📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 09 February
💡 In a first, SC issues contempt notice to sitting HC judge
- For the first time in the history of Independent India, it issued a contempt of court notice against a sitting High Court judge for allegedly disgracing the judicial institution and impeding the course of justice administration.
- The Calcutta High Court judge, Justice C.S. Karnan, should face contempt action for his “scurrilous” letters against sitting and retired High Court and Supreme Court judges.
- The Supreme Court had taken suo-motu cognisance of Justice Karnan’s letters and conduct.
- The Bench ordered Justice Karnan to appear before it on February 13 to defend himself. It also directed him to refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta High Court registry.
- The Bench sought the assistance of senior members of the Bar to help understand the extent of its own constitutional powers in the uncharted waters presented by the case.
- Everything has to be evaluated as per cause and effect: If punished, will he remain in office or not.
- Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi argued that it was time the Court stopped tolerating the onslaught on the judicial institution by one of its own judges and convey to the public that anyone who humiliated the judiciary, even a judge, would be punished like any other citizen.
- He said Justice Karnan, through his letters and conduct dating back to his years as a judge in the Madras High Court, was making a “completely calculated” effort to “destroy” his parent institution. If the Supreme Court was stern with the litigant, it should be sterner with one of its own who tried to harm the institution from within.
Powers of Supreme Court:
- The Supreme Court, as the apex judiciary, was empowered under Article 129, read with Article 142 (2), of the Constitution to “punish” anyone for contempt, even a High Court judge who had repeatedly made damaging remarks about his superiors and colleagues.
- The power of the Supreme Court to punish for contempt was not confined to the Contempt of Courts Act. Article 129 clothed the Supreme Court with the power to punish for contempt of itself. Article 142 (2) provided the court with the power to “make any order” for the “punishment of any contempt of itself.”
- A Court of Record: The 1991 Supreme Court judgment in Delhi Judicial Service Association versus State of Gujarat, which said the Constitution designed the SC as a Court of Record and “Article 129 thereof recognises the existing inherent power of a Court of Record in its full plenitude, including the power to punish for its own contempt and the contempt of its subordinate.” On January 2, 2017, the apex court reiterated the point in its judgment in the Mid-Day staffers’ contempt case.
- In its Union of India versus Sankal Chand Sheth judgment of 1977, the Supreme Court had held that neither the President nor the Chief Justice of India had the power to punish a judge for misconduct.
💡 Stalemate on Krishna water release resolved
- The stalemate in the release of water from the right main canal of Nagarjunasagar to the standing crop in 9.5 lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasam and Guntur districts was resolved on Wednesday evening with the Telangana government agreeing to implement the water release order issued by the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) earlier.
- As the meeting was in progress, 5 tmc ft water, which was ordered for release from January 18, was discharged from Nagarjunasagar project.
- Telangana government told the KRMB meeting on Wednesday that it did not release water for the last 21 days citing unclear provisions in the order.
💡 Centre to install 150 quake sensors in Uttarakhand
- India is looking to have more than six times the number of earthquake sensors in Uttarakhand to better understand the geology of the region and the evolution of Himalayan earthquakes. Currently, there are only about 20 stations, maintained by different research agencies, that track earthquake activity.
- On Monday, Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand registered a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Though it didn’t cause damage, seismologists say its magnitude was “significant,” and residents in several parts of north India felt the tremors.
- The National Centre for Seismology got approval for a project to install 100-150 seismometers in the Garhwal-Kumaon region [the key region in the Himalayas and known to be seismically active] because there are some ideas that we need to test.
- This is a region known to be seismically active because it lies at the junction of two tectonic plates — the Himalayan and the Eurasian Plate — pushing against each other. Major quakes in the region include the 1991 Uttarkashi quake of magnitude 6.8 that killed 700. It was followed by a quake of similar intensity that hit Chamoli in 1991 and killed 100.
- Experts have long warned that a major quake in the Himalayan region is imminent because of the strain that has been building up over the centuries.
💡 Compensation for dam oustees ordered
- The Supreme Court gave its nod for the distribution of compensation to the Sardar Sarovar Project oustees. It ordered payment of Rs. 60 lakh per family to be displaced for two hectares of land.
- The families will have to give an undertaking that they will vacate the land within a month, failing which the authorities will have the right to forcibly evict them.
- The bench said monetary compensation was considered as the proposed land compensation was not feasible due to non-availability of a land bank.
- The apex court passed a slew of directions to address the grievances of 681 such families, also withdrew its proposal to set up a committee of former Supreme Court judges to look into the compensation and rehabilitation issues.
💡 Centre not in favour of new law for CBI
- The Central government has turned down the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee to come up with a new law for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to replace the 70-year-old Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act which governs the agency, stating that it might impinge on the federal structure of the Constitution.
- The 85th report of the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, chaired by MP Anand Sharma, was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. The report strongly recommended that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) revisit the 24th report of the committee on “The Working of the Central Bureau of Investigation.”
- It desires that the CBI manage its cadre more efficiently and the DoPT should take holistic steps to hasten the part of recruitment in consultation with the UPSC.
- The DoPT in a reply said since the submission of the 24th report, had grown into a more dynamic and efficient organisation. It also listed the measures taken to strengthen the CBI.
- “The subject of bringing a separate statute for the CBI has been considered and it has been concluded that the Constitution would require to be amended, which may also impinge on the federal structure of the Constitution and the mandate of Parliament to enact a law which would be in conflict with Entry 2 of List II which is in the domain of the States,” said the DoPT.
- “Therefore, it is not open to the Central Government to constitute a CBI and confer on it powers which will impinge on all the powers of investigation of offences which are conferred on the State police,” it said.
- The committee, in its subsequent remarks, said it was of the view that the powers given to CBI under the DSPE Act were not adequate.
💡 Trump-backed Bill seeks to cut legal immigrants by half
- The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or Raise Act, introduced by Republican Senator Tom Cotton and David Perdue from the Democratic party, would alter the U.S. immigration system to significantly reduce the number of foreigners admitted to the country without a skills-based visa. The Bill proposed to reduce the number of green cards issued every year from currently about 1 million to half a million including a large number of Indians.
- The passage of the Bill, which is said to have the support of the Trump administration, will have a major impact on hundreds and thousands of Indian-Americans who are currently waiting to get their green cards on employment-based categories.
- The current wait period of an Indian to get a green card varies from 10 to 35 years and this could increase if the Bill becomes law. The Bill, however, does not focus on H-1B visas.
💡 RBI to set up in-house enforcement cell
- The Reserve Bank of India has decided to set up an enforcement department to speed up regulatory compliance.
- The department, to be operational from the next financial year, will mainly deal with the penalties imposed on banks for violation of norms. Currently, the penalties are decided by the banking and non-banking supervision departments.
- The central bank said enforcement deals with cases of non-compliance with regulations were noticed either through the surveillance process or otherwise.
💡 India to pitch global services accord to WTO chief Azevedo
- India will make a presentation on Thursday to World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo and India Inc. on New Delhi’s proposal for a global pact to boost services trade.
- The proposed Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement at the WTO-level aims to ease norms including those relating to movement of foreign skilled workers/professionals across borders for short-term work.
The Proposed Pact:
- It ensure portability of social security contributions, as well as making sure fees or charges for immigration or visas are reasonable, transparent, and non-restrictive (or impairing the supply of services) in nature.
- It also aims to pave the way for a single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals.
- The proposal is to ensure cross-border insurance coverage to boost medical tourism, publication of measures impacting services trade and timely availability of relevant information in all the WTO official languages as well as free flow of data/information for cross-border supply of services.
TFS vs TFA pact:
- The proposed services pact is similar to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods adopted by the WTO Members in 2014 to ease customs norms for boosting global goods trade.
- The TFS Agreement will be “meaningful only if it has comprehensive scope and covers measures across all modes of supply (for services delivery in cross-border trade), relating to entry into the market as well as those applied post-entry.”
- The proposed TFS pact is also about ‘facilitation’ – that is “making market access ‘effective’ and commercially meaningful and not about ‘new’ (or greater) market access.”
- World Bank data shows the growing share of services in the world economy, the sources said, adding, however, that global trade flows in services remain subject to numerous border and behind-the-border barriers.
💡 Cabinet nod for rural digital literacy programme
- The Cabinet approved ‘Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan’ or PMGDISHA to make six crore rural households digitally literate.
- The outlay for the project is Rs2,351.38 crore. The programme aims to usher in digital literacy in rural India by March 2019.
- As many as 25 lakh candidates will be trained in FY 2016-17, 275 lakh in FY 2017-18 and 300 lakh candidates in FY 2018-19.
💡 Gecko does ‘striptease’ to avoid becoming lunch
- A newly discovered gecko uses a weird but ingenious tactic to evade capture: it strips down to its pink, naked skin and flees, leaving its attacker with a mouthful of scales, scientists have revealed.
- The hard, dense flakes come off with “exceptional ease” and grow back in a matter of weeks, a team of researchers reported.
- Geckolepis megalepis, the little lizard was previously confused with another member of the family of fish-scale geckos, known for their large, sheddable scales. But closer scientific scrutiny revealed it is a species quite apart — boasting the largest scales of any gecko. And it is more skilled than any other at shedding them at even the slightest touch. G. megalepis is resident in Madagascar.
- Without its scales, the matchbox-sized critter is not much to look at — resembling a piece of pink, raw chicken.
- It is the first new gecko species to be described in 75 years. “One of the main ways reptile species can be told apart is by their scale patterns, but these geckos lose their scales with such ease that the patterns are often lost.