Highest voter turnout ever for presidential election
- The presidential election recorded probably the highest ever turnout of over 99%, with all eligible voters casting their ballots in at least 10 States and one Union Territory.
- The election was conducted at 32 polling stations, including in Parliament and the State Assemblies.
- Presidential Election Returning Officer and Lok Sabha Secretary General Anoop Mishra said reports on voting percentages from Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Tripura were yet to be added.
- The counting of votes is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. on July 20.
- In terms of the value of the votes, the Sikkim Assembly has the lowest of seven and Uttar Pradesh the highest of 208.
- The total value of the votes of the Electoral College, which comprises 776 MPs and 4,120 MLAs, is 10,98,903.
Centre seeks debate in SC on J&K special status
The Centre asked the Supreme Court to debate on the special status granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was both a sensitive and constitutional matter.
Plea said that non-residents in J&K faced discrimination
The top law officer was responding to a PIL plea filed by a Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, contending that the J&K government, given the State’s special autonomous status under Articles 35A and 370, was discriminatory against non-residents as far as government jobs and real estate purchases were concerned.
What the State government argued over the Article 370?
- The State government argued that its special status was sourced from the 1954 Presidential Order, which gave special rights to the State’s permanent residents.
- The hearing comes in the backdrop of an earlier Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which ruled that Article 370 assumed a place of permanence in the Constitution and the feature was beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation. The court said Article 35A gave “protection” to existing laws in force in the State.
High Court observed Article 370
- Article 370 though titled as ‘Temporary Provision’ and included in Para XXI titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’ has assumed place of permanence in the Constitution,” it observed.
- It [Article 370] is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation, in as much as the Constituent Assembly of the State before its dissolution did not recommend its Amendment or repeal.
- It also observed that the President under Article 370 (1) was conferred with power to extend any provision of the Constitution to the State with such “exceptions and modifications” as may be deemed fit subject to consultation or concurrence with the State government. The High Court said J&K, while acceding to the Dominion of India, retained limited sovereignty and did not merge with it.
Implications of Article 370
Article 370 specifies that except for Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Communications the Indian Parliament needs the State Government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. This has some peculiar implications as follows:
Applicability of parts
- Most provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K. Part VI in whole is not applicable to Jammu & Kashmir.
Jurisdiction of Indian Parliament
- The Jurisdiction of the Parliament of India in relation to Jammu and Kashmir is confined to the matters enumerated in the Union List, and also the concurrent list.
- There is no State list for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, while in relation to the other States, the residuary power of legislation belongs to Parliament, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the residuary powers belong to the Legislature of the State, except certain matters to which Parliament has exclusive powers such as preventing the activities relating to cession or secession, or disrupting the sovereignty or integrity of India.
- The power make laws related to preventive detention in Jammu and Kashmir belong to the Legislature J & K and not the Indian Parliament. Thus, no preventive detention law made in India extends to Jammu & Kashmir.
- Kashmir enjoys some other privileges over and above the other states of India. For example, the plenry power of parliament with respect to alteration of the name or territories of the State (Art.3) does not extend to the state. Similarly, International treaty or agreement affecting any part of the territory of the state (Art.253) doesn’t extend to Jammu and Kashmir.
- Article 253 empowers the Parliament to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.
- Any action of the Union Legislature or Union Executive which results in alteration of the name or territories or an international treaty or agreement affecting the disposition of any part of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir requires the consent of the State Legislature.
- Initially, Article 356 and 357 did not apply to India. However, these two articles related to suspension of the Constitutional machinery in the state have been extended to the state by the Amendment Order of 1964. However, Failure means failure of the constitution machinery as set up by the Constitution of the State and not the provisions in part VI of the Constitution of the India. As a result, where the failure of the Constitutional machinery takes place in Jammu & Kashmir, two types of Proclamation may be made
- The President’s Rule under Art. 356 of the Indian Constitution (as in the case of the other States of the Indian Union)
- The Governor under section 92 at the Constitution of J&K for which there is no counter part in any other State of India.
- The Union of India has no power to declare Financial Emergency under Article 360 in the state.
- Apart from the rights enjoyed by all states of India, some special right as regards employment, acquisition of property and settlement have been conferred on permanent resident of the State by constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Right to property is still a fundamental right in the state.
DPSP & Fundamental Duties
- Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) and Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Constitution are not applicable to J&K.
Amendment of the Constitution
- The provisions of Art. 368 of the Constitution of India are not applicable for the amendment of the State Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. The Jammu & Kashmir assembly by two third majority amend its own constitution (except in those matters that are related to relationship of the State with the Union of India)
- The Union has no power to suspend the Constitution of J&K.
Jammu & Kashmir High Court
- The High Court of J&K has limited powers as compared to other High Courts within India. It cannot declare any law unconstitutional. Unlike High Courts in other states, under Article 226 of the Constitution, it cannot issue writs except for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
GM mustard policy: SC gives govt. time
- The government informed the Supreme Court that a policy decision on the commercial release of the Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop is yet to be finalised.
- The Centre said it was poring through the various suggestions on and objections to the commercial rollout of the GM crops.
- A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, granted the government one week to report back on when the policy would be finalised.
- It said the policy should be good-intentioned and well-informed.
- The court had on October 17, 2016, extended the stay on the commercial release of the GM mustard until further orders.
- It had asked the Centre to collect public opinion before the release.
- The government had assured the court that there would be no commercial release of GM seeds till the views of the public were collected and placed before the appraisal committee.
- The hearing was conducted on the basis of a petition filed by activist Aruna Rodrigues, who had alleged that the government was sowing GM seeds without the relevant tests.
- Mustard is one of India’s most important winter crops, sown between mid-October and late November.
- Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Ms. Rodrigues, alleged the government was sowing the seeds in various fields and that thebio-safety dossier, which has to be made public by putting it on the website, had not yet been done.
Eco-bridges for the movement of tigers
What is in news?
Telangana State will have eco-friendly bridges over a canal cutting across the tiger corridor linking the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra with the forests in Telangana’s Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.
The ‘eco-bridges’ will be constructed at key spots along the 72 km-long, and at some places over a kilometre wide, right flank canal of the Pranahita barrage in the Bejjur and Dahegaon mandals
One of the locations tentatively earmarked for the eco-bridge is a spot close to Sulgupalli in the Bejjur forest range. Here, the canal is over a kilometer wide and the need to facilitate the movement of wild animals is quite necessary.
Concept come from:
The concept emerged after visits by experts from the Wildlife Board of India and the Wildlife Institute of India.
They were concerned about the large-scale destruction of pristine forest along the corridor, which would result in cutting off tiger movement between TATR and Bejjur.
The Telangana Irrigation Department has given its consent for the construction of the eco-bridges. Recommendations on the size and locations of the bridges are awaited from the National Board of Wildlife.
China holds military drill near Arunachal border, ‘enemy’ aircraft the target
- China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has held “live-fire drills” in Tibet, close to the India’s border in Arunachal, to practice quick movement of troops and destroy enemy aircraft.
- The drill is being seen as a message to the Indian government and military, as China claims large parts of Arunachal, India’s easternmost state, as southern Tibet.
- The drill was held in the Tibet Autonomous Region in the middle and lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river, which is located in the upper stream of the Brahmaputra river which flows through China, India and Bangladesh.
- The Yarlung Zangbo enters India through Arunachal where it is called Siang before it becomes the Brahmaputra in Assam. China has been building dams over it, causing concern in India that it could affect the flow of the Brahmaputra.
Indonesia renames part of South China Sea
Indonesia has named waters in its exclusive economic zone that overlap with China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, an assertion of sovereignty that has angered Beijing.
The decision announced by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs has been in the works since mid-2016 and was vital to law enforcement at sea and securing Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
China claims South China sea:
- China claims most of the South China Sea, putting it in dispute with many southeast Asian nations, and has carried out extensive land reclamation and construction on reefs and atolls to bolster its claims.
- The map of Indonesia has clear coordinates, dates and data, and the government would not negotiate with other nations that make unconventional claims… including those who insist on a map of nine broken lines.
- Philipppines also has claims to the South China Sea. But Filipino officials behind an arbitration case in which the Philippines won a resounding victory over China last year are expressing alarm that Beijing continues to defy the decision.
South China Sea Dispute
- China has been aggressively claiming the entire South China Sea as its own.
- The other countries that claim the various territories in the South China Sea are Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
- The South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean spreading an area of some 35 lakh square km with eight littoral countries/territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. It is strategically located in the international shipping route that sees the passage of world’s half of the merchant ships.
- The sea is rich in energy reserves including petroleum, mineral and fishing resources. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, shoals, sandbanks etc. grouped into three archipelagos of Spratlys, Paracels and Pratas. The Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal are also part of South China Sea.
- Several countries have made competing territorial claims over the South China Sea. Such disputes have been regarded as Asia’s most potentially dangerous point of conflict.
Eco-friendly plastics, anyone?
- Scientists have developed eco-friendly plastics using lemon extracts and carbon dioxide that may replace potentially cancer-causing materials widely used in everyday items such as phone cases, baby bottles and DVDs.
- Researchers led by Arjan Kleij from Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) in Spain, developed a method to produce polycarbonates from limonene and CO2, both abundant and natural products.
- Several million tonnes of polycarbonate are produced every year around the world. However, worries about the dangers of this material are increasing because of the toxicity of its precursors, especially bisphenol-A (also known as BPA), a potential carcinogen.
- Limonene, which can be isolated from lemons and oranges, is able to replace a dangerous building block currently used in commercial polycarbonates – bisphenol-A (also known as BPA).
- Although BPA has been repeatedly classified as a safe chemical by American and European agencies, some studies point out that it is a potential endocrine-disruptor, neurotoxic, and carcinogen.
- Some countries such as France, Denmark and Turkey have banned the use of BPA in the production of baby bottles.
- “BPA is safe, but still causes concerns and is produced from petroleum feedstock,” Kleij said.
- This limonene-derived polymer also has the highest glass transition temperature ever reported for a polycarbonate.
- Having a high glass transition temperature has other implications – the new plastics require higher temperatures to melt, which make them safer for everyday use.
Sports Ministry lays ground for making online betting legal
- The Sports Ministry has begun the groundwork to frame a legislation to legalise online sports betting in India
- The Sports Ministry is also likely to seek assistance from its counterparts in the UK, where gambling is legal
- Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas, who is currently in England, is likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which online sports betting will be one of the key points
Betting in India
- Betting is seen as a sensitive socio-political issue. More so in sports because of the match-fixing and spot-fixing controversies.
- The issue of legalising betting gathered momentum when former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha recommended that betting should be legalised in cricket
- Illegal betting market in India is worth $150 billion, or roughly Rs 9.6 lakh crore.
- Most of it is via local bookmakers and unregulated offshore websites.
- At present, betting is legal only on horse racing, and it is taxed at 28 per cent under GST.
Advantages of legalising betting in India?
- It can address the issue of poor funding for sports at central and state level by making online betting legal.
- The possibility of diverting a sizeable part of the revenue generated from betting towards the ministry’s programmes is also being deliberated.
- It can be beneficial to the economy as well as sports overall.
Centre’s proposal to states: Enact your own Aadhaar Acts too
- Central government has floated the idea of state governments enacting their own “State Aadhaar Act”, on the lines of the central Act passed by Parliament last year.
- The central Act makes Aadhaar mandatory for any “subsidy, benefit or service” for which the expenditure is borne fully or shared partially by the Consolidated Fund of India.
- This means that every welfare subsidy or benefit, from fully-funded or centrally-sponsored schemes (where states share part of the fiscal burden), is conditional on verification through Aadhaar.
Why state Aadhaar Act?
- Several state governments have their own subsidies or benefit schemes, where the burden is defrayed out of their Consolidated Fund
- Consequently, the central Aadhaar Act cannot provide legal basis for making Aadhaar mandatory for such schemes.
- However, a State Aadhaar Act, as suggested by the Cabinet Secretariat, could provide legal basis for making it mandatory for state-funded welfare schemes
- But the Centre’s suggestion could prove tricky as the enactment of a state legislation is the prerogative of the state legislatures.
- Also, it impinges on the state government’s autonomy to set up a mechanism for expenditure from the state exchequer.