Daily Current Affairs : 13th April 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Role of Parliamentary Committees
  2. Promissory Estoppel
  3. JUICE Mission
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Role of Parliamentary Committees

Context: Due to the sheer volume of information and scale of operations that the Indian Parliament is required to undertake, it is not feasible to take up all issues on the floor of the House. Thus, Parliamentary committees — panels made up of MPs — are constituted to deal with such situations and take up sector-specific concerns.  

What is Parliamentary Committee?

  • The work done by the Parliament in modern times is not only varied and complex in nature, but also considerable in volume. The time at its disposal is limited. It cannot, therefore, consider all the legislative and other matters that come up before it. A good deal of its business is, therefore, transacted in Committees of the House, known as Parliamentary Committees.
  • Parliamentary Committees are smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties and they function throughout the year.  These smaller groups of MPs study and deliberate on a range of subject matters, Bills, and budgets of all the ministries.
  • Parliamentary Committees act as a mechanism that helps in improving the effectiveness of Parliament.
  • The constitution of India makes a mention of these committees at different places, but without making any specific provisions regarding their composition, tenure, functions, etc.,
  • Accordingly, a parliamentary committee means a committee that:
    • that is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman
    • Works under the direction of the Speaker/Chairman
    • Presents its report to the House or to the Speaker/ Chairman
    • has a secretariat provided by the Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha

Types of parliamentary Committees

  • By their nature, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Standing Committees and Ad hoc Committees.
    • Standing Committees– Standing Committees are permanent and regular committees which are constituted from time to time in pursuance of the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. The work of these Committees is of continuous nature.
      • The Financial Committees, DRSCs and some other Committees come under the category of Standing Committees.
    • Ad hoc Committees- Ad hoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report.
      • The principal Ad hoc Committees are the Select and Joint Committees on Bills.
    • Railway Convention Committee, Joint Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex etc also come under the category of ad hoc Committees.
  • Broadly, the Parliamentary Committees may be classified into the following categories:
    • (a) Financial Committees
    • (b) Departmentally Related Standing Committees.
    • (c) Other Parliamentary Standing Committees; and
    • (d) Ad hoc Committees.

Purpose/ Need of the Parliamentary Committee

  • Parliament has the primary responsibility of making laws and holding the government responsible for its actions.  As representatives of citizens, MPs pass laws, oversee the working of the government and the efficient allocation of public funds.  
  • Over the years, the responsibilities of the government have increased significantly. Government expenditure and legislation have become technical and complex in nature.
  •  While a significant amount of Parliament’s work gets done on the floor of the House, it is difficult for Parliament to scrutinise all government activities in the House in a limited time.  Thus, Parliamentary Committees were constituted to examine proposed legislation, government policies and expenditure in detail.
  • They also examine petitions from the public, check whether rules framed by the government are in consonance with Acts of Parliament and help manage the administration of Parliament. 

What are the role of Parliamentary Committees?

  • Technical Expertise– Parliament deliberates on matters that are complex and therefore needs technical expertise to understand such matters better.  Committees help with this by providing a forum where Members can engage with domain experts and government officials during the course of their study.
    • For example, the Committee on Health and Family Welfare studied the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 which prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy.  As MPs come from varying backgrounds, they may not have had the expertise to understand the details around surrogacy such as fertility issues, abortion, and regulation of surrogacy clinics, among others. 
  • The Committee called upon a range of stakeholders including the National Commission for Women, doctors, and government officials to better their understanding of the issues, before finalising their report.  
  • The Committees go into the details of a specific piece of legislation, analyse the impact it may have on governance indicators, and then make their recommendations. The government is required to table an ‘Action Taken’ report for the House to judge the progress made on the suggestions of the committee. Even though committee reports aren’t binding on the government, it helps the legislature ensure an oversight on the executive.
    • For Example- The Committee on Rural Development & Panchayati Raj in its report noted that the revised estimates always fell short of the budget estimates
  • Committees also provide a forum for building consensus across political parties.  The proceedings of the House during sessions are televised, and MPs are likely to stick to their party positions on most matters.  Committees have closed door meetings, which allows them to freely question and discuss issues and arrive at a consensus.  
  • Another important mandate of Committees is to go into issues that are crucial from a nation-building standpoint but don’t hold as much political significance.
  • The Parliament could consider a compulsory referral, for the Bills that are tabled on the floor, to the appropriate committees. Arming them with more powers will help them ensure accountability from the executive instead of making them toothless tigers. It is essential for the parliamentary ecosystem in India to institutionalise such procedures and not allow political considerations to hasten law-making.

2 . Promissory Estoppel

Context: The Supreme dismissed petitions challenging the Delhi High Court judgment which upheld the Agnipath scheme for recruitment to the armed forces.

Background of the Issue

  • Earlier in the Supreme Court, a case was filed by the candidates who were shortlisted in the earlier recruitment process to Army and Air Force. Advocate Prashant Bhushan who appeared for some of these candidates told the apex court that their names appeared in a provisional list for recruitment to Air Force but the recruitment process was cancelled when Agnipath scheme was notified. He argued that the government must be directed to complete the old process citing the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

What is the doctrine of promissory estoppel?

  • Promissory estoppel is a concept developed in contractual laws.
  • A valid contract under law requires an agreement to be made with sufficient consideration. A claim of doctrine of promissory estoppel essentially prevents a “promisor” from backing out of an agreement on the grounds that there is no “consideration.”
  • The doctrine is invoked in court by a plaintiff (the party moving court in a civil action) against the defendant to ensure execution of a contract or seek compensation for failure to perform the contract.
  • In a 1981 decision in Chhaganlal Keshavalal Mehta v. Patel Narandas Haribhai, the SC lists out a checklist for when the doctrine can be applied.
    • First, there must be a clear and unambiguous promise.
    • Second, the plaintiff must have acted relying reasonably on that promise. Third, the plaintiff must have suffered a loss.

How does it relate to the Agnipath case?

  • This doctrine essentially means that the government’s actions of putting up a shortlist etc would be a “promise” made by it. The other party here — the candidates acted based on that promise — they refused other jobs in CRPF, BSF etc and now must be compensated for their loss.
  • However, the judges quickly refused this argument. CJI DY Chandrachud pointed out that “promissory estoppel is always subject to overarching public interest”
  • Justice PS Narasimha added that “this is not a contract matter where promissory estoppel in public law was applied, it is a public employment” and that “the question of applying this principle will not arise in this case”.

3 . JUICE Mission

Context: The European Space Agency (ESA) is all set to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice, mission from its spaceport in French Guiana on an Ariane 5 launcher. Planned to reach Jupiter in 2031, the mission aims to carry out a detailed exploration of the Solar System’s largest planet and its icy moons, which potentially have habitable environments.

What is the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) mission?

  • Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice, mission will make detailed observations of the giant gas planet and its three large ocean-bearing moons — Ganymede, Callisto and Europa”, by using remote sensing, geophysical and in situ instruments.
  • Scientists have known that these three moons of Jupiter possess icy crusts, which they believe contain oceans of liquid water underneath, making them potentially habitable. Juice will help probe these water bodies by creating detailed maps of the moons’ surfaces and enable the scientists, for the first time, to look beneath them.
  • Although the mission will examine all three moons, the main focus will be on Ganymede, as it is the largest moon in the Solar System — larger than Pluto and Mercury — and the only one to generate its own magnetic field.
  • Another primary goal of the mission is to create a comprehensive picture of Jupiter by trying to understand its origin, history and evolution.
  • This mission would help them provide “much-needed insight into how such a planetary system and its constituents are formed and evolved over time, as well as revealing how possibly habitable environments can arise in Jupiter-like systems around other stars.”
  • Juice will also analyse the chemistry, structure, dynamics, weather, and climate of Jupiter and its ever-changing atmosphere.
  • Juice has been constructed by an industrial consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space — a division of the Airbus group responsible for the development and manufacturing of the corporation’s defence and space products — based on the parameters provided by the ESA.
  • Only two other spacecraft have ever examined Jupiter:
    • the Galileo probe, which orbited the gas giant between 1995 and 2003, and
    •  Juno, which has been circling the planet since 2016.
    • Notably, by the time Juice reaches Jupiter, another spacecraft, NASA’s Europa Clipper, would already be orbiting the planet — scheduled to be launched in October this year, Europa Clipper would arrive at Jupiter in 2030 and aims to study its Europa moon.

Is Juice capable of detecting life?

  • As the three moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, are believed to hold immense amounts of water, which could be around six times more than the volume of water in Earth’s oceans, there is a possibility that life is present on them.
  • However, Juice isn’t equipped to detect life. What it is capable of is finding out whether there could be places around Jupiter, inside the icy moons, where the necessary conditions, such as water, biological essential elements, energy, and stability, to sustain life are present.

4 . Facts For Prelims

International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme

  • The International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme of the FAA determines whether a country’s oversight of its airlines that operate or wish to operate to the U.S. or enter into codeshare partnerships with U.S. carriers comply with safety standards established by the UN aviation watchdog, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • The IASA program is administered by the FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety (AVS), Flight Standards Service (AFS), International Programs and Policy Division (AFS-50). 
  • The IASA program focuses on a country’s ability, not the ability of individual air carriers, to adhere to international aviation safety standards and recommended practices contained in the International Convention on Civil Aviation “Chicago Convention” (ICAO Document 7300).  
  • The IASA program focuses on three broad areas, which include personnel licensing, operation of aircraft and airworthiness of aircraft.
  • The IASA Program is conducted under the provisions of the Chicago Convention and applicable air transport agreements.
  • ICAO standards are presumptively binding on ICAO Member States as signatories to the Chicago Convention.

Chicago Convention

  • The Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with coordinating international air travel.
  • The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, security, and sustainability, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel. The Convention also contains provisions pertaining to taxation.

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