Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- Lifting of UN arms embargo: Iran hails the step
The issue in news
The UN embargo on arms sales to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran expired recently in line with the 2015 nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
- The U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and unilaterally began re-imposing sanctions on Iran.
- The US tried to push for an indefinite arms embargo on Iran but failed to win support from the UN Security Council on this issue.
- Restrictions on the transfer of arms, related activities and financial services to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran would be progressively terminated. This would allow Iran to procure arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions.
- The progressive lifting of the embargo on the sale of conventional arms to Iran marks the normalisation of Iran’s defence cooperation with the world.
- The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the U.S. would be using its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran.
Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
- Functioning of judges
The issue in news
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (CM) Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s letter to the Chief Justice of India complaining about the functioning of a few judges.
- Former Supreme Court (SC) judge V. Gopala Gowda has described the letter written by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as an “affront to a vibrant judiciary”.
- The former SC judge argues against the manner of the release of the letter in the public domain. The public disclosure of the letter could have compromised the dignity, independence and majesty of the top court and the A.P. High Court.
- The former SC judge feels that the manner of the letter’s release at a press conference could amount to scandalising the judiciary in the eyes of the people by sensationalising the issue and could also be deemed an interference with the administration of justice. Mr. Gowda said the Chief Minister should have taken up the matter confidentially with the CJI.
- Aspersions and allegations against sitting judges ought not to be made without substantive and positive evidence as in such cases the faith of the people in the judiciary and the rule of law are at stake.
- Article 121 and Article 211 of the Indian Constitution expressly bar Parliament and the state legislatures to discuss the conduct of any judge.
- The SC in the Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee (1995) case has held that complaints against sitting judges should be kept confidential.
- With respect to the question of whether such a letter/complaint against the Supreme Court judge should have been put out in the public domain, one aspect that needs to be considered is that the confidentiality of complaints may lead to complaints being shelved as the judiciary tends to try and brush aside complaints of corruption against judges. If the public becomes aware of such complaints, the CJI is compelled to order an inquiry.
- The code of conduct requires an inquiry by three sitting judges of the Supreme Court. But in a complaint involving the senior-most judge, it is unlikely that junior judges will conduct a robust and credible inquiry.
- Only retired judges of high credibility would be able to conduct a robust inquiry into the current complaint. The Chief Justice should set up a credible inquiry committee. This will enhance the reputation of the judiciary, dispel mistruths, and redeem the image of the judge concerned.
Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
- ZSI list: 62 species of skinks in India
The issue in news
The recently released publication ‘Skinks of India’ by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
- The publication notes India is home to 62 species of skinks, with about 57% (33 species) of these being endemic.
- With about 1,602 species of skinks across the world, skinks constitute the largest family of lizards. However, their occurrence in India is less than 4 % of the global diversity.
- Skinks have long bodies, relatively small or no legs, no pronounced neck and glossy scales.
- Skinks actively forage for a variety of insects and small invertebrates and have a prominent role in maintaining ecosystems.
- Skinks are common reptiles found in all kinds of habitats across the country in every bio-geographic zone. Biogeography deals with the geographical distribution of plants and animals. The bio-geographic zones of India include the following:
- Trans Himalayas
- Indian desert
- Western Ghats
- Gangetic plains
- North-eastern India
- GST cess will stay: finance panel chief
The issue in news
The 15th Finance Commission Chairman’s comments on the GST compensation issue.
15th Finance Commission report:
- The Finance Commission’s report on the devolution of funds between the Centre and the States for the five-year period of 2021-22 till 2025-2026, would be submitted to the government by the end of October 2020.
- The Report would also factor in unpaid compensation dues to the States.
- The Chairperson of the Fifteenth Finance Commission N.K. Singh has stated that given the fact that Compensation cess shortfalls cannot be met from the Consolidated Fund of India, there is the need for some form of borrowing arrangement to meet the compensation cess collection shortfalls.
- The GST council has approved the extension of the levy of compensation cess on Goods and Services Tax (GST) beyond the previously decided 2022, perhaps till as late as 2025-26, to pay off the States’ GST dues. GST compensation cess is levied on goods such as cars, aerated drinks and tobacco products, over and above the highest GST rate of 28%.
- Both the States and the Centre are said to be working towards a consensus on this GST compensation issue within the GST Council.
- The Centre might be borrowing Rs. 1.1 lakh crore on behalf of States and lend it onward to the states to compensate them for the shortfalls.
- In addition, the states would also be allowed to additionally borrow up to 0.5% of GSDP. These provisions would give the states around Rs. 2.16-lakh crore, or almost 90% of the compensation shortfall.