Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 15 MARCH 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 15 MARCH 2019


Suprme court claims RTI act has overpowered the notions of official secrets act

  •  An all-out effort by the government to claim privilege and push the Rafale jets’ pricing details back into the dark zone was met with a stoic counter from Justice K.M. Joseph in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
  •  But Justice Joseph, one of the three judges on the Bench, asked the government to read out Sections of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The judge said the information law has revolutionised governance and overpowered notions of secrecy protected under the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
  •  “Documents are already in public domain in public interest. There is a lot of Supreme Court judgments which hold that public interest trumps over privilege,” Mr.Bhushan argued.
  •  Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal was first made to read out Section 22 of the RTI Act, which declared the RTI to have an “overriding effect” over OSA. Then Section 24, which mandates even security and intelligence organisations to disclose information on corruption and human rights violations. Finally, Section 8(2), which compels the government to disclose information “if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to protected interests”.
  •  The government wants the court to refrain from examining the documents, which have already been published in the media, primarily The Hindu , on the purchase of the Rafale fighter aircraft. It claimed the documents were unauthorisedly photocopied from the originals kept in the Ministry of Defence and sneaked into the public domain.
  •  The Bench heard the case for an hour and reserved its orders on two preliminary issues the admissibility of “stolen” documents as evidence and the claim of privilege raised on them by the government.

Centre explains the purpose of electoral bond scheme to Supreme court

  •  Electoral bonds have been introduced to promote transparency in funding and donation received by political parties, the government told the Supreme Court on Thursday.
  •  “They [bonds] can be encashed by an eligible political party only through their accounts with authorised banks. The bonds do not have the name of the donor or the receiving political party and only carry unique hidden alphanumeric serial numbers as an in-built security feature,” a 21-page affidavit said.
  •  The government was responding to a petition filed by the CPI(M) and party secretary general SitaramYechury to strike down the ‘Electoral Bond Scheme 2018’ and amendments in the Finance Act, 2017, which allow for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding.
  •  Denying the charge, the government said “the scheme envisages building a transparent system of acquiring bonds with validated KYC and an audit trail.” It said a limited window and a very short maturity period would make misuse improbable.
  •  “The electoral bonds will prompt donors to take the banking route to donate, with their identity captured by the issuing authority. This will ensure transparency and accountability and is a big step towards electoral reform,” it said.
  •  The electoral bond, a bearer instrument, can be bought for any value and has a life of only 15 days. Bonds will be available for purchase only for 10 days in designated months.


Centre confirms on meeting disinvestment target

  •  The government expects to meet its disinvestment target of Rs. 80,000 crore even though it has achieved only Rs. 56,473.42 crore so far with only 15 days left for the end of the financial year, according to a senior official in the Finance Ministry.
  •  The government hopes that the Power Finance Corporation’s (PFC) acquisition of the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), expected to be completed ‘soon’, would push disinvestment proceeds above the target.
  •  In addition, the ongoing Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Mini Ratnacompany MSTC is also expected to earn more than Rs. 1,000 crore.
  •  “We are of the hope that the target is still within reach,” the official said on the condition of anonymity, as the government cannot make formal announcements under the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct in the run-up to the general elections.
  •  The government collected over Rs. 10,000 crore from the Bharat-22 ETF sale in February, and another Rs. 5,378.66 crore from the sale of Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India (SUUTI) stake in Axis Bank.
  •  So far, the government has collected a total of Rs. 56,473.42 crore from disinvestments and stake sales. It retained the target of Rs. 80,000 crore for the current financial year and set a target of Rs. 90,000 crore for the next year.
  •  “In the remaining period, we are hopeful that the PFC acquisition [of REC] will take place soon, which could push us over the target,” the official added.Ratings agencies, however, feel that the government would miss its disinvestment target for the current year.

NGT warns states on bio medical wastes

  •  The National Green Tribunal has directed all States and Union Territories to furnish reports pertaining to the management of bio-medical waste (BMW) to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) by April 30.
  •  Noting that non-compliance of bio-medical waste management rules is “widespread,” a Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel warned of heavy fines on authorities if they fail to furnish reports.
  •  “The CPCB may furnish a status report of compliance of BMW rules after proper analysis to NGT within one month,” the Bench said.
  •  It added, “It is made clear that any failure will result in the defaulting States being required to pay compensation to be deposited with the CPCB at the rate of Rs. 1 crore per month after May 1.”
  •  The States have also been directed to prepare respective action plans for compliance of rules pertaining to BMW within one month.
  •  Further, the green panel directed the apex pollution monitoring body to undertake a study and prepare a scale of compensation to be recovered from “violators of BMW rules” within one month.
  •  “This will not debar the State pollution control boards from performing their duty of recovering compensation from the polluters or laying down their own scale, which should not be less than the scale fixed by CPCB. The scale must be deterrent rendering violation of rules to be non-profitable and which should be adequate to remedy the situation,” the Bench said.

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U.S condemns Chinese violation of human rights

  •  The United States has slammed China for its human rights violations in the country.
  •  Talking to reporters in Washington, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the abuses in China, Iran, South Sudan and Nicaragua in the state department's annual reports on Human Rights Practices. He said, China was in a league of its own, when it comes to human rights violations.
  •  Head of State Department's human rights and democracy bureau Michael Kozak said, the sort of abuses China had inflicted on its Muslim minorities had not been seen since the 1930s. He said it is one of the most serious human rights violations in the world today.
  •  In response to this, China's Foreign Ministry said, the report was filled with ideological prejudice and groundless accusations. Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing today that China hoped the United States would take a close look at its own rights record.

China again blocks bid to list Azhar in UNSC committee

  •  India will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on Indian citizens are brought to justice.
  •  New Delhi expressed its disappointment last night over the non-listing of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief MasoodAzhar as global terrorist under the UN Sanctions regime, as China put technical hold on the proposal.
  •  The Ministry of External Affairs in a release said this move prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February.
  •  India said it is grateful for the efforts of the Member States, who moved the designation proposal and the unprecedented number of all other Security Council members as well as non-members who joined as co-sponsors.


DST to assess climate change risks faced by states

  •  The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India. This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States and discussed at last year’s U.N. climate change conference in Poland that found States such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand vulnerable to climate change
  •  “We eventually hope to have a climate portal, whereby users can zoom in on any district in the country and get a sense of what kind of risks climate, socio-economic are present,” said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.
  •  The researchers prepared a ‘vulnerability index’ of each of these States based on district-level data, last year. Vulnerability would be a measure of the inherent risks a district faces, primarily by virtue of its geography and socio-economic situation.
  •  The scientists conducted workshops with the States and culled eight key parameters on the basis of which a vulnerability score could be generated. They included: percentage of area in districts under forests, yield variability of food grain, population density, female literacy rate, infant mortality rate, percentage of population below poverty line (BPL), average man-days under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and the area under slope > 30%
  •  “This doesn’t mean that States with a lower score are safe in an absolute sense. In fact, some districts in Uttarakhand [at 0.45 and at the lower end of the scale] are more vulnerable than those in Assam,” said Assistant Professor, IIT-Mandi, one of the key authors of the report.
  •  Different factors contributed to a State’s vulnerability. In Arunachal Pradesh, the key factors are low female literacy and high percentage of population above BPL whereas in Nagaland the key issues are loss of forest cover, steep slope and high yield variability.


DipaKarmakar qualifies for gymnastics world cup

  •  India's DipaKarmakar has made it to the Vault Finals after finishing third in the qualifying round of the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup at Baku in Azerbaijan.
  •  The 25-year-old, who had finished fourth in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, performed a higher difficulty Handfront 540 vault yesterday for the first time in the competition.
  •  Dipa will take part in the balanced beam event today. Dipa had claimed a bronze at the vault event of the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Cottbus, Germany in November last year.

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