Daily Current Affairs – 19-05-2023

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    Rohingya Refugees in India

    Syllabus: GS 2/3:Foreign Policy/ Internal Security 

    In News

    • Recently a report titled ‘A Shadow of Refuge: Rohingya Refugees in India’ was released.

    Rohingya

    • Rohingya, an ethnic group, mostly Muslim, hail from the Rakhine province of west Myanmar, and speak a Bengali dialect. 
    • Myanmar has classified them as “resident foreigners” or “associate citizens.
    • They were forced to leave Myanmar in large numbers after several waves of violence, which first began in 2012. 

    About the recent  report 

    • It was prepared by The Azadi Project, a women’s rights non-profit, and Refugees International, an international NGO that advocates for the rights of stateless people.
    • The report is based on trips to Rohingya settlements in Delhi and Hyderabad in February and March 2023.
    • The research was conducted through interviews with Rohingya refugees, refugee-led organisations, UN officials, local and international NGOs providing humanitarian and legal assistance to the Rohingyas and other experts.

    Major Issues Highlighted by the Report 

    • India is not allowing exit permissions for Rohingya refugees who have completed refugee status determinations with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and “gained approval from third countries for resettlement.
    • The Rohingya in India are vilified as “illegal migrants”, face growing “anti-Muslim and anti-refugee xenophobia”, and live under constant fear of being deported back to Myanmar, “to the genocidal regime from which they fled”.
    • Other challenges: Arbitrary detention.
      • Actual and threatened deportations have also fostered a sense of fear within the Rohingya community, prompting some to return to camps in Bangladesh. 
      • The report details the harsh living conditions of the Rohingya in slum-like settlements with no safe running water or toilets, and no access to basic healthcare, education for children, or employment opportunities. 
      • Those who speak out for the Rohingya are being threatened, particularly with the loss of permission to access foreign funding.
    • Downgrading of the UNHCR cards: the UNHCR cards had provided access to some level of education and livelihoods, and to protection from detention and deportation, now the government has taken a stand that “UNHCR refugee status without valid travel documents is of no consequence in India”.

    Suggestions and Recommendations

    • Instead of refusing exit visas, India can help facilitate more resettlement opportunities” by advocating for resettlement in ally countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, and other European nations at forums like the G-20 summit. 
    • The report urges India to formally recognise the Rohingya in India as “refugees with a right to an asylum rather than as illegal migrants”. 
      • To make this happen, India needs to sign the Refugee Convention and establish a domestic law on refugees and asylum. 
      • Short of this, the least that India could do is “a simple acknowledgement of residency” by recognising UNHCR cards 
    •  Better treatment of refugees is in India’s interest, as it would “give the government more global credibility” and also “serve national security interests, as new arrivals would be officially documented and not incentivised to remain under the radar.
    • the legal system and civil society have been working on behalf of the Rohingya and such voices should be supported, not constrained”.
    • International Cooperation
      • It also urges the U.S. to raise with India concerns over detention, deportation and the status of Rohingya in India during upcoming visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
      • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the International Genocide Convention obligate India not to return the Rohingya to Myanmar.

    Do you Know?

    • India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. 
    • All foreign undocumented nationals are governed as per the provisions of The Foreigners Act, of 1946, The Registration of Foreigners Act, of 1939, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, of 1920 and The Citizenship Act, of 1955.
    • The MHA informed Parliament that “foreign nationals who enter into the country without valid travel documents are treated as illegal immigrants.”

    Source: TH

    Appointment of judges to the Supreme Court

    Syllabus:  GS2/Judiciary, Government Policies & Interventions, GS1/ Social Justice

    In Context

    • The government recently cleared the appointment of two judges to the Supreme Court
      • The two new apex court judges are Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and K.V. Viswanathan, who is a direct appointment from the Supreme Court Bar.

    Appointment of Judges

    • Collegium system:
      • Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court are appointed by the provisions mentioned in Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution of India
        • Articles 124 and 217 state that the President shall appoint judges to the Supreme Court and high courts after consultation with the Chief Justice of India and other judges.
      • Composition:
        • The Supreme Court Collegium consists of the CJI and four senior-most judges of the apex court. 
        • High Court Collegium consists of the Chief Justice of the High Court and two senior-most judges of that particular court. 
      • Recommendations: 
        • Crucially, recommendations made by the Collegium are binding: while the government can flag concerns and ask the Collegium to reconsider, if the Collegium chooses to reiterate its recommendations, they become binding.
    • Significance of the system:
      • The collegium system was created to maintain the basic structure of the Constitution by keeping the judiciary independent. 
      • It was also to ensure that the Chief Justice of India does not impose his or her individual opinion regarding the appointment of judges, but rather it is a collective opinion of the entire body.  

    Issues with the current collegium system

    • The collegium system does not provide any guidelines or criteria for the appointment of the Supreme Court judges and it increases the ambit of favouritism
    • In the collegium system, there are no criteria for testing the candidate or for doing a background check to establish the credibility of the candidate
    • The absence of an administrative body is also a reason for worry because it means that the members of the collegium system are not answerable for the selection of any of the judges.

    About the National Judicial Commission (NJAC)

    • Significance: 
      • The need for the National Judicial Appointment Commission was aroused because many jurists criticised the existing collegium system, stating that India is the only country where judges appoint themselves and have the power of determining their transfers
    • Statute for NJAC:
      • The NJAC was proposed via the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014
        • In order to have a more transparent system, the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act was enacted.
      • The commission was established by the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014. 
      • The Act proposed that the members of NJAC would be composed of members from the legislative, judicial, and civil society. 
    • Apex Court’s action:
      • In a collective order, in 2015, the Supreme Court by a majority of 4:1 struck down the NJAC Act, 2014.
      • The NJAC Act was termed unconstitutional citing it as having affected the independence of the judiciary. 

    Issues with NJAC

    • SC’s previous action:
      • The concept of NJAC has come under consideration of the Supreme Court three times in 1993, 1998 and 2016. 
      • All three times, while giving importance to independence of the judiciary, the Supreme Court dismissed the framework of the NJAC.
    • Issue of political influence:
      • It is cited by critics that the judiciary is the only independent institution left in the country. 
        • It is harmful to allow political influence over it. 
      • It is also being stated that the collegium system is functioning smoothly. 
        • There is scope for improvement, but not for any political interference. The central government should in no manner be allowed to control the appointment of the judiciary.
    • Culture of reciprocity:
      • The involvement of the legislature in the appointment of judges might lead to the creation of a culture of ‘reciprocity.’ 
      • Meaning that judges might have the feeling of having to pay back the political executive as a consideration for their appointment to the post of judge
    • Constitutional impossibility:
      • The recent bill was opposed in the Rajya Sabha, calling it a “constitutional impossibility”.

    Pendency of cases in India

    • Over 4.7 crore cases are pending in courts across different levels of the judiciary. 
    • Of them, 87.4% are pending in subordinate courts, 12.4% in High Courts, while nearly 1,82,000 cases have been pending for over 30 years. 
      • Example of Bombay HC:
        • According to the National Judicial Data Grid ( NJDG)
          • there are 5.88 lakh cases pending before the Bombay High Court 
          • of which 1.14 lakh fresh cases were filed in the last one year 
          • more than 16,000 criminal cases are pending for more than 10 years.
    • Issue of shortage of Judges:
    • The major reason behind this situation is the overall shortage of judges in the high courts in India.
    • The situation is grim in subordinate courts where along with the shortage, lack of basic infrastructure is a big concern.

    Way Ahead

    • Speedy appointment of judges:
      • There is an urgent need to improve the judge-to-population ratio to reduce the workload of judges. 
    • Guidelines by Union government:
      • Centre had suggested measures like increasing the number of working days of courts, establishment of fast track courts and Indian Courts and Tribunal Services (ICTs) to increase the productivity of the court system. 
    • E-platforms:
      • Improve judicial infrastructure through the use of e-platforms and setting up of more courts.
      • India has launched the e-Courts National portal ecourts.gov.in of the eCourts Project.
    • Strengthen the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism:
      • It uses modes like Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation.
      • It uses a neutral third party who helps the parties to communicate, discuss the differences and resolve the dispute.
      • It offers to resolve all types of matters related to civil disputes, as explicitly provided by the law.
    • Counseling:
      • Disputes can be settled at the pre-litigation stage through counseling.

    Source: TH

    Elections and the Airwaves

    Syllabus: GS2/Indian Polity

    In News

    • In the recently-concluded Karnataka Assembly elections, political parties were provided free airtime on public broadcasters, All India Radio (Akashvani) and Doordarshan during elections.

    About

    • The allotment was available to six recognised national parties — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the National People’s Party (NPP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and one recognised State party, the Janata Dal (Secular). 
    • The parties were allocated a base time of 45 minutes and additional slots based on performance in previous polls. 
    • The facility to provide free airtime for political parties during elections was given statutory basis through the 2003 amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1951. 
    • The Supreme Court, in its famed judgment ( The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting vs Cricket Association of Bengal and ANR, 1995), held that airwaves are public property and its use should serve the greater public good. 
      • Elections being the lifeblood of a democracy, the misuse or abuse of airwaves to gain unfair electoral advantage is a key regulatory apprehension of governments around the world.

    About All India Radio 

    • The Directorate General, All India Radio functions under Prasar Bharati. The Director General is the Head of the Department and is responsible for the overall administration and supervision of the entire AIR network. 
      • In performance of his duties and functions, the Director General, AIR is assisted by officers of the wings.
    • AIR has a three-tier system of broadcasting. These three levels of programmes are the National, Regional and Local each having distinct audiences.

    Doordarshan

    • Doordarshan is an autonomous public service broadcaster founded by the Government of India, which is one of two divisions of Prasar Bharati.
    • It is one of India’s largest broadcasting organisations in terms of studio and transmitter infrastructure, having been established in 1959. 
    • It also broadcasts on digital terrestrial transmitters. DD provides television, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional India, as well as overseas, through the satellite network.

    How does it work?

    • Time vouchers are distributed by a lottery system by the Election Commission in a transparent process to obviate any preferential treatment in getting primetime slots. 
    • The transcripts of political parties are vetted to ensure that they adhere to relevant codes. These codes prescribe any content which are critical of other countries, attack religions or other communities or incites violence and personal attacks.
    • In case of any disagreements over the content of the script as vetted by the public broadcaster, it is referred to an Apex Committee comprising members from Akashvani and DD whose decision is final.

    Significance

    • In the Indian media landscape, due to the pattern of ownership of media houses, the public generally identify a broadcaster as being affiliated with one political party or the other.  In this regard, State-sponsored airtime provides more diversity and colour to the electoral process.
    • The guidelines by the Election Commission of India (ECI) also require that a maximum of two panel discussions are also aired by Akashvani and DD.
    • These discussions provide an excellent platform for parties, both big and small, to debate and criticise each other’s policies and manifestos, and in general promote an informed citizenry.

    Source: TH

    Kohinoor

    Syllabus: GS 1 / History and Culture

    In News

    • A Parliamentary Standing Committee deliberating on heritage theft has noted that Kohinoor diamond should be returned by the U.K. to India.

    Kohinoor

    • Kohinoor, meaning ‘Mountain of Light’, Kohinoor is a colourless diamond. 
    • It is one of the largest cut diamonds in the world, weighing 105.6 carats. 
    • The diamond is currently set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. 

    History of Kohinoor

    • It is believed to have been first mined in the 13th century, near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh by the Kakatiya dynasty. 
    • Over the years, the jewel got passed on to the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji and then to the Mughal empire following which Persian invader Nadir Shah took it to Afghanistan. 
    • It passed through different dynasties before reaching Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Maharaja of Punjab, in 1809, who ruled from Lahore. 
    • The diamond was eventually acquired by Queen Victoria in 1849, following the second Anglo-Sikh war, during which Punjab was brought under the East India Company. The diamond was taken by the British after the signing of the Last Treaty of Lahore. 
    • Under the British Raj, the diamond underwent a major recutting as the original Kohinoor had failed to appeal to viewers in London, shaping it into the present form.

    Claims

    • Multiple former territories of the British Raj – India, Pakistan and Afghanistan – have laid claim to the diamond. India first laid claim to it after independence in 1947 and multiple requests were made since then. 
    • The death of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, reignited the demand in India to bring back the Kohinoor.

    Arguments against 

    • All these claims were rejected by the U.K. In 2010, then-UK PM David Cameron rejected the notion of returning the Kohinoor, saying: “If you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty.”
    • If India could lay claims on the diamond, then so could a number of other countries like Iran and Afghanistan.
    • Other objects of loot from India like the Darya Noor (which is a sister diamond of Kohinoor) and parts of the Peacock throne are in Iran, but nobody speaks about it.

    Can it be returned to India?

    • India does not have legal competence to demand the return of the diamond. Under the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972, the Archaeological Survey of India can retrieve only such antiquities that have been illegally exported out of the country.
    • The case of Kohinoor is contentious since it was surrendered by Maharaja Dalip Singh as part of the 1849 Lahore treaty with the British.
    • The Ministry of Culture filed its affidavit in 2016 in the Supreme Court, where it had said that the diamond cannot be reclaimed as it was given as a gift. 

    UNESCO Convention of 1970

    • The UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property is an international treaty to combat the illegal trade in cultural items.
    • A combined reading of Articles 7 and 15 of the convention indicates that the convention does not prevent state parties from entering special agreements for the restitution of removed cultural properties.
    • Under the 1970 Convention, cultural property is under protection. Cultural property includes anything of scientific, historical, artistic, and or religious significance, as defined by Article I of the convention.  However, every state can define its own cultural property, as long as it is an item of importance and within the categories defined in Article I.

    Source: TH

    Papua New Guinea-US Security Pact

    Syllabus: GS1/Geography, Places in News

    In News

    • Papua New Guinea will sign a security pact with the United States that gives American troops access to the Pacific nation’s ports and airports.

    About 

    • The two agreements will focus on defence cooperation and maritime surveillance between both countries.
    • The USA has placed more importance on the Pacific over concerns about an increasingly assertive China, which is trying to woo nations with an array of diplomatic and financial incentives in return for strategic support.

    Papua New Guinea

    • About: 
      • The Independent State of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific shares a land-border with Indonesia.
      • The country is the world’s third largest island country.
    • Boundaries: 
      • Australia to the south and Solomon Islands to the east. It is located just south of the Equator.  
    • Geographical Features:
      • The physical geography of the island is made up of mountains, along with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills.  
      •  North of this area lies a swampy plain, formed by the sediment that is deposited by the Sepik and Ramu, two large rivers.  These rivers flow from the mountains and continue into the Bismarck Sea.  
      • Major rivers of the mainland include the Fly located in the southwest, the Purari and Kikori located in the south, and the Sepik and Ramu in the north. 
      • Papua New Guinea is one of the countries along the Ring of Fire, a belt of active volcanoes and earthquake epicenters bordering the Pacific Ocean; up to 90% of the world’s earthquakes and some 75% of the world’s volcanoes occur within the Ring of Fire.

    Source: TH

    NIA’s Operation Dhvast

    Syllabus: GS 3/Internal Security

    In News

    The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested three persons in connection with the raids conducted as part of a nationwide drive codenamed ‘Operation Dhvast’, in the terrorist-gangster-drug smugglers network cases.

    Major Points 

    • The latest searches were part of the continuing NIA action against terror networks as well as their funding and support infrastructure, with respect to which it has been probing three cases since August 2022. 
    • The cases are connected with conspiracies related to targeted killings, terror funding of pro-Khalistan outfits, extortion, etc. 

    About National Investigation Agency (NIA)

    • It was constituted in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 and started its functioning in 2009. 
    • It is a central agency mandated to investigate all the offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and the offences under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations. 
      • These include terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders. 
      • The agency has the power to search, seize, arrest and prosecute those involved in such offences.
    • The law under which the agency operates extends to the whole of India and also applies to Indian citizens outside the country.

    Jurisdiction

    • The law under which the agency operates extends to 
      • the whole of India and also applies to Indian citizens outside the country;
      • persons in the service of the government wherever they are posted;
      • persons on ships and aircraft registered in India wherever they may be;
      • persons who commit a scheduled offence beyond India against the Indian citizen or affect the interest of India.

    Amendments

    • The NIA Act was amended in the year 2019 to enlarge the mandate of the NIA by the inclusion of offences related to human trafficking, manufacture/sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and expanded its jurisdiction beyond India.
    • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was amended in the year 2019 to inter-alia empower the Director General (DG), of the NIA to seize/attach the properties related to proceeds of terrorism in cases being investigated by the NIA.

     Source: TH

     

    International Credit Card come under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)

    Syllabus: GS3/ Economy

    In News

    • The Centre has amended rules under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), bringing international credit card spends outside India under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS).
      • Also, from July 1, spending on international credit cards will attract a higher rate of Tax Collected at Source (TCS) at 20%.

    What is Tax Collected at Source (TCS)?

    • TCS is a direct tax levy, which is collected by the seller of specified goods from the buyer and deposited to the government. Taxpayers can then claim refunds on the TCS levy at the time of filing tax returns.

    Key Points about Change

    • Credit card spends outside India have been brought under the ambit of the LRS — under which all resident individuals, including minors, can remit up to US $2,50,000 (approximately Rs 2.06 crore) abroad per year without prior approval from the RBI.
    • Bringing credit card transactions under LRS enables the levy of a higher TCS, as announced in the Budget for 2023-24. 
    • Till June 30, a TCS of 5% will be levied on such spending on overseas tour packages (without threshold) or any other category (beyond threshold of Rs 7 lakh), except for medical and education purposes.
    • It will not apply on the payments for purchase of foreign goods/services from India.

    Why the Changes?

    • These rules will help bring parity between the international usage of credit and debit cards, which were already part of LRS. 
    • Also, the instances had come to notice where the “LRS payments are disproportionately high when compared to the disclosed incomes”. It also clarified that the LRS does not cover business visits of the employee when the costs are borne by the employer.

    Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)

    • It was introduced in India in 2004 by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
    • It is a scheme that enables Indian residents to remit funds abroad for certain specified purposes. 
    • The scheme has been one of the most important instruments for promoting international trade and investment, as well as for facilitating capital flows into and out of India.
    • Prior to this, the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 had imposed several restrictions on the transfer of funds from India to other countries. Under this, individuals were allowed to remit up to USD 25,000 per financial year for eligible transactions. The amount was subsequently increased to USD 50,000 in 2007 and further increased to USD 250,000 in 2013.
    • The primary objective of the liberalized remittance scheme is to liberalize the existing foreign exchange regulations and facilitate the smooth transfer of funds abroad by Indian residents. 

    Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA)

    • Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) is a law enacted in 1999 to regulate foreign exchange transactions in the country. 
    • The RBI is the regulatory body and plays a controlling role in the management of foreign exchange.
    • The Act provides for a legislative and regulatory framework, for inbound and outbound investments, and facilitates trade and business opportunities between Indian and other countries.
    • It lays down provisions for current account and capital account transactions.
    • Under FEMA, there are restrictions only on capital account transactions. Current
    • account transactions are free unless there is specific restriction.

    Source: FE