Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves Special Remission to Prisoners
- Cabinet approves ICAI’s pacts with NBAA, BIBF
- BSE secures a trademark for its iconic building Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers
Issues related to Health & Education
- Lok Sabha passes RTE amendment Bill to end no detention policy in schools
- Govt renews appointment of Prof Sahasrabudhe as AICTE chairman
- WCD ministry set to move cabinet to make child marriages invalid
- Women have the right to enter, pray in Sabarimala temple: Supreme Court
- Parliament nod for merger of subsidiary banks with SBI
- Cabinet approves determination of FRP payable by Sugar Mills for 2018-19 sugar season
- Cabinet relaxes NELP, pre-NELP pact rules
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves BRICS MoU for Regional Aviation Partnership Cooperation
Key Facts for Prelims
- Exercise Pitch Black 2018
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves Special Remission to Prisoners
As part of commemoration of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi to be observed in 2019, the Union Cabinet has approved to grant Special Remission to Prisoners.
- In pursuance of this decision, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will issue advice to all States and UTs asking them to process cases of eligible prisoners.
What is the meaning of Remission?
- Remission implies reducing the period of sentence without changing its character.
Who will be eligible for Special Remission?
Following five categories of prisoners will be considered for special remission:
- Women and Transgender convicts of 55 years of age and above and who have completed 50% of their actual sentence period.
- Male convicts of 60 years of age and above and who have completed 50% of their actual sentence period.
- Physically challenged/disabled convicts who will convicts with 70% disability and more and who have completed 50% of their actual sentence period.
- Terminally ill convicts.
- Convicted prisoners who have completed two-third (66%) of their actual sentence period.
Pardoning power of President and Governor:
- A President is empowered with the power to pardon under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution.
- Similarly, Article 161 of the Indian Constitution deals with Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
Article 161 of the Constitution:
- As per article 161: Governor of a State has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
Difference between pardoning powers of President and Governor:
The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161.
The power differs in the following two ways:
- The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
- The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is sentence of death but pardoning power of Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.
Purpose of granting pardon:
- Pardon may substantially help in saving an innocent person from being punished due to miscarriage of justice or in cases of doubtful conviction.
- The object of pardoning power is to correct possible judicial errors, for no human system of judicial administration can be free from imperfections.
- The pardoning power of Executive is very significant as it corrects the errors of judiciary. It eliminates the effect of conviction without addressing the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
Cabinet approves ICAI’s pacts with NBAA, BIBF
Cabinet approves MoU between the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance, Bahrain.
- The MoU will provide an opportunity to the ICAI members to expand their professional horizon and simultaneously ICAI will become an entity to aid strengthen building of local national capabilities.
- The aim is to work together to develop a mutually beneficial relationship in the best interest of members, students and their organizations.
About Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI):
ICAI is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament of India, ‘The Chartered Accountants Act, 1949′, to regulate the profession of Chartered Accountancy in India.
- ICAI is the second largest professional Accounting & Finance body in the world.
- ICAI is the only licensing cum regulating body of the financial audit and accountancy profession in India.
- It recommends the accounting standards to be followed by companies in India to National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards (NACAS).
- ICAI is solely responsible for setting the Standards on Auditing (SAs) to be followed in the audit of financial statements in India.
- ICAI is one of the founder members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), and Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA).
Location of Bahrain:
- Bahrain is an Arab constitutional monarchy in the Persian Gulf.
- It is an island country consisting of a small archipelago centered around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre King Fahd Causeway.
- Bahrain is the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore.
BSE secures a trademark for its iconic building Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers
Leading stock exchange BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) has secured image trademark for its iconic building, Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers located on Dalal Street in Mumbai.
What does that mean?
- With this, Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers joins elite club of distinguished structures around the world that have secured trademark rights.
- Henceforth no one can use images of the Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers for commercial purposes without consent from BSE or paying it licensing fee. Violators are liable to be prosecuted under Trade Marks Act, 1999.
- BSE was founded in 1875. It began as small group of brokers who functioned under a banyan tree on Dalal Street.
- After 143 years, Dalal Street is identified by BSE’s iconic building. The 28 floored building took almost 10 years to build and was finally completed in 1980.
- At the time of its completion, it was the tallest building in the country.
- Initially known as BSE Towers, the building was soon renamed after the late chairman of BSE, Sir Phiroze Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy.
About the trademark law in India:
- Indian trademark law statutorily protects trademarks as per the Trademark Act, 1999 and also under the common law remedy of passing off.
- Statutory protection of trademark is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, a government agency which reports to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- The law of trademark deals with the mechanism of registration, protection of trademark and prevention of fraudulent trademark.
- The law also provides for the rights acquired by registration of trademark, modes of transfer and assignment of the rights, nature of infringements, penalties for such infringement and remedies available to the owner in case of such infringement.
Trademark Symbol vs Registered Trademark Symbol:
- The two symbols associated with Indian trademarks ™ (the trademark symbol) and ® (the registered trademark symbol) represent the status of a mark and accordingly its level of protection.
- While ™ can be used with any common law usage of a mark, ® may only be used by the owner of a mark following registration with the relevant national authority.
Issues related to Health & Education
Lok Sabha passes RTE amendment Bill to end no detention policy in schools
Lok Sabha has passed The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017 to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ in schools.
- The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The Act was having provision of no detention policy.
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Bill amends provision related to no detention policy in the parent Act to empower central or state government to allow schools to hold back child in class 5, class 8, or in both classes. It mandates conducting, regular examination in class 5 and class 8 at end of every academic year.
- In case, child fails class 5, class 8 examinations, he will be given additional instruction and opportunity for a re-examination (within two months from the declaration of the result). If child fails again in re-examination, he may be held back in class 5, class 8, or in both classes.
- The Bill empowers Union and State governments to decide whether to not hold back child in any class till completion of elementary education. Further, Union or State governments will decide manner and conditions subject to which child may be held back.
What is no detention policy?
The no-detention policy was introduced as a part of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) under the Right to Education Act (RTE) in 2010.
- Under this policy, students up to class 8 are automatically promoted to the next class without being held back even if they do not get a passing grade.
- The no-detention policy under the RTE Act was to ensure that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school until the completion of elementary education.
Criticism of the policy:
- The policy was path-breaking but, unfortunately, it ended up being completely opposite to its original objective. There have been plenty of arguments on both sides of this policy.
- The provision had attracted criticism with several states and schools complaining that it compromised on academic rigour and learning levels and quality at schools.
- The TSR Subramanian committee for formulation of the National Policy on Education has also suggested that ‘no detention’ policy should be discontinued after Class V. It had recommended restoration of detention provision, remedial coaching and two extra chances to each student such to move to a higher class.
- A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education also studied the issue closely and recommended a provisional detention clause at Classes V and VIII. In 2013, a parliamentary panel had also asked the ministry to ‘rethink’ on its “policy of automatic promotion up to Class VIII”.
- Twenty-five States had recently agreed with the idea of doing away with or tweaking the no-detention policy — wherein a child is not detained till Class 8 — to give a boost to levels of learning.
- The Centre has thus decided to allow States to take the call and to tweak the RTE Act to enable them to do so.
- The Bill is expected to permit States to introduce exams in Classes 5 and 8.
Govt renews appointment of Prof Sahasrabudhe as AICTE chairman
Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved renewal of appointment of Prof Anil D Sahasrabudhe as the chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) till he attains the age of 65 years.
About All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE):
- AICTE is a statutory body established in November 1945.
- It comes under the aegis of Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development.
- It is a national-level council for technical education responsible for planning and coordination of technical education and management of education system in the country.
- It accredits graduate and post graduate programs at Indian institutions.
WCD ministry set to move cabinet to make child marriages invalid
The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry is set to move a proposal before the Cabinet to make all future child marriages in the country “void ab initio” (invalid from the outset).
- The ministry seeks to amend section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, under which a child marriage is only voidable at the option of the contracting parties.
Present scenario of child marriages in India:
- The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for a woman and 21 for a man.
- According to a study based on Census 2011, there are 2.3 crore child brides in the country. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 also showed that 26.8 per cent women were married off before they turned 18.
- According to the NFHS 2015-16, nearly eight per cent girls in the 15-19 age group had already become mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.
Are child marriages valid in India?
- Currently, child marriages are valid in India, but can be annulled if a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming adult, or through a guardian in case of minors.
- In October 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled that “sexual intercourse with a minor wife amounts to rape, as under no circumstances can a child below 18 years give consent, express or implied, for sexual intercourse.
Concerns related to child marriages:
- Expressing dismay over the alarming number of child brides in the country, the Supreme Court had said that “The World Health Organisation, in a report dealing with the issue of child brides, found that though 11 per cent of the births worldwide are among adolescents, they account for 23 per cent of the overall burden of diseases. Therefore, a child bride is more than doubly prone to health problems than a grown up woman.”
Women have the right to enter, pray in Sabarimala temple: Supreme Court
In a significant observation on the Sabarimala temple case, the Supreme Court said the right of a woman to pray is a constitutional right, and it should not be dependent on law.
What is the Sabarimala temple case?
- The Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Kerala, prohibits women of menstruating age (between ten and 50 years of age) from entering it – a prohibition enforced under Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965.
- The law states “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship.”
- The Young Lawyers’ Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging this rule in 2006.
- After a long hiatus, finally in October 2017, a three-judge bench of the court referred the matter to a constitutional bench, which commenced hearings on the case on July 17, 2018.
- Under the constitution, women have a right to equality before law and the right against discrimination based on sex. To use the ideology of purity and pollution is a violation of the constitutional right against untouchability, i.e. Article 17.
- It also goes against the spirit of Articles 14, 15 and 21.
What Article 17 says?
Article 17 of the constitution provides an unprecedented protection against the practice of Untouchability:
- “Abolition of Untouchability: Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.”
Key observations made by the SC:
- Every woman is also the creation of God and why should there be discrimination against them in employment or worship.
- All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.
- Article 25 (1) mandates freedom of conscience and right to practise religion. “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”. This means right to pray is a constitutional right.
- The Constitution upholds the ideals of liberty of thought, expression, belief and faith, be it for man or woman.
- CJI also opposed the stand of the Kerala government that ceremonial rules pertaining to temples and method of worship are set by the temple and are protected under the right to worship saying, “A temple cannot claim denominational rights.”
Parliament nod for merger of subsidiary banks with SBI
Parliament has passed State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Bill, 2017 to merge six subsidiary banks with State Bank of India after it was approved by Rajya Sabha.
Key features of the Bill:
- The bill repeals two Acts namely State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959, and State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956. These two acts had established State Bank of Bikaner, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Hyderabad and State Bank of Travancore. These banks were subsidiaries of SBI.
- By repealing these two acts, five subsidiary banks will be merged with SBI. The bill also seeks to amend State Bank of India (SBI) Act, 1955 to remove references to subsidiary banks and powers of SBI to act as an agent of the RBI for subsidiary banks.
- The Union Cabinet in February 2017 had approved merger of five associate banks along with Bharatiya Mahila Bank with SBI.
- The purposes of merger were rationalisation of public bank resources, reduction of costs, better profitability, lower cost of funds leading to better rate of interest for public at large and improve productivity and customer service of the public service banks.
- After the acquisition by SBI, the subsidiaries banks ceased to exist and, therefore, it was necessary to repeal two Acts. The merger had made SBI one of 50 biggest banks of world.
Cabinet approves determination of FRP payable by Sugar Mills for 2018-19 sugar season
Keeping in view the interest of sugarcane farmers, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane for sugar season 2018-19.
What is Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP)?
- The FRP is the minimum price that sugar mills have to pay to sugarcane farmers.
- It is supposed to signal to farmers the need to plant more or less cane for the coming year.
How it is determined?
- The FRP is determined on basis of recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and after consultation with State Governments and other stake-holders.
- The final FRP is arrived by taking into account various factors such as cost of production, domestic and international prices, overall demand-supply situation, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade prices of primary by-products and its impact on general price level and resource use efficiency.
Cabinet relaxes NELP, pre-NELP pact rules
To increase domestic hydrocarbon production, the Union Cabinet approved the policy framework to streamline production sharing contracts signed in the pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and NELP periods.
- Key decisions under the framework include increasing the exploration period granted for blocks in the northeast, and easing the sharing of royalties with the developers of the blocks.
About New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP):
New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) is a policy adopted by Government of India in 1997 indicating the new contractual and fiscal model for award of hydrocarbon acreages towards exploration and production (E&P).
- NELP was applicable for all contracts entered into by the Government between 1997 and 2016.
- Its aim was to provide an equal platform to both Public and Private sector companies in exploration and production of hydrocarbons.
- It provided for establishment of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) as a nodal agency for its implementation.
- It was introduced to boost the production of oil and natural gas and providing level playing field for both public and private players.
- Before implementation of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 1999, a mere 11% of Indian sedimentary basins were under exploration, which has now increased extensively over the years.
About Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP):
Launched in 2016, the Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) opens up India’ entire sedimentary basin for investment from domestic and foreign players under a simplified, transparent and investor -friendly fiscal and administrative regime.
- HELP replaced the extant policy regime for exploration and production of oil and gas -New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), which has been in existence for 18 years.
Objectives of HELP:
- Enhance domestic oil and gas production
- Bring substantial investment
- Generate sizable employment
- Enhance transparency and
- Reduce administrative discretion
Four main elements of HELP:
- Uniform license for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbon.
- An open acreage policy.
- Easy to administer revenue sharing model.
- Marketing and pricing freedom for the crude oil and natural gas produced.
About Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP):
- Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), a part of the government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), gives an option to a company looking for exploring hydrocarbons to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
- The objective of OLAP is to increase India’s indigenous oil and gas production by maximising the potential of already discovered hydrocarbon resources in the country.
- OALP offers single license to explore conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources to propel investment in and provide operational flexibility to the investors.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves BRICS MoU for Regional Aviation Partnership Cooperation
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) amongst BRICS Nations (viz. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on Regional Aviation Partnership Cooperation.
- The objective of MoU is to benefit BRICS countries from establishing of institutional framework to cooperate in field of civil aviation.
Areas of cooperation under MoU include:
- Public policies and best practices in regional services;
- Airport infrastructure management and air navigation services;
- Regional airports;
- Technical cooperation between regulatory agencies;
- Environment sustainability;
- Deliberation of global initiatives;
- Qualification and Training and other fields as mutually determined.
Significance of this MoU:
- The MoU signifies important landmark in civil aviation relations between India and other BRICS member states.
- It has potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchanges amongst BRICS Nations.
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is an association of five major emerging national economies.
- BRICS comprises 43% of the world population, having 30% of the world GDP and 17% share in the world trade.
- It was established in 2009.
- The acronym BRIC was first used in 2001 by Goldman Sachs in their Global Economics Paper, “The World Needs Better Economic BRICs” on the basis of econometric analyses projecting that the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would individually and collectively occupy far greater economic space and would be amongst the world’s largest economies in the next 50 years or so.
- In 2011, South Africa joined this informal group and BRIC became BRICS.
- So far, eight BRICS summits have taken place. The first formal summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
- The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries.
- It is important to note that all five BRICS nations are G-20 members.
- They are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs.
Key Facts for Prelims
Exercise Pitch Black 2018
- Exercise Pitch Black is a biennial large force employment warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
- The aim of the exercise is to practice Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA) combat, in a simulated war environment.
- It traditionally consists of a ‘red team’ and a ‘blue team’ based at separate locations, with one attacking the other.
Why in news?
- For the first time, the Indian Air Force will be participating in Exercise Pitch Black 2018 (PB-18).