(GS-II: Important International Institutions)
June 6 marked the completion of 25 years since the 1997 Bangkok Declaration launched a modest grouping (of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand), with the acronym, BIST-EC.
Three countries (Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar) joined it later to make it the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
It has prioritised the sectors of cooperation, reducing them from the unwieldy 14 to the more manageable seven, with each member-state serving as the lead country for the assigned sector.
It has taken measures to strengthen the Secretariat, although some members are yet to extend adequate personnel support to it.
The grouping has also registered progress in combating terrorism, forging security cooperation, and creating mechanisms and practices for the better management of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Continuing inability to produce a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) 18 years after the signing of the Framework Agreement.
Only limited progress has been achieved so far in terms of connectivity, despite the adoption of the Master Plan for Connectivity supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The movement towards establishing the BIMSTEC Development Fund is minimal.
What is BIMSTEC?
In an effort to integrate the region, the grouping was formed in 1997, originally with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and later included Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.
BIMSTEC, which now includes five countries from South Asia and two from ASEAN, is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. It includes all the major countries of South Asia, except Maldives, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Why does the region matter?
Over one-fifth (22%) of the world’s population live in the seven countries around it, and they have a combined GDP close to $2.7 trillion.
The Bay also has vast untapped natural resources. One-fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the Bay every year.
Why is BIMSTEC important for India?
As the region’s largest economy, India has a lot at stake.
BIMSTEC connects not only South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
For India, it is a natural platform to fulfil our key foreign policy priorities of ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’.
For New Delhi, one key reason for engagement is in the vast potential that is unlocked with stronger connectivity. Almost 300 million people, or roughly one-quarter of India’s population, live in the four coastal states adjacent to the Bay of Bengal (Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal).
From the strategic perspective, the Bay of Bengal, a funnel to the Malacca straits, has emerged a key theatre for an increasingly assertive China in maintaining its access route to the Indian Ocean.
As China mounts assertive activities in the Bay of Bengal region, with increased submarine movement and ship visits in the Indian Ocean, it is in India’s interest to consolidate its internal engagement among the BIMSTEC countries.
(GS-III: Developments in science and technology)
With the EV industry growing rapidly, the demand for lithium, an essential resource for EV battery makers, has surged along.
It is estimated that if the entirety of ore from the African mines are extracted, it will be sufficient to meet the demand for at least 27.78 million vehicles with 60 kWh batteries.
It is a soft, silvery-white metal. Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element.
It is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in mineral oil. It is an alkali metal and a rare metal.
Key Characteristics and Properties:
It has the highest specific heat capacity of any solid element.
Lithium’s single balance electron allows it to be a good conductor of electricity.
It is flammable and can even explode when exposed to air and water.
Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication and aerospace industries.
The well-known uses of Lithium are in Lithium ion batteries, lubricating grease, high energy additive to rocket propellants, optical modulators for mobile phones and as convertor to tritium used as a raw material for thermonuclear reactions i.e. fusion.
The thermonuclear application makes Lithium as “Prescribed substance” under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 which permits AMD for exploration of Lithium in various geological domains of the country.
Under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, “Prescribed Substance” means any substance including any mineral which the Central Government may, by notification, prescribe, being a substance which in its opinion is or may be used for the production or use of atomic energy or research into matters connected therewith and includes uranium, plutonium, thorium, beryllium, deuterium or any of their respective derivatives or compounds or any other materials containing any of the aforesaid substances.
Yamuna river pollution
(GS-III: Conservation related issues)
River activists have demanded prompt measures to save the Yamuna river.
Demands by activists:
Construct the Rubber check dam downstream of the Taj Mahal.
Revisit the 1994 Yamuna water distribution agreement to ensure a larger share of Yamuna water for Agra and Mathura.
Frame a comprehensive national rivers policy.
Constitute a central rivers authority for management of all big rivers in the country.
Why is Yamuna so polluted?
The sewage treatment plants of Delhi are major contributors of the Pollutants being discharged in the river.
Pollutants discharge from different types of industry is also a major issue.
Agriculture activities along the banks of the river in Delhi contributes to river pollution.
Agricultural waste and pesticide discharge from the Haryana field also contributes to the pollution.
The low volume of water flow in the river causes the pollutants to accumulate and raise the pollution level.
About Yamuna River:
The river Yamuna is a major tributary of river Ganges.
Originates from the Yamunotri glacier near Bandarpoonch peaks in the Mussoorie range of the lower Himalayas in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
It meets the Ganges at the Sangam in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh after flowing through Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
Tributaries: Chambal, Sindh, Betwa and Ken.
Contempt of Court
(GS-II: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions)
The Supreme Court has threatened to initiate contempt proceedings against the chief secretary of Telangana if the state government failed to deposit a cost of ₹2.5 lakh within two weeks.
What’s the issue?
The cost was imposed by the apex court in an April 2020 judgment striking down a law passed by the unified Andhra Pradesh government reserving 100% teacher posts for local scheduled tribes in schools situated in their areas within the state.
The Telangana government had delayed paying its share of the cost as the top court in its judgment of April 22, 2020 apportioned the cost of ₹5 lakh to be paid equally by the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
What is Contempt?
While the basic idea of a contempt law is to punish those who do not respect the orders of the courts, in the Indian context, contempt is also used to punish speech that lowers the dignity of the court and interferes with the administration of justice.
Contempt of court can be of two kinds:
Civil, that is the willful disobedience of a court order or judgment or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
Criminal, that is written or spoken words or any act that scandalises the court or lowers its authority or prejudices or interferes with the due course of a judicial proceeding or interferes/obstructs the administration of justice.
Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of the High Court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts.
The Constitution also includes contempt of court as a reasonable restriction to the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, along with elements like public order and defamation.
Why courts need contempt powers?
To ensure their orders are implemented.
To sustain the independent nature of the judiciary itself.
While the judiciary issues orders, they are implemented by the government or private parties. If the courts are unable to enforce their orders, then the rule of law itself will come to grinding halt.
Issues with Contempt Law:
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution gives the right to freedom of speech and expression to all citizens, while “contempt provisions” curb people’s freedom to speak against the court’s functioning.
The law is very subjective which might be used by the judiciary arbitrarily to suppress their criticism by the public.
Analysis of Bhushan’s case:
The suo motu contempt proceedings initiated by a bench of the Supreme Court against Mr. Bhushan constitutes an abuse of the court’s contempt jurisdiction, which—for good reason—is to be exercised sparingly and with circumspection.
It is because, according to some experts, there is nothing in Mr. Bhushan’s tweets that qualify as contempt of Court.
His tweets are an exercise of his fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) to freely express himself by way of comment and criticism on the conduct of the CJI as a private citizen.
Also, these tweets in question appear to be in the realm of perception and comment and don’t seem to have transgressed into contempt. The general principle on contempt is that one can criticise a judgment but you can’t attribute motives to the judge.