Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 January 2017
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Many New Projects Under Namami Gange Approved For Haridwar and Varanasi
New projects under Namami Gange programme in Haridwar and Varanasi have been approved by National Mission for Clean Ganga.
- In Haridwar, 68 MLD sewage treatment plants (STP) and 14 MLD STP in Sarai have been approved at an indicative cost of Rs 110.30 crore and Rs 25 crore respectively under Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode.
- Apart from this, while Rs 8.34 crore has been allocated for tertiary treatment of existing 27 MLD plant in Jagjeetpur. Rs 5.32 crore has been allocated for tertiary treatment of existing 18 MLD plant in Sarai under Design, Build, Operate and Transfer (DBOT) mode.
About Namami Gange Programme:
Namami Gange programme was launched as a mission to achieve the target of cleaning river Ganga in an effective manner with the unceasing involvement of all stakeholders, especially five major Ganga basin States – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.
- The programme envisages River Surface Cleaning, Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure, River Front Development, Bio-Diversity, Afforestation and Public Awareness.
- The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level, b) State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
- The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Restaurants billing ‘service charges’ in addition to taxes is optional
The Department of Consumer Affairs has clarified that service charges billed by restaurants are optional and it is up to the customers to pay it. The department said arbitrary levy of this sum in lieu of tips amounts to an unfair trade practice.
- The department has asked state governments to sensitise hotels and restaurants and advise them to display at appropriate places on their premises that service charges are discretionary/voluntary and can be waived if a consumer is dissatisfied with the services.
The department cited complaints that hotels and restaurants are levying an additional 5 to 20% in bills in lieu of tips, regardless of the kind of service provided.
What the law says?
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides that a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or the supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or deceptive practice, is to be treated as an unfair trade practice and that a consumer can make a complaint to the appropriate consumer forum established under the Act against such unfair trade practices.
What’s the issue?
Although the service charge is voluntary, most hotels and restaurants levy up to 10% of the bill amount as service charge, which is considered as a tip. The service charge varies from place to place. In this context, the department of Consumer Affairs, Central Government has called for clarification from the Hotel Association of India, which have replied that the service charge is completely discretionary and should a customer be dissatisfied with the dining experience he/she can have it waived off. Therefore, it is deemed to be accepted voluntarily.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
SC extends judicial review powers
In a blow to Ordinance Raj, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has widened the boundaries of judicial review to the extent that it can now examine whether the President or the State Governor was spurred by an “oblique motive” to bypass the legislature and promulgate an ordinance.
Important observations made by the court:
- The court has held that the satisfaction of the President under Article 123 and of the Governor under Article 213 is not immune from judicial review. In case the apex court concludes that the President or the Governor was influenced by ulterior motives to promulgate the ordinance, such an act by the two constitutional authorities would amount to a fraud on their respective powers.
- The court also said that it would scrutinise whether the satisfaction of the President or the Governor to promulgate an ordinance was based on relevant material or whether it amounted to a “fraud on power or was actuated by an oblique motive.”
- The court also observed that it was obligatory for the government to place the ordinance before the legislative body for its approval and non-placement of ordinances before the Parliament and the State legislature would itself constitute a fraud on the constitution.
- Besides, re-promulgation defeats the constitutional scheme under which a limited power to frame ordinances has been conferred on the President and the Governors. The danger of re-promulgation lies in the threat which it poses to the sovereignty of Parliament and the state legislatures which have been constituted as primary law givers under the Constitution
These observations were made by the court while dealing with the case related to the constitutionality of seven successive re-promulgations of the Bihar Non-Government Sanskrit Schools (Taking Over of Management and Control) Ordinance of 1989. The State government had approached the Supreme Court after the Patna High Court declared that repeated re-promulgation of the ordinances was unconstitutional after relying on the D.C. Wadhwa judgment on the dos and don’ts of promulgation of ordinances by another Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in 1986.
In the Dr. D.C. Wadhwa versus State of Bihar case, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that the Executive has no arbitrary right to promulgate ordinances. The apex court held that it is the right of every citizen to insist that he should be governed by laws made in accordance with the Constitution and not law made by the Executive in violation of the constitutional provisions.
What is Judicial review?
Judicial Review refers to the power of the judiciary to interpret the constitution and to declare any such law or order of the legislature and executive void, if it finds them in conflict the Constitution of India.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC
The Supreme Court has ruled that an election could be annulled if candidates seek votes in the name of their religion or that of their voters. The apex court’s view has enlarged the scope of the Representation of People Act 1951.
- The Court ruled that “religion, race, caste, community or language would not be allowed to play any role in the electoral process” and that election of a candidate would be declared null and void if an appeal is made to seek votes on these considerations.
- Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that an election will be annulled not only if votes are sought in the name of the religion of the candidate but also when such an appeal hinges on religion of voters or candidate’s election agents or by anybody else with the consent of the candidate. The third class will include religious and spiritual leaders, often engaged by candidates to mobilise their followers.
- The Supreme Court also said that election is a secular exercise and thereby its way and process should be followed. The Supreme Court further added that relationship between man and God is individual choice. The state is forbidden to interfere in such an activity.
The landmark judgment came while the court revisited earlier judgments, including one from 1995 that equated Hindutva with Hinduism and called it a “way of life” and said a candidate was not necessarily violating the law if votes were sought on this plank.
Several petitions filed over the years have challenged the consequences of that verdict. “It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on Hindu religion as opposed to other religions. Hindutva and Hinduism are used in a speech to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian cultural ethos,” the 1995 judgment authored by Justice J.S. Verma had said.
Significance of this ruling:
- The court interpreted Section 123(3) of the Representation of People Act to mean that this provision was brought in with an intent “to clearly proscribe appeals based on sectarian, linguistic or caste considerations”. Section 123(3) defines as “corrupt practice” appeals made by a candidate or his agents to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of “his” religion, race, caste, community or language.
- The latest ruling is now significant in the sense that any attempt to canvass for votes on the ground of religion or other such parochial identities – either of the candidate’s or on behalf of his agents or groups or his opponents – would invite the provisions of the Representation of People Act.
- The ruling can potentially overturn the rules of the game for electoral politics in India, where traditionally parties have not hesitated to employ religion, caste and ethnicity to woo voters. Greater clarity will emerge once the Election Commission, which is to implement the decision, spells out the ground rules.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
Google Doodle pays tribute to social reformer Savitribai Phule
A trailblazing figure in field of women’s education in India, Savitribai Phule is the subject of Tuesday’s Google Doodle on the occasion of her 186th birthday.
- Born in Naigaon in Maharashtra on January 3, 1831, Phule is widely regarded as one of India’s first generation modern feminists for her significant contributions in ensuring equal education opportunities under the British raj.
- She became the first female teacher in India in 1848 and opened a school for girls along with her husband, social reformer Jyotirao Phule. The two also worked against discrimination based on caste-based identity, something vehemently opposed by the orthodox sections of society in Pune.
- She went on to establish a shelter for widows in 1854 which she further built on in 1864 to also accommodate destitute women and child brides cast aside by their families.
- Phule also played a pivotal role in directing the work of the Satyashodhak Samaj, formed by her husband with the objective to achieve equal rights for the marginalised lower castes. She took over the reins of the organisation after Jyotirao’s death in 1890.
- Savitribai opened a clinic in 1897 for victims of the bubonic plague that spread across Maharashtra just before the turn of the century.
- In her honour, University of Pune was renamed Savitribai Phule University in 2014.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
Prof. David R. Syiemlieh to perform duties of Chairman, UPSC:
- The President has appointed Prof. David R. Syiemlieh, Member, Union Public Service Commission, to perform the duties of the post of Chairman, Union Public Service Commission.
- Articles 315 to 323 of the Constitution deal with the appointment of UPSC members, powers and functions of the UPSC.
- The Commission consists of a chairman and ten members. The terms and conditions of service of chairman and members of the Commission are governed by the Union Public Service Commission (Members) Regulations, 1969.
- The Chairman and other members of the UPSC are appointed by the President of India. They can be removed by the President.
- As per article 319, the Chairman of UPSC is not eligible for further employment either under Govt of India or a State.
Successful Flight Test of Agni – IV:
- Agni-IV, the Long Range Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile with a range of 4,000 kms was successfully flight tested recently.
- The missile is developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.
- Agni IV is nuclear capable, with a payload capacity of one tonne of high-explosive warhead.
- The sophisticated surface-to-surface missile is equipped with modern and compact avionics to provide high level of reliability.
- The most accurate Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and supported by highly reliable redundant Micro Navigation System (MINGS), ensures the vehicle reaches the target within two digit accuracy.
- The re-entry heat shield can withstand temperatures in the range of 4000 degrees centigrade and makes sure the avionics function normally.
- The Agni-IV had undergone one failed and five successful tests over the last five years, with the last one being conducted in November 2015.