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August 25, 2021
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August 25, 2021
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17th August Current Affairs

Tribunal law Reforms

(GS-II: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)

In News:

The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 was passed in both houses recently. The law has triggered a fresh stand-off between the legislature and the judiciary over the powers of and limitations on law making.

Controversial provisions:

As per the Bill, the minimum age criterion is 50 years for appointment of advocates as members of tribunals and the tenure is four-years.

The court found the caps arbitrary. But, the government has argued that the move will bring in a specialised talent pool of advocates to pick from.

Section 3(1), Sections 3(7), 5 and 7(1) ultra-vires Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution.

Section 3 (1) bars appointments to tribunals of persons below 50 years of age. This undermines the length/security of tenure and violates both judicial independence and the principle of separation of powers.

Section 3(7) of the impugned Act which mandates the recommendation of a panel of two names by the search-cum selection committee to the Central Government, violates the principles of separation of powers and judicial independence.

Highlights of Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Act, 2021:

The Bill seeks to provide for uniform terms and conditions of the various members of the Tribunal and abolish certain tribunals, as a part of its bid to rationalize the tribunals.

Key changes:

It seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions to other existing judicial bodies.

It seeks to empower the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.

It provides that the Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals will be appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of a Search-cum-Selection Committee.

It also provides the composition of the Committee, to be headed by the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of Supreme Court nominated by him.

For state tribunals, there will be a separate search committee.

The Union government has to ‘preferably’ decide on the recommendations of the search-cum selection committee within 3 months of the date of the recommendation.

Tenure: Chairperson of a Tribunal shall hold office for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier. Other Members of a Tribunal shall hold office for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of 67 years, whichever is earlier.

Abolition of Appellate Tribunals:

Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, Airports Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advanced Rulings, Intellectual Property Appellate Board and the Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal are the five tribunals which are sought to be abolished by the Bill and their functions are to be transferred to the existing judicial bodies.

What had the Court ruled and what are the key Issues with the Bill?

The Supreme Court in the case of Madras Bar Association v. Union of India had struck down the provisions requiring a minimum age for appointment as chairperson or members as 50 years and prescribing the tenure of four years.

It held that such conditions are violative of the principles of separation of powers, independence of judiciary, rule of law and Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Issues:

The Bill has sought to undo the judgment of the Apex Court wrt to the following provisions:

  • The minimum age requirement of 50 years still finds a place in the Bill.
  • The tenure for the Chairperson and the members of the tribunal remains four years.
  • The recommendation of two names for each post by the Search-cum-Selection Committee and requiring the decision to be taken by the government preferably within three months.

Flag Code of India

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

On July 22, 1947, the National flag of India was adopted in its present form (horizontal rectangular tricolour) during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, 23 days before India’s Independence, and became the official national flag of the Dominion of India on August 15, 1947.

Evolution of National flag:

Present flag is based on the Swaraj flag, a flag of the Indian National Congress designed by Pingali Venkayya.

After undergoing several changes, the Tricolour was adopted as our national flag at a Congress Committee meeting in Karachi in 1931.

Constitutional & Statutory Provisions regarding National Flag of India:

Art 51A(a) – To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.

Statutes Governing Use of Flag:

  • Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.
  • Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971.

Rules governing the display of the Tricolour:

The Flag Code of 2002 is divided into three parts:

  • 1-a general description of the tricolour
  • 2-rules for display of the flag by governments and government bodies.
  • 3-rules on display of the flag by public and private bodies and educational institutions.

Notable facts:

The National Flag of India shall be made of hand spun and hand woven wool/cotton/silk khadi bunting.

The National Flag shall be rectangular in shape. The ratio of the length to the height (width) of the Flag shall be 3:2.

The Flag shall not be flown at half-mast except on occasions on which the Flag is flown at half-mast on public buildings in accordance with the instructions issued by the Government.

The Flag shall not be used as a drapery in any form whatsoever, including private funerals except in State funerals or armed forces or other paramilitary forces funerals”.

The Flag shall not be used as a portion of costume or uniform of any description nor shall it be embroidered or printed upon cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or any dress material.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan narrated significance of National flag as:

The “Ashoka Chakra” is the wheel of the law of dharma. Chakra intend to show that there is LIFE IN MOVEMENT and death in stagnation.

The saffron color denotes renunciation of disinterestedness.

The white in the center is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct.

The green shows our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends.

Bill on cryptocurrency

(GS-III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights)

In News:

The proposed legislation on cryptocurrencies has been tabled before the Cabinet and awaiting its approval.

Present status:

An inter-ministerial panel on cryptocurrency has recommended that all private cryptocurrencies, except any virtual currencies issued by state, will be prohibited in India.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also raised concerns on the cryptocurrencies traded in the market and conveyed them to the Centre.

Back in March 2020, the Supreme Court had allowed banks and financial institutions to reinstate services related to cryptocurrencies by setting aside the RBI’s 2018 circular that had prohibited them (Based on the ground of “proportionality”).

Overview of the Bill:

It prohibits all private cryptocurrencies and provides for an official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.

The purpose of the law has been described as:

  • to create a facilitative framework for an official digital currency issued by the RBI.
  • to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India”.

What are Cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

Examples: Bitcoin, Ethereum etc.

Why the govt wants to ban cryptocurrencies?

  • Sovereign guarantee: Cryptocurrencies pose risks to consumers. They do not have any sovereign guarantee and hence are not legal tender.
  • Market volatility: Their speculative nature also makes them highly volatile. For instance, the value of Bitcoin fell from USD 20,000 in December 2017 to USD 3,800 in November 2018.
  • Risk in security: A user loses access to their cryptocurrency if they lose their private key (unlike traditional digital banking accounts, this password cannot be reset).
  • Malware threats: In some cases, these private keys are stored by technical service providers (cryptocurrency exchanges or wallets), which are prone to malware or hacking.
  • Money laundering.

Four more Indian sites get Ramsar recognition

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

Four more Indian sites have been recognised as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention taking the number of such sites in the country to 46.

The new sites include:

Sultanpur National Park, Haryana: More than 10 globally threatened, including the critically endangered sociable lapwing, and the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and Black-bellied Tern birds are found here.

Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary, Haryana: It is a human-made freshwater wetland. It is also the largest in Haryana.

Thol, Gujarat: It is a Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat lies on the Central Asian Flyway and more than 320 bird species can be found here. It supports more than 30 threatened waterbird species, such as the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture and Sociable Lapwing, and the vulnerable Sarus Crane, Common Pochard and Lesser White-fronted Goose.

Wadhwana, Gujarat: It is internationally important for its birdlife as it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, including over 80 species that migrate on the Central Asian Flyway. Pallas’s fish-Eagle, the vulnerable Common Pochard, and the near-threatened Dalmatian Pelican, Grey-headed Fish-eagle and Ferruginous Duck are some birds found here.

Why wetlands are crucial for a healthy planet?

The health of people on our planet depends on healthy wetlands.

40% of the world’s species live or breed in wetlands.

Wetlands are “nurseries of life” – 40% of animals breed in wetlands.

Wetlands are “kidneys of the earth” – they clean the environment of pollutants.

Wetlands “matter for climate change” – they store 30% of land based carbon.

Wetlands “minimize disaster risks” – they absorb storm surge.

Ramsar Convention:

The Ramsar Convention is an international agreement promoting the conservation of wetlands.

The Convention was adopted at Ramsar in Iran in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Almost 90% of the UN member states are part of the Convention.

Montreux Record:

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.

The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990).

Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.

Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur).

Chilka lake (Odisha)was placed in the record but was later removed from it.