Daily Current Affairs : 14th February 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Supreme Court Verdict on J& K Delimitation commission
  2. Draft Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill
  3. Office of Profit case
  4. Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati
  5. Facts for Prelims – ICHR,

1 . Supreme Court Verdict on Delimitation Commission

Context:  The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the constitution of the Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission to readjust constituencies in the new Union Territory.

About the petition

  • Notification was issued by the Centre in March 2020 establishing the Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission and a second one in March 2021 extending its term for the purpose of conducting delimitation only for Jammu and Kashmir
  • The petition challenged the Centre’s decision to constitute a Delimitation Commission for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir under provisions of the Delimitation Act, 2002, and the exercise of delimitation of assembly constituencies undertaken by the Commission on the basis of the 2011 Census.
  • The petitioners had argued that only the Election Commission of India, under Section 60 of the 2019 Act, was empowered to conduct the delimitation exercise. They had further argued before the Bench that Article 170 of the Constitution barred delimitation exercise on the basis of the 2011 census. It has to either happen on the basis of the 2001 census or await “the first census after the year 2026”.

What is the supreme court verdict on Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation commission?

  • On the legality of the Centre setting up a Delimitation Commission by notification dated March 6, 2020, the bench said that “The J&K Reorganisation Act which created the two new Union territories assigns the role of readjustment of constituencies to the Delimitation Commission under the Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • Article 4 of the Constitution permits the Parliament to incorporate such provisions in the law made in accordance with Article 3 for the formation of new States and Union territories, which may be necessary to give effect to the provisions of the law. Such a law may also contain provisions as to representations in Parliament and in the Legislature of the State or States affected by such law.
  • Therefore, such law which is made under Article 3 can always provide for readjustment of the Constituencies in the newly constituted States or Union territories through the Delimitation Commission. Hence, the bench holds that there is no illegality associated with the establishment of the Delimitation Commission under the impugned Order dated 6th March 2020”
  • “Once the Delimitation Commission was established, there is nothing wrong if the central government extended the period of appointment of the Chairperson till the task of delimitation/readjustment was completed,” Justice Oka, who authored the judgment, concluded.
  • Justice Oka had said the notifications drew their power specifically from Section 62(2) of the 2019 Act. Section 62(2) provided for the readjustment of constituencies to be carried out by the Delimitation Commission.

What is delimitation?

  • Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of the Lok Sabha or Assembly constituencies, the Election Commission of India states.
  •  The process is carried out in accordance with changes in the demographic status of a State or Union Territory. Delimitation is done by a Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission. The orders of the independent body cannot be questioned before any court.

What is the J&K Delimitation Commission?

  • Before the abrogation of Article 370 that accorded a special status to J&K, delimitation of its Assembly seats was carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957. The delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies, meanwhile, was governed by the Constitution
  • The last time a delimitation exercise was carried out in Jammu and Kashmir was in 1995, based on the 1981 Census. Jammu and Kashmir was under President’s rule at that time. There was no Census in 1991 in J&K due to the tense situation in the valley. In 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a law to put the delimitation process on hold till 2026.
  • The Centre set up a Delimitation Commission in March 2020, six months after the State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated and reorganised as the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • The Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, was tasked with delimiting the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the UT of J&K based on the 2011 Census and in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and the Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • The panel was given a year to complete the delimitation plan but was given two extensions.
  • After considering submissions and considering factors like “geographical features, communication means, public convenience and contiguity of areas”, the Delimitation Commission released its final report on May 5.

2 . Draft Geo-heritage sites and Geo relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill

Context: A draft Bill, aimed at protecting India’s geological heritage that includes fossils, sedimentary rocks, natural structures, has raised alarm in India’s geo-sciences and palaeontology community.

What are Geo heritage sites?

  • The draft bill defines Geoheritage sites as “sites containing geo-relics and phenomena, stratigraphic type sections, geological structures and geomorphic landforms including caves, natural rock-sculptures of national and international interest; and includes such portion of land adjoining the site,” that may be required for their conservation or to access to such sites.

What are Geo relics?

  •  Geo-relic is defined as “any relic or material of a geological significance or interest like sediments, rocks, minerals, meteorite or fossils”. The GSI will have the power to acquire geo-relics “for its preservation and maintenance”.

Draft Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill

  • Ministry of Mines has prepared a draft of the Geoheritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022 which seeks to provide for the declaration, preservation, protection and maintenance of geoheritage sites and geo-relics of national importance for geological studies, education, research and spreading awareness regarding them.

Salient features of the Bill

  • The bill authorising the Central Government to declare a geoheritage site to be of national importance. The Central Government shall give two months’ notice and consider objections before the declaration.
  • The bill authorising the Central Government to acquire area under a geoheritage site under the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act), the acquisition being for a public purpose within the meaning of that Act.
  • The Central Government and GSI are mandated to take steps to preserve and maintain every geoheritage site and for the same authorised to enter and inspect, survey, take measurements and samples, undertake exploration operations, examine documents, etc.
  • The Bill imposes prohibition on construction, reconstruction, repair or renovation of any building with in the geoheritage site area or utilisation of such area in any other manner, except for construction for preservation and maintenance of geoheritage site or any public work essential to the public.
  • The Central Government is authorised to declare the area around each geoheritage site as prohibited area and regulated area and their extent may be different for each site. However, till such extent is declared for a specific site, the area of 100 m. around the rea of 200 m. around such prohibited geoheritage site shall be prohibited area and the area shall be regulated area.
  • The Bill provides penalties for destruction, removal, defacement, misuse of geoheritage sites and geo relics; contravention of any direction issued by the Director General, GSI or his authorised subordinate; construction, reconst ruction, etc. in geoheritage site, prohibited area and regulated area in violation of the provisions of the Bill, etc.
  • The Bill provides penalty of imprisonment which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to Rs.5 lakh, or both. In the case of a continuing contravention, additional fine of upto Rs.50,000 for every day of continuing contravention may be imposed. (xii) 3. Director General, GSI shall be bound by the directions of the Central Government with regard to the powers or the discharge of its func tions under the Act or Rules

Significance of the Bill

  • The cultural and natural heritage is amongst the most priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation, but of humanity as a whole. The loss, through deterioration, neglect or destruction, of any of these most prized assets constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all the peoples of the world.  Geodiversity and Geoheritage has to be considered as integral parts of Natural Diversity and Natural Heritage; therefore, geodiversity and geo conservation have to be treated as inseparable from biodiversity and nature conservation.
  • Many countries in the world have specific legislation for protection of natural and geological areas. India has well laid out legislations on protection and conservation of archaeological and historical monuments and cultural heritage sites.
  • Geo heritage places have tourism potential which will generate local employment in remote places of the country. Security and maintenance of Geoheritage sites will also generate local employment.
  • Further, Geoheritage sites are expected to increase education & research activities.
  • However, specific policy or law does not exist to conserve and preserve the geoheritage sites for future generations. Therefore, there is an urgent need to change this situation and formulate a legislation to identify, protect and better manage India’s geoheritage sites and geo relics.

Concerns over the Bill

  • The Bill, in its present form, extends its application to the whole of India. However, some geo-heritage sites may be located in tribal tracts in Scheduled Areas. The Bill does not take into consideration the rights of the Adivasi communities living in Scheduled Areas
  • The Bill was criticized on the grounds that it does not take into account special governance mechanisms applicable to areas dominated by Adivasi communities. It also envisages empowering the executive with absolute powers in so far as deciding upon denotification of any of these areas for the purpose of infrastructure or industrial development.
  • The bill lacks focus on participatory governance, as a possible model for the conservation of geologically important areas.
  • Though the Bill mentions changing social dynamics, it also fails to take cognisance of the diversity of population and natural resources existing for centuries in areas that could potentially be declared as sites with geological heritage

About Geological Survey of India

  • The Geological Survey of India (GSI) was set up in 1851 primarily to find coal deposits for the Railways.
  •  Its main functions relate to creating and updating of national geoscientific information and mineral resource assessment.
  • These objectives are achieved through ground surveys, air-borne and marine surveys, mineral prospecting and investigations, multi-disciplinary geoscientific, geo-technical, geo-environmental and natural hazards studies, glaciology, seismo-tectonic study and carrying out fundamental research.
  • GSI, headquartered in Kolkata, has six regional offices located in Lucknow, Jaipur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Shillong and Kolkata and state unit offices in almost all states of the country. GSI is an attached office to the Ministry of Mine

3 . Office of Profit Case

Context: Ramesh Bais, who was transferred as Governor of Maharashtra on Sunday, has left the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi without making public the Election Commission’s opinion on whether Chief Minister Hemant Soren should be disqualified for allegedly allocating a mining lease to himself when he was the mining and forest minister of Jharkhand.

What is the concept of ‘office of profit?

  • MPs and MLAs, as members of the legislature, hold the government accountable for its work.
  • The essence of disqualification under the office of profit law is if legislators holds an ‘office of profit’ under the government, they might be susceptible to government influence, and may not discharge their constitutional mandate fairly.
  • The intent is that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member. Hence, the office of profit law simply seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution- the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.
  • The origin of this term can be found in the English Act of Settlement, 1701.
  • Under this law, “no person who has an office or place of profit under the King, or receives a pension from the Crown, shall be capable of serving as a member of the House of Commons.” This was instituted so that there wouldn’t be any undue influence from the royal household in administrative affairs.

According to the definition, what constitutes an ‘office of profit’?

  • The law does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit but the definition has evolved over the years with interpretations made in various court judgments.
  • An office of profit has been interpreted to be a position that brings to the office-holder some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit. The amount of such profit is immaterial.
  • In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the test for determining whether a person holds an office of profit is the test of appointment.
  • Several factors are considered in this determination including factors such as:
    • Whether the government is the appointing authority,
    • Whether the government has the power to terminate the appointment,
    • Whether the government determines the remuneration,
    • What is the source of remuneration, and
    • The power that comes with the position.

Why should an MLA or an MP not hold an office of profit?

  • Constitutional provisions
    • Under Articles 102(1)(a) and 191(1)(a) of the Constitution, an MP or MLA is barred from holding an office of profit as it can put them in a position to gain a financial benefit.
    • “A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament,  if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder,” says the law.
    • The articles clarify that “a person shall not be deemed to hold an office of profit under the government of India or the government of any state by reason only that he is a minister”.
    • The Constitution specifies that the number of ministers including the Chief Minister has to be within 15% of the total number of members of the assembly (10% in the case of Delhi, which is a union territory with legislature).
    • Provisions of Articles 102 and 191 also protect a legislator occupying a government position if the office in question has been made immune to disqualification by law.
    • In the recent past, several state legislatures have enacted laws exempting certain offices from the purview of office of profit.  Parliament has also enacted the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, which has been amended several times to expand the exempted list.
    • There is no bar on how many offices can be exempted from the purview of the law.
  • Under the Representation of People Act too, holding an office of profit is grounds for disqualification.

Is the Governor bound to act in accordance with the EC’s opinion?

  • Article 192(2) says that the Governor “shall act” according to the EC’s opinion. However, it does not lay down a time frame for the Governor to act.

4 . Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati

Context: Prime Minister Narendra said Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati removed the evils that were falsely attributed to the religion with the light of religion itself. He addressed a gathering at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on the occasion of the 200th birth anniversary of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati. The Prime Minister said that path shown by Swami Dayanand Saraswati instills hope in crores of people at a time when the 21st century is unstable due to numerous conflicts.

About Swami Dayanand Saraswati 

  • Dayanand Saraswati was born on February 12, 1824 in Tankara, Gujarat as Mool Shankar 
  • He founded the Arya Samaj that brought about changes in the religious perception of Indians.
  • He voiced his opinions against idolatry and the pointless emphasis on empty ritualism, and man-made dictates that women are not allowed to read the Vedas.
  • He brought about a complete overhaul of the education system by introducing Anglo-Vedic schools to offer Indian students an updated curriculum teaching both the knowledge of the Vedas along with contemporary English education.
  • Although he was never really involved in politics directly, his political observations were the source of inspiration for a number of political leaders during India’s struggle for independence.
  • He was given the epithet of Maharishi and is considered as one of the Makers of Modern India.
  • Swami Dayanand wrote and published a number of religious books, primary among them being his magnum opus – Satyartha Prakash (The Light of Truth), Rig-Vedaadi, Bhasya-Bhoomika, and Sanskar Vidhi.
  • Through his daily life and practice of yoga and asanas, teachings, preaching, sermons and writings, he changed the course of Hinduism.
  • He was the first to give the call for ‘Swarajya’ as ‘India for Indians’ in 1876.
  • His book, the Satyartha Prakash, contributed to the Indian independence movement.
  • His followers included Sri Aurobindo and S. Radhakrishnan
  • He was involved in following movements:- Arya Samaj, Shuddhi Movement, Back to the Vedas  

About Arya Samaj

  • Arya Samaj founded in 1875 by Dayananda Sarasvati, whose aim was to propagate true pristine knowledge enshrined in the Vedas.
  • The Arya Samaj has always had its largest following in western and northern India. It is organized in local samajas (“societies”) that send representatives to provincial samajas and to an all-India samaja. Each local samaja elects its own officers in a democratic manner.
  • The Arya Samaj opposes worship of murtis (images), animal sacrifice, shraddha (rituals on behalf of ancestors), basing caste upon birth rather than upon merit, untouchability, child marriage, pilgrimages, priestly craft, and temple offerings.
  • It upholds the infallibility of the Vedas, the doctrines of karma (the accumulated effect of past deeds) and samsara (the process of death and rebirth), the sanctity of the cow, the importance of the samskaras (individual sacraments), the efficacy of Vedic oblations to the fire, and programs of social reform.
  • It has worked to further female education and intercaste marriage; has built missions, orphanages, and homes for widows; has established a network of schools and colleges; and has undertaken famine relief and medical work.
  • From its beginning it was an important factor in the growth of Indian nationalism. It has been criticized, however, as overly dogmatic and militant and as having exhibited an aggressive intolerance toward both Christianity and Islam.

About Shuddhi Movement

  • The Shuddhi Movement was introduced by Maharishi Dayanand to bring back the individuals to Hinduism who were either voluntarily or involuntarily converted to other religions like Islam or Christianity.
  • Shuddhi or purification was imparted to those who sought their way back to Hinduism and the Samaj was able to penetrate to the various strata of society, taking back the depressed classes into the folds of Hinduism.

5 . Facts for prelims

Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR)

  • The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is an autonomous body of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which had been established by an Administrative Order of the then Ministry of Education.
  • The body, over many years, has provided financial assistance to the historians and direction to the research scholars in their multifarious topics of historical research through established historians and scholars of the country.
  • The body has provided financial assistance to historians and scholars through fellowships, grants, and symposia.
  • The primary aim and objective of the Indian Council of Historical Research is to promote and give directions to historical research and to encourage and foster objective and scientific writing of history. Enhancing the academic standard of the output of ICHR activities has been foremost objective in it’s agenda.
  • The ICHR is headed by an Honorary Chairman.
  • The Members of the Council of ICHR (Governing Body) are nominated for a period of three years.
  • The Chairman of the Council of ICHR is nominated by the Department of Education in an honorary capacity and his term is not co-terminus with that of the members of the Constituted Council.

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