29&30, October 2017

Granite Scam:

  • The Enforcement Directorate Chennai has provisionally attached 517 immovable properties valued at about ₹ 98 Crores, under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
  • The investigation conducted by the Directorate of Enforcement, it was noticed that the accused firms along with the key persons concerned had entered into a criminal conspiracy to illegally quarry multi-colour Granite blocks from non-leasehold lands. They had also resorted to illegal quarrying from the Government poramboke lands, by removing the boundary stones erected by the Revenue Department.

1. What is Article 35A?

Source: Indian Express

Supreme Court will take up a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A.

What is Article 35A?

  • It is a constitutional provision that allows the Jammu-Kashmir assembly to define permanent residents of the state.
  • According to the Jammu-Kashmir constitution, a Permanent Resident is defined as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been residing in the state for a period of 10 years, and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state”.

When was Article 35A introduced?

  • It was brought in by a presidential order in 1954 in order to safeguard the rights and guarantee the unique identity of the people of Jammu-Kashmir.
  • Only the Jammu-Kashmir assembly can change the definition of PR through a law ratified by a two-thirds majority.

What is the challenge before the Supreme Court?

  • A batch of petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the Article 35A. A Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice J S Khehar referred the matter to a three-judge bench which will take up the petitions today.
  • Delhi-based NGO We the Citizens, in its petition, argued that Article 35A goes against the “very spirit of oneness of India” as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”.
  • Another petition, filed by lawyer Charu Wali Khanna, claims Article 35A discriminates against a woman’s right to property.

View and counter-view

  • The view from the Right is that by striking down Article 35A, it would allow people from outside Jammu-Kashmir to settle in the state and acquire land and property, and the right to vote, thus altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state.
  • The state’s two main political parties, PDP and NC, contend that there would be no J&K left if this provision is tampered with, and have vowed to fight the battle together.
  • Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned that if Article 35A is removed, there won’t be anyone left to carry the Tricolour in Kashmir; Omar Abdullah has called it the death knell for pro-India politics in the Valley.
  • The Centre has, however, refused to take a stand on the issue, with Attorney General K K Venugopal informing the court that it was “very sensitive” and required a “larger debate”.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/supreme-court-reviews-article-35a-key-to-jammu-and-kashmirs-special-status-10-points-1768776

2.First consignment via Chabahar leaves India for Afghanistan

Source: Indian Express

India operationalised the Chabahar port in Iran of Sunday, sending the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. This is a major leap in India’s strategic outreach to landlocked Afghanistan, to which Pakistan has so far blocked access. Another six shipments of wheat will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months.

Key facts:

  • Chabahar port sits at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman in the north Arabian Sea, close to Iran’s border with Pakistan. The Indian outreach to Afghanistan through Iran is taking place at a time when the Trump administration is trying to push Tehran into a corner through diplomatic and economic means.
  • New Delhi recently started an air freight corridor to Afghanistan, and has sent 981 tonnes of fruit since mid-June this year. But the air corridor has limitations in terms of capacity, and the sea route has economic advantages. From Chabahar port, which is easily accessible to India, the consignment will be transported to Afghanistan over Iranian roads.
  • Chabahar port is expected to open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan, and enhance trade and commerce among the three countries and the wider region, including Central Asia.
  • The trilateral agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Iran in May 2016.

(India, Iran and Afghanistan)

3.Exercise Indra-2017 Concluded in Vladivostok

Source: PIB

The Indo-Russian military Exercise ‘Indra-2017’ culminated today at Vladivostok after eleven days of joint training in counter-terrorism operations.

Key facts:

  • After intense and exacting military training, the joint exercise concluded with a closing ceremony, wherein both the contingents showcased their immense talents with unique traditional touches.
  • The grand closing ceremony at Vladivostok which comprised of personnel of both contingents was witnessed by senior officials and dignitaries of both countries including His Excellency Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation Shri Pankaj Saran.
  • Personnel from the Indian as well as Russian contingents were awarded medals of excellence for their outstanding performance during the exercise. Fighters and Helicopters co-piloted by Indian and Russian pilots took part in the flypast along with an IAF IL-76 aircraft.

Exrcise Indra

  • In the joint tactical exercise which began on 19 October 2017, the two countries conducted training focused on combating terrorism. In the series of bilateral exercises under this banner, the exercise this year focused on conduct of counter insurgency / counter terrorist operations under United Nations mandate in a joint service environment.
  • The exercise also provided an opportunity to both the armies for greater cultural understanding, sharing experiences and strengthening mutual trust and co-operation.

4.BRO opens another bridge to boost connectivity to China border

Source: Indian Express

The new bridge will enhance travel and communication for strategic transport and tourism development.

  • Working towards improving road connectivity to areas close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh region, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) today opened a newly-constructed bridge to the people of the cold desert region in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • “Continuing its development work in the strategic Ladakh region, Project Himank of the BRO dedicated another bridge to the people of the cold desert, the third such bridge in a month, for efficient connectivity to China border.
  • Project Himank would accomplish development of Leh by providing modern bridges and roads to enhance connectivity.
  • This bridge on the Leh-Loma road would enhance travel of locals as well as the Army in this strategic region.
  • “Such connectivity shall enhance travel and communication for strategic transport and tourism development.
  • The Leh-Loma road is the main connectivity to various link roads along the Line of Actual Control and is being developed to National Highway Double Lane (NHDL) specification owing to its strategic and operational importance as it is the closest route to China border.

Project Himank:

  • Raised in Aug 1985 exclusively for the development of road infrastructure in Ladakh due to the ever-increasing workload of the BRO in J & K.
  • The Project provides the necessary wherewithal to keep the lines of communication open throughout the year, not only in Ladakh, but also in the operationally sensitive Siachin sector.
  • Himank has carved a niche for itself in the Ladakh district of J & K and can rightfully claim the title “The Mountain Tamers”.
  • Project HIMANK has the unique distinction of maintaining and improving roads over the three highest passes of the world viz. Khardungla, Tanglangla and Changla. The highest Bailey Bridge in the world was constructed at Khardungla but has been subsequently replaced by a causeway.
  • HIMANK has made a singular contribution to ‘OP Vijay’ by opening the road axis to Leh and Kargil in the first week of May 99. This was instrumental for the induction of force level meeting the Op requirements of Kargil war.

Role of the BRO

In Peace

  • Develop & Maintain the Operational Road Infrastructure of General Staff in the Border Areas.
  • Contribute to the Socio-Economic Development of the Border States.

In War                         

  • To Develop & Maintain Roads to Keep Line of Control through in Original Sectors and Re-Deployed Sectors.
  • To Execute Addl Tasks as laid down by the Govt Contributing to the War Effort.

5.A court to fix all investor-state rows?

Source: The Hindu

Hit by disputes with Vodafone and Cairn Energy, India welcomes plan for a World Court but flags legal, practical challenges

  • Embroiled in 22 arbitration proceedings against it in disputes with prominent global investors, including Vodafone and Cairn Energy, India has cautiously welcomed a proposal to establish a ‘World Investment Court’ (WIC).

World Investment Court:

  • The World Court, a plan pushed mainly by the European Union (EU), is to be a “permanent, independent, legitimate, accountable, consistent and effective” global body framework with a mechanism for appeal as well, to resolve the current and future investor-State disputes including the ones that India is/could be involved in.
  • The matter is coming up for discussion next month at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (Uncitral), of which India is a member along with 59 other nations representing ‘various geographic regions and the principal economic and legal systems of the world’.
  • The Uncitral works on the ‘modernisation and harmonisation’ of international business rules.

What was India’s proposition?

  • Responding to a questionnaire sent by an Uncitral Working Group mandated to look into issues including the proposed WIC, India said it “welcomes the move to have discussions and deliberations on the proposal, and further comments could be provided in due course.”
  • However, it said, “The legal and practical challenges to establishing a WIC should not be underestimated.” It added, “one of the most critical areas in designing a permanent investment court relates to its composition, structure and certainty.”

Current scenario:

  • Currently, such disputes are being dealt with by the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) regime, but with varying provisions in more than 3,300 International Investment Agreements (IIA) — including Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) and Treaties with Investment Provisions (TIPs). India had inked 83 BITs, and is a party to 13 TIPs.
  • As per the Uncitral, the ISDS regime was created to enhance confidence in the stability of the investment environment.
  • The regime is used to solve investor-State disputes in a neutral and flexible manner.
  • Uncitral said the ISDS provisions in investment treaties vary, with some providing for ISDS in any dispute arising from the investment concerned, and others restricting ISDS to claims arising from breach of certain treaty provisions, or to claims relating to ‘expropriations’ (or measures including nationalisation).

What would a Multilateral Investment Court do?

  • The overall objective for creating a Multilateral Investment Court is to set up a permanent body to decide investment disputes. It would build on the EU’s groundbreaking approach on its bilateral FTAs and be a major departure from the system of investor-to-State dispute settlement (ISDS) based on ad hoc commercial arbitration.
  • A Multilateral Investment Court, would bring the key features of domestic and international courts to investment adjudication.
  • The Commission’s objectives for the Multilateral Investment Court are based on the approach developed in the EU’s bilateral free trade agreements and agreed by the other EU Institutions and all EU Member States.

UNCITRAL

he United Nations Commission on International Trade Law’s business is the modernization and harmonization of rules on international business

  • UNCITRAL has been recognized as the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.
  • A legal body with universal membership specializing in commercial law reform worldwide for over 40 years, UNCITRAL’s business is the modernization and harmonization of rules on international business.
  • Trade means faster growth, higher living standards, and new opportunities through commerce. In order to increase these opportunities worldwide, UNCITRAL is formulating modern, fair, and harmonized rules on commercial transactions.

These include:

  • Conventions, model laws and rules which are acceptable worldwide
  • Legal and legislative guides and recommendations of great practical value
  • Updated information on case law and enactments of uniform commercial law
  • Technical assistance in law reform projects
  • Regional and national seminars on uniform commercial law

6.Four Asian vulture species now on highest protection list

Source: The Hindu

Several species of vultures, including four that have India on their migratory routes, were awarded the highest protection by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

Asian Vultures:

  • The Asian vultures that are set to get collaborative international protection are the red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture, Indian vulture and slender-billed vultur
  • They are faced with threats such as poisoning, hunting, collision with electricity cables and habitat degradation.
  • A subspecies of the black noddy, the yellow bunting and the lesser and great grey shrike are the other avians on the protected list.
  • Widespread over-fishing is driving many shark species, including the whale shark, to extinction. India is among 121 nations whose waters are home to sharks threatended with near extinction. The major threats are bycatch in nets and vessel strikes.

Multi-nation approach

  • Governments also agreed to cooperate on reducing the negative impact of marine debris, noise pollution, renewable energy and climate change on the lives of migratory species.
  • Lions, chimpanzees, giraffes and leopards were marked out as species that needed additional protection.
  • More than 120 states are party to the Convention, but this does not include China and many other Asian countries.
  • “What it required is positive engagement with the country to see how to find solutions instead of just bashing the country and looking at the negative side.”
  • The summit held in Manila has been the largest in the 38-year history of the Convention, which is also known as the Bonn Convention after the German city in which it was signed.

Bonn Convention:

  • The Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS), also known as the Bonn Convention, aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  • As an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, CMS provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
  • As the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes, CMS complements and co-operates with a number of other international organizations, NGOs and partners in the media as well as in the corporate sector.

COP 12

  • The Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

THEME

“Their Future is Our Future

Sustainable Development for Wildlife & People”

Key facts:

  • The Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP12) is being held in Manila, the Philippines, from 23 to 28 October 2017 – the first time that the COP will ever have been held in Asia.
  • The slogan for the Conference is “Their Future is Our Future – Sustainable Development for Wildlife & People”, links to the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the world’s governments in 2015 to end poverty and hunger, improve health and education, combat climate change and protect oceans and forests.
  • The CMS COP will place particular emphasis on the fact that migratory animals provide vital services that satisfy people’s everyday needs – as a source of food and medicine, as pollinators and seed dispersers, and as a means of pest control.
  • Migratory species can also fire our imagination with their majestic presence and beauty and inspire us with their intrepid journeys across deserts and oceans.
  • COP12 presents an opportunity to place the cause of nature conservation centre stage in the wider debate about the future of the planet and the fate of its residents – human and animal.
  • Delegates will be able to highlight the fact that global efforts to reach SDG will and must be beneficial for people and wildlife.

7.Coal, a scarce commodity?

Source: The Hindu

The idea of coal as a scarce commodity seems somewhat preposterous given it remains one of the most abundant mineral resources on the planet, but the coming years may see a deficit in seaborne markets for the polluting fuel.

Key facts:

  • The debate surrounding coal is generally one of how long it will continue to play a role in the world’s energy mix before it is replaced by cleaner alternatives.
  • The reality is that coal, particularly in Asia, will remain a bedrock of energy supply for at least the next decade.
  • With the exception of India, most major coal importers in Asia have increased purchases this year, with top buyer China boosting imports by 13.7% in the first nine months of the year, compared to a year earlier.
  • This demand has boosted the Asian benchmark thermal coal price, the Newcastle index back to levels close to $100 a tonne, with the marker ending at $98.25 in the week ended Oct. 20, up 36% from the low so far this year of $72.42 in May.
  • In a normal market, higher prices would result in supply rising to meet extra demand, but the dynamics in thermal coal have altered. There will be a supply shortfall of 22.7 million tonnes in 2017 in the global seaborne market, Rodrigo Echeverri, head of energy coal analysis at Noble Resources, told the World Coal Leaders conference last week in Barcelona.

Issues for Global Coal Markets:

  • The issue for global coal markets is that despite the rhetoric of countries trying to lower coal consumption, in reality this has been increasing.
  • China’s thermal power generation rose 6.3% in the first nine months of the year, one the reasons that the world’s leading coal importer was boosting its purchases from the seaborne market.
  • The further problem is that meeting extra demand has become harder for traditional export powerhouses: Australia, Indonesia and South Africa. “Coal is becoming scarce,” Guillaume Perret, who runs a consultancy bearing his name, told the event.

Investment constrained

  • What is different about this price cycle is that additional demand hasn’t resulted in more investment in supply. Coal’s reputation as a major contributor of climate change has made it difficult for would-be coal miners to obtain financing.
  • Public opposition can make life difficult, especially in more developed countries like Australia. The world’s largest planned coal mine, the 25 million tonne-per-year Carmichael project in Australia, has become a headache for its Indian owners, Adani Enterprises.
  • Green activists have been successful in mounting protests against the mine, and while politicians from both the ruling centre-right Liberal Party and the opposition Labor Party continue to voice support for the mine, if opinion polls continue to show a majority of Australia oppose the development, politicians may change their minds. Adani’s struggles in Australia are likely to be mirrored for other coal developments in the world, making it all the more likely that supply will be constrained in coming years.

8.Law panel wants more autonomy for tribunals

Source: The Hindu

Recommendations from the Law Commission of India

  • The commission has recommended that a Committee led by the Chief Justice of India should be in charge of the appointments of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Judicial Members of the various central tribunals
  • The Commission has suggested a common nodal agency, possibly under the Law Ministry
  • To both monitor the working of the tribunals and to ensure uniformity in the appointment, tenure and service conditions
  • Currently, tribunals function under the very government department which may be a litigant before them, and probably, against which they may have to pass orders

Important recommendation

  • The tribunals perform an important and specialised role in justice mechanism. They take a load off the already over-burdened courts. They hear disputes related to the environment, armed forces, tax and administrative issues.
  • The Commission has suggested a common nodal agency, possibly under the Law Ministry, to both monitor the working of the tribunals and to ensure uniformity in the appointment, tenure and service conditions for the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and members. As of now, tribunals function under the very government department which may be a litigant before them, and probably, against which they may have to pass orders.
  • Every order emanating from the tribunal or its appellate forum, wherever it exists, attains finality, the Commission recommended.
  • The Commission recommended the restoration of the High Courts’ power of judicial review over the decisions of the tribunals.
  • The power of judicial review conferred on the High Courts is same as that of the Supreme Court, which is a basic feature of the Constitution and tinkered with only by amending of the Constitution

Why are tribunals important?

  • The tribunals perform an important and specialised role in justice mechanism
  • They take a load off the already over-burdened courts
  • They hear disputes related to the environment, armed forces, tax and administrative issues



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