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Current Affairs 12th September 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam

Current Affairs 12th September 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam

Special Session of Parliament

Context: Recently the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs announced that a “special session” of Parliament would be held from September 18 to 22.

What is a Special Session of Parliament?

  • Definition: The term refers to sessions the government has convened for specific occasions, like commemorating parliamentary or national milestones.
  • Constitutional Provisions: The Constitution does not mention the term “special session.”
    • However, Article 352 (Proclamation of Emergency) of the Constitution does refer to a “special sitting of the House”.
      • Parliament added the part relating to the special sitting through the Constitution 44th Amendment Act, 1978.
      • Its purpose was to add safeguards to the power of proclaiming Emergency in the country.
      • It specifies that if a Proclamation of Emergency is issued and Parliament is not in session, then one-tenth of Lok Sabha MPs can ask the President to convene a special meeting to disapprove the Emergency.
    •  The President, who summons a regular Parliamentary session will summon this session also as per provisions of Article 85(1) of the Constitution:
      • It states that “The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he/she thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.”
      • Even though it mandates two sessions in a window of six months, the provision is merely to ensure minimum parliamentary sitting.
      • The article has provisions for the President to summon the house as and when required and does not prohibit the Parliament from meeting frequently.
  • Procedural Devices: 
    • For the two Houses to be in session, the presiding officers should chair their proceedings.
    • The presiding officers can also direct that the proceedings of their respective Houses would be limited and procedural devices like question hour would not be available to MPs during the session.

About Parliamentary Sessions

  • Power to Convene Session of Parliament: The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government.
    • The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, and formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
  • Meeting of Parliament: India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar. By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year:
    • The longest, the Budget Session, starts towards the end of January, and concludes by the end of April or first week of May. The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
    • The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
    • The parliamentary year ends with a three week-long Winter Session, which is held from November to December.
  • Constitutional Provisions for Parliamentary Sessions:
    • The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution.
      • Like many other articles, it is based on a provision of The Government of India Act, 1935.
      • This provision specified that the central legislature had to be summoned to meet at least once a year, and that not more than 12 months could elapse between two sessions.
      • Dr B R Ambedkar stated that the purpose of this provision was to summon the legislature only to collect revenue, and that the once-a-year meeting was designed to avoid scrutiny of the government by the legislature.
  • Fewer House Sittings:
    • Before independence, the central assembly met for a little more than 60 days a year.
      • This number increased to 120 days a year in the first 20 years after Independence.
      • Since then, the sitting days of the national legislature have declined.
      • Between 2002 and 2021, Lok Sabha averaged 67 working days.
  • Reason for Less Sittings:
    • One institutional reason given for this is the reduction in the workload of Parliament by its Standing Committees, which, since the 1990s, have anchored debates outside the House.
    • However, several Committees have recommended that Parliament should meet for at least 120 days in a year.

Current Affairs 11th September 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam


No Immunity to Corrupt Public Servants in Pre-2014 Cases: Supreme Court

Context: A Constitution bench has declared that its 2014 judgment in the Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India case, in which Section 6A of the DSPE Act was held as invalid, will have retrospective effect.

Section 6A in Controversy 

  • DSPE Act, 1946: CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946.
  • Section 6A of the DSPE Act: It required the Central Bureau of Investigation to obtain prior sanction from the central government to investigate corruption cases against an officer of the rank of joint secretary and above.
  • Rationale Behind 6A:
    • Section 6A of the DSPE Act was added in September 2003 through Section 26 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act (CVCA).
    •  The then law minister said that those in decision-making positions, who must exercise discretion, and those who must take vital decisions, needed to be protected against frivolous complaints.
  • Exception: However, an exception provided in Section 6A (2) states that no approval is necessary for cases involving arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept a bribe.
  • Supreme Court’s 2014 Judgement:
    • In 2014, a five-judge constitution bench struck down Section 6A of the DSPE Act in Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India case.
    • SC stated that “status or position” cannot shield an officer of the level of joint secretary and above from unconstrained probe by the CBI in cases of corruption.
    • The court had said that Section 6A which requires approval of the central government to conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 where such allegation relates to:
      •  the employees of the central government of the level of Joint Secretary and above and
      • such officers as are appointed by the central government in corporations established by or under any central Act, government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by the government,
      • is invalid and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution (right to equality).

What is the New Ruling by SC?

  • Case: The petitioner in the present case was arrested by the CBI in 2004 for allegedly accepting a bribe. At the time, he was a chief district medical officer in Delhi and thus, holding the rank of a joint secretary-level officer. He had subsequently challenged the arrest in the Delhi high court, citing lack of sanction from the competent authority to arrest him.
  • Recent Ruling by SC: Recently, a Constitution Bench held that a SC judgment of 2014 which declared invalid a legal provision mandating the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take prior permission before investigating corruption cases against senior government officials has a retrospective effect.
    • This means that senior government officials involved in corruption cases even before the date of the Supreme Court judgment (2014) invalidating the need for prior sanction would no longer be able to avail the protection of prior sanction.
    • Consequently, Section 6A of the DSPE Act will not be force from the day of its insertion, ie, September 11, 2003.
    • The Bench also said that Article 20(1), which mandated that a person should only be convicted under a law which was in force at the time of the crime, had “no applicability or relevance to the validity or invalidity of Section 6A of the DSPE Act”.


International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Context: President Droupadi Murmu will be inaugurating the global symposium on farmers’ rights organised by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) in New Delhi.

About International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

  • Definition: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations November 3, 2001.
  • Legality: It is a legally binding international agreement.
  • Membership: The Treaty is open for accession by all Members of FAO and any States that are not Members of FAO but are Members of the United Nations.
  • Aim:
    • Recognizing the enormous contribution of farmers to the diversity of crops that feed the world.
    • Establishing a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic materials.
    • Ensuring that recipients share benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials with the countries where they have been originated.
  • Key Features:
    • The Treaty promotes and facilitates the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use for sustainable agriculture and food security, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
    • Multilateral system: It puts 64 of our most important crops – crops that together account for 80% of the food we derive from plants – into an easily accessible global pool of genetic resources that is freely available to potential users in the Treaty’s ratifying nations for some uses.
    • Access and benefit sharing: Those who access the materials must be from the Treaty’s ratifying nations and they must agree to use the materials totally for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture.
      • The Treaty prevents the recipients of genetic resources from claiming intellectual property rights over those resources.
      • It also ensures that access to genetic resources already protected by international property rights is consistent with international and national laws.
    • Farmers’ rights: The Treaty calls for protecting the traditional knowledge of these farmers, increasing their participation in national decision-making processes and ensuring that they share in the benefits from the use of these resources.
    • Sustainable use: Most of the world’s food comes from four main crops – rice, wheat, maize and potatoes.
      • However, local crops, not among the main four, are a major food source for hundreds of millions of people and have potential to provide nutrition to countless others.
      • The Treaty helps maximize the use and breeding of all crops and promotes development and maintenance of diverse farming systems.


Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

Context: The Centre is planning to open TRAI chairperson’s post to private sector.

More on News:

  • The Centre may amend the rules to appoint a new TRAI chairperson from the private sector, ie the TRAI Act (1997) would see an amendment in its Section 4.
    • Section 4 gives the power to the central government for appointing the TRAI chairperson who possess special knowledge in the field of telecommunications among other things.
    • So far, TRAI never saw appointment from the private sector as there were no clear eligibility norms so far.
    • The current move envisages appointing any person from the private sector who has an experience of at least three decades and should have served in the capacity of a CEO or a board member in the corporate sector.

About Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • TRAI: It is a is a statutory body established in 1997 through the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, to regulate telecom services, including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services.
  • Objectives: The main objective of TRAI is to provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition.
  • Composition of TRAI:
    • Members: The TRAI consists of a chairperson, two whole-time members and two part-time members, all of which are appointed by the Government of India.
      • Chairperson: The Chairperson has the powers of general superintendence.
      • He/ She presides over the meetings of the TRAI.
  • Removal of Members: The Central Government is empowered to remove any member of the TRAI, if he/she:
    • has been adjudged an insolvent.
    • has been convicted of an offence which involves moral turpitude.
    • has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a member.
    • has abused his/her position, rendering his/her continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest.
  • TRAI Meetings:
    • The Chairperson has the power of organising the meetings at times. He/She presides over the meetings.
    • In the absence of the chairperson, the vice-chairperson presides over the meetings.
    • In the absence of a vice-chairperson, any member can be chosen from the authority to preside over the meeting.
    • The decisions in the meetings are taken by the majority vote of the members present.
    • In the event of an equality of votes, the Chairperson (or the member presiding the meeting) gives a second or casting vote.
  • Makes Recommendations: The function of the TRAI is to make recommendations on the following matters:
    • Need for introduction of new service provider.
    • Revocation of license for non-compliance of terms and conditions of licence.
    • Measures to facilitate competition and promote efficiency in the operation of telecommunication services to facilitate their growth.
    • Technological improvements in the services provided by the service providers.
  • Discharge of Responsibilities: The TRAI is responsible for discharging the following functions:
    • Ensuring the compliance of terms and conditions of licence.
    • Ensuring the technical compatibility and effective interconnection between different service providers.
    • Laying down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers.
    • Ensuring the quality of service and conducting the periodical surveys of such services.
  • Non-Binding Recommendations: The recommendations of the TRAI are not binding upon the Central Government.
  • Powers of TRAI:
    • Order for Furnishing Information: It can call upon any service provider to furnish in writing the information or explanation relating to its affairs as the Authority may require.
    • Appointments for Inquiry: The Authority may appoint one or more persons to make an inquiry in relation to the affairs of any service provider.
    • Order for Inspection: It is empowered to direct any of its officers or employees to inspect the books of accounts or other documents of any service provider.
    • Issue Directions to Service Providers: The Authority shall have the power to issue such directions to service providers as it may consider necessary for proper functioning by service providers.
  • Headquarters: The head office of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is located at New Delhi.

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