Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

What is the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022

Mains level : Read the attached story

While the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 was enacted earlier this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs notified it to come into effect from August 4, 2022. It also repeals the existing Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.

What is the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022?

  • This act provides legal sanction to law enforcement agencies for “taking measurements of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation of criminal matters”.
  • The Minister of Home Affairs has observed that with advancements in forensics, there was a need to recognise more kinds of “measurements” that can be used by law enforcement agencies for investigation.

What is the use of identification details in criminal trials?

  • Measurements and photographs for identification have three main purposes:
  1. To establish the identity of the culprit against the person being arrested
  2. To identify suspected repetition of similar offences by the same person and third
  3. To establish a previous conviction

What was the previous Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920?

  • Even though the police has powers of arrest, mere arrest does not give Police the right to search a person.
  • The police requires legal sanction to search the person and collect evidence.
  • These legal sanctions are designed so as to maintain a balance between the rights of an individual and the interests of society in prosecution and prevention of offences.
  • The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 became a necessity when the recording of newer forms of evidence such as fingerprints, footprints and measurements started becoming more accurate and reliable.

What was the need to replace this Act?

  • Over the years, the need to amend/update the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 has been voiced several times.
  • In 1980, the 87th Report of the Law Commission of India undertook a review of this legislation and recommended several amendments.
  • This was done in the backdrop of the State of UP vs Ram Babu Misra case, where the Supreme Court had highlighted the need for amending this law.
  • The first set of recommendations laid out the need to amend the Act to expand the scope of measurements to include “palm impressions”, “specimen of signature or writing” and “specimen of voice”.
  • The second set of recommendations raised the need of allowing measurements to be taken for proceedings other than those under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

What are the main highlights and differences in both the legislations?

  • Like the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, the new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 provides for legal sanction to law enforcement agencies for the collection of measurements.
  • The purpose is to create a useable database of these measurements.
  • At the State level, each State is required to notify an appropriate agency to collect and preserve this database of measurements.
  • At the national level, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is the designated agency to manage, process, share and disseminate the records collected at the State level.

What are some of the concerns with the present legislation?

  • The new legislation has raised some concerns related to the protection of fundamental rights.
  • The legislation comes in the backdrop of the right to privacy being recognised as a fundamental right.
  • A fundamental facet of the right to privacy is protection from the invasion of one’s physical privacy.
  • As per the Puttaswamy judgment, there is a need for the measure to be taken in pursuance of a legitimate aim of the state, be backed by the law and be “necessary and proportionate” to the aim being sought to be achieved.

(1) Various tests behind

  • In this case, while the first two tests are satisfied, as:
  1. prevention and investigation of crime” is a legitimate aim of the state
  2. measurements” are being taken under a valid legislation,
  • Satisfaction of the third test of “necessity and proportionality” has been challenged on multiple counts.

(2) A probable police state in making

  • Analysis and measurement of behavioural attributes have raised concerns that data processing may go beyond recording of core “measurements”.
  • That is some of these measurements could be processed for predictive policing.

(3) Includes petty offences

  • The current law allows for “measurements” to be taken if a person has been convicted/arrested for any offence, including petty offences.
  • The necessity of taking measurements of such persons for investigation of offences is unclear, and such discretion is likely to result in abuse of the law at lower levels.
  • This would definitely overburden the systems used for collection and storage of these measurements.

(4) Period of storage of data

  • Given that these records will be stored for 75 years from the time of collection, the law has been criticised as being disproportionate.

(5) Surveillance state

  • Such collection can also result in mass surveillance, with the database under this law being combined with other databases such as those of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS).

(6) Promotes self-incrimination

  • Concerns are being raised that the present law violates the right against self-incrimination enshrined in Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India.
  • However, this argument is nebulous since the Supreme Court has already settled this point.
  • In the State of Bombay vs Kathi Kalu Oghad, the Supreme Court had conclusively held that “non-communicative” evidence i.e. evidence which does not convey information within the personal knowledge of the accused cannot be understood to be leading to self-incrimination.
  • Therefore, no challenge lies to the law on this ground.

Way forward

  • Extensive pre-legislative consultation is must for any sensitive law as such.
  • Privacy and data protection-related concerns must be addressed in the Rules formulated under the legislation and through model Prison Manuals that States can refer to.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

Explained: Electricity Bill – Promise, Problems

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Electricity Amendment Bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

The government has tabled the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 in the Lok Sabha. This has drawn huge protests across the country, in states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Rajasthan, and others.

Electricity (Amendment) Bill

  • This Bill amends the Electricity Act, 2003. The Act regulates the electricity sector in India.
  • It sets up the Central and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (CERC and SERCs) to regulate inter-state and intra-state matters, respectively.

Key provisions under the Bill are:

  • Multiple discoms in the same area:  The Act provides for multiple distribution licensees (discoms) to operate in the same area of supply. The Bill removes this requirement.  It adds that a discom must provide non-discriminatory open access to its network to all other discoms operating in the same area, on payment of certain charges.
  • Power procurement and tariff:  Upon grant of multiple licenses for the same area, the power and associated costs as per the existing power purchase agreements (PPAs) of the existing discoms will be shared between all discoms.
  • Cross-subsidy Balancing Fund:  The Bill adds that upon grant of multiple licenses for the same area, the state government will set up a Cross-subsidy Balancing Fund.  Cross-subsidy refers to the arrangement of one consumer category subsidising the consumption of another consumer category.  Any surplus with a distribution licensee on account of cross-subsidy will be deposited into the fund.
  • Rules of Centre: The Bill specifies that the above matters related to the operation of multiple discoms in the same area will be regulated in accordance with the rules made by the central government under the Act.
  • License for distribution in multiple states:  As per the Bill, the CERC will grant licenses for distribution of electricity in more than one state.
  • Payment security:  The Bill provides that electricity will not be scheduled or despatched if adequate payment security is not provided by the discom.   The central government may prescribe rules regarding payment security.
  • Contract enforcement:  The Bill empowers the CERC and SERCs to adjudicate disputes related to the performance of contracts.  These refer to contracts related to the sale, purchase, or transmission of electricity.  Further, the Commissions will have powers of a Civil Court.
  • Renewable purchase obligation:  The Act empowers SERCs to specify renewable purchase obligations (RPO) for discoms.  RPO refers to the mandate to procure a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources.  The Bill adds that RPO should not be below a minimum percentage prescribed by the central government.  Failure to meet RPO will be punishable with a penalty between 25 paise and 50 paise per kilowatt of the shortfall.
  • Selection committee for SERCs:  Under the Act, the Chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority or the Chairperson of the CERC is one of the members of the selection committee to recommend appointments to the SERCs.  Under the Bill, instead of this person, the central government will nominate a member to the selection committee.  The nominee should not be below the rank of Additional Secretary to the central government.

Other key provisions

  • Tariff Ceilings: The Bill makes provision for “mandatory” fixing of minimum as well as maximum tariff ceilings by the “appropriate commission” to avoid predatory pricing by power distribution companies and to protect consumers.
  • Tariff revisions: The amendment has several provisions to ensure graded and timely tariff revisions that will help provide state power utilities enough cash to be able to make timely payments to power producers. This move is aimed at addressing the recurrent problem of default by distribution companies in payment to generation companies.
  • Payment security mechanism: The bill through amendments in Section 166 of the Act also seeks to strengthen payment security mechanisms and give more powers to regulators. It has become necessary to strengthen the regulatory mechanism, adjudicatory mechanism in the Act and to bring administrative reforms through improved corporate governance of distribution licensees.

Why is it being opposed?

  • Provisions of the Bill are being opposed by a number of opposition-ruled states.
  • It is being termed anti-federal in spirit.
  • Power as a subject comes under the Concurrent List and it was the “the bounden duty or the mandatory obligation” of the Centre to consult the states.

Criticisms

  • If passed in its current form it will lead to a major loss for government distribution companies, eventually helping to establish the monopoly of a few private companies in the country’s power sector.
  • By bringing in more retailers or distribution licensees, the quality of service or price is not going to be any different.

How will these amendments help?

  • Power freebie: The Bill comes at a time when there is a debate around freebies being offered by political parties.
  • Discom crisis: Various state power distribution companies (Discoms) have not been able to raise enough resources to make timely payments to power generating companies.
  • Empowering discoms: Empowering the regulator to be able to take calls on tariff revision and ensuring that the government freebies, even on electricity, should be through direct benefit transfer.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Right To Privacy

Govt withdraws Data Protection Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Issues with Personal Data Protection Bill

The government has withdrawn the Personal Data Protection Bill from Parliament after several amendments were proposed by the Joint-Parliamentary Committee.

What is Personal Data?

  • Data can be broadly classified into two types: personal and non-personal data.
  • Personal data pertains to characteristics, traits or attributes of identity, which can be used to identify an individual.
  • Non-personal data includes aggregated data through which individuals cannot be identified.
  • For example, while an individual’s own location would constitute personal data; information derived from multiple drivers’ location, which is often used to analyse traffic flow, is non-personal data.

What is Data Protection?

  • Data protection refers to policies and procedures seeking to minimise intrusion into the privacy of an individual caused by collection and usage of their personal data.

Why was a bill brought for Personal Data Protection?

  • In August 2017, the Supreme Court had held that Privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • The Court also observed that privacy of personal data and facts is an essential aspect of the right to privacy.
  • In July 2017, a Committee of Experts, chaired by Justice BN Srikrishna, was set up to examine various issues related to data protection in India.
  • The committee submitted its report, along with a Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in July 2018.

How is personal data regulated currently?

  • Currently, the usage and transfer of personal data of citizens is regulated by the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2011, under the IT Act, 2000.
  • The rules hold the companies using the data liable for compensating the individual, in case of any negligence in maintaining security standards while dealing with the data.

Issues with IT Rules, 2011

  • The IT rules were a novel attempt at data protection at the time they were introduced but the pace of development of digital economy has shown its shortcomings.
  • For instance, (i) the definition of sensitive personal data under the rules is narrow, and (ii) some of the provisions can be overridden by a contract.
  • Further, the IT Act applies only to companies, not to the government.

What the Personal Data Protection Bill sought to provide?

  • Collection and storage: The bill regulate personal data related to individuals, and the processing, collection and storage of such data.
  • Data Principal: Under the bill, a data principal is an individual whose personal data is being processed.
  • Data fiduciary: The entity or individual who decides the means and purposes of data processing is known as data fiduciary.
  • Data processing: The Bill governs the processing of personal data by both government and companies incorporated in India.
  • Data localization: It also governs foreign companies, if they deal with personal data of individuals in India.
  • General consent: The Bill provides the data principal with certain rights with respect to their personal data. Any processing of personal data can be done only on the basis of consent given by data principal.
  • Data Protection Authority: To ensure compliance with the provisions of the Bill, and provide for further regulations with respect to processing of personal data of individuals, the Bill sets up a DPA.

Issues with the PDP Bill

  • Exemptions to the govt: Section 35 of the bill permits the Central Government to exempt any agency of the Government from the provisions of the law.
  • No reasonable exemptions: There is no sufficient reason for government agencies to be exempted from basic provisions of the Bill.
  • Easy breach: Though this would be subject to procedures, safeguards, and oversight mechanisms to be prescribed by the Government.
  • Executive hegemony: There is no scope for oversight over the executive’s decision to issue such an order.
  • Arbitrary and intrusive: As demonstrated by the Pegasus case, the current frameworks for protecting citizens from arbitrary and intrusive State action lack robustness.

Why is the state given exemption?

  • Biggest needy of Data: The State is one of the biggest processors of data, and has a unique ability to impact the lives of individuals.
  • Welfare objectives: It has a monopoly over coercive powers as well have the obligation to provide welfare and services.

Issues with Exemption to State

  • Grounds of expediency: the use of this provision on grounds of expediency is an extremely low bar for the Government to meet.
  • Non requirement for exemption order: There is no requirement for an exemption order to be proportionate to meeting a particular State function.
  • No oversight on executive actions: There is no scope for oversight over the executive’s decision to issue such an order or any safeguards prescribed for this process.
  • State surveillance: Section 36(a) of the Bill provides for an exception where personal data is being processed against criminal investigation. This provision could therefore encourage vigilantism or enable privatized surveillance.

Best practices followed across the world

  • The European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is commonly seen as the pinnacle of data protection regulation worldwide.
  • The EU law has in place a separate law that deals with the processing of personal data by law enforcement agencies.
  • UK’s Data Protection Act dedicates Part 3 that liberalises certain obligations while at the same time ensuring that data protection rights are also protected.

Way forward

  • Balancing privacy interests with those of public needs (such as that of State security) is a difficult task.
  • This should undergo rigorous consultations in Parliament taking into confidence all stakeholders.
  • Once debated in Parliament, one can only hope that adequate time and attention is given to finding a better balance between competing interests.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

 

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Why the govt plans to scrap the decades-old Coffee Act?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coffee Act

Mains level : Coffee cultivation in India

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is planning to replace the 80-year-old Coffee Act with the new Coffee (Promotion and Development Bill), 2022, which has been listed for the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

What is the Coffee Act?

  • The Coffee Act, 1942 was first introduced during World War II, in order to protect the struggling Indian coffee industry from the economic downturn caused by the war.
  • In the 1930s, the Indian coffee industry was facing significant problems, such as large-scale damage by pests and diseases, and the global economic downturn caused by the Great Depression.
  • With coffee planters making significant losses, the government passed the Coffee Cess Act (XIV of 1935) and established the first Indian Cess Committee in November 1935.
  • This aimed to promote the sale of coffee and increase consumption of Indian coffee at home and abroad.
  • These problems from the 1930s were compounded with the outbreak of World War II, as low demands and a loss of foreign markets led to a sharp decline in coffee prices.
  • Since the Cess Committee was not able to deal with the crisis faced by the industry, the government formed the Coffee Board, through the introduction of the Coffee Act, 1942.

Purpose of the Act

  • The purpose of the Act was to provide for the development of the coffee industry.
  • The Board was tasked with supporting the industry in marketing, promotion of consumption, finance and research and development.

Why scrap the old law?

  • The government is now trying to scrap the law because it claims that many of the provisions have become redundant and are too restrictive.
  • It has also proposed to repeal the decades old laws on tea, spices and rubber, and introduce new legislations in order to increase the ease of doing business and promote the development of these sectors.
  • These are very old laws and the idea is only to simplify them, make it easier to do business.
  • It aims to ensure that the small people in the different areas like coffee growing, tea growing do not have to suffer from high levels of compliance burden.

Major contentious factor: Pooling System

  • Before India liberalised its economy in 1991, the Coffee Board controlled the marketing of the commodity in its entirety, both in India and abroad.
  • The Act introduced a pooling system, where each planter was required to distribute their entire crop to a surplus pool managed by the Board, apart from the small quantities that were allowed for domestic use and seed production.
  • The Board marketed 70% of the total pool for export and 30% for domestic markets, and sold them in separate auctions, according to Takamasa Akiyama, an economist affiliated with the World Bank.
  • In order to spur domestic consumption, the price of domestic coffee was kept artificially low.

The changes since liberalization

  • While the Coffee Board no longer maintains its monopolistic control over the marketing of Indian coffee.
  • Through a series of amendments, the Board’s authority was reduced, and in 1996, the pooling system was abolished and growers were allowed to directly sell to processing firms.
  • The coffee market was entirely deregulated and the growers exposed to the free market.
  • Since liberalization, the Coffee Board plays more of an advisory role, and aims at increasing production, promoting further export and supporting the development of the domestic market.

What are the proposed changes?

  • In order to facilitate growth and ease of doing business, the government would remove the restrictive and redundant provisions.
  • The centre wants to introduce a simplified version of the Act to suit the present needs of the industry.
  • The government would not close the Coffee Board, but would rather shift it from the Ministry of Commerce to the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Here it aims to ensure that the benefits of all agricultural schemes are extended to coffee growers.
  • The new legislation is now primarily concerned with promoting the sale and consumption of Indian coffee including through e-commerce platforms, with fewer government restrictions.
  • It also aims at encouraging further economic, scientific and technical research in order to align the Indian coffee industry with “global best practices.”

Back2Basics: Coffee Production in India

  • India is the third-largest producer and exporter of coffee in Asia and the sixth-largest producer and fifth-largest exporter of coffee in the world.
  • The country accounts for 3.14% (2019-20) of the global coffee production.
  • Coffee production in India is dominated in the hill tracts of South Indian states, with Karnataka accounting for 71%, followed by Kerala with 21% and Tamil Nadu (5%).
  • Indian coffee is said to be the finest coffee grown in the shade rather than in direct sunlight anywhere in the world.
  • Almost 80% of Indian coffee is exported.
  • The two well-known species of coffee grown are the Arabica and Robusta. The first variety was introduced in the Baba Budan Giri hill ranges of Karnataka in the 17th century.
  • Brazil is, the largest coffee producer in the world.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Centre to amend Warehousing Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Warehousing Act

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry has suggested major amendments to the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act of 2007.

Warehousing Act, 2007

  • The GOI has introduced a negotiable warehouse receipt system in the country by enacting the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act, 2007 (37 of 2007).
  • It has been made effective with effect from the 25th October, 2010.
  • The Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (NWR) system was formally launched on the 26th April, 2011.

Why was this Act enacted?

  • To make provisions for the development and regulation of warehouses, negotiability of warehouse receipts, establishment of a Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) and related matters.
  • The Negotiable Warehouse Receipts (NWRs) issued by the warehouses registered under this Act would help the farmers to seek loans from banks against NWRs.
  • It will avoid distress sale of agricultural produce.

What is the amendment about?

  • The aim is to help farmers get access to the services of quality warehouses.
  • The amendment is:
  1. To make registration of godowns compulsory
  2. To raise the penalty for various offences and
  3. To do away the jail term as a punishment for the offences
  • Central government will have powers to exempt any class of warehouses from registration with the Authority.
  • At present, registration with the Warehousing Development and Regulation Authority (WDRA) is optional.
  • After the proposed amendment, which is yet to be cleared by the cabinet, registration of all third party warehouses throughout the country, will be undertaken in a phased manner.
  • The Act wants to establish a system of negotiable and non-negotiable warehouse receipt (NWR), which is now in electronic form.

Issues

  • Farmers pressure groups fears that the amendments are for bringing back certain provisions of the repealed Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act through the backdoors.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Lok Sabha deferred the consideration and passing of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 as the Opposition benches were empty due to the ongoing protests outside of Parliament.

Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

Aims and objectives:

  • To provide for national measures to protect the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems and to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty
  • To provide a harmonious policy framework for India’s Antarctic activities through a well-established legal mechanism
  • Facilitate activities of the Indian Antarctic programme, including management of Antarctic tourism and sustainable development of fisheries
  • To prohibit carrying of certain activities without a permit or the written authorisation of another party to the protocol
  • To provide for inspection in India by an officer designated by the Central government as an Inspector and to constitute an inspection team to carry out inspections in Antarctica
  • To prohibit drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources or even doing anything to identify where such mineral deposits occur.

Key feature: Committee on Antarctic governance

  • It will empower the government to establish a committee on Antarctic governance and environmental protection to monitor, implement and ensure compliance with the relevant international laws, emissions standards and rules of protection.
  • The panel is to be headed by the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, as ex officio chairperson.
  • Among other roles, he/she has also been the vice-president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research of the International Science Council since 2018.
  • The committee will have ten members from various ministries, departments and organizations of the Union government, plus two experts on the Antarctic environment or other relevant areas.

Prohibited activities

The Bill prohibits certain activities in Antarctica including:

  • Nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes,
  • Introduction of non-sterile soil, and
  • Discharge of garbage, plastic or other substance into the sea which is harmful to the marine environment

About Antarctica Treaty

  • Antarctica has a geographical area of 14 million sq. km and has had no indigenous population (i.e. “Antarcticans” don’t exist).
  • However, a few thousand people reside there, in some 40 research stations spread across the continent, throughout the year.
  • In 1959, 12 countries – Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the UK and the US signed the Antarctic Treaty.
  • Their aim was to prevent the continent from being militarised and to establish it as a center of peaceful activities.
  • Later, more countries, including India, have become party to the treaty, and today it counts more than 54 members.

Significance of the treaty

  • The treaty requires each party to take appropriate measures within its competence, including the adoption of laws and regulations, administrative actions, and enforcement measures, to ensure compliance with the protocol.
  • Countries also signed the ‘Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991, which designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.

Need for the Antarctic Legislation

  • The growing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica and the commitment to Antarctic research and protection prompted the government to adopt domestic legislation consistent with its obligations as a member of the Antarctic Treaty system.
  • These laws will enable India’s courts to deal with disputes or crimes committed in parts of Antarctica, and help build credibility vis-à-vis India’s participation.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Explained: Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems Amendment Bill, 2022

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WMD Bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has introduced The Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022, which will amend the 2005 Act.

What is the WMD Bill?

  • The Bill amends the WMD and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005 which prohibits the unlawful manufacture, transport, or transfer of WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear weapons) and their means of delivery.
  • It is popularly referred to as the WMD Act.
  • The recent amendment extends the scope of banned activities to include financing of already prohibited activities.
  • The WMD and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act came into being in July 2005.

India’s 2005 WMD Act defines-

  1. Biological Weapons” as “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins…of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; and weapons, equipment or delivery systems specially designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict”; and
  2. Chemical Weapons” as “toxic chemicals and their precursors” except where used for peaceful, protective, and certain specified military and law enforcement purposes; “munitions and devices specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals”; and any equipment specifically designed for use in connection with the employment of these munitions and devices.

What was the purpose of the original WMD Act?

  • Its primary objective was to provide integrated and overarching legislation on prohibiting unlawful activities in relation to all three types of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials, equipment, and technologies.
  • It instituted penalties for contravention of these provisions such as imprisonment for a term not less than five years (extendable for life) as well as fines.
  • The Act was passed to meet an international obligation enforced by the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 of 2004.

What is the UNSCR 1540?

  • In April 2004 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1540 to address the growing threat of non-state actors gaining access to WMD material, equipment or technology to undertake acts of terrorism.
  • In order to address this challenge to international peace and security, UNSCR 1540 established binding obligations on all UN member states under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
  • Nations were mandated to take and enforce effective measures against proliferation of WMD, their means of delivery and related materials to non-state actors.
  • It was to punish the unlawful and unauthorised manufacture, acquisition, possession, development and transport of WMD became necessary.

UNSCR 1540 enforced three primary obligations upon nation states —

  1. To not provide any form of support to non-state actors seeking to acquire WMD, related materials, or their means of delivery;
  2. To adopt and enforce laws criminalising the possession and acquisition of such items by non-state actors;

  3. To adopt and enforce domestic controls over relevant materials, in order to prevent their proliferation.

What has the Amendment added to the existing Act?

  • The Amendment expands the scope to include prohibition of financing of any activity related to WMD and their delivery systems.
  • To prevent such financing, the Central government shall have the power to freeze, seize or attach funds, financial assets, or economic resources of suspected individuals (whether owned, held, or controlled directly or indirectly).
  • It also prohibits persons from making finances or related services available for other persons indulging in such activity.

Why was this Amendment necessary?

  • India echoes these developments for having made the Amendment necessary.
  • Two specific gaps are being addressed-
  1. As the relevant organisations at the international level, such as the Financial Action Task Force have expanded the scope of targeted financial sanctions and India’s own legislation has been harmonised to align with international benchmarks.
  2. With advancements in technologies, new kinds of threats have emerged that were not sufficiently catered for in the existing legislation.
  • These notably include developments in the field of drones or unauthorised work in biomedical labs that could maliciously be used for terrorist activity.
  • Therefore, the Amendment keeps pace with evolving threats.

What more should India do?

  • India’s responsible behaviour and actions on non-proliferation are well recognised.
  • It has a strong statutory national export control system and is committed to preventing proliferation of WMD.
  • This includes transit and trans-shipment controls, retransfer control, technology transfer controls, brokering controls and end-use based controls.
  • Every time India takes additional steps to fulfil new obligations, it must showcase its legislative, regulatory and enforcement frameworks to the international community.
  • It is also necessary that India keeps WMD security in international focus.

Setting up a precedence

  • There is no room for complacency.
  • Even countries which do not have WMD technology have to be sensitised to their role in the control framework to prevent weak links in the global control system.
  • India can offer help to other countries on developing national legislation, institutions and regulatory framework through the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) or on bilateral basis.

Could the Amendment become troublesome to people on account of mistaken identity?

  • In the discussion on the Bill in Parliament, some members expressed concern on whether the new legislation could make existing business entities or people in the specific sector susceptible to a case of mistaken identity.
  • The External Affairs Minister, however, assured the House that such chances were minimal since identification of concerned individuals/entities would be based on a long list of specifics.

What is the international significance of these legislation?

  • Preventing acts of terrorism that involve WMD or their delivery systems requires building a network of national and international measures in which all nation states are equally invested.
  • Such actions are necessary to strengthen global enforcement of standards relating to the export of sensitive items and to prohibit even the financing of such activities.

Way forward

  • Sharing of best practices on legislations and their implementation can enable harmonization of global WMD controls.
  • India initially had reservations on enacting laws mandated by the UNSCR.
  • This is not seen by India as an appropriate body for making such a demand.
  • However, given the danger of WMD terrorism that India faces in view of the difficult neighbourhood that it inhabits, the country supported the Resolution and has fulfilled its requirements.

Conclusion

  • It is in India’s interest to facilitate highest controls at the international level and adopt them at the domestic level.
  • Having now updated its own legislation, India can demand the same of others, especially from those in its neighbourhood that have a history of proliferation and of supporting terrorist organisations.

Back2Basics:

Nuclear Security Contact Group

  • The NSCG was established in 2016.
  • The NSCG or “Contact Group” has been established with the aim of facilitating cooperation and sustaining engagement on nuclear security after the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit process.
  • The Contact Group is tasked with:
  1. Convening annually on the margins of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and, as may be useful, in connection with other related meetings
  2. Discussing a broad range of nuclear security-related issues, including identifying emerging trends that may require more focused attention

Nuclear Suppliers Group

  • NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • The NSG was set up as a response to India’s nuclear tests conducted in 1974.
  • The aim of the NSG is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

  • CTBT was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996.
  • The Treaty intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
  • It was opened for signature in 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty, most recently Ghana has ratified the treaty in 2011.

Fissile material cut-off treaty

  • FMCT is a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.
  • Discussions on this subject have taken place at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), a body of 65 member nations established as the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament.
  • The CD operates by consensus and is often stagnant, impeding progress on an FMCT.
  • Those nations that joined the nuclear NPT as non-weapon states are already prohibited from producing or acquiring fissile material for weapons.
  • An FMCT would provide new restrictions for the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS—United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China), and for the four nations that are not NPT members (Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here

Judicial Reforms

Parliamentary Committee opposes Mediation Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mediation Bill

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice has recommended substantial changes to the Mediation Bill.

Mediation Bill, 2021

  • Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution process.
  • It is an informal, confidential, flexible, and non-binding process in which an impartial person called a “mediator” helps the parties to understand the interests of everyone involved, and their practical and legal choices.
  • The Bill requires persons to try to settle civil or commercial disputes through mediation before approaching any court or tribunal.
  • Agreements resulting from mediation will be binding and enforceable in the same manner as court judgments.

Key features of the Bill

(1) Pre-litigation mediation

  • Parties must attempt to settle civil or commercial disputes by mediation before approaching any court or certain tribunals.
  • Even if they fail to reach a settlement through pre-litigation mediation, the court or tribunal may at any stage refer the parties to mediation if they request for the same.

(2) Disputes not fit for mediation

  • The Bill contains a list of disputes which are not fit for mediation.
  • These include disputes: (i) relating to claims against minors or persons of unsound mind, (ii) involving criminal prosecution, and (iii) affecting the rights of third parties.
  • The central government may amend this list.
  • It will apply to mediations conducted in India: (i) involving only domestic parties, (ii) involving at least one foreign party and relating to a commercial dispute (i.e., international mediation).

 (3) Mediation process

  • Mediation proceedings will be confidential, and must be completed within 180 days (may be extended by 180 days by the parties).
  • A party may withdraw from mediation after two sessions.
  • Court annexed mediation must be conducted as per the rules framed by the Supreme Court or High Courts.

(4) Mediators

  • Mediators may be appointed by: (i) the parties by agreement, or (ii) a mediation service provider (an institution administering mediation).
  • They must disclose any conflict of interest that may raise doubts on their independence.
  • Parties may then choose to replace the mediator.

(5) Mediation Council of India

  • The central government will establish the Mediation Council of India.
  • The Council will consist of a chairperson, two full-time members (with experience in mediation or ADR), three ex-officio members (including the Law Secretary, and the Expenditure Secretary), and a part-time member from an industry body.
  • Functions of the Council include: (i) registration of mediators, and (ii) recognising mediation service providers and mediation institutes (which train, educate, and certify mediators).

(6) Mediated settlement agreement

  • Agreements resulting from mediation (other than community mediation) will be final, binding, and enforceable in the same manner as court judgments.
  • They may be challenged on grounds of: (i) fraud, (ii) corruption, (iii) impersonation, or (iv) relating to disputes not fit for mediation.

(7) Community mediation

  • This may be attempted to resolve disputes likely to affect the peace and harmony amongst residents of a locality.
  • It will be conducted by a panel of three mediators (may include persons of standing in the community, and representatives of resident welfare associations).

Issues highlighted by the Parliamentary Committee

  • Compulsion: The panel cautioned against making compulsory pre-litigation mediation.
  • Scope for Delay: Making pre-litigation mediation mandatory may actually result in delaying of cases.
  • Judicial intervention: The provision to give higher courts the power to frame rules for mediation was also questioned.
  • Narrower scope: The members questioned the non-applicability of the provisions to non-commercial disputes involving the Government and its agencies.
  • No bar of experienced professionals: The MCI, established to regulate the profession of mediators, may not have representation of practising mediators with adequate experience.
  • Prior approval from centre: The MCI requires prior approval from the central government before issuing regulations related to its essential functions.  It is not clear why such prior approval is required.
  • Domestic conduct of mediation: The Bill applies to international mediations only if they are conducted in India and not outside.

Why need a law on Mediation?

  • Fast: Because the amount of time necessary for the parties and therefore the Mediator to organize for the mediation is significantly way less as that needed for trial or arbitration, a mediation of dispute can occur relatively early.
  • Flexible: There exists no set formula for mediation. Different Mediators employ different styles. Procedures are often modified to satisfy the requirements of a specific case.
  • Cost Efficient: Because mediation generally requires less preparation, is very less formal than trial or arbitration, and may occur at an early stage of the dispute.
  • Brings Parties Together: Parties can save and sometimes rebuild their relationship like during a family dispute or commercial dispute.
  • Convenient: The parties can control the time, location, and duration of the proceedings to large extent. Scheduling isn’t subject to the convenience of courts.
  • Creative: Resolutions that aren’t possible through arbitration or judicial determination could also be achieved.
  • Confidential: What’s said during mediation are often kept confidential. Parties wishing to avoid the glare of publicity can use mediation to stay their disputes low-key and personal
  • Control: The parties control the result of the mediation and either party has the advantage of terminating the mediation, if it’s felt that it’s not within the interest of the said party.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest Rights Act 2006

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forest Rights Act

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Odisha government is chasing an ambitious target of completing the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) by granting all kinds of rights mandated under the historic Act by 2024.

What is Forest Rights Act (FRA)?

  • The symbiotic relationship between forests and forest-dwelling communities found recognition in the National Forest Policy, 1988.
  • The policy called for the need to associate tribal people in the protection, regeneration and development of forests.
  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted in this regard.
  • It aimed to protect the marginalised socio-economic class of citizens and balance the right to environment with their right to life and livelihood.

Provisions of the 2006 Act

  • The Act recognizes that tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling communities would be hard put to provide documentary evidence for their claims.
  • Rule 13 of the Act, therefore, stipulates that the Gram Sabhas should consider more than one evidence in determining forest rights.
  • The rule sanctions a wide range of evidence, including “statements by village elders”, “community rights” and “physical attributes such as houses, huts and permanent improvements made to land such as levelling, bunds and check dams”.

Why in news now?

  • The forest rights claims of these tribes and forest-dwellers are mostly rejected by the States.
  • Being poor and illiterate, living in remote areas, they do not know the appropriate procedure for filing claims.
  • The gram sabhas, which initiate the verification of their claims, are low on awareness of how to deal with them.

Why are forest rights important for tribals?

  • Aimed at undoing the “historic injustice” meted out to forest-dependent communities due to curtailment of their customary rights over forests, the FRA came into force in 2008.
  • It is important as it recognises the community’s right to use, manage and conserve forest resources, and to legally hold forest land that these communities have used for cultivation and residence.
  • It also underlines the integral role that forest dwellers play in the sustainability of forests and in the conservation of biodiversity.
  • It is of greater significance inside protected forests like national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as traditional dwellers then become a part of management of the protected forests.

 

Try answering this PYQ

Q.Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, who shall be the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights or both?

(a) State Forest Department

(b) District Collector/Deputy Commissioner

(c) Tahsildar/Block Development Officer/Mandal Revenue Officer

(d) Gram Sabha

 

Post your answers here.

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Real Estate Industry

RERA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RERA

Mains level : Real Estate issues

The Supreme Court has asked the Chief Secretaries of the States to respond to queries raised by the Centre on the implementation of rules framed under the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) (RERA) Act, 2016 in their respective jurisdictions.

What is RERA, 2016?

  • The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 seeks to protect home-buyers as well as help boost investments in the real estate industry.
  • It establishes a Real Estate Regulatory Authority- RERA in each state for regulation of the real estate sector and also acts as an adjudicating body for speedy dispute resolution.
  • It was enacted under Entry 6 and 7 (dealing with contracts and the transfer of property) of the Concurrent List.
  • It is followed by the principle “buyer is the king and builders will have to ensure compliances to avoid punishment”.
  • Its main objective is to reduce delay in the work or timely delivery of the project without compromising the quality.

Objectives of this Act

It has the following objectives:

  • To protect the interest of the allottees and ensure their responsibility
  • To maintain transparency and reduce the chances of fraud
  • To implement Pan-India standardization and bring about professionalism
  • To enhance the flow of correct information between the home buyers and the sellers
  • To impose greater responsibilities on both the builders and the investors
  • To enhance the reliability of the sector and thereby increase confidence amongst the investors

Key Provisions of RERA Act

  • Compulsory registration: According to the central act, every real estate project (where the total area to be developed exceeds 500 sq mtrs or more than 8 apartments is proposed to be developed in any phase), must be registered with its respective state’s RERA.
  • Establishment of state level regulatory authorities: It provides for State governments to establish more than one regulatory authority such as RERA to:
  1. Register and maintain a database of real estate projects; publish it on its website for public viewing
  2. Protection of interest of promoters, buyers and real estate agents
  3. Development of sustainable and affordable housing
  4. Render advice to the government and ensuring compliance with its Regulations and the Act
  • Establishment of Real Estate Appellate Tribunal: Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in these tribunals.
  • Mandatory Registration: All projects with plot size of a minimum 500 sq.mt or eight apartments need to be registered with Regulatory Authorities.
  • Deposits: Developers needs to keep 70% of the money collected from a buyer in a temporary pass through account held by a third party (escrow account) to meet the construction cost of the project.
  • Liability of the developer: A developer’s liability to repair structural defects would be for 5 years.
  • Cap on Advance Payments: A promoter cannot accept more than 10% of the cost of the plot, apartment or building as an advance payment or an application fee from a person without first entering into an agreement for sale
  • Carpet Area over super built-up: Clearly defines Carpet Area as net usable floor area of flat. Buyers will be charged for the carpet area and not super built-up area.
  • Punishment for non-compliance: Imprisonment of up to three years for developers and up to one year in case of agents and buyers for violation of orders of Appellate Tribunals and Regulatory Authorities.

Which projects can get RERA approval?

  • Commercial and residential projects including plotted development.
  • Projects measuring more than 500 sq mts or 8 units.
  • Projects without Completion Certificate, before the commencement of the Act.
  • The project is only for the purpose of renovation/repair / re-development which does not involve re-allotment and marketing, advertising, selling or new allotment of any apartments, plot or building in the real estate project, will not come under RERA.
  • Each phase is to be treated as standalone real estate project requiring fresh registration.

Benefits offered by the RERA Act

Industry

Developer

Buyer

Agents

  • Governance and transparency
  • Project efficiency and robust project delivery
  • Standardization and quality
  • Enhance the confidence of investors
  • Attract higher investments and PE funding
  • Regulated Environment
  • Common and best practices
  • Increase efficiency
  • Consolidation of sector
  • Corporate branding
  • Higher investment
  • Increase in organized funding
  • Significant buyers protection
  • Quality products and timely delivery
  • Balanced agreements and treatment
  • Transparency – sale based on carpet area
  • Safety of money and transparency on utilization
  • Consolidation of the sector (due to mandatory state registration)
  • Increased transparency
  • Increased efficiency
  • Minimum litigation by adopting best practices

 

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Amending the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WMD Bill

Mains level : WMD terrorism

Recently the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 was passed in the Lok Sabha.

What is the WMD Bill?

  • The Bill amends the WMD and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005 which prohibits the unlawful manufacture, transport, or transfer of WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear weapons) and their means of delivery.
  • It is popularly referred to as the WMD Act.
  • The recent amendment extends the scope of banned activities to include financing of already prohibited activities.
  • The WMD and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act came into being in July 2005.

What was the purpose of the original WMD Act?

  • Its primary objective was to provide an integrated and overarching legislation on prohibiting unlawful activities in relation to all three types of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials, equipment and technologies.
  • It instituted penalties for contravention of these provisions such as imprisonment for a term not less than five years (extendable for life) as well as fines.
  • The Act was passed to meet an international obligation enforced by the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 of 2004.

What is the UNSCR 1540?

  • In April 2004 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1540 to address the growing threat of non-state actors gaining access to WMD material, equipment or technology to undertake acts of terrorism.
  • In order to address this challenge to international peace and security, UNSCR 1540 established binding obligations on all UN member states under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
  • Nations were mandated to take and enforce effective measures against proliferation of WMD, their means of delivery and related materials to non-state actors.
  • It was to punish the unlawful and unauthorised manufacture, acquisition, possession, development and transport of WMD became necessary.

UNSCR 1540 enforced three primary obligations upon nation states —

  1. To not provide any form of support to non-state actors seeking to acquire WMD, related materials, or their means of delivery;
  2. To adopt and enforce laws criminalising the possession and acquisition of such items by non-state actors;
  3. To adopt and enforce domestic controls over relevant materials, in order to prevent their proliferation.

What has the Amendment added to the existing Act?

  • The Amendment expands the scope to include prohibition of financing of any activity related to WMD and their delivery systems.
  • To prevent such financing, the Central government shall have the power to freeze, seize or attach funds, financial assets, or economic resources of suspected individuals (whether owned, held, or controlled directly or indirectly).
  • It also prohibits persons from making finances or related services available for other persons indulging in such activity.

Why was this Amendment necessary?

  • India echoes these developments for having made the Amendment necessary.
  • Two specific gaps are being addressed-
  1. As the relevant organisations at the international level, such as the Financial Action Task Force have expanded the scope of targeted financial sanctions and India’s own legislation has been harmonised to align with international benchmarks.
  2. With advancements in technologies, new kinds of threats have emerged that were not sufficiently catered for in the existing legislation.
  • These notably include developments in the field of drones or unauthorised work in biomedical labs that could maliciously be used for terrorist activity.
  • Therefore, the Amendment keeps pace with evolving threats.

What more should India do?

  • India’s responsible behaviour and actions on non-proliferation are well recognised.
  • It has a strong statutory national export control system and is committed to preventing proliferation of WMD.
  • This includes transit and trans-shipment controls, retransfer control, technology transfer controls, brokering controls and end-use based controls.
  • Every time India takes additional steps to fulfil new obligations, it must showcase its legislative, regulatory and enforcement frameworks to the international community.
  • It is also necessary that India keeps WMD security in international focus.

Setting up a precedence

  • There is no room for complacency.
  • Even countries which do not have WMD technology have to be sensitised to their role in the control framework to prevent weak links in the global control system.
  • India can offer help to other countries on developing national legislation, institutions and regulatory framework through the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) or on bilateral basis.

Could the Amendment become troublesome to people on account of mistaken identity?

  • In the discussion on the Bill in Parliament, some members expressed concern on whether the new legislation could make existing business entities or people in the specific sector susceptible to a case of mistaken identity.
  • The External Affairs Minister, however, assured the House that such chances were minimal since identification of concerned individuals/entities would be based on a long list of specifics.

What is the international significance of these legislation?

  • Preventing acts of terrorism that involve WMD or their delivery systems requires building a network of national and international measures in which all nation states are equally invested.
  • Such actions are necessary to strengthen global enforcement of standards relating to the export of sensitive items and to prohibit even the financing of such activities.

Way forward

  • Sharing of best practices on legislations and their implementation can enable harmonization of global WMD controls.
  • India initially had reservations on enacting laws mandated by the UNSCR.
  • This is not seen by India as an appropriate body for making such a demand.
  • However, given the danger of WMD terrorism that India faces in view of the difficult neighbourhood that it inhabits, the country supported the Resolution and has fulfilled its requirements.

Conclusion

  • It is in India’s interest to facilitate highest controls at the international level and adopt them at the domestic level.
  • Having now updated its own legislation, India can demand the same of others, especially from those in its neighbourhood that have a history of proliferation and of supporting terrorist organisations.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

What are Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WMD

Mains level : Nuclear Non-Proliferation

The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 has been unanimously passed in Lok Sabha.

WMD Bill

  • The Bill seeks to amend The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.
  • It aims to provide against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in line with India’s international obligations.
  • The 2005 Act prohibited the manufacturing, transport, and transfer of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery.

Need for the Bill

  • In recent times, regulations relating to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems by international organisations have expanded.
  • The UNSCs targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force have mandated against financing of proliferation of WMD and their their delivery systems.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • The expression “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD) is usually considered to have been used first by the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1937.
  • They usually refer to the aerial bombing of civilians in the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian fascists in support of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
  • The expression WMD entered the vocabularies of people and countries around the world in the early 2000s after the US under President George W Bush and the UK under PM Tony Blair justified the invasion of Iraq.
  • They invaded Iraq on the grounds that the government of Saddam Hussain was hiding these weapons in the country. However, no WMDs were ever found.

What are NBC weapons?

  • While there is no single, authoritative definition of a WMD in international law, the expression is usually understood to cover nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons.
  • WMD can be any nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or other device that is intended to harm a large number of people.

India’s 2005 WMD Act defines-

  1. Biological Weapons” as “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins…of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; and weapons, equipment or delivery systems specially designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict”; and
  2. Chemical Weapons” as “toxic chemicals and their precursors” except where used for peaceful, protective, and certain specified military and law enforcement purposes; “munitions and devices specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals”; and any equipment specifically designed for use in connection with the employment of these munitions and devices.

Control over use of WMDs

  • The use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons is regulated by a number of international treaties and agreements.
  • Among them are the Geneva Protocol, 1925, that banned the use of chemical and biological weapons; and the Biological Weapons Convention, 1972, and Chemical Weapons Convention, 1992, which put comprehensive bans on the biological and chemical weapons respectively.
  • India has signed and ratified both the 1972 and 1992 treaties.
  • There are very few non-signatory countries to these treaties, even though several countries have been accused of non-compliance.
  • The use and proliferation of nuclear weapons is regulated by treaties such as Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Back2Basics:

Nuclear Security Contact Group

  • The NSCG was established in 2016.
  • The NSCG or “Contact Group” has been established with the aim of facilitating cooperation and sustaining engagement on nuclear security after the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit process.
  • The Contact Group is tasked with:
  1. Convening annually on the margins of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and, as may be useful, in connection with other related meetings
  2. Discussing a broad range of nuclear security-related issues, including identifying emerging trends that may require more focused attention

Nuclear Suppliers Group

  • NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • The NSG was set up as a response to India’s nuclear tests conducted in 1974.
  • The aim of the NSG is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

  • CTBT was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996.
  • The Treaty intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
  • It was opened for signature in 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty, most recently Ghana has ratified the treaty in 2011.

Fissile material cut-off treaty

  • FMCT is a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.
  • Discussions on this subject have taken place at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), a body of 65 member nations established as the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament.
  • The CD operates by consensus and is often stagnant, impeding progress on an FMCT.
  • Those nations that joined the nuclear NPT as non-weapon states are already prohibited from producing or acquiring fissile material for weapons.
  • An FMCT would provide new restrictions for the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS—United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China), and for the four nations that are not NPT members (Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Indian Antarctic Bill Introduced in Lok Sabha

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Antarctic Treaty

Mains level : Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

The government has introduced the ‘Antarctica Bill, 2022’ in the Lok Sabha that envisages regulating visits and activities to Antarctica as well potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent.

Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

Aims and objectives:

  • To provide for national measures to protect the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems and to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty
  • To provide a harmonious policy framework for India’s Antarctic activities through a well-established legal mechanism
  • Facilitate activities of the Indian Antarctic programme, including management of Antarctic tourism and sustainable development of fisheries
  • To prohibit Indian expedition to Antarctica or carrying of certain activities in Antarctica without a permit or the written authorisation of another party to the protocol
  • To provide for inspection in India by an officer designated by the Central government as an Inspector and to constitute an inspection team to carry out inspections in Antarctica

Key feature: Committee on Antarctic governance

  • It will empower the government to establish a committee on Antarctic governance and environmental protection to monitor, implement and ensure compliance with the relevant international laws, emissions standards and rules of protection.
  • The panel is to be headed by the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, as ex officio chairperson.
  • Among other roles, he has also been the vice-president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research of the International Science Council since 2018.
  • The committee will have ten members from various ministries, departments and organizations of the Union government, plus two experts on the Antarctic environment or other relevant areas.

About Antarctica Treaty

  • Antarctica has a geographical area of 14 million sq. km and has had no indigenous population (i.e. “Antarcticans” don’t exist).
  • However, a few thousand people reside there, in some 40 research stations spread across the continent, throughout the year.
  • In 1959, 12 countries – Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the UK and the US signed the ‘Antarctic Treaty’.
  • Their aim was to prevent the continent from being militarised and to establish it as a centre of peaceful activities.
  • Later, more countries, including India, have become party to the treaty, and today it counts more than 54 members.
  • The treaty requires each party to take appropriate measures within its competence, including the adoption of laws and regulations, administrative actions and enforcement measures, to ensure compliance with the protocol.
  • Countries also signed the ‘Protocol on Environmental Protection’ to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991, which designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.

Need for the Antarctic Legislation

  • The growing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica and the commitment to Antarctic research and protection prompted the government to adopt domestic legislation consistent with its obligations as a member of the Antarctic Treaty system.
  • These laws will enable India’s courts to deal with disputes or crimes committed in parts of Antarctica, and help build credibility vis-à-vis India’s participation.

India at the Poles

  • India maintains two research stations on the continent: ‘Maitri’ (commissioned in 1989) at Schirmacher Hills and ‘Bharati’ (2012) at Larsemann Hills.
  • It has also launched 41 scientific expeditions every year thus far.
  • Together with the ‘Himadri’ station in Svalbard, above the Arctic circle, India is among an elite group of countries with multiple research in the polar regions.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

Areas under AFSPA regime reduced: Home Ministry

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AFSPA

Mains level : Issues over AFSPA disturbed areas

The Union Home Ministry has considerably reduced the “disturbed areas” under the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

AFSPA: A Backgrounder

  • The AFSPA, 1958 came into force in the context of insurgency in the North-eastern States decades ago.
  • It provides “special power” to the Armed Forces applies to the Army, the Air Force and the Central Paramilitary forces etc.
  • It has been long contested debate whether the “special powers” granted under AFSPA gives total immunity to the armed forces for any action taken by them.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act, to put it simply, gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas.”
  • AFSPA gives armed forces the authority use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  • The Act further provides that if “reasonable suspicion exists”, the armed forces can also arrest a person without warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.

What are the Special Powers?

The ‘special powers’ which are spelt out under Section 4 provide that:

(a) Power to use force, including opening fire, even to the extent of causing death if prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more persons or carrying arms and weapons, etc are in force in the disturbed area;

(b) Power to destroy structures used as hide-outs, training camps, or as a place from which attacks are or likely to be launched, etc;

(c) Power to arrest without warrant and to use force for the purpose;

(d) Power to enter and search premises without a warrant to make arrest or recovery of hostages, arms and ammunition and stolen property etc.

What are the Disturbed Areas?

  • A disturbed area is one that is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
  • As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.

Who can declare/notify such areas?

  • The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
  • A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette.

Presently ‘Disturbed Areas’

  • AFSPA is currently in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, 3 districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of 8 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam.
  • In Jammu and Kashmir, a separate law Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 has been in force.

AFSPA: Is it a License to Kill?

While the operation of the Section has been controversial in itself, it has attracted much criticism when actions have resulted in the death of civilians.

  • Power to kill: Section 4 of the Act granted officers the authority to “take any action” even to the extent to cause the death.
  • Protection against prosecution: This power is further bolstered by Section 6 which provides that legal can be instituted against the officer, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government.

Supreme Court’s Observations over AFSPA

  • These extra-judicial killings became the attention of the Supreme Court in 2016.
  • It clarified that the bar under Section 6 would not grant “total immunity” to the officers against any probe into their alleged excesses.
  • The judgment noted that if any death was unjustified, there is no blanket immunity available to the perpetrator(s) of the offense.
  • The Court further noted that if an offense is committed even by Army personnel, there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by the criminal court constituted under the CrPC.

Constitutionality of AFSPA

  • Attempts have been made to examine the constitutionality of the Act on the grounds that it is contravention to the:
  1. Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21) and
  2. Federal structure of the Constitution since law and order is a State subject

Recommendations to repeal AFSPA

(1) Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Commission

  • The 2004 Committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, the content of which has never officially been revealed by the Government, recommended that AFSPA be repealed.
  • Additionally, it recommended that appropriate provisions be inserted in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA) instead.
  • It also recommended that the UAPA be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.

(2) ARC II

  • The Administrative Reforms Commission in its 5th Report on ‘Public Order’ had also recommended that AFSPA be repealed.
  • It recommended adding a new chapter to be added to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
  • However, the recommendation was considered first and then rejected.

Other issues with AFSPA

(1) Sexual Misconduct by Armed Forces

  • The issue of violation of human rights by actions of armed forces came under the consideration of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law (popularly known as Justice Verma Committee) set up in 2012.
  • It observed that- in conflict zones, legal protection for women was neglected.

(2) Autocracy

  • The reality is that there is no evidence of any action being taken against any officer of the armed forces or paramilitary forces for their excesses.

Caution given by the Supreme Court

A July 2016 judgment authored by Justice Madan B. Lokur in Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association quoted the “Ten Commandments” issued by the Chief of the Army Staff for operations in disturbed areas:

  1. Definite circumstances: The “power to cause death is relatable to maintenance of public order in a disturbed area and is to be exercised under definite circumstances”.
  2. Declaration preconditions: These preconditions include a declaration by a high-level authority that an area is “disturbed”.
  3. Due warning: The officer concerned decides to use deadly force on the opinion that it is “necessary” to maintain public order. But he has to give “due warning” first.
  4. No arbitrary action: The persons against whom the action was taken by the armed forces should have been “acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area”.
  5. Minimal use of force: The armed forces must use only the “minimal force required for effective action against the person/persons acting in contravention of the prohibitory order.”
  6. Empathy with perpetrators: The court said that: the people you are dealing with are your own countrymen. All your conduct must be dictated by this one significant consideration.
  7. People friendliness: The court underscored how the Commandments insist that “operations must be people-friendly, using minimum force and avoiding collateral damage – restrain must be the key”.
  8. Good intelligence: It added that “good intelligence is the key to success”.
  9. Compassion: It exhorted personnel to “be compassionate, help the people and win their hearts and minds. Employ all resources under your command to improve their living conditions”.
  10. Upholding Dharma (Duty): The judgment ended with the final Commandment to “uphold Dharma and take pride in your country and the Army”.

Conclusion

  • Despite demands by civil society groups and human rights activities, none of the recommendations have not been implemented to date.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Interstate River Water Dispute

Dam Safety Act can end disputes, says Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dam Safety Act

Mains level : Resolution of Mullaperiyar Dam Row

The Supreme Court has found in the Dam Safety Act of 2021 a panacea to end the “perennial” legal battle between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the Mullaperiyar dam.

What is the Dam Safety Act, 2021?

  • The Act comprehensively postulates for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams to prevent disasters.
  • Its key features are as follows:
  1. National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS): It will be constituted and will be chaired by the chairperson, Central Water Commission. Its’ functions will include formulating policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, analyzing the causes of major dam failures, and suggesting changes in dam safety practices.
  2. National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA): It will be headed by an officer, not below the rank of an Additional Secretary, to be appointed by the central government. The main task of this authority includes implementing the policies formulated by the NCD, resolving issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), or between an SDSO and any dam owner in that state, specifying regulations for inspection and investigation of dams.
  3. State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO): Its functions will be to keep perpetual surveillance, inspection, monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams, keeping a database of all dams, and recommending safety measures to owners of dams.
  4. Dam Safety Unit: The owners of the specified dams are required to provide a dam safety unit in each dam. This unit will inspect the dams before and after the monsoon session, and during and after any calamity or sign of distress.
  5. Emergency Action Plan: Dam owners will be required to prepare an emergency action plan, and carry out risk assessment studies for each dam at specified regular intervals.
  6. Certain offences: The act provides for two types of offences – obstructing a person in the discharge of his functions, and refusing to comply with directions issued under the proposed law.

Why in news?

  • Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been trading charges against each other over the safety, operation and maintenance of the Mullaperiyar dam.
  • While Kerala claims the 126-year-old dam is unsafe, badly maintained and a threat to thousands of people living downstream, Tamil Nadu denies it.
  • Kerala is pitching for a new dam in place of the existing one, while Tamil Nadu, which operates and maintains the reservoir, argues that the dam is well-preserved and so strong that the height water level could even be increased to 152 feet.

What did the SC say?

  • A few days ago, the Supreme Court was in search of an answer to the “perennial problem” between the two neighbours over the dam.
  • It had mooted the idea of extending the powers of its own supervisory committee to take over charge of the safety and maintenance of the structure and its site.
  • The Bench even wondered whether the supervisory committee should now continue as the 2021 Act has made it redundant.
  • However, Kerala said the Centre was yet to appoint specialists to the NDSA.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022

Mains level : Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022

The bill that would allow the police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans, was introduced in the Lok Sabha.

Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill

  • It authorises law enforcement agencies to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters.
  • It seeks to repeal the Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 which provided for the collection of only fingerprints and footprints.
  • The said Act, in its present form, provides access to a limited category of persons whose body measurements can be taken.
  • As per the Bill, any state government OR Union Territory administration may notify an appropriate agency to collect, preserve and share the measurements of a person of interest in their respective jurisdictions.

Why need such law?

  • The world has undergone technological and scientific changes, crime and its trend have increased.
  • Advanced countries across the globe are relying on new “measurement” techniques for reliable results.
  • It was felt necessary to expand the “ambit of persons” whose measurements can be taken as this will help investigating agencies gather sufficient legally admissible evidence and establish the crime of the accused person.
  • The Bill will not only help our investigation agencies but also increase prosecution.
  • There is also a chance of an increase in conviction rates in courts through this.

Key features of the Bill

The Bill seeks to:

  • Define “measurements”: To include finger impressions, palm-print and foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, etc.;
  • Empower the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB): To collect, store and preserve the record of measurements and for sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of records;
  • Empower a Magistrate: To direct any person to give measurements; a Magistrate can also direct law enforcement officials to collect fingerprints, footprint impressions and photographs in the case of a specified category of convicted and non-convicted persons;
  • Empower police or prison officers: To take measurements of any person who resists or refuses to give measurements
  • Authorises police to record signatures, handwriting or other behavioural attributes: Referred to in section 53 or section 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, for the purposes of analysis.

Notable feature: Maintenance of Record

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signature and handwriting data that can be preserved for at least 75 years.
  • The record of these measurements will be retained in digital or electronic form for a period of seventy-five years from the date of collection.
  • The court or Magistrate, for reasons to be recorded in writing, can direct agencies to maintain the records.
  • The records are to be destroyed in the case of any person who has not been previously convicted of an offence punishable under any law with imprisonment for any term.

Refusal to Comply

  • Resistance to or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC);
  • No suit or any other proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done, or intended to be done in good faith under this Act or any rule made thereunder;
  • Central government or state government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act;
  • Manner of collection, storing, preservation of measurements and sharing, dissemination, destruction and disposal of records under sub-section (1) of section 4;

Issues with the Bill

  • Un-constitutionality: The proposed law will be debated against Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which is a fundamental right that guarantees the right against self-incrimination.
  • Violation of Article 21: The Bill also seeks to apply these provisions to persons held under any preventive detention law.
  • Legislative competence of Centre: The Bill was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament as it violated fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy.
  • Contentious provisions: The Bill proposes to collect samples even from protesters engaged in political protests.
  • Lack of clarity: Several provisions are not defined in the Bill itself.. For instance, the statement of objects says it provides for collection of measurements for “convicts and other persons” but the expression “other persons” is not defined.
  • Other: While the jurisprudence around the right to be forgotten is still in an early stage in India, the Puttaswamy judgment discusses it as a facet of the fundamental right to privacy.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Interstate River Water Dispute

Dam Safety Bill, 2021 introduced in RS

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Features of the Dam Safety Bill

Mains level : Dame Safety

The Dam Safety Bill 2021 was moved in the Rajya Sabha but the debate could not be held because of disruptions from the Opposition parties.

Dam Safety Bill, 2021

  • The Bill provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams to prevent disasters, and institutional mechanisms to ensure safety.
  • It applies to over 5,000 dams across the country, many of which are currently in poor conditions.
  • It has been met with significant opposition, particularly from several states that claim the bill oversteps the Centre’s mandate.

Which dams are covered?

  • All dams in India with a height above 15 metres come under the purview of the bill.
  • Dams between 10 to 15 metres of height are also covered but only if they meet certain other specifications in terms of design and structural conditions.

National Committee on Dam Safety

  • The Bill provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) which is to be chaired by the Central Water Commissioner (CWC).
  • The other members of the NCDS will be nominated by the Centre and will include up to 10 representatives of the Centre, 7 state government representatives, and 3 experts on dam safety.
  • The NCDS is to formulate policies for dam safety and to prevent dam failures.
  • In the event of a dam failure, the NCDS will analyse why the failure occurred, and suggest changes in dam safety practices to ensure there aren’t any repetitions.

National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA)

  • The bill provides for the formation of a NDSA which will be responsible for implementing the policies of the NCDS, and will resolve issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (or SDSOs) and dam owners.
  • The NDSA will also specify regulations for the inspection of dams and will provide accreditation to the various agencies working on the structure of dams and their alteration.

State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs)

  • The bill will also result in the establishment of SDSOs, and State Committees on Dam Safety (SCDSs).
  • The jurisdiction of the SDSOs will extend to all dams in that specific state.

Cross jurisdictions

  • The NDSA will, in some cases, possess this jurisdiction, for example, if a dam owned by one state is situated in another or crosses multiple states, or if a dam is owned by a central public sector undertaking.
  • SDSOs will be in charge of scrutinizing dams under their jurisdiction and maintaining a database of the same.
  • The SCDS will review the work of the SDSO, and will also have to assess the impact of dam-related projects on upstream and downstream states.
  • The bill gives the Central government the power to amend the functions of any of the above bodies through a notification, whenever it is deemed necessary to do so.

How does Bill change the functioning of dams?

  • If the bill is made into a law, then dam owners will have to provide a dam safety unit in each dam.
  • The dam safety unit will be required to inspect the dam before and after the monsoon session, and also during and after natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
  • The bill requires dam owners to prepare emergency action plans. Risk-assessment studies will also have to be undertaken by owners, regularly.
  • At specified, regular intervals, and in the event of either a modification to the dam’s structure or a natural event that may impact the structure, dam owners will have to produce a comprehensive safety evaluation by experts.

Do you know?

The point of contention are four dams — Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Thunakkadavu and Peruvaripallam — located in Kerala but owned, operated and maintained by the Tamil Nadu Government.

Issues with bill

  • The primary objection to the bill is that is unconstitutional, as water is one of the items on the State List.
  • Tamil Nadu, which currently possesses four dams situated in Kerala, is opposed to the Bill as it would result in the four dams falling under the NDSA.
  • This will be doing away with Tamil Nadu’s rights over the maintenance of the dam.
  • The Bill states that the NCDS will be chaired by the Central Water Commissioner.
  • However the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that such a scenario is prohibited, as it involves the CWC, an advisor, functioning both as a regulator and the head of the NCDS.

 

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

AERA Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : AERA Act

In the recent monsoon session, Parliament passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Key features of the AERA Bill, 2021

  • It seeks to amend the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.
  • The 2008 Act established the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).
  • AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (such as airport development fees) for aeronautical services rendered at major airports in India.
  • The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has an annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh.
  • The central government may also designate any airport as a major airport by a notification.
  • The Bill adds that the central government may group airports and notify the group as a major airport.

Why has the definition of a major airport been amended?

  • The Amendment has changed the definition of a major airport to include “a group of airports” after the words “any other airport”.
  • The government hopes the move will encourage the development of smaller airports and make bidding for airports with less passenger traffic attractive.
  • It plans to club profitable airports with non-profitable ones and offer them as a package for development in public-private partnership mode to expand connectivity.

Was there a need to amend the AERA Act?

  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) awarded six airports — Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati — for operations, management and development in public-private partnership mode in February 2019.
  • In 2020 too, the AAI has approved leasing of another six airports — Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Amritsar, Raipur, Indore and Tiruchi.
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation plans to club each of these airports with nearby smaller airports for joint development.
  • The move follows FM’s Budget Speech this year, in which she said the government planned to monetize airports in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tribunals Reforms Bill

Mains level : Not Much

The Lok Sabha has hastily passed the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 without any debate.

Highlights of the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021

The Bill seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions (such as adjudication of appeals) to other existing judicial bodies:

Transfer of functions of key appellate bodies as proposed under the Bill:

Acts

Appellate Body

Proposed Entity

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 Appellate Tribunal High Court
The Trade Marks Act, 1999 Appellate Board High Court
The Copyright Act, 1957 Appellate Board Commercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court*
The Customs Act, 1962 Authority for Advance Rulings High Court
The Patents Act, 1970 Appellate Board High Court
The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994 Airport Appellate Tribunal
  • Central government, for disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants.
  • High Court, for appeals against orders of an eviction officer.
The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002 Airport Appellate Tribunal Civil Court#
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 Appellate Board High Court

 

Amendments to the Finance Act, 2017:

  • The Finance Act, 2017 merged tribunals based on domain.
  • It also empowered the central government to notify rules on: (i) composition of search-cum-selection committees, (ii) qualifications of tribunal members, and (iii) their terms and conditions of service (such as their removal and salaries).
  • The Bill removes these provisions from the Finance Act, 2017.
  • Provisions on the composition of selection committees and term of office have been included in the Bill. Qualification of members and other terms and conditions of service will be notified by the central government.

Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

Draft Drone Rules, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Draft Drone Rules, 2021

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released Draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public consultation. The rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021.

Highlights of the Draft Drone Rules 2021

Number of forms: The rules propose to reduce the number of forms required for manufacturing, importing, testing, certifying and operating drones in India from 25 to six.

Abolishing authorization number: The draft seeks to abolish the unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, and certificate of conformance that were previously required for approval of drone flights.

Digital Sky Platform: Digital Sky, a platform launched by the government in December 2018, will become a single-window system for all approvals under the newly proposed rules.

Airspace map: An airspace map segregating the entire landmass of India into Green, Yellow and Red zones will be published on the platform within 30 days of notification of the new rules, the government said. The map will also be machine-readable through an Application Programming Interface (API) for easier plotting of drone flight paths.

Airport Perimeter: The draft rules reduced the airport perimeter from 45 km to 12 km. The rules state that no flight permissions would be required to fly up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.

Drone corridors: The government will also publish a policy framework for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) within 60 days of notifying the rules. This will also include frameworks for developing “drone corridors” for the safe transfer of goods by drones.

Drone Promotion Council: The Rules also propose the setting up of a Drone Promotion Council, with the aim of facilitating a business-friendly regulatory regime for drones in India, the establishment of incubators for developing drone technologies and organizing competitive events to showcase drones and counter-drone solutions.

Others: To implement safety features such as “no permission, no take-off”, real-time tracking and geofencing, drone manufacturers, importers and operators will get six months’ time to comply from the date of notification of the rules.