Daily Current Affairs : 3rd and 4th January 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

  1. Supreme Court Verdict on additional restrictions” on the right to free speech of Ministers
  2. Supreme Court Verdict on Demonetization
  3. Forest Conservation Rules
  4. Draft Policy on Online Gaming
  5. Fact for Prelims

1 . Supreme Court Verdict on additional restrictions” on the right to free speech of Ministers

Context : The Supreme Court on January 3, 2023 held there is no reason to impose “additional restrictions” on the right to free speech of Ministers, and the government is not vicariously liable for disparaging remarks made by them, even if the comments are traceable to state affairs or meant to protect the government.

Background of the Case

  • Bulandshahar rape incident is the subject of the case Kaushal Kishor v. State of Uttar Pradesh. At the time, Azam Khan, then-minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh and leader of the Samajwadi Party, called the incident a “political conspiracy and nothing else.”
  • The survivors then requested action against Khan in a writ petition to the Apex Court. The Court ordered him to submit an unequivocal apology, which he did, but also noted that the case raises important questions about state responsibility and freedom of speech. On the subject, several questions were put forth.

What does the ruling say about limitations on free speech?

  • A crucial question, in this case, was “whether limitations can be imposed on a public functionary’s right to freedom of speech and expression.”
  • “A statement made by a minister even if traceable to any affairs of the state or for protection of the government cannot be attributed vicariously to the government by invoking the principle of collective responsibility,” the majority ruled.
  • Additionally, it stated that while citizens had the right to petition the Court for violations of Articles 19 (freedom of expression) and 21 (right to life), a statement made by the Minister that violated those rights might not be actionable on its own. However, if it results in an offence being committed by a public official, there may be recourse available.

What is stated on the contrary opinion?

  • In a separate ruling, Justice B V Nagarathna stated that the right to free speech and expression is crucial for ensuring that the public is well-informed and educated about governance.
  • According to her judgement additional restrictions on speech are not necessary in the case involving the restriction of free speech, agreeing in part with the majority judgement. However, she pointed out that common law remedies are available to address those issues. Hate speech attacks citizens from diverse backgrounds and undermines society’s fundamental values, especially “in a country like us that is ‘Bharat,'” she said. It is up to Parliament to decide whether to enact new rules or laws, she said.
  • She disagreed with one of the questions posed, regarding statements made by a Minister that can be linked to government affairs, and claimed that these statements can be linked to the government indirectly or by association. She wrote that she believed the government was vicariously liable if the statements were derogatory.

2 . Supreme Court Verdict on Demonetization

Context : A majority of four judges on a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court found no flaw in the Union government’s process to demonetize Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes through a Gazette notification issued on November 8, 2016.

Why was demonetisation challenged?

  • Taking up the batch of 58 petitions challenging various aspects of the government’s note ban decision, the Supreme Court had initially wondered if it had not become merely an “academic debate” given the passage of time. It later decided to go into the issue, with the petitioners contending that the procedure prescribed in Section 26(2) of RBI Act, 1934, was not followed.
  • Section 26(2) of the Act states that “on recommendation of the [RBI] Central Board, the Central Government may, by notification in the Gazette of India, declare that, with effect from such date… any series of bank notes of any denomination shall cease to be legal tender save at such office or agency of the Bank and to such extent as may be specified in the notification”.

Details of the Verdict

  • The Supreme Court in a 4:1 judgement ruled that the Narendra Modi-led government’s move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in 2016 was legally valid and satisified the test of proportionality.
  • Justice B.R. Gavai, delivering the judgment for the majority, which included Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, A.S. Bopanna, and V. Ramasubramanian, pronounced that the statutory procedure under Section 26(2) was not violated merely because the Centre had taken the initiative to “advise” the Central Board to consider recommending demonetisation.
  • The sole woman judge on the five-member Bench, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, however, disagreed with the majority, saying the government’s notification issued under Section 26(2) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act was unlawful.

What is the test of proportionality?

  • The test of proportionality is a commonly employed legal method used by courts around the world, typically constitutional courts, to decide cases where two or more legitimate rights clash.
  • When such cases are decided, one right typically prevails at the expense of the other and the court thus has to balance the satisfaction of some rights and the damage to other rights resulting from a judgement.

How is it determined?

  • To determine whether something can be said to pass the test of proportionality, courts in India typically take a four-pronged approach wherein the legitimacy, suitability, and necessity of a decision or law is examined, in addition to a balancing test to check whether said decision or law encroaches on rights to an excessive or abitrary degree.
  • With regard to the Supreme Court’s decision on demonetisation, a majority of the five-judge bench determined that the demonetisation move had passed the test of proportionality.

How did the demonetisation meet this test?

  • First, the apex court held that the move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes had a proper purpose, namely, that of curbing black money, terror funding, and counterfeit currency.
  • Second, with regard to a rational nexus with the purpose of the move, the court held that decision to demonetise high-value currency notes had a rational connection with the purpose for which the move was undertaken in the first place. “We hold that there was a reasonable nexus to bring such a measure,” said Justice B R Gavai.
  • Third, the court held that no alternate measures could have been taken to achieve the intended purpose of demonetisation.
  • Finally, the SC held that there was a proper relation between the intended purpose of the move and the powers excercised to that end by the Centre: “The power available to the Central Government under sub-section (2) of Section 26 of the RBI Act cannot be restricted to mean that it can be exercised only for ‘one’ or ‘some’ series of bank notes and not for ‘all’ series of bank notes. The power can be exercised for all series of bank notes. Merely because on two earlier occasions, the demonetization exercise was by plenary legislation, it cannot be held that such a power would not be available to the Central Government under sub-section (2) of Section 26 of the RBI Act,” read the majority judgement.

Justice B V Nagarathna’s dissenting judgement

  • The majority judgement, however, refused to consider the effects of demonetisation, with Justice Gavai saying, “It is not relevant whether the objectives sought have been achieved or not. What is required is that there has to be an objective which is for proper purposes and there has to be reasonable nexus with the measure and the objectives.”
  • Justice B V Nagarathna, the lone woman on the bench, however, differed from the majority view, saying, “The objective of the central government may have been sound, just and proper, but the manner in which the said objectives were achieved and the procedure followed for the same, in my view was not in accordance with law.”
  • She went on to add 98 per cent of demonetised currency notes came back into circulation, and observed that, in her view, there had been no independent application of the mind by the RBI when consulted for an opinion on the issue.

What is Demonetisation?

  • Demonitisation is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender.
  • It occurs whenever there is a change of national currency.
  • Demonetization is the process through which a nation’s economic unit of exchange loses its legally enforceable validity.
  • Currencies that are terminated are no more legally considered exchanges and have no financial value.
  • Demonetization is a process by which countries opt to reintroduce defunct currencies as legal money

Objectives of Demonetisation

  • Flushing out black money from the economy
  • Eliminate Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN),
  • To strike at the root of financing of terrorism and left wing extremism,
  • To convert non-formal economy into a formal economy to expand tax base and employment
  • To give a big boost to digitalization of payments to make India a less cash economy.

Benefits of Demonetization

  • It helps to prevent and reduce criminal activity.
  • It helps to control criminal activities
  • It helps to forbids tax avoidance and other financial crimes
  • It helps to contributes to a paperless financial system
  • There is a substantial increase in the number of Income Tax Returns (ITRs) filed.
  • Demonetization drive led to significant change of saving habits and formalization of assets market.

History of Demonetization in india

  • The pre independence government banned the much in circulation Rupees 1000 on high denomination notes on 12th  of January, 1946. The rationale behind the exercise was unearth black money on account of tax evasion by businesses which had made a killing by supplying materials to the allied forces in the just concluded second world war.
  • The Demonetisation of 1978 – one of the major actions of the erstwhile Janta Party government under the Prime Ministership of Morarjee Desai was the demonetization of Rupees 1,000, Rupees 5,000 and Rupees 10000 currency notes on 16th January, 1978.

3 . Forest Conservation Rules

Context : In a sign of escalating conflict between the government and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) over the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, panel Chairperson Harsh Chouhan  said its position on the new rules being violative of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 “will be the same” even as the Environment Ministry has dismissed these concerns.

Forest Conservation rules 2022

As per the provisions of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Approval of the Central Government under the Forest (Conservation), Act 1980 is a prior approval of the Central Government which does not directly lead to non-forestry use or breaking of forest land.

Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  • Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 is a regulatory and not a prohibitory Act.
  • This Act is a development oriented Act with a balancing mechanism.
  • The Act aims to conserve the natural wealth for future generations on one hand and on the other, allows the judicious use of pristine forest land for developmental activities to meet the requirement of the mankind.

Impact of the Act

  • The rate of diversion of forest land for non-forestry purpose came down to less than 38,000 ha. per annum
  • Besides development, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 paved the way for recognition and regularisation of land rights of genuine forest dwellers on forest land.

National Forest Policy, 1988

  • National Forest Policy, 1988, protects the rights of forest dwellers including customary rights of tribals on forest land.
  • These rights also include rights to collect fuel wood, fodder, minor forest produce, construction timber, grazing rights and any other  specific right enjoyed by  a particular community prior to notification of forest areas.
  • The policy also protects the rights and concessions enjoyed by the people living on forest fringe areas.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

Functions of the Commission

(Under Clause (5)of Art. 338A)

  • To investigate & monitor matters relating to safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.
  • To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs;
  • To participate and Advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to Evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
  • To submit report to the President annually and  at such other times as the Commission may  deem  fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs

Facts for Prelims

Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996

  • PESA is an Act to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas.
  • The State of Bihar is not covered under this definition.
  • Out of the ten PESA States, six States namely Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Telangana have framed their State PESA Rules.
  • The main rationale behind the Act is to preserve the tribal population from exploitation with an active involvement of the Gram Sabha.

4 . Draft policy on Online Gaming

Context : The Electronics and Information Technology Ministry proposed an amendment to bring online gaming within the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The proposal, released for public consultation, requires all online games to register with any self-regulatory body approved by the Ministry.

About the Proposal

  • The proposals are aimed at safeguarding the interests of users by introducing set procedures and norms for verification and user engagement. More importantly, the draft proposal defines what constitutes an ‘online game’. It is “a game that is offered on the internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource if he makes a deposit with the expectation of earning winnings”. ‘Winning’ constitutes any prize, in cash or kind, intended to be given to the participant “on the performance of the user and in accordance with the rules of such online game”. This addresses the discourse in the sector about the definitions of a ‘game of skill’ and ‘game of chance’.
  • The proposal endeavours to provide for greater transparency. The game operators would have to verify users on the platform and provide them with the terms of services. For the monetary aspect of it, operators would have to inform the user about the policy related to withdrawal or refund of their deposit, measures taken for its protection, the manner and distribution of winnings and the fees and other charges to be paid by the user.
  • They would also have to be informed about the risk of potential financial loss and addiction associated with the game. Addiction is to be combated using repeated warning messages should the user exceed a reasonable duration while playing a certain game.

What about the platforms?

  • Online games will have to register with a self-regulatory body, and only games that are cleared by the body will be allowed to legally operate in India.
  • Online gaming companies will not be allowed to engage in betting on the outcome of games, as per the proposed rules
  • The platform is expected to appoint a key management personnel or senior employee as its Chief Compliance Officer who would be entrusted with coordinating with law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with their orders or requisitions.
  • The Proposal aims to bring online gaming within the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics code) Rules, 2021.
  • This model is similar to the rules in place for digital news sites and streaming services under the Rules

What are some of the concerns?

  • The rules still bucket all gaming intermediaries into a broad category irrespective of size or risk. They all require similar compliances, including the need to have India based officers. This can make it difficult for global players to start their services in India

5 . Facts For Prelims

Very Small Aperture Terminal 

  • A very small aperture terminal (VSAT) is a two-way ground station that transmits and receives data from satellites.  
  • A VSAT is less than three meters tall and is capable of both narrow and broadband data to satellites in orbit in real-time. The data can then be redirected to other remote terminals or hubs around the planet. 
  • VSAT is a technology that represents another option for Internet connectivity in extremely remote areas and distant field locations because there are very limited choices for telecommunications and Internet connectivity.  
  • It is used for communication at seas, and in distant locations such as on oil rigs and utility services.   
  • VSAT terminals are used by Armed forces located in remote mountainous regions or by the Navy while operating in seas. 
  • Can be used for disaster relief operations, as well as industrial applications, or even for communication while carrying out scientific studies in remote locations like Antarctica or in Oceans. 

Central Electricity Regulatory Commission 

  • The CERC or Central Electricity Regulatory Commission is a key regulator of the Indian power sector.  
  • As per sec-76 of the Electricity Act 2003, this statutory body functions with quasi-judicial status. 
  • CERC primarily regulates tariffs of power generating companies that the Central Government owns.  
  • CERC also manages companies which follow interstate energy transmission and composite schemes for power generation. 

Banking Ombudsman 

  • The Banking Ombudsman Scheme is an expeditious and inexpensive forum for bank customers for resolution of complaints relating to certain services rendered by banks. 
  • The Scheme is introduced under Section 35 A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 by RBI with effect from 1995. 
  • The Banking Ombudsman is a senior official appointed by the Reserve Bank of India to redress customer complaints against deficiency in certain banking services. 
  • All Scheduled Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks and Scheduled Primary Co-operative Banks are covered under the Scheme. Hence option D is incorrect. 
  • The Reserve Bank – Integrated Ombudsman Scheme was launched in November 2021 by PM Modi. 
  • The three erstwhile ombudsman schemes of RBI – the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006; the Ombudsman Scheme for Non-Banking Financial Companies, 2018; and the Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019 were integrated with RB-IOS with effect from November 12, 2021. 
  • The Scheme will provide cost-free redress of customer complaints involving deficiency in services rendered by entities regulated by RBI. 

Systemically Important Banks

  • A systemically important financial institution is a bank, insurance company, or other financial institution whose failure might trigger a financial crisis.
  • They are colloquially referred to as “too big to fail”.
  • State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, and HDFC Bank continue to be identified as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs), under the same bucketing structure as in the 2021 list of D-SIBs. 
  • The Reserve Bank had issued the Framework for dealing with Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) on July 22, 2014. 
  • The D-SIB framework requires the Reserve Bank to disclose the names of banks designated as D-SIBs starting from 2015 and place these banks in appropriate buckets depending upon their Systemic Importance Scores (SISs). 
  • Based on the bucket in which a D-SIB is placed, an additional common equity requirement has to be applied to it. 
  • Due to the way the D-SIBs become completely enmeshed in cross-jurisdictional activities, their complex financial structures, and the lack of other alternatives, they are considered systematically important.
  • A failure of any of these banks can lead to systemic and significant disruption to essential economic services across the country and can cause an economic panic.
  • As a result of their importance, the government is expected to bail out these banks in times of economic distress to prevent widespread harm. 
  • Additionally, D-SIBs follow a different set of regulations in relation to systemic risks and moral hazard issues.
  • The system of D-SIBs was adopted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis where the collapse of many systematically important banks across various regions further fueled the financial downturn.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

  • Dayananda Saraswati or Mulashankar was born in the old Morvi state in Gujarat in a Brahmin family.
  • He wandered as an ascetic for fifteen years in search of truth.
  • The first Arya Samaj Unit was formally set up by him at Bombay in 1875 and later the headquarters of the samaj were established at Lahore.
  • His View were published in his famous work, Satyarth Prakash( The Truthb Exposition).
  • Dayanand’s vision of india included a classless and casteless society, a united India and an India free from foreign rule, with Aryan religion being the common religion of all.
  • He took inspiration from the Vedas and considered them to be “India’s Rock of Ages” the infalliable and true original seed of Hindusim.
  • He gave the slogan “Back to the Vedas”.
  • He had received education on Vedanta from a blind teacher named Swami Virajananda in Mathura.
  • Along with his emphasis on vedic authority, he stressed the significance of individual interpretation of the scriptures and said that every person has the right to access to god.
  • He launched a frontal attack on Hindu orthodoxy, caste rigidities, untouchability, idolatry, polytheism, belif in magic, charms, and animal sacrifices, etc.

Sammed Sikharji

  • It is located in Jharkhand, it is a holy site for the Jain community.
  • It is located on the Parasnath hill in the Giridih district of Jharkhand
  • It is considered to be the biggest pilgrimage site by both the Digambaras and the Svetambaras.
  • It is believed that it is the place where 20 of the 24 Jain tirthankaras, who are Jain spiritual leaders, along with many other monks attained ‘moksha‘ or salvation after meditating.
  • The word ‘Shikharji’ in itself means a ‘venerable peak’.
  • Parasnath’ comes from ‘Parshvanatha’, the 23rd Jain tirthankara who attained moksha here.
  • According to beliefs of the Jain community, Shikharji is ranked with Ashtapad, Girnar, Dilwara Temples of Mount Abu and Shatrunjaya as the ‘Svetambara Pancha Tirth’ or the five principal pilgrimage shrines.
  • Recently Jain community have been protesting to overturn a state government decision declaring it as a tourist spot.

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