Daily Current Affairs : 9th December 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Ad – Hoc Judges
  2. Wildlife Protection amendment Bill
  3. Energy Conservation amendment Bill
  4. Remittances
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Ad – Hoc Judges

Context: The Supreme Court recently suggested a less cumbersome and even “out-of-the-box” thinking, including roping in senior lawyers to act as ad hoc judges in High Courts, to meet the rising tide of pendency.

Ad-Hoc Judges

  • Ad hoc judges refer to a judge nominated by a unique process for a particular case, project, or period only – as opposed to and in contrast to a standard judge, selected through a normal procedure for a set period.
  • The primary purpose of appointing ad hoc judges was felt to deal with cases pending for over five years. The objective is to put people of specialised subjects in place to decide cases.
  • Article 224 in The Constitution Of India provides for appointment of additional and acting Judges.

Need for the appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges

  • To reduce the pendency of cases with the High Court.
    • In its 2021 judgment, the SC had noted that across high courts, 56.4% cases were pending for less than five years whereas 40% of the pending cases were 5 to 20 years old.
    • The retired judges who had handled certain disputes and fields of law for over 15 years could deal with them faster if brought back into harness as ad-hoc judges.
  • High vacancy- historically the vacancies in some of the big high courts are over 50% and it is a challenge to fill them.

Conditions for appointing Ad-hoc Judges

The Supreme court in 2021 had identified five situations in which the judiciary could seek the aid of ad hoc judges-

  • If the vacancies are more than 20% of the sanctioned strength.
  • The cases in a particular category are pending for over five years.
  • More than 10% of the backlog of pending cases are over five years old.
  • The percentage of the rate of disposal is lower than the institution of the cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the Court.
  • Even if there are not many old cases pending, but depending on the jurisdiction, a situation of mounting arrears is likely to arise if the rate of disposal is consistently lower than the rate of filing over a period of a year or more.

Suggestions by the Supreme Court

  • Appointing Senior Advocates- senior advocates in High Courts may not be willing to give up their lucrative legal practices permanently, but may be interested in joining the Bench as ad hoc judges under Article 224A of the Constitution for a limited period of may be two years.
  • Appointing retired Judges- The court pointed out that retired judges who were willing to come back to the Bench as ad hoc judges would bring their experience in dealing with arrears.
  • Streamlining the procedure of appointment- The procedure should not be as cumbersome as it is today.
    • Once the Chief Justice recommends, appointment should happen in a matter of days.

2 . Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill 2022

Context: Rajya Sabha passed the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 recently. Lok Sabha had cleared the legislation in August during the Monsoon Session. Union Environment Minister assured that elephants will be protected and conserved according to the provisions of the Act.

About the Objectives of the Bill

  • The Bill seeks to conserve and protect wildlife through better management of protected areas and rationalise schedules which list out species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The Bill seeks to implement India’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which requires countries to regulate the trade of all listed specimens through permits.
  • The Bill seeks better management of protected areas and provides for certain permitted activities like grazing or movement of livestock and bona fide use of drinking and household water by local communities.

Amendments in the Bill

  • Amendment proposed a new schedule for species listed in the Appendices under CITES.
  • Reduces the number of schedules from Six (currently) to Four now: Currently, there are six schedules: protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one).
    • The new bill removes the schedule for vermin species (Vermin refers to small animals that carry diseases and destroy food e.g. Monkeys, Nilgai)
  • Amendment to Section 6 to constitute Standing Committee to exercise such powers and duties as may be delegated to it by the State Board for Wildlife.
  •  Amendment to Section 43 to permit elephants, a Schedule I animal, to be used for ‘religious or any other purpose’.
  • Insert Section 49E to empower Central government to designate a Management Authority to grant export or import permits for trade of specimens.
    • The Authority may use an identification mark for a specimen and any modification or removal of such identification mark is prohibited.
    • Insert Section 49F to empower Central government to designate a Scientific Authority to advice on aspects related to impact on the survival of the specimens being traded.
    • These provisions are set to ensure “sustainable” exploitation of flora and fauna.
  • The Bill seeks to regulate the control of sanctuaries. It provides that the Chief Wildlife Warden shall act in accordance with the management plans for the sanctuary, to be prepared as per Central guidelines.
    • The Chief Wildlife Warden is appointed by the state.
    • The management plan must be prepared after due consultation with the Gram Sabha concerned.
  • It also empowers both Central and State governments to declare areas adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries as a conservation reserve, for protecting flora and fauna.
  • The Bill also empowers Central government to regulate and stop the import, trade or possession of invasive plant or animal alien species.
  • It further requires every person possessing live specimens of scheduled animals to obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority.
  • It provides that people may “voluntarily surrender” any captive animals to the Chief Wildlife Warden, and such surrendered animals will become property of the state government.
  • The Bill also enhances the penalties prescribed for violation of provisions of the Act.
    • For ‘General violations’, maximum fine is increased from Rs 25,000 to Rs. 1 lakh.
    • In case of Specially protected animals, the minimum fine of Rs. 10,000 has been enhanced to Rs. 25,000.

Concerns and criticism

  • The exemption given to ‘live elephant’ for commercial trade:
    • Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Jairam Ramesh objected to the blanket exemption, recommending to limit it only to temple elephants kept for religious purposes.
    • Phrase “any other purpose” is vague and has potential of encouraging commercial trade of elephants.
  • Centre’s hold over ‘vermin’ declaration continues:
    • Last year, Kerala’s requests for declaring wild boars as vermin have been turned down repeatedly by the Environment ministry.
  • Impact on tribal communities: The Van Gujjars are a semi-nomadic pastoral community (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh) that may be impacted.
  • The bill severely curtailed the ability to graze across pastoral spaces in the conservation areas.
  • Some important issues regarding Human-Wildlife conflict, Eco-sensitive zone rule, etc., has not been addressed.
  • According to the report provided by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, species listed in all three schedules of the Bill are incomplete.

3 . Energy Conservation Amendment Bill

Context: Minister of New and Renewable Energy R.K. Singh introduced the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The Minister stated that the non-fossil fuel capacity was 42% of the total energy generation and in order to address the transition, the bill had been brought.

Key Highlights

  • The Bill amends the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 to empower the central government to specify a carbon credit trading scheme.
    • Carbon credit implies a tradeable permit to produce a specified amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse emissions. 
    • The central government or any authorised agency may issue carbon credit certificates to entities registered and compliant with the scheme. 
    • The entities will be entitled to trade the certificates.   Any other person may also purchase a carbon credit certificate on a voluntary basis.
  • Designated consumers may be required to meet a proportion of their energy needs from non-fossil sources.
    • The Act empowers the central government to specify energy consumption standards. 
    • The Bill adds that the government may require designated consumers to meet a minimum share of energy consumption from non-fossil sources. 
    • Different consumption thresholds may be specified for different non-fossil sources and consumer categories. 
    • Designated consumers include: (i) industries such as mining, steel, cement, textile, chemicals, and petrochemicals, (ii) transport sector including Railways, and (iii) commercial buildings, as specified in the schedule. 
    • Failure to meet this obligation will be punishable with a penalty of up to Rs 10 lakh. 
  • The Energy Conservation Code for buildings will also apply to office and residential buildings with a connected load of 100 kilowatt or above.
    • The code prescribes energy consumption standards in terms of area. 
    • The Bill amends this to provide for an ‘Energy Conservation and Sustainable Building Code’. 
    • This new code will provide norms for energy efficiency and conservation, use of renewable energy, and other requirements for green buildings.
    • Under the Act, the energy conservation code applies to commercial buildings: (i) erected after the notification of the Code, and (ii) having a minimum connected load of 100 kilowatt (kW) or contract load of 120 kilo volt ampere (kVA). 
    • Under the Bill, the new Energy Conservation and Sustainable Building Code will also apply to the office and residential buildings meeting the above criteria. 
  • Energy consumption standards may be specified for vehicles and ships.
    • Under the Act, the energy consumption standards may be specified for equipment and appliances which consume, generate, transmit, or supply energy. 
    • The Bill expands the scope to include vehicles (as defined under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988), and vessels (includes ships and boats).

Issues and Criticism

  • Carbon credit trading aims to reduce carbon emissions, and hence, address climate change.
    • The question is whether the Ministry of Power is the appropriate Ministry to regulate this scheme. 
    • A further question is whether the market regulator for carbon credit trading should be specified in the Act.
  • Same activity may be eligible for renewable energy, energy savings, and carbon credit certificates.
    • The Bill does not specify whether these certificates will be interchangeable.
  • Designated consumers must meet certain non-fossil energy use obligation.
    • Given the limited competition among discoms in any area, consumers may not have a choice in the energy mix.

3 . Remittances

Context: Remittances to India are set to touch a record $100 billion in 2022, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief titled, ‘Remittances Brave Global Headwinds’. India received $89.4 billion in 2021 — this is the first time a country will reach the $100 billion mark.

What is a remittance?

  • It denotes a sum of money sent by one party to another.
  • These days, the term describes the money sent by someone working abroad to their family back home.
  • In the case of India, the largest sources of remittances have been from Indians working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait), and the U.S./U.K.

What has been the general trend in remittances this year?

  • World remittances are expected to touch $794 billion in 2022, up from $781 billion in 2021. This represents a growth of 4.9%, compared to 10.2% in 2021, which was the highest since 2010.
  • Of the $794 billion, $626 billion went to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
  • Remittances represent an even larger source of external finance for LMICs in 2022, compared to foreign direct investment (FDI), official development assistance (ODA), and portfolio investment flows.
  • The top five recipient countries this year are expected to be India ($100 billion), followed by Mexico ($60 billion), China ($50 billion), the Philippines ($38 billion) and Egypt ($32 billion).

Reasons behind the sustained growth in remittances-

  • According to the World Bank, one of the main reasons is the gradual reopening of various sectors in host-country economies, following pandemic-induced closures and travel disruptions.
    • This improved migrant workers’ incomes and employment situations and thereby their ability to send money home.
  • An allied reason was the “migrants’ determination to help their families back home” during the tough post-pandemic recovery phase.
  • The report notes that the 10.2% growth in remittances achieved in 2021, that too against the backdrop of the pandemic, owed a lot to the stimulus measures enacted “to underpin faltering high-income economies”, especially in the U.S. and Europe, which helped to support employment levels and maintain or increase incomes of migrant workers, enabling them to send money home.

Reasons behind the resilience of India’s inward remittance flows-

  • The report points to a structural shift in India’s remittance economy, both in terms of the top destination countries, and the nature of the jobs held by migrants.
    • It notes that remittances have benefitted from a gradual structural shift in Indian migrants key destinations from largely low-skilled, informal employment in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to a dominant share of high-skilled jobs in high-income countries such as the U.S., the U.K., and East Asia (Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand).
    • Example- between 2016-17 and 2020-21, while the remittances from the U.S., U.K. and Singapore increased from 26% to 36%, the share from five GCC countries dropped from 54% to 28%.
    • In 2020-21, the U.S., with a share of 23%, surpassed Saudi Arabia as India’s top source country for remittances.
  • With 20% of India’s emigrants in the U.S. and the U.K. the structural shift in qualifications and destinations has accelerated growth in remittances tied to high-salaried jobs, especially in services.
  • In the GCC countries, Indian migrants benefited from governments’ direct support measures to keep inflation low.
  • Indian migrants may also have “taken advantage” of the depreciation of the Indian rupee vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar – it fell by 10% between January and September 2022 – to increase their remittances.

Predicting Future trends

  • The report predicts that growth in remittances will fall to 2% in 2023 as the GDP growth in high-income countries continues to slow, eroding migrants’ wage gains.
  • For South Asia as a whole, the growth in remittances is expected to fall from 3.5% in 2022 to 0.7% in 2023.
  • In the U.S., higher inflation combined with a slowdown will limit remittance flows, while the GCC countries will also see cooling of remittance outflows following a slowdown.
  • The demand for labour is expected to soften as construction activities for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar have ended.
  • Nonetheless, remittances to India are forecast to grow by 4% next year, supported by the large share of Indian migrants earning relatively high salaries in the U.S., the U.K. and East Asia.

4 . Facts for Prelims

National Party

  • National Party is one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.
  • The ECI has laid down the technical criterion for a party to be recognised as a national party. A party may gain or lose national party status from time to time, depending on the fulfilment of these laid-down conditions.
  • As per the ECI’s Political Parties and Election Symbols, 2019 handbook, a political party would be considered a national party if:
    • it is ‘recognised’ in four or more states; or
    •  if its candidates polled at least 6% of total valid votes in any four or more states in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections and has at least four MPs in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
    • if it has won at least 2% of the total seats in the Lok Sabha from not less than three states.
  • To be recognised as a state party, a party needs:
    • at least 6% vote-share in the last Assembly election and have at least 2 MLAs; or
    • have 6% vote-share in the last Lok Sabha elections from that state and at least one MP from that state; or
    • at least 3% of the total number of seats or three seats, whichever is more, in the last Assembly elections; or
    • at least one MP for every 25 members or any fraction allotted to the state in the Lok Sabha; or
    • have at least 8% of the total valid votes in the last Assembly election or Lok Sabha election from the state.
  • As of now, the ECI has recognised eight parties as national parties — the BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M), CPI, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP), which was recognised in 2019.
  • Once the official results of the Gujarat elections are announced, AAP will become the ninth party to be recognised as a national party.

OCI Card-

  • Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) citizens are of Indian origin but they are foreign passport holders and are not citizens of India.
  • Eligibility-
    • who was a citizen of India at the time of, or at any time after 26th January, 1950; or
    • who was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January, 1950; or
    • who belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15th August, 1947; or
    • who is a child or a grandchild or a great grandchild of such a citizen; or
    • who is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or
    • who is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India
  • Besides, spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application is also eligible for registration as OCI cardholder.
  • However, no person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify, shall be eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder.
  • Foreign nationals cannot apply for OCI in India while on Tourist Visa, Missionary Visa and Mountaineering Visa.
    • Moreover, the foreigner has to be ordinarily resident of India to be eligible to apply for OCI registration in India.
    • ‘ordinarily resident’ will mean a person staying in a particular country or in India for a continuous period of 6 months.

Maulana Azad National Fellowship-

  • The objective of the Maulana Azad Fellowship Scheme (MANF) is to provide five year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students from six notified minority communities viz. Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh, notified by the Central Government, to pursue M. Phil and Ph.D.
  • The Fellowship is implemented by the Ministry of Minority Affairs through UGC.
  • The fellowship holders under this Fellowship will be known as Ministry of Minority Affairs scholars.
  • UGC will be the nodal agency for implementing the MANF Scheme and ensures that the Scheme is also included in the Notification/Press Release to be issued by National testing Agency (NTA) for UGC-NET and Joint CSIR-UGC NET examinations.
  • Scope: The Fellowship will cater to the minority community students pursuing regular and full time research studies leading to award of M.Phil/Ph.D degree within India only. This will enable them to be eligible for employment to the posts with M.Phil and Ph.D as pre- requisites, including the posts of Assistant Professors in various academic institutions.
  • Recently, the central government announced that it has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad Fellowship since the MANF scheme overlaps with various other fellowship schemes for higher education being implemented by the government and minority students are already covered under such schemes.
  • Currently, the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, National fellowship for OBC, National Fellowship for Persons with Disabilities and JRF are available to minority communities.

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