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4th August Current Affairs

Essential Defence Services Bill 2021

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

In News:

The Bill was recently passed by the Lok Sabha.

Details:

The Bill aims to prevent the staff of the government-owned ordnance factories from going on a strike.

Highlights of the Bill:

It is meant to “provide for the maintenance of essential defence services.

The Bill defines Essential Defence Services: It includes any service in any establishment or undertaking dealing with production of goods or equipment required for defence related purposes or any establishment of the armed forces or connected with them or defence.

The Bill also empowers the government to declare services mentioned in it as essential defence services.

It prohibits strike and lockouts in “any industrial establishment or unit engaged in essential defence services”.

The Bill amends the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 to include essential defence services under public utility services.

Besides, the bill has also defined strikes and punishments for violations.

Why was this bill necessary?

In June the government announced the corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board.

The government has claimed that the move is aimed at improving the efficiency and accountability of these factories.

However, fearing job loss, many federations announced the launch of indefinite strikes.

This was countered by the Essential Defence Services Ordinance which was promulgated on June 30. The Bill will replace this ordinance.

Who will it affect?

It has a direct bearing on around 70,000 employees of the 41 ordnance factories around the country, who are unhappy with the corporatisation of OFB, fearing that it will impact their service and retirement conditions.

Why does OFB and its production matter?

The ordnance factories form an integrated base for indigenous production of defence hardware and equipment, with the primary objective of self reliance in equipping the armed forces with state of the art battlefield equipment.

Therefore, there is a need to provide for the maintenance of essential defence services so as to secure the security of nation and the life and property of public at large and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Deep Ocean Mission

(GS-III: Indigenization of technology and developing new technology)

In News:

The Government has informed in the Rajya Sabha that Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) will be implemented at a total budget of Rs. 4077 Cr for 5 years. And all the components of the mission will commence in 2021.

About the Mission:

The focus of the mission will be on deep-sea mining, ocean climate change advisory services, underwater vehicles and underwater robotics related technologies.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be the nodal Ministry implementing this multi-institutional mission.

Key Components of the mission:

A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools. An Integrated Mining System will be developed for mining polymetallic nodules at those depths in the central Indian Ocean.

Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services.

Development of a component for searching deep sea flora and fauna, including microbes, and studying ways to sustainably utilise them.

It will also have a component to explore and identify potential sources of hydrothermal minerals that are sources of precious metals formed from the earth’s crust along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.

It has a component for studying and preparing detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plants.

Significance:

The mission will give a boost to efforts to explore India’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

The plan will enable India to develop capabilities to exploit resources in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).

Potential:

India has been allotted 75,000 square kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploration of poly-metallic nodules.

CIOB reserves contain deposits of metals like iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.

It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.

What are PMN?

Polymetallic nodules (also known as manganese nodules) are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor of world oceans in deep sea.

Composition: Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium, of which nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.

Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2021

(GS-II: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)

In News:

The Bill was recently passed in Lok Sabha by voice vote. The Bill replaces a similar Ordinance promulgated in April 2021.

Details:

The Bill seeks to provide for uniform terms and conditions of the various members of the Tribunal and abolish certain tribunals, as a part of its bid to rationalize the tribunals.

Background:

The proposed changes are based on the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the Madras Bar Association case.

Key changes:

It seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions to other existing judicial bodies.

It seeks to empower the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.

It provides that the Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals will be appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of a Search-cum-Selection Committee.

It also provides the composition of the Committee, to be headed by the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of Supreme Court nominated by him.

For state tribunals, there will be a separate search committee.

The Union government has to ‘preferably’ decide on the recommendations of the search-cum selection committee within 3 months of the date of the recommendation.

Tenure: Chairperson of a Tribunal shall hold office for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier. Other Members of a Tribunal shall hold office for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of 67 years, whichever is earlier.

Abolition of Appellate Tribunals:

Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, Airports Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advanced Rulings, Intellectual Property Appellate Board and the Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal are the five tribunals which are sought to be abolished by the Bill and their functions are to be transferred to the existing judicial bodies.

What had the Court ruled and what are the key Issues with the Bill?

The Supreme Court in the case of Madras Bar Association v. Union of India had struck down the provisions requiring a minimum age for appointment as chairperson or members as 50 years and prescribing the tenure of four years.

It held that such conditions are violative of the principles of separation of powers, independence of judiciary, rule of law and Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Issues:

The Bill has sought to undo the judgment of the Apex Court wrt to the following provisions:

  • The minimum age requirement of 50 years still finds a place in the Bill.
  • The tenure for the Chairperson and the members of the tribunal remains four years.
  • The recommendation of two names for each post by the Search-cum-Selection Committee and requiring the decision to be taken by the government preferably within three months.

What are tribunals?

Tribunal is a quasi-judicial institution that is set up to deal with problems such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes. It performs a number of functions like adjudicating disputes, determining rights between contesting parties, making an administrative decision, reviewing an existing administrative decision and so forth.

Constitutional provisions:

They were not originally a part of the Constitution.

The 42nd Amendment Act introduced these provisions in accordance with the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee.

The Amendment introduced Part XIV-A to the Constitution, which deals with ‘Tribunals’ and contains two articles:

Article 323A deals with  Administrative Tribunals. These are quasi-judicial institutions that resolve disputes related to the recruitment and service conditions of persons engaged in public service.

Article 323B deals with tribunals for other subjects such as Taxation, Industrial and labour, Foreign exchange, import and export, Land reforms, Food, Ceiling on urban property, Elections to Parliament and state legislatures, Rent and tenancy rights.