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12th November Current Affairs

A court of the future: Fine-tuning mechanisms of accountability within judiciary

(GS-II: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Judiciary)

In News:

The Supreme Court of India renders ultimate judgment on decisions not only of the High Courts (18 for 28 states + 8 UTs) but also national and state tribunals operating throughout India.

Related Constitutional provisions (Article 141):

The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India.

This means, there is hardly any area of legislative or executive activity that escapes the scrutiny of the highest court.

Precautions SC needs to take in the future:

Preserve its independence: It is best protected by the judges themselves through institutions established by statutes or judicial decisions. For example, the Collegium system.

However, there is no law to govern judges.

Efficient court/case management:

It is important for reducing the backlogs of pending cases (over 4.5 crores across all courts in India).

The SC had drawn up a fine blueprint for case management. For example, fast track, normal track and slow track – to be 3 three different tracks.

Most of the HCs have not implemented this blueprint, as they are autonomous constitutional bodies not subject to the administrative directions of the SC.

Way ahead:

A system of judicial accountability:

It can be provided by enacting a law.

Best practice: The USA’s Judicial Councils Act, 1980. It confers powers on bodies composed of judges to take action against a judge charged with misconduct.

Judicial governance demands judges to be ethical: They must make annual financial disclosure statements public, rather than confidentially to their respective chief justices. It is done by justices of the US Supreme Court.

Integrated court/case management: It is time that the SC be given direct responsibility for the functioning of the HCs, allowing not just the HCs but also the SC to function as an effective court.

Conclusion:

As India’s highest court, the SC must strive to retain public trust in the established courts.

This can be accomplished if judges set an example of the highest moral-ethical conduct for all.

“What a great man does, other men do; the standard he sets up, by which the others move.”(Annie Besant translation of the Third Discourse in the Bhagavad Gita)

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

In News:

The Maharashtra government said that it is working to return “Jagdamba” – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s sword, from London to India by 2024, the 350th anniversary of the Maratha ruler’s coronation as Emperor of his empire.

Background:

Shivaji IV presented the sword (not a genuine gift as the British extracted it through coercion) to King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-76.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak made the first effort to bring back the sword when he went to London.

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj:

Shivaji Bhonsale I (1630-1680), popularly known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was a Maratha ruler from the Bhonsle clan.

From the declining Adil Shahi sultanate of Bijapur, Shivaji carved out his own independent kingdom, laying the foundation of the Maratha Empire.

At Raigad Fort in 1674, he was formally crowned Chhatrapati (Emperor) of his empire.

Rule of Law Index 2022

In News:

World Justice Project released this report, saying the global Rule of Law has declined for the fifth year in a row.

Details:

India has been ranked 77 (out of 140 countries)

Topped by Denmark

Key observations:

  • Authoritarian trends that predate the pandemic continue to erode the rule of law
  • Checks on executive power are weakening and respect for human rights is falling
  • Rule of law is a key underpinning of democracy, which is faltering in many countries around the world

The rule of law is the political philosophy that all citizens and institutions within a country, state, or community are accountable to the same laws, including lawmakers and leaders.

Market Infrastructure Institutions (MII)

In News:

SEBI Committee constituted for ‘Strengthening the governance of market infrastructure institutions (MIIs)’ has proposed stricter regulations for enhancing the accountability and transparency of MIIs like stock exchanges, depositories and clearing houses.

Key proposals:

  • Reviewing the policy on safekeeping and sharing of information held by MIIs
  • Reviewing the requirements related to the appointment and role & responsibility of directors on the board and key managerial persons (KMPs)
  • Developing effective metrics for monitoring
  • Revisiting the code of conduct and code of ethics for directors of the governing board

What are the MIIs?

Stock exchanges (e.g. BSE), depositories and clearing houses are all Market Infrastructure Institutions and constitute a key part of the nation’s vital economic infrastructure.

Importance: MIIs are systemically important in India as these institutions have seen exponential growth in terms of the market capitalization of listed companies, capital raised and the number of investor accounts and their values.

Himalayan Gray Langur

In News:

According to a study, changes in altitude make the Himalayan Gray Langur – a primate species – pick between flowers and fruits as dietary options beyond usual leaves in the same Himalayan habitat.

About the species:

The Himalayan Gray Langur or the Chamba Sacred Langur (Semnopithecus ajax) is a colobine (leaf-eating monkey) and is an Endangered species globally on the IUCN Red List.

They inhabit areas between 2,200-4,000 metres and in the Indian Subcontinent, their distribution is reported from Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and from Pakistan and Nepal.

Soil Carbon Sequestration

In News:

Recently ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for The Semi-Arid Tropics) has published a study revealing how the right combination of fertilizer, biochar, and irrigation could potentially increase soil carbon by as much as 300 per cent and help mitigate climate change.

Other Findings:

Biochar increased carbon value in the soil by 130-300 per cent over 30 years.

Optimal use of fertilizers increased the carbon and output by up to 30 per cent.

About Soil carbon sequestration:

Soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool. This process is primarily mediated by plants through photosynthesis, with carbon stored in the form of SOC.

Building up soil carbon can help cut greenhouse gas concentrations in the air. It also improves soil quality

Biochar: It is a charcoal-like substance that burns organic material (biomass) from agricultural and forestry wastes in a controlled process called pyrolysis.