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16th November Current Affairs

Green Bonds

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

Corporate green-bond issuance has reached new highs as U.S. companies including chip maker Micron Technology Inc., retailer Walmart Inc. and data-center company Equinix Inc. add the bonds as part of larger traditional bond offerings.

Need for:

The increasing issuance of green bonds, which finance environmentally friendly projects, comes as companies face pressure from investors, regulators and employees to show the steps they are taking to improve the environment. One way they do that is by issuing debt tied to sustainability targets.

What Is a Green Bond?

A green bond is a type of fixed-income instrument that is specifically earmarked to raise money for climate and environmental projects.

These bonds are typically asset-linked and backed by the issuing entity’s balance sheet, so they usually carry the same credit rating as their issuers’ other debt obligations.​

Green bonds may come with tax incentives to enhance their attractiveness to investors.

The World Bank is a major issuer of green bonds. It has issued 164 such bonds since 2008, worth a combined $14.4 billion. In 2020, the total issuance of green bonds was worth almost $270 billion, according to the Climate Bond Initiative.

How Does a Green Bond Work?

Green bonds work just like any other corporate or government bond.

Borrowers issue these securities in order to secure financing for projects that will have a positive environmental impact, such as ecosystem restoration or reducing pollution.

Investors who purchase these bonds can expect to make as the bond matures.

In addition, there are often tax benefits for investing in green bonds.

Green Bonds Vs Blue Bonds:

Blue bonds are sustainability bonds to finance projects that protect the ocean and related ecosystems.

This can include projects to support sustainable fisheries, protection of coral reefs and other fragile ecosystems, or reducing pollution and acidification.

All blue bonds are green bonds, but not all green bonds are blue bonds.

Green Bonds Vs Climate Bonds:

“Green bonds” and “climate bonds” are sometimes used interchangeably, but some authorities use the latter term specifically for projects focusing on reducing carbon emissions or alleviating the effects of climate change.

Ordinances to extend the tenures of the directors of CBI and ED

(GS-II: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions)

In News:

President Ram Nath Kovind has promulgated two ordinances that would allow the Centre to extend the tenures of the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate from two years to up to five years.

Currently, the tenure of chiefs of ED and CBI is two years.

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.

Amendments to the Fundamental Rules, 1922:

The Personnel Ministry has issued an order to amend the Fundamental Rules, 1922 adding the two posts to the list whose services can be extended by up to two years beyond the two-year fixed tenure in “public interest”.

The previous list comprised Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Director, Intelligence Bureau and Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing.

About the CBI Director and his appointment:

The Director of the CBI is appointed as per section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (2013) says that the Central Government shall appoint the Director of CBI on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him.

Further, the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Act, 2014 made a change in the composition of the committee related to the appointment of the Director of C.B.I. It states that where there is no recognized leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, then the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha would be a member of that committee.

About Enforcement Directorate:

The origin of this Directorate goes back to 1st May, 1956, when an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in the Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 (FERA ’47).

In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’.

Presently, it is part of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.

The Organization is mandated with the task of enforcing the provisions of two special fiscal laws – Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

Composition:

Besides directly recruiting personnel, the Directorate also draws officers from different Investigating Agencies, viz., Customs & Central Excise, Income Tax, Police, etc. on deputation.

Kartarpur Corridor

(GS-I: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times)

In News:

The government is considering reopening the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara corridor to Pakistan this week to allow Sikh pilgrims to cross over, more than 20 months after it was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Details:

The plan is to open on November 19, the birth anniversary of the Sikh founder Guru Nanak, known as Gurpurab or “Prakash Parv”.

The Kartarpur corridor agreement:

Please note that the Kartarpur corridor agreement allows pilgrims to travel visa free through the corridor.

Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor.

Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport;

Persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country.

The Corridor is open from dawn to dusk. Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day.

What is the “Kartarpur Corridor” project?

The corridor – often dubbed as the “Road to Peace” – will connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.

The shrine and its significance:

The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore.

It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.

The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view.

Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.

Special courts to try MPs

(GS-II: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions)

In News:

The Supreme Court has decided to examine questions regarding the legal jurisdiction of the special courts set up to exclusively prosecute Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies for various offences.

Why do we need special courts?

There are more than 4000 cases pending against legislators across the country. Of this, the number of cases against sitting Members of Parliament and members of State legislatures was 2,556.

The cases against the legislators include that of corruption, money laundering, damage to public property, defamation and cheating.

A large number of cases were for violation of Section 188 IPC for wilful disobedience and obstruction of orders promulgated by public servants.

A large number of cases were pending at the appearance stage and even non-bailable warrants (NBWs) issued by courts have not been executed.

Besides, in Bihar, 89% Assembly constituencies have three or more candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits for the ongoing elections.

Madras High Court observations:

A three-judge committee of the Madras High Court, in November 2020, questioned the constitutional validity of setting up special courts to exclusively try MPs and MLAs for various crimes.

Why should separate courts not be set up according to the High Court?

Courts should be “offence-centric” and not “offender-centric.”

Special courts can only be constituted by a statute and not by executive or judicial fiats.

Why do these observations seem significant?

Timing of the report: The HC committee report comes in the face of a 2017 Supreme Court order authorising the Centre to set up 12 special courts to exclusively try criminal politicians across the country.

It also comes at a time when a three-judge Bench of the apex court is looking at ways to expedite these trials pending for years, in some cases, for decades.

What are the issues associated with the special courts?

Special courts deprive the accused of their right to a rung of appeal. If the case of an MLA or MP whose offence can be tried by a magistrate is directly placed before a special court, the accused would lose his right to defend his case before a magistrate and also is stripped of his right to make his first appeal before a sessions court.

What is the way out?

Political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.

The RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.

Fast-track courts should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.

Bring greater transparency in campaign financing.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties.