POLITY & CONSTITUTION
Recently, the Government of India has signalled its intent of carrying out a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
- This signal was revealed by the statement issued by the Union Minister of Home Affairs.
- The National Register of Citizens is a list of all the legal citizens of the country, with necessary documents.
- Earlier, following the Supreme Court’s order, the Government conducted the NRC updating exercise in Assam and as a result over 19 lakh applicants failed to make it to the NRC list.
Criteria for determining the citizenship
- The Citizenship Act, 1955 clearly states that anyone born in India on or after January 26, 1950 up till July 1, 1987 is an Indian citizen by birth.
- Anyone born on or after July 1, 1987 but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is an Indian citizen at the time of his birth is an Indian citizen. And anyone born after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and both of whose parents are Indian citizens at the time of his birth is an Indian citizen.
- The only exception to this was Assam where as per the 1985 Assam Accord foreigners who came to the state up to March 24, 1971 were to be regularised as Indian citizens.
- Seen in this context, only Assam was allowed to take in foreigners up to March 24, 1971.
- For the rest of the country, those born outside the country after January 26, 1950 and residing in India without proper documents is a foreign, illegal immigrant.
CJI UNDER RTI
In Central public information officer, Supreme Court of India vs Subhash Chandra Agarwal case a five-judge Constitution Bench of Supreme Court declared that the Office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a ‘public authority’ under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
On whether CJI is public authority?
- The judgement said that the Supreme Court of India and office of CJI are not two different public authorities. The SC includes the office of CJI and other judges as per Article 124. Hence, if the Supreme Court is a public authority (as per Section 2(h) of RTI Act), so is the office of the CJI.
On declaration of assets of judges
- It upheld the Delhi High Court judgment of 2010 that the CJI does not hold information on the personal assets of judges in a fiduciary capacity (Relationship of confidence and trust). Thus, disclosure of details of serving judges’ personal assets was not a violation of their right to privacy.
- The information about assets of judges does not constitute personal information and thus cannot be exempted from RTI.
On disclosing personal information
- SC held that the right to know under RTI was not absolute and ought to be balanced with the right to privacy of individual judges.
- Thus, it asked Information commissioner to apply test of proportionality, keeping in mind right to privacy and independence of judiciary.
- The judgment mentions that marks obtained, grades and professional records, qualification, performance, evaluation reports, ACRs etc. are personal information. Such personal information is entitled to protection from unwarranted invasion of privacy. (under section 8 of RTI Act)
SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN RULES ON TRIBUNAL POSTINGS
Supreme Court (SC) struck down Rules framed by the government under the Finance Act of 2017 to alter the appointments to 19 key judicial tribunals, including the Central Administrative Tribunal.
What SC said?
- SC struck down the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities Rules, 2017 in entirety, saying that the rules suffered from “various infirmities”. SC also held that they are “contrary to the principles envisaged in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court”.
- However, the Court upheld Section 184 of the Finance Act which had entitled the Central government to frame rules to determine appointment, service conditions, removal and other aspects of tribunals. It directed the government to re-formulate the rules in conformity with the principles delineated by the court.
o The new set of Rules to be formulated by the Central Government shall ensure non-discriminatory and uniform conditions of service, including assured tenure etc.
- Until the new rules are formulated, the appointments, the Bench said, will be as per existing laws, and not under the Finance Act, 2017.
- The court ordered the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to conduct a ‘Judicial Impact Assessment’ of tribunals to analyse the ramifications of the changes caused by the Finance Act, 2017.
Recently, the information received under the Right to Information revealed some startling facts on electoral bonds.
- Electoral bond scheme was announced in Union Budget 2017-18 in an attempt to “cleanse the system of political funding in the country.”
- Electoral bonds with denomination of Rs 1 crore accounted for more than 91 per cent of the Rs 5,896 crore raised till now. The dominant use of high value bonds clearly shows that almost the entire money came from the wealthiest section of the society.
Rationale behind introduction of Electoral Bonds
- To limit the use of cash in political funding- as earlier, massive amounts of political donations were being made in cash, by individuals/corporates, using illicit means of funding and the ‘system’ was wholly opaque and ensured complete anonymity.
o The donors would have no option but to donate by cash after siphoning off money from their businesses. o Electoral bonds were introduced to ensure that all the donations made to a party would be accounted for in the balance sheets without exposing the donor details to the public.
- To curbs black money- due to the following features included in the electoral bonds-
o Payments made for the issuance of the electoral bonds are accepted only by means of a demand draft, cheque or through the Electronic Clearing System or direct debit to the buyers’ account”. Hence, no black money can be used for the purchase of these bonds.
o Buyers of these bonds must comply with KYC requirements, and the beneficiary political party has to disclose the receipt of this money and must account for the same.
o Limiting the time for which the bond is valid ensures that the bonds do not become a parallel currency.
KARNATAKA MLA’S DISQUALIFICATION
The Supreme Court recently upheld former Karnataka assembly speaker’s decision to disqualify 17 rebel lawmakers but allowed the rebels to contest the bypolls.
SC Judgement on Disqualification of MLAs
- Judicial Review: The SC Bench noted that as per the Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others case (1992), the Speaker, while exercising the power to disqualify, acts like a Tribunal and hence, the validity of the orders is amenable to judicial review.
- Acceptance of resignation: The SC held that once it is demonstrated that a member is willing to resign out of his free will, the Speaker has no option but to accept the resignation.
- Resignation vs. Disqualification: Even if the resignation is tendered, the act resulting in disqualification arising prior to the resignation continues to remain a valid ground for defection; and the matter remains in the jurisdiction of the Speaker. Thus, the SC upheld the disqualification of the MLAs.
- The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution by 52nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1985.
- It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature.
- A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote.
- The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
- Any question regarding disqualification arising out of defection is to be decided by the presiding officer of the House.
SABARIMALA TEMPLE ISSUE
Recently, the Supreme Court has deferred its decision on review of “2018 Sabarimala verdict” until a Seven Judges’ Bench examines broader issues such as essentiality of religious practices and constitutional morality.
- The term ‘morality’ or ‘constitutional morality’ has not been defined in the Constitution.
- As per the Supreme Court, the magnitude and sweep of constitutional morality is not confined to the provisions and literal text which a Constitution contains, rather it embraces within itself virtues of a wide magnitude such as that of ushering a pluralistic and inclusive society, while adhering to the other principles of constitutionalism.
- In the 2018 Sabarimala verdict, the majority opinion defined ‘morality’ in Article 25 to mean constitutional morality.
o Article 25 reads, “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
Recently, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the long-running title suit at Ayodhya on appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment.
- The Babri mosque was built in Ayodhya in 1528. Hindu groups claim it was built after demolishing a temple.
o In 1853, the first recorded communal clashes over the site took place. In 1859, the British administration put a fence around the site marking separate areas of worship for Hindus and Muslims, and it stood that way for nearly 90 years.
o The property dispute went to court for the first time in 1949 after idols of Lord Ram were placed inside the mosque.
- The mosque was demolished in 1992, which was followed by communal riots across India.
Key highlights from the Judgement
- The SC said that archaeological evidence cannot be brushed aside as conjecture and hypothesis.
o Archaeological evidence supports that the Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land but on a Hindu structure.
o However, Archaeological Survey of India findings did not say whether a Hindu temple was demolished to construct a mosque.
- The court also said that the destruction of the mosque in 1992 happened in breach of SC orders. The desecration of the mosque by placing idols in 1949 and its demolition was contrary to the law.
- The SC has allotted the entire 2.77-acre disputed land for temple construction.
o The Centre to formulate a scheme in three months to set up a board of trustees for construction of a temple at the disputed structure.
- The court has also ordered that suitable alternative land, measuring five acres, will be allotted for setting up mosque.
o The land will be given to the Sunni Waqf Board.
- The SC ruled that the Allahabad high court judgement on the case in 2010 was wrong in dividing the disputed site into three parts.
REGULATING OTT MEDIA CONTENT
Recently, government has decided to go for self-regulation of media content shown by the Over-the-top (OTT) platforms instead of censorship or certification.
About OTT platform
- Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms deliver audio, video, and other media content via the internet, eschewing the need for traditional platforms like cable, broadcast and satellite television. These are also known as Online Curated Content Providers (OCCP).
- Recent past has seen proliferation of audio and video content provided by OTT services in India.
o Popular OTT platforms in India include Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon prime etc.
IMPEACHMENT OF US PRESIDENT
Recently, US House of Representatives Speaker announced that the House would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against US President Trump, charging him with betraying his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain.
Impeachment in USA
- The US president, under the Constitution, can be removed from office for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanours.”
- Process of impeachment o First, the House of Representatives has to vote for the articles of impeachment (that is, the charges) to be brought against the President.
o Once this is passed with a simple majority, the President is impeached but not necessarily removed from office.
o Next, the Senate (upper house) is convened like a court, with both sides presenting evidence.
o At the conclusion of these hearings, the President can be removed from office only if two-thirds of the Senate votes for it.
Difference with India’s President impeachment
o When a President is to be impeached for violation of the Constitution, the charge shall be preferred by either House of Parliament.
o The president may also be removed before the expiry of the term through impeachment for violating the Constitution of India by the Parliament of India unlike US president for treason, bribery etc.
RCEP AND INDIA’S EXPERIENCE WITH FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS
Recently, India decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- RCEP was Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 countries, including the 10 ASEAN countries and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
o Now, 15 other countries excluding India are set to enter into the trade agreement in February 2020.
- According to government, RCEP neither reflected its original intent nor addresses India’s key concerns.
- India had been raising the issue of market access as well as protected lists of goods mainly to shield its domestic market as there have been fears that the country may be flooded with cheap Chinese agricultural and industrial products once it signs the deal.
India’s experience with FTA
- A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
- India has viewed FTAs as an important tool to enhance its trade and investment, and signed a number of trade agreements with various countries or groups.
o In fact, India is one among top countries in Asia with the maximum number of FTAs either in operation or under negotiation or proposed.
- India’s exports to FTA countries has not outperformed overall export growth or exports to rest of the world.
- Major FTAs that India has signed and implemented so far include
o South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA)
o India-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)
o India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)
o India-Japan CEPA.
Recently, Prime Minister attended the 16th ASEAN-India Summit held at Bangkok, Thailand.
- The Summit was chaired by the Prime Minister of Thailand and was attended by all Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Member States and the Indian Prime Minister.
- The discussions were held on
o political-security cooperation
o economic cooperation (amid RCEP),
o ASEAN-India connectivity- cooperation between Ayeyawady-Chao PhrayaMekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the Mekong-Ganga
o Socio-cultural cooperation.
Recently 11th BRICS Summit was held in Brasilia, Brazil with the theme “Economic Growth for an Innovative Future.”
Achievements of BRICS so far
- To overcome the unipolar influence on world affairs, the BRICS countries have addressed a major task of establishing a world economic governance system that would be fully independent of the United States. E.g.
o New Development Bank (NDB) is BRICS most tangible achievement. Every BRICS country contributes equally to its capital and has equal voting rights. This sets the bank apart from other international financial institutions. In three years, NDB has approved projects with a total value of $12.5 billion. NDB is considering to include new members.
o The Contingent Reserve Arrangement as an alternative to the IMF; the Global Financial Messaging System (GFMS) created by the Bank of Russia as a safeguard against entire states being weaned off from SWIFT.
WTO RULING AGAINST INDIAN SUBSIDIES
World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement panel recently ruled against India in a trade dispute over its subsidies to exporters under various schemes, stating that the subsidies given are not compliant with the WTO’s norms.
- US challenged export subsidies provided by India under 5 sets of schemes
- US alleged that these schemes violated certain provisions of WTO’s Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement that prohibits subsidies that are contingent upon export performance.
WTO ruling and its impact on India
- WTO panel recommended that India withdraw certain “prohibited subsidies” under the DFIS scheme within 90 days; under the EOU/EHTP/BTP, EPCG and MEIS schemes within 120 days and under the SEZ scheme within 180 days from the adoption of its report.
- The panel ruled that India had already graduated from the special and differential treatment provision that was originally under SCM Agreement and now, prohibition on export subsidies was applicable on it.
- It also denied any further ‘transition period’ available to India to stop these subsidies.
- Impact on India o The ruling would put at risk India’s subsidy programme worth $7 billion and could impact producers of steel products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, etc., who were the major beneficiaries of the subsidy programme.
o This ruling would further push countries to question India over its policies on sugar, pulses and skimmed milk. For e.g. Countries have raised concerns on India offering soft-loans to sugar mills and doubling import duties on sugar. This might aggravate the farm income crisis in India.
RUSSIAN LED RESOLUTION ON CYBERCRIME TREATY
Recently, India voted in favour of a Russian led UN resolution to set up a separate convention on cybercrime.
About Budapest Convention on cybercrime
- The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Cybercrime Convention — also known as the Budapest Convention came into force in 2001, is the only binding international instrument that addresses Internet and computer crime by harmonizing national laws, improving legal authorities for investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among nations.
- It deals with issues such as infringements of copyright, computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security.
- It aims to pursue a common criminal policy, especially by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international police as well as judicial co-operation.
- It is supplemented by a “Protocol on Xenophobia and Racism” committed through computer systems.
- The Convention has 56 members, including the US and the UK. India is not yet a member.
The Prime Minister’s Office has set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to resolve differences over the proposed Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016.
- Land leasing means a contract between the landowner and cultivator, who uses the landowner’s land for agriculture and allied activities for a mutually agreed specified period.
- In India, land leasing was allowed only in some states and there too, the market is poorly developed. It leads to the following issues-
o Landowners do not lease out land for fear of losing possession and thus keep changing the tenants.
o Tenant farmers cannot avail the benefits of government schemes like credit and insurance.
- To review the existing agricultural tenancy laws of various states, the NITI Aayog had set up an Expert Committee on Land Leasing headed by T Haque.
o It drafted a Model Land Leasing law which seeks to create security among landowners to lease-out agricultural land.
- However, land being a state subject many states are yet to adopt the model law. Also, some central departments had some reservations on it.
Key provisions of the Model Land Leasing Act, 2016
- Legalise land leasing in all areas to ensure complete security of land ownership right for landowners and security of tenure for tenants for the agreed lease period.
- Remove the clause of adverse possession of land in various states’ land laws as it interferes with free functioning of land lease market.
- Automatic resumption of ownership to the landowner, after the agreed lease period without requiring any minimum area of land to be left with the tenant even after termination of tenancy, as laws of some states require.
- Terms of land lease determined mutually by the landowner and the tenant without any fear on the part of the landowner of losing land right or undue expectation on the part of the tenant of acquiring occupancy right.
- Access to institutional support to all tenants including sharecroppers to access insurance bank credit and bank credit against pledging of expected output.
- Promote investment in land improvement by incentivizing tenants and entitling them to get back the unused value of investment at the time of termination of tenancy.
- Resolution of Conflicts- The cultivator and the owner can settle disputes between them using third party mediation or local governments.
o The State governments would also constitute a special Land Tribunal, which shall be the final authority to adjudicate disputes under the model Act.
Tamil Nadu has become the first State to enact a law on contract farming based on the lines of Model Contract Farming Act, 2018 of the Central Government.
- The law called Tamil Nadu Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Act has got the assent of President as well.
- This act ensures that farmers are paid at a pre-determined price, as per registered agreements, safeguarding their interests during times of bumper harvest or fluctuating market prices.
- As per the law, farmers would get support from purchasers for improving production and productivity by way of inputs, feed and fodder, technology
About Contract farming
- It involves agricultural production (including livestock and poultry) being carried out on the basis of a preharvest agreement (or forward contracts) between the buyers (such as food processing units and exporters) and producers (farmers or farmer organisations).
- It is under the Concurrent List; however, Agriculture is under State list.
- Government has also exempted firms engaged in contract farming from the existing licensing and restrictions on stock limit and movement of foodstuff under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955,
- Legislation related to Contract Farming in India
o In order to protect the interests of producers and sponsors of Contract Farming, the Ministry of Agriculture drafted Model APMC Act, 2003, which provided provisions for registration of sponsors, recording of agreement, dispute settlement mechanism.
- Consequently, some states had amended their APMC Acts to provide for it but Punjab had a separate law on contract farming.
COMMERCIAL COAL MINING
India will now offer coal mines to private companies ‘only for commercial mining and sale purpose’, thereby moving away from the earlier regime of offering mines for captive use.
- The coal ministry will auction coal blocks for commercial mining on a revenue sharing basis and proposes to announce incentives for faster production. To incentivize bidders to begin early, the government proposes to offer up to 20% deduction in its revenue share.
- This will be the first auction outside the reverse bidding model since the mass cancellation of blocks by the Supreme Court. The revenue sharing model is based on recommendations of an expert committee headed by former Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha.
ANTI-TERROR LAWS IN THE COUNTRY
Recently, the President gave his assent to the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill.
- The Bill has been passed by the Gujarat assembly and brought to presidents three times since 2004, but was sent back, owing to lack of clarity regarding certain provisions of the bill.
Evolution of major anti-terror legislative architecture in the country
- In the earlier stages, incidents of terrorism in India were generally dealt with as law and order issues and therefore investigation and prosecution in such cases largely followed the penal provisions enshrined in major laws such as the Indian Penal Code, Indian Explosives Act, Indian Arms Act, and such others, while procedurally, the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code were followed.
- Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967- It was enacted as general law encompassing unlawful activities. o However, after the repeal of POTA, it was amended in 2008 to incorporate the definition of a ‘Terrorist Act’. o It was further amended in 2013 to cater to the specific need of the hour by incorporating economic and financial offences. It also enabled prosecution of offences punishable under this Act even if committed outside India.
- Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1985- It was enacted in the backdrop of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. It remained in force till 1995 and then it was allowed to lapse due to grave and widespread of allegations of misuse.
- Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002- It was enacted after the attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. It also remained the political punching bag and faced severe criticism for alleged widespread human right abuses. It was repealed in 2004 after a very short span of legal existence. o After the repeal of POTA, no court was permitted to take cognizance of any offence under POTA after one year of the expiry of this Act.
- Armed Forces Special Power Act [AFSPA]- It was enacted in view of the rise in insurgency in certain areas. This law classified those areas as ‘disturbed areas’, providing special operational, legal cover along with certain additional powers to the armed forces. o In classical terms however, AFSPA should not be seen as an antiterror specific legislation but more as an enabling provision for the armed forces to deal with situations in the disturbed areas.
THE BODOLAND DISPUTE: BAN ON NDFB EXTENDED
Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended ban on the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) by five more years, under provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
- NDFB is an ethnic insurgent organization demanding an independent state for the Bodo ethnic group in Assam, formed in 1986.
- It shares close ties with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).
- It is a state demanded by a tribal community called Bodos in Assam, who comprise of 5%-6% of the state’s population.
- It consists of regions located extreme north of north bank of Brahmaputra river in the state of Assam, by the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh.
E-FLOW NORMS FOR RIVER GANGA
The e-flow norms notified by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) are to be enforced from December 2019. About the e-flow norms
- The e-flow or environmental flow norms were notified in September 2018 by the NMCG, the apex body responsible for the cleaning and rejuvenation of the river, to be enforced from December 2019.
- Environmental Flow refers to the minimum flow of water considered necessary for protecting the structure and function of an ecosystem and its dependent species.
- The e-flow norms stipulate the volume of water that dams and barrages must release to allow the river to naturally clean itself and protect its aquatic biodiversity.
OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLES
Recently, the Odisha forest department banned fishing between November 2019-May 2020, in the state’s Gahiramatha marine sanctuary to protect Olive Ridley turtles.
- Gahiramatha, located in Odisha, is known as the world’s largest Olive Ridley rookery.
- These animals come in lakhs in the waters surrounding the sanctuary in November for mating. The females lay eggs in March.
- Trawlers and boatmen have been directed not to fish within 20 kilometers of the coastline.
About Olive Ridley Turtles
- The Olive Ridley Turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
- These turtles, along with their cousin, Kemps Ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
THE TRANSGENDER PERSONS (PROTECTION OF RIGHTS) ACT, 2019
Key Provisions of the Act
- Definition of a transgender person: The Act defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.
- Prohibition against discrimination: The Act prohibits 8 types of discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to: education; employment; healthcare; access to public goods and facilities; right to movement; right to reside, rent, or own property; opportunity to hold public or private office; and access to a government or private establishment which has custody of a transgender person.
- Recognition of Identity: It provides for the right to self-perceived gender identity. A certificate of identity as a transgender person can be issued by the District Magistrate. A revised certificate can also be obtained after Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).
- Offences and penalties: It recognize the following offences against transgender persons. Penalties for these offences vary between six months and two years, and a fine.
○ forced or bonded labour (excluding compulsory government service for public purposes),
○ denial of use of public places,
○ removal from household, and village,
○ physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.
- National Council for Transgender Persons will be setup with representatives from the government, transgender community and experts in the field. It will advise the government on formulating policies for the community, and monitor the implementation, and address grievances, among others.
- Welfare measures by the government: Government must take steps for their rescue and rehabilitation, vocational training and self-employment, create schemes that are transgender sensitive, and promote their participation in cultural activities.
- Health care: The government must take steps to provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centre and sex reassignment surgeries.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Recently, Parliament has passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, and Advertisement) Bill, 2019. It will replace an Ordinance promulgated in September 2019.
Key provisions of the Act
- Definition of E-cigarette: The Bill defines electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as electronic devices that heat a substance, which may contain nicotine and other chemicals, to create vapour for inhalation. These e-cigarettes can also contain different flavours and include all forms of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), heat-not-burn products, e-hookahs, and other similar devices.
- Prohibition on e-cigarettes- It makes production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution or advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offence.
- Storage of e-cigarettes: No person is allowed to use any place for the storage of any stock of e-cigarettes. If any person stores any stock of e-cigarettes, he will be punishable with an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both.
TYPHOID CONJUGATE VACCINE
Pakistan became the first country in the world to introduce World Health Organisation-recommended typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV).
- Pakistan introduced TCV called Typbar TCV in its national immunisation program against extensively drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid outbreak.
- Typbar TCV is manufactured by India based company, Bharat Biotech. It became the world’s first conjugate vaccine prequalified by the WHO.
ISRO successfully launched Cartosat-3 and 13 commercial nanosatellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota.
About Cartosat 3
- Cartosat-3 satellite is a third-generation agile advanced satellite having high resolution imaging capability.
- The mission life of the Cartosat-3 is 5 years.
- It will be followed by additional satellites of the same design, namely Cartosat-3A and 3B, next year.
- Orbit Type: Sun synchronous polar orbit (SSPO) at altitude of 509 km. o SSPO are polar orbits which are synchronous with the Sun i.e. in these orbits, Earth’s surface is always illuminated by the Sun at the same angle when viewed from the satellite.
- Launch Vehicle: PSLV-C47
- It was navigated for the first time using the indigenous Vikram processor designed by the ISRO and fabricated within the country.
American company SpaceX recently sent 60 small satellites (under 500 kg each) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
This project, named Starlink network, seeks to build a 42,000-strong constellation aiming to supply non-stop, lowcost Internet everywhere on Earth.
Benefits of space internet
- Better accessibility- Traditional ways to deliver the Internet like fibre-optic cables or wireless networks cannot take it in remote areas or difficult terrains.
- More affordability- because of economies of scale and near zero investment on costly ground physical infrastructure.
- Availability- 24*7 availability of internet without any interruption.
- Internet of Things (IoT) technology is likely to be revolutionised. For ex. services such as autonomous car driving will become seamless.
Recently 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak was celebrated.
About Guru Nanak
- Guru Nanak is the founder and first Guru of Sikhism.
- He was born in 1469 at Talwandi Rai Bhoe (renamed later as Nankana Sahib) near Lahore.
- It is said that in 1499 he got enlightenment and heard ‘God’s Call’ to dedicate himself completely to the service of humanity.
- In the later years of his life, Guru Nanak settled down at the township of Kartarpur (“creator’s town”), on the banks of river Ravi in Punjab.
o The recently inaugurated Kartarpur Corridor connects the Dera Baba Nanak Sahib Gurdwara in India’s state of Punjab to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur shrine in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
- Compositions of Guru Nanak and other Sikh gurus and the writings of other figures like Shaikh Farid, Sant Kabir, Bhagat Namdev were compiled in Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs.
TRAVELOGUES IN DECODING INDIAN HISTORY
In the recently delivered Ayodhya judgement, Supreme Court took note of the account of three European travellers namely Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Finch, and Montgomery Martin.
- He was an 18th-century missionary hailing from Italy who travelled in India for 27 years.
- In India, he was commissioned at the famous observatory of Sawai Jai Singh, the Raja of Jaipur, and was later attached at the Jesuit College in Agra.
- He also lived in Awadh, where Ayodhya is located, for over five years.
- In his book ‘Description Historiqueet Geographique Del‘inde’ he gives details about his travels to Ayodhya.
- He is known to have arrived in India in 1608 at Surat with Sir William Hawkins, a representative of the East India Company.
- He is said to give the earliest English language account of Kashmir, as well as trade routes connecting Punjab and eastern Turkistan and western China.
- Finch visited Ayodhya between 1608 and 1611, and did not find any building of importance of Islamic origin.
- William Finch’s account has been recorded in the 1921 book ‘Early Travels in India (1583-1619)’ by the historiographer Sir William Foster.
Robert Montgomery Martin
- He was an Anglo-Irish author and civil servant. He practised medicine in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), East Africa and Australia.
- Martin then went on to work in Kolkata where he helped found the paper ‘Bengal Herald’. He later returned to England where he wrote about the British Empire.
- He wrote the three-volume work ‘History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India’.
- He had written about the worship of Lord Ram in the Ayodhya region and destruction of temples and the erection of mosques.
MEGHALAYA BRINGS ENTRY LAW FOR VISITORS
- The Meghalaya Cabinet recently approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) 2016.
- The Act is applicable only to those visiting the state as tourists, labourers, students or for business transactions.
- The move comes in the backdrop of demands for an ILP-like regime and concerns that people excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam might try to enter Meghalaya.
- It will lead to laws that require non-resident visitors to register themselves on the lines of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
- Around 10,000 tribals in Jharkhand’s Khunti town, (constituting 2% of the district’s population) are facing sedition charges under IPC section 124A, for participating in Pathalgadi movement.
- Under Pathalgadi Movement (literally ‘laying stones’), tribals put up stone monoliths with engravings in order to enlighten Adivasi people about their constitutional and other rights.
o The engravings usually highlight the special autonomy granted to Adivasi areas under the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and key provisions of the PESA (Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996) are also carved.
SPECIAL PROTECTION GROUP (AMENDMENT) ACT
- The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Act, 2019 has been passed in both Houses of Parliament.
- Provisions of the Bill
o Bill seeks to amend Special Protections Group Act, 1988.
o SPG will continue to provide security to the Prime Minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence.
o It will also provide security to any former Prime Ministers and his immediate family members, for a period of five years from the date on which he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister.
KULBHUSHAN JADHAV CASE
- Recently, International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its report to UN General Assembly found that Pakistan had violated its obligations under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention in the case of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav.
o Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires a nation arresting or detaining a foreign national to afford the detainee access to his or her consulate and to notify the foreign national of the right of consular access.
o On the issue of exclusion of rights relating to consular access because of espionage, the court clarified that there is no provision in the Vienna Convention containing a reference to cases of espionage; nor does the Article 36 exclude from its scope certain categories of persons, such as those suspected of espionage.
KODAVAS COMMUNITY OF COORG
- Recently, Central government decided to continue a British-era rule of exempting the Kodava community, from obtaining licence for firearms such as pistols, revolvers and double-barrelled shotguns.
- The current exemption has been given for a tenure of 10 years, till 2029.
- About Kodavas
o Kodavas (also known as Kogadu), a well-known martial community of Coorg region in Karnataka.
o They worship weapons during the ‘Kailpodh’ festival and are the only community in the country who are exempted from obtaining arm licenses.
o They are known for its outstanding contributions to the country’s defence sector and hence, Coorg is also called the Land of Generals.
o Another distinguishing characteristic of this community is the high status given to women like no child marriage, dowry is forbidden and widow remarriage is prevalent.
- Counter-Terrorism Table-Top Exercise (CT-TTX): It is first counter-terrorism exercise for “Quad” countries (U.S., India, Japan and Australia) recently hosted by the National Investigation Agency in New Delhi.
- Exercise Surya Kiran- XIV: It is joint military exercise between India- Nepal
- Exercise Mitra Shakti-VII: It is joint military exercise between India-Sri Lanka.
- Exercise Shakti- 2019: It is biennial joint military exercise between armies of India and France, conducted alternately in India and France.
- Exercise Za’ir-Al-Bahr: It is joint maritime exercise between the navies of India and Qatar.
- Tiger Triumph: It is first ever tri service joint exercise between India and the United States. The exercise will primarily focus on humanitarian disaster and relief (HADR) operations.
- Dustlik-2019: It is first ever joint military exercise between India and Uzbekistan.
MIGRATORY BIRDS DIE IN SAMBHAR LAKE
- Recently, thousands of migratory birds died at Sambhar lake in Rajasthan due to Avian botulism.
- It is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.
- It affects the nervous system of birds, leading to flaccid paralysis in their legs and wings and neck.
- It is found that biological oxygen demand in sambhar lake is above permissible limits, this led to rise of Clostridium botulinum.
LOKTAK INLAND WATERWAYS PROJECT
- Ministry of Shipping has given approval for the development of Loktak Inland Water Ways improvement project in Manipur under the central sector scheme.
- The project will develop the Inland water transport connectivity in North East States and give boost to the tourism sector also.
- Loktak Lake is the largest fresh water lake in Northeast India, located at Moirang in Manipur.
o It is famous for floating Phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter) and Keibul Lamjao National Park which is the only floating national park in the world.
o Sangai Deer (engendered species) has the habitat in Keibul Lamjao National Park.
MEGHALAYA LIVING ROOT BRIDGES
About Living root bridges (Jing kieng jri)
- This is community driven innovation by forest dwellers especially Khasi and Jaintia peoples of Meghalaya by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree (Ficus elastica) in hollowed out Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks.
- Indian rubber tree is conducive to the growth of bridges because of three main properties- they are elastic, the roots easily combine and the plants grow in rough, rocky soils.
- Spanning between 15 and 250 feet and built over centuries, the bridges, primarily a means to cross streams and rivers, have also become world-famous tourist attractions.
GREEN CLIMATE FUND
- India gets USD 43 million from Green Climate Fund to boost climate resilience in 3 coastal states.
- The six-year project will build climate-resilient livelihoods for 1.7 million people in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha and offset 3.5 million tonnes of carbon, protect vulnerable ecosystems, and benefit another 10 million people with improved shoreline protection.