morally wrong) and needed to be reviewed in the specific context of financially challenged States
High hopes?(The Hindu Opinion)
Divestment of Air India (AI)
What has happened?
- Government has decided to divest 76% of its stake in AI
- A 100% stake is being offered in its subsidiary Air India Express, and a 50% stake is on offer in its ground handling operations arm
- Other subsidiaries, such as Alliance Air, Hotel Corporation of India, which owns the Centaur properties in New Delhi and Srinagar, Air India Air Transport Services and Air India Engineering Services, are not being sold — they will be transferred to a special purpose entity along with roughly a third of AI’s Rs. 48,781 crore outstanding debt
What is being offered?
Effectively, the government is offering a majority stake in AI and AI Express with management control, as well as a cumulative debt burden worth Rs. 33,392 crore
Issues in front of buyers
- Refinancing the debt burden: To offset the huge debt, a refinance strategy will be needed
- Retaining of 24% shares by government: Union government will still have a 24% share in AI, which will possibly come with one or two bureaucrats nominated to the airline’s board of director
Problems faced by AI
- High debt burden and a resultant high interest burden
- Operational inefficiencies
- Poor management
Low-down on electric and hybrid vehicles(The Hindu)
Though the government seems to have dropped its plan to implement a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) policy, it is still keen on shifting India’s petrol-diesel-based auto industry to electric
What are the differences between electric and hybrid vehicles?
The key difference between hybrid and all-EVs is in the sources of fuel and locomotion availableto them
Based on Source of fuel
- Hybrid vehicles have two sources available to them— a battery that powers an electric motor and a fuel tank that powers a normal petrol engine
- Electric power for few kilometers: Typically, the battery can power the electric motor for only about 60-70 km, but there are constant improvements being made in the efficiency and capacity of lithium-ion batteries and so, this is expected to improve as more carmakers choose to roll out hybrid or electric variants
- Switch to petrol engine: Once the battery is depleted, the hybrid car switches over to the petrol engine, which then functions like any other normal car engine
- EV: An all-EV does not have this advantage. Once its battery is depleted, it has no backup source of fuel. However, electric cars have the benefit of larger batteries since they do not have to share space with a petrol engine or fuel tank. So, typically, an EV can travel a much longer distance than a hybrid car running on its battery
How do you refuel them?
Hybrid: A normal plug-in hybrid vehicle can be refueled by plugging the car into a wall socket or a charging point, and refilling the petrol tank
- However, there are some hybrid variants that can recharge the electric battery through a technology called regenerative braking, where the vehicle converts the force of the car when itbrakes into electrical energy
- In these models, only the fuel tank needs to be filled
EV: All EVs need to be charged from a charging point. Charging time depends on the size of the battery and the source of electricity. A DC charging point can fully charge a car battery in a fraction of the time taken using an AC charging point, which is 6-8 hours
How does the Center differentiate between the two?
The main difference is in their tax treatment under the Goods and Services Tax
- EVs are taxed at 12%
- Hybrid vehicles are taxed on par with the luxury vehicles at 28% plus 15% cess
Science and Technology:
A day after GSAT-6A, the country’s newest communication satellite, went incommunicado in space, officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on Sunday that they were working to restore the link with it
The spacecraft, launched on March 29, was meant to support military communications in hostile regions using handy ground terminals. Built to last 10-12 years, it was to be a standby for its three-year-old replica GSAT-6
What has happened?
Communication from the satelliteGSAT-6A was lost after the second firing of the on-board engine on Saturday