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19 July Current Affairs

Right of temple entry

In News:

In its first preliminary observations on a rule barring women from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala due to biological reasons, the Supreme Court has said women have the constitutional right of equal access to public places of worship to pray. Any rule that stood in their way would be against this right, the apex court said.

Details:

Women are not allowed to enter Sabarimala temple. The discrimination is based on physiological reason as women between the age group of 10-50 undergo menstruation.

Fundamental Right in question:

Can right of women to pray at the place of their choice be discriminated against solely based “on a biological factor (menstruation) exclusive to the female gender”?

All Hindus have the right to enter the temple and denying them the right was a kind of “untouchability” which was abolished by Article 17 of the Constitution.

It also goes against the spirit of Articles 14, 15 and 21.

Observations made by the Court:

In a public place of worship, a woman can enter, where a man can go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman.

Women and their physiological phenomena are creations of God. If not God, of nature. Why should this (menstruation) be a reason for exclusion for employment or worship or anything?

Article 25 (1) mandates freedom of conscience and right to practise religion. “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”. This means right to pray is a constitutional right.

Also, the Constitution upholds the ideals of liberty of thought, expression, belief and faith, be it for man or woman.

Therefore, the discrimination is a violation of the rights to equality and gender justice.

Source: The Hindu

Make child marriages invalid

In News:

The WCD Ministry has proposed to make child marriages “void ab initio” (invalid from the outset).

Details:

The ministry seeks to amend section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, under which a child marriage is only voidable at the option of the contracting parties.

Current scenario:

Currently, child marriages are valid in India, but can be annulled if a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming an adult, or through a guardian in case of minors.

Also, in October 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled that “sexual intercourse with a minor wife amounts to rape, as under no circumstances can a child below 18 years give consent, express or implied, for sexual intercourse.

Background:

The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for a woman and 21 for a man.

According to a study based on Census 2011, there are 2.3 crore child brides in the country. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 also showed that 26.8 per cent women were married off before they turned 18.

According to the NFHS 2015-16, nearly eight per cent girls in the 15-19 age group had already become mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.

Way ahead:

If approved, it will amend the provisions of the law that allow child marriages to continue till a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming an adult, or through a guardian in case of minors.

Facts for Prelims:

The West Bengal government, in June 2017, won the prestigious UN Public Service Award for its initiative to combat child marriage and ensure education to the girl child in the state.

West Bengal has been awarded for the ‘Kanyashree Prakalpa‘ initiative that sought to reduce the high child marriage rates and low female education rates in the state.

Through the initiative, cash was deposited into the bank account of girls for every year they remained in school and were unmarried. This initiative led to a “drastic reduction in child marriage, increase in female education and female empowerment.”

Source: The Hindu

Article 161 of the Constitution

In News:

Cabinet approves Special Remission to Prisoners on the occasion of 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Ministry of Home Affairs will issue advice to all States and UTs asking them to process the cases of eligible prisoners.

Details:

State Governments and UT Administrations will be advised to constitute a Committee to examine the cases. State Governments will place the recommendations of the Committee before Governor for consideration and approval under Article 161 of the Constitution. After the approval, the prisoners will be released.

Article 161:

Article 161 deals with Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.

It states, the Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARDONING POWERS OF PRESIDENT AND GOVERNOR:

The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161. The power differs in the following two ways:

The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.

The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is sentence of death but pardoning power of Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

Significance of pardoning powers:

The pardoning power of Executive is very significant as it corrects the errors of judiciary. It eliminates the effect of conviction without addressing the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

Pardon may substantially help in saving an innocent person from being punished due to miscarriage of justice or in cases of doubtful conviction.

The object of pardoning power is to correct possible judicial errors, for no human system of judicial administration can be free from imperfections.

Way ahead:

The process of granting pardon is simpler but because of the lethargy of the government and political considerations, disposal of mercy petitions is delayed. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make amendment in law of pardoning to make sure that clemency petitions are disposed quickly. There should be a fixed time limit for deciding on clemency pleas.

Source: PIB

Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)

In News:

Cabinet approves MoU between the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance, Bahrain.

Details:

The MoU will provide an opportunity to the ICAI members to expand their professional horizon and simultaneously ICAI will become an entity to aid strengthen building of local national capabilities.

The aim is to work together to develop a mutually beneficial relationship in the best interest of members, students and their organizations.

About ICAI:

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament of India, ‘The Chartered Accountants Act, 1949′, to regulate the profession of Chartered Accountancy in India.

ICAI is the second largest professional Accounting & Finance body in the world.

ICAI is the only licensing cum regulating body of the financial audit and accountancy profession in India.

It recommends the accounting standards to be followed by companies in India to National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards (NACAS).

ICAI is solely responsible for setting the Standards on Auditing (SAs) to be followed in the audit of financial statements in India.

ICAI is one of the founder members of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), and Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA).

Source: PIB

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017

In News:

Lok Sabha has passed The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017 to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ in schools.

Highlights of the Bill:

The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The Act was having provision of no detention policy i.e. no child can be held back in any class until completion of elementary school (classes 1-8).

The Bill amends provision related to no detention policy in the parent Act to empower central or state government to allow schools to hold back child in class 5, class 8, or in both classes. It mandates conducting, regular examination in class 5 and class 8 at end of every academic year.

In case, child fails class 5, class 8 examinations, he will be given additional instruction and opportunity for a re-examination (within two months from the declaration of the result). If child fails again in re-examination, he may be held back in class 5, class 8, or in both classes.

The Bill empowers Union and State governments to decide whether to not hold back child in any class till completion of elementary education. Further, Union or State governments will decide manner and conditions subject to which child may be held back.

What is no detention policy?

According to this provision “no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class”. This translates into automatic promotions to the next class every year until Class VII. Instead of exams, schools are supposed to hold Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluations (CCE) for every child.

Criticism:

The provision had attracted criticism with several states and schools complaining that it compromised on academic rigour and learning levels and quality at schools.

The TSR Subramanian committee for formulation of the National Policy on Education has also suggested that ‘no detention’ policy should be discontinued after Class V. It had recommended restoration of detention provision, remedial coaching and two extra chances to each student such to move to a higher class.

A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education also studied the issue closely and recommended a provisional detention clause at Classes V and VIII. In 2013, a parliamentary panel had also asked the ministry to ‘rethink’ on its “policy of automatic promotion up to Class VIII”.

Source: The Hindu

BRICS Regional Aviation Partnership

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) amongst BRICS Nations on the Regional Aviation Partnership Cooperation viz. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Details:

The objective is that BRICS countries would benefit from the establishing of an institutional framework to cooperate in the field of civil aviation.

Among the areas of cooperation, following areas have been identified:

  • Public Policies and best practices in regional services.
  • Regional Airports.
  • Airport infrastructure management and air navigation services.
  • Technical cooperation between regulatory agencies.
  • Environment Sustainability; including deliberation of global initiatives.
  • Qualification and Training.
  • Other fields as mutually determined.

Impact:

The MoU signifies an important landmark in the civil aviation relations between India and other BRICS Member States and has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchanges amongst the BRICS Nations.

What is BRICS?

BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

 

The acronym “BRICs” was initially formulated in 2001 by economist Jim O’Neill, of Goldman Sachs, in a report on growth prospects for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – which together represented a significant share of the world’s production and population.

Why does the world need the BRICS?

Jim O’Neill’s point has been that the world is changing. The leading role of the Group of Seven (G7) and, more broadly, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is no longer undisputed. Most multi-lateral institutions were designed in the era when the West dominated the world. The US and Europe are over-represented in the IMF and the World Bank. Together with Japan, they control most regional development banks as well.

This imbalance has been especially clear during the recent global financial crisis when the need for participation by non-G7 countries became evident. This resulted in reviving the Group of 20 (G20) and proposals to redistribute voting rights in international financial institutions. But change has been slow and Western countries continue to control the international financial institutions.

This is why BRICS summits are so important. These meetings provide a unique forum where non-OECD leaders can discuss global challenges and co-ordinate their actions within and outside global institutions. The small size of the club and the absence of OECD partners helps in shaping the discussions at the summit.

Source: PIB

State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Bill, 2017

In News:

Parliament passes State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Bill, 2017 to merge six subsidiary banks with State Bank of India after it was approved by Rajya Sabha.

Features of the Bill:

The bill repeals two Acts namely- State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959, and State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956. These two acts had established State Bank of Bikaner, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Hyderabad and State Bank of Travancore. These banks were subsidiaries of SBI.

By repealing these two acts, five subsidiary banks will be merged with SBI. The bill also seeks to amend State Bank of India (SBI) Act, 1955 to remove references to subsidiary banks and powers of SBI to act as an agent of the RBI for subsidiary banks.

Background:

The Union Cabinet in February 2017 had approved merger of five associate banks along with Bharatiya Mahila Bank with SBI. The purposes of merger were rationalisation of public bank resources, reduction of costs, better profitability, lower cost of funds leading to better rate of interest for public at large and improve productivity and customer service of the public service banks. The merger had made SBI one of 50 biggest banks of world.

Source: PIB

Cabinet relaxes NELP, pre-NELP pact rules

In News:

The Union Cabinet approved the policy framework to streamline production sharing contracts signed in the pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and NELP periods.

Details:

Key decisions under the framework include increasing the exploration period granted for blocks in the northeast, and easing the sharing of royalties with the developers of the blocks.

New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP):

New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) was conceptualized by the Government of India, during 1997-98 to provide an equal platform to both Public and Private sector companies in exploration and production of hydrocarbons.

It provided for establishment of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) as a nodal agency for its implementation.

It was introduced to boost the production of oil and natural gas and providing level playing field for both public and private players.

Before implementation of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 1999, a mere 11% of Indian sedimentary basins were under exploration, which has now increased extensively over the years.

About Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP):

Government of India launched a new policy regime for Exploration & Production (E&P) sector namely Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) in 2016 which is paradigm shift from earlier policy regime.

The main features of new Policy regime are Revenue Sharing Contract, single Licence for exploration and production of conventional as well as unconventional Hydrocarbon resources, marketing & pricing freedom, etc.

Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) under HELP, is main innovative feature wherein investor can carve out Blocks of their own interest and submit an Expression of Interest (Eol) throughout the year. Based on the areas for which expression of interest has been expressed bidding will be conducted every 6 months.

Source: The Hindu

Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP)

In News:

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane.

Details:

FRP is the minimum price that the sugar mills have to pay to farmers.

It is supposed to signal to farmers the need to plant more or less cane for the coming year.

Approved by:

CACP recommends the fair and remunerative prices based on inter-crop price parity, inflation considerations, fair return to farmers and a host of other factors. It is the cabinet Committee on Economic affairs that finally approves it.

Fair Remunarative Price

  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane for sugar season 2018-19.
  • The FRP so approved shall be applicable for purchase of sugarcane from the farmers in the sugar season by the sugar mills.
  • The FRP has been determined on the basis of recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and after consultation with State Governments and other stake-holders.
  • Recommended FRP has been arrived at by taking into account various factors such as cost of production, overall demand-supply situations.
  • FRP also takes domestic and international prices, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade prices of primary by-products, and likely impact of FRP on general price level and resource use efficiency into account.

Agartala-Akhaura Rail Link Project

  • It is a 45-km dual gauge line between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura, a sub-district of Chittagong in Bangladesh.
  • The project is developed as a part of India’s $4.5 billion third line of credit extended to Bangladesh for its infrastructure and social sector development.
  • The Agartala-Akhaura rail project will lend full connectivity from east to west of Bangladesh, apart from enabling trade relations between the two neighbours.
  • Once completed, the railway link is expected to cut the distance between Agartala and Kolkata by more than 1,000 km, it will also enhance India’s access to Chittagong port in Bangladesh.

 

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