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7th August Current Affairs

Public Accounts Committee

(GS-II: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these)

In News:

The Public Accounts Committee, headed by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, is going on a four-day tour of Srinagar, Kargil, Leh and Drass.

What’s the issue?

The committee visit is in connection with a 2019 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on “high altitude clothing, equipment, ration and housing” for the Army personnel.

The CAG report had pointed out delays in the procurement of high altitude clothing and equipment items of up to four years, leading to acute shortage of essential clothing and equipment.

About PAC:

The PAC is formed every year with a strength of not more than 22 members of which 15 are from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha.

The term of office of the members is one year.

The Chairman is appointed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. Since 1967, the chairman of the committee is selected from the opposition.

Its chief function is to examine the audit report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) after it is laid in the Parliament.

Limitations of the Public Accounts Committee:

Broadly, it cannot intervene in the questions of policy.

It can keep a tab on the expenses only after they are incurred. It has no power to limit expenses.

It cannot intervene in matters of day-to-day administration.

Any recommendation that the committee makes is only advisory. They can be ignored by the ministries.

It is not vested with the power of disallowance of expenditures by the departments.

Being only an executive body; it cannot issue an order. Only the Parliament can take a final decision on its findings.

Who is an emergency arbitrator in Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)?

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of e-commerce giant Amazon against the proposed ₹24,713 crore merger deal between Future Retail Limited (FRL) and Reliance Retail.

The court has also upheld the validity and enforceability of a Singapore-based Emergency Arbitrator (EA) award (October 2020 award), which restrained FRL, India’s second largest offline retailer, from going ahead with the disputed transaction.

What’s the issue?

Future Group and Reliance Industries Limited had signed a Rs 24,713-crore deal in August 2020 for Future Retail to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing units to Reliance Retail and Fashionstyle.

Amazon is Future Group’s Indian partner.

Amazon says Future violated a partnership contract with the asset sale to its rival and wants to scuttle it, while the indebted Indian group says it would collapse if the transaction fails.

What has the Supreme Court ruled?

The award by Emergency Arbitrator in SIAC is “exactly like an order of an arbitral tribunal” contemplated under Section 17 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 Act Hence, an award by the EA was like an order under Section 17(1) (interim measures ordered by an arbitral tribunal) of the Act.

Therefore, no appeal would lie under Section 37 of the Arbitration Act against an order of enforcement of an Emergency Arbitrator’s order.

Why did Amazon approach SIAC?

The parties in a deal usually sign a contractual agreement which specifies about:

  1. The arbitral institution administering the arbitration.
  2. The applicable rules.
  3. The seat of arbitration.

In this case Amazon and Future Group have under their agreement agreed to refer their disputes to SIAC, with Singapore presumably being the contractual choice for the seat/place of arbitration.

How is the dispute taken up at the SIAC? What is the procedure to be followed?

Once a dispute is referred to arbitration, the process of appointment of the arbitral tribunal takes place.

Composition: Typically, in case of a three member tribunal, both the parties appoint one member each to the tribunal, while the third member is jointly appointed by the two nominees or, if they fail to agree, by SIAC.

Appointment of an Emergency Arbitrator:

Appointment of the arbitral tribunal usually takes time.

Therefore, under the rules of SIAC, parties can move SIAC to appoint an emergency arbitrator to get urgent interim relief, even as the process of appointment of the main arbitral tribunal is underway.

What happens when the parties don’t comply with the order voluntarily?

Currently under Indian law, there is no express mechanism for enforcement of the orders of the Emergency Arbitrator.

But, the parties voluntarily comply with the Emergency Award.

However, if the parties don’t comply with the order voluntarily, then the party which has won the emergency award, in this case Amazon, can move the High Court in India under Section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, to get similar reliefs as granted by the Emergency Arbitrator.

Why has Singapore become the hub of international arbitration?

Foreign investors investing in India typically want to avoid the rigmarole of the Indian courts.

Foreign investors feel that Singapore is neutral ground for dispute resolution.

Singapore itself over time has built a stellar reputation as jurisdiction driven by rule of law with international standards and high integrity. This gives comfort to investors that the arbitration process will be quick, fair and just”.

According to the 2019 annual report of SIAC, India was the top user of its arbitration seat with 485 cases being referred to SIAC, followed by Philippines at 122, China at 76 and the United States at 65.

Does India has any international arbitration centre?

Yes. India now has its own international arbitration centre in Mumbai.

About Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC):

It is a not-for-profit international arbitration organisation based in Singapore, which administers arbitrations under its own rules of arbitration and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Arbitration Rules.

Abanindranath Tagore

(GS-I: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues)

In News:

Abanindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary- 7th August.

About Abanindranath Tagore:

Abanindranath Tagore, the nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, was one of the most prominent artists of Bengal school of art in India. He was the first major supporter of swadeshi values in Indian art.

Contributions of Abanindranath Tagore towards Indian art and culture are:

He first created the ‘Indian Society of Oriental Art’ and later went on to establish Bengal school of art.

He believed that Indian art and its art forms gave importance to spirituality as opposed to the West which stressed on materialism, thus rejecting it.

His idea of modernizing Mughal and Rajput paintings eventually gave rise to modern Indian painting, which took birth at his Bengal school of art.

Most of his works revolved around Hindu philosophy.

In his later works, Abanindranath started integrating Chinese and Japanese calligraphic traditions into his style. The intention behind this move was to construct an amalgamation of the modern pan-Asian artistic tradition and the common elements of Eastern artistic and spiritual culture.

Famous paintings are:

Bharat Mata, The Passing of Shah Jahan (1900), My Mother (1912–13), Fairyland illustration (1913), Journey’s End (circa 1913).

Contributions to Literature:

Abanindranath is also regarded as a proficient and accomplished writer. Most of his literary works were meant for children.

Some of his books like ‘BudoAngla’, ‘KhirerPutul’ and ‘Rajkahini’ are best examples of Bengali children’s literature.

William Rothenstein helped Rabindranath Tagore to publish his work ‘Gitanjali’ in English.

Arabian Nights series was one of his notable works.

Why should India be given a permanent seat at UNSC?

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

The US administration under Biden has continued to remain non-committal on support for India’s UNSC bid.

However, the Obama and Trump administrations had supported a permanent seat for India on the Security Council.

What has the US said?

The U.S. has offered qualified support for building a consensus for enlargement of the UNSC — in terms of permanent and non-permanent members. However, it said it would not support an expansion of the veto — given to the P-5, the current five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the U.K and the U.S.

Who else has opposed India’s bid?

The Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group — Pakistan, South Korea, Italy and Argentina — opposes the G4 plan. China also opposes the bids of India and Japan.

India’s claims to a permanent seat in the UNSC are based on the following grounds:

  • Represents one-sixth of the global population.
  • Among the founding members of the U.N.
  • Always upheld its principles and credentials while some other countries consider the organisation as merely a talk shop.
  • Impressive contribution towards the UN Peacekeeping Force (UNPKF).
  • An emerging economic power.

Who are G4 Nations?

The G4 nations comprising Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan are four countries which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.

Basis for these demands:

Each of these four countries have figured among the elected non-permanent members of the council since the UN’s establishment.

Their economic and political influence has grown significantly in the last decades, reaching a scope comparable to the permanent members (P5).

In general, what UNSC reforms are necessary at present?

Permanent seats should be given in the council for these countries.

There is a clear need for an enhanced role of developing countries and of major contributors to the United Nations to make the Council more legitimate, effective and representative.

Africa needs to be represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories to correct the historical injustice against this continent with regard to its under-representation.

Need for text-based negotiations within a fixed time frame for the UNSC reform.