Polity & Governance
- J&K has no sovereignty: SC
- Single tribunal to arbitrate inter-State water disputes
- EC seeks end to nameless donations
- ‘Swasthya Raksha Programme’ launched by the AYUSH Ministry
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Tajikistan to step up anti-terror cooperation
Science & Technology
- China opens 1st fully-owned satellite ground station
- NASA launches 8 mini-satellites for hurricane forecasting
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s first cloned goat with Cashmere
- Key appointments
Polity & Governance
J&K has no sovereignty: SC
In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court has ruled that the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has “no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India” and that its residents were “first and foremost citizens of India”.
- It affirmed that J&K’s constitution was subordinate to the Indian Constitution and its permanent residents were Indian citizens.
The apex court made this observation while hearing on appeal filed by State Bank of India (SBI) and other banks over the issue of recovery of loans under Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002.
What is the issue?
The SBI and other banks had appealed against Jammu and Kashmir High Court verdict given in July 2015.
The J&K HC had held that the SARFAESI Act, 2002 enacted by the Parliament was not valid in respect of the permanent residents of the state as it collides with the Transfer of Property Act of Jammu & Kashmir, 1920. It had held that law made by Parliament which affects the laws made by a State legislature cannot be extended to J&K.
In its judgment, the HC had repeatedly referred to the sovereignty of the state and held that Section 5 of the Constitution of J&K gives absolute sovereign power to state to legislate in respect of laws touching the rights of its permanent residents qua their immovable properties.
Important observations made by the court:
- Section 3 of the constitution of J&K, states that the state of J&K is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India. This provision is beyond the pale of amendment.
- Thus, it is clear that J&K has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India and its own constitution, which is subordinate to the Constitution of India.
- Preamble to the J&K’s constitution also does not talk about sovereignty of citizens of the state. Thus, J&K HC has gone out of its way “to refer to a sovereignty which does not exist.
- Permanent residents of J&K are citizens of India and there is no dual citizenship as is contemplated by some other federal Constitutions in other parts of the world.
- Therefore, it is wholly incorrect to describe it as being sovereign in the sense of its residents constituting a separate and distinct class in themselves.
- The provisions of the SARFAESI Act, 2002, are within the legislative competence of Parliament and can be enforced in J&K.
About SARFAESI Act:
The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI) empowers banks/financial Institutions to recover their non-performing assets without the intervention of the Court.
- The provisions of this Act are applicable only for NPA loans with outstanding above Rs. 1.00 lac. NPA loan accounts where the amount is less than 20% of the principal and interest are not eligible to be dealt with under this Act.
- The SARFAESI Act also provides for the establishment of Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) regulated by RBI to acquire assets from banks and financial institutions.
- The Act provides for sale of financial assets by banks and financial institutions to asset reconstruction companies (ARCs). RBI has issued guidelines to banks on the process to be followed for sales of financial assets to ARCs.
- The Act provides three alternative methods for recovery of non-performing assets, namely:
- Asset Reconstruction
- Enforcement of Security without the intervention of the Court.
- The Act empowers the Bank:
- To issue demand notice to the defaulting borrower and guarantor, calling upon them to discharge their dues in full within 60 days from the date of the notice.
- To give notice to any person who has acquired any of the secured assets from the borrower to surrender the same to the Bank.
- To ask any debtor of the borrower to pay any sum due or becoming due to the borrower.
- If the borrower fails to comply with the notice, the Bank may take recourse to one or more of the following measures:
- Take possession of the security
- Sale or lease or assign the right over the security
- Manage the same or appoint any person to manage the same.
Single tribunal to arbitrate inter-State water disputes
The Centre has decided to set up a single, permanent Tribunal to adjudicate all inter-State river water disputes.
- This body will subsume existing tribunals.
- The move is aimed at resolving grievances of States in a speedy manner.
- The proposed Tribunal will be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
- The Tribunal will also have more teeth as whenever it gives order, the verdict gets notified automatically. Until now, the Union Government was required to notify the awards, causing delay in its implementation.
Other proposed mechanisms:
- Besides the tribunal, the Union Government has also proposed to float some Benches by amending the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 to look into disputes as and when required.
- Unlike the tribunal, these benches will cease to exist once the disputes are resolved.
- Earlier water tribunals took decades to deliver final awards into disputes, whereas the proposed Tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict during a span of three years.
- Along with the tribunal, the amendment also has been proposed to set up Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC).
- The DRC will be comprising experts and policy-makers. It is proposed to handle disputes prior to the tribunal.
- The Union Government will set up a DRC whenever a state will request.
- Most of the disputes will be resolved at the DRC’s level itself. But if a State is not satisfied, it can approach the tribunal.
EC seeks end to nameless donations
Seeking to stop financing of election campaigns using black money, the Election Commission has urged the government to amend laws to ban anonymous contributions of Rs. 2,000 and above made to political parties.
Currently, is there any restrictions?
There is no constitutional or statutory prohibition on receipt of anonymous donations by political parties.
- But there is an indirect partial ban on anonymous donations through the requirement of declaration of donations under Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. But, such declarations are mandated only for contributions above Rs. 20,000.
How political parties misuse loopholes?
At present, only income under the head ‘salaries and income from business or profession’ are chargeable to tax in the hands of political parties in India. Utilizing this space, political parties are formed merely for availing of provisions of income tax exemption.
What has the Election Commission proposed?
- Anonymous contributions above or equal to the amount of Rs. 2,000 should be prohibited.
- Exemption of income tax should be extended only to political parties that contest elections and win seats in Lok Sabha or Assembly polls. Section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 confers tax exemption to political parties for income from house property, voluntary contributions, capital gains and other sources.
- Law Ministry should ensure that political parties are made to register details of donors for coupons of all amounts on the basis of a Supreme Court order of 1996.
‘Swasthya Raksha Programme’ launched by the AYUSH Ministry
Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has launched ‘Swasthya Raksha Programme’ to promote health and health education in villages.
- The programme was launched by the AYUSH Ministry in October 2015.
- Swasthya Rakshan Program has been initiated through following councils in selected districts/ villages.
- Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS),
- Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM),
- Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) and
- Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS).
Aims and objectives of the scheme:
- To organize Swasthya Rakshan OPDs, Swasthya Parikshan Camps and Health/Hygiene awareness programme.
- Awareness about cleanliness of domestic surroundings and environment.
- Provide medical aid/incidental support in the adopted Colonies/villages.
- Documentation of demographic information, food habits, hygiene conditions, seasons, lifestyle etc., incidence/prevalence of disease and their relation to the incidence of disease.
- Assessment of health status and propagation of Ayurvedic concept of pathya-apathya and extension of health care services.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Tajikistan to step up anti-terror cooperation
India and Tajikistan have signed four pacts to strengthen anti-terror cooperation, including one to share financial intelligence to counter money laundering and financing of terrorism.
- The pacts were signed after comprehensive talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on strategic issues including threats posed by radicalisation and extremism, trade and investments.
Signed agreements include:
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Broadcasting in Exchange of Audio Visual Programs
- MoU for cooperation in the exchange of financial intelligence related to money laundering, related crimes and financing of terrorism.
- Protocol amending the Agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
- Announcement of initiation of Bilateral investment treaty between both countries.
Science & Technology
China opens 1st fully-owned satellite ground station
China has launched its first fully-owned overseas satellite ground station near the North Pole enabling it to collect satellite data anywhere on the Earth at fastest speed in the world.
- It is formally known as China Remote Sensing Satellite North Pole Ground Station.
- It is located about 200 kms north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.
- It will allow China to collect satellite data anywhere on Earth at speeds that were more than twice as fast as before. It has download speed of 6 Gigabits (billions of bits) per second, fastest in the world.
- This facility in Sweden can download data from satellites orbiting Earth in less than 3.5 hours, compared to domestic ground stations located in other part of world which require 7 hours.
- The shorter time is because satellites orbiting North Pole are able to pass about 12 times each day around Earth while those satellites flying over China can orbit Earth only about 5 times each day.
Why it is important for China?
Previously, China had built ground satellite facilities in numerous foreign countries, mostly in Africa and South America, which all were joint ventures. But the fully owned overseas ground station in Sweden (in North Pole) will give China much greater freedom and security to operate its space projects, some of have military purposes.[Ref: TOI]
NASA launches 8 mini-satellites for hurricane forecasting
NASA successfully launched a group of eight micro-satellites for its Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission to measure surface wind deep in the heart of hurricanes.
- CYGNSS is a tool that will provide us 24/7 coverage of the tropical cyclone zone.
- The micro-satellites will measure wind speeds over oceans in tropical zones, interacting with a constellation of GPS satellites and passing over the same area of the tropics in quick succession.
- They will ultimately give researchers a better understanding of conditions that help hurricanes develop and the hurricanes themselves.
How it works?
The CYGNSS satellites will detect Global Positioning System signals reflected off the oceans in tropical regions, measuring the amount of scattering of the signals to calculate the roughness of the oceans and thus the wind speeds at the surface.
That data, scientists believe, will help improve models of hurricane formation and increase the accuracy of forecasts of their development.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s first cloned goat with Cashmere
- The world’s first cloned goat bearing superfine Cashmere wool was born in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
- The goat will be raised in a base for animal husbandry research.
- Cashmere wool is obtained from Cashmere goats and few other types of goat.
- The wool fibre obtained from clonned goat is less than 13.8 micrometres thick.
- It is much finer than the average of 15.8 micrometres of the famous Erlang Mountain goats in Inner Mongolia.
- Cloning is a scientific process of creating genetically identical copies of biological matter. It may include genetically identical copies of genes, cells, tissues or entire organisms.
- Senior IPS officer Rajiv Jain has been appointed as the new chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB).
- Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa has been appointed as the next Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
- Gen. Bipin Rawat has been appointed as new Chief of Army Staff (CoAS). His appointment goes against the long-held tradition of appointing the senior-most eligible officer to the topmost post.
- Senior IPS officer Anil Dhasmana has been appointed as new chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence agency.