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21st January Current Affairs

Gujarat HC’s digital initiatives

(GS-II: Governance)

In News:

Two digital services for Gujarat High court — a ‘Justice Clock’, and electronic payment of court fee, were recently inaugurated.

What is the ‘Justice Clock’?

It is an LED display of 7 feet by 10 feet, placed at a height of 17 feet from the ground.

Placed in high court premises.

This ‘Justice Clock’ will exhibit vital statistics of the justice delivery system in Gujarat, to “maximise outreach and visibility” of the work done by the state judiciary.

What is e-court fee and how will it help?

The online e-Courts fee system allows advocate and parties to procure judicial stamps online through electronic payment and upon submission of a PDF receipt.

Significance of these initiatives:

The two digital initiatives add to a slew of other digital measures the Gujarat HC has undertaken to cope with Covid-19.

Digital transformation brings in transparency and openness in court proceedings and also provides a glimpse to the public at large of how judges function.

Need for Digitization?

Perception about Indian courts is that courts justice delivery is with long delays and difficult for ordinary litigants. It is expected that technology will revolutionaries the justice delivery.

Judiciary’s Efforts During Pandemic:

In the wake of the pandemic, courts began using facilities like e-filing in true earnest.

In May 2020, the Supreme Court also introduced another innovation: a new system of e-filing and artificial intelligence-enabled referencing.

The latest Vision Document for Phase III of the e-Courts Project seeks to address the judiciary’s digital deprivation. It envisages an infrastructure for the judicial system that is ‘natively digital’ and reflects the effect that the pandemic has had on India’s judicial timeline and thinking.

Space debris

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

Russia blew up one of its old satellites in November in a missile test that sparked international anger because of the space debris it scattered around the Earth’s orbit.

Details:

Recently, a Chinese satellite (Tsinghua Science Satellite) had a near collision with one of the many chunks of debris left by the fallout of this Russian anti-satellite missile test.

What’s the issue?

With more countries venturing into space with every passing decade, the problem is simply ballooning out of control and recent events, like the anti-satellite weapons test by Russia, are only exacerbating the problem.

The debris is now adding to the space junk problem and posing a major risk to the International Space Station (ISS) and the satellites in geostationary orbit.

The debris also poses a potential threat to the lives of the US, Russian, and Chinese astronauts and cosmonauts currently in space.

What is Space Debris?

Space debris poses a global threat to the continued use of space-based technologies that support critical functions like communication, transport, weather and climate monitoring, remote sensing.

Predicting collision probability from these space objects is crucial from the national security perspective as well as for the protection of public and private space assets of Indian origin.

Amount of space debris in space:

The real amount of space debris is said to be between 500,000 and one million pieces as current sensor technology cannot detect smaller objects. They all travel at speeds of up to 17,500 mph (28,162 kmph) fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft.

Significance of the Project:

Outcome of this project will directly support the Indian space sector, valued at $7 billion (Rs 51,334 crore) by providing an operationally flexible, scalable, transparent and indigenous collision probability solution.

Technologies that can tackle the problem in future are:

Moving an object out of the way by altering its orbit is one method of diverting a potential crash, but the sheer amount of debris requires constant observation and prediction – by any means necessary.

Nasa’s Space Debris Sensor orbits the Earth on the International Space Station. The sensor was attached to the outside of the space station’s European Columbus module in December 2017. It will detect millimetre-sized pieces of debris for at least two years, providing information on whatever hits it such as size, density, velocity, orbit and will determine whether the impacting object is from space or a man-made piece of space debris.

REMOVEdebris, satellite contain two cubesats that will release simulated space debris so that it can then demonstrate several ways of retrieving them.

Deorbit mission: There are two emerging technologies being developed under what’s known as the e.Deorbit mission to grasp the wayward space junk, or to catch it.

Other technologies include moving objects with a powerful laser beam. It is important to start doing that soon, current scientific estimates predict that without active debris removal, certain orbits will become unusable over the coming decades.

Netra:

To safeguard its space assets from space debris, Isro had set up a dedicated Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Control Centre named “Netra” in Bengaluru last December.

Netra’s key objective is to monitor, track and protect the national space assets and function as a hub of all SSA activities.

Only the US, Russia and Europe have similar facilities in place to track space objects and share collision warnings.

India’s Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile:

Mission Shakti is a joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

As part of the mission, an anti-satellite (A-SAT) weapon was launched and targeted an Indian satellite which had been decommissioned. Mission Shakti was carried out from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore.

Significance:

India is only the 4th country to acquire such a specialised and modern capability, and Entire effort is indigenous. Till now, only the US, Russia and China had the capability to hit a live target in space.

What is current rule on deputation?

(GS-II: Role of civil services in a democracy)

In News:

The Centre has proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules in order to exercise greater control in central deputation of IAS officials.

Central deputation has often been at the centre of tussles between the Centre and the states.

What is the current rule on deputation?

Central deputation in the Indian Administrative Service is covered under Rule-6 (1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules-1954, inserted in May 1969.

As per the rule:

A cadre officer may, with the concurrence of the State Governments concerned and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government or under a company, association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, which is wholly or substantially owned or controlled by the Central Government or by another State Government.

What happens in case of disagreement?

In case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government and the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.

However, existing rules did not mention any time limit for deciding on such disagreement.

What are the proposed amendments?

The proposal will give greater say to the Centre.

The amendments enable the Union government to seek the services of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officer posted in a State even without the State government’s consent.

The Centre will be able to relieve an officer from their cadre if the State government does not give effect to the Central government’s decision within the specified time.

In case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the central government and the state government or state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government “within a specified time”.

Services of an AIS officer with a specific domain expertise may be required for any important time-bound flagship programme or project.

What necessitated these amendments?

Various state/joint cadres are not sponsoring adequate numbers of officers for central deputation, as part of the Central Deputation Reserve. As a result of this, the number of officers available for central deputation is not sufficient to meet the requirement at Centre.

How many officers are working under deputation?

Only 10% mid-level IAS officers were posted with the Union government in 2021, a sharp fall from 19% in 2014.

The decrease in central deputation of IAS officers becomes even more stark as the total pool of such officers at this level expanded from 621 in 2014 to 1130 in 2021, an increase of around 80%.

According to data available with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the number of central deputation reserve of IAS officers has gone down from 309 in 2011 to 223.

ISRO test fires high-thrust Vikas engine

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently conducted a successful qualification test of its High Thrust VIKAS Engine at the ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Tamil Nadu’s Mahendragiri.

The Vikas engine will power the ambitious Gaganyaan mission into space.

About the Vikas engine:

It is a family of liquid fuelled rocket engines.

It is used in the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) series of expendable launch vehicles for space launch use.

About Gaganyaan:

Formal announcement of the Gaganyaan programme was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day address on August 15, 2018.

The initial target was to launch the human spaceflight before the 75th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15, 2022.

With this launch, India will become the fourth nation in the world to launch a Human Spaceflight Mission after the USA, Russia and China.

Objectives:

The objective of the Gaganyaan programme is to demonstrate the capability to send humans to low earth orbit on board an Indian launch vehicle and bring them back to earth safely.

Preparation and launch:

Four Indian astronaut-candidates have already undergone generic space flight training in Russia as part of the Gaganyaan programme.

ISRO’s heavy-lift launcher GSLV Mk III has been identified for the mission.