Polity & Governance
- SC criticises govt for delay in appointing lokpal
- Vice-Chairman of DDA designated as Real Estate Regulatory Authority for Delhi
- Cabinet approves new Merchant Shipping Bill
- SEBI eases rules for angel funds
Environment & Ecology
- Himalayan projects face flood risk
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet clears 3rd Protocol of India-New Zealand tax treaty
Key Facts for Prelims
- Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in 62 uncovered districts
- Water Distribution Monitoring Portal
Polity & Governance
SC criticises govt for delay in appointing lokpal
The Supreme Court expressed its disappointment over the Centre for not appointing Lokpal despite Parliament enacting a law in this regard in January 2014.
- While the Centre said that the amendment bill is pending in Parliament to include the leader of largest opposition party, a Supreme Court bench said that Parliament, by not amending the law, cannot frustrate the mandate for appointment of Lokpal.
What’s the issue?
- The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, enacted in Dec 2013.
- Law empowers Lokpal and Lokayuktas to prevent corruption in high places.
- The law came into force from January 16, 2014.
- The process to appoint Lokpal stalled after prominent members of a search panel such as noted jurist Fali Nariman quit.
- The law requires Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha to be member of the selection panel.
- But there is no designated leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha as the Congress does not have the requisite numbers.
- Government introduced an amendment to the Lokpal law to address the situation.
- But the amendment bill also proposed many other changes and there have been no political consensus over them.
- SC says if the government takes too long to clear the legal hurdle, it will order inclusion leader of largest opposition party in the selection panel.
- The court warned that it might pass an order if Parliament does not legislate quickly to enable the appointment of the watchdog, which is expected to prevent corruption in high places.
- The Supreme Court remarked that don’t allow Lokpal to become a dead letter.
- Referring to the key pre-requisite that LoP has to be there in Lokpal selection panel, the court has said the Leader of Opposition is “dispensable” and things can proceed even without LoP who can be replaced by the leader of the largest opposition party in the committee.
- The Supreme Court has also expressed disappointment when the Centre said the amendment to replace LoP with the leader of the largest opposition party in the proposed selection committee of Lokpal is pending with Parliament and asking it to clear would amount to “judicial legislation”.
Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha:
- As per the provision, the largest opposition party has to have a certain number of MPs in Lok Sabha to claim the post of LoP.
- In Lok Sabha, the largest opposition party – Congress has only 45 members and lacks the requisite 10% of total 545 seats.
Selection of Lokpal:
The law provides the selection of chairperson and members of Lokpal shall be through a selection panel consisting of the
- Prime Minister,
- Lok Sabha Speaker,
- LoP in Lok Sabha,
- Chief Justice of India or a sitting SC judge nominated by the CJI,
- An eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on the basis of recommendations of first four members of selection committee.
Vice-Chairman of DDA designated as Real Estate Regulatory Authority for Delhi
Vice-Chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has been designated as Regulatory Authority for National Capital Territory of Delhi under the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016.
- In this regard, a notification has been issued by Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, the competent authority in respect of Delhi under the Act.
- Section 20 of the Real Estate Regulation Act empowers the appropriate Government to designate any officer as Regulatory Authority till a full fledged Regulatory Authority is established for the purposes of the Act which include grievance redressal in respect of projects registered with such authorities.
- Registration of real projects will begin only after notification of Section 3 of the Real Estate Act by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation which will be done in due course.
- The full Act is to come into force from May 1st next year.
Cabinet approves new Merchant Shipping Bill
The Union Cabinet has approved introduction of the Merchant Shipping Bill, 2016 in the Parliament.
- The bill is a revamped version of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.
- It seeks to repeal Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 as well the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838.
Key features of the bill:
- Allows substantially-owned vessels and vessels on Bare Boat-cum-Demise (BBCD) to be registered as Indian flag vessels.
- Recognises Indian controlled tonnage as a separate category. Makes separate rules for coastal vessels to develop and promote coastal shipping.
- Dispenses with the requirement for issuing of licences to Indian flag vessels for coastal operation and for port clearance by the Customs authorities.
- Seafarers held in hostage captivity of pirates will receive wages till they are released and reach home back safely.
- Mandatory for vessels owners to compulsorily take insurance of crew engaged on vessels including fishing, sailing and whose net tonnage is less than 15.
- The crew members now don’t need to sign of articles of agreement before the Shipping Master.
- Besides, the provisions for survey, inspection and certification of vessels are placed together in Bill to provide simplified regime for convenience of Indian shipping industry.
Incorporation of 7 different conventions:
The bill incorporates all International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Conventions/Protocols in Indian laws up-to-date by inserting provisions relating to 7 different conventions.
These 7 different conventions are
- Intervention Convention 1969,
- Search and Rescue Convention 1979,
- Protocol for Prevention of Pollution from Ships,
- Convention for Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments 2004,
- Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention 2007,
- Salvage Convention 1989 and
- International Convention for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001.
Why there is a need for new law?
- The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, had become a bulky piece of legislation over the years as a result of various amendments carried out in the Act from time to time. It was amended 17 times between 1966 and 2014, resulting in an increase in the number of sections to over 560. These provisions have been meticulously shortened to 280 sections in the Bill.
- Further, certain redundant provisions have been removed and remaining provisions have been consolidated and simplified to promote ease of doing business, transparency and effective delivery of services.
- The Coasting Vessels Act, 1838 was also an archaic legislation of the British era. It provided limited jurisdiction for registration of non-mechanically propelled vessels to Saurashtra and Kutch. The proposed bill allows registration of all vessels for the whole of India.
SEBI eases rules for angel funds
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has liberalised norms for angel funds to invest in early-stage entities as part of its attempts to facilitate fund-raising for start-ups.
- In this regard, SEBI has decided to amend the SEBI (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012.
What are the amendments?
- SEBI has increased the upper limit for number of angel investors from forty nine to two hundred.
- Angel Funds will also be allowed to invest in start-ups incorporated within five years instead of the earlier norm of three years.
- The requirements of minimum investment amount by an angel fund in any venture capital undertaking has been reduced from Rs.50 lakh to Rs.25 lakh.
- The lock-in requirements of investment made by angel funds in the venture capital undertaking has been reduced from three years to one year.
- Such funds have also been allowed to invest in overseas venture capital undertakings up to 25 per cent of their investible corpus in line with other Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs).
- This move will greatly benefit start-ups looking for raising venture funding not just for the money but for the other value addition that raising money from a venture capital firm brings such as direction and mentorship from seasoned investors.
What is Angel investor?
- Angel investor is an investor who provides financial backing for small startups or entrepreneurs.
- Angel investors are usually found among an entrepreneur’s family and friends.
- The capital they provide can be a one-time injection of seed money or ongoing support to carry the company through difficult times.
Environment & Ecology
Himalayan projects face flood risk
As per a study conducted by Swiss researchers on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas, the potential hydro power projects in the Himalayan region face increased flood risks from the formation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones due to melting glaciers.
- The study made analysis of Himalayan glaciers and their possible future impact on livelihoods in States adjoining the region.
- It found that the global warming could cause Himalayan glaciers to melt rapidly increasing the flow of water.
Highlights of the study:
- 441 hydro-power projects spanning India, Nepal, Pakistan and China are on possible Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) tracks.
- It means that these projects could be gorged with extra water from melting glaciers. These 441 projects accounts 66% of constructed and potential hydro power projects.
- Almost a third of these hydro-power projects could experience GLOF discharges well above what these dams account for.
- If the hydro-power projects are situated close to these glaciers, they would have to account for higher water flows.
- The fear of floods can be mitigated by taking in to consideration extra need of design or safety features in these projects.
- In this study, 129 hydro projects from India were analysed. In the Parvati Valley catchment area, 12 lakes in 1989 had increased to 77 lakes in 2014 and in the Beas basin, six lakes (in 1989) had increased to 33 (in 2011).
- Most of the lakes were in Himachal Pradesh are relatively small or with a capacity less than of a million cubic metres, and only a few of them had a capacity larger than 10 million cubic metres of water.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet clears 3rd Protocol of India-New Zealand tax treaty
The Union Cabinet has approved the ratification and entry into force of the third Protocol to the Convention between India and New Zealand for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income (Convention).
- The Protocol was signed on 26th October, 2016.
- The Protocol will stimulate the flow of exchange of information between India and New Zealand for tax purposes which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
- It will also enable assistance in collection of tax revenue claims between both countries.
- Article 26 on ‘Exchange of Information’ of the existing Convention has been replaced with a new Article in the Protocol which is in line with the international standard for exchange of information.
- A new Article on ‘Assistance on Collection of Taxes’ has been added in the Protocol.
- The Protocol shall enter into force on the date of notification of completion of the procedures required by the respective laws of the two countries for entry into force of the Protocol.
The Central Government is authorized under section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to enter into an Agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for exchange of information and recovery of income tax for the prevention of evasion or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under the Income-tax Act, 1961.
About the convention:
- The Convention came into force on 3rd December, 1986.
- The Convention was amended in 1997 through a First Protocol and in 2000 through a Second Protocol.
- Subsequently, India proposed to further amend the Convention through a Third Protocol to update the Exchange of Information Article as per the international standard and to insert an Article on Assistance in the Collection of taxes.
- Accordingly, negotiations were entered into with New Zealand and agreement was reached on both the Articles of the Third Protocol.
Key Facts for Prelims
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in 62 uncovered districts
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved opening of one Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) in each of the 62 uncovered districts.
- These JNVs will provide good quality modern education to the talented children prominently from rural areas.
- Nearly 35,000 students will be benefitted from these JNVs.
- It will also create large opportunity for local service providers such as tailor cobbler, barber, manpower for housekeeping and security services etc.
Water Distribution Monitoring Portal
- Andhra Pradesh Government has launched the ‘Smart Water Distribution Monitoring’ web interface (ourvmc.org).
- Using this portal people can check the status of drinking water in the water tanks nearby.
- The portal has Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. This system helps in reduction of water wastage as well as ensures seamless supply to the households.