26 September Current Affairs
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September 28, 2018
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27 September Current Affairs

Supreme Court allows live streaming of cases

In News:

Ushering in more transparency in the judiciary’s work, the Supreme Court has given its nod to live-streaming of court proceedings, saying this will bring more accountability and enhance the rule of law.

Pilot project:

As per the court’s order, the project must be implemented in a progressive, structured and phased manner, with certain safeguards to ensure that the purpose of live-streaming of proceedings is achieved holistically and that it does not interfere with the administration of justice or the dignity and majesty of the court hearing the matter and/or impinge upon any rights of the litigants or witnesses.

As a pilot project, only cases of constitutional and national importance being argued for final hearing before the Constitution Bench be live-streamed initially. For this, it said, permission of the court concerned will have to be sought in writing in advance.

Consent of parties to the proceedings must be insisted upon, and if there is no unanimity between them, the court concerned can take the appropriate decision in the matter. The court concerned will also have the power to revoke permission at any stage of the proceedings.

There must be a reasonable time-delay (say 10 minutes) between the live court proceedings and the broadcast, in order to ensure that any information which ought not to be shown, as directed by the court, can be edited from being broadcast.

Till a full-fledged module and mechanism for live-streaming of the proceedings of the Supreme Court over the internet is evolved, it can be live-streamed in designated areas within the court via intranet.

What necessitated this?

Although courts in India are ordinarily open to all members of the public, sometimes they are denied the opportunity to witness the proceedings due to logistical issues and infrastructure restrictions. By providing ‘virtual’ access of live court proceedings to one and all, it will effectuate the right of access to justice or right to open justice and public trial, right to know the developments of law and including the right of justice at the doorstep of the litigants.

It will “reduce the public’s reliance on second-hand narratives to obtain information about important judgments of the court and the course of judicial hearings”. Society will be able to view court proceedings first-hand and form reasoned and educated opinions about the functioning of courts. This will help reduce misinformation and misunderstanding about the judicial process.

Significance of the move:

This is a giant step by the Supreme Court to move towards a regime of transparency.

Live streaming will deal head on with the problem of distance. Given that the court is located in New Delhi, many people cannot afford to be present physically in Supreme Court to follow the arguments, even if the case directly affects them in some way. In fact, even litigants are often unable to travel to court because of the cost and distance involved, leaving it entirely to their lawyers to run the case.

A live telecast of proceedings also has the potential to reduce unwarranted delays in the cases caused by the occasionally cavalier attitude of lawyers. With the client’s eye firmly on them, lawyers are likely to expedite cases. Further, this will provide an opportunity to young lawyers to showcase their talents to the world and has the potential to break the stranglehold of a select few over the legal profession.

Live streaming could act as a welcome check on the judiciary. With the public watching, there is every chance that there will be a reduction in the sometimes unnecessary oral comments that cause much controversy but have no judicial bearing.

What next?

Supreme Court Rules, 2013, will have to suitably amended to provide for the regulatory framework to incorporate the changes.

Besides, live telecast comes with some drawbacks. As seen in the Parliament, there is a tendency to grandstand among lawmakers, who want to show their electorate that they are indeed working hard. The court has to make sure proceedings are unaffected by the introduction of a new technology.

Source: The Hindu

Police forces in 6 UTs merged

In News:

The Ministry of Home Affairs has notified the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh (Police Service) Rules 2018 amalgamating police forces in six Union Territories.

Changes:

The rules effectively mean that officers who are not direct IPS recruits could be posted in any of the six UTs and will be at the disposal of the Ministry.

There are around 533 posts that will be covered under the new rules; they include assistant commissioners of police and deputy superintendent of police.

The Rules will come into effect upon the promotion or direct recruitment of Inspectors to the post of ACP. Half of the posts at the ACP rank will be filled through direct recruitment and the other half through promotion. Earlier these postings were decided by the respective UT administrators.

The post/grade/service eligible for induction into the Entry Grade for the new service, according to the notification, would include personnel currently employed as inspectors in the Delhi Police, A&N Islands Police, Lakshadweep Police, Daman & Diu Police, Dadra and Nagar Haveli Police and Chandigarh Police.

Significance:

This initiative is being viewed as the first step towards the creation of a central police cadre allowing for the posting of police personnel across the country irrespective of the force they are initially inducted into.

A central pool allowing inter-transferability would also ensure that local police personnel do not fall prey to serving vested interests in their home services and ensure that they don’t become complacent.

Source: The Hindu

National Digital Communications Policy-2018

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Digital Communications Policy-2018 (NDCP-2018) and re-designation of the Telecom Commission as the “Digital Communications Commission”.

Impact:

The NDCP-2018 envisions supporting India’s transition to a digitally empowered economy and society by fulfilling the information and communications needs of citizens and enterprises by establishment of a ubiquitous, resilient and affordable digital communications infrastructure and services.

The ‘Customer focused’ and ‘application driven’ NDCP-2018 shall lead to new ideas and innovations, after the launch of advanced technology such as 5G, IOT, M2M, etc. which shall govern the telecom sector of India.

The key objectives of the policy are:

  • Broadband for all.
  • Creating four million additional jobs in the Digital Communications sector.
  • Enhancing the contribution of the Digital Communications sector to 8% of India’s GDP from ~ 6% in 2017.
  • Propelling India to the Top 50 Nations in the ICT Development Index of ITU from 134 in 2017.
  • Enhancing India’s contribution to Global Value Chains.
  • Ensuring Digital Sovereignty.
  • These objectives are to be achieved by 2022.

The policy aims to:

  • Provide universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen.
  • Provide 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022.
  • Ensure connectivity to all uncovered areas.
  • Attract investments of USD 100 billion in the Digital Communications Sector.
  • Train one million manpower for building New Age Skill.
  • Expand IoT ecosystem to 5 billion connected devices.
  • Establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals.
  • Facilitate India’s effective participation in the global digital economy.
  • Enforce accountability through appropriate institutional mechanisms to assure citizens of safe.
  • Secure digital communications infrastructure and services.

The policy advocates:

  • Establishment of a National Digital Grid by creating a National Fibre Authority.
  • Establishing Common Service Ducts and utility corridors in all new city and highway road projects.
  • Creating a collaborative institutional mechanism between Centre, States and Local Bodies for Common Rights of Way, standardization of costs and timelines.
  • Removal of barriers to approvals.
  • Facilitating development of Open Access Next Generation Networks.

Background:

As the present world has entered the era of modern technological advancements in the Telecom Sector such as 5G, loT, M2M etc., a need was being felt to introduce a ‘customer focused’ and ‘application driven’ policy for the Indian Telecom Sector, which can form the main pillar of Digital India by addressing emerging opportunities for expanding not only the availability of telecom services but also telecom based services.

 

Accordingly, the new National Digital Communications Policy – 2018 has been formulated, in place of the existing National Telecom Policy-2012, to cater to the modern needs of the digital communications sector of India.

Source: PIB

Ordinance To Supercede Medical Council Of India

In News:

An ordinance seeking to replace the existing body running the Medical Council of India or MCI with a government-appointed committee has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Details:

The committee or the ‘Board of Governors’ has now been appointed by the government in “supersession of the MCI”. The Board members include persons of eminence in the medical field.

Background:

Pending parliament’s approval to the bill, the government has chosen to go for the ordinance since the term of the existing committee running the MCI ends in November.

A bill to replace the MCI with a National Medical Commission (NMC) has already been presented in parliament. A parliamentary standing committee has also made its recommendations, but due to time factor, the bill “has gone into an area of uncertainty.”

National Medical Commission Bill:

The bill provides for the constitution of four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting undergraduate and postgraduate education, assessment and accreditation of medical institutions and registration of practitioners under the National Medical Commission.

According to the draft bill, the commission will have government nominated chairman and members, and the board members will be selected by a search committee under the Cabinet Secretary. There will five elected and 12 ex-officio members in the commission.

As per the Bill, the government, under the National Medical Commission (NMC), can dictate guidelines for fees up to 40% of seats in private medical colleges. This is aimed at giving students relief from the exorbitant fees charged by these colleges and is a standout feature of the bill.

The bill also has a provision for a common entrance exam and licentiate (exit) exam that medical graduates have to pass before practising or pursuing PG courses. For MBBS, students have to clear NEET, and before they step into practice, they must pass the exit exam.

Recognised medical institutions don’t need the regulator’s permission to add more seats or start PG course. This mechanism to reduce the discretionary powers of the regulator.

Earlier, medical colleges required the MCI’s approval for establishment, recognition, renewal of the yearly permission or recognition of degrees, and even increase the number of students they admitted. Under the new bill, the powers of the regulator are reduced to establishment and recognition. This means less red tape, but also less scrutiny of medical colleges.

Background:

The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. This Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act in 1956. Under the 1956 Act, the objectives of MCI include:

  • Maintenance of standards in medical education through curriculum guidelines, inspections and permissions to start colleges, courses or increasing number of seats.
  • Recognition of medical qualifications.
  • Registration of doctors and maintenance of the All India Medical Register.
  • Regulation of the medical profession by prescribing a code of conduct and taking action against erring doctors.

Source: The Hindu

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS)

In News:

In the series of meetings of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) Working Group (IWG) on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), the 3rd meeting is being held at Headquarters Eastern Naval Command, Vishakhapatnam.

About IONS:

IONS, the 21st century’s first significant international maritime security initiative launched in February 2008, provides a forum for discussion of regional maritime issues and promotes friendly relationships among member nations. It presently has 24 members and eight observer navies.

It is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues and, in the process, endeavors to generate a flow of information between naval professionals that would lead to common understanding and possibly agreements on the way ahead.

Under the charter of business adopted in 2014, the grouping has working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Information Security and Interoperability (IS&I) and anti-piracy now renamed as maritime security.

Source: PIB

Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN)

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal to convert Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) into a government-owned company. The government will now own 100% of the IT backbone to the new indirect tax regime.

Background:

Currently, the Centre and states together hold 49% stake in GSTN. The remaining 51% is held by five private financial institutions – HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, NSE Strategic Investment Co and LIC Housing Finance Ltd.

What necessitated this?

GST, which subsumed over a dozen local taxes, was rolled out on July 1, 2017. Over 1.1 crore businesses are registered on the GSTN portal. With enhanced role of GSTN from just collecting taxes to data analytics, the government felt that it should now be the majority owner in the IT backbone provider.

What is GSTN?

The GSTN was floated to aid the rollout of the new indirect tax regime. The company will provide information technology support to all stakeholders for smooth implementation of the new taxation regime across the country and will be the repository of all information related to taxation and entities registered under GST.

Source: The Hindu

Mobile Application “Jan Dhan Darshak”

In News:

Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance and National Informatics Centre (NIC) has jointly developed a mobile app called Jan Dhan Darshak as a part of financial inclusion (FI) initiative.

About Jan Dhan Darshak app:

As the name suggests, this app will act as a guide for the common people in locating a financial service touch point at a given location in the country.

The app will be in a unique position to provide a citizen centric platform for locating financial service touch points across all providers such as banks, post office, CSC, etc. These services could be availed as per the needs and convenience of the common people.

Some of the salient features of this App are as follows:

  • Find nearby Financial touch points, based on current location (Branches/ATM/Post offices).
  • Search by place name.
  • Search by place name also available with Voice Interface.
  • Phone number of bank branches available in app, with the facility of call button for integrated dialing.
  • Users’ feedback will go directly to the concerned bank for carrying out the necessary updation in data on financial touch points.

Source: PIB

Sirhind and Rajasthan Feeders

In News:

Cabinet approves financial assistance worth Rs.825 Crore for relining of Sirhind Feeder Canal and relining of Rajasthan Feeder Canal. The project would mitigate water logging problem and enhance the flows/ water availability in the two canals.

Key facts:

Sirhind and Rajasthan Feeders take off upstream of Harike Head works and flow through Punjab before crossing over to Rajasthan.

The twin canals have a common bank and were constructed in the 1960s as lined (brick) channels to convey water to command areas in Punjab and Rajasthan.

Astra BVR Air-to-Air Missile

In News:

Astra, the indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM), was recently successfully test fired by the Indian Air Force from Su-30 aircraft.

Astra:

  • It is the indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air
  • It is an all-weather, state-of-the-art missile developed by DRDO and can engage and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speed (1.2 Mach to 1.4 Mach) in head-on (up to 80 km) and tail-chase (up to 20 km) modes.
  • The 3.8 metre tall Astra is a radar homing missile and the smallest of the DRDO-developed missiles and can be launched from different altitudes.
  • It can reach up to 110 km when fired from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when launched from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when fired from sea level.

PRAGATI

In News:

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, recently chaired his 29th interaction through PRAGATI – the ICT-based, multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation.

About PRAGATI:

PRAGATI is a unique integrating and interactive platform. The platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.

Unique features:

  • The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology.
  • It also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
  • With this, the Prime Minister is able to discuss the issues with the concerned Central and State officials with full information and latest visuals of the ground level situation. It is also an innovative project in e-governance and good governance.
  • It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States).
  • Issues to be flagged before the PM are picked up from the available database regarding Public Grievances, on-going Programmes and pending Projects.
  • The system will ride on, strengthen and re-engineer the data bases of the CPGRAMS for grievances, Project Monitoring Group (PMG) and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. PRAGATI provides an interface and platform for all these three aspects.
  • The system has been designed in-house by the PMO team with the help of National Informatics Center (NIC).

Opportunity Rover

  • NASA’s mars orbiter has recently spotted Opportunity Rover on the red planet for the first time since it went into hibernation after a dust storm.
  • A high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the image of the rover in Perseverance Valley in Mars.
  • Opportunity Rover was launched by NASA in 2003 to land in red planet Mars.
  • It was originally planned for 90-day mission. But it has far outlasted its planned mission by 55 times longer than originally planned.

Police Forces Rules

  • Ministry of Home affairs has recently notified new rules amalgamating police forces in six Union Territories.
  • The rules effectively mean that officers who are not direct IPS recruits could be posted in any of the six UTs and will be at the disposal of the Ministry.
  • It would include personnel currently employed in the Delhi Police, A&N Islands Police, Lakshadweep Police, Daman & Diu Police, Dadra and Nagar Haveli Police and Chandigarh Police.
  • The Rules will come into effect upon the promotion or direct recruitment of Inspectors to the post of ACP.
  • It is being viewed as the first step towards the creation of a central police cadre allowing for the posting of police personnel across the country irrespective of the force they are initially inducted into.