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10th December Current Affairs

Bills to Extend tenure of ED and CBI Chiefs

(GS-II: Government Policies and issues associated)

In News:

Amid strong objection from the Opposition, the Lok Sabha has passed two Bills allowing the Centre to extend the tenure of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief and the CBI Director up to five years from the current fixed tenure of two years.

The Bills replace the ordinances brought in last month.

About the Ordinances:

The Union Government has brought in two ordinances allowing the service of the directors of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to be extended beyond their fixed tenure of at least two years up to a maximum of five years.

The extension can be given only one year at a time. That is, after a fixed two-year tenure, they may get three annual extensions.

Laws amended:

The change in tenure of the CBI Director was done by amending the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

On the other hand, the changes to the tenure of the ED Director was brought in by amending the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003.

Plea in Supreme Court on new Ordinances:

Petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court urging the Supreme Court to quash the Ordinances, which allow the Government to extend the tenures of the chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) “in a piecemeal fashion” up to a maximum of five years.

Issues:

The petitioners said the Ordinances would leave the heads of the two top investigative bodies insecure about their tenure and erode their professional independence.

Also, no criteria has been provided save for a vague reference to ‘public interest’ which is based on the subjective satisfaction of the Respondents.

The Government’s move has also drawn sharp criticism from the Opposition parties, which have accused it of taking the ordinance route despite the Parliament session beginning on November 29.

On what grounds have these ordinances been challenged?

About a year ago, the ED Director had been given a one-year extension retrospectively following the completion of a two-year fixed tenure. The move was challenged before the Supreme Court, which upheld the government’s decision. However, it said that such a drastic measure should be taken only rarely.

The petitioners, who allege that the two ordinances are arbitrary and unconstitutional, cite the judgment, as well as the Apex Court verdict in Vineet Narain vs Union of India (1997) which held that the CBI and the ED chiefs should have a minimum tenure of two years.

75 yrs of Constituent Assembly’s 1st sitting

(GS-I: Modern history and important events)

In News:

The Constituent Assembly of India had held its first meeting 75 years ago on December 9, 1946.

Distinguished people from different parts of India, different backgrounds and even differing ideologies came together with one aim- to give the people of India a worthy Constitution.

What do you need to know about the Constituent Assembly of India?

The idea of a constituent assembly was put forward for the first time by MN Roy.

In 1935, the Indian National Congress (INC), for the first time, officially called for a constituent assembly to frame a constitution for India.

In 1938, J Nehru made this emphatic statement regarding the constitution- ‘The constitution of free India must be framed, without outside interference, by a constituent assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise’

The demand for a constituent assembly was accepted for the first time by the British through their ‘August offer’ of 1940.

Eventually, a constituent assembly was established under the provisions of the Cabinet Mission plan.

It was constituted in 1946.

Some of the important aspects related to this are:

Total strength of the assembly: 389.

296 seats for British India and 93 seats to princely states.

292 seats allocated for British India were to be from eleven governor’s provinces and four from Chief commissioner’s provinces.

Seats were allocated based on proportion to their respective population.

Seats allocated to each British province were to be decided among the three principal communities- Muslims, Sikhs and general.

Representatives of each communities were to be elected by members of that community in the provincial legislative assembly and voting was to be by the method of proportional representation by means of single transferrable vote.

Representatives of princely states were to be nominated by head of these princely states.

Some observations regarding the composition:

Partly elected and partly nominated.

Indirect election by provincial assemblies who themselves were elected on a limited franchise.

Though an indirect mode of election, it included representatives from all sections of the society.

Muslim league did not participate in the first meeting.

Constituent assembly held 11 sessions over two years, 11 months and 18 days.

Last session of the constituent assembly was held on January 24, 1950.

Constituent assembly acted as the temporary legislature until a new one was to be constituted. Some of the functions it performed at this stage were:

  • Ratification of India’s membership of the commonwealth.
  • It adopted the national flag.
  • It adopted the national anthem.
  • Adoption of National song.
  • Electing Dr Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India.

Criticism of the constituent assembly:

  • Not a representative body since members were not directly elected.
  • It was not a sovereign body since it was established based on British order.
  • It consumed unduly long time to make the constitution.
  • It was dominated predominantly by congress party.
  • It was dominated by lawyer-politician to a greater degree.
  • It was dominated by Hindus predominantly.

Bird Flu

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

Fresh cases of bird flu have been confirmed in the Kuttanad region of Kerala. Response teams have been formed for culling birds in affected areas.

Samples have tested positive for the H5N1 influenza virus.

What is bird flu?

Also called avian influenza.

It is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses found naturally in wild birds worldwide.

Symptoms have ranged from mild to severe influenza-like illness.

Classification:

Avian Influenza type A viruses are classified based on two proteins on their surfaces – Hemagglutinin(HA) and Neuraminidase(NA).

There are about 18 HA subtypes and 11 NA subtypes.

Several combinations of these two proteins are possible e.g., H5N1, H7N2, H9N6, H17N10, etc.

Spread:

There have been reports of avian and swine influenza infections in humans.

The infection is deadly as it has a high mortality rate of about 60%.

The most common route of virus transmission is direct contact. They can also be affected if they come in contact with contaminated surfaces or air near the infected poultry.

Can the virus transfer to humans?

There are no known cases of H5N8 in human beings. Risk to general public is very low. There is also no evidence that consumption of poultry meat or eggs could transmit the virus to humans. But necessary precautions are required while handling sick/dead birds and contaminated material during control and containment operations. It is considered safe to eat properly cooked poultry products.

Control measures:

Culling is usually undertaken to control the infection when it is detected in animals. Besides culling, safe disposal of all such culled animals and animal products is also important. The authorities also need to strictly enforce decontamination of infected premises and undertake quarantine of contaminated vehicles and personnel.

World Gold Council

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

As per WGC’s ‘Bullion Trade in India’ report:

Imports made up 86% of India’s gold supply between 2016-2020, and inbound shipments continue to grow despite high import duty.

Since the first duty hike in 2012, India has imported some 6,581 tonnes of gold, averaging 730 tonnes per annum.

In 2020, India imported 377 tonnes of gold bars and dore from over 30 countries, of which 55% came from just two countries — Switzerland (44%) and the UAE (11%).

In the last five years, gold dore imports made up 30% of the total official imports of the yellow metal.

Gold & Economy:

As Currency: Gold was used as the world reserve currency up through most of the 20th century. The United States used the gold standard until 1971.

As a hedge against inflation: The demand for gold increases during inflationary times due to its inherent value and limited supply. As it cannot be diluted, gold is able to retain value much better than other forms of currency.

Strength of Currency: When a country imports more than it exports, the value of its currency will decline. On the other hand, the value of its currency will increase when a country is a net exporter. Thus, a country that exports gold or has access to gold reserves will see an increase in the strength of its currency when gold prices increase, since this increases the value of the country’s total exports.

About the World Gold Council:

It is the market development organisation for the gold industry.

It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.

It is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies.

It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.

Headquartered in the UK, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.