Polity & Governance
- CJI Ranjan Gogoi advocates more autonomy to CBI
Government Schemes & Policies
- Report of the Competition Law Review Committee submitted to Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister
Issues related to Health & Education
- What is a notifiable disease?
- What’s behind recession fears
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- More than half of forest wildlife declined since 1970: WWF
- Trump Administration dilutes Endangered Species Act
- Five new species of ‘flying’ monkeys identified
- New species of marmoset discovered in the Amazon
Defence & Security Issues
- Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA)
- CORAS (Commandos For Railway Security) for Indian Railways launched
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Golden Butterfly’: Tea at ₹75,000 a kg
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
CJI Ranjan Gogoi advocates more autonomy to CBI
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recommended a comprehensive legislation to make the Central Bureau of Investigation functional as an efficient and impartial investigative agency.
Current flaws in CBI as per Chief Justice of India (CJI)
- As the CBI works under Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, the possibility of CBI being used as a political instrument remains ever present. (Under the DSPE Act, the CBI required consent of the State concerned for investigation).
- In a number of high-profile and politically sensitive cases the agency has not been able to meet the standards of judicial scrutiny.
Other flaws are:
- Legal ambiguity
- Weak human resource
- Lack of adequate investment
- Political and administrative interference
Suggestion given by CJI
- The CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller & Auditor General.
- The legal mandate of the CBI must be strengthened by having a comprehensive legislation addressing deficiencies relating to organisational structure, charter of functions, limits of power, superintendence and oversight.
- To address an increasing incidence of inter-State crimes, ‘public order’ should be included in concurrent list only for the purposes of investigating such crimes.
Background of CBI:
- The Central Bureau of Investigation traces its origin to the Special Police Establishment (SPE) which was set up in 1941 by the Government of India.
- The functions of the SPE then were to investigate cases of bribery and corruption in transactions with the War & Supply Deptt. Of India during World War II.
- It had its headquarters in Lahore.
- After the end of the war, there was a continued need for a central governmental agency to investigate bribery and corruption by central-government employees.
- The department was transferred to the Home Department by the 1946 Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.
- This Act transferred the superintendence of the SPE to the Home Department and its functions were enlarged to cover all departments of the Govt. of India.
- The DSPE acquired its popular current name, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), through a Home Ministry resolution dated of 1963.
- Initially the offences that were notified by the Central Government related only to corruption by Central Govt. servants. In due course, with the setting up of a large number of public sector undertakings, the employees of these undertakings were also brought under CBI purview.
- Similarly, with the nationalisation of the banks in 1969, the Public Sector Banks and their employees also came within the ambit of the CBI.
- Its investigations also include prominent crimes, such as cases of terrorism, murder and kidnapping.
What is Jain Hawala case?
- In 1991, an arrest linked to militants in Kashmir led to a raid on hawala brokers, revealing evidence of illegal large-scale payments to national politicians.
- The police found that a terrorist organization was funded through hawala, using Surendra Kumar Jain and his family as a medium.
- Subsequently, the CBI conducted raids on the premises of Surrender Kumar Jain and found detailed accounts of vast payments made to high ranking politicians.
- However, at this stage, the investigation stopped at the CBI. Meanwhile, officers of the CBI involved in the investigation were transferred out to other places by orders from ruling politicians.
- In 1993, writ petitions were filed at the Supreme court under Article 32 containing allegations that Government agencies like the CBI and the revenue authorities had failed to perform their duties.
- The court described the CBI as ‘caged parrot’ due to its excessive political interference irrespective of which party happened to be in power.
- The court directed several structural changes in CBI such as:
- The CBI director will have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation.
- The CVC was given statutory status and authorised to exercise superintendence over the CBI in the investigation of offences committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
- The CVC chief will be selected by a panel comprising the prime minister, home minister and the leader of the opposition from a panel of outstanding civil servants.
- The CBI is dependent on the home ministry for staffing since many of its investigators come from the Indian Police Service (IPS). The CBI, run by IPS officers on deputation, is also susceptible to the government’s ability to manipulate the senior officers because they are dependent on the Central government for future posting.
Past efforts made to strengthen working of CBI
- In 1978, the L P Singh committee recommended enactment of a comprehensive central legislation to remove the deficiency of not having a central investigative agency with a self-sufficient statutory charter of duties and functions.
- The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) also suggested that a new law should be enacted to govern the working of the CBI.
- The 19th and 24th reports of the parliamentary standing committees (2007 and 2008) recommended to strengthen the CBI in terms of legal mandate, infrastructure and resources.
- The first reform is to ensure that CBI operates under a formal, modern legal framework. A new CBI Act should be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision.
- The Lokpal Act already calls for a three-member committee made up of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the chief justice of the Supreme Court to select the director. However, not enough has been done to administratively protect CBI from political interference. For this to happen, the new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference. The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Act 2014 though tried to bring some improvements but the same is a very small step for the improvements which are the need of the hour.
- One of the demands that have been before Supreme Court is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers. The CBI did recruit some officers in the past to its cadre, but that effort has gone nowhere, and all senior posts in the CBI are now held by Indian Police Service (IPS) officers.
- It is also possible to consider granting the CBI the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General enjoys. A more efficient parliamentary oversight over the federal criminal and intelligence agencies could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight.
Government Schemes & Policies
Report of the Competition Law Review Committee submitted to Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister
A government panel has recommended several changes to the Competition Act, including introduction of a “green channel” for fast disclosure-based approvals for mergers and acquisitions.
- Recently, a report of the Competition Law Review Committee was submitted to Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister.
Key recommendations of the Competition Law Review Committee
- Introduction of a ‘Green Channel’ for combination notifications to enable fast-paced regulatory approvals for vast majority of mergers and acquisitions that may have no major concerns regarding appreciable adverse effects on competition.
- Combinations arising out of the insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will also be eligible for “Green Channel” approvals.
- Introducing a dedicated bench in National Company Law Tribunal (NCLAT) for hearing appeals under the Competition Act.
- Introduction of express provisions to identify ‘hub and spoke’ agreements as well as agreements that do not fit within typical horizontal or vertical anti-competitive structures to cover agreements related to business structures and models synonymous with new age markets.
- Additional enforcement mechanism of ‘Settlement & Commitments’ in the interests of speedier resolution of cases of anti-competitive conduct.
- Enabling provisions to prescribe necessary thresholds, inter alia, deal-value threshold for merger notifications.
- Competition Commission of India (CCI) to issue guidelines on imposition of penalty to ensure more transparency and faster decision making which will encourage compliance by businesses.
- Strengthening the governance structure of CCI with the introduction of a Governing Board to oversee advocacy and quasi-legislative functions, leaving adjudicatory functions to the Whole-time Members.
- Merging DG’s Office with CCI as an ‘Investigation Division’ as it aids CCI in discharging an inquisitorial rather than adversarial mandate. However, functional autonomy must be protected.
- Opening of CCI offices at regional level to carry out non-adjudicatory functions such as research, advocacy etc.
- The Government constituted a Competition Law Review Committee on 1st October, 2018 to review the existing Competition law framework and make recommendations to further strengthen the framework to inter alia meet new economy challenges.
- Under the Competition Act, combinations (mergers and acquisitions) beyond a certain threshold require clearance from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
- The Committee was chaired by Injeti Srinivas (Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs).
What is the Competition Act,2002?
- The Competition Act, 2002 aimed at regulating the manner in which businesses are conducted in India to create a level playing field with effective competition in the market.
- It was subsequently amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007.
- To prevent practices that are detrimental to competition.
- To promote and sustain competition in the markets.
- To safeguard the interests of the consumers.
- To ensure freedom of trade carried out by other participants.
The Act prohibits three main activities:
(a) Anti-competitive arrangements
(b) Abuse of dominant position
(c) Mergers and acquisitions that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India
About Competition Commission of India (CCI)
- The Competition Commission of India (CCI) was established to prohibit anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant positions by enterprises.
- Moreover, the establishment aims to regulate combinations such as mergers, amalgamations or acquisitions; courtesy of a process that includes inquiry and investigation.
- The commission is constituted of a Chairman and other members, whose total strength could be a minimum of two and a maximum of six. Such members are appointed by the Central Government.
About Competition Appellate Tribunal
- The amendment of the Competition Act in 2017 led to the creation of the Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT).
- The entity was established to adjudicate appeals against the orders of the CCI and to determine the compensation claims arising out of the commission.
- However, the Tribunal isn’t existent now due to the changes brought forth into the Companies Act, 2013. Its powers are now vested with the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which comprises of a chairperson and three judicial members.
Issues related to Health & Education
What is a notifiable disease?
A month after Union Health Minister asked the Delhi government to make malaria and dengue notifiable diseases, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has initiated the work to notify malaria in Delhi.
What is a notifiable disease?
- A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities.
- This reporting allows the authorities to monitor the disease, and provides early warning of possible outbreaks.
- The World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations, 1969 require disease reporting to the WHO in order to help with its global surveillance and advisory role.
- Registered medical practitioners need to notify such diseases in a proper form within three days, or notify verbally via phone within 24 hours depending on the urgency of the situation.
- The process helps the government keep track and formulate a plan for elimination and control. In less infectious conditions, it improves information about the burden and distribution of disease.
- The onus of notifying any disease and the implementation lies with the state government. Any failure to report a notifiable disease is a criminal offence and the state government can take necessary actions against defaulters.
Which diseases are notifiable disease?
- The Centre has notified several diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, encephalitis, leprosy, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), plague, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, measles, yellow fever, malaria dengue, etc.
What’s behind recession fears
The global economy continues to be hit by bad news as one big economy after another falters on economic growth.
What is the issue?
- In the wake of ongoing trade war between US and China, the US recently declared China a ‘currency manipulator’. In other words, china deliberately weakens its currency to make Chinese exports to the US more attractive and undercut the effect of increased US tariffs.
- This trade war has the potential to derail already weak global growth.
What is a global recession?
- In an economy, a recession happens when output declines for two successive quarters (six months).
- However, for a global recession, the International Monetary Fund, apart from weakness in the economic growth rate, they look at widespread impact in terms of employment or demand for oil, etc.
- The long-term global growth average is 3.5%. The recession threshold is 2.5%.
Is a global recession likely?
- Recently, researchers of a leading investment bank warned that if the US and China continue to raise tariff and non-tariff barriers over the next four to six months, the global economic growth rate will fall to a seven-year low of 2.8% and the world economy could enter a recession within the next nine months.
What can India do to boost exports?
- India’s trade is already suffering and jobs are being lost.
- A 2016 research showed that domestic bottlenecks in India were more responsible for India’s lack of competitiveness in exports than the lack of global demand and the overvalued rupee put together.
- In other words, addressing bottlenecks such as better roads, more electricity, easier rules of doing business etc., will go a long way in boosting exports.
- Germany is the world’s third-biggest trader after the US and China.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
More than half of forest wildlife declined since 1970: WWF
There has been a 53 per cent decline in the number of forest wildlife populations since 1970, according to the first-ever global assessment of forest biodiversity by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Highlights of first-ever global assessment of forest biodiversity
- There has been a 53 per cent decline in the number of forest wildlife populations since 1970.
- On average between 1970 and 2014, out of the 455 monitored populations of forest specialists, more than half declined at an annual rate of 1.7 per cent.
- While the decline was consistent in these years among mammals, reptiles and amphibians (particularly from the tropical forests), it was less among birds (especially from temperate forests).
- the report found that just the changes in tree cover were not responsible for the decline in wildlife populations. Other major threats were:
- Habitat loss and habitat degradation/change
- Climate change
- Loss of habitat due to logging, agricultural expansion, mining, hunting, conflicts and spread of diseases accounted for almost 60 per cent of threats.
- Nearly 20 per cent of threats were due to over-exploitation.
- Climate change threatened to 43 per cent of amphibian populations, 37 per cent of reptile populations, 21 per cent of bird populations but only 3 per cent of mammal populations.
- More than 60 per cent of threatened forest specialist populations faced more than one threat.
About the first-ever global assessment of forest biodiversity
- The name of the report is ‘Below The Canopy – Plotting Global Trends In Forest Wildlife Populations’.
- The findings of the report are based on the Forest Specialist Index which is developed based on the Living Planet Index methodology, an index that tracks wildlife that lives only in forests.
Trump Administration dilutes Endangered Species Act
The US Administration made changes to the provisions of the US Endangered Species Act, one of America’s oldest and most effective environmental laws.
About the changes made in US Endangered Species Act
- US government will now take economic cost into account before protecting a struggling species.
- Any species deemed ‘Threatened’ will not automatically receive the same protections as those that have been deemed ‘Endangered’.
- As per US, the changes will ease the burden of regulations and increase transparency into decisions on whether a species warrants protection.
- The new regulations would make harder for declining species to get the protection they need and undermine protection for species that are already listed.
Five new species of ‘flying’ monkeys identified
Five new species of the “flying monkeys” or sakis have been identified following a revision of taxonomy of the monkeys found in South America and known for their elusive behaviour.
- The findings were revealed at the 25th Congress of the International Primatological Society in Hanoi, Vietnam.
About Flying monkeys or Sakis
- The Saki monkeys are primarily found in Bolivia, Peru and Brazil (northern and central South America). Brazil has the highest number of Saki monkeys.
- They are known for their colourful facial hair and bushy coats they puff out when threatened.
- There re 16 species of Saki monkeys.
- They are diurnal. When resting, this species most often clings vertically to a tree trunk and will commonly leap from this position as well.
- They live in the trees of the rainforests and only occasionally go onto the land.
- Saki monkeys, like many rain forest primates, are excellent indicators for the health of tropical forest systems.
New species of marmoset discovered in the Amazon
- A researcher has discovered a new species of marmoset, a type of primate in the Brazillian Amazon, even as its habitat is facing a flood of ‘developmental’ activities.
- The name ‘Mico munduruku’ has been given to the marmoset, after the Munduruku Amerindians that are native to the region.
- The new species is distinct from other marmosets in that it has white tails rather than black, which the others have.
- It also has white feet and hands, white forearms and a beige-yellow spot on the elbow.
Defence & Security Issues
Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA)
Former IAS officer Shah Faesal was detained at the Delhi airport after which he was sent back to Kashmir where he was again detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
What is the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA)?
- The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA),1978 was introduced to prevent the smuggling of timber. It is often referred to as a draconian law.
- The law allowed the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without trial for a period of two years.
- It allows for detention for up to two years in the case of persons acting prejudicial to the security of the State and for detention up to one year where any person is acting prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
- Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
- Section 22 of the Act provides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act: “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.”
Misuse of PSA
- The law was being misused widely and was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments until 1990.
- After the emergence of militancy, the J&K government frequently invoked the PSA to detain separatists.
- In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals to be detained under the PSA outside the state as well.
- Under Section 23 of the Act, the government is empowered to make rules consistent with the provisions of the Act. However, global human rights organisations have noted that no Rules have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA.
- Between 2007 and 2016, over 2,400 PSA detention orders were passed of which about 58% were rejected by the courts.
- PSA does not provide for a judicial review of detention. To checkmate the J&K High Court orders for release of persons detained under the act the state authorities issue successive detention orders. This ensures prolonged detention of people.
- PSC has been used against human rights activists, journalists, separatists and others who are considered as a threat to the law & order. Right to dissent is stifled by these Acts.
- The terms under which a person is detained under PSA are vague and include a broad range of activities like “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State” or for “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
- The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.
- The vagueness provided in the act gives unbridled powers to the authorities. The detainees, therefore, are effectively debarred from contesting the legality of their detention.
CORAS (Commandos For Railway Security) for Indian Railways launched
Minister of Railways and Commerce &Industry launched CORAS (Commando for Railway Security) of Indian Railways and new establishment manual for Railway Protection Force.
- It is a separate Commando Unit of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and will be headed by the RPF Director General (DG).
- CORAS’ first deployment will be in naxal-hit Chattisgarh.
- They will also be deployed in areas where railway has major ongoing projects which need security like northeastern States and Jammu and Kashmir.
- To develop world level capabilities of specialized responder for any situation pertaining to damage, disturbance, disruption of train operations, attack/hostage/hijack, disaster situations in railway areas.
- Following the doctrine of graded response, minimum effective force shall be used for providing fool proof security to Indian Railways and its users.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Golden Butterfly’: Tea at ₹75,000 a kg
The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) created another international history by selling 1 kg of the “Golden Butterfly” tea at ₹75,000.
About Golden Butterfly tea
- The Golden Butterfly is a specialty tea and is produced by the Dikom Tea Estate near Dibrugarh.
- The Golden Butterfly tea is made of tea buds and not leaves and that’s what gives it an edge over the usual tea.
- It broke the record of previous tea of the Maijan Orthodox Golden tea tips which is a hand-rolled and sun-dried specialty tea.