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[Mission 2022] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 4 September 2021

 

NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.

Answer the following questions in 250 words:


General Studies – 2


 

2. The recent appointment of nine judges to the Supreme Court is a welcome step as it reduces vacancies. However, further steps are needed to reduce pendency of cases. Elaborate. (150 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

Nine new Supreme Court judges were administered their oaths of office by Chief Justice NV Ramana recently. It is for the first time in the history of Supreme Court that nine judges took oath of office at one go. With the swearing-in of the nine new judges, the strength of the Supreme Court has now increased to 33, including the CJI, out of the sanctioned strength of 34.

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Appointment of nine judges to the Supreme Court is a welcome step:

  • Any move to increase the strength of the judiciary ought to be welcomed, given the perennial complaint that availability of judges is not increasing in proportion to the institution of cases.
  • In this perspective, the strength of the Supreme Court now increased to 33, including the Chief Justice of India, will help in dealing with the large pendency.
  • The wheels of justice at India’s top court is seemed to be clogging with the pendency of cases reaching an all-time high of almost 68,000 (as of 25 July, 2021).
  • There was a steep rise in pending cases especially during the period of January 2021 till May 2021.

Rise in number of judges alone will not help reduce the pendency:

  • From 1950 to 1921, the number of Supreme Court judges has increased nearly four times. Even then, case pendency has steadily kept rising.
  • The key reason for the mounting of pending cases can be attributed to shifting the role of the Supreme Court from adjudicating cases of constitutional significance into a regular court of appeals.
  • According to legal experts, most of the cases that the Supreme Court was handling daily are either appeals from various high courts or cases of gross violation of individual’s fundamental rights. But this role was never meant for the apex court.
  • It is because of frivolous PILs and various government policies which are challenged by the people that takes up most of judiciary’s time

Other measures needed to reduce pendency of cases:

  • Improving infrastructure for quality justice:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee which presented its report on Infrastructure Development and Strengthening of Subordinate Courts, suggested:
    • States should provide suitable land for construction of court buildings etc. It should undertake vertical construction in light of shortage of land.
    • Timeline set out for computerization of all the courts, as a necessary step towards setting up of e- courts.
  • Addressing the Issue of Vacancies:
    • Ensure the appointments of the judges be done in an efficient way by arriving at an optimal judge strength to handle the cases pending in the system.
    • The 120th Law Commission of India report for the first time, suggested a judge strength fixation formula.
    • Supreme Court and High Courts should appoint efficient and experienced judges as Ad-hoc judges in accordance with the Constitution.
    • All India Judicial Service, which would benefit the subordinate judiciary by increasing quality of judges and help reduce the pendency.
  • Timeframe to dispose of cases:
    • Having a definite time frame to dispose the cases by setting annual targets and action plans for the subordinate judiciary and the High Courts. The judicial officers could be issued a strict code of conduct, to ensure that the duties are adequately performed by the officials.
    • Strict regulation of adjournments and imposition of exemplary costs for seeking it on flimsy grounds especially at the trial stage and not permitting dilution of time frames specified in Civil Procedure Code.
  • Better Court Management System & Reliable Data Collection:
    • For this categorization of cases on the basis of urgency and priority along with bunching of cases should be done.
  • Use of Information technology (IT) solutions:
    • The use of technology for tracking and monitoring cases and in providing relevant information to make justice litigant friendly. A greater impetus should be given to
  • Process reengineering:
    • Involves redesigning of core business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in productivity and quality by incorporating the use of technology in court rules. It will include:
    • Electronic filing of cases: e-Courts are a welcome step in this direction, as they give case status and case history of all the pending cases across High courts and Subordinate courts bringing ease of access to information.
    • Revamping of National Judicial Data Grid by introducing a new type of search known as elastic search, which is closer to the artificial intelligence.
  • Alternate dispute resolution (ADR):
    • As stated in the Conference on National Initiative to Reduce Pendency and Delay in Judicial System- Legal Services Authorities should undertake pre-litigation mediation so that the inflow of cases into courts can be regulated.
    • The Lok Adalat should be organized regularly for settling civil and family matters.
    • Gram Nyayalayas, as an effective way to manage small claim disputes from rural areas which will help in decreasing the workload of the judicial institution.
    • Village Legal Care & Support Centre can also be established by the High Courts to work at grass root level to make the State litigation friendly.

Conclusion:

The fundamental requirement of a good judicial administration is accessibility, affordability and speedy justice, which will not be realized until and unless the justice delivery system is made within the reach of the individual in a time bound manner and within a reasonable cost. Therefore, continuous formative assessment is the key to strengthen and reinforce the justice delivery system in India.

Value addition:

Reasons for pendency of Cases:

  • Shortage of judges: around 5,580 or 25% of posts are lying empty in the subordinate courts. It leads to poor Judges to Population Ratio, as India has only 20 judges per million population. Earlier, Law Commission had recommended 50 judges per million.
  • Frequent adjournments: The laid down procedure of allowing a maximum of three adjournments per case is not followed in over 50 per cent of the matters being heard by courts, leading to rising pendency of cases.
  • Low budgetary allocation leading to poor infrastructure: India spends only about 0.09% of its GDP to maintain the judicial infrastructure. Infrastructure status of lower courts of the country is miserably grim due to which they fail to deliver quality judgements. A 2016 report published by the Supreme Court showed that existing infrastructure could accommodate only 15,540 judicial officers against the all-India sanctioned strength of 20,558.
  • Burden of government cases: Statistics provided by LIMBS shows that the Centre and the States were responsible for over 46% of the pending cases in Indian courts.
  • Special leave petition: cases in the Supreme Court, currently comprises to 40% of the court’s pendency. Which eventually leads to reduced time for the cases related to constitutional issues.
  • Judges Vacation: Supreme Court’s works on average for 188 days a year, while apex court rules specify minimum of 225 days of work.
  • Lack of court management systems: Courts have created dedicated posts for court managers to help improve court operations, optimize case movement and judicial time. However only few courts have filled up such posts so far.
  • Inefficient investigation: Police are quite often handicapped in undertaking effective investigation for want of modern and scientific tools to collect evidences.
  • Increasing Literacy: With people becoming more aware of their rights and the obligations of the State towards them, they approach the courts more frequently in case of any violation

Impacts of Judicial Pendency

  • Denial of ‘timely justice’ amounts to denial of ‘justice’ itself: Timely disposal of cases is essential to maintain rule of law and provide access to justice. Speedy trial is a part of right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Erodes social infrastructure: a weak judiciary has a negative effect on social development, which leads to: lower per capita income; higher poverty rates; poorer public infrastructure; and, higher crime rates.
  • Affects human rights: Overcrowding of the prisons, already infrastructure deficient, in some cases beyond 150% of the capacity, results in “violation of human rights”.
  • Affects the economy of the country as it was estimated that judicial delays cost India around 1.5% of its Gross Domestic Product annually.
  • As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, pendency hampers dispute resolution, contract enforcement, discourage investments, stall projects, hamper tax collection and escalate legal costs which lead to Increasing cost of doing business.

 

5. What are the threats posed by Space Debris and mention various technologies available to remove space debris? Comment the need for a holistic debris mitigation protocol. (150 words)

Reference:  Live Mint

Introduction

Space debris is a term for the mass of defunct, artificially created objects in space, most notably in Earth orbit. It includes the fragments from their disintegration, erosion and collisions. Sources of space debris are dead spacecrafts, spent rocket stages, lost equipment, boosters, weapons etc. Space debris has become a pressing issue, with objects in orbit flying out of control, posing a risk to satellites and to astronauts. The European Space Agency estimates there are currently 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1cm, about 900,000 pieces of debris 1–10cm in length, and around 34,000 pieces larger than 10cm in Earth orbit.

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Various technologies to remove space debris:

  • De-orbiting:
    • It involves pushing this junk out of orbit and into the Earth’s atmosphere where it can burn up.
    • The most common approach, is to opt for a controlled re-entry. This solution is quite heavy and expensive, as it requires additional fuel.
  • Laser methods
    • The laser broom uses a ground-based laser to ablate the front of the debris, producing a rocket-like thrust that slows the object.
    • With continued application, the debris would fall enough to be influenced by atmospheric drag.
    • It will burn the space trash. These lasers have been put up in Australia.
  • Remotely controlled vehicles
    • A well-studied solution uses a remotely controlled vehicle to rendezvous with, capture, and return debris to a central station.
    • One such system is Space Infrastructure Servicing, a commercially developed refuelling depot and service spacecraft for communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit originally scheduled for a 2015 launch.
    • The SIS would be able to “push dead satellites into graveyard orbits.”
  • Harpoon
    • The RemoveDEBRIS mission plan is to test the efficacy of several ADR technologies on mock targets in low Earth orbit.
  • Net Capture
    • They pull junk out of orbit using a tether and collect it in a large net.
  • Space Magnet
    • which can attract small pieces of debris and throw it out from Earth’s orbit.
  • Space Bombs
    • which can burn the space junk, without harming any other satellites.

Need for a holistic debris mitigation protocol:

  • Space is a commons, where any nation’s decision to test an anti-satellite weapon, in the process creating gobs of junk, is unpunishable.
  • Space junk is a threat to active satellites, unmanned spacecrafts and spaceships.
  • International space station: Although the ISS uses Whipple shielding to protect itself from minor debris, portions (notably its solar panels) cannot be protected easily.
  • There is also the risk, known as the Kessler Syndrome or Kessler Effect, where one piece of debris breaks off and hits another so that it becomes a cascade, which could end up polluting an entire orbit for satellites.
  • Although most debris burns up in the atmosphere, larger objects can reach the ground intact. According to NASA, an average of one catalogued piece of debris has fallen back to Earth each day for the past 50 years

Way forward

  • An old-fashioned bridge-building between spacefaring nations would help.
  • The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, negotiated during an earlier space race with little input from China, is badly in need of an update.
  • In particular, provisions that grant countries permanent property rights to their objects in space may complicate efforts to clean up debris.
  • Space agencies should fund research into debris-removal technologies—such as those recently demonstrated by Astroscale, a Japanese startup, which hold promise— and consider partnerships with companies developing them.
  • The US should also seek to expand the Artemis Accords, a framework for space cooperation that includes (so far) 11 other countries.
  • As more nations join, debris-mitigation protocols, such as a requirement to specify which country has responsibility for end-of-mission planning, should become routine.

 

Answer the following questions in 250 words:


General Studies – 1


 

7. Marital rape has no place in modern social jurisprudence and is inconsistent with the law as well as the constitutional rights of women. It is long overdue to criminalise martial rape in India. Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

Marital rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the other spouse. Although it was once widely unrecognized by law and society as wrong or as a crime, it is now recognized as rape by many societies around the world. Criminal Law in India has been amended multiple times for the protection of the women. However, the non-criminalization of marital rape in India undermines the dignity and human rights of women. A recent case in High court of Chhattisgarh has rekindled the debate of non-criminalisation of marital rape.

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Current scenario:

  • Marital rape has been impeached in more than 100 countries but, unfortunately, India is one of the only 36 countries where marital rape is still not criminalized.
  • In 2013, the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recommended that the Indian government should criminalize marital rape.
  • The JS Verma committee set up in the aftermath of nationwide protests over the December 16, 2012 gang rape case had also recommended the same.
  • As per the NCRB report, in India, a woman is raped every 16 minutes, and every four minutes, she experiences cruelty at the hands of her in-laws.
  • An analysis of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 data indicates that an estimated 99.1 per cent of sexual violence cases go unreported and that the average Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others.

Marital Rape: inconsistent with the law as well as the constitutional rights of women:

  • Rape laws in our country continue with the patriarchal outlook of considering women to be the property of men post marriage, with no autonomy or agency over their bodies.
  • They deny married women equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
  • Lawmakers fail to understand that a marriage should not be viewed as a licence for a husband to forcibly rape his wife with impunity. A married woman has the same right to control her own body as does an unmarried woman.
  • The concept of marital rape in India is the epitome of what we call an “implied consent”.
  • Marriage between a man and a woman here implies that both have consented to sexual intercourse and it cannot be otherwise.
  • The centre argues that criminalising marital rape would destabilise the institution of marriage and be an easy tool for harassing the husbands.
  • It has cited the observations of the SC and various HCs on growing misuse of Section 498A (harassment caused to a married woman by her husband and in-laws) of IPC.
  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860, also communicates the same. Section 375 defines the offence of rape with the help of six descriptions. One of the exceptions to this offence is “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”.
  • Earlier, Section 375 (Exception) created a classification not only between consent given by a married and unmarried woman, but also between married females below 15 years of age and over 15 years old. This was rightfully struck down by SC and made it 18 years.

Need to criminalize Marital Rape in India

  • The SC judgment was only a small step towards striking down the legalisation of marital rape.
  • It is high time that the legislature should take cognisance of this legal infirmity and bring marital rape within the purview of rape laws by eliminating Section 375 (Exception) of IPC.
  • By removing this law, women will be safer from abusive spouses, can receive the help needed to recover from marital rape and can save themselves from domestic violence and sexual abuse.
  • Indian women deserve to be treated equally, and an individual’s human rights do not deserve to be ignored by anyone, including by their spouse.

Conclusion

Rape is rape, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and age of the survivor. A woman who is raped by a stranger, lives with a memory of a horrible attack; a woman who is raped by her husband lives with her rapist. Our penal laws, handed down from the British, have by and large remained untouched even after 73 years of independence. But English laws have been amended and marital rape was criminalised way back in 1991. No Indian government has, however, so far shown an active interest in remedying this problem.

Value Addition: Important cases and Committee reports

  • The government defended exception to marital rape in Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017) saying it against the institution of marriage.
  • However, rejecting this claim, the Supreme Court observed, “Marriage is not institutional but personal – nothing can destroy the ‘institution’ of marriage except a statute that makes marriage illegal and punishable.”
  • In Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court held that the offence of adultery was unconstitutional because it was founded on the principle that a woman is her husband’s property after marriage.

Way forward:

  • What constitutes marital rape and marital non-rape needs to be defined precisely before a view on its criminalisation is taken.
  • Defining marital rape would call for a broad based consensus of the society.
  • States should intervene in the matter, since criminal law is on the concurrent list and implemented by states —and given the vast diversity in cultures across states.
  • Factors like literacy, lack of financial empowerment of the majority of females, mindset of the society, vast diversity, poverty, etc., should be considered carefully before taking any decision.
  • The need for “moral and social awareness” to stop such an act.
  • The recent privacy judgment by the Supreme Court is also set to play an important role. The right to bodily integrity is a crucial facet of Article 21.
  • Timely medical care and rehabilitation, skill development and employment for facilitating economic independence of victims.
  • Need for undertaking both legal and social reforms to deal with the menace of marital rape


General Studies – 3


 

9. What is the difference between asset monetisation and privatisation? Form a critical analysis of the government’s idea of monetising operating assets to build fresh assets. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

The Government has launched a National Monetisation Pipeline, or NMP to sell public assets or, more precisely, their revenue streams over the next four years. The pipeline mostly includes railway stations, freight corridors, airports, and renovated national highway segments (yielding toll revenue) amounting to ₹6-lakh crore, or 3% of GDP in 2020-21. As outlined in the Union Budget, the NMP aims to mobilise resources for financing infrastructure.

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Difference between asset monetisation and privatisation

  • The NMP differentiates “asset monetisation” from “asset sale” by saying: “Asset Monetisation, as envisaged here, entails a limited period license/lease of an asset, owned by the government or a public authority, to a private sector entity for an upfront or periodic consideration.
  • Asset monetisation as defined above is the same as the net present value (NPV) of the future stream of revenue with an implicit interest rate (whether it is a sale or lease of the asset).
  • Sale, i.e. transfer of legal ownership of assets is only envisaged in cases such as disinvestment of stake, etc.
  • Sale of minority equity does not lead to a change in managerial control.
  • Privatisation on the other hand, seeks to sell state-owned companies to the private sector. It is the conversion of government-held assets to private owners, investors, etc.

Idea of monetising operating assets to build fresh assets

  • The government has stressed that these are brownfield assets, which have been “de-risked” from execution risks, and therefore should encourage private investment.
  • Roads, railways and power sector assets will comprise over 66% of the total estimated value of the assets to be monetised, with the remaining upcoming sectors including telecom, mining, aviation, ports, natural gas and petroleum product pipelines, warehouses and stadiums.
  • In terms of annual phasing by value, 15% of assets with an indicative value of Rs 0.88 lakh crore are envisaged for rollout in the current financial year.
  • The NMP will run co-terminus with the Rs 100 lakh crore National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) announced in December 2019.
  • The estimated amount to be raised through monetisation is around 14% of the proposed outlay for the Centre of Rs 43 lakh crore under NIP.
  • NIP will enable a forward outlook on infrastructure projects which will create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, thereby making growth more inclusive. NIP includes economic and social infrastructure projects.
  • Other Initiatives for Infrastructure Development include Scheme of Financial Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure, Industrial corridors, etc.

Critical Analysis

  • The NMP outlines mainly two modes of implementing the monetisation: public-private partnership (PPP) and “structured financing” to tap the stock market. PPP in infrastructure has been a financial disaster in India, as evident from what happened after the economic boom of 2003-08.
  • After the 2008 financial crisis many PPP projects failed to repay bank loans. Banks were left holding the non-performing assets (NPAs).
  • Further, as the bulk of the lending was to politically connected corporate houses and firms debt resolution came in the cross-hairs of the political and banking system.
  • India is still reeling from the legacy of that period without any easy and credible solutions in sight.
  • The slow pace of privatisation in government companies including Air India and BPCL has not been encouraging.
  • Further, less-than-encouraging bids in the recently launched PPP initiative in trains indicate that attracting private investors’ interest is not that easy.
  • Lack of identifiable revenue streams in various assets is another major problem. This is specifically relevant to the railway sector, which has seen limited PPP success as a mode of project delivery.

Conclusion

Until and unless these systemic problems are addressed, the private sector will find it difficult to harness the full value of these assets and the transfer of operatorship to them will offer at best a partial palliative. Private-public investment structures make sense, but they must be modelled to also generate social value.

 

10. Hydel power projects in the Himalayan belt are fraught with ecological dangers and needs rethinking on its suitability as well as sustainability. The risk is even more with the effects of climate change. Examine. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu  

Introduction

The central government’s unconditional push on renewable energy (RE), in recent years, has motivated the Himalayan states to seek RE status for the hydropower sector. In an affidavit placed in the Supreme Court recently, the Environment Ministry has disclosed that it has permitted seven hydroelectric power projects, which are reportedly in advanced stages of construction. Ecological fragilities of Himalayas as seen through various disasters like the Kedarnath floods of 2013, the cloudburst in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in 2021 have all once again underlined the risk of developing hydropower in the Himalayas.

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Hydel power projects in the Himalayan belt are fraught with ecological dangers:

  • India is heavily invested in dam development and growth of hydropower, largely in the Himalaya region plan to construct dams in 28 river valleys in the hills, to cut carbon emissions.
  • The dangers of such projects include potential earthquake impacts, severe biodiversity loss and, importantly, extreme danger to communities downstream.
  • The HKH region is very rich in globally significant biodiversity, and large hydropower development projects may disturb or destroy the habitats of several terrestrial plant and animal species.
  • Studies in the HKH found that deforestation can occur, leading not only to diversity loss in forest ecosystems, but also affecting the communities depending on forests for their livelihoods.
  • Limited exploitation of hydropower potential is also partly due to problems associated with the geological features of the region.
  • The HKH region is in a seismic zone, so it is imperative to take earthquake resilience into account during construction, to avoid adverse future impacts on populations.
  • The ‘river-bed profile’ across the major HEPs of Uttarakhand has changed significantly, suggesting the possibility of disasters in future.

Impact of climate change on further exacerbating the existing risks:

  • The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate found that in the Himalayan ranges, there could be variations in overall water availability, but floods, avalanches and landslides were all forecast to increase.
  • Changes in monsoonal precipitation could also bring more frequent disasters.
  • Environmental experts have attributed the glacial melting to global warming.
  • Glacier melt and permafrost thaware projected to decrease the stability of mountain slopes and increase the number and area of glacier lakes, which in turn increases the chances of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods.
  • The thermal profile of ice is increasing, which means that the temperature of ice that used to range from -6 to -20 degrees C, was now -2 degrees C, making it more susceptible to melting.
  • It was these changing phenomena that made infrastructure projects in the Himalayan regions risky.
  • Moreover, with increased instances of cloudbursts,and intense spells of rainfall and avalanches, residents of the region were also placed at increased risk of loss of lives and livelihood.

Measures needed:

  • The need of the hour is a pause on hydropower in the Himalayas in order to stop further devastation.
  • Government should adhere to the recommendation made by the expert committees that there should be no hydropower development beyond an elevation of 2,200 meter in the Himalayan region.
  • There needs to be a complete stop to subsidies to the hydropower sector based on the ‘green’ tagging. The ‘renewable’ tag for hydropower should be mulled upon.
  • An independent scientific review or assessment of the immediate or long-term implications of construction work for hydropower development especially in the Himalayas should be commissioned.
  • A revision of terms of reference of impact assessment studies should be done on the basis of this.
  • There should be an independent inquiry or audit of the social, environmental and safety norms compliance of all under-construction and operational projects, specifically projects where accidents have already been reported.
  • Himalayas needs an independent dam safety cell that will have members from all concerned departments.
  • India needs a dam safety law.
  • Citizens’ engagement and public consent mechanisms need to be strengthened at the planning stage and a grievance redressal mechanism for addressing issues brought forth by public needs to be put in place post clearance.

Way forward:

  • Micro-hydel projects may also be promoted, as these have less of an adverse social and environmental impact on local communities.
  • Large, ‘smart’ hydropower projects may be developed, taking into account the economic, environmental and social concerns of local and downstream communities, in addition to national economic benefits.
  • Technical provisions in smart projects can minimize the impacts on aquatic life and terrestrial ecosystems.
  • The need is to rigorously study the impact of policy on the Himalayas and confine hydro projects to those with the least impact, while relying more on low impact run-of-the-river power projects that need no destructive large dams and reservoirs.

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