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The Hindu 7 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair
The Hindu August 2019

SL. NO.

TOPICS   

THE HINDU

PAGE NO.

1

The hard realities of India’s fast-track courts  

11

2

NIIF to get up to $2 bn from AustralianSuper, Ontario Teachers’              

16

3

It will cost plants Rs 73000 crore to comply with green norms     

09

4

Consumer protection Bill gets RS green light                                               

09

5

The new facts on the ground for Kashmir                                                    

11

 

Title

1. The hard realities of India’s fast-track courts  (The Hindu, Page 11)     

Syllabus

Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance 

Theme

Governance 

Highlights

Context of the Article

  • Minister of Women and Child Development, informed the Rajya Sabha that the government has proposed to set up 1,023 fast-track courts to clear the cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.  

  • This was stated following Supreme Court Judgment which asked the Central Government to constitute fast track courts in such districts across the country which has over 100 cases of child abuse and sexual assault pending trial under POCSO Act within 60 days. 

  • In this backdrop, the article highlights the decline of Fast Track Courts in handling special cases and mentions that by mere increasing the number of judges in such courts will not solve the actual problem persisting in these fast track courts.  

The Problems highlighted by the author

  • Government is spending large sum of money to create additional post but little is being done to identify and address the prevalent systemic issues.   

  • The author explains that fast track courts have been in prevalence since 2000 but it has not effectively solved the pendency of cases.         

  • As per the reports of Ministry of Law and Justice, at the end of March, there were 581 FTCs operational in the country, with approximately 5.9 lakh pending cases, Uttar Pradesh having the most number of cases.

  • However, 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no Fast Track Courts (FTC). Rs. 870 crore was released by the Centre between 2000-2001 and 2010-2011 towards these Fast Track Courts. 

  • In a survey of FTCs conducted by National Law University Delhi, it was observed that there is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by these courts across States. Some states primarily allocated cases of rape and sexual offences to these fast track courts whereas other states allocated other matters as well. 

  • Several FTCs lacked technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of the victims and many of them did not have regular staff.

Statistical link between rising number of judges and case pendency

  • The article doubts that by mere raising the strength of judges in FTCs will lead to decline in pendency of cases which is also reflected in the data collected by Supreme Court from 2010 to 2017. 

  • For instance, in Karnataka, the number of working judges increased between 2012 and 2017 (with occasional dips in certain years) but pendency did not reduce. 

  • Similarly in other States, such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and West Bengal, increase or decrease in the number of judges did not affect pendency of cases.    

Other Factors at play 

  • Inadequate staff and IT infrastructure, delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, frivolous adjournments and over-listing of cases in the cause list are some of the other factors which leads to pendency of cases. 

  • So, as per the author, identifying systemic issues and addressing the concerns is as important for timely disposal of cases as increasing the number of judges.     

  • Considering vacancies in subordinate courts in different states, it is yet to be seen whether states hire additional judges or appoint Judges to FTCs from current pool of judges. For instance, in the case of commercial courts, several States designate special judges from the current pool of judges rather than hiring new judges.     

  • Thus, designating current judges to FTCs without appointing new Judges could prove to be problematic as it would increase substantially the workload of the remaining judges.     

Way Forward –    

  • Appointing new Judges becomes a responsibility of the state government and to designate existing Judges to FTCs will have to be done by the state keeping in mind the ground realities with respect to number of Judges available for the entire judicial set up.           

  • States must engage with the principal and senior district judges to ascertain the problems prevailing at ground level. Further, equal attention must be paid to both the metropolitan and far-flung non-metropolitan areas to gauge judicial issues including infrastructural problem and problem of judicial vacancy.

  • Thus, critical issues such as inadequate court staff, improper physical and IT infrastructure and understaffed forensic labs, which affect the day-to-day functioning of the FTCs, must be comprehensively addressed to increase judicial productivity as it will also help in reducing pendency of cases at district level. 

     

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Title

2. NIIF to get up to $2 bn from AustralianSuper, Ontario Teachers’              (The Hindu, Page 16)   

Syllabus 

Prelims GS Paper I – Economic development  

Theme

Infrastructure 

Highlights

What is Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF)?

·      A Sovereign Wealth Fund is an investment fund set up by some of the countries in order to invest in global market in the form of shares, bonds, real estate projects etc.

·      This fund is mainly funded through the foreign exchange reserves held by the countries. Further, the money is invested globally so as to make optimum profits through the SWF.

·      For example, Norway is operating the world's largest SWF (Government Pension Fund) with a corpus of around $ 1 trillion dollars. Similarly, China has also set up Chinese Investment Corporation (CIC) in the form of SWF.

·      Further, oil exporting countries of west Asia such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar etc have also set up their own SWF.

 

What is NIIF?

·         It is a quasi-SWF established by the Indian government in 2015.

·         Unlike the SWFs of other countries which are 100% owned by the Governments, the NIIF is 49% owned by the Indian Government. The remaining 51% is to be owned by domestic and foreign investors.

·         In 2017, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority became the first international investor in NIIF.

 

What is the role of NIIF?

·         It provides equity support to those NBFCs and Financial Institutions (FIs) that are engaged mainly in infrastructure financing. These institutions will be able to leverage this equity support and provide debt to the selected infrastructure projects.

It provides Equity as well as debt to commercially viable infrastructure projects, including stalled projects.    

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Title

3. It will cost plants Rs 73000 crore to comply with green norms     (The Hindu Page 09)

Syllabus 

Mains: GS Paper III – Economy 

Theme

Energy 

Highlights

Context

This article raises various concerns with respect to the 2015 government's notification on emission standards for coal based thermal power plants.

 

Details

The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has notified the revised standards for coal-based Thermal Power Plants in the country in 2015.

These standards are proposed to be implemented in a phased manner. Thermal power plants are categorised into 3 categories, namely those:- (i) Installed before 31st December, 2003 (ii) Installed after 2003 up to 31st December, 2016 and (iii) Installed after 31st December, 2016. 

The new standards are aimed at reducing emission of PM10, sulphur dioxide and Oxide of nitrogen depending upon the age and capacity of power plants. Apart from that, the power plants are also required to enhance water usage efficiency.

The new norms were required to be adopted by adopted by 2017. However, it has now been extended to 2022.

 

Implementation of norms

Implementing the New Emission Norms require  retrofitting existing thermal power plants with advanced technologies to control SOx, NOx and PM emissions such as Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD), Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), Electrostatic Precipitation (ESP) systems etc.

 

Benefits

Bring about an improvement in the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) in and around thermal power plants.

The technology employed for the control of  Sulphur Dioxide  & Nitrogen Oxide  will also help in control of mercury emission.

Limiting the use of water in thermal power plant will lead to water conservation  as thermal power plant is a water-intensive industry.

Reduction in energy requirement for drawl of water. 

 

Issues and Challenges

Requirement of additional capital expenditure: The total cost of installing pollution control technology in India’s thermal power plants would be around Rs 73,000 crores. This could lead to 10% increase in the electricity bills for the consumers.

Technology Constraints: Very few power producers have prior experience in procurement, installation and operation of the advanced technology.

Availability of Limestone: Constraints related to availability of limestone which is used as chemical reagent in the Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD). Concerns are also raised with respect to adverse environmental impact of limestone mining.

 

Way Forward

The new environmental norms should be seen as an opportunity to invest in green technology and promote "Make in India". Adequate incentives such as tax concessions, cheaper loans etc have to be provided.

Such efforts have to be supplemented by focussing on the training and capacity building of power producers. 

 

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Title

4. Consumer protection Bill gets RS green light                                               (The Hindu Page 09)      

Syllabus 

Mains GS Paper II – Governance 

Theme

Rights issues 

Highlights

Definition of consumer: A consumer is defined as a person 

  • who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration. 

  •  It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose. 

  • It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling. 

Rights of consumers: 

  1. be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property; 

  2.  be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services; 

  3. be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and 

  4.  seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.

KEY FEATURES 

1. Central Consumer Protection Authority: The central government will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. 

  • It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. 

  • The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations.

CCPA will carry out the following functions, including:

  1. inquiring into violations of consumer rights, investigating and launching prosecution at the appropriate forum; 

  2.  passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services that are hazardous, reimbursement of the price paid, and discontinuation of the unfair trade practices, as defined in the Bill; 

  3.  issuing directions to the concerned trader/ manufacturer/ endorser/ advertiser/ publisher to either discontinue a false or misleading advertisement, or modify it; 

  4. imposing penalties, and; 

  5.  issuing safety notices to consumers against unsafe goods and services.
     

Penalties for misleading advertisement: The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.  In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.
 

Misleading endorsements by celebrity 

  • The endorser can be levied with penalty up to rupees 10 lakhs by the CCPA for false and misleading advertisements.

  • CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to one year, which may extend to three years for every subsequent offence

  • However, the endorser will not be liable if he has exercised due diligence to verify the veracity of the claims made in the advertisement regarding the product or service being endorsed by him.
     

Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: 

  • set up at the district, state, and national levels.  

  • A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to: (i) unfair or restrictive trade practices; (ii) defective goods or services; (iii) overcharging or deceptive charging; and (iv) the offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety.  

Jurisdiction 

  • If the value of goods and services is below 1 crore: District CDRC 

  • If the value of goods and services is below 10 crore: The State CDRC 

  • If the value of goods and services is over 10 crore: The National CDRC 

  • Complaints against an unfair contract can be filed with only the State and National Commissions 

  • Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC.

  • Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC.

  • Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.




 

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Title

5. The new facts on the ground for Kashmir                                                    (The Hindu Pg no 11)

Syllabus 

Mains GS paper II – Polity 

Theme

Polity & Governance 

Highlights

 

Context : After scrapping of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the decision to reorganise the State into two Union Territories (UTs), the article analyses the implications of these constitutional changes. 

 

Negative implications 

 
  • Terrorism Can increase in the coming days. This is because historically, any spike in disaffection in Jammu and Kashmir has facilitated a misadventure by Pakistan. For instance, the maximum dilution of Article 370 took place in the 1960s, including changes concerning the nomenclature of the ‘head of the State’. And this was followed by the infamous ‘Operation Gibraltar’ by Pakistani President Ayub Khan in August 1965.

  • Success of Counter terrorism depends largely on ground intelligence and not merely on the changes in the administrative set up. 

  • India has  bifurcated the State and created a Union Territory of Ladakh  similar to what Pakistan did with Gilgit and Baltistan regions by a separate province in 2009. 

  • After stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, India cannot claim the moral high ground any more by pointing out unlike Pakistan, it kept the integrity of the State intact.

  • The Centre needs to assure the Shia community of kargil that their interests would be safeguarded in the new Buddhist dominated Union Territory. India would not want to create another zone of disaffection in a strategically important border region of the State where it has already faced Pakistani aggression once.

  • Another concern is related to the Polarisation of the State further. In the absence of any institutional mechanism to address regional and ethnic aspirations, polarization has continued to increase among different regions, often taking a communal turn. The present decision might polarise the State even further along regional and religious lines.

  • The claim of widespread poverty in the State, cited as one of the justifications for decision, is not backed by facts. 

  • Only 10.35% of the State’s population lives below the poverty line, compared to the national average of 21.92%.

  • Bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir may trigger demands for further division of the State which, unless they are categorically rejected, could trigger a long period of instability and turbulence. 

  • Finally, the return of Kashmiri Pandits is unlikely as the security environment in the Valley is currently not conducive for them to go back.

 

Positive Implications 

 
  • The descendants of Partition refugees who migrated from Sialkot, many of whom belong to Scheduled Castes, will now be able to get employment, buy and own land and vote in the new Union Territory.

  • The present decision has removed another impediment — children born to women marrying citizens from outside Jammu and Kashmir can now inherit property.

  • Political reservation, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, has been denied to Scheduled Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir even though all political parties have suitably accommodated them in other ways.

  • Around 11.91% of the State’s population is made of Scheduled Tribes, the bulk of them from Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes. Extending political reservation to them will make the State’s political structure more inclusive.

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