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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | PDF Download

Date: 09 April 2019

MCQ

  1. World Health Day 2019 was observed worldwide on the 7th of April with the theme “Universal health coverage”.
  2. The World Health Day is celebrated on April 7, 1945 to commemorate the establishment of WHO which came into being to address vital health care issues.

Choose correct

(A) Only 1

(B) Only 2

(C) Both

(D)None

  • The World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other related organizations.
  • In 1948, the WHO held the First World Health Assembly. The Assembly decided to celebrate 7 April of each year, with effect from 1950, as the World Health Day. The World Health Day is held to mark WHO's founding, and is seen as an opportunity by the organization to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year. The WHO organizes international, regional and local events on the Day related to a particular theme. World Health Day is acknowledged by various governments and nongovernmental organizations with interests in public health issues, who also organize activities and highlight their support in media reports, such as the Global Health Council.
  • World Health Day is one of eight official global health campaigns marked by WHO, along with World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World AIDS Day, World Blood Donor Day, and World Hepatitis Day

MCQ 

  1. The first-ever global coalition on clean and efficient cooling was launched at the First Global Conference on Synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement, which concluded on April 3, 2019, in Bern, Switzerland
  2. The Global Cool Coalition is a unified front that links action across the Kigali Amendment, Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

Choose correct

(A) Only 1

(B) Only 2

(C) Both

(D) None

  • The first-ever global coalition on clean and efficient cooling was launched at the First Global Conference on Synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement, which concluded on April 3, 2019, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • As the world gets warmer, the demand for air conditioners is projected to grow and the greenhouse gas it emits will endanger the planet.
  • Clean, efficient cooling appliances and equipment can save up to $2.9 trillion in energy use by 2050, and help avoid 0.4° Celsius warming of the planet, said the United Nations-backed ‘Cool Coalition’ comprising 23 members.
  • Besides the UN, it is supported by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). It includes government officials from Chile, Rwanda, Denmark as well as leaders from civil society, research and academia.

Open up the Supreme Court

  • A judiciary confident of its place in a democratic republic must not worry about public scrutiny of judicial appointments
  • Almost 10 years ago, on September 2, 2009, the High Court of Delhi handed down a landmark judgment dealing with the fledgling Right to Information (RTI) Act. It held that the Office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a “public authority”, and therefore, subject to the provisions of the Act. Information held by the CJI — including, in the context of the case, information about judges’ assets — could be requested by the public through an RTI application. In ringing words, Justice Ravindra Bhat declared that the RTI was a “powerful beacon, which illuminates unlit corners of state activity, and those of public authorities which impact citizens’ daily lives, to which they previously had no access”.
  • The Supreme Court appealed against this judgment, and the case eventually wound its way to the Supreme Court, where a stay was granted, and matters remained in limbo for a few years. Earlier this month, however, a five-judge Bench of the court finally heard the case on merits, and reserved judgment. By this time, the issues under consideration involved not only Justice Bhat’s ruling on the status of the Chief Justice as a public authority and the disclosure of judges’ assets, but also the question of whether the correspondence of the Collegium (the body of judges that selects and makes appointments to the higher judiciary) was subject to the RTI.

The Basic Question

  • The basic question, i.e. whether or not the Office of the CJI is subject to the RTI Act, has an easy answer: yes. As Justice Bhat correctly observed in the High Court judgment, “all power — judicial power being no exception — is held accountable in a modern Constitution”. A blanket judicial exemption from the RTI Act would defeat the basic idea of “open justice”: that the workings of the courts, as powerful organs of state, have to be as transparent and open to public scrutiny as any other body. Nor would bringing the judiciary under the RTI Act destroy the personal privacy of judges: as the High Court judgment noted, the RTI Act itself has an inbuilt privacy-oriented protection, which authorizes withholding the disclosure of personal information unless there is an overriding public interest. While disclosure of assets is arguably justified by an overriding public interest, medical details or information about marital status, for example, are clearly not. There will always be borderline cases, of course, but that only calls for nuanced and finegrained analysis of such cases, nothing more.

The Collegium

  • During the hearings, however, the question most at issue involved the disclosure of the correspondence of the Collegium. The Collegium includes the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, who collectively constitute the selection panel for judicial appointments to the Supreme Court (and the three senior-most judges when it comes to the High Courts).
  • India is one of the few countries where judges have the last word on judicial appointments, through the mechanism of the Collegium.
  • The Collegium itself is not mentioned in the text of the Constitution: it arose out of a judgment of the Supreme Court, and in response to increased executive interference in judicial appointments, particularly during Indira Gandhi’s regime.
  • The Collegium began life, therefore, as a tool to secure and guarantee the independence of the judiciary. In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down a constitutional amendment establishing a National Judicial Appointments Commission, which would have replaced the Collegium. A majority of the fivejudge Bench held that judicial primacy in appointments was the only constitutionally-authorised way of securing/ensuring judicial independence against an increasingly powerful political executive.
  • Through this time, however, the Collegium had come under increasing criticism. A major point of critique was its opacity: it was increasingly being perceived that judicial appointments were too often made in an ad hoc and arbitrary manner. Perhaps the most vivid example of this was when former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju admitted that, as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, he had refused to recommend a High Court lawyer for judgeship because that lawyer was in a live-in relationship without being married. One may wonder what connection there is between a lawyer’s marital status and his ability to discharge judicial functions, but this was, at any rate, a stark example of what the critics had in mind. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s own NJAC judgment acknowledged this critique, and vowed to evolve a system where concerns of transparency were addressed. A small step towards this was made during Dipak Misra’s tenure as CJI, when the resolutions of the Collegium began to be published online.
  • It is in this context that we must examine the arguments of the AttorneyGeneral of India, who represented the Supreme Court before the Constitution Bench. The AG argued that disclosing the correspondence of the Collegium would “destroy” judicial independence. The CJI seemed to agree, noting that disclosing the reasons for rejection of a judge would “destroy” his or her life or career.
  • This is, however, a bewildering argument, when we consider that the Collegium system was specifically put in place by the Supreme Court in order to guarantee judicial independence. It is rather self-serving to argue, first, that there is only one permissible method to secure judicial independence — and that is through ensuring judicial primacy in the appointments process — and then to argue that the only permissible way in which this system can work is by making it immune to transparency. The Supreme Court cannot eat its cake and have it too: if it has instituted a process of appointment that makes itself the final arbiter of judicial appointments, then it must also ensure that that same process meets the standards of accountability in a democratic republic.
  • Indeed, a look at judicial appointments elsewhere suggests that transparency in appointments is integral to the process. In the United States, for example, candidates for judicial appointments in the federal judiciary are subjected to public confirmation hearings by the Senate. In Kenya and South Africa, the interviews of candidates taken by judicial appointments commissions are broadcast live. The public, thus, is in a position to judge for itself the selection process. This is crucial to maintaining public faith in the impartiality of the institution.
  • The Collegium, however, has immunised itself from any form of public scrutiny. The nomination process is secret, the deliberations are secret, the reasons for elevation or non-elevation are secret. This creates an extremely unhealthy climate, in which rumours become staple, and whispers about executive interference are exchanged in court corridors. CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s publicly stated concern that “in the name of transparency, you cannot destroy an institution” betrays a refusal to engage with the manner in which institutions are actually destroyed: in an insidious and incremental manner, through the slow drip-drip erosion of trust.
  • Open to sunlight
  • “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” is a trite and overused phrase.
  • In the context of public scrutiny of the Supreme Court, however, it is an apt one.
  • The Collegium’s recent decisions to recommend a set of names for elevation, and then hastily backtrack on them without any publicly stated reasons, dealt a serious blow to its reputation for impartiality and independence.
  • The only way to salvage this is to open up the court. A judiciary that is confident of itself and of its place in the democratic republic should not be worried about subjecting judicial appointments to public scrutiny. The occasional discomfort that might come from the harsh public glare is more than outweighed by the cleansing value of transparency.

Playing politics over the Golan Heights

  • U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty is a challenge to the rulesbased international order
  • Third pro-Israel step
  • This was another major pro-Israel step Mr. Trump has taken as President. On May 8, 2018, he had walked out of the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with Iran, negotiated by the Obama administration with provisions for sanctions relief in response for Iranian restrictions on its nuclear programme. Israel had opposed the agreement and any sanctions relief for Iran, seeing a continuing threat to itself from Iran’s growing presence in Syria, its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, its refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist, and its military capabilities.
  • Before that, on December 6, 2017, in a speech from the White House, Mr. Trump had declared: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” He also proceeded to close the Palestinian office in Washington DC, as well as U.S. consulate in Jerusalem dealing with the Palestinian Authority.
  • Hitherto, U.S. policy had been that any formalisation of status changes on the ground, following Israel’s victory and gains in the 1967 Israel-Arab conflict, could only flow from negotiations among parties concerned. UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) had asserted inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force, and called for Israeli withdrawal. UNSCR 497 (1981) had declared that “Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect”.
  • On March 21, U.S. President Donald Trump upended another long-standing American policy, tweeting: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”
  • Mr. Trump’s decisions have a bearing on U.S. and Israeli domestic politics. The American Jewish community, traditionally around 65% Democratic, has grown in its support for him, despite an increase in anti-Semitism within the U.S. because of his encouragement to right-wing groups. His base among Evangelical Christians backs Israel. Some of the major contributors to his campaign are also ardent supporters of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a tough election on April 9, and under threat of indictment for corruption and misdemeanour, is touting his influence on Mr. Trump as having potential for further gains for Israel. To consolidate right-wing support for himself, he just announced that if re-elected he would not carry out any withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank, putting an end to the “land for peace” formula advocated since the Camp David Accords of 1979.
  • Faced with international opposition, Israel and its supporters have, in the past too, leveraged the support of the leading global power of the time to advance their cause. On November 2, 1917, Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, declared that “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.
  • This eventually led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, despite Palestinian and Arab opposition. In an April 14, 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. President George W. Bush stated that “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949” (position before the 1967 conflict). This has been interpreted by many in Israel as beginning of the process of establishing the legitimacy of Israeli/Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and denting the viability of a fully sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu’s latest announcement would take this another step further. In Israeli political discourse, which has moved over time to the right, many now question the possibility of a two-state solution. The constraint for Israel is that its goal of a democratic and Jewish state would be difficult to achieve in a one-state solution with current near equal proportions of Arab and Jewish populations.
  • Mr. Trump’s announcement on Golan Heights goes a step further. The Syrian Golan was part of the French post-World War I mandate, and hence technically not covered by the Balfour Declaration. Mr. Trump is now seeking to extend recognition of Israeli sovereignty to an area beyond Balfour, beyond the UN partition plan for Palestine in the 1940s, and beyond the outcome of the 1948/49 Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • In his proclamation of March 25, issued in presence of the visiting Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Trump cited Israeli security interests and regional threats. The present situation in Syria is no doubt a factor. The U.S. wants to draw down its military presence, Russia and Iran have significantly enhanced their presence and influence. Israel is concerned about Iranian presence beyond Golan in Syria and that of Hezbollah on the Lebanese side. It has repeatedly targeted Iranian positions and supplies, including to Hezbollah. Following Mr. Trump’s announcement, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted that to allow Golan Heights “to be controlled by the likes of the Syrian or Iranian regimes would turn a blind eye to the atrocities of Assad and the destabilizing presence of Iran in the region”.

Tepid Global Response

  • The new U.S. position has not received support from any other country, including its European allies. While Iran, Russia, Turkey, among others, have been critical, the Arab response has been assessed as insufficiently strident. This is no doubt a reflection of reduced influence in Washington, with greater U.S. leverage on oil supplies, divisions among Arab countries over Qatar, pressure on Saudi Arabia because of Yemen and the Jamal Khashoggi issue. India’s interests are not directly involved immediately. It has a strong and growing relationship with Israel, and has maintained its relations with Syria. Indian troops have been a part of UN peacekeeping presence on the Golan Heights. Mr. Trump’s move, however, is indicative of shifting geopolitics in the West Asian region, with longer-term implications for India. It also asserts unilateralism, is a challenge to a rules-based international order, and is contrary to positions U.S. has taken elsewhere, as for instance in its response to Russia and Crimea.

Army gets first batch of Dhanush, homemade Bofors artillery guns, from OFB

  • The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) on Monday handed over the first batch of six Dhanush artillery guns to the Army. Dhanush is the indigenously upgraded gun of the Swedish Bofors gun procured in the 1980s.

  • The first phase of trials were conducted between July and September 2016 at Pokhran and Babina ranges and the second phase was held between October and December 2016 at the Siachen base camp with three guns. The last round of user exploitation trials were completed with six guns in June last year.
  • The gun is fitted with inertial navigation system with global positioning system- (GPS) based gun recording and auto-laying, an enhanced tactical computer for onboard ballistic computations, an onboard muzzle velocity recording, an automated gun sighting system equipped with camera, thermal imaging and laser range finder
  • All 114 guns are expected to be delivered within four years. The OFB has already undertaken capacity augmentation to manufacture over 400 barrels and 250 ordnances for large calibre weapon systems. “The OFB is confident of producing 8-10 guns a month within two to three years,” an OFB official stated.