23rd April Current Affairs
April 23, 2021
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April 26, 2021
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24th April Current Affairs

Plenary jurisdiction of Supreme Court

In News:

Former law minister Ashwani Kumar has written to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and other judges of the top court urging them to take note of the worsening COVID-19 situation and issue “suitable directions” to the Centre and State governments to ban political rallies, protest assemblies and religious or festive congregations of more than 50 people.

He asked the Supreme Court to issue suitable directions suo-moto in the exercise of its plenary jurisdiction (Under Article 142).

Need for:

It is officially acknowledged and medically confirmed that the life-threatening surge in the number of corona cases, which is highest in the world, is substantially on account of a free run enjoyed by the super-spreading events, including political rallies, religious congregations and festive events. While there may be a case against a complete lockdown, it was essential to put a stop to mass gatherings that spread the COVID-19 infection.

What is Article 142?

Article 142 “provide(s) a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between the parties, i.e., where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy, the Court can extend itself to put a quietus to a dispute in a manner which would befit the facts of the case.

Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.

U.S. Treasury keeps India on currency watch list

In News:

The U.S. Treasury has released the report on Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States. The April 2021 edition of the semi-annual report is the first from the Biden administration.

Details:

The report is submitted to the U.S. Congress and reviews currency practices of the U.S.’s 20 biggest trading partners.

Three criteria are used to review partners:

  • A significant (at least $20 billion) bilateral trade surplus.
  • A material current account surplus.
  • Persistent one-sided intervention in forex markets.

Highlights of the latest report:

India is one of the 11 countries on the ‘Monitoring List’ with regard to their currency practices.

India was on the list in the December 2020 report as well.

The other 10 countries on the list with India are China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Mexico.

India met two of the three criteria — the trade surplus criterion and the “persistent, one-sided intervention” criterion.

What is currency manipulation?

The US Treasury department defines currency manipulation as when countries deliberately influence the exchange rate between their currency and the US dollar to gain “unfair competitive advantage in international trade”.

RBI gets applications for ‘on tap’ licences

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India has received four applications each for on-tap universal private bank licences and small finance bank licences.

Details:

This is part of the RBI’s guidelines for such licences released in August 2016 and December 2019 respectively.

Who can apply?

According to the guidelines released by the central bank in August 2016:

Eligible entities seeking universal bank licences must be:

Individuals/entities with at least 10 years of experience in banking and finance at a senior level or private companies or groups with at least 10 years of successful track record.

Groups or companies applying for such licences must have assets of Rs 5,000 crore or above and the non-financial businesses don’t account for 40% or more of these assets.

To be eligible to apply for a small finance bank licence:

Individuals must have at least 10 years of experience in the banking and finance sector at senior levels.

Groups, companies, existing payments banks, non-banking finance companies, microfinance companies, local area banks and cooperative banks applying for these licenses must have at least five years of successful track record.

Background:

In April 2014, the RBI had given in-principle approval to Bandhan Bank Ltd. and IDFC Bank to start universal banking operations. IDFC Bank has since merged with Capital First Ltd. to form IDFC First Bank.

Iran says it has started enriching uranium to 60%

In News:

Iran has started enriching its uranium supply to 60 percent purity — the closest the country has ever come to the level needed for a weapon — in response to the sabotage of an Iranian nuclear site last weekend linked to Israel.

What is the goal of uranium enrichment?

Uranium contains a rare radioactive isotope, called U-235, that can be used to power nuclear reactors at low enrichment levels and to fuel nuclear bombs at much higher levels.

The goal of uranium enrichment is to raise the percentage levels of U-235, which is often done through the use of centrifuges — machines that spin a form of unrefined uranium at high speeds.

How much enriched uranium does Iran now possess?

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear-monitoring arm of the United Nations, Iran as of February had amassed 2,967.8 kilograms of uranium — roughly 14 times the limit under the nuclear accord and theoretically enough to power about three atomic bombs if refined to weapons grade. The stockpile includes 17.6 kilograms enriched to 20 percent — also forbidden under the accord until the year 2030.

Why does Iran have more enriched uranium now?

After President Donald J. Trump repudiated the Iran deal in 2018, reimposed economic sanctions on Iran and added other penalties, Iran undertook a graduated series of steps away from compliance with the deal to retaliate — increasing its 3.67 percent uranium supply, adding centrifuges, raising uranium purity in some of the supply to 20 percent and restricting international inspectors’ access to some nuclear sites. All the while, the country said these were easily reversible actions.

What’s the concern now?

What makes the 60 percent enrichment level particularly threatening is that the tricky process of enrichment becomes far easier and requires fewer centrifuges as it moves into the higher purities. In other words, getting to 90 percent purity is much easier starting from 20 percent, and easier still starting from 60 percent.