Daily Current Affairs : 18th, 19th and 20th February

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Permanent Commission for Women officers
  2. State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB) assessment
  3. Peninsular Command
  4. RBIs accounting year
  5. Appointment of CVC & CIC
  6. Aditya L1 Misison
  7. Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020
  8. Swach Bharat Mission second Phase 2
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . Permanent Commission for Women officers


Context : The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype” and declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.

Background

  • The verdict came on a nearly 10-year-old appeal filed by the government against a March 12, 2010 decision of the Delhi High Court to grant SSC women officers permanent commission. The Supreme Court ordered the government to implement its judgment in three months.

About the Judgement


2 . State of India’s Birds 2020


Context : Over a fifth of India’s bird diversity, ranging from the Short-toed Snake Eagle to the Sirkeer Malkoha, has suffered strong long-term declines over a 25-year period, while more recent annual trends point to a drastic 80% loss among several common birds, a new scientific report jointly released by 10 organisations.

About State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB) assessment

  • The report is the first such assessment of long-term trend, current trend, distribution range size and overall conservation status of 867 bird species.
  • The report has been prepared on the basis of more than 10 million observations contributed by more than 15,000 birdwatchers on eBird platform.
  • The Report was produced in a partnership that included ATREE, BNHS, Foundation for Ecological Security, NCF, National Biodiversity Authority of India, National Centre for Biological Sciences, SACON (Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History), Wetlands International, WII and WWF.

Key Findings

  • The State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB) assessment raises the alarm that several spectacular birds, many of them endemic to the sub-continent, face a growing threat from loss of habitat due to human activity, widespread presence of toxins including pesticides, hunting and trapping for the pet trade.
  • Diminishing population sizes of many birds because of one factor brings them closer to extinction because of the accelerated effects of others
  • For every bird species that was found to be increasing in numbers over the long term, 11 have suffered losses, some catastrophically.
  • Of 101 species categorised as being of High Conservation Concern — 59 based on range and abundance and the rest included from high-risk birds on the IUCN Red List — endemics such as the Rufous-fronted Prinia, Nilgiri Thrush, Nilgiri Pipit and Indian vulture were confirmed as suffering current decline, and all except 13 had a restricted or highly restricted range, indicating greater vulnerability to man-made threats.

Specific Species

  • Common sparrow, long seen as declining in urban spaces, has a stable population overall, although the data from major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai confirm the view that they have become rare in cities and urban areas. Among the possible reasons for this is a decrease in insect populations as well as nesting places, but there is no conclusive evidence in the scientific literature on radiation from mobile phone towers playing a part.
  • Peafowl, on the other hand, are rising in numbers, expanding their range into places such as Kerala, which is drying overall, and areas in the Thar desert where canals and irrigation have been introduced. Stricter protection for peacocks under law also could be at work.
  • One of India’s major conservation concerns, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), is being brought back from the brink. Having lost about 90% of its population and range over a five-decade period, a viable population of GIB at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is the focus of programmes run by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Birdlife International and other agencies, to eliminate the threat of fatal collisions with power lines.
  • Looking at the health of avifauna based on scientific groupings such as raptors (birds of prey), habitat, diet, migratory status and endemicity (exclusively found in an area), the analysis concludes that raptors overall are in decline, with ‘open country’ species such as the Pallid and Montagu Harriers, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Red-necked Falcon suffering the most. The severe long-term decline of vultures, recorded and analysed for years now, is underscored by the report.
  • Migratory shorebirds, along with gulls and terns, seem to have declined the most among waterbirds, the report states, consistent with population trends among Arctic-breeding shorebirds based on independent assessments. Within India, the losses suffered by resident waterbirds, particularly in the past five years, calls for detailed investigation, it adds.

Way Forward

  • Forward-looking actions suggested by the report include an update to the Red List of endangered species published by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) using the SoIB, collaborative research by scientists and citizens aided by policy with special emphasis on removing gaps in data, and urgent emphasis on habitats of species of high concern, notably grasslands, scrublands, wetlands and the Western Ghats.
  • “Habitat loss and fragmentation are known causes of species declines in general, but targeted research is needed to pinpoint causes of decline.”

3 . Peninsular Command


About the Idea of Peninsular command

  • General Rawat said that an Indian Ocean-centered Peninsular Command, possibly formed by merging the Eastern and Western Naval Commands, should start shaping up by the end of next year.
  • Security of peninsular India should be the responsibility of one Commander.
  • Currently, the Western Naval Command, based in Mumbai, focuses on the western seaboard, while the Eastern Command keeps vigil over the Bay of Bengal zone till the Malacca Straits.

4 . RBI’s Accounting Year


Context : The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is aligning its July-June accounting year with the government’s April-March fiscal year in order to ensure more effective management of the country’s finances.

How did the RBI’s July-June accounting year come to be?

  • When it commenced operations on April 1, 1935, with Sir Osborne Smith as its first Governor, the RBI followed a January-December accounting year. On March 11, 1940, however, the bank changed its accounting year to July-June.
  • Now, after nearly eight decades, the RBI is making another switch: the next accounting year will be a nine-month period from July 2020 to March 31, 2021 and thereafter, all financial years will start from April, as it happens with the central and state governments.

Why are RBI’s accounts important?

  • The RBI’s balance sheet plays a critical role in the functioning of the country’s economy — largely reflecting the activities carried out in pursuance of its currency issue function, as well as monetary policy and reserve management objectives.
  • The RBI Act says the central bank “shall undertake to accept monies for account of the Central Government and to make payments up to the amount standing to the credit of, and to carry out (its exchange), remittance and other banking operations, including the management of the public debt”.
  • The RBI is the country’s monetary authority, regulator, and supervisor of the financial system, manager of foreign exchange, issuer of currency, regulator and supervisor of payment and settlement systems, banker to the central and the state governments, and also banker to banks.

But why is the system being changed?

  • The Bimal Jalan Committee on Economic Capital Framework (ECF) of the RBI had proposed a more transparent presentation of the RBI’s annual accounts, and a change in its accounting year to April-March from the financial year 2020-21. It said the RBI would be able to provide better estimates of projected surplus transfers to the government for the financial year for budgeting purposes.
  • It is also expected to result in better management of transfer of dividend or surplus to the government. Moreover, as governments, companies, and other institutions follow the April-March year, it will help with effective management of accounting. In May 2018, when Urjit Patel was Governor, the RBI appointed its first ever Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Sudha Balakrishnan.

What will be impact of the change?

  • The change in the fiscal year could reduce the need for interim dividend being paid by the RBI, and such payments may then be restricted to extraordinary circumstances. It will obviate any timing considerations that may enter into the selection of open market operations or Market Stabilization Scheme as monetary policy tools. It will also bring greater cohesiveness in monetary policy projections and reports published by the RBI, which mostly use the fiscal year as the base.
  • Last fiscal, the RBI paid Rs 28,000 crore as interim dividend; in 2017-18, the government received Rs 10,000 crore. In RBI’s balance sheet, while capital and reserve fund are explicitly shown, other sources of financial resilience are grouped under ‘Other Liabilities and Provisions’ and enumerated via Schedules, making it difficult to arrive at total risk provisions, the Jalan panel said.
  • In August 2019, the RBI transferred Rs 1,76,051 crore to government, comprising Rs 1,23,414 crore of surplus for 2018-19, and Rs 52,637 crore of excess provisions identified as per revised ECF proposed by the Jalan panel.

5 . Aditya-L1 Mission


About Aditya L1 Mission

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to send its first scientific expedition to study the Sun. Named Aditya-L1, the mission, expected to be launched early next year, will observe the Sun from a close distance, and try to obtain information about its atmosphere and magnetic field.
  • ISRO categorises Aditya L1 as a 400 kg-class satellite, that will be launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in XL configuration.
  • The space-based observatory will have seven payloads (instruments) on board to study the Sun’s corona, solar emissions, solar winds and flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and will carry out round-the-clock imaging of the Sun.
  • The mission will be undertaken in collaboration between various labs of ISRO, along with institutions like the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata. Aditya L1 will be ISRO’s second space-based astronomy mission after AstroSat, which was launched in September 2015.
  • What makes a solar mission challenging is the distance of the Sun from Earth (about 149 million km on average, compared to the only 3.84 lakh km to the Moon) and, more importantly, the super hot temperatures and radiations in the solar atmosphere.

But why is studying the Sun important?

  • Every planet, including Earth and the exoplanets beyond the Solar System, evolves — and this evolution is governed by its parent star. The solar weather and environment, which is determined by the processes taking place inside and around the sun, affects the weather of the entire system. Variations in this weather can change the orbits of satellites or shorten their lives, interfere with or damage onboard electronics, and cause power blackouts and other disturbances on Earth. Knowledge of solar events is key to understanding space weather.
  • To learn about and track Earth-directed storms, and to predict their impact, continuous solar observations are needed. Every storm that emerges from the Sun and heads towards Earth passes through L1, and a satellite placed in the halo orbit around L1 of the Sun-Earth system has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/eclipses, ISRO says on its website.
  • L1 refers to Lagrangian/Lagrange Point 1, one of five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system. Lagrange Points, named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system (like the Sun and the Earth) produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion. These can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position. The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  •  The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard is seen in this August 10, 2018 picture. (Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls).
  • The L1 point is about 1.5 million km from Earth, or about one-hundredth of the way to the Sun. Aditya L1 will perform continuous observations looking directly at the Sun. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has already gone far closer — but it will be looking away from the Sun. The earlier Helios 2 solar probe, a joint venture between NASA and space agency of erstwhile West Germany, went within 43 million km of the Sun’s surface in 1976.

What kind of heat will Aditya L1 face?

  • The Parker Solar Probe’s January 29 flyby was the closest the spacecraft has gone to the Sun in its planned seven-year journey so far. Computer modelling estimates show that the temperature on the Sun-facing side of the probe’s heat shield, the Thermal Protection System, reached 612 degrees Celsius, even as the spacecraft and instruments behind the shield remained at about 30°C, NASA said. During the spacecraft’s three closest perihelia in 2024-25, the TPS will see temperatures around 1370°C.
  • Aditya L1 will stay much farther away, and the heat is not expected to be a major concern for the instruments on board. But there are other challenges.
  • Many of the instruments and their components for this mission are being manufactured for the first time in the country, presenting as much of a challenge as an opportunity for India’s scientific, engineering, and space communities. One such component is the highly polished mirrors which would be mounted on the space-based telescope.
  • Due to the risks involved, payloads in earlier ISRO missions have largely remained stationary in space; however, Aditya L1 will have some moving components, scientists said. For example, the spacecraft’s design allows for multiple operations of the front window of the telescope — which means the window can be opened or shut as required.

6 . Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020


Context : The Union Cabinet has approved a historic Bill for the welfare of Women in the Country – the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2020. 

Background

  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. India has one of the highest growths in the ART centers and the number of ART cycles performed every year. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), has given hope to a multitude of persons suffering from infertility, but also introduced a plethora of legal, ethical and social issues.
  • India has become one of the major centres of this global fertility industry, with reproductive medical tourism becoming a significant activity. Clinics in India offer nearly all the ART services—gamete donation, intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF, ICSI, PGD and gestational surrogacy. However, in spite of so much activity in India, there is yet no standardisation of protocols and reporting is still very inadequate.
  • The need to regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology Services is mainly to protect the affected Women and the Children from exploitation. The oocyte donor needs to be supported by an insurance cover, protected from multiple embryo implantation and children born through Assisted reproductive technology should be provided all rights equivalent to a Biological Children. The cryopreservation of sperm, oocytes and embryo by the ART Banks needs to be regulated and the bill intends to make Pre-Genetic Implantation Testing mandatory for the benefit of the child born through assisted reproductive technology.

About the Bill

  • The bill makes provisions for safe and ethical practice of assisted reproductive technology services in the country. Through the bill, the National Board, the State Boards, the National Registry and the State Registration Authorities respectively will regulate and supervise assisted reproductive technology clinics and assisted reproductive technology banks.
  • Once the Bill is enacted by the Parliament, the Central Government shall notify the date of the commencement of the Act. Consequently, the National Board will be constituted.
  • The National Board shall lay down code of conduct to be observed by persons working at clinics, to set the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory and diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by clinics and banks.
  • The States and Union Territories shall constitute the State Boards and State Authorities within three months of the notification by the Central Government.
  • The State Board shall have the responsibility to follow the policies and plans laid by the National Board for clinics and Banks in the State. 
  • The Bill also provides for National Registry and Registration Authority to maintain a Central database and assist the National Board in its functioning.  The Bill also proposes for a stringent punishment for those practising sex selection, sale of human embryos or gametes, running agencies/rackets/organisations for such unlawful practices.    
  • The Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2020 is the most recent, in a series of legislations approved by the Union Cabinet to protect and safeguard the reproductive rights of women.

Benefits

  • The major benefit of the Act would be that it will regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology services in the country.  Consequently, infertile couples will be more ensured/confident of the ethical practices in ARTs.

Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020

  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing National Board at the central level and State Boards and Appropriate Authorities in the States and Union Territories. The Bill has been examined by the Select Committee and the report has been tabled in the Rajya Sabha on the 5th of February 2020.
  • The major benefit of the Act would be that it will regulate the surrogacy services in the country. While commercial surrogacy will be prohibited including sale and purchase of human embryos and gametes, ethical surrogacy to the Indian Married couple, Indian Origin Married Couple and Indian Single Woman (only widow or Divorcee) will be allowed on fulfillment of certain conditions. As such, it will control the unethical practices in surrogacy, prevent commercialization of surrogacy and will prohibit potential exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy.

Medical Termination Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (34 of 1971) was enacted to provide for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The said Act recognised the importance of safe, affordable, accessible abortion services to women who need to terminate pregnancy under certain specified conditions. Besides this, several Writ Petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court and various High Courts seeking permission for aborting pregnancies at gestational age beyond the present permissible limit on the grounds of foetal abnormalities or pregnancies due to sexual violence faced by women.
  • Taken together, the three proposed legislations create an environment of safeguards for women’s reproductive rights, addressing changing social contexts and technological advances.

7 . Swach Bharat Mission second Phase 2


Context : The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Phase II of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) [SBM (G)] till 2024-25, which will focus on Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus), which includes ODF sustainability and Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM). The program will also work towards ensuring that no one is left behind and everyone uses a toilet. 

About Phase II

  • Under the program, provision for incentive of Rs.12,000/- for construction of Individual Household Toilet (IHHL) to the newly emerging eligible households as per the existing norms will continue.
  • Funding norms for Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) have been rationalized and changed to per capita basis in place of no. of households. Additionally, financial assistance to the Gram Panchayats (GPs) for construction of Community Managed Sanitary Complex (CMSC) at village level has been increased from Rs.2 lakh to Rs.3 lakh per CMSC
  • SBM (G) Phase-II will also be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25   in a mission mode This will be a novel model of convergence between different verticals of financing. Of this Rs.52,497 crore will be allocated from the budget of D/o Drinking Water and Sanitation while the remaining amount will be dovetailed from the funds being released under 15th Finance Commission, MGNREGS and revenue generation models particularly for solid and liquid waste management.
  • The programme will be implemented by the States/UTs as per the operational guidelines which will be issued to the States shortly. The fund sharing pattern between Centre and States will be 90:10 for North-Eastern States and Himalayan States and UT of J&K; 60:40 for other States; and 100:0 for other Union Territories, for all the components. 
  • The SLWM component of ODF Plus will be monitored on the basis of output-outcome indicators for four key areas: plastic waste management, bio-degradable solid waste management (including animal waste management), greywater management and fecal sludge management.
  • The rural sanitation coverage in the country at the time of launch of SBM (G) on 02.10.2014 was reported as 38.7%.  More than 10 crore individual toilets have been constructed since the launch of the mission; as a result, rural areas in all the States have declared themselves ODF as on 2nd October, 2019.  The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) has, however, advised all the States to reconfirm that there are no rural households that still don’t have access to a toilet, and provide the necessary support to any such identified households to build individual household toilets in order to ensure that no one is left behind under the programme.

Benefits

  • The approval by the Cabinet to SBM Phase II will help the rural India effectively handle the challenge of solid and liquid waste management and will help in substantial improvement in the health of the villagers in the country.
  • The SBM-G Phase II will continue to generate employment and provide impetus to the rural economy through construction of household toilets and community toilets, as well as infrastructure for SLWM such as compost pits, soak pits, waste stabilisation ponds, material recovery facilities etc.

8 . Appointment of CVC & CIC


Context : Sanjay Kothari tipped to be CVC; Bimal Julka is CIC

Central Vigilance Commission

About CVC

  • The Central Vigilance Commission was set up by the Government in February,1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention  of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.
  • CVC are conceived to be the apex vigilance institution, free of control from any executive authority, monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government and advising various authorities in Central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilant work.
  • The CVC Bill was passed by both the houses of Parliament in 2003 and the President gave its assent on September 11, 2003. Thus the Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003 (No45 0f 2003) came into effect from that date.
  • The Commission shall consist of:
    • A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;
    • Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members;

Appointment of CVC

  • The appointment of CVC as well as that of the VCs is required to be made by the President by warrant under his hand and seal on the recommendations of a committee consisting of:
    • The Prime Minister,
    • The Minister of Home Affairs, and
    • Leader of the Opposition in the House of people or majority group leader in parliament.

Commission’s Jurisdiction under CVC Act

  • Members of All India Service serving in connection with the affairs of the Union and Group A officers of the Central Government
  • Officers of the rank of Scale V and above in the Public Sector Banks
  • Officers in Grade D and above in Reserve Bank of India, NABARD and SIDBI
  • Chief Executives and Executives on the Board and other officers of E-8 and above in Schedule ‘A’ and ‘B’ Public Sector Undertakings
  • Chief Executives and Executives on the Board and other officers of E-7 and above in Schedule ‘C’ and ‘D’ Public Sector Undertakings
  • Managers and above in General Insurance Companies
  • Senior Divisional Managers and above in Life Insurance Corporations
  • Officers drawing salary of Rs.8700/- p.m. and above on Central Government D.A. pattern, as on the date of the notification and as may be revised from time to time in Societies and other Local Authorities

Roles & Functions

  • Exercise superintendence over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CBI) insofar as it relates to the investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; or an offence under the Cr.PC for certain categories of public servants – section 8(1)(a);
  • Give directions to the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CBI) for superintendence insofar as it relates to the investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 – section 8(1)(b);
  • To inquire or cause an inquiry or investigation to be made on a reference by the Central Government – section 8(1)(c);
  • To inquire or cause an inquiry or investigation to be made into any complaint received against any official belonging to such category of officials specified in sub-section 2 of Section 8 of the CVC Act, 2003 – section 8(1)(d);
  • Review the progress of investigations conducted by the DSPE into offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 or an offence under the Cr.PC – section (8)(1)(e);
  • Review the progress of the applications pending with the competent authorities for sanction of prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 – section 8(1)(f);
  • Tender advice to the Central Government and its organizations on such matters as may be referred to it by them – section 8(1) (g);
  • Exercise superintendence over the vigilance administrations of the various Central Government Ministries, Departments and Organizations of the Central Government – section 8(1)(h);
  • Shall have all the powers of a Civil court while conducting any inquiry – section 11;
  • Respond to Central Government on mandatory consultation with the Commission before making any rules or regulations governing the vigilance or disciplinary matters relating to the persons appointed to the public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or to members of the All India Services – section 19.
  • The Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) is the Chairperson and the Vigilance Commissioners (Members) of the Committee, on whose recommendations, the Central Government appoints the Director of Enforcement – section 25.
  • The Committee concerned with the appointment of the Director of Enforcement is also empowered to recommend, after consultation with the Director of Enforcement appointment of officers to the posts of the level of Deputy Director and above in the Directorate of Enforcement – section 25;
  • The Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) is also the Chairperson and the Vigilance Commissioners (Members) of the Committee empowered to recommend after consultation with the Director (CBI), appointment of officers to the post about the level of SP and above except Director and also recommend the extension or curtailment of tenure of such officers in the DSPE (CBI) – Section 26 and Section 4C of DSPE Act, 1946.

Central Information Commission

How is Central Information Commission constituted?

  • Under the provision of Section-12 of RTI Act 2005 the Central Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette,constitute a body to be known as the Central Information Commission.
  • The Central Information Commission shall consist of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and such number of Central Information Commissioners not exceeding 10 as may be deemed necessary.

What is the eligibility criteria and what is the process of appointment of CIC/IC?

  • Section 12(3) of the RTI Act 2005 provides as follows.
    • The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
    • The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha ; and
    • A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology,social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.
  • Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be , or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.

What is the term of office and other service conditions of CIC?

  • Section 13 of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall not be eligible for reappointment:
  • Section 13(5)(a) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.

What are the powers and functions of Information Commissions?

  • Complaints
    Section-18. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall be the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person,—
    • Who has been unable to submit a request to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, either by reason that no such officer has been appointed under this Act, or because the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has refused to accept his or her application for information or appeal under this Act for forwarding the same to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer or senior officer specified in sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be;
    • Who has been refused access to any information requested under this Act;
    • Who has not been given a response to a request for information or access to information within the time limit specified under this Act;
    • Who has been required to pay an amount of fee which he or she considers unreasonable;
    • Who believes that he or she has been given incomplete, misleading or false information under this Act; and
    • In respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.
  • Where the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission,as the case may be, is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof.
  • The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall, while inquiring into any matter under this section, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in respect of the following matters, namely:—
    • (a) Summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce the documents or things;
    • (b) Requiring the discovery and inspection of documents;
    • (c) Receiving evidence on affidavit;
    • (d) Requisitioning any public record or copies thereof from any court or office;
    • (e) Issuing summons for examination of witnesses or documents; and
    • (f) Any other matter, which may be prescribed.
  • Notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other Act of Parliament or State Legislature, as the case may be, the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may, during the inquiry of any complaint under this Act, examine any record to which this Act applies which is under the control of the public authority, and no such record may be withheld from it on any ground.
  • Appeals
    Section-19 –
    • (1) Any person who, does not receive a decision within the time specified
      in sub-section (1) or clause (a) of sub-section (3) of section 7, or is aggrieved by a
      decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer,as the case may be, may within thirty days from the expiry of such period or from thereceipt of such a decision prefer an appeal to such officer who is senior in rank to theCentral Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be, in each public authority: Provided that such officer may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of thirty days if he or she is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.
    • Where an appeal is preferred against an order made by a Central Public
      Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under
      section 11 to disclose third party information, the appeal by the concerned third party shall be made within thirty days from the date of the order.
    • A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within
      ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was
      actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission: Provided that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.
    • If the decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public
      Information Officer, as the case may be, against which an appeal is preferred relates to information of a third party, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, shall give a reasonable opportunity of being heard to that third party.
    • In any appeal proceeding, the onus to prove that a denial of a request was
      justified shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, who denied the request.
    • An appeal under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be disposed of within
      thirty days of the receipt of the appeal or within such extended period not exceeding a total of forty-five days from the date of filing thereof, as the case may be, for reasons to be recorded in writing.
    • The decision of the Central Information Commission or State Information
      Commission, as the case may be, shall be binding.
    • In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information
      Commission, as the case may be, has the power to—
      (a) Require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to
      secure compliance with the provisions of this Act, including—
      • By providing access to information, if so requested, in a particular form;
      • By appointing a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be;
      • By publishing certain information or categories of information;
      • By making necessary changes to its practices in relation to the maintenance, management and destruction of records;
      • (v) By enhancing the provision of training on the right to information for its
        officials;
      • (vi) By providing it with an annual report in compliance with clause (b) of subsection (1) of section 4; (b) Require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered; (c) Impose any of the penalties provided under this Act; (d) Reject the application.
    • The Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the
      case may be, shall give notice of its decision, including any right of appeal, to
      the complainant and the public authority.)
    • The Central Information Commission or State Information
      Commission, as the case may be, shall decide the appeal in accordance with
      such procedure as may be prescribed.
  • Penalties
    Section-20 –
  • (1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information
    Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees:
    Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public
    Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of
    being heard before any penalty is imposed on him
    Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and
    diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public
    Information Officer.
  • (2) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information
    Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is
    of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public
    Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause and
    persistently, failed to receive an application for information or has not furnished
    information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely
    denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or
    misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request
    or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall recommend for
    disciplinary action against the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public
    Information Officer, as the case may be, under the service rules applicable to him.

What is Reporting Procedure

  • Section 25 of the RTI Act 2005 provides that (1) the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission ,as the case may be, shall ,as soon as practicable after the end of each year, prepare a report on the implementation of the provisions of this Act during that year and forward a copy thereof to the appropriate Government.
  • (2)Each Ministry or Department shall, in relation to the Public Authorities within their jurisdiction, collect and provide such information to the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission ,as the case may be, as is required to prepare the report under this section and comply with the requirements concerning the furnishing of that information and keeping of records for the purposes of this section.
  • (3)Each report shall state in respect of the year to which the report relates-
    • (a)The number of request made to each public authority;
    • (b) The number of decisions where applicants were not entitled to access to the document pursuant to the requests, the provision of this act under which these decisions were made and number of times such provisions were invoked;
    • (c) The number of appeals referred to the the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission ,as the case may be, for review, the nature of appeals and outcomes of the appeals;
      Particulars of any disciplinary action taken against any officer in respect of the administration of this Act;
    • (e) The amount of charges collected by each public authority under this Act;
    • (f) Any facts which indicate an effort by the public authorities to administer and implement the spirit and intention of this Act;
    • (g) Recommendations for reform, including recommendations in respect of particular public authorities, for the development, improvement, modernization, reforms or amendments to this Act or other legislation or common law or any other matter relevant for operationalising the right to access information.

9 . Facts for Prelims


Multi Role Helicopters

SUTRA PIC

  • The government has unveiled a programme to research on ‘indigenous’ cows.
  • It is to be funded by multiple scientific ministries, the initiative, SUTRA PIC, is led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). It has the Department of Biotechnology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) among others and the Indian Council of Medical Research as partners.
  • SUTRA PIC or Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows, has five themes: Uniqueness of Indigenous Cows, Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Medicine and Health, Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Agricultural Applications, Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Food and Nutrition, Prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items, according to a concept note on the DST website.
  • Researchers from academic organisations as well as “capable voluntary organisations (NGOs) active in India with proven record of accomplishment in executing S&T-based R&D projects,” were invited to apply for funding.
  • “The proposals under this theme should aim to perform scientific research on complete characterisation of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows; scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods; development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian-origin cow,” says the 22-page note explaining the objectives of the programme.

Imports from China

  • According to an analysis by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), submitted to the Centre, China supplies 43% of India’s imports of the top 20 goods, that India buys from the coronavirus-affected country, including mobile handsets ($7.2 billion import from China), computers ($3 billion), integrated circuits, and other inputs ($7.5 billion), fertilisers ($1.5 billion), Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients ($1.4 billion) and antibiotics ($1.1 billion).

Force majeure

  • Force majeure is a situation, which refers to extraordinary events and circumstances beyond human control
  • The move provides some relief to companies with central government contracts forced to default on contract obligations due to delays in input shipments from China.
  • “A doubt has arisen if the disruption of the supply chains due to coronavirus in China or any other country will be covered in the Force Majeure clause. In this regard, it is clarified that it should be considered as a case of natural calamity and FM may be invoked, wherever considered appropriate…” said the memo.
  • “This would avoid imposition of penalties and other negative consequences on the companies executing government contracts who may be dependent on supplies from affected areas,” said a senior official.
  • The memo noted that an FM clause “does not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspends it for the duration of the FM. The firm has to give notice of FM as soon as it occurs and it cannot be claimed ex-post facto.”

Salwa Judum

  • Salwa Judum’ or ‘Campaign for Peace’ in Chhattisgarh was part of an official plan to create a civil vigilante structure parallel to that of the Naxalites.
  • Authorities often involve tribal villagers to strengthen the fight against the Maoists who began their insurgency about four decades ago.
  • The anti-Naxalite movement initially started as a government-backed people’s resistance movement against the Naxalites. The movement that was initially an uprising of local indigenous people in Chhattisgarh, was adopted by the state government to restore democratic rule to regions where the Naxalites had established themselves by force.
  • Over the years a number of SPOs or ‘Special Police Officers’ have been trained from amongst the state’s tribal population. But according various human rights agencies, far from being a peaceful campaign, the Salwa Judum activists are armed with guns, lathis and bows and arrows in their fight against the Naxals.
  • As the power of the Salwa Judum grew with bipartisan support in the state, reports of excesses was highlighted by the media, including people being forcibly picked up from their villages, forced migration and violence.
  • A report by an expert group of Planning Commission in 2008 said in many places local inhabitants formed resistance groups when the Naxalites severely interfered with their traditional life style. However these resistance groups were converted into vigilante groups sponsored by the authorities over a period of time.
  • While some members of this group are appointed as Special Police Officers, some of them are given arms training and are provided with fire arms. Often these vigilante groups fight with armed Naxalite groups making the tribals fight the tribals
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