Thursday, 11 June 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 05/06/2015

An inappropriate appointment
Justice Sathasivam is in the running for the office of chairperson of NHRC. However, his earlier acceptance of a governor’s post makes him eminently unsuitable for the sensitive job
  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is the premier body that investigates abuses and violations of human rights in India. Set up in 1993, the NHRC has wide-ranging powers to investigate, recommend prosecutions, and award compensations for human rights violations. High-profile cases investigated by the Commission include encounter killings by the police and other acts of violence by the state. In 2002, the Commission under former Chief Justice J.S. Verma, was the first official body to visit Gujarat after the riots; it moved the Supreme Court to transfer cases outside the State to secure a fair trial.
  • The NHRC, set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, consists of nine members. Four are ex-office appointments — serving Chairpersons of the National Commissions for Minorities, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women. Two are persons who have done work in the area of human rights. And three are from the judiciary: a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court; a Chief Justice of a High Court; and, the most important of all, a former Chief Justice of India (CJI) who heads the Commission.
Needing an icon of independence
  • That the head has to be a former CJI is for good reason. Commonly, human rights violations are committed by, or with the connivance of, or allowed to be perpetrated by high-level political leaders, the police or other officers. The public needs to have unquestionable confidence that these cases will be investigated without a tinge of favour, by the most independent persons available. The Commission’s public face and guiding force is the Chairperson. Hence, the insistence on a former CJI as the Chairperson of the Commission. Even a puisne judge of the Supreme Court is not to be considered for the post; nothing less than a person who has occupied the highest rank in the judiciary will do. If there is an icon of independence in the country who has received no favour from the government and is fearless about tackling the powers that be, surely it is the CJI. So proceeds the Act.
  • Justice P. Sathasivam held the office of the CJI from July 2013 to April 2014. Shortly thereafter, the government offered him the position of Governor of Kerala. He accepted, setting off a chorus of criticism. One former CJI, when asked for his reaction, enigmatically and crisply commented that “standards differ”. Lawyers and retired judges pointed out that the office of the CJI was being devalued. Its holder was part of a constitutional triumvirate of power along with the President and the Prime Minister, they argued, and therefore accepting Governorship meant going to an office not only several rungs lower, but more crucially one which was given entirely as patronage and largesse by the executive. It was also feared that once a precedent was set, and by no less than a CJI, it would not be long before judges on the verge of retirement would have the vision of a comfortable gubernatorial position hazing their eyes while deciding sensitive cases against the government.
  • Very few voices defended the appointment. One of those was that of Justice Sathasivam himself. He argued that he was accepting just another constitutional post, an untenable argument when the Constitution enumerates many posts barely comparable to the eminence of the CJI. He is also reported to have said that these standards would not apply to a retired CJI, a defence which poses some difficulty.
  • Indeed, it needs to be remembered that judges, especially of the Supreme Court, will inevitably handle cases of controversy involving the government and political personages. Justice Sathasivam himself has handled cases involving prominent politicians such as Amit Shah, where the accused received relief. Accepting appointment from governments of which such petitioners are a part will invite scrutiny of these cases and give rise to questions. This post facto scrutiny and linkage is one of the main reasons why judges have stayed away from accepting appointments that are decided purely by politicians. Even the eminent Justice M.C. Chagla received strong condemnation from leaders of the Bar for accepting the posts of Union Minister and Ambassador. Over the years, Raj Bhavans have, with distinguished exceptions, become havens for politicians being eased out, or rewarding civil servants for services rendered. Justice Sathasivam was appointed during the season when Governors of several States were being given marching orders telephonically by the Home Secretary. That a just-retired CJI broke precedence and judicial ranks to join this less than august group was an action that was widely seen as diminishing the image of the head of the judiciary, with no countervailing public interest.
An inappropriate appointment
  • The concern that arises now is that Governor Sathasivam is in the running for appointment as Chairperson of the NHRC. His name is mentioned as one of the likely appointees, and it is said that he has given his consent. This would be an inappropriate appointment, going against the grain of the primary qualification for heading the body, namely, independence from the government and the perceived ability to take hard actions against those in power.
  • This is an institutional qualification; it is no defence to say that a person who enjoys a sinecure from the government will revert to absolute independence when appointed to head the NHRC. It is true that the statutory qualification for Chairperson does not specify that the candidate should not have held previous office at the hands of the government, but the framers of the Act would not have envisaged, even in their wildest dreams, that there would be a case of a Chief Justice becoming a Governor and then looking to become Chairperson of the NHRC.
  • Viewed from another angle, it is the proximal position that matters — he ought not to be treated as a former CJI, but as a Governor of a State, and hence not qualified to be Chairperson of the NHRC. It appears that a petition was filed in the Supreme Court raising these grounds, but it was withdrawn on the ground that the objection was being placed before the government. Perhaps judicial determination will have to follow if executive consideration is inadequate.
  • The position of the head of the NHRC is a crucial one for protecting human and democratic rights. These rights and the Commission are primordial for all citizens, especially for those who fall foul of the powerful in government. The appointment to this office must not be tainted in any way. Justice Sathasivam committed one mistake in accepting governorship and lowering the office of the CJI. One hopes that another such mistake will not be committed.
Govt asks Reliance Power to restrict Sasan coal output
  • The government has asked Reliance Power to restrict production from its coal mines in Moher and Moher Amlohri Extension blocks — linked to its Sasan ultra mega power project (UMPP) — to 16 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) from the current 20 MTPA.
  • “It has further been decided that Sasan Power is required to revise the mining plan of Moher and Moher Amlohri Extension coal blocks from the present 20 MTPA mine capacity to 16 MTPA so as to conform to the coal requirement of 16 MTPA for the Sasan UMPP, it being a specified end-use plant,” the Coal Ministry said in a letter.
  • “Till the revised mining plan is approved by the Ministry of Coal, Sasan Power is also directed to restrict the coal production... from Moher and Moher Amlohri extension coal blocks in conformity with the observations of the Supreme Court,” the letter to Sasan Power CMD dated June 3 read.
  • However, the company declined to comment.
  • The government last month had cancelled the allocation of one of three coal blocks to Reliance Power’s Sasan project in Madhya Pradesh. The Supreme Court had scrapped allocations of 204 coal blocks last year.
  • In March, Reliance Power said its 3,960-MW Sasan thermal power project had been fully commissioned.
  • Anil Ambani-led Reliance Power has already announced termination of the contract for Rs.36,00-crore Tilaiya UMPP in Jharkhand over “inordinate delays” in land acquisition. On steps taken to stop coal mafia in Jharkhand and Bihar, Goyal said it is “not an easy job though”. A pilot programme has been launched at a coal mine, where GIS mapping of the entire mine area has been introduced besides putting GPRS system on entire process and CCTV cameras and computerised automated way bridges.
Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project
Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project is one of four Ultra Mega Power Projects planned by Government of India. It is located in Sasan village in Singrauli district in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The power plant is operated by Sasan Power Limited a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Power . In the initial round of bidding Singapore based Lanco-Globeleq consortium was awarded the letter of intent to develop this project, whereas Reliance Power was second lowest competitive bidder. Later on the project was passed on to Reliance Power since doubts were raised over the technical eligibility of the consortium for executing the project.
Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, Singrauli, M.P

Law unclear if celebrities endorsing food products can be prosecuted
  • The Maggi controversy has opened a Pandora’s box on the legal liability of celebrities who endorse food products even as it exposes ambiguities in the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, making the current debate an opportunity to interpret judicially the role and liability of brand ambassadors.
  • There is no specific word in the Act about the extent, or lack, of liability or duty of care of the brand ambassador, who signs on to promote the brand as its ‘face’ and takes on the role of a marketing representative. Sections 24 and 53 in the 2006 Act deal specifically with advertisements.
  • Section 24(1) says in general terms that “no advertisement shall be made of any food which is misleading or deceiving or contravenes the provisions of this Act, the rules and regulations made there under.” Here, it does not explain whether the term “made” is only confined to commissioning the advertisement or its actual making. In the latter case, a brand ambassador does play a part.
  • One of the primary statutory objectives of the FSSA is to “ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption” and it makes the promoter, manufacturer, packer, wholesaler, distributor, seller and even the ‘manager’ of a food business outlet liable for violations, including ‘unfair trade practice’ in several instances.
20 soldiers killed in Manipur ambush

Three groups jointly claim responsibility
  • At least 20 personnel of the 6 Dogra Regiment were killed when suspected militants ambushed their convoy in Chandel district, bordering Myanmar, in Manipur on June 4.
  • Eleven of those injured have been airlifted to a military hospital at Leimakhong.
  • In a joint statement, the Naga Army, the Kangleipak Communist Party and the Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup claimed responsibility for the ambush.
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh ordered an all-out coordinated offensive against the militants. He held a high-level meeting with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the Chief of the Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh.
  • A high alert has been sounded in Manipur and Nagaland.
  • Though security on the border has been increased and reinforcements have been rushed in, most of the assailants are suspected to have escaped to their camps in Myanmar.
  • The insurgents used rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons for the attack. Government sources said the Army personnel could not even put up an effective counter-attack.
Modi condemns attack
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Today’s mindless attack in Manipur is very distressing. I bow to each and every soldier who has sacrificed his life for the nation.”
  • Mr. Parrikar condemned the attack. Congress president Sonia Gandhi extended her condolences to the family members of those killed, saying the entire nation stood indebted once again to the brave soldiers.
  • Preliminary findings suggested the role of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang group) in the worst attack in two decades. The group unilaterally withdrew from a ceasefire agreement on March 27.
Arunachal attack
  • Three soldiers of the 4 Rajput Regiment were killed in an ambush allegedly carried out by the group in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Nagaland, in May.
NASA’s Hubble Finds Pluto’s Moons Tumbling in Absolute Chaos
  • NASA’s Hubble space telescope has provided the first glimpse of Pluto’s moons that wobble(meaning of wobble - move or cause to move unsteadily from side to side) unpredictably, tumbling in absolute chaos.
  • It means if you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. “Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm,” said John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.
  • “When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July, we will get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal,” he added in a NASA statement. Comprehensive analysis of the data shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.
Hubble Space Telescope
  • The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990, and remains in operation. With a 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) mirror, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared spectra. The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble.
  • Hubble's orbit outside the distortion of Earth's atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with negligible background light. Hubble has recorded some of the most detailed visible-light images ever, allowing a deep view into space and time. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
  • Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency, and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute. 
Hubble Space Telescope

Ganga will be pollution-free by October 2016, says Uma Bharti
Minister says project “delayed” as Centre decided to bear entire funding
  • River Ganga will show first signs of being pollution-free by October next year and the first project on inter-linking of rivers (Ken-Betwa) will take off within a year, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said here on June 4.
  • She said the “Namami Gange” project had been “delayed” as the Centre decided to bear the entire funding, instead of asking States to give a matching grant, and thus had to re-work its financial plans and approvals. A sum of Rs. 12,000 crore has been set aside for the project.
  • Asking the Congress not to politicise the Ganga and inter-linking of rivers, she denied the charge of a saffron agenda and said that the river was connected with the livelihood of 50 crore people and the entire economy of populous States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were dependent on it.
  • Speaking on the one year of her Ministry, she said the government would have to enact a law or bring a policy that would ensure sustainability of pollution-free Ganga. “We are moving in that direction and need wider consultations,” the Minister said.
  • Criticising the Congress for finding holes in the Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi river links, Ms. Bharti offered to make “presentations” on the Ganga and river-linking before Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh to enable them to explain the factual position to their party leaders.
  • “If you say that it is a saffron agenda, then you should re-think. I am ready for a presentation at their residence,” the Minister said.
  • Asked about displacement of people that the rivers linking project will bring, Ms. Bharti said not a single person would be removed if he/she was not convinced about a better life and four-times the compensation.
Ground water management
  • The Centre would send teams of young entrepreneurs abroad to study river and ground water management and how to do more irrigation from less water. The teams would be sent to Israel, Australia and the United Kingdom.
  • Ms. Bharti said the government was aware of lowering of ground water levels and was working on better management.

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