18, December 2016

1.Centre Announces Notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2016

Source: PIB

 The Government has issued the notification for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2016

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has the mandate to implement the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain, or suffering on animals.
  • The provisions of the PCA Act are general in nature, and rules dealing with specific situations have to be notified from time to time.

Objective:   The objective of these rules is to make pet shops accountable and to prevent cruelty inflicted on animals kept in such pet shops.

The proposed Rules provide:

  • It will be mandatory for all pet shop owners to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board of the respective State Governments/Union Territories.
  • Such shops will be registered only after inspection by the representatives of State Board, a veterinary practitioner and a representative of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • The rules define space requirement for birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pig, hamster, rats and mice in the pet shops.
  • It defines the basic amenities, power back-up, general care, veterinary care and other operational requirement for animals kept in pet shops.
  • It is mandatory to maintain proper records of sale, purchase, death of animals in pet shop, sick animals etc.
  • Every pet shop owner is required to submit yearly report to the State Board regarding animals, sold, traded, bartered, brokered, given away, boarded or exhibited during previous year, or any other information asked for by the State Board

Violation of Rules: Non-compliance of the proposed rules will lead to cancellation of registration of pet shop and pet animals so confiscated, shall be handed over to an Animal Welfare Organisation, or a rescue centre recognised by the Board

2.Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016

Source: PIB

The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016 has come into force on 15th December, 2016. 

  • The Taxation and Investment Regime for Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016 (the Scheme) introduced vide the said Act shall commence on 17th December, 2016 and shall remain open for declarations up to 31st March, 2017.
  • A separate notification has been issued for Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme, 2016 by Department of Economic Affairs.

The salient features of the Scheme

  • Declaration under the Scheme can be made by any person in respect of undisclosed income in the form of cash or deposits in an account with bank or post office or specified entity.
  • Tax @30% of the undisclosed income, surcharge @33% of tax and penalty @10% of such income is payable besides mandatory deposit of 25% of the undisclosed income in Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme, 2016. The deposits are interest free and have a lock-in period of four years.
  • The income declared under the Scheme shall not be included in the total income of the declarant under the Income-tax Act for any assessment year.
  • The declarations made under the Scheme shall not be admissible as evidence under any Act (eg. Central Excise Act, Wealth-tax Act, Companies Act etc.). However, no immunity will be available under Criminal Acts mentioned in section 199-O of the Scheme.

Further

  • Non declaration of undisclosed cash or deposit in accounts under the Scheme will render such undisclosed income liable to tax, surcharge and cess totaling to 77.25% of such income, if declared in the return of income.
  • In case the same is not shown in the return of income a further penalty @10% of tax shall also be levied followed by prosecution.
  • It may be noted that the provisions for levy of penalty for misreporting of income @200% of tax payable under section 270A of the Income-tax Act have not been amended and shall continue to apply with respect to cases falling under the said section.

The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016 has also amended the penalty provisions in respect of search and seizure cases. The existing slab for penalty of 10%, 20% & 60% of income levied under section 271AAB has been rationalised to 30% of income, if the income is admitted and taxes are paid. Otherwise a penalty @60% of income shall be levied.

3.Clarification of Status of Political Parties under Income Tax Act, 1961

Source: PIB

There have been some newspaper reports which seem to wrongly suggest that there cannot be any scrutiny of Income-tax returns of political parties registered with the Election Commission in the context of deposits of old currency notes.  This inference seems to have been drawn because of the fact that the income of the political parties is exempt from Income – Tax under Section 13A.

The following clarifications need to be kept in mind:

  1. The exemption from Income-Tax is given to only registered political parties subject to certain conditions, which are mentioned in Section 13A, which includes keeping and maintaining books of accounts and other documents as would enable the Assessing Officer to deduce its income therefrom.
  2. In respect of each voluntary contribution in excess of Rs. 20000, the political party will have to maintain a record of such contributions along with the name and address of such person who has made such contribution.
  3. The accounts of each such political party is to be audited by a Chartered Accountant
  4. The political party has to submit a report to the Election Commission about the donations received within a timeframe prescribed.

There are enough provisions in the Income Tax Act to scrutinise the accounts of the political parties and these political parties are also subject to other provisions of Income-Tax, including filing of return.

4.BRICS roots for affordable medicines

Source: The Hindu

Public health targets should be placed above trade deals

Trade regimes are important, but must be seen as being subservient to the shared international public health goals  Union Health Minister  has said at two-day meeting of the Health Ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).

Significannce:

Referring to the World Health Organisation’s recent decision to drop the term “counterfeit” and use “falsified” instead to describe medicines of inferior quality, WHO member-states arrived at a consensus on doing so as the word “counterfeit” usually referred to intellectual property rights violations.

  • On excluding any consideration of patents/trademark or other intellectual property issues while defining ‘falsified’ medical products,
  • It would go a long way towards promoting access to medicines, including through the full use of TRIPS flexibilities and defending our policy space against TRIPS-plus provisions and other measures that impede access to medicines.
  • Such measures are necessary not only for the BRICS but for the entire world.

Affordable medicines are no longer a necessity of the poor countries alone. Regulatory capacities need to be strengthened to enforce appropriate quality standards and check the entry of spurious medicines.

The BRICS regulators agreed on a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) on regulatory collaboration with a view to improving the standards, certification and regulatory mechanisms for drugs and pharmaceuticals and promoting the availability of safe, efficacious, affordable and quality medicines.

TRIPS: The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (or TRIPS Agreement) set the standards for intellectual property protection in the world. It came into force on 1 January 1995 and is binding on all members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

  • The TRIPS Agreement sets minimum standards in the international rules governing patents, including on medicines.
  • Countries that are members of the WTO (today, more than 150 countries) agree to certain common standards in the way they enact and implement their patent laws.
  • These standards include, amongst others, that patents be given for a minimum of 20 years;
  • That patents may be given both for products and processes; and
  • That pharmaceutical test data be protected against ‘unfair commercial use’.

What are TRIPS plus provisions?

IPRs are territorial rights and can be acquired in the territory of the country having an IPR law.

  • That is, IPR acquired in one country cannot be enforced in another country.
  • The TRIPS Agreement lays down only certain minimum standards of protection and enforcement of IPRs by its Members through enactment of such national laws and regulations.

The TRIPS Agreement, however, allows Members to have higher levels of protection than the minimum standards laid down in it, thus leaving the flexibility to Members to have ‘TRIPS plus’ laws and regulations.

  • The developed countries are moving toward higher, enhanced standards of IPR protection to evolve TRIPS-plus regime.
  • These higher standards are now making an appearance in various free trade agreements (FTA) that these countries are negotiating and entering into with their trading partners.

Since these provisions go beyond minimum standards established under TRIPS, they may take away the flexibilities (for example the ability to issue compulsory licenses for medicines required in public health emergencies) that exist in the TRIPS Agreement. These negotiate rules and commitments in bilateral, sub regional and regional agreements that go beyond the multilateral level in WTO.

Doha Declaration:

Despite the Doha Declaration, in recent years, many developing countries have been coming under pressure to enact or implement even tougher or more restrictive conditions in their patent laws than are required by the TRIPS Agreement – these are known as ‘TRIPS plus’ provisions.

Countries are by no means obliged by international law to do this, but many, such as Brazil, China or Central American states have had no choice but to adopt these, as part of trade agreements with the United States or the European Union. These have a disastrous impact on access to medicines.

Common examples of TRIPS plus provisions include extending the term of a patent longer than the twenty-year minimum, or introducing provisions that limit the use of compulsory licences or that restrict generic competition.

India has pointed out to the US that its stand on protecting the rights of its people to access life saving drugs by not going beyond the commitments made in the international TRIPS agreement has been “vindicated”’ by a recent United Nations (UN) report. India is very clear that it is not ready to engage with anyone on ‘TRIPS plus’ issues which could lead to ever-greening of patents or blocking of compulsory licences.

5.Jammu and Kashmir has no vestige of sovereignty outside Constitution: Apex court

Source: The Hindu

Jammu and Kashmir has “no vestige” of sovereignty outside the Indian Constitution and its own, while the citizens of the state are “first and foremost” citizens of India, the Supreme Court has held.

Supreme court appeal against High court:

The apex court observed this while terming as “wholly incorrect” the conclusion arrived at by Jammu and Kashmir High Court which had held that the state has “absolute sovereign power” to legislate laws touching the rights of its permanent residents regarding their immovable properties.

  • The State of Jammu & Kashmir has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India and its own Constitution, which is subordinate to the Constitution of India.
  • The apex court said this while holding that provisions of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act) are within the legislative competence of Parliament and can be enforced in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The State Bank of India had appealed against the High Court verdict which held that the SARFAESI Act would collide with the Transfer of Property Act of Jammu & Kashmir, 1920.

HC verdict set aside

The Bench set aside the verdict of the High Court that held that any law made by Parliament which affects the laws made by a State legislature cannot be extended to Jammu & Kashmir.

Concern in J&K

The National Conference, which stands for complete restoration of Article 370, fears “violation of State Subject laws.

It remains a fact that in certain aspects of Centre-State laws, State laws run supreme. Earlier, the Centre’s rights were limited to defence, foreign affairs, communication and currency. J&K is a case of sub-sovereignty.

The State Bank of India (SBI) per se is not a State subject. However, it has come into being [in J&K] because of the State legislature. It can’t have mortgage rights and violates State Subject laws.

The J&K government was of the opinion that the SARFAESI Act “encroached upon the property rights of permanent residents of the State” and “would need concurrence of the J&K government under Article 370”.

6.What are the different parts of a cyclone’s structure?

Source: The Hindu

As cyclone Vardah wreaks havoc on coastal Tamil Nadu, here’s a handy guide to the terms weathermen use to describe different parts of a cyclone.

The eye

  • The eye of the storm is the centre.
  • It’s a relatively calm space. When the eye passes over an area, winds slow down and everything feels like it has cleared up.
  • But this is the proverbial calm before the storm, as the part that comes after the eye usually inflicts the most damage.

The eyewall

  • This is where the most effective part of a cyclone rests.
  • The eyewall houses extremely high wind speeds, causing damage to both lives and property.
  • It is a ring of thunderstorms, and changes in the eye or the eyewall affects the storm’s intensity.

Rainbands

These are the outer parts of a cyclone where sudden bursts of rain happen. There can also be gaps between rainbands where no rain or wind occurs.

Hurricane or cyclone?

The only difference between a hurricane, a cyclone and a typhoon is the location in which they occur.

  1. Storms in the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific oceans are known as hurricanes,
  2. Those in the Northwest Pacific ocean are called typhoons, and
  3. The same systems in the South Pacific and Indian oceans are cyclones.

7.IAF officers can’t grow beard, uniformity of personal appearance important: SC

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has ruled that Indian airmen can’t keep a beard as it is against their service rules. With this, the court has upheld the sacking of an Indian Air Force (IAF) man for keeping a long beard, saying military regulations were aimed at ensuring discipline and uniformity.

  • The ruling came while dismissing pleas filed by two Muslim personnel of the IAF. The Punjab and Haryana high court had dismissed their petition earlier.
  • Petitioners had challenged IAF’s “confidential” order of February 25, 2003, prohibiting Muslim personnel from keeping a beard. They contended that the order contravened a citizen’s fundamental rights.

Important observations made by the court

  • Every member of the air force, while on duty, is required to wear the uniform and not display any sign or object which distinguishes one from another.
  • Uniformity of personal appearance is quintessential to a cohesive, disciplined and coordinated functioning of an armed force.
  • Therefore, the decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting a beard didn’t infringe upon their fundamental right to religion.
  • The court also said that as a combat force, the Airforce has to defend the nation and for its effectiveness, members must bond together by the sense of “espirit-de-corps”, without distinction of caste, creed or religion.

In the past, the court had observed that “Religion is a fundamental right in India under Article 25 of the Constitution. But it’s subject to public order, health, morality, and all other fundamental rights. Also, what are protected were only the basic tenets of a religion and not all incidental things.



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