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29th March Current Affairs

Demarcate how amicus curiae can help: SG tells top court

In News:

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has made a strong appeal to the Supreme Court to frame guidelines to rein in lawyers appointed as the court’s amici curiae in various cases, especially sensitive ones.

Need for guidelines:

Court-appointed amici curiae are stepping beyond their assigned role. They tend to even interfere in the “running” of organisations such as the CBI.

In some cases, they are even running the administration or dictating the executive.

Who is an amicus curiae?

Amicus Curiae, which literally translates as friend of the court, is a neutral lawyer appointed by the court to assist it in cases which require specific expertise.

They are advocates appointed to assist the court in adjudication of important cases.

Roles and functions:

India, thus, if a petition is received from the jail or in any other criminal matter if the accused is unrepresented, then, an Advocate is appointed as amicus curiae by the Court to defend and argue the case of the accused.

In civil matters also the Court can appoint an Advocate as amicus curiae if it thinks it necessary in case of an unrepresented party.

The Court can also appoint amicus curiae in any matter of general public importance or in which the interest of the public at large is involved.

MMDR Amendment Bill, 2021

In News:

Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 introduced in Lok Sabha.

The Bill amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.

Highlights of the Bill:

Removal of restriction on end-use of minerals: The Bill provides that no mine will be reserved for particular end-use.

Sale of minerals by captive mines: The Bill provides that captive mines (other than atomic minerals) may sell up to 50% of their annual mineral production in the open market after meeting their own needs.   The central government may increase this threshold through a notification.

Auction by the central government in certain cases: The Bill empowers the central government to specify a time period for completion of the auction process in consultation with the state government.  If the state government is unable to complete the auction process within this period, the auctions may be conducted by the central government.

Transfer of statutory clearances: The Bill provides that transferred statutory clearances will be valid throughout the lease period of the new lessee.

Allocation of mines with expired leases: The Bill says that mines (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals), whose lease has expired, may be allocated to a government company in certain cases. The state government may grant a lease for such a mine to a government company for a period of up to 10 years or until the selection of a new lessee, whichever is earlier.


This will speed up the process of implementation of projects, ease of doing business, simplification of procedure and benefit all the parties in areas where minerals are located.

It will create an efficient energy market and bring in more competition as well as reduce coal imports. India imported 235 million tonnes (mt) of coal last year, of which 135 mt valued at Rs 171,000 crore could have been met from domestic reserves.

It might also put an end to Coal India Ltd’s monopoly in the sector.

It would also help India gain access to high-end technology for underground mining used by miners across the globe.

Universal basic income

In News:

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has released the Trinamool Congress manifesto for the 2021 Assembly election.

The manifesto, among other things, promises universal basic income for every family.

As per the announcement:

Under the income scheme, all the 1.6 crore families under the general category will get ₹500 a month and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population ₹1,000 a month.

The direct transfers will be in the name of the women head of the family.

What is Universal Basic Income?

It is a programme for providing all citizens of a geographic area (a country or state) with a given sum of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status.

The main idea behind UBI is to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens.

The essential principle behind Universal basic income is the idea that all citizens are entitled to a livable income, irrespective of the circumstances they’re born in.

UBI has the following important components:

  • Universality (all citizens included).
  • unconditionality (no prior condition).
  • Periodic (Payments at periodic regular intervals).
  • Payments in cash (not food vouchers or service coupons).

Benefits of Universal Basic Income (UBI):

  • Provide secured income to individuals.
  • Reduce poverty and income inequality in society.
  • Increase the purchasing power of every poor which will further increase aggregate demand.
  • Easy to implement because no identification of the beneficiary is involved.
  • Reduce the wastage of government money because its implementation is very simple.

Supporters of the idea:

The Economic Survey of India 2016-17 has advocated the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an alternative to the various social welfare schemes in an effort to reduce poverty.

Other Supporters of the UBI programme include Economics Nobel Laureates Peter Diamond and Christopher Pissarides, and tech leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.

Challenges in Implementing Universal Basic Income in India:

High cost involved in implementing UBI is a major factor contributing towards lack of political will in working towards the universal basic income in India.

It would reduce the motivation for work and might encourage people to live off assured cash transfers and it is simply unaffordable.

Don’t privatise Railways, says Opposition

In News:

Opposition parties severely criticised the Modi government for concentrating their efforts in ‘privatising’ the Railways in the last seven years.

The Concern:

The Opposition leaders said privatisation of various railway infrastructure would only benefit corporates and loss of revenue for the railways, pushing it to the brink like the Air India and the Indian Airlines. It would also mean rise in fares.

Besides, privatisation did not always mean improvement in efficiency. The catering services were privatised almost two decades back yet there were complaints from passengers.

Recommendations by Bibek Debroy Committee:

The Bibek Debroy Committee, which was set up to suggest ways to mobilise resources for the Indian Railways and restructure the Railway Board, had favoured privatisation of rolling stock: wagons and coaches.

Rail Privatisation:


Improved Infrastructure– It will lead to better infrastructure which in turn would lead to improved amenities for travellers.

Balancing Quality of Service with High Fares–  The move would foster competition and hence lead to overall betterment in the quality of services.

Lesser Accidents–  Because private ownership is synonymous with better maintenance, supporters of privatisation feel that it will reduce the number of accidents, thus resulting in safe travel and higher monetary savings in the long run.


Coverage Limited to Lucrative Sectors – An advantage of Indian Railways being government- owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit. This would not be possible with privatisation since routes which are less popular will be eliminated, thus having a negative impact on connectivity. It will also render some parts of the country virtually inaccessible and omit them from the process of development.

Fares –  Given that a private enterprise runs on profit, it is but natural to assume that the easiest way of accruing profits in Indian Railways would be to hike fares, thus rendering the service out of reach for lower income groups. This will defeat the entire purpose of the system which is meant to serve the entire population of the country irrespective of the level of income.

Accountability –  Private companies are unpredictable in their dealings and do not share their governance secrets with the world at large. In such a scenario it would be difficult to pin the accountability on a particular entity, should there be a discrepancy.