19 October, 2020
- Self-Assessment test
- Politicisation of the office of Governor (Polity & Governance)
- Police reforms (Polity & Governance)
- National Green tribunal (Polity & Governance)
- Hunger Index (Economy)
- Skinks and Zoological Survey of India (Environment)
- Judicial accountability (Reference)
- Question for the day (Polity & Governance)
UPSC Current Affairs: Politicization of the office of governor | Page 06
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Politicization of the office of governor | UPSC
Context - The article throws light on the politicization of the office of governor. The Governor’s office has often courted controversy for the incumbent’s political views. In this background let us understand the issues with the office of the governor that have made this position to be influenced by the politics of the day.
- Governor is a vital link between the Centre and the states.
- Role of a governor is to act in an impartial, neutral and unbiased manner. Also there is a need to promote cooperative Federalism.
- However, the role of Governor has been controversial especially with regards to exercise of the Discretionary powers.
Discretionary Powers of the Governor
- Give Assent or withhold the Bill passes by state legislative
- Refer the bill for Presidential Assent under Article 200
- Appointment of Chief Minister under Article 164
- Dismissal of the Government which has lost confidence but refuses to quit
- Governor’s Report under Article 35
Appointment and Removal of the Governor
Article 155 - Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal
Article 156 - Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President
Qualifications : Citizen of India and he/she must have completed the age of 35 years.
Reforms based on Sarkaria Commission and Punchhi Commission’s Recommendations:
- He should be eminent in some walk of life;
- He should be a person from outside the State;
- He should be a detached figure and not too intimately connected with the local politics of the States; and
- He should be a person who has not taken too great a part in politics generally and particularly in the recent past.
The phrase “during the pleasure of the President”; may be deleted from Article 156 of the Constitution. A provision may be made for the impeachment of the Governor by the State Legislature on the same lines as the impeachment of the President by the Parliament.
Upon end of Tenure
Governor should not be eligible for any other appointment under the Union or a State Government except for a second term as Governor, or election as Vice-President or President of India. Further, the Governor shall not return to active partisan politics.
UPSC Current Affairs: Still awaiting police reforms|Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Police reform | UPSC
UPSC Current Affairs: The hues in the green tribunal’s resilient journey | Page 06
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: NGT| Environmental Governance | UPSC
Over 10 years, the NGT has made a difference to environmental protection, helped by a new tribe of legal practitioners.
October 18, 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the National Green Tribunal (NGT)
Several years prior to my tenure, Parliament had passed laws related to the establishment of a National Environment Tribunal (1995) and a National Environment Appellate Authority (1997). The Authority was intended to act primarily as a forum for challenges to environmental clearances while the Tribunal could award limited amounts of compensation in cases of environmental damage to life or property. In my opinion, these did not go far enough in terms of jurisdiction, authority, impact, or autonomy.
What is National Green Tribunal (NGT)?
- It is a specialised body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand.
Structure of NGT
- The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
- The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- A Selection Committee shall be formed by central government to appoint the Judicial Members and Expert Members.
- There are to be least 10 and maximum 20 full time Judicial members and Expert Members in the tribunal.
- The NGT has five places of sittings, New Delhi is the Principal place of sitting and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four.
Powers & Jurisdiction
- The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving substantial question relating to environment.
- NGT also has appellate jurisdiction to hear appeal as a Court (Tribunal).
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, but shall be guided by principles of 'natural justice'.
- While passing any order/decision/ award, it shall apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.
- NGT by an order, can provide
- relief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage (including accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance),
- for restitution of property damaged, and
- for restitution of the environment for such area or areas, as the Tribunal may think fit.
- An order/decision/award of Tribunal is executable as a decree of a civil court.
- The NGT Act also provide penalty (Both fine and imprisonment) for non-compliance.
- An appeal against order/decision/ award of the NGT lies to the Supreme Court, generally within ninety days from the date of communication.
- The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment, these include:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974,
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977,
- The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
Strengths of NGT
- NGT offers a path for the evolution of environmental jurisprudence by setting up an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
- It plays a crucial role in curbing environment-damaging activities.
- It helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts on environmental matters.
- NGT is less formal, less expensive, and a faster way of resolving environment related disputes.
- The NGT has been instrumental in ensuring that the Environment Impact Assessment process is strictly observed.
- The Chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment, hence they are likely to deliver judgements independently, without succumbing to pressure from any quarter.
Important Landmark Judgements of NGT
- In 2012, POSCO a steelmaker company signed a MoU with the Odisha government to set up steel project. NGT suspended order and this was considered a radical step in favour of the local communities and forests.
- In 2013 in Uttarakhand floods case, the Alaknanda Hydro Power Co. Ltd. was ordered to compensate to the petitioner – here, the NGT directly relied on the principle of ‘polluter pays’.
- In 2015, the NGT ordered that all diesel vehicles over 10 years old will not be permitted to ply in Delhi-NCR.
- In 2017, the Art of Living Festival on Yamuna Food Plain was declared violating the environmental norms, the NGT panel imposed a penalty of Rs. 5 Crore.
- The NGT, in 2017, imposed an interim ban on plastic bags of less than 50-micron thickness in Delhi because “they were causing animal deaths, clogging sewers and harming the environment”.
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction. This restricts the jurisdiction area of NGT and at times hampers its functioning as crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to environment.
- The NGT decisions are being challenged in various High Courts under Article 226 (power of High Courts to issue certain writs) with many asserting the superiority of a High Court over the NGT, claiming ‘High Court is a constitutional body while NGT is a statutory body’.” This is one of the weaknesses of the Act as there is lack of clarity about what kind of decisions can be challenged; even though according to the NGT Act, its decision can be challenged before the Supreme Court.
- Decisions of NGT have also been criticised and challenged due to their repercussions on economic growth and development.
- The justice delivery mechanism is also hindered by limited number of regional benches.
There is need for more autonomy and widen NGT’s scope for effective protection of environment in balance with human developmental activities.
UPSC Current Affairs: No great escape | Page 06
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II - Polity & Governance + Social Justice
Sub Theme: Hunger & Nutrition | Global Hunger index | UPSC
India’s progress on nutritional indices has been poor. This year’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) puts India in a dismal position –
- India has been ranked same as Sudan - 94 among 107 countries.
- India continues to be in the “serious” hunger category.
- India’s score of 27.2 is the worst among BRICS countries, and inferior to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Global Hunger Index is Jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. The index is calculated on the basis of four indicators:
§ Undernourishment: Share of the population with insufficient caloric intake.
§ Child Wasting: Share of children under age five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
§ Child Stunting: Share of children under age five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
§ Child Mortality: The mortality rate of children under the age of five.
NFHS-4 of 2015-16 also points to poor nutritional status in India. The NFHS-4 found that under-five stunting from chronic undernourishment stood at 38%, and wasting, a result of acute lack of nutrition, at 21%. These data represent some progress, at a drop of about 10 percentage points in both categories compared to a decade earlier, although steady economic prosperity should have yielded a far bigger social dividend.
Government policies have paid inadequate attention to achieve diet diversity through the PDS. We have also falsely equated energy calories with a diverse diet. India’s low global rank in tackling nutritional deficits calls for a revamped PDS.
The existing deprivation has been aggravated by the pandemic, with food inflation putting pressure on depleted incomes or meagre pensions and savings.
- Strengthening the PDS, with a focus on women’s health, would lead to healthier pregnancies, and stronger supplemental nutrition under the ICDS scheme would give children a better chance at all-round development.
- Governments should expand access to maternal and child health care,as well as education on healthy diets and child feeding practices.
- Supporting smallholder farmersin becoming sustainable and diversified producers; governments must seek to improve those farmers’ access to agricultural inputs and extension services, coupling local and indigenous agricultural knowledge with new technologies.
- Existing human rights-based multilateral mechanismsand international standards—such as the Committee on World Food Security—must be strengthened to support inclusive policy making and sustainable food systems.
- Food should be priced not only by its weight or volume but also by its nutrient density,its freedom from contamination, and its contribution to ecosystem services and social justice.
Much work is necessary to bring the true benefits of the National Food Security Act to the unreached, not merely as hunger mitigation through cereals, but as nourishment through a diverse diet that includes fat, protein and micronutrients. The right to food would be meaningless if it leaves a large section of Indians hungry, stunted and wasted.
UPSC Current Affairs: Celebrating skinks, ZSI lists 62 species in India | Page 01
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III – Environment & Ecology
Sub Theme: Skinks | UPSC
A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) reveals that India is home to 62 species of skinks and says about 57% of all the skinks found in India (33 species) are endemic.
The publication is a result of four years of work and study of over 4,000 specimens in all 16 regional centres of ZSI and also at the Bombay Natural History Society, Indian Institute of Science, Wildlife Institute of India, and the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History.
- They are a group of lizards, which are found in all kinds of habitats in the country, from the Himalayas to the coasts and from dense forests to the deserts.
- They are highly alert, agile and fast moving and actively look for a variety of insects and small invertebrates.
- While a lot of work is done on other groups of reptiles like snakes or geckos, skinks are an ignored species.
- With 1,602 species of skinks across the world, it the largest family of lizards. India has 4 % of the global diversity.
- Most species of skinks have no pronounced neck and relatively small legs. This make their movements resemble those of snakes, leading people to have incorrect notion that they are venomous. This results in several of these harmless creatures being killed.
Zoological Survey of India
- The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), a subordinate organization of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was established in 1916.
- It is a national centre for faunistic survey and exploration of the resources leading to the advancement of knowledge on the exceptionally rich faunal diversity of the country.
- It has its headquarters at Kolkata and 16 regional stations located in different geographic locations of the country.