Current Affairs (15th July 2021)
Dismissal of J&K govt employees
- Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has dismissed 11 Jammu and Kashmir government employees for alleged terror links under provisions of Article 311(2)(c) of the Constitution.
- Article 311 of the Constitution deals with ‘Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State’.
- Under Article 311(2), no civil servant can be “dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges’’.
- Subsection (c) of the provision, however, says this clause shall not apply “where the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that in the interest of the security of the State it is not expedient to hold such inquiry”.
- Section 126 of the constitution of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir too, while providing safeguards to civil servants/government employees like in Article 311 of the Indian Constitution, laid down exceptions under which a person could be dismissed without holding an inquiry.
- The only available remedy to a terminated employees is to challenge the government’s decision in the High Court.
- SpaceIL, the nonprofit Israeli initiative has secured $70 million fund to make a second attempt at a lunar landing through Beresheet Project.
- Beresheet 1 or “Genesis spacecraft” built by SpaceIL suffered technical malfunctions and crashed on the moon in 2019.
- Beresheet 2 was announced in 2020, aiming at landing an unmanned craft on the moon in 2024.
- It plans to set new global space records through a double landing on the moon and the instalment of the lightest ever moon landers, each weighing 60 kg without fuel.
- The objective of this mission is to conduct experiments and collect data on behalf of school students.
- It will be composed of three spacecraft – an orbiter named Mothership’ and two landers – that would circle the moon for years.
- The mission hopes to follow China in becoming only the second to successfully land on the far side of the moon.
- Israel would become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, only after the former Soviet Union, the US and China.
RBI Retail Direct Scheme
- RBI announced that the ‘RBI Retail Direct Scheme’, a one-stop solution to facilitate investment in Government Securities (G-secs) by retail investors (individuals).
- Under the scheme, the investors will have the facility to open and maintain the ‘Retail Direct Gilt Account’ (RDG Account) with the RBI.
- A “Gilt Account” means an account opened and maintained for holding Government securities. Instead of money, the account is debited or credited with treasury bills or government securities.
- RDG account can be opened through an online portal provided for the purpose of the scheme. The online portal will give registered users access to primary issuance of G-secs and access to Negotiated Dealing System-Order Matching system (NDS-OM).
- NDS-OM is an electronic, screen-based, anonymous, order-driven trading system for dealing in government securities. It was introduced by the RBI in 2005.
- They are non-professional investors who buy and sell securities or funds that contain a basket of securities such as mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs).
- They execute their trades through traditional or online brokerage firms.
- They purchase securities for their own personal accounts and often trade in dramatically smaller amounts as compared to institutional investors.
- It is an umbrella term for larger-scale investments by professional portfolio and fund managers.
- They are the big players in the market who move big money.
- Examples – Pension funds, Mutual funds, Money managers, Insurance companies, Investment banks, Commercial trusts, Endowment funds for a university or college, Hedge funds, Private equity firms or investors, etc
Unlawful Activities Prevention (UAPA) Act
- The death of Father Stan Swamy in judicial custody has brought into focus the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
- There has been a rise in the use of UAPA over the past few years. Many activists, journalists and students have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in different cases across the country.
- As per the 2019 Crime in India Report compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of persons arrested under the Act in 2019 is 1,948.
- The Act was first promulgated in 1967 to target secessionist organisations and considered to be a predecessor of laws such as the (now repealed) Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
- It aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
- Unlawful activity refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.
- The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
India’s trade with China soared 62% in H1
- Data released by China’s General Administration of Customs on India-China trade.
- Bilateral trade between India and China in the first six months of 2021 has hit $57.48 bn. This figure is the highest on record for the first half of a year.
- India’s trade with China in the first half of 2021 has risen by a record 62.7% — the highest increase among China’s major trade partners.
- India’s imports were driven by record purchases of medical supplies. India’s exports to China climbed 69.6% driven by exports of iron ore, cotton, and other raw material-based commodities.
- A continued aspect of concern is the skewed trade relation in favour of China. The trade deficitfor the first six months stood at $28.04 billion.
- On July 11, British businessman Richard Branson beat rival Jeff Bezos to reach the edge of space, giving space tourism an official kickstart. But experts and space enthusiasts are in doubt whether the height to which he travelled can be termed ‘space’.
- The most widely accepted boundary of space is known as the Kármán line, 100km above mean sea level.
- But the United States uses 80km as the cutoff point. Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight reached a height of 86km while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight is expected to go about 106km high.
- The Kármán line has been compared to international waters, as there are no national boundaries and human laws in force beyond the line. Above this level, there would be free space.
- It was named after aerospace pioneer Theodore von Kármán.
Why do we need a Kármán line?
- The 1967 Outer Space Treaty says that space should be accessible to all countries and can be freely and scientifically investigated.
- Defining a legal boundary of what and where space is can help avoid disputes and keep track of space activities and human space travel.
Layers of the atmosphere
- The Earth’s atmosphere has been divided into various layers, with the troposphere starting at the Earth’s surface and extending about 14.5 km high, stratosphere extending to 50 km, mesosphere to 85 km, thermosphere to 600 kilometers and exosphere to 10,000 km.
Misuse of Anti-Terror Laws
- Recently, a Supreme Court Judge has said that “criminal law, including anti-terror legislation, should not be misused for quelling dissent or for the harassment of citizens”.
- The Judge also said that the Supreme Court “plays the role of a counter-majoritarian institution and so it is the Court’s “duty to protect the rights of socio-economic minorities”.
Supreme Court’s Role
- Guardian of Constitution: As the guardian of the Constitution, it has to put a break where executive or legislative actions infringe fundamental human rights.
- First line of defence: In Arnab Goswami v. The State of Maharashtra &Ors, SC held that Courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of liberty of citizens. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions.
- Changed course of Indian history: SC’s interventions have changed the course of Indian history — be it in protecting civil and political liberties which cast a negative obligation on the State, or in directing the State to implement socio-economic rights as obligations under the Constitution.
- Judicial Activism: These interventions of the Indian Supreme Court have been termed as ‘judicial activism’ or ‘judicial overreach’. The Court plays the role of a counter-majoritarian institution and it is its duty to protect the rights of socio-economic minorities.
- Separation of powers: Judges of the Supreme Court of India are careful to maintain the separation of powers, the scheme of checks and balances through supervision results in a certain degree of interference by one branch into the functioning of the other.
- The Supreme Court, while dealing with the issue, “was cautious that it could not transgress into the domain of policymaking and usurp the role of the executive.
- Constitutional Conscience call: The Supreme Court has to act in furtherance of its role as sentinel on the qui vive and respond to the call of constitutional conscience and it is this role that prompts it to address the challenges of the 21st century, ranging from the pandemic to the rise of intolerance, features which we find across the world.