Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Panel to study on SC Status
- Nobel Prize
- Nobel Peace Prize
- FTA with Britain – Need – Importance – Benefits and Challenges
- Appointment of CJI – Process
- Facts : Solomon Islands, Forex reserve of India, ohchr
1 . Panel to study on SC Status
Context: The Union government has formed a three-member Commission of Inquiry headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, to examine whether the Scheduled Caste (SC) status can be accorded to Dalits who have over the years converted to religions other than Sikhism or Buddhism.
About the Commission
- The notification for the formation of the commission was issued days before the Supreme Court is expected to hear the Centre’s present position on a batch of petitions seeking the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims and the removal of religion as criterion for inclusion as SCs.
- The three-member commission will also comprise Professor Sushma Yadav, member, UGC, and retired IAS officer Ravinder Kumar Jain.
- It has been given a two-year deadline to submit a report on the issue — starting from the day Justice Balakrishnan takes charge of the commission.
- The commission’s inquiry will also investigate the changes an SC person goes through after converting to another religion and its implications on the question of including them as SCs.
- These will include examining their traditions, customs, social and other forms of discrimination and how and whether they have changed as a result of the conversion.
- Noting that several representatives of existing SC communities have staunchly opposed the inclusion of converts to other religions, the government has also tasked the Justice Balakrishnan Commission with examining the impact of such a decision on these existing SC communities.
Previous Commissions’ Recommendations:
- The petitions challenging the religion criterion for inclusion have cited several independent commission reports since the First Backward Classes Commission headed by Kaka Kalelkar in 1955 that have documented the existence of caste and caste discrimination among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims, concluding that Dalit converts continued to face the same social disabilities even after leaving the Hindu fold.
- These include the Report of the Committee on Untouchability Economic and Educational Development of the Scheduled Castes in 1969, the HPP report on SCs, STs, and Minorities in 1983, the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report, among others.
Stand of Union Government
- In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court in November 2019, the Union government had refused to accept these reports as evidence of continued social disabilities due to caste identity.
- The Kalelkar Commission Report and the 1983 HPP Report were the basis for amending the Order to include Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhists as SCs in 1956 and 1990 respectively.
The process of categorization as SCs
- Currently, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 provides for only those belonging to Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist communities to be categorised as SCs.
- When enacted, the Order only allowed for Hindu communities to be classified as SCs based on the social disabilities and discrimination they faced due to untouchability.
- It was amended in 1956 to include Sikh communities and again in 1990 to include Buddhist communities as SCs.
2 . Nobel Prize
What is the Nobel Prize
- Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite, in his last will and testament in 1895, gave the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, and Peace, to be called the “Nobel Prizes”.
- In 1968, the sixth award, the Prize in Economic Sciences was started by Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank.
- The Nobel Prize consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a document confirming the prize amount.
- The awardees of the 2019 Nobel Prize will receive in prize money Swedish kronor (SEK) 9 million (approximately Rs 6.45 crore) for a full Prize.
- In his will, Alfred Nobel dedicated most of his fortune, SEK 31 million at that time, for the Awards. This money was to be converted into a fund and invested in “safe securities.” The income from the investments was to be “distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”.
How candidates are nominated
- The Nobel Committees of four prize-awarding institutions every year invite thousands of members of academies, university professors, scientists, previous Nobel Laureates, and members of parliamentary assemblies among others to submit candidates for the Nobel Prizes for the coming year.
- Per the Nobel website, the nominators are selected in such a way that as many countries and universities as possible are represented over time.
- One cannot nominate himself/herself for a Nobel Prize.
- The names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later.
The institutions that choose winners
- The Nobel Committees of the prize-awarding institutions are responsible for the selection of the candidates, the institutions being:
- Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: The Karolinska Institutet
- Nobel Prize in Literature: The Swedish Academy
- Nobel Peace Prize: A five-member Committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
- Prize in Economic Sciences: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Nobel Prize and India
- The following Indians (or individuals of Indian origin) have been honoured with the Nobel:
- Rabindranath Tagore (Literature, 1913)
- C V Raman (Physics, 1930)
- Hargobind Khorana (Medicine, 1968)
- Mother Teresa (Peace, 1979)
- Subramanian Chandrashekhar (Physics, 1983)
- Dalai Lama (Peace, 1989)
- Amartya Sen (Economics, 1998)
- Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009)
- Kailash Satyarthi (Peace, 2014).
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under the chairmanship of R K Pachauri won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
3 . Nobel Peace Prize
Context: A trio of human rights watchdogs from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine won the Nobel Peace Prize, a highly symbolic choice of laureates drawn from three nations at the centre of the war in Ukraine.
About the News
- The honour went to detained activist Ales Bialiatski of Belarus, Russian rights group Memorial and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties.
- They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power.
- The laureates represent civil society in their home countries, said the committee.
- They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.
- Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.
The three prize winners: Belarus’s Ales Bialiatski
- Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s.
- Before 1991, when the former Soviet Union fell and independent countries emerged, many countries in Central Asia and Europe saw pro-independence movements.
- Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 – when the post first came into being.
- Bialiatski is also credited with founding the organisation Viasna (Spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president dictatorial powers.
- Over time, Viasna evolved into a “broad-based human rights organisation that documented and protested against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners”, said the committee.
- Having been imprisoned earlier for three years, he was arrested most recently after the large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2020 and is still detained without trial.
- In 2020, he was one of the three recipients of the Right Livelihood Award by the Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation, sometimes referred to as the “Alternative Nobel”.
Russian human rights organisation, Memorial
- The organisation was established in 1987 by human rights activists in the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten.
- Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, who won the prize in 1954, and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the organisation’s founders.
- Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones.
- It has been described as the largest human rights organisation in Russia, and in the present day, it helped in gathering information on the political oppression and human rights violations in Russia.
- It has been called as the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities.
- In the last two years, it has been shut down and liquidated by the Russian Supreme Court
Ukrainian human rights organisation, Center for Civil Liberties
- The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine.
- It is one of the leading actors in Ukraine, influencing the formation of public opinion and public policy, supporting the development of civic activism, and actively participating in international networks and solidarity actions to promote human rights”.
- After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Center for Civil Liberties has engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian “war crimes” against the Ukrainian civilian population.
4 . FTA with Britain
Context: The India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may not be ready in time for its October-end deadline as indicated by both India and UK.
- India reacted sharply to British Home Secretary’s statement linking the FTA with migration issues and the U.K. government said “quality”, not “speed” would determine the FTA’s launch.
- There is interest on both sides to conclude the FTA at the earliest.
- The trade deal is a huge opportunity to deepen the already strong trading relationship worth £24.3bn a year, which will benefit businesses and sectors right across both our countries.
What is a free trade agreement?
- Free trade agreements (FTAs) are arrangements between two or more countries or trading blocs that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate customs tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.
- FTAs, normally cover trade in goods (such as agricultural or industrial products) or trade in services (such as banking, construction, trading etc.).
- They can also cover other areas such as intellectual property rights (IPRs), investment, government procurement and competition policy, etc.
India-UK trade relations
- India is amongst the top two source markets for FDI into the UK.
- Indian companies play a significant role in UK’s economy by creating jobs and contributing to taxes.
- Despite the uncertainty over, the number of Indian firms operating in the UK increased from 800 in FY2017-18 to 850 during FY2019-20, employing over 110,793 people.
- The UK is the largest European source of remittances to India and is the sixth largest FDI source with a cumulative equity investment of US$29.6 billion during April 2000 and September 2020, accounting for around 6 percent of total FDI into India.
- During this period the services sector attracted the highest FDI, accounting for a 10.15 percent share of total investment from the UK.
- The UK is already the seventh-largest export destination for India, and India’s trade and investment relationship with the UK has been successful.
- Bilateral trade between the two countries increased by 22.7 percent from FY2009– 2010 to US$13.1 billion in FY2020–2021.
- India’s exports to the UK last year comprised readymade garments, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, refined oil, textile fabrics, and metal manufacturers.
- The top three services exports include technical, trade-related and other business services, professional and management consulting services, and travel.
Importance of India-UK FTA
- In a post Brexit era, the India-UK FTA would be a crucial step for the UK to reduce the dependency on EU and establish independent trade ties outside of the EU.
- India can use this opportunity to further boost the “Make in India” programme and secure strategic deals in the sectors of defence, cyber security, R & D and health care where UK has predominantly been a strong player.
- The FTA between India and the UK will significantly help bring down the current trade barriers and restrictions on transfer of goods and services between the two countries and is likely to boost investments, exports and imports across sectors.
- India being a tech giant and in the era of so many start-ups would enable the new/ mid-sized companies to have access to the U.K. market.
- On the other hand, the U.K. will have a much wider market coverage in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Moreover, the FTA will enhance the job-creating sector since India is one of the big investors in the U.K.
- Removal of tariffs would lead to increased competition in industries such as- automobiles and pharma.
- One of the important aspects that could help India is that the UK is a permanent member of the security council and strengthening bonds with the UK could be of help to India in issues such as its standoff with China.
- Also, it may help India become a permanent member in the security council considering India and UK are 5th and 6th largest economy in the world
Areas of concern
- UK expressed concerns about any trade deal with India that involved more migration or visa flexibility, as the largest number of Indian migrants are overstaying illegally in the U.K.
- The Indian High Commission in London accused U.K. of not having made “demonstrable progress” on its commitments as part of the “Migration and Mobility Protocol” signed by both governments last year.
- While certain issues pertaining to Mobility and Migration are currently under discussion as part of these negotiations, any comment on these matters may not be appropriate given that the negotiations are underway, and that any arrangement will include issues of interest to both sides.
- Government of India (GoI) is “committed” to facilitate the return of Indians citizens who have overstayed their visa period and has initiated action “on all of the cases referred to the High Commission.
- Experts are also concerned about the “dichotomy” between India’s FTA strategy and its overall trade policy.
- The new-found enthusiasm for FTA seems to conflict with its trade-policy stance under the self-reliant India initiative, whose genesis is on “vocal for local”, thereby promoting domestically produced goods over imported goods.
5 . Appointment of CJI
Context: The Ministry of Law and Justice sought Chief Justice of India’s recommendation for appointment of his successor.
- As per the MoP [Memorandum of Procedure] on appointment of Chief Justice of India and Supreme Court Judges, the Minister of Law and Justice sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India for sending his recommendations for appointment of his successor.
- The letter kick-starts the appointment process for the 50th Chief Justice of India.
- Justice D.Y. Chandrachud is next in line to be Chief Justice of India in accordance with the seniority norm.
- The appointment process for the next Chief Justice of India has begun at a time when four names are under consideration of the collegium for appointment as Supreme Court judges.
- Usually, no new recommendations for judicial appointments are made when the appointment process for the next Chief Justice of India is on.
Constitutional Provision regarding Appointmenr
- The Constitution of India includes no details about how the Chief Justice of India is to be appointed.
- Article 124(1) says that there “shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India” , but is silent on the criteria or procedure for appointing a CJI.
- The only provision in the Constitution which mentions anything about the appointment of a CJI is Article 126 — which deals with the appointment of an acting CJI.
- In the absence of any Constitutional provision or statute, we have to look to convention and custom to determine who will be the next CJI
Process of appointment of CJI
- The process of appointment begins with the Union Law Minister seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI about the next appointment.
- The Minister has to seek the CJI’s recommendation “at the appropriate time”.
- The Memorandum does not elaborate or specify a timeline.
- Usually, the Law Minister sends his request and the outgoing CJI makes his recommendation with a month to spare before his retirement.
Procedure in case of same appointment date
- Which judge was sworn in first — which was used to determine who would be CJI w
- Which judge has had more years of high court service; or
- If one of the judges was nominated from the Bar directly (like Justices Rohinton Nariman or Indu Malhotra), while the other(s) have previously served as a high court judge, the person with experience as a judge will be given preference.
What happens after the CJI sends in his recommendation?
- As per the process laid down in the MoP, “after receipt of the recommendation of the Chief Justice of India, the Union Minister of Law will put up the recommendation to the Prime Minister who will advise the President in the matter of appointment.
- Article 124(1) of the Constitution: there shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and other Judges.
- Article 124(2): It lays down that “every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
On what basis does a Chief Justice of India recommend his successor?
- The MoP says that the “appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office”.
- Even before the MoP was agreed upon, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court after the CJI (in terms of the years served) was by convention elevated to the top post.
- This convention was famously discarded by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose government recommended the appointment of Justice A N Ray as CJI in 1973 superseding three more senior judges, Justices J M Shelat, K S Hegde, and A N Grover.
- Justice Ray was considered more favorably disposed towards Indira’s regime than the other judges.
- The supersession was announced the day after the Supreme Court pronounced the landmark ‘Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala’ order, which laid down the “basic structure” doctrine. Justice Ray was part of the minority in the 7-6 judgment of the 13-judge Bench.
- Subsequently, in January 1977, Indira’s government superseded Justice H R Khanna by appointing Justice M H Beg as CJI.
- Justice Khanna had been the lone dissenter in the ‘ADM Jabalpur vs Shiv Kant Shukla’ order, in which the majority comprising Justices A N Ray, P N Bhagwati, Y V Chandrachud, and M H Beg agreed with the government that fundamental rights including the right to life and liberty stood abrogated during a period of national Emergency.
What is the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP)?
- The MoP is the playbook agreed upon by the government and the judiciary on the appointment of judges.
- It is a crucial document — because the Collegium system of appointing judges is a judicial innovation that is not mandated through legislation or text of the Constitution.
- The MoP has evolved as the standard based on three decisions of the Supreme Court, known as the First Judges Case (1981), Second Judges Case (1993) and the Third Judges Case (1998).
- These three judgments form the basis of a peer selection process for the appointment of judges.
- The MoP was first drawn up in 1999. It was re-negotiated in 2016 following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down, in 2015, the constitutional amendment that brought in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) that sought to change the system of appointments and give the government a foot in the door.
- While the government and the SC continue to disagree on a few clauses, the rest of the MoP is generally agreed upon by both sides.
6 . E – Rupee
Context : On Friday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) indicated that it will soon commence limited pilot launches of e-rupee (e`), or Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) or digital rupee, for specific use cases. It has hinted at two broad categories for the use of e-rupee — retail and wholesale — taking the payment system in the country to a new level where the common people and businesses will be able to use the digital currency seamlessly for various transactions.
What’s RBI’s plan?
- The central bank said that the development of CBDC could provide the public a risk-free virtual currency that will give them legitimate benefits without the risks of dealing in private virtual currencies.
- The approach for issuance of CBDC will be governed by two basic considerations — to create a digital rupee that is as close as possible to a paper currency and to manage the process of introducing digital rupee in a seamless manner. The central bank also feels that it is desirable for CBDCs to have offline capabilities to make it a more attractive and accessible medium of payment for a wide category of users.
- E-rupee is the same as a fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency. Only its form is different. It can be accepted as a medium of payment, legal tender and a safe store of value. The digital rupee would appear as liability on a central bank’s balance sheet.
What are the types of e-rupee?
- Based on the usage and the functions performed by the digital rupee and considering the different levels of accessibility, CBDC can be demarcated into two broad categories — general purpose (retail) (CBDC-R) and wholesale (CBDC-W), the RBI’s concept note says.
- Retail CBDC is an electronic version of cash primarily meant for retail transactions. It will be potentially available for use by all — private sector, non-financial consumers and businesses — and can provide access to safe money for payment and settlement as it is a direct liability of the central bank. However, the RBI has not explained how e-rupee can be used in merchant transactions in the retail trade.
- Wholesale CBDC is designed for restricted access to select financial institutions. It has the potential to transform the settlement systems for financial transactions undertaken by banks in the government securities (G-Sec) segment, inter-bank market and capital market more efficiently and securely in terms of operational costs, use of collateral and liquidity management.
What are the forms of CBDC?
- The central bank says e-rupee, or CBDC, can be structured as token-based or account-based. A token-based CBDC would be a bearer instrument like banknotes, meaning whosoever holds the tokens at a given point in time would be presumed to own them. In a token-based CBDC, the person receiving a token will verify that his ownership of the token is genuine. A token-based CBDC is viewed as a preferred mode for CBDC-R as it would be closer to physical cash.
- An account-based system would require maintenance of record of balances and transactions of all holders of the CBDC and indicate the ownership of the monetary balances. In this case, an intermediary will verify the identity of an account holder. This system can be considered for CBDC-W, the RBI said.
What’s the model for issuance?
- There are two models for issuance and management of CBDCs under the RBI’s consideration — direct model (single tier model) and indirect model (two-tier model). In the direct model, the central bank will be responsible for managing all aspects of the digital rupee system such as issuance, account-keeping and transaction verification.
- An indirect model would be one where the central bank and other intermediaries (banks and any other service providers), each play their respective role. In this model, the central bank will issue CBDC to consumers indirectly through intermediaries and any claim by consumers will be managed by the intermediary.
What are the advantages of e-rupee?
- The RBI said the key motivations for exploring the issuance of CBDC in India among others include reduction in operational costs involved in physical cash management, fostering financial inclusion, bringing resilience, efficiency and innovation in the payments system.
- It will add efficiency to the settlement system and boost innovation in cross-border payments space and provide the public with uses that any private virtual currencies can provide, without the associated risks.
Can e-rupee be transacted in offline mode?
- The offline functionality as an option will allow CBDC to be transacted without the internet and thus enable access in regions with poor or no internet connectivity. It will also create digital footprints of the unbanked population in the financial system, which will facilitate the easy availability of credit to them. However, the RBI feels in the offline mode, the risk of ‘double-spending’ will exist because it will be technically possible to use a CBDC unit more than once without updating the common ledger of CBDC. But it can be mitigated to a larger extent by technical solutions and appropriate business rules including monetary limits on offline transactions, the central bank says.
7 . Facts for Prelims
- Solomon Islands is an island country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
- It has a land area of 28,400 square kilometres and a population of about 700,000.
- Once a British protectorate, Solomon Islands achieved independence as a republic in 1978.
- Honiara, on the north coast of Guadalcanal Island, is Solomon Islands’ capital and largest city.
- The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (a part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes outlying islands, such as the Santa Cruz Islands and Rennell and Bellona.
- Most of the people live in small rural villages. They engage mainly in subsistence gardening, pig raising, and fishing but are also involved in the cash economy.
Forex reserve of India
- Foreign Exchange Reserves are the foreign assets held or controlled by the country’s central bank.
- The reserves are made of gold or a specific currency.
- They can also be special drawing rights and marketable securities denominated in foreign currencies like treasury bills, government bonds, corporate bonds and equities and foreign currency loans.
- India’s foreign exchange reserves dropped for the ninth straight week to $532.66 billion for the week ended September 30, down by $4.854 billion.
- This is the lowest level since July 24, 2020, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, commonly known as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or the United Nations Human Rights Office, is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations that works to promote and protect human rights that are guaranteed under international law and stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
- The office was established by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 1993 in the wake of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.
- The office is headed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who co-ordinates human rights activities throughout the United Nations System and acts as the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The eighth and current High Commissioner is Volker Türk of Austria, who succeeded Michelle Bachelet of Chile on 8 September 2022.
- It is an ex officio member of the Committee of the United Nations Development Group.
- The term cisgender is used to define people whose gender identity and expression match the identity assigned to them at birth.
- When a child is born, it is assigned a gender identity based on its physical characteristics. Many believe that gender is a social construct, and growing up, the child may or may not confirm to the birth identity.
- For transgender people, their sense of gender identity does not match the one assigned to them at birth.
- Thus, a cisgender woman is a person who was assigned female at birth and continues to identify as a woman. On the other hand, a child assigned female at birth can feel it identifies more authentically as a man as it grows up.