February 2019
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Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Not without an explanation: when judges recuse themselvesop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Judges Recusing themselves from hearing cases must give their reasons in writing for recusing themselves from specific cases.



Recently 3 Judges Recused themselves from hearing the case challenging the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Previous  cases of recusals

  • Justice U.U. Lalit recused himself from hearing the dispute over land in Ayodhya after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that the judge had appeared for former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh in a related contest.
  • Two judges of the Gujarat High Court withdrew from a set of controversial cases by merely saying, “not before me.”

Problem with such recusals

  • None of the judges recorded their reasons in writing, allowing, in the process, plenty of scope for conjecture and surmise.
  • Not having a written order specifically justifying the recusal, it’s difficult to tell whether the disqualification was really required.
  • An unwarranted recusal, much like a failure to recuse when faced with genuine conflicts of interest, damage the rule of law.
  • To withdraw from a case merely because a party suggests that a judge does so impair judicial fairness.
  • It allows parties to cherry-pick a bench of their choice.

Obligations of Judiciary

  • In taking the oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favor, affection or ill-will”.

Formulating Rules

  • There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.
  • Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken,”
  • “But in other cases, such an inquiry is required, and the relevant test is the ‘real danger’ test.”
  • The test does provide a plausible solution, so long as judges make their choices by reducing their reasons to writing.
  • For when judges choose without a rational motive, without expressing their decisions in writing, they hurt the very idea of judicial rectitude.

Way Forward

  • Ultimately, a mistaken case of recusal can prove just as destructive to rule of law as those cases where a judge refuses a recusal despite the existence of bias.
  • Recusals to be used as a tool to manoeuvre justice, as a means to picking benches of a party’s choice, and as an instrument to evade judicial work.
  • As the Constitutional Court of South Africa held, in 1999, “the nature of the judicial function involves the performance of difficult and at times unpleasant tasks,” and to that end, judicial officers “must resist all manner of pressure, regardless of where it comes from.
  • This is the constitutional duty common to all judicial officers. If they deviate, the independence of the judiciary would be undermined, and in turn, the Constitution itself.”


[op-ed snap ]Discord in Puducherryop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Union Territories. Appointment Of Lt. governor

Mains Level:  Issues related to the discretionary powers of Lt Governor And conflict Between Appointed and elected Executives in Union Territories.



Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy sat in protest for six days, opposing what he calls. Governor Kiran Bedi’s  “high-handedness” and tendency to interfere in the administration.

Root For Discord

  • Such problems are an obvious consequence of the political structure of Union Territories, in which the Administrator, as the nominee of the President, enjoys powers superior to the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers.
  • The trigger for the latest stand-off seems to have been Ms. Bedi’s move to enforce the rule for two-wheeler riders to wear helmets.
  • While the Chief Minister believes it can be enforced only after raising awareness, Ms. Bedi wants it implemented immediately.
  • Chief Minister listed blocking of welfare schemes such as the free rice scheme and enhanced scholarship for Scheduled Caste students, among other actions of the L-G, as the real issues.

Constitutional and legal Provisions regarding the Administration of Union Territories

  • Under the Constitution, the territory belongs to the President, who runs it through the L-G as Administrator.
  • Under Section 44 of the Union Territories Act, 1963, the Administrator has to act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers.
  • At the same time, any difference of opinion between them can be referred to the President, and in the meantime, the Administrator’s action prevails on any urgent matter.
  • . This scheme, which gives a clear edge to the Centre, can work only if there is harmony between the Council and the L-G.

Way Forward

  • It would be unfortunate if individuals occupying Raj Nivas in any Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly get carried away and ignore or undermine the elected body.
  • The Supreme Court on  L-G’s powers in Delhi stressed the need for the L-G as well as people’s representatives to “function in harmony within constitutional parameters”.
  • The L-G was cautioned against having a hostile attitude towards the Ministers.
  • There is no reason why that principle cannot be extended to Puducherry, which has a longer record of elected governments.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

[op-ed snap] India Urgently Needs a National Security Doctrineop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Security challenges & their management in border areas

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IED

Mains level: Shortcomings in India’s response to security threats and need of a national security vision.



Tragic loss of 40 gallant CRPF jawans, killed in a “fidayeen” attack has unearthed how India remain deficient in intelligence-analysis, inter-agency coordination, and, above all, a national security doctrine.

Ramifications of recent attack

  • The success of vehicle-borne IED being used in J&K could mark a new phase in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations.
  • An urgent review of the quality and timeliness of intelligence inputs and the standard operating procedures (SOP) being followed by the armed police force convoys is required.
  • It’s another opportunity for reflection and introspection about our management of crisis situations in general, and of Pakistan’s role in Kashmir, in particular.

Uncertain trumpet

  • Woolly-headed thinking, lack of resolve and absence of a coherent long-term vision iregarding national security perspective
  • Crisis after crisis has caught our nation by surprise — unprepared and invariably in the reactive mode.
  • Kashmir issue to become a pressure-point for exploitation by our western and eastern neighbours,

India’s “strategic restraint” has resulted into

  • Pakistan waging war on us four times since Partition.
  • Pakistan’s three-decade-long strategy of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts” — using terrorists and religious fanatics .

Major missteps by India

  • Describing, “acts of war” by Pakistan as “cross-border terrorism
  • Labeling Pakistani perpetrators as “non-state actors”; providing Pakistan the opening to declare that they were Kashmiri “freedom fighters”.

National Security Doctrine Revival

  • National security has suffered neglect for decades due to pre-occupation of our politicians with electoral politics.
  • National Security should be first priority on the government’s and Parliament’s time .
  • There has been a gap in political pronouncements in our military capabilities — material as well as organisational.

Grave Instances of National Security Failure

  • In 2001,there was a terrorist attack on Parliament.
  • In 2008, a handful of seaborne terrorists held Mumbai hostage for 96 hours
  • Pakistani fidayeen attacks on the Pathankot air base, followed by the Uri and Nagrota army camps — and now, Pulwama.

Way forward

  • Having created an elaborate national security framework, post Pokhran II, India has strangely shied away from promulgating a doctrine .
  • The current juncture would be apt for the urgent promulgation of a security-cum-defence doctrine.
  • Benefits Of such doctrine
    • Public version defines India’s vital interests, aims and objectives .
    • It will not only become the basis for strategy-formulation, contingency-planning and evolution of SOPs, but also send a reassuring message to our public.


Setting in place clear “red lines” for adversary nations and non-state entities will mean that, in future, no further notice is required for instant punitive or retaliatory actions for any infringement of India’s red lines.

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Criticism without incitement to violence isn’t seditionPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 124A

Mains level: Rising seditious events and the questioned applicability of the IPC provisions


Defining Sedition

  1. Sedition was not a part of the original IPC that was enacted in 1860 — it was introduced in 1870, when it was said it had been dropped from the original IPC draft by mistake.
  2. Under Section 124A of the IPC, the offence of sedition is committed when any person by words or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law.
  3. Three explanations added to the provision lay down that while “disaffection” shall include disloyalty and all feelings of enmity, comments without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, will not constitute an offence.
  4. Sedition is a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence under the law, entailing life imprisonment as maximum punishment, with or without a fine.

How was this provision of the IPC used by the government of the British Raj?

  1. It came in handy to silent nationalist voices and demands for freedom — the long list of India’s national heroes who figured as accused in cases of sedition.
  2. Lokmanya Tilak was sentenced to six years in jail after he was held guilty of sedition by the Privy Council for writing a piece in his newspaper, Kesari, under the heading “The misfortune of the country”.
  3. However, ‘sedition’ was interpreted differently by the Federal Court that started functioning in 1937, and the Privy Council, which was the highest court of appeal based in London.
  4. The Privy Council underscored the law laid down in Tilak’s case to hold that incitement to violence was not a necessary precondition for constituting the crime of sedition.
  5. It held that excitement of feelings of enmity to the government was sufficient to establish guilt under Section 124A.

How has the Supreme Court interpreted Section 124A since Independence?

  1. In 1962, the Supreme Court dealt with an appeal by one Kedar Nath Singh from Bihar, who had been convicted and jailed under the charge for delivering a derogatory speech.
  2. In his appeal to the top court, Singh questioned the constitutional validity of Section 124A, contending it stifled his right to free speech under Article 19 of the Constitution.
  3. The court faced two directly conflicting interpretations of Section 124A — one by the Federal Court in Niharendu Dutt’s case; the other by the Privy Council in the Sadashiv Narayan Bhalerao case.
  4. The judgments expressed contradictory views on whether the incitement to violence or a tendency to disturb public order was a necessary ingredient of the offence under Section 124A.

Supreme Court ruling in the case

  1. The court examined whether the constitutionality of Section 124A could be protected as a reasonable restriction on the right to free speech, with particular reference to the security of the state and public order.
  2. It upheld the constitutional validity of Section 124A in the IPC by holding that the purpose of the crime of sedition was to prevent the government established by law from being subverted.
  3. This is because the continued existence of the Government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the State.

What then is sedition?

  1. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled in the Kedar Nath case that any act that had the “effect of subverting the Government” by violent means or create public disorder would come within the definition of sedition.
  2. The feeling of disloyalty to the Government established by law or enmity to it imports the idea of tendency to public disorder by the use of actual violence or incitement to violence.
  3. In other words, any written or spoken words, etc., which have implicit in them the idea of subverting Government by violent means, which are compendiously included in the term ‘revolution’ is sedition, ruled the court.

What is not sedition?

  1. The court ruled that disapproval of the measures of government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means is not sedition.
  2. Comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of the Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence” would not attract the penal offence.
  3. The court added that “commenting in strong terms upon the measures or acts of Government, or its agencies, so as to ameliorate the condition of the people or to secure the cancellation or alteration of those acts or measures by lawful means is not sedition.
  4. That is to say, without exciting those feelings of enmity and disloyalty which imply excitement to public disorder or the use of violence, is not sedition.
  5. A citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

Policy bias against Rainfed agriculturePriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rainfed agriculture in India


Rainfed Agriculture Atlas

  1. A new rainfed agriculture atlas has been released this week to map the agro biodiversity and socio-economic conditions prevailing in areas.
  2. The Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN) has published the atlas.
  3. It has laid out the stark differences in government policy and expenditure.
  4. It also attempts to document the policy biases that are making farming unviable for many in these areas.

Rainfed Agriculture in India

  1. Three out of five farmers in India grow their crops using rainwater, instead of irrigation.
  2. Even though rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 per cent of the value of agriculture GDP of India, there is a clear-cut bias towards irrigated areas.
  3. However, per hectare government investment into their lands may be 20 times lower.
  4. Government procurement of the crops is a fraction of major irrigated land crops, and many of the flagship schemes are not tailored to benefit them.

Their importance

  1. Rain-fed areas account for 89 per cent of millets production, 88 per cent of pulses, 73 per cent of cotton, 69 per cent of oilseeds and 40 per cent rice production in the country.
  2. Besides, they support 64 per cent of cattle, 74 per cent of sheep and 78 per cent of goat population in the country.
  3. About 61 per cent of India’s farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture and 55 per cent of the gross cropped area is under rain-fed farming.

Due negligence on Rainfed Farmers

  1. There has been negligence toward rainfed areas which is leading to lower incomes for farmers in these areas.
  2. Farmers in rainfed areas are receiving 40% less of their income from agriculture in comparison to those in irrigated areas.
  3. Lands irrigated through big dams and canal networks get a per hectare investment of ₹5 lakh.
  4. Watershed management spending in rainfed lands is only ₹18,000-25,000 and the difference in yield is not proportionate to the difference in investment.

Procurement bias

  1. When it comes to procurement, over the decade between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the government spent ₹5.4 lakh crore on wheat and rice.
  2. Coarse cereals, which are grown in rainfed areas, only had ₹3,200 crore worth of procurement in the same period.

Schemes are often unfit

  1. Flagship government schemes, such as seed and fertiliser subsidies and soil health cards, are designed for irrigated areas and simply extended to rainfed farmers without taking their needs into consideration.
  2. For example, many hybrid seeds notified by the government scheme need plenty of water, fertiliser and pesticides to give high yields and are thus not useful to most rainfed farmers.
  3. Commercial fertilizers will simply burn out the soil without sufficient water.
  4. The government has no system to channelize indigenous seeds or subsidize organic manure in the same way.

Way Forward

  1. A more balanced approach is needed, to give rainfed farmers the same research and technology focus, and production support that their counterparts in irrigation areas have received over the last few decades.
  2. In the long run, cash incentives and income support like the PM-KISAN scheme announced in the budget earlier this month were better than extensive procurement.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

Govt issues guidelines to set up EV charging stationsPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Byelaws for EV charging

Mains level:  Issues related to the (possible) early adoption of the EVs in India.


  • In line with the 2030 deadline of 25 percent of vehicles in India to be all-electric, the government has issued new guidelines for strengthening the country EV infrastructure.

New Byelaws for EVs

  1. The MoHUA has made amendments to the Model Building Byelaws (MBBL) 2016 and Urban Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) Guidelines 2014, making provisions for establishing EV charging infrastructure.
  2. The guidelines will act as a guiding document to the state governments and UTs to incorporate the norms and standards of such vehicles in their respective building byelaws.

Charging Stations

  1. It has issued a set of guidelines to set up charging stations for electric vehicles across the country, outlining ways to build such fuelling points every 25 km.
  2. For long range and heavy-duty electric vehicles, there should be at least one station on each side of the highway every 100 kilometers.
  3. The government has also advocated for charging points in residential areas.
  4. It also stated a public charging station should be on both sides of the highways or roads on every 25 km.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

106 coastal sites picked for conservationPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: About NBWL

Mains level: Wildlife conservation efforts


  • The Centre has identified over 100 coastal and marine sites as conservation reserves under its National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031, says a biennial report released by the government.

Highlights of the Report

  1. Under the National Wildlife Action Plan for the period 2017 to 2031, the government is working towards the conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems from the impacts of climate change.
  2. In the last four and a half years, India has not only been able to sustain but also increase its mangrove cover at a time when these ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate across the world.

India’s rich marine wealth

  1. As per the report, India has rich coastal and marine wealth along the eastern and western coasts as well as the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.
  2. The coastal and marine sector is also a source of valuable fish protein not only for the growing population but also contributes to the global food basket and in turn provides valuable foreign exchange to the country.
  3. “India produced 3.8 million metric tonnes of seafood during 2017, valued at Rs 5.28 lakh million at landing centre and Rs 8 lakh million at the retail level.
  4. The fisheries sector supports around 9.3 lakh active and part-time fishers, one of the largest workforce of fishers in the world, the report said.

What’s special?

  1. India is encouraging participation of local communities in governance by recognising the conservation reserves.
  2. India is implementing measures to sustainably harness the potential of blue economy while building the climate resilience of the ecosystems and local coastal communities.

About 3rd NWAP 2017-2031

  1. Mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, coastal and marine ecosystem conservation and a focus on wildlife health are among the key areas.
  2. The draft emphasises on aspects like preservation of genetic diversity and sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.
  3. This has a direct bearing on the country’s scientific advancements and support to millions of rural communities.
  4. The first NWAP was adopted in 1983, while the second was adopted in 2002, which ended in 2017.