9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 14th, 2020

Conservation plan for Konark temple soon, says Culture Minister

News:Union Culture Minister has said that a plan to restore the Konark Sun temple in Odisha would be drawn up soon.


About Konark Sun Temple:

  • Konark Sun Temple is located in East Odisha near the sacred city of Puri, Odisha.
  • It was built in the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1238-1264) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.The temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Surya.
  • The temple was given the status of a World Heritage Site in 1984 by UNESCO.
  • It is a classic example of the Odisha style of Architecture or Kalinga Architecture.

Major Characteristics of the Temple:

  • The temple has been built from Khondalite rocks.The temple complex has the appearance of a 100-foot high solar chariot, with 24 wheels and pulled by six horses all carved from stone.
  • The temple is carefully oriented towards the east so that the first rays of sunrise strikes the principal entrance.
  • The temple was also known as Black Pagoda due to its tower which appeared as black and was also used as a navigational landmark by sailors to Odisha.
  • Thousands of Hindu pilgrims gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela.

USTR takes India off developing country list

News:The office of the United States Trade Representative(USTR) has taken off India from the list of developing countries that are eligible to claim benefits for preferential treatment with respect to Countervailing duties(CVDs) investigations



  • In 1998,the US had come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development to harmonise it with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement.
  • Under this SCM agreement, countries that had not yet reached the status of a developed country were entitled to special treatment for purposes of countervailing measures.
  • This meant that imports from these countries included were subject to different thresholds for determining if countervailing subsidies are de minimis(too trivial or minor to merit consideration) and whether import volumes are negligible.

About the issue:

  • USTR has now eliminated preferential treatment for India along with other countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Argentina.
  • This would make it easier for the US to impose countervailing duties(CVDs) on goods from India and certain other countries.

Why was India removed?

  • According to USTR,India’s share in global trade was 2.1 % for exports and 2.6% for imports in 2017.
  • India was also a G20 member which accounts for large shares of global economic output and trade.
  • Further, being a part of G20 India can be classified as a developed country despite having a per capita GNI below $12,375.

Additional information:

About Countervailing duty(CVD):

  • Countervailing duty(CVD) is an import tax imposed on certain goods in order to prevent dumping or counter export subsidies.

Delhi HC Dismisses Plea Seeking Voting Rights for Prisoners

News:The Delhi high court has dismissed a PIL seeking voting rights for prisoners.


About the petition:

  • The petition had challenged the constitutionality of Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act which deprives prisoners of their right to vote.
  • Section 62(5) says that no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police.
  • However,this restriction does not apply to a person subjected to any kind of preventive detention.

What has the court said?

  • The right to vote was neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and was only provided by a statute.
  • The right to vote provided under the act was subject to restrictions imposed by the law, which does not allow prisoners to cast votes from jails.
  • The court also referred to a 1997 judgment of the apex court which had upheld Section 62(5) of the Representation of People Act.

Why should prisoners be given the right to vote?

  • The distinction needs to be made between those charged with heinous crimes like murder with that of minor offences including theft.
  • All prisoners including under-trials and those in custody should not be denied the right to vote as their crimes have not been proven.

Voting rights of prisoners all over the world:

  • In most countries around the world, the restrictions on prisoners right to vote is restricted to convicts while those undergoing trial and detainees are eligible.
  • There are some countries like Australia and Germany, the voting rights are based on the type of offence or the length of sentence of the prisoner.

Publish details of tainted candidates:SC to parties

News:Supreme Court has ordered Political Parties to publish criminal history of Lok Sabha, Assembly candidates.


About the petition:

  • The petition claimed the Election commission had failed to take any steps to ensure the implementation of a 2018 SC judgment which had made it mandatory for political parties to declare and publish all criminal cases pending against their candidate
  • In 2004, 24% of members of Parliament(MPs) had criminal cases pending against them.In 2009, that went up to 30%, in 2014 to 34% and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.

About the Supreme Court verdict:

  • The political parties should upload details of candidates with criminal background on their official website.
  • The details of the candidates with criminal background should be published in one local newspaper and one national newspaper and on social media pages of the political party.
  • The website of the party should also give reasons on why the candidates are being fielded for election.
  • Ability of a candidate to win elections should not be the reason furnished for fielding the candidate.
  • Political parties should furnish a compliance report with the Election Commission about compliance with the court’s directions.
  • Contempt proceedings can be initiated against a political party for failing to file compliance reports.

Other Judgements of Supreme Court:

  • Union of India (UOI) vs. Association for Democratic Reforms,2002: The Supreme Court made it mandatory for candidates to submit an affidavit with full disclosure of criminal cases, if any and details of their assets and income.
  • Lily Thomas v. Union of India,2013:The court ruled that any MP, MLA or MLC who is convicted of a crime and given a minimum of two year imprisonment loses membership of the House with immediate effect.
  • People’s Union For Civil Liberties v. Union Of India,2013:The Supreme Court had ruled that a None of the Above (NOTA) option to be provided in EVMs.

Explained:Ninth Schedule

News:Recently,a Lok Sabha member has said that reservation should be put under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.


About Ninth Schedule:

  • The Ninth Schedule contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts.Currently,284 such laws are shielded from judicial review.
  • The Schedule was added to the Constitution by the First Amendment in 1951 along with Article 31-B with a view to provide a protective umbrella to land reforms laws to save them from being challenged in courts on the ground of violation of fundamental rights.

About Article 31B:

  • Article 31B says that no legislation or provision of any law in the Ninth Schedule shall be deemed to be void by the court of law for being inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any of the Fundamental Rights.

Supreme Court on Ninth Schedule:

In IR Coelho versus State of Tamil Nadu, various laws placed in the Ninth Schedule were challenged in the Supreme court on the grounds that it violates fundamental rights:

  • The SC upheld the validity of Article 31-B and Parliament’s power to place a particular law in the Ninth Schedule.
  • But it said laws placed in the Ninth Schedule are open to judicial scrutiny and that such laws do not enjoy a blanket protection.
  • It laid down a dual test to examine the validity of a law placed in the Ninth Schedule.Whether it violates any fundamental right and if yes whether the violation also damages or destroys the basic structure.If the answer to both the questions is in the affirmative, then only a law placed in the Ninth Schedule can be declared unconstitutional.

Additional information:

Basic Structure of the Constitution:

  • In the Keshwanand Bharati case,a 13-judge constitution bench of the SC propounded the basic structure doctrine in 1973.
  • While upholding Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution under Article 368, the SC said it was a limited power subject to judicial review.
  • The court also said that by using the power to amend the Constitution, Parliament cannot alter its basic or essential features like federal structure, separation of power between the three organs of the states, judicial review, secularism among others.

BIMSTEC conference on drug trafficking

News:India is hosting the first-ever BIMSTEC nations conference on combating drug trafficking in New Delhi.


About the conference:

  • The conference has been organised by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
  • Aim:To provide an opportunity to all the member nations to deliberate on the increased threats posed by drug trafficking and the collective steps that were required to negate such threats.

About Narcotics Control Bureau(NCB):

  • NCB was constituted by the Government of India in 1986 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,1985.
  • It is the apex coordinating agency under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

About Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act,1985:

  • The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is based on the Directive Principles contained in Article 47 of the Indian Constitution,
  • Article 47 directs the State to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drugs injurious to health.


  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization founded in 1997.It is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • It comprises seven Member states namely Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal.

Debts Recovery Tribunals(DRT)

News:Recently,the Union Cabinet has given its nod for amendment of the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 so that its scope can be widened to cover litigation pending in various debt recovery tribunals(DRTs).


About Debt Recovery Tribunals(DRT):

  • Debt Recovery Tribunals have been established following the passing of the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDDBFI),1993.
  • The primary goal and function of DRT is the recovery of loaned money from borrowers which is owed to banks and financial institutions from customers.
  • This Tribunal is also the second court of appeal in respect of cases filed under The Securitisation and  Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest(SARFAESI) Act,2002.
  • The petitions against orders passed through DRTs comes before the Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal(DRAT).


  • A DRT is presided over by a presiding officer who is appointed by the central govt. and who shall be qualified to be a District Judge; with tenure of 5 years or the age of 62 whichever is earlier.


  • An application for recovery of debt can be made to the DRTs for all debts valued at more than 20 lakhs.For lesser amounts,the banks and financial institutions can approach Civil Courts.
  • No court in the country other than the Supreme Court(SC) and the High Court(HC) and that too only under articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution have jurisdiction against a judgment of DRAT.

Apiary on Wheels

News:Union minister of Micro,Small & Medium Enterprises has flagged off the Apiary on Wheels.


About Apiary on Wheels:

  • Apiary on Wheels is a unique concept designed by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
  • It aims to address the challenges faced by the beekeepers by easy upkeep and migration of Bee Boxes having live Bee colonies.
  • This initiative was launched as a part of the National Honey Mission.

About National Honey mission:

  • The Honey Mission was launched in 2017 by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
  • Aim:To Provide sustainable employment and income to rural and urban unemployed youth by conserving the honeybee habitat and tapping untapped natural resources.

Additional information:

About KVIC:

  • Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC) is a statutory body established under the Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act, 1956.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
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