Suprme court claims RTI act has overpowered the notions of official secrets
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,
“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
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
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
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
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
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.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
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.