13 , April 2017

Justice Gita Mittal, the senior-most judge of Delhi High Court, has been appointed as the acting Chief justice of Delhi High Court with effect from April 14. Her appointment comes at the backdrop of the retirement of current Chief justice Gorla Rohini. President of India has appointed Justice Mittal as the Chief Justice by exercising his powers conferred by article 223 of the Constitution of India.

Article 223 of the Indian Constitution: provides for the appointment of acting Chief Justice by the President of India whenever the office of the Chief Justice of a High Court falls vacant due to any reason such as absence or otherwise.

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Operation Meghdoot was an Indian armed forces operation launched 33 years ago on 13 April 1984. Operation Meghdoot was an operation launched by Indian Armed Forces to capture the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir. During the operation, Indian troops landed on Bilafond La on Saltoro ridge, west of Siachen glacier, on Friday, April 13, 1984. It was a Baishakhi day. The operation resulted in Indian troops gaining control of the entire Siachen glacier, giving India strategic advantage and also maintaining status quo.

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President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to four supporting legislations on Goods and Services Tax (GST). The four legislations are:

The Central GST Act, 2017,
The Integrated GST Act, 2017,
The GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017,
The Union Territory GST Act, 2017.

The above bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on April 6th and in Lok Sabha on 29 March. Now with the President’s assent, these bills will pave way for the roll-out of GST regime from 1 July.

GST will subsume central excise, service tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) and other local levies to create a uniform market. GST eliminates the cascading effect of taxes because it is taxed at every point of business and the input credit is available in the value chain. The tax rates under GST regime will be based on the recommendation GST Council. Council has two-thirds voting by States and one-third by Centre.

GST regime will not be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir because of the fact that Article 370 gives special status to the state. So, the state will have to legislate its own law and integrate with the GST regime.

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Jharkhand Police has initiated Tare Zameen Par programme to enlighten children in Naxal-affected areas in the Palamau district of Jharkhand. This programme is aimed to restore confidence in the state police force and to encourage children to lead happy lives. As a part of the programme, the state police appealed the locals to donate bags, shoes, books and clothes to improve the basic amenities of the children in the Naxal-affected areas.

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Similar to that of Uttar Pradesh’s ‘anti-romeo squad’, the Haryana government has launched ‘Operation Durga’ to ensure women safety in the state. Under this operation, teams formed by the Chief Minister’s Flying Squad visited public places such as schools, colleges, bus stands and railway stations and caught persons indulging in crime activities against women like eve-teasing, stalking, harassment and other such activities. Since women are hesitant in reporting incidents involving anti-social elements to the Police, the campaign, ‘Operation Durga’ was launched so that flying squads patrol those areas where such anti-social elements committed crimes against women.

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Central Processing Centre (CPC) gets new Pin Code
Source: PIB

The Department of Post has allotted a unique pin code for the Income Tax Department’s Central Processing Centre (CPC) based in Bengaluru so as to ensure that the letters and mails sent by taxpayers to the CPC are not lost or reach the centre late. The new pin code given to CPC is 560500.

Earlier, the CPC was using the pin code 560100 which was marked for the entire city area of Bengaluru. The new pin code will cater exclusively to the CPC of the Income Tax department and will help in addressing the grievances of the taxpayers with respect to the issues of non-reaching of postal mails.

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1.Cabinet approves setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle to be called Government e-Marketplace (GeM SPV)
Source: PIB

Setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle to be called Government e-Marketplace (GeM SPV) as the National Public Procurement Portal as Section 8 Company registered under the Companies Act, 2013, for providing procurement of goods & services required by Central & State Government organizations. GeM SPV shall provide an end-to-end online Marketplace for Central and State Government Ministries / Departments, Central & State Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs & SPSUs), Autonomous institutions and Local bodies, for procurement of common use goods & services in a transparent and efficient manner.
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2.Cabinet approves the Establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection
Source: PIB                                

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with member states of BIMSTEC for establishing BIMSTEC grid interconnections. The MoU will be signed at the 3rd BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Meeting that will be held in Nepal shortly.

The MoU provides a broad framework of cooperation for the implementation of grid interconnections for the purpose of carrying out trade in electricity. Its objective is to promote rational and optimal power transmission in the BIMSTEC region.

The MoU for the establishment of the BIMSTEC grid interconnection facilitates:

  • Optimization of energy resources in the BIMSTEC region for mutual benefits on non-discriminatory basis subject to laws, rules and regulations of the respective Parties;
  • Promotion of efficient, economic, and secure operation of power system by developing regional electricity networks;
  • Necessity of optimization of capital investment for additional capacity generation across the region;
  • Power exchange through cross-border interconnections.

In 2005, during the first BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Conference held in New Delhi, a Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation in BIMSTEC was formulated. As a part of the plan, under the BIMSTEC Trans-Power Exchange and Development Project, a task force under the leadership of Thailand was formed comprising the representatives of member countries to come up with a report on draft MoU for grid interconnections. After a total of five meetings, the draft MoU for the establishment of the BIMSTEC grid interconnection was finalised on March 16, 2015. The leaders reached a consensus to expedite the signing of the MoU on BIMSTEC grid interconnection during the BIMSTEC Leaders’ Retreat, 2016 held in Goa. In the fourth meeting of BIMSTEC held in January 2017, the MoU was discussed and finalised.

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3.Petrol, diesel prices to be fixed daily
Source: The Hindu

The Hindu

  • State-owned fuel retailers — Indian Oil Corp. (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. (HPCL), — which own over 95% of the nearly 58,000 fuel outlets in the country, are likely to launch a pilot scheme for daily price revision in five select cities from May 1 and gradually extend it all over the country
  • Petrol and diesel prices will change every day in sync with international rates, much like what happens in most advanced markets

The New Scheme

  • The pilot scheme will be first implemented in Puducherry, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Udaipur in Rajasthan, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Chandigarh
  • Earlier: State fuel retailers currently revise rates on the 1st and 16th of every month, based on average international price in the preceding fortnight and the currency exchange rate
  • Now: Instead of using fortnightly average, pump rates will reflect daily movement in international oil prices and rupee-U.S. dollar fluctuations
  • Launch Date: Pilot scheme is planned to be launched on May 1
  •  Daily price change will remove the big leaps in rates that need to be effected at the end of the fortnight, and consumers will be more aligned to market dynamics

Petrol price was freed from government control in June 2010, diesel rates were deregulated only in October 2014.

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4.Hold fiscal deficit at 3% till FY20, says N.K. Singh panel
Source: The Hindu

Centre had set a target of 3.2% of GDP in 2017-18.

  • The Centre can take a pause on the fiscal consolidation front over the next three years by maintaining a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 3% till 2019-20, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee chaired by former Revenue Secretary N.K. Singh has recommended
  • The FRBM law enacted in 2003 had originally envisaged attaining a fiscal deficit of 3% of GDP by 2008-09, but amendments over the years had revised the year for achieving the same target to 2017-18.

Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee:

Set up to comprehensively review and give recommendations on the FRBM roadmap for future

  • The panel has advocated reaching a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 2.8% in 2020-21, 2.6% the subsequent year and 2.5% in 2022-23.
  • The panel has recommended that the existing FRBM Act and rules be scrapped and a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act be adopted and proposed the creation of a Fiscal Council that the government must consult before invoking escape clauses

Escape clause :

The panel has introduced an escape clause that allows the government to skip the fiscal deficit target for a particular year, in following situations:

  • National security concerns
  • Acts of war
  • National calamities
  • A collapse of the agriculture sector
  • Far-reaching structural reforms with unanticipated fiscal implications
  • if the economy’s real output growth slips by three percentage points from the average of the previous four quarters

Deviation:

  • It recommended that deviations from the stipulated fiscal targets should not be more than 0.5%
  • The Reserve Bank of India governor, a member of the committee was inclined to only permit a 0.3% deviation

Buoyancy clause :

Has been proposed, so that fiscal deficit must fall at least 0.5% below the target if real output grows 3% faster than that average

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5.Panel to suggest norms for Bitcoins , virtual currencies
Source: The Hindu

The government has decided to close the regulatory gaps to keep a check on virtual currencies, including Bitcoins, and has set up an inter-disciplinary committee to recommend an action plan for dealing with such currencies within three months

The committee will also include experts from the RBI, the central government’s think tank NITI Aayog and State Bank of India

  • The circulation of Virtual Currencies which are also known as Digital/Crypto Currencies has been a cause of concern.
  • Advisory issued: The Reserve Bank of India has not given any licence or authorisation to any entity or company to operate such schemes or deal with Bitcoin or any virtual currency
  • As such, any user, holder, investor, trader, etc. dealing with Virtual Currencies will be doing so at their own risk

The Committee

  • The inter- disciplinary committee will be chaired by Special Secretary (Economic Affairs) with representatives from the departments of revenue and financial services and the ministries of home Affairs as well as electronics and Information Technology.
  • Will examine how to cope with money laundering opportunities as well as consumer protection concerns that could arise from the use of virtual currencies

Virtual Currencies:

Virtual Currencies, also called as digital/crypto-currencies, are a type of unregulated digital money that is neither issued by a central bank/public authority, nor is necessarily attached to a fiat currency, but is used and accepted among the members of a specific virtual community. They are capable of being transferred, stored or traded electronically.

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6.Centre files curative plea on AFSPA
Source: The Hindu

The government asked the Supreme Court to urgently reconsider its July 2016 verdict which ripped open the cloak of immunity and secrecy provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) to security forces for deaths caused during encounters in disturbed areas

The Supreme Court had held that “there is no concept of absolute immunity from trial by a criminal court” if an Army man has committed an offence

The Verdict Earlier

The judgment by a Bench had held that every death caused by security forces in a disturbed area, even if the victim was a dreaded criminal or a militant or a terrorist or an insurgent, should be thoroughly inquired into to address any allegation of use of excessive or retaliatory force.

A-G’s stance

  • This court ought to have appreciated that the principles of right to self-defence cannot be strictly applied while dealing with militants and terrorist elements in a hostile and unstable terrain
  • This court ought to have taken into account the complexity and the reality of the conduct of military operations and tactics, especially while combating terrorists.

The judgment came on a plea by hundreds of families in Manipur for a probe by Special Investigation Team.

The curative petition:

  • It is fairly a new concept in the Indian legal system
  • It is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court which is normally decided by judges in-chamber
  • It is only in rare cases that such petitions are given an open-court hearing
  • The concept of curative petition was first evolved by the Supreme Court of India in the matter of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr. (2002)
  • Here the question was whether an aggrieved person is entitled to any relief against the final judgement/order of the Supreme Court, after dismissal of a review petition
  • The Supreme Court in the said case held that in order to prevent abuse of its process and to cure gross miscarriage of justice, it may reconsider its judgements in exercise of its inherent powers
  • For this purpose the Court has devised what has been termed as a “curative” petition
  • No time limit is given for filing Curative petition

Conditions: To entertain the curative petitions, the Supreme Court has laid down certain specific conditions

  1. The petitioner will have to establish that there was a genuine violation of principles of natural justice and fear of the bias of the judge and judgement that adversely affected him
  2. The petition shall state specifically that the grounds mentioned had been taken in the review petition and that it was dismissed by circulation
  3. The petition is to be sent to the three senior most judges and judges of the bench who passed the judgement affecting the petition, if available
  4. If the majority of the judges on the above bench agree that the matter needs hearing, then it would be sent to the same bench (as far as possible)
  5. The court could impose “exemplary costs” to the petitioner if his plea lacks merit

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7.National Lok Adalat settles over 6 lakh cases in one day
Source: The Hindu ,PIB

The Second National Lok Adalat for 2017, conducted throughout the country from taluk level courts to High Courts, has settled nearly 6.6 lakh cases .Out of this, 3.68 lakh cases have been reduced from court pendency and about 2.92 lakh cases were settled even before they could be filed in courts .

The cases ranged from matrimonial disputes, partition suits, civil matters, cheque bounce cases, motor accident claims, revenue disputes pending in courts, criminal compoundable cases and service matters pertaining to pension, retrial benefits, etc.

The NALSA, under Justice Misra, has decided to organise bi-monthly National Lok Adalats for both pending and pre-litigative cases .

Culture of settlement: Lok Adalats are setting up a “culture of settlement”

Lok Adalats:

  • NALSA along with other Legal Services Institutions conducts Lok Adalats
  • Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms
  • It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably
  • The Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman, with two other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker
  • Statutory: Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
  • Final award: Under the said Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal against such an award lies before any court of law
  • No appeal: If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat though there is no provision for an appeal against such an award, but they are free to initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction by filing a case by following the required procedure, in exercise of their right to litigate
  • No fee: There is no court fee payable when a matter is filed in a Lok Adalat
  • If a matter pending in the court of law is referred to the Lok Adalat and is settled subsequently, the court fee originally paid in the court on the complaints/petition is also refunded back to the parties
  • Members: The persons deciding the cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats
  • They have the role of statutory conciliators only and do not have any judicial role
  • Persuasion: Therefore they can only persuade the parties to come to a conclusion for settling the dispute outside the court in the Lok Adalat and shall not pressurize or coerce any of the parties to compromise or settle cases or matters either directly or indirectly
  • Amicable resolution: The Lok Adalat shall not decide the matter so referred at its own instance, instead the same would be decided on the basis of the compromise or settlement between the parties
  • The members shall assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner in their attempt to reach amicable settlement of their dispute

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8.Cab safety measures for women included in the New Taxi Policy guidelines
Source: The Hindu

Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) had constituted a committee to review issues relating to taxi permits and propose taxi policy guidelines to promote urban mobility.

The committee comprised of the representatives from MoRTH, Transport Commissioners from four States and representatives from Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Police, Ministry of Women and Child Development, NITI Aayog and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, submitted its report in December 2016. The policy is recommendatory in nature and is expected to help the states in framing detailed regulations.

Cab safety measures for women commuters as recommended by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Shipping (MoRTH) have been included in the new Taxi Policy guidelines.

These recommendations from the Ministry of Women and Child Development comes at the backdrop of increasing cases of sexual harassment of women commuters in the cabs.

Recommendations that were included in the New Taxi policy guidelines are:

  • Mandatory fitting of GPS panic devices in the taxis.
  • To ensure the safety of women and child passengers, central locking system in the taxis to be disallowed.
  • Sharing of a seat in the cabs must be subject to the willingness of passengers.
  • Identification of driver along with the photo and the registration number should be prominently displayed in the cab.
  • Violation of stipulated rules and regulations by taxi operators and drivers to be strictly dealt in accordance with law.

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9.Global interest in PSLV soars
Source: The Hindu , PIB

  • The PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) space vehicle has received more than double the volume of inquiries from prospective customers ever since it launched a record 104 satellites on a single flight in February
  • A world best, 101 small foreign commercial spacecraft were taken up at once in the feat, catapulting the PSLV’s overall commercial tally to 180

Globally, 500 satellites are expected to come up for launch every year from 2018 onwards

  • The PSLV, with a near impeccable 37 successes in 39 flights, he said, is a clear leader in the category of rockets that lift small satellites to low earth orbits or LEOs
  • These satellites weigh up to 500 kg and must be placed in polar orbits 500 km from the earth

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10.Poll panel throws open challenge to hack EVMs
Source: The Hindu

EVM tampering allegations after UP and Punjab elections

To all those alleging that the EVMs used by the Election Commission were tampered with in the recent Assembly elections or that they could be hacked, the electoral body has thrown an open challenge asking them to prove the allegations

  • The exercise may be carried out in the first week of May
  • Computer experts and political leaders would be invited to the demonstration site and they could use their skills to show whether the machines could be tampered with

Opposition parties met the Election Commission (EC) and requested to replace EVMs with paper ballots, as people had “lost trust” in the efficacy of the machines. The Commission has termed such charges baseless, stating that none of the complainants have come up with any proof to support their allegations

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