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26th April Current Affairs

Governor’s powers to appoint VCs of state universities

(GS-II: Separation of powers)

In News:

Tamil Nadu has passed two Bills proposing to take away the Governor’s powers to appoint VCs of state universities.

Highlights of the Bill:

The Bills stress that “every appointment of the Vice-Chancellor shall be made by the Government from out of a panel of three names” recommended by a search-cum-selection committee.

Removal: The Bills also seek to empower the state government to have the final word on the removal of VCs, if needed.

Procedure: Removal will be carried out based on inquiries by a retired High Court judge or a bureaucrat who has served at least as a Chief Secretary.

Reasons behind the enactment of these legislations:

Chief Minister MK Stalin said the Bills were required as the Governor was disregarding the state government’s opinion on the appointments of VCs.

The elected governments have repeatedly accused the Governors of acting at the behest of the Centre on various subjects, including education.

Which other states have enacted such similar legislations?

Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Kerala and Odisha have also tried to bring appointments to state universities under its control.

What is the UGC’s role in this?

Education comes under the Concurrent List, but entry 66 of the Union List gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.

Here, the University Grants Commission (UGC) plays standard-setting role, even in the case of appointments in universities and colleges.

According to the UGC Regulations, 2018, “Visitor/Chancellor” — mostly the Governor in states — shall appoint the VC out of the panel of names recommended by search-cum-selection committees.

Higher educational institutions, particularly those that get UGC funds, are mandated to follow its regulations.

Observations made by the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court, in March 2022, quashed the appointment of Shirish Kulkarni as the Vice-Chancellor of Sardar Patel University in Gujarat.

Judgment:

Any appointment as a Vice Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations can be said to be in violation of the statutory provisions, warranting a writ of quo warranto”.

Every subordinate legislation of the UGC flows from the parent UGC Act, 1956. Therefore, being a subordinate legislation, UGC Regulations become part of the Act.

In case of any conflict between state legislation and central legislation, central legislation shall prevail by applying the rule/principle of repugnancy as enunciated in Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject ‘education’ is in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Defence Acquisition Procedure

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 has been amended based on the approvals accorded by Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in respect of the following:

Going forward all modernisation requirements of the Defence Services and Indian Coast Guard are to be indigenously sourced irrespective of the nature of procurement.

Import of defence equipment/sourcing from Foreign Industry of capital acquisitions should only be an exception and undertaken with specific approval of DAC/Raksha Mantri.

Requirement of Integrity Pact Bank Guarantee (IPBG) has been dispensed with. Instead, Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) will be taken as a bid security for all acquisition cases with Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) cost more than Rs 100 crore.

DAP 2020:

The new policy superseded the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 from October 1.

The DAP contains policies and procedures for procurement and acquisition from the capital budget of the MoD in order to modernise the Armed Forces including the Coast Guard.

Highlights of the new policy:

Reservations for Indigenous firms:

The policy reserves several procurement categories for indigenous firms.

DAP 2020 defines an “Indian vendor” as a company that is owned and controlled by resident Indian citizens, with foreign direct investment (FDI) not more than 49 per cent.

New Buy (Global–Manufacture in India) category:

This stipulates indigenisation of at least 50 per cent of the overall contract value of a foreign purchase bought with the intention of subsequently building it in India with technology transfer.

Greater indigenous content:

It promotes greater indigenous content in arms and equipment of the military procures, including equipment manufactured in India under licence. In most acquisition categories, DAP-2020 stipulates 10 per cent higher indigenisation than DPP 2016.

Import embargo list:

The “import embargo list” of 101 items that the government promulgated last month has been specifically incorporated into DAP 2020. (An embargo is a government order that restricts commerce with a specified country or the exchange of specific goods.)

Offset liability:

The government has decided not to have an offset clause in procurement of defence equipment if the deal is done through inter-government agreement (IGA), government-to-government or an ab initio single vendor.

The offset clause requires a foreign vendor to invest a part of the contract value in India.

Self-replicating mRNA Covid-19 vaccines

(GS-III: Developments in Science and Technology)

In News:

A California based pharmaceutical company has developed ARCT-154, a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine against Covid-19 infection.

Benefits:

It offered 95% protection against severe Covid-19 and 55% against Covid infection.

What are mRNA vaccines?

An mRNA vaccine use messenger RNA that encodes the spike protein of the coronavirus.

The mRNA directs the cell to produce copies of the spike protein, so that the immune system will recognise the spike if and when actual infection takes place, and mount a response.

Examples: Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

What are self-amplifying mRNA vaccines?

A self-amplifying mRNA vaccine is an improvement on the traditional RNA platform. It encodes four extra proteins in addition to the vaccine antigen, and these enable amplification of the original strand of RNA once inside the cell. The basic advantage is that it requires a smaller dose.

IT Rules, 2021

(GS-II: Government Policies and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

The Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has blocked 16 YouTube news channels, including six from Pakistan.

Details:

Previously, it had blocked 78 YouTube news channels, including 18 from India, on various charges.

Why?

On charges of spreading false and unverified information to create panic, incite communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country.

Legal basis:

The action has been taken using emergency powers under Rule 18 of the IT Rules, 2021.

Overview of the IT rules, 2021:

It mandates a grievance redressal system for over the top (OTT) and digital portals in the country. This is necessary for the users of social media to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media.

Significant social media firms have to appoint a chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person who can be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7.

A grievance officer: Social media platforms will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and dispose of it in 15 days.

Removal of content: If there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women – about exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation etc – social media platforms will be required to remove that within 24 hours after a complaint is made.

A monthly report: They also will have to publish a monthly report about the number of complaints received and the status of redressal.

There will be three levels of regulation for news publishers — self-regulation, a self-regulatory body, headed by a retired judge or an eminent person, and oversight from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, including codes of practices and a grievance committee.

What is a significant social media intermediary and benefits obtained under it?

Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users will be considered ‘significant social media intermediaries’, as per the new norms.

What happens in case of non compliance?

Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp messenger could face a ban if they do not comply with the new Information Technology rules.

They also run the risk of losing their status as “intermediaries” and may become liable for criminal action if they do not comply with the revised regulations.