Polity & Governance
- Places of Worship Act, 1991
- Foreign Tribunals in Assam
- Reservation is not fundamental right: SC
- Ninth Schedule
Government Schemes and Policies
- Sahakar Mitra: Scheme on Internship Programme
- Farmer Producer Organizations
- SC wants dues of PSUs waived off
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Lonar Lake
- World Day against Child Labour
Key Facts for Prelims
- Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
- Amendment in Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961
- Lunar Polar Exploration
- World Food Prize 2020
- Anti-viral textile technology
- Great Himalayan National Park
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Polity & Governance
Places of Worship Act, 1991
A petition before the Supreme Court has challenged the Constitutional validity of Section 4 of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
What does the Act say?
- The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 was passed during the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in September 1991, over a year before the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
- The Act seeks to maintain the religious character of holy structures as it was at Independence i.e. it prohibits the conversion of a temple into a mosque and vice versa.
- The Act declares that the character of a place of worship as was on August 15, 1947 shall be maintained and no suit or any proceeding shall lie in any court in respect of any dispute against encroachment of any religious properties at any point of time before this date.
- Section 4 also says that any such pending proceeding shall stand abated and that if any proceeding filed on the ground that conversion of religious place has taken place after that date and before September 18, 1991 when the Act was made, shall be disposed off to maintain the status as was existing on August 15, 1947.
What is the issue?
- A Lucknow-based trust and some followers of Sanatan Vedic Religion have contended the Act bars power of remedy of judicial review and violates the principle of secularism.
- The plea said the Parliament by way of the Act retrospectively created a cut-off date of August 15, 1947 for its implementation.
- The Hindu devotees cannot file any suit in Civil Court or High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and will not be able to restore back the religious character of Hindu Endowments, Temples, Mutts etc. from hoodlums if they had encroached upon such property before 15th August 1947.
- The Ayodhya dispute was kept out of its purview of the Act.
- Any restriction on right to approach Civil or High Court is against the basic principle of rule of law.
Foreign Tribunals in Assam
A person named Siddeque Ali became the last to be released from the only detention center in Barak Valley, Assam as the beneficiary of a Supreme Court order.
Who is declared foreigner?
- A declared foreigner is a person marked by any of the 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam for allegedly failing to prove their citizenship after the State police’s Border wing marks him or her as an illegal immigrant.
Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam:
- Assam currently has 100 FTS and has completed the process of setting up 200 more FTs.
- This is being done specifically to handle the cases of 19.06 lakh people left out of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was published on August 31, 2019.
- Each FT member is appointed under the Foreigners Tribunal Act, 1941, and Foreigners Tribunal Order, 1984, as per the guidelines issued by the government from time to time.
- A member can be a retired judicial officer of the Assam Judicial Service, a retired civil servant not below the rank of secretary and additional secretary with judicial experience, or a practicing advocate not below the age of 35 years and with at least seven years of practice.
- A member is also required to have a fair knowledge of the official languages of Assam (Assamese, Bengali, Bodo and English) as well as be conversant with the historical background to the foreigners’ issue.
What are Foreign tribunals (FT)?
- The Foreigners’ Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies meant to furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Act, 1946.
- In 1964, the Centre passed the Foreigners’ (Tribunals) Order under provisions of Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
- The FTs get two kinds of cases: Those against whom a reference has been made by border police, and those whose names in the electoral rolls have a D (Doubtful) against them.
Why were Foreign tribunals set up in Assam?
- In 1962, the Registrar General of India in his report said more than 2 lakhs infiltrators had entered Assam from East Pakistan (Bangladesh now).
- As a result, a police drive was initiated to detect and deport such infiltrators.
- Many politicians opposed it stating that several genuine citizens were also being deported in the process.
- As a result, the Central government said that such persons would need to go through a judicial process before being deported which created the Foreign tribunals.
- Following the order, several tribunals were set up in Assam.
- After the Illegal (Migrant) Determination Act (IMDT), 1983 even more tribunals were set up.
- However, in 2005, the Supreme Court defined IMDT as unconstitutional and brought the Tribunals under the Foreigners Act.
Burden of Proof:
- As per the section 9 of the Foreigners Act: the accused has to prove that he or she is an Indian.
- The onus is on the person being investigated to prove himself/herself as Indian and if he or she is absconding and doesn’t appear before the tribunal, the FT member can pass an ex parte order (temporary custody).
Reservation is not fundamental right: SC
The Supreme court has quoted that the right to reservation is not a fundamental right.
Reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes:
- Article 341 and Article 342 of the Constitution provides for the inclusion of groups under the SC and ST category.
- In 1956, lower castes from the Sikh community were included and considered as Scheduled Castes, whereas the neo Buddhists were included in 1990.
- Groups from the previously untouchable castes who converted to Islam and Christianity have not been included in the SC list.
Reservations in cases of promotions for SCs and STs:
- With a constitutional amendment in 1995, reservations were made available to SCs and STs in matters of promotion as well.
- The validity of this amendment was challenged in M. Nagaraj vs Union of India 2006.
- The court restricted the scope of the amendment by subjecting it to the concept of creamy layers.
- This was upheld in a 2018 Supreme Court judgement which upheld the application of creamy layer in the matters of promotion.
Reservations for OBCs:
- The first commission to investigate the possibility and details of providing reservations to Other Backward Classes was set up in 1953.
- They provided their report to the Central government in 1955, who didn’t act on it, but asked the states to set up their lists of backward classes and fix quotas for them.
- Several states set up Backward Class Commissions, and provided reservations in public services and employment which varied in number from state to state.
- The Second Backward commission was set up in 1978 which estimated the OBC population in the state to be around 52 percent and recommended 27 percent reservations for them.
- The report known as the Mandal Commission report was submitted to the government in 1980.
- In 1990, the then Prime Minister V P Singh announced in the Parliament that the recommendations of the Mandal Commission would be implemented.
- Initially, reservations in public services of the central government came into force, whereas reservations in central higher educational institutions were implemented in 2006.
- The courts while upholding 27 percent reservations put conditions and restricted the ‘creamy layer’ of OBCs from accessing reservation.
- The 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act which came into force in 2006 paved the way for reservations in private institutions.
Reservation for EWS:
- On January 13 2019, the President gave his nod and brought into law The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty Fourth Amendment) Bill 2019.
- The Act amends Articles 15 and Article 16 of the Constitution, and adds clauses where the government can make special provisions for economically weaker sections (EWS) of citizens.
- It provides them with reservations up to 10 percent in higher educational institutions including private aided or unaided institutions (other than minority education institutions) as well as in initial appointments in government services.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s remarks that reservation is not a fundamental right, Minister of Consumer Affairs reiterated to include all reservation-related laws in the Ninth Schedule of Constitution so that they are shielded from judicial review.
What is the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution?
- The Ninth Schedule of Constitution 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 became a part of the Constitution in 1951, when the document was amended for the first time.
- It was created by the new Article 31B, which along with 31A was brought in by the government to protect laws related to agrarian reform and for abolishing the Zamindari system. While A. 31A extends protection to ‘classes’ of laws, A. 31B shields specific laws or enactments.
- According to the provision of Art.31-B, none of the laws specified in the Ninth Schedule shall be deemed to be void on the ground that it was inconsistent with any of the Fundamental Rights, notwithstanding any judgments, decree or order of any court or tribunal to the contrary.
Government Schemes and Policies
Sahakar Mitra: Scheme on Internship Programme
The Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare recently launched the Sahakar Mitra: Scheme on Internship Programme.
- Cooperative sector entrepreneurship development ecosystem through capacity development,
- Paid internship to youth,
- Assured project loans on liberalized terms to young cooperators on start-up mode.
- It is an initiative by National Cooperative Development Corporation.
- Under the scheme, professional graduates in disciplinessuch as Agriculture and allied areas, IT etc. will be eligible for internship.
- Professionals who are pursuing or have completed their MBA degrees in Agri-business, Cooperation, Finance, International Trade, Forestry, Rural Development, Project Management etc. will also be eligible.
- It will provide the young professionals an opportunity of practical exposure and learning from the working of NCDC and cooperatives as a paid intern.
- NCDC has designated funds for the paid internship program under which each intern will get financial support over a 4 months internship period.
- It would also provide an opportunity to professionals from academic institutions to develop leadership and entrepreneurial roles through cooperatives as Farmers Producers Organizations (FPO).
- The scheme is expected to assist cooperative institutions access new and innovative ideas of young professionals while the interns gain experience of working in the field giving confidence to be self-reliant.
- It is expected to be a win-win situation both for cooperatives as well as for the young professionals.
Farmer Producer Organizations
The Central Government has recently announced the formation of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs).
- The responsibility of completing this task lies with the Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), which is also responsible for strengthening the e-NAM platform in the present circumstances.
- The vision include that farmers gather in groups, hold discussions and get trained, increase their production, diversify their crops, and discuss ways of decreasing use of pesticides.
- This is a step towards the realization of doubling farmers’ income by 2024.
Farmer Producer Organizations:
- Farmers’ Producer Organisation is one type of Producer Organization (PO) where the members are farmers.
- FPOs are basically the hybrids of cooperatives and private companies.
- The participation, organisation and membership pattern of these companies are more or less similar to the cooperatives.
- It deals with business activities related to the farm produce and it works for the benefit of the member producers.
Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium:
- Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium is an Autonomous Society promoted by Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India.
- It was registered under Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 on 18th January, 1994.
- The Society is governed by Board of Management which is chaired, ex-officio, by Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare as the President.
- The Society has been entrusted with the task of implementation of National Agriculture Market Scheme on e-platform to progressively free agricultural trade and offer price discovery to farmers.
- It helps in the formation and growth of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs).
- It aids in improving availability of working capital and development of business activities of FPO through Equity Grant and Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme.
SC wants dues of PSUs waived off
The Supreme Court termed the demand by DoT for dues of Rs 4 lakh crore in Adjusted Gross Revenue from PSUs as ‘totally impermissible’ and asked DoT to consider withdrawing it.
What is the issue?
- In a major relief for non-telecom public sector enterprises, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for issuing them demand notices for payment of dues related to the Adjusted gross revenue (AGR) issue.
- Terming the move as a misuse of its order, the Court said that its order on AGR pertained only to telecom operators and not non-telecom PSUs.
- Supreme court also questioned the viability of the government’s 20-year ‘formula’ for telecom companies to repay their AGR dues to the tune of ₹1.47 lakh crore.
Adjusted gross revenue:
- AGR is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
- The AGR is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees.
- Currently, telecom operators pay 8% of the AGR as license fee, while spectrum usage charges (SUC) vary between 3-5% of AGR.
- As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a Telcom operators, including non-telecom related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales.
- Telcom operators insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.
- The Supreme Court has upheld the definition of AGR calculation as stipulated by the Department of Telecommunications.
- The telecom companies’ total AGR dues to the government are a staggering Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
- The telecom operators have got to pay their dues in instalments spread over a 20-year period.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
The water samples of the Lonar lake, which turned pink recently, have been sent for testing to National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur and Agarkar Research Institute, Pune.
- Lonar lake is located in Buldhana district, Maharashtra and is a popular tourist hub.
- It was formed after a meteorite hit the Earth some 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch.
- It is the world’s third-largest crater formed because of a meteorite strike.
- The lake has saline water and is a notified national geo-heritage monument.
- The lake is located within Lonar wildlife sanctuary and has a mean diameter of 1.2 km.
- The change in colour of the lake has surprised both the nature enthusiasts and scientists.
- Some experts have attributed the change to the mixing of dunaliella algae with halo bacteria, forming a beta carotine pigment and turning the water pink.
World Day against Child Labour
The World Day Against Child Labour is observed annually on 12 June.
About the day:
- It is an initiative of International Labour Organization to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour.
- Theme 2020- COVID-19: Protect Children from Child Labour, now more than ever!
- The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic and labour market shock have had a huge impact on the lives of millions, and children are often the worst sufferers.
- This pandemic will push them into child labour further.
Child Labour and the world:
- According to ILO there are about 152 million children globally who are engaged in child labour, 72 million of whom are in hazardous work.
- Africa ranks highest among regions both in the percentage of children in child labour — one-fifth — and the absolute number of children in child labour — 72 million.
- The Asia and the Pacific ranks second highest in both these measures — 7% of all children and 62 million in absolute terms are in child labour in this region.
- As per Census 2011, there are more than 10 million child labourers in India, and many are kept confined to the workplace by employers.
- The UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 aims to end child labour in all its forms by 2025.
- Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%) – this includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture – 17% in services; and 12% in the industrial sector, including mining.
- India has ratified the ILO Conventions 182 and 138 towards the elimination of child labour.
Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016:
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 amends the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
- The act completely bans employment of children below 14 in all occupations and enterprises, except that run by his or her own family, provided that education does not hampered.
- A new category called adolescent has been added, which defines children between 14 to 18 years as adolescents and bars their employment in any hazardous occupations.
- The Act makes child labour a cognizable offence and employing children below 14 years will attract a jail term between 6 months to two years or a penalty between twenty-thousand to fifty thousand rupees or both for the first time.
- The repeat offenders will attract imprisonment between 1 year to 3 years (6 months to 2 years).
- If the offender is a parent, it proposes a fine of Rs.10,000 for repeat offence committed by parent.
- The act has a provision of creating Rehabilitation Fund for the rehabilitation of children.
- The number of hazardous occupations has been brought down to 3 from 83 earlier, which include are mining, inflammable substances, and hazardous processes under the Factories Act.
- The Act empowers the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited.
Key Facts for Prelims
Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
- A student-activist jailed for sedition for allegedly raising “Pakistan Zindabad” slogan at an anti-CAA rally was granted bail on technical grounds that the police failed to file a charge sheet within the stipulated 90 days.
- Bail must be only on consideration of merits, except default bail which is under Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 wherein trial Judges grant bail upon failure to file charge-sheet by the police within the statutorily stipulated time period after taking an accused in custody.
- Section 167(2) (a)(i): 90 days would be the maximum permissible custody where the investigation relates to “an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years”.
- Section 167(2) (a)(ii): the maximum period of custody would be 60 days for any other offences not being punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years.
Amendment in Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961
- The Karnataka government will introduce amendments to Section 109 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961.
- It is done to facilitate industries purchase land within 30 days as opposed to 60 days now.
- This will apply for both acquisition and conversion.
Lunar Polar Exploration
- The Lunar Polar Exploration Mission is a robotic lunar mission concept by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
- LPE aims to put a lander and rover on lunar surface to explore the south pole region of the Moon in 2024.
- Japanese would be building the overall landing module and the rover, while ISRO would develop the lander system.
- The mission will be launched from Japan on JAXA’s designated H3 rocket.
World Food Prize 2020
- A renowned US agricultural soil scientist Dr Rattan Lal has been declared the winner of the World Food Prize 2020.
- He has been awarded for developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production that conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change.
- It is given by the World Food Prize Foundation to the individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
- The prize was conceived by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug (the Father of the Green Revolution).
- It was first awarded in 1987 with M. S. Swaminathan of India (Father of the Green Revolution in India) being the first recipient.
Anti-viral textile technology
- A Textile major in Gujarat has launched an anti-viral textile technology for its fabric and garment products.
- The company has partnered with Swiss textile innovation major HeiQ Materials to introduce the product with a special combination of advanced silver and vesicle technology that eliminates viruses, including coronavirus from the surface of the garment within 30 minutes.
- HeiQ’s viroblock technology is scientifically proven and a one-of-its kind to fight against the coronavirus.
- It has been clinically tested and found that it helps in eliminating coronavirus on the fabric.
- Sitamarhi is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama’s consort Devi Sita.
Why in news?
- An Indian national was killed when the Nepal Armed Police Force opened fire on a group during a clash at a border point near Sitamarhi in Bihar.
Great Himalayan National Park
- Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh.
- It is spread across four valleys-Sainj valley, Jiwa Nal valley, Tirthan Valley and Parvati valley.
- GHNP was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2014, in recognition of its outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation.
- Four of GHNP’s mammal species and three of its bird species are globally threatened, including the musk deer and the western horned tragopan.