IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 9th April 2019
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Army gets Dhanush artillery guns
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Defence and Security issues
- The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) over the first batch of six Dhanush artillery guns to the Army.
- Dhanush is the indigenously upgraded version of the Swedish Bofors gun procured in the 1980s.
- Dhanush is a 155 mm, 45-calibre towed artillery gun with a range of 36 km and has demonstrated a range of 38 km with specialised ammunition.
- It is an upgrade of the existing 155m, 39 calibre Bofors FH 77 gun. It is compatible with all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 155 mm ammunition system.
Do you know?
- 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.
National Institution Ranking Framework (NIRF) for 2019
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Education; Human Resource Development; Governance
- IIT Madras has topped the Centre’s ranking of higher education institutions, followed by the IISc, Bengaluru, and IIT Delhi.
- Seven IITs appear in the top 10 list.
- Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and Banares Hindu University, Varanasi, take the remaining places.
- Announcing the rankings, President Ram Nath Kovind said “Recent expansion in higher education has widened access and improved equity. Even so, quality remains a concern”.
Do you know?
- Management rankings are topped by IIM-Bangalore, while XLRI, Jamshedpur, is the only institute apart from IIMs in the top 10.
- Delhi’s Miranda House tops the list of colleges, followed by Hindu College, Delhi, and Presidency College, Chennai. VIT, Vellore, tops the list of private or self-financed institutions.
Important Value Additions:
- The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was approved by the MHRD and launched by the Minister of Human Resource Development on September 29, 2015.
- This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. The methodology draws from the overall recommendations broad understanding arrived at by a core committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions.
- The parameters broadly cover Teaching, Learning and Resources, Research and Professional Practices, Graduation Outcomes, Outreach and Inclusivity, and Perception.
Sri Lanka seeks enhanced military training from India
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and its neighbours; International Relations
- Sri Lanka has sought enhanced military training from India.
- India and Sri Lanka agreed to increase cooperation in security and defence spheres in several areas, including regional security, curbing drug smuggling and human trafficking and training of members of the security forces.
Do you know?
- Currently, over 60% of Sri Lanka’s military personnel pursue their young officers’ course, junior and senior command courses in India, according to defence sources in Colombo.
‘Exercise Mitra Shakti’
- Joint military training exercise between the Indian Army and the Sri Lankan Army
- 6th edition was concluded in Badulla district, in Sri Lanka’s Central Province
- The two-week programme is part of an initiative that began in 2013 as part of military diplomacy between India and Sri Lanka.
TOPIC: General studies 2
- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Open up the Supreme Court
Today’s editorial deals with the following issues –
- 2009 Delhi HC judgment on RTI and Judiciary
- Whether Judiciary (Office of the CJI) comes under the purview of RTI Act?
- SC’s stand on the issue – esp. concerned with – whether CJI is a public authority; disclosure of the information on judges’ assets and correspondence of the Collegium
- Criticism of Collegium system and need for transparency in judges appointments
- High Court of Delhi (Justice Ravindra Bhat), in its 2009 landmark judgment, held that the Office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a “public authority”, and therefore, subject to the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
- Therefore, information held by the CJI (such as some context of the case or information about judges’ assets) could be requested by the public through an RTI application.
- However, the Supreme Court appealed against this judgment and a stay was granted. Matters remained in limbo for a few years.
- But recently a five-judge Bench of the court finally heard the case on merits, and reserved judgment.
The issues under consideration involved –
- Justice Ravindra Bhat’s ruling on the status of the Chief Justice as a public authority and the disclosure of judges’ assets.
- Also on 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 following should be our stand on some questions/areas:
Does the Office of the CJI come under the purview of RTI Act?
- Justice Ravindra Bhat had also correctly observed in the High Court judgment that “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”.
- Judiciary is one among the powerful organs of state and hence, workings of the courts have to be as transparent and open to public scrutiny as any other body.
Would bringing the judiciary under the RTI Act destroy the personal privacy of judges?
- RTI Act itself has an inbuilt privacy-oriented protection, which authorises withholding the disclosure of personal information unless there is an overriding public interest.
Can public request information related to judges’ assets?
- Disclosure of assets is arguably justified by an overriding public interest.
On disclosure of the correspondence of the Collegium
- This was the hot issue during the recent hearing.
- Attorney-General of India, who represented the Supreme Court before the Constitution Bench, argued that disclosing the correspondence of the Collegium would “destroy” judicial independence.
- The CJI also seemed to agree, noting that disclosing the reasons for rejection of a judge would “destroy” his or her life or career.
Do you know?
- 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.
- Therefore, the Collegium began life as a tool to secure and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.
We are aware of “National Judicial Appointments Commission”, which was suggested as an alternative to Collegium system. But NJAC was struck down by the SC in 2015.
Why was NJAC struck down by the SC?
- SC bench had held that judicial primacy in appointments was the only constitutionally-authorised way of securing/ensuring judicial independence against an increasingly powerful political executive.
- However, the Collegium had come under increasing criticism, because of its opacity and perceived notion that judicial appointments were too often made in an ad hoc and arbitrary manner.
- SC too acknowledged the above criticism and vowed to evolve a system where concerns of transparency will be 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.
Self-serving attitude of Judiciary
- Collegium system was specifically put in place by the Supreme Court in order to guarantee judicial independence.
- Judiciary or SC’s stand 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, seems self-serving.
- SC has instituted a process of appointment that makes itself the final arbiter of judicial appointments. It should be the responsibility of SC to also ensure that that same process meets the standards of accountability in a democratic republic.
Except India, judicial appointments elsewhere suggest that transparency in appointments is integral to the process.
For example –
- In the US, 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.
However, in India, the Collegium 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 had led to extremely unhealthy climate, in which rumours become staple, and whispers about executive interference are exchanged in court corridors.
In the name of transparency, one should not destroy an institution.
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.
Connecting the dots:
- Do you think Judiciary should be exempted from the purview of the RTI Act? Elucidate your opinion.
- The Judiciary must be brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act to address the lack of transparency in its processes and functioning. Do you agree? Critically examine.
- The independence of judiciary is necessary for ensuring its smooth functioning but at the same time transparency in the process of appointing judges is equally vital. Critically comment.
TOPIC: General studies 2
- India and its neighbourhood- relations
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Key points from the editorial –
- For Maldivians, the election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September 2018 meant a possible opening up of democratic space in the country.
- Former President Abdulla Yameen’s term was considered to be authoritarian and tilted towards China. India and Maldives ties were low.
- President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s victory in the Maldivian presidential elections has recalibrated his country’s ties with India.
India-Maldives ties under Solih’s regime:
- Since Solih’s government came to power, India-Maldives ties have undergone a dramatic change, marked by renewed cooperation, close dialogue and multiple high-level visits from both sides.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended President Solih’s swearing-in ceremony.
- India’s people-oriented projects like providing fresh water, sanitation, sewerage are deeply appreciated by the people of Maldives.
- Building roads and moving the Male commercial harbour to Thilafushi [island west of Male] are huge projects that are going to be major symbols of cooperation between the two countries.
(* Thilafushi is an artificial island created as a municipal landfill situated to the west of Malé. Thilafushi originally was a lagoon called “Thilafalhu”)
India-Maldives ties under previous President (Abdulla Yameen) regime – Between 2013 and 2018
- As mentioned above, India and Maldives ties were low.
- President Yameen’s administration was seen as tilting heavily towards China amid growing tensions with India.
Importance of India to Maldives:
- People-to-people contact: Many Maldivians live in India.
- At times of need, Maldives always sees India as the first respondent.
- For instance, on November 3, 1988, when mercenaries attacked the Maldives, India was the first to respond. In 2004, when the tsunami hit Maldives, Indian naval ships were despatched to assist them.
- During last year Male water crisis, within four hours Indian Navy and Air Force vessels were successful in delivering water.
Why Maldives is important for India?
- Geopolitical location of the Maldives – Maldives is strategically located in the Indian Ocean and important to ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to countries and connectivity.
- Freedom of maritime trade in the Indian Ocean
- The Eight Degree Channel is one of the major maritime lanes of the world.
- A stable, mature and democratic Maldives will help to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean.
Connecting the dots:
- What significance Maldives hold for India? Discuss. Also enumerate the irritants in Indo-Maldives relations. How do you assess the present status of relationship?
- Discuss the political developments in Maldives in the last two years. Should they be of any cause of concern to India? (UPSC mains 2013)
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
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Q.1) Thilafushi island was in news. It is situated in –
Q.2) Mission Shakti is associated with –
- India and Sri Lanka
- India and Maldives
- India and US
- None of the above
Q.3) Consider the following statements with reference to The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)
- It is a methodology to rank institutions of higher education across India.
- The ranking is prepared by NITI Aayog.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
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