National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act
The Supreme Court has dismissed the review petition challenging the striking down of a Constitutional Amendment that sought to give the executive a say in the appointment of top judges on grounds of delay and lack of merit.
On 16 October 2015, in a 4-1 majority verdict, the Supreme Court held that both the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014, and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014, were unconstitutional as it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The majority said the two laws affect the independence of the judiciary, and judicial appointments, among other things, should be protected from executive control.
About NJAC and the Act:
NJAC is a body responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. JAC Bill sought to replace the collegium system of appointing the judges of Supreme Court and 24 High Courts with judicial appointments commission wherein the executive will have a say in appointing the judges.
A new article, Article 124A, (which provides for the composition of the NJAC) was to be inserted into the Constitution.
The Bill provided for the procedure to be followed by the NJAC for recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court (SC), and Chief Justice and other Judges of High Courts (HC).
According to the bill the commission will consist of the following members:
Source: The Hindu
Guidelines for crèches at workplaces
The Centre has prepared guidelines for setting up of crèches at workplaces. The guidelines prescribe trained personnel to man the facility as well as infrastructure requirements and safety norms.
The guidelines are not mandatory but are a yardstick for NGOs and organisations for setting up of creches.
In March this year, Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, enhancing paid maternity leave from a period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The law is applicable to all institutions with 10 or more employees. It also makes it mandatory for every organisation with 50 or more employees to have a crèche.
The new guidelines include:
A crèche be either at the workplace or within 500 metres of it. Alternatively, it could also be in the beneficiaries’ neighbourhood.
The facility should be open for eight to 10 hours and if the employees have a shift system, then the crèche should also be run accordingly.
A crèche must have a minimum space of 10 to 12 square feet per child to ensure that she or he can play, rest and learn. There should be no unsafe places such as open drains, pits, garbage bins near the centre.
The crèches should have at least one guard, who should have undergone police verification. There should also be at least one supervisor per crèche and a trained worker for every 10 children under three years of age or for every 20 children above the age of three, along with a helper.
No outsiders such as plumbers, drivers, electricians be allowed inside the crèche when children are present.
A crèche monitoring committee with representations from among crèche workers, parents and administration should be formed.
There should also be a grievance redressal committee for inquiring into instances of sexual abuse.
The Maternity Benefit Act:
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in factories, mines, plantation, shops & establishments and other entities.
The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child birth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits. The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.
The amendment has brought in major changes to the law relating to maternity benefits. These are:
It extends the period of maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of which not more than eight weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery. This exceeds the International Labour Organisation’s minimum standard of 14 weeks and is a positive development. However, a woman who has two or more surviving children will be entitled to 12 weeks of which not more than six weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery.
Women who legally adopt a child below the age of three months or a “commissioning mother” will be entitled to maternity benefit for 12 weeks from the date on which the child is handed over to her. A commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman.
It gives discretion to employers to allow women to work from home after the period of maternity benefit on mutually agreeable conditions.
It introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her.
Source: The Hindu
Right to know
The Maharashtra government has issued a government resolution allowing citizens to inspect records in district-level offices and local bodies across the state under the Right To Information (RTI) for two hours every Monday.
About the RTI Act:
The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
Information disclosure in India is restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws.
Source: The Hindu
Mekedatu dam project
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to stop the process of a feasibility study for the Mekedatu dam project in Karnataka. The study has been cleared by the Central Water Commission (CWC), which has also asked for a detailed project report.
About Mekedatu dam project:
Being set up by the Karnataka government, the project is near Mekedatu, in Ramanagaram district, across the river Cauvery from Tamil Nadu.
Its primary objective is to supply drinking water to Bengaluru and recharge the groundwater table in the region.
About the conflict:
Tamil Nadu has moved the Supreme Court. Its main argument is that the project violates the final award of the Cauvery River Water Tribunal, and that the “construction of the two reservoirs would result in impounding of the flows in the intermediate catchment below the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs, and Billigundulu in the common border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu”.
Karnataka says, the project will not come in the way of releasing the stipulated quantum of water to Tamil Nadu, nor will it be used for irrigation purposes.
Know about CWC:
It is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.
The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.
Central Water Commission CWC is headed by a Chairman, with the status of Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India.
Source: The Hindu
India will Chair Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) from 1st January 2018. It was handed Chairmanship by the European Union during KPCS Plenary 2018, which was held in Brussels, Belgium.
India is founding member of KPCS.
The Kimberley Process is an international certification scheme that regulates trade in rough diamonds. It aims to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds, while helping to protect legitimate trade in rough diamonds.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) outlines the rules that govern the trade in rough diamonds.
The KP is not, strictly speaking, an international organisation: it has no permanent offices or permanent staff. It relies on the contributions – under the principle of ‘burden-sharing’ – of participants, supported by industry and civil society observers. Neither can the KP be considered as an international agreement from a legal perspective, as it is implemented through the national legislations of its participants.
“Conflict Diamonds” means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments. It is also described in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
Who is involved?
The Kimberley Process (KP) is open to all countries that are willing and able to implement its requirements. The KP has 54 participants, representing 81 countries, with the European Union and its Member States counting as a single participant. KP members account for approximately 99.8% of the global production of rough diamonds. In addition, the World Diamond Council, representing the international diamond industry, and civil society organisations, such as Partnership-Africa Canada, participate in the KP and have played a major role since its outset.
How does the Kimberley Process work?
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade.
Under the terms of the KPCS, participating states must put in place national legislation and institutions; export, import and internal controls; and also commit to transparency and the exchange of statistical data.
Participants can only legally trade with other participants who have also met the minimum requirements of the scheme, and international shipments of rough diamonds must be accompanied by a KP certificate guaranteeing that they are conflict-free.
Source: The Hindu
NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission is all set to reach the Bennu asteroid – a rock that may predate the solar system – where its primary mission is to hover just above it, grab a sample of rock and dust and bring it back to Earth.
The launch of the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission took place on September 8, 2016. Since then, the spacecraft has been two years travelling through space to reach its target, primitive asteroid Bennu, in October, 2018.
About the mission:
OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program, which previously sent the New Horizons spacecraft zooming by Pluto and the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter.
Scientific Mission Goals:
OSIRIS-REx will be conducting a range of scientific experiments in order to better understand the asteroid.
The aim of the mission is to collect a sample of regolith- the loose, soil-like material which covers the surface of the asteroid.
In July 2020, the probe will move to within a few metres of Bennu, extending its robotic arm to touch the asteroid’s surface. The arm will make contact with the surface for just 5 seconds, during which a blast of nitrogen gas will be used to stir up the regolith, allowing it to be sucked into the sample collector.
OSIRIS-REx has enough nitrogen on board for 3 sample collection attempts, and NASA are hoping to collect between 60 and 2000g of regolith material to bring back to Earth.
Why was Bennu chosen?
Proximity to Earth: In order for OSIRIS-REx to reach its destination in a reasonable timeframe, NASA needed to find an asteroid which had a similar orbit to Earth. Around 7000 asteroids are ‘Near-Earth Objects’ (NEOs). Out of these, just under 200 have orbits similar to Earth, with Bennu being one of these.
Size: Small asteroids, those less than 200m in diameter, typically spin much faster than larger asteroids, meaning the regolith material can be ejected into space. Bennu is around 500m in diameter, so rotates slowly enough to ensure that the regolith stays on its surface.
Composition: Bennu is a primitive asteroid, meaning it hasn’t significantly changed since the beginning of the Solar System (over 4 billion years ago). It is also very carbon-rich, meaning it may contain organic molecules, which could have been precursors to life on Earth.
Additionally, Bennu is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA). Every 6 years, Bennu’s orbit brings it within 200,000 miles of the Earth, which means it has a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd Century.
The Union Home Minister inaugurated the hugely popular Hornbill Festival 2018 in Kohima, coinciding with the Formation Day of Nagaland.
Hornbill Festival offers unique opportunity for states to interact and exhibit their cultural heritage in the true spirit of “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat”.
Significance of Nagaland Geographically:
Nagas celebrate this festival to revive, protect, sustain and promote the richness of the Naga heritage and traditions.
It occurs during 1 – 10 December on an annual basis.
It is also called the “Festival of Festivals”.
The festival pays tribute to Hornbill, the most admired and revered bird for the Nagas for its qualities of alertness and grandeur.
It is organized by State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments and also supported by Union Government.
Hornbill Festival was established on 1st December 1963 and was inaugurated by the then President Dr. S Radhakrishnan.
Digital Sky Platform
Digital Sky Platform launched – India to start registration of drones, pilots, and operators Registration portal for online permission.
In August 2018, India had announced the release of its Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) to enable safe flying of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems) in India.
Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), also known as drones, are a technology platform with wide-ranging applications.
Digital Sky Platform:
New features will be developed to ease the process of flying for users.
To provide oversight to security agencies.
It is envisioned that in the future Digital Sky Service Providers (DSPs) will be extending the functionality of the platform through Application Program Interfaces (APIs).
Permissions to fly in different zones:
To get permissions, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan.
Green zones – Flying in the green zones, requires only intimation of the time and location via the portal or the app.
Yellow zones – Permission will be required for flying in yellow zones.
Red zones – Flights will not be allowed to fly.
If an RPAS does not have permission to fly, it will not be allowed to take-off under the policy of No-Permission-No-Takeoff (NPNT).
India to host G20 summit in 2022
India will host the G20 Summit In 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th year of Independence. It will be the first meet of the global grouping in India.
Founded in 1999, the G20 brings together 19 of the world’s most industrialised nations and the European Union. Annual meetings of its country’s leaders have been taking place since 2008.
G-20 members comprise Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US.
CIMON, the 1st Robot with Artificial Intelligence to Fly in Space
CIMON is a small robot endowed with artificial intelligence (AI) launched on a two-day trip to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule.
CIMON was developed by the European aerospace company Airbus on behalf of the German space agency. The robot’s AI is IBM’s famous Watson system.
CIMON is roughly spherical and weighs 11 lbs. (5 kilograms). The robot can converse with people, and it knows whom it’s talking to thanks to facial-recognition software.
Anti-ship cruise missile BrahMos
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave approval for the procurement of BrahMos Missiles for two of the vessels to be built in Russia.
The BrahMos is the fastest cruise missile of its class in the world.
BrahMos missile flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8 and has a range of 290 km.
The missile has been jointly developed with Russia and is named after the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva in Russia.
The BrahMos is extremely difficult to be intercepted by surface to air missiles deployed on leading warships around the world.
The range of the BrahMos missile can be extended up to 400 km as certain technical restrictions were lifted after India became a full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime or MTCR in 2016.