Insights Daily Current Events, 20 May 2015
‘PAC can’t take suo motu notice of report’
Public Accounts Committee’s chairman K.V. Thomas recently said that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament cannot take suo motu notice of any Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report. He said the PAC would have to wait for one of the two Houses of Parliament to refer the report to the committee.
Thomas was responding to questions on whether the PAC would look into CAG naming Union Minister Nitin Gadkari as one of the “promoters and/or directors” of Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd, a company reportedly sanctioned a loan of Rs. 84.12 crore by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency in violation of guidelines.
Facts- Public Accounts Committee:
- The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a committee of selected members of Parliament, constituted by the Parliament of India, for the auditing of the expenditure of the Government of India.
- The Committee is formed every year with strength of not more than 22 members of which 15 are from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha.
- The Chairman is appointed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. Since 1967, the chairman of the committee is selected from the opposition. Earlier, it was headed by a member of the ruling party.
- Its chief function is to examine the audit report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) after it is laid in the Parliament. CAG assists the committee during the course of investigation.
- A Minister is not eligible to be elected as a member of the Committee and if a member, after his election to the Committee, is appointed as a Minister, he ceases to be a member of the Committee from the date of such appointment.
- The term of office of members of the Committee does not exceed one year at a time.
- The Committee is assisted by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the examination of Accounts and Audit Reports.
Sources: The Hindu, LS, Wiki.
Make parties’ funding public: petition
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court recently to declare political parties “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act, making them liable to disclose their financial assets for public scrutiny.
- The plea arraigns political parties for not complying with repeated orders by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose their assets.
What the CIC had said?
The CIC, in both 2013 and in March, 2015, had declared all national and regional parties public authorities under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
What the Petition says?
- The petition argues that the orders issued by the CIC were final and binding. The petition questions the non-compliance of the parties with these two orders, and wants the Supreme Court to direct national and regional parties to disclose complete details about their income as well as expenditure, entire details of donations and funding received by them irrespective of the amount donated and full details of donors making donations to them and to electoral trusts.
- The petition argues that political parties should come under the RTI law as they play a core role in governance, and enjoy a stronghold over their elected MPs and MLAs under Schedule 10 of the Constitution. The Schedule makes it compulsory for MPs and MLAs to abide by the directions of their parent parties, failing which the member stands to be disqualified.
- The plea also contended that it will be within the average voter’s fundamental right to information to know the financial details of political parties to make an informed choice.
What the Representation of the People Act says?
Under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, all political parties must affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of India and such allegiance is made compulsory for the purpose of registration under sub-section (7) of Section 29A. And hence petitioners argue that political parties so registered must furnish information to the public under the right of information under Article 19(1)(a), since right of information has been held to be a part of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).
Sources: The Hindu.
Experts differ on L-G’s powers
The AAP government has appointed senior bureaucrat Arvind Ray as Principal Secretary to the General Administration Department, bypassing Lt Governor’s opinion. With this the ongoing tussle between the Delhi government and Lt Governor has further escalated.
- The tussle started when Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung appointed Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary without consulting the Council of Ministers of Delhi Government.
What the Law says?
- Section 41 of the Government of National Capital Territory Act of Delhi says that Lt. Governor can use his discretion only in matters which fall outside the purview of the Legislative Assembly.
- Article 239AA (3) (a) of the Constitution reserves only two matters under the State List which allows the LG to use his discretionary powers – police and land. This Article was incorporated into the Constitution by the 69th Amendment in 1991, by which the Union Territory of Delhi was called the ‘National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi’ with the Lt. Governor as its administrator.
- Section 44 of the 1991 Act has left it to the President to frame the procedure in case there is a “difference of opinion” between the LG and the Council of Ministers. The same provision provides that “all executive action of Lieutenant Governor whether taken on the advice of his Ministers or otherwise shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the Lieutenant Governor.”
- Section 45 mandates that it is the duty of the Chief Minister to communicate to the Lieutenant Governor all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Capital and proposals for legislation.
Who deals with matters related to Land and Police?
- In matters of police and land, the Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Urban Development are in direct charge.
- The Lt Governor is the chairperson of the Delhi Development Authority or DDA, and he does not act in tandem with the Chief Minister, but uses his discretion.
What the experts say?
Legal experts give contradictory views on whether the Lt. Governor (LG) is empowered to use his discretion under Section 41 of the Government of National Capital Territory Act of Delhi of 1991, to appoint senior bureaucrats.
- Land and police are reserved subjects under Article 239AA of the Constitution. Some experts say that only in these two, the Lt. Governor has jurisdiction. In all other matters, including the appointment of senior bureaucrats, the parliamentary system of governance prevails. That is, the LG has to abide by Section 41 and act according to the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Hence, he has no discretion in such matters.
- While some experts, pointing to the arguments in a pending case before the Delhi High Court on plastic ban, which touches on the power equations between the LG and the Chief Minister, say that the LG can use his discretion on appointment of officials as long as his decisions are proved “bonafide.” They call Delhi a hybrid State where the LG is vested with overriding powers. In Plastic ban Case the LG implemented the notification by the Central government for the ban without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. The decision is considered to be bonafide. The ban was subsequently upheld by the National Green Tribunal.
Sources: The Hindu.
Dust storm in Rajasthan
A severe dust storm swept across North India recently injuring many and damaging several houses in Rajasthan.
A dust storm or sand storm is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid and semi-arid regions.
- Dust storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. Particles are transported by saltation and suspension, a process that moves soil from one place and deposits it in another.
- As the force of wind passing over loosely held particles increases, particles of sand first start to vibrate, then to saltate. As they repeatedly strike the ground, they loosen and break off smaller particles of dust which then begin to travel in suspension. At wind speeds above that which causes the smallest to suspend, there will be a population of dust grains moving by a range of mechanisms: suspension, saltation and creep.
- Particles become loosely held mainly due to drought or arid conditions, and varied wind causes.
- In desert areas, dust storms are most commonly caused by either thunderstorm outflows, or by strong pressure gradients which cause an increase in wind velocity over a wide area. The vertical extent of the dust or sand that is raised is largely determined by the stability of the atmosphere above the ground as well as by the weight of the particulates.
- Drought and wind contribute to the emergence of dust storms, as do poor farming and grazing practices by exposing the dust and sand to the wind.
Why now in Rajasthan?
- According to Skymet Meteorology Division in India, a low level cyclonic circulation over Pakistan and adjoining Rajasthan region along with high day temperatures had triggered the dust storm.
- West Rajasthan becomes prone to such dust storms as it enters into the pre-monsoon season. This was the first widespread storm of the season covering a large area. The winds are usually westerlies due to which the dust storms travel a long way.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, BS, IMD.
India’s eye on universe ready for tests
Scheduled to be launched later this year, ASTROSAT, the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission aimed at studying distant celestial objects is now fully assembled.
- Astrosat is India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite and is scheduled to launch on board the PSLV in October 2015.
- ASTROSAT would be India’s first multiwavelength astronomy satellite. It will facilitate simultaneous observations of celestial bodies and cosmic sources in X-ray and UV spectral bands.
- It will be placed in a 650-km (400 miles) orbit with an 8° inclination for spectroscopic studies of X-ray binaries, supernova remnants, quasars, pulsars, galaxy clusters and active galactic nuclei at a number of different wavelengths simultaneously, from the ultraviolet band to energetic x-rays.
Astrosat will be a proposal-driven general purpose observatory, with main scientific focus on:
- Simultaneous multi-wavelength monitoring of intensity variations in a broad range of cosmic sources
- Monitoring the X-ray sky for new transients
- Sky surveys in the hard X-ray and UV bands
- Broadband spectroscopic studies of X-ray binaries, AGN, SNRs, clusters of galaxies and stellar coronae
- Studies of periodic and non-periodic variability of X-ray sources
- It is significant to note that ASTROSAT is the first mission to be operated as a space observatory by ISRO.
- ASTROSAT carries four X-ray payloads, one UV telescope and a charge particle monitor.
The mission will put India in an elite orbit with the U.S., Europe, Russia and Japan.
Sources: The Hindu, astrosat, ISRO.
Insights Secure Prelims 2015
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With reference to Astrosat, India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite, consider the following statements:
- It was first launched on board the GSLV.
- It will facilitate simultaneous observations of celestial bodies and cosmic sources in X-ray and UV spectral bands.
- ASTROSAT is the first mission to be operated as a space observatory by ISRO.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?Correct
Explanation: Astrosat is India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite and is scheduled to launch on board the PSLV in October 2015.Incorrect
Explanation: Astrosat is India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite and is scheduled to launch on board the PSLV in October 2015.
The Delhi State Assembly has the power to make laws with respect to all the matters in the State List or in the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India except:
- Public Order
- Tax on liquor
Choose the correct answer using the codes below:Correct
Consider the following statements:
- The Lt Governor of Delhi appoints the Chief Minister of Delhi.
- The Ministers in the Delhi Cabinet hold office during the pleasure of the President.
- The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has the power to summon, prorogue or dissolve the Assembly.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?Correct
Explanation: The President appoints the Chief Minister of Delhi and on the advice of the Chief Minister appoints other Ministers. The Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President.Incorrect
Explanation: The President appoints the Chief Minister of Delhi and on the advice of the Chief Minister appoints other Ministers. The Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President.
With reference to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, consider the following statements:
- The Chairman of the committee is appointed by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
- A Minister is not eligible to be elected as a member of the Committee.
- The term of office of members of the Committee is five years.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?Correct
Explanation: The Chairman is appointed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. The term of office of members of the Committee does not exceed one year at a time.Incorrect
Explanation: The Chairman is appointed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. The term of office of members of the Committee does not exceed one year at a time.