Why in News
The Supreme Court (SC) is set to commence the final hearing on the batch of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs-Article 136) against Maratha reservation in Maharashtra on a daily basis through video-conferencing.
- The apex court will also hear a petition challenging admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses under the quota in the state.
- The SLPs challenged the Bombay High Court (HC) decision, which upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the state’s Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
- The SEBC Act provides for reservation of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for reservation of posts for appointments in public services and posts under the state.
- Maharashtra is one of the few states which have more than 50% reservation. Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Telangana also exceeds the reservation cap.
- Indra Sawhney case 1992 ruled that the total reservation for backward classes cannot go beyond the 50% mark.
- A group of medical students challenged the constitutional validity of an amendment to the SEBC Act, 2018 allowing Maratha reservation for 2019-2020 admissions to MBBS courses.
- In July 2019, the Bombay HC dismissed the petition. The SC refused to stay the judgement and have, time and again, refused to put an interim stay on the quota.
- Recently, the SC refused to grant interim stay on a plea by medical students, seeking a direction that the 12% quota not be made applicable for admissions in postgraduate medical and dental courses for the academic year 2020-21.
- It is a politically dominant community in Maharashtra comprising mainly peasants and landowners and forms nearly one-third of the population of the state.
- Majority of the Chief Ministers of the state have been from this community since the formation of the state in 1960.
- While the backwardness of the community was not comparable with Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), it was comparable with several other backward classes, which find a place in the list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) pursuant to the Mandal Commission.
Findings of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission:
- It surveyed about 45,000 families from two villages from each of 355 talukas with more than 50% Maratha population.
- 86% of Maratha families are engaged in agriculture and agricultural labour for their livelihood. Only 35-39% have personal tap water connections.
- During 2013-2018, total 13,368 farmers committed suicides and 23.56% of them were Marathas.
- 42% of Marathas are illiterate, 35.31% primary educated, 43.79% Secondary and Higher Secondary educated, 6.71% undergraduates and postgraduates and 0.77% technically and professionally qualified.
- 93% of Maratha families have an annual income of Rs. 1 lakh, which was below the average income of middle-class families. 37.38% of families were Below Poverty Line (BPL) against the state average of 24%.
- The commission submitted its report on 15 November 2018 establishing that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backwards and also established inadequacy of representation of the Maratha community in public employment in the state.
- The quotas for Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes have been carved out of the total OBC quota.
- With the addition of 12-13% Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state is 64- 65%. The 10% Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota is also effective in the state.
Contempt of Court
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Recently, the Supreme Court of India suo moto initiated the proceedings for criminal contempt of court against lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan for his tweet criticising the current Chief Justice of India and the role of some Chief Justices of India in the last six years.
- Article 129: Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Article 142(2): Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
- Article 215: Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- However, the expression ‘contempt of court’ has not been defined by the Constitution.
Contempt of Courts:
- As per the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, contempt refers to the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court. The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt.
- Civil contempt: It is willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court.
- Criminal contempt: It is any act which may result in: Scandalising the court by lowering its authority, Interference in the due course of a judicial proceeding, An obstruction in the administration of justice.
- The Contempt of Courts Act 1971 was amended in 2006 to include the defence of truth under Section 13 of the original legislation. Implying that the court must permit justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in the public interest.
- Further, innocent publication and distribution of some matter, fair and reasonable criticism of judicial acts and comment on the administrative side of the judiciary do not amount to contempt of court.
Punishment for Contempt of Court:
- The Supreme Court and High Courts have the power to punish for contempt of court, either with simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to Rs. 2,000 or with both.
- In 1991, the Supreme Court ruled that it has the power to punish for contempt not only of itself but also of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals functioning in the entire country.
- On the other hand, High Courts have been given special powers to punish contempt of subordinate courts, as per Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971.
Issues with Contempt Law
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution gives the right to freedom of speech and expression to all citizens, while “contempt provisions” curb people’s freedom to speak against the court’s functioning.
- The law is very subjective which might be used by the judiciary arbitrarily to suppress their criticism by the public.
- The contempt of court should not be allowed to be used as a means to prevent criticisms.
- In this backdrop, there is a need to revisit the need for a law on criminal contempt, where India can learn from Britain which abolished the offence of scandalizing the judiciary as a form of contempt of court in 2013 based on the fact that the law was vague and not compatible with freedom of speech.
Parliamentary vs Presidential Form of Government
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Recently, it has been suggested that India should adopt the presidential form of government instead of the parliamentary style of democracy, inherited from the British. These suggestions have been given in the backdrop of frequent elections and related administrative as well as financial burden owned by India.
Parliamentary System of Government
- There are two executives. The nominal executive is the head of state e.g. President
- while the real executive is the Prime Minister, who is the head of government.
- the role of president or monarch is primarily ceremonial and the Prime Minister along with the cabinet wields effective power.
- Countries with such a system include Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom as well as Portugal.
- The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the States.
Articles 74 and 75 deal with the parliamentary system of government at the Union level and Articles 163 and 164 contain provisions with regard to the States. Executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts.
Presidential System of Government
- There is only one executive. the President is both head of state and government, e.g. USA, South Korea etc.
- The executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts, and is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office.
Arguments Against the Parliamentary System:
- Unqualified Legislators: The parliamentary system has created unqualified legislators. It limits executive posts to those who are electable rather than to those who are able,
- Powerful Executive: Most of the laws are drafted by the executive and parliamentary input into their formulation and passage is minimal. It has been seen that the ruling party issues a whip to its members in order to ensure unimpeded passage of a bill. MPs blindly vote as their party directs.
- Fickle Legislative Majority: It has forced governments to concentrate less on governing than on staying in office, and obliged them to cater their coalitions. It puts insurance on defections and horse-trading. The anti-defection Act of 1985 has failed to cure the problem,.
- Distorted Voting Preference: It has distorted the voting preferences of an electorate that knows which individual it wants to vote for but not necessarily which party.
Arguments in Favour of Presidential System:
- Stable Executive: It establishes a stable executive which does not depend upon the fluctuating will of the legislature especially in case of coalition governments..
- Ability Over Electability: Cabinet posts would not be limited to those who are electable rather than those who are able. The President can appoint anyone as secretaries (equivalent to minister).
- Effective Check and Balance: It establishes the presidency and the legislature as two parallel structures. This allows each structure to monitor and check the other, hence preventing the abuse of power.
- Role of Citizens: At the end of a fixed period of time, the public would be able to judge the individual’s performance, rather than on political skill at keeping a government in office.
- Further, the Indian voter will be able to vote directly for the individual he or she wants to be chosen as a head rather than a majority of Members of Parliament and Legislative
Argument Against the Presidential Form:
- Lack of Cooperation: A weakness of the system is its failure to ensure the co-operation between law-makers and administrators. Frequent conflicts between the legislature and the executive may lead to
- Autocratic: A presidential system centralises power in one individual unlike the parliamentary system, where the Prime Minister is the first among equals.
- Concerns over Separation of Powers: If the legislature is dominated by the same party to which the President belongs, he may prevent any move from the legislature.
Benefit of Parliamentary System:
- Ensures Diverse Representation: the parliamentary system ensures the regional representations by selecting candidates from different parts of the country.
- Prevents Authoritarianism: unlike the presidential system, power is not concentrated in one hand, rather in a group of individuals (Council of Ministers).
- Better Coordination: Since the executive is a part of the legislature, and generally the majority of the legislature support the government, it is easier to pass laws and implement them.
- Matured System: It is an old system and can give news ideas with its experience in a democartic setup.
Collaboration with Israel in Defence Sector under FDI
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India has collaborated with the Israeli defence companies under the new liberalised Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regime in defence manufacturing.
Earlier, the government has increased the limit for FDI in defence through the automatic route from 49% to 74%.
- FDI is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country.
- Recently, the Defence Ministry has given emergency powers to the Armed Forces to procure weapons systems up to Rs. 300 crore on an urgent basis without any further clearances to cut short the procurement cycle.
- Therefore, Indian Armed Forces are undertaking a series of emergency defence purchases amid ongoing tensions with China on the border.
- The Army has decided to order launchers, Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) and additional Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), from Israel through the emergency procurement route.
India-Israel Defence Cooperation
- Description: The strong bilateral ties of India and Israel are driven by their respective national interests—i.e., India’s long-sought goals of military modernisation, and Israel’s comparative advantage in commercialising its arms industries.
- Patrolling and Surveillance: The Israeli imports eases the operational ability of armed forces in wartime.
- Make in India: The export-oriented Israeli defence industry and its openness to establishing joint ventures complement both ‘Make in India’ and ‘Make with India’ in defence.
- Trusted Supplier: Israel has always been a ‘no-questions-asked supplier’, i.e., it transfers even its most advanced technology without placing limits to its use.
- Its credibility was reinforced during the Kargil War of 1999 when it supplied the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) ‘Searcher’ and surveillance systems for Jaguar and Mirage squadrons. Similar weapons were used in the Balakot strike in February 2019.
- Ready to Use Technology: India suffers from many constraints in defence production and acquisition including lack of technical expertise, lack of manufacturing infrastructure, inadequate funding and project delays. Israel fills these shortcomings by supplying ready-to-use critical technologies, even on short notices.
- Influence of USA: Some of the Israeli technologies utilise USA components because of which the USA has veto powers over the sale of those technologies. Hence, it may cause hurdles in transportation of technologies.
- Cold War Politics: The potential of India-Israel ties have been sacrificed on the altar of Cold War politics. Factors like Arab–Israeli conflict, Iran-Israel conflict, constant interference of countries like Russia and USA in such issues and overall relationship of India with these countries have impacted the ties with Israel.
- Non Alignment: India’s commitment to the non-alignment causes freezing relations with Israel that were increasingly seen as leaning towards the Western bloc. India must strategically balance its relationship with Israel on conflict issues.
- Dependence for Energy Security: India’s dependence on Arab states for oil imports led to a pro-Arab tilt in its West Asia Policy, which has further constrained Israel’s options in the region.
- Israel Palestine Conflict: The territorial conflicts of Gaza Strip and West Bank have played an important role in shaping India-Israel relationships. Due to Israel-Palestine peace negotiations (Oslo Accords of 1993) India has started normalising the relationship with Israel.
- as a part of Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries mutually independent and exclusive.
Defence Technologies Imported by India
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs):
- Searcher: It is a multi-mission tactical UAV for surveillance, target acquisition, artillery adjustment and damage assessment.
- Hermes 900: In December 2018, Adani Defence and Elbit Systems inaugurated the first India-Israel joint venture in defence at Hyderabad.
- This facility will manufacture high-technology, cost-effective Hermes 900 to be deployed in all-weather terrains.
- Heron: It is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system primarily designed to perform strategic actions .
Air Defence Systems:
- BARAK: The surface-to-air missile can be deployed as a low-range air defence interceptor. In India, the BARAK version is known as BARAK-8 (for naval vessels).
- Spike: These are the 4 generation Anti-Tank Missiles with a range of up to 4km, which can be operated in fire-and-forget mode. These are manufactured by the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, Israel.
- Crystal Maze: It is an Indian variant of the air-to-surface missile AGM-142A
- Popeye – jointly developed by the Israeli-based Rafael and US-based Lockheed Martin.
- Search Track and Guidance Radar (STGR): India imported the STGR radar to make INS Kolkata, INS Shivalik and Kamorta-class frigates compatible for deploying BARAK-8 SAM missiles.
- Phalcon: This airborne warning and control system (AWACS), is also hailed as Indian Airforce Force’s “eyes in the skies”.
- The strategic cooperation between India and Israel carries immense potential and India must harness the technological expertise from Israel to modernise an indigenous defence industry.
- Indo-Israel defence cooperation must be up-scaled in terms of Joint Ventures (JV) and Joint Research and Development (RD) which can be a force multiplier to realistically achieve India’s ambition to be a major global power.
Seismicity Study of Arunachal Himalaya
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Recently, a study by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), pertaining to the exploration of the elastic properties of rocks and seismicity in Arunachal Himalaya, has revealed that the area is generating moderate earthquakes at two different crustal depths.
- WIHG is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India. The region has been placed into Seismic Zone V, thus most vulnerable to earthquakes.
- WIHG has installed 11 broadband seismic stations (connected through the Global Positioning System) along the Lohit River Valley of Arunachal Himalaya to understand the elastic properties of rocks and seismicity in the easternmost part of India.
- It used both teleseismic (earthquakes that occur more than 1000 km from the measurement site) and local earthquake data with the help of
- Two Different Crustal Depths: Low magnitude earthquakes are concentrated at 1- 15 km depth, whereas slightly higher than 0 magnitude earthquakes are mostly generated from 25-35 km depth.
- The intermediate-depth is devoid of seismicity and coincides with the zone of fluid/partial melts.
- High Poisson’s Ratio: Extremely high Poisson’s ratio was also obtained in the higher parts of the Lohit Valley, indicating the presence of fluid or partial melt at crustal depths.
- Poisson’s ratio is a measure of the Poisson effect that describes the expansion or contraction of a material in directions perpendicular to the direction of loading.
- A high Poisson’s ratio denotes that the material exhibits large elastic deformation, even when exposed to small amounts of strain.
Underthrusting of the Indian Plate:
- Himalaya is a result of collision between the Indian and the Eurasian plates about 50- 60 million years ago.
- Due to continuous underthrusting of Indian plate beneath the Eurasian plate, stresses are increasing and accumulating progressively in the Himalayas.
- This process keeps modifying the drainage patterns and landforms and is the pivotal reason for causing an immense seismic hazard in the Himalayan mountain belt and adjoining regions, necessitating assessment and characterization of earthquakes in terms of cause, depth and intensity.
- The Tuting-Tidding Suture Zone: TTSZ is a major part of the Eastern Himalaya, where the Himalaya takes a sharp southward bend and connects with the Indo-Burma Range.
- This part has gained importance in recent times due to the growing need of constructing roads and hydropower projects, therefore emphasising the need for understanding the pattern of seismicity in this region.
- Crustal Thickness: The crustal thickness in this area varies from 46.7 km beneath the Brahmaputra Valley to about 55 km in the higher elevations of Arunachal, with a marginal uplift of the contact.
- This marginal uplift defines the boundary between crust and the mantle, technically called the Moho discontinuity.
- The Moho discontinuity has been defined by the distinct change in velocity of seismological waves as they pass through changing densities of rock.
6.Asteroid 2020 ND
Why in News
Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a warning that a huge “Asteroid 2020 ND” will move past Earth on 24 July.
- The asteroid, about 170 metres-long, will be as close as 0.034 Astronomical Unit (AU- Astronomical Unit is the distance between the Earth and the Sun and is roughly 150 million km) to the Earth, and is travelling at a speed of 48,000 kilometres per
- It is a Near-Earth Objects (NEO) and its distance from Earth has placed it in the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA)
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids:
- It means that an asteroid has the potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
- all asteroids with a Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) of 0.05 AU (which is about 7,480,000 Km) or less and an Absolute Magnitude (H) of 22.0 (about 150 mt in diameter) or less are considered PHAs.
- MOID is a method for calculating the minimum distance between two almost overlapping elliptical orbits. The absolute magnitude is a measure of the star’s luminosity i.e. the total amount of energy radiated by the star every second.
- Deflecting Asteroids: Blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth, or deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft may ward off the threat.
- AIDA: The measure undertaken so far is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which includes NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and the European Space Agency’s (ESA)
- The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is largely due to their status as relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process over 4.6 billion years ago. Therefore, they offer clues about the chemical mixture from the planets formed.
- Asteroids orbit the Sun and are small bodies in the solar system. They are made up of metals and rocks. They tend to have shorter and elliptical orbits. They do not produce a coma or tail atmosphere.
- Comets also orbit the Sun and are relatively small bodies of the solar system. They are made up of ice and hydrocarbons.
- a thin atmospheric tail is formed when a comet is close to the Sun.
Regulation of Government Advertising: CCRGA
Why in News
Recently, the Supreme Court-mandated Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA) issued a notice to the Delhi government, seeking clarifications on a recent advertisement placed by it in Mumbai editions of prominent newspapers.
- according to the Delhi government, CCRGA doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Delhi government. The advertisement content of Delhi government is regulated by its own State-level committee.
- As per the directions of Supreme Court in 2015, the Government of India had set up a three member body in 2016 to look into content regulation of government funded advertisements in all media platforms.
- It is empowered to address complaints from the general public and can also take suomoto cognizance of any violation of the Supreme Court guidelines and recommend corrective actions.
Supreme Court Guidelines:
- The content of government advertisements should be relevant to the government’s constitutional and legal obligations as well as the citizen’s rights and entitlements. The advertisement materials should be designed to meet the objectives of the campaign and to ensure maximum reach in a cost effective way.
- It should be accurate and not presenting pre existing policies and products as new. The advertisement content should also not promote the political interests of the ruling
Why in News
Recently, Hurricane Hanna has made landfall (the point at which a hurricane reaches land) in Texas with life-threatening storm surge and strong winds.
Tropical cyclones are called hurricanes in the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
- It has reached wind speeds of up to 90 mph and is expected to produce heavy rains across portions of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, which will result in flash flooding and isolated minor to moderate river flooding.
- It has been categorised as a Category 1 storm on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS).
- This year, an “above-normal” hurricane season is expected in the USA.
- One reason for this is the warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, along with weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon.
- It is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
- These are formed over the warm ocean waters near the equator. Hurricanes typically form between 5 to 15 degrees latitude north and south of the equator.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
- It is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage.
Khelo India Youth Games 2021
Why in News
Recently, the government has announced that Haryana will host the fourth edition of Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG).
- The 2021 Khelo India Youth Games are scheduled to take place after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and will be held in Panchkula (Haryana).
- The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are set to open on 23 July. In 2020, for the first time, the Olympics were postponed following the Covid-19 outbreak. Usually, the KIYG takes place in January of every year.
- KIYG is a part of the revamped national programme for development of sports ‘Khelo India’ which was approved by the Union Cabinet in
- The 2020 edition of KIYG was held in Guwahati (Assam). The Khelo India Scheme aims to encourage sports all over the country, thus allowing the population to harness the power of sports through its cross-cutting influence, namely holistic development of children & youth, community development, social integration, gender equality, healthy lifestyle, national pride and economic opportunities related to sports development.
- Under the Scheme, talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels are provided annual financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh per annum for 8 years.
- Khelo India App, developed by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), aims to create awareness about sports and fitness in the country. SAI is under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.