The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Hansraj Ahir, on August 9, 2018. The Bill amends the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The Act provides for a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC), as well as Human Rights Courts.
Composition of NHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of the NHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice of India, or a Judge of the Supreme Court will be the chairperson of the NHRC.
The Act provides for two persons having knowledge of human rights to be appointed as members of the NHRC. The Bill amends this to allow three members to be appointed, of which at least one will be a woman. Under the Act, chairpersons of various commissions such as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and National Commission for Women are members of the NHRC. The Bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.
Chairperson of SHRC: Under the Act, the chairperson of a SHRC is a person who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court. The Bill amends this to provide that a person who has been Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court will be chairperson of a SHRC.
Term of office: The Act states that the chairperson and members of the NHRC and SHRC will hold office for five years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The Bill also allows for the reappointment of chairpersons of the NHRC and SHRCs.
Powers of Secretary-General: The Act provides for a Secretary-General of the NHRC and a Secretary of a SHRC, who exercise powers as may be delegated to them. The Bill amends this and allows the Secretary-General and Secretary to exercise all administrative and financial powers (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
Union Territories: The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.
Towards fulfilling the Preambular promise of securing to all the citizens, Justice – social, economic and political, Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law. In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament, which came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society. The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Hon'ble Judge, Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority. Presently, NALSA is housed at 12/11, Jam Nagar House, New Delhi-110011.
Public awareness, equal opportunity and deliverable justice are the cornerstones on which the edifice of NALSA is based. The principal objective of NALSA is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. Apart from the abovementioned, functions of NALSA include spreading legal literacy and awareness, undertaking social justice litigations etc.
With the aim of reaching out to the diverse milieu of people belonging to different socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds, NALSA identifies specific categories of the marginalized and excluded groups from the diverse populace of the country and formulates various schemes for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes to be undertaken and implemented by the Legal Services Authorities at the various levels.
In carrying out all these responsibilities, NALSA works in close coordination with the various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies for a regular exchange of relevant information, monitoring and updating on the implementation and progress of the various schemes in vogue and fostering a strategic and coordinated approach to ensure smooth and streamlined functioning of the various agencies and stakeholders.
The Central Government shall constitute a body to be called the National Legal Services Authority to exercise the powers and perform the functions conferred on, or assigned to the Central Authority under this Act.
The Central Authority shall consist of -
The Chief Justice of India who shall be the Patron-in-Chief.
A serving or retired Judge of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, who shall be the Executive Chairman; and
Such number of other members, possessing such experience and qualifications, as may be prescribed by the Central Government, to be nominated by that government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
The Central Government shall in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, appoint a person to be the Member-Secretary of the Central Authority, possessing such experience and qualifications as may be prescribed by that Government, to exercise such powers and perform such duties under the Executive Chairman of the Central Authority as may be prescribed by that Government or as may be assigned to him by the Executive Chairman o that Authority.
The terms of office and other conditions relating thereto, of Members and the Member-Secretary of the Central Authority shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
The Central Authority may appoint such number of officers and other employees as may be prescribed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, for the efficient discharge of its functions under this Act.
The officers and other employees of the Central Authority shall be entitled to such salary and allowances and shall be subject to such other conditions of service as may be prescribed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
The administrative expenses of the Central Authority, including the salaries, allowances and pensions payable to the Member-Secretary, officers and other employees of the Central Authority, shall be defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
All orders and decisions of the Central Authority shall be authenticated by the Member Secretary or any other officer of the Central Authority duly authorised by the Executive Chairman of that Authority.
No act or proceeding of the Central Authority shall be invalid merely on the ground of the existence of any vacancy in or any defect in the constitution of the Central Authority.
About Azad Hind Government: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had announced the establishment of the provisional government of Azad Hind in occupied Singapore in 1943.
Known as Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, it was supported by the Axis powers of Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, the Italian Social Republic, and their allies.
The revered freedom fighter had launched a struggle to free India from British rule under the banner of the provisional government-in exile during the latter part of the Second World War.
Objectives: Bose was convinced that armed struggle was the only way to achieve independence for India. He had been a leader of the radical wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, rising to become Congress president in 1938 and 1939 but was ousted following differences with Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress leadership.
Under his provisional government, the Indians living abroad had been united. The Indian National Army drew ex- prisoners and thousands of civilian volunteers from the Indian expatriate population in Malaya (present-day Malaysia) and Burma (now Myanmar).
The formation: On October 21, 1943, in his address announcing the setting up of the provisional government, he said India’s Army of Liberation was drawn up in military formation on the battlefield of Singapore which was once the bulwark of the British Empire.
Under the provisional government, Bose was the head of the state, the prime minister and the minister for war and foreign affairs. Captain Lakshmi headed the women’s organisation while S A Ayer headed the publicity and propaganda wing.
Revolutionary leader Rash Behari Bose was designated as the supreme advisor. The provisional government was also formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The islands were reoccupied by the British in 1945.
Bose’s death was seen as the end to the Azad Hind movement. The Second World War, also ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers.
The Commission urges women who have come forward on social media and other platforms about their alleged harassers to send their formal written complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. The NCW will take forward complaints of sexual harassment at workplace received on the mail so that appropriate action may be taken, as per law.
What you need to know about NCW? The National Commission for Women was set up as statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990.
The primary mandate of the National Commission for Women and State Commissions for Women Commission is to safeguard and protect the interests of women. It has wide responsibility covering almost all aspects of women development.
The commission regularly publishes a monthly newsletter, Rashtra Mahila in both Hindi and English.
Background: Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones. The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone.
Opposition to the idea is based on impracticability — particularly the risk of railway accidents, given the need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone into another.
Need for two time zones: India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective. Legislators, activists, industrialists and ordinary citizens from the Northeast have often complained about the effect of IST on their lives, and pursued the issue of having a separate time zone with the Central government, without much success.
In the Northeast, the sun rises as early as four in the morning and in winter it sets by four in the evening. By the time government offices or educational institutions open, many daylight hours are already lost. In winter this problem gets even more accentuated and the ecological costs are a disaster with much more electricity having to be consumed.
The proposal: The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h). The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal.
States west of the line would continue to follow IST (to be called IST-I). States east of the line — Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands —would follow IST-II.
Concerns: India has a huge population; if the country were divided into two time zones, there would be chaos at the border between the two zones. It would mean resetting clocks with each crossing of the time zone. There is scope for more dangerous kinds of confusion. Railway signals are not fully automated and many routes have single tracks. Trains may meet with major accidents owing to human errors. Just one such accident would wipe out any benefits resulting from different time zones in the country.
Partitioning the already divided country further into time zones may also have undesirable political consequences. Moreover, our research shows that the energy saving from creating two time zones is not particularly large.
While there is merit in the argument, the potentially adverse consequences of introducing a new time zone within the country are many. Not forgetting the fact that a country like Russia has as many as nine time zones across contiguous territory, having to cope with the zones and to be forced to reset the watch each time you need to cross a domestic line could be complicated.
With a time difference of one hour in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be nearly 25% less overlap between office timings in the two zones. This could be important for banks, offices, industries and multinational companies which need to be constantly interconnected. This will be further detrimental to productivity and to the interests of the eastern region.
There is already a sense of alienation between the relatively prosperous and industrialised western zone and the less developed eastern zone. The people in the Northeast sense a distance from the mainland and a separateness in clock time may accentuate it.
Having a separate time zone for the eastern region will provide no energy or other benefits to the rest of the country. Moreover, India will continue to be in off-set time zones, five and a half hours in the west and six and a half in the eastern region ahead of.
The conferences were attended by defence ministers from India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and US. This was second time Singapore has chaired ADMM since its establishment in 2006 and first time to chair ADMM-Plus since its establishment in 2010.
Background: ADMM and ADMM-Plus serves as key Ministerial-level platforms in regional security architecture for promoting strategic dialogue and practical cooperation between ASEAN and its partners.
About ASEAN: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
At present there are 10 members namely, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.
ADMM-Plus: ADMM-Plus is platform for ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners to strengthen security and defence co-operation for peace, stability, and development in the region. Its objective is to promote mutual trust and confidence between defence establishments through greater dialogue and transparency.
The inaugural ADMM-Plus was convened in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2010. The defence ministers then had agreed on five areas of practical cooperation, including maritime security, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance.
The 40 recommendations are segregated in 11 outcomes performance benchmarks. Pakistan is compliant in more than 50% of the recommendations.
Background: Pakistan was placed on the grey list by the FATF in June for failing to curb anti-terror financing. It has been scrambling in recent months to avoid being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations by the Paris-based FATF, a measure that officials here fear could further hurt its economy.
About FATF: What is it? The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
Objectives: The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
Functions: The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally. In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
Coming out strongly against the Inter-Ministerial Committee’s proposal to take PRB out of the RBI’s purview, the RBI said there has been no evidence of any inefficiency in payment systems of India.
Background: The seven-member government panel was headed by Subhash Chandra Garg. The panel proposed in August that a payments regulator should be established independent of the RBI, with a chairperson appointed by the government in consultation with the RBI. The proposal overruled the central bank’s recommendation that its governor should be head of the payments regulator.
Why the RBI is opposing this move? The RBI cited the report of the Ratan Watal Committee on digital payments as recommending the establishment of the PRB within the overall structure of the RBI, arguing therefore that there is no need for any deviation.
Also, as per RBI, there has been no evidence of any inefficiency in payment systems of India. The digital payments have made good and steady progress. India is gaining international recognition as a leader in payment systems. Given this, there need not be any change in a well-functioning system. The RBI has argued that the payment system is bank-dominated in India.
“Regulation of the banking systems and payment system by the same regulator provides synergy and inspires public confidence in the payment instruments. Regulation of the payment system by the central bank is the dominant international model for stability consideration. Thus, having the regulation and supervision over Payment and Settlement systems with the central bank will ensure holistic benefits,” it said.
Way ahead: The RBI said it is not totally against a new Payment and Settlement System Bill but stressed that changes should not lead to existing foundations being shaken in a well-functioning structure.
How it works? The first-of-its-kind automated teller machine will have both a trading and exchange platform, and will allow verified customers to use the device. It is expected to become operational soon.
This kiosk is accessible to registered customers of Unocoin. The customers will be able to buy or sell up to 10 Bitcoins — one of the high value cryptocurrencies per day. However, all the transactions will have to be conducted in Indian rupees which will then be changed into the currency of choice of the consumer.
The kiosk will allow customers to trade in Bitcoin and Ethereum, while providing an exchange platform for 24 other cryptocurrencies in circulation.
Customers risking the use of Bitcoins will have to register by using their mobile number and entering a password. A verification process is initiated during which details such as PAN number, phone number, address, bank details, and others have to be furnished. It uses an elaborate procedure for both deposits and withdrawals, with the withdrawals requiring a prior request and 12-digit OTP.
What is bitcoin? Bitcoin is one of many cryptocurrencies that have gained popularity across the world.
A cryptocurrency is a basically a digital asset that has been created to function as a medium of exchange, like cash. It uses cryptography to ensure the security of transactions — authentication and prevention of duplicate transactions — and to control the creation of new units of currency.
This is different from cash in that cryptocurrencies have no physical form. These blur the boundaries between fiat and non-fiat currencies. They are simply numbers on a screen and there is no central bank that issues new currency. However, bitcoin has emerged as the popular face of cryptocurrencies.
Fiat and Non-fiat currency: A fiat currency is any currency that has no intrinsic physical value, but whose value is established by government decree. For example, most national currencies around the world, including the Rupee and the Dollar, are fiat currencies as their values are dictated by the government.
Non-fiat currencies such as the Gold Standard have more or less been effectively phased out, as they require adequate physical stockpiles to maintain their value.
However, the new breed of digital cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin blurs the boundaries between fiat and non-fiat – they don’t have any physical value as such, but are also not government-controlled. This has created uncertainties about their role in the modern financial system.
Context: Minister of Railways and Coal will receive the University of Pennsylvania’s top prize in energy policy for his leadership in reforming India’s power sector through various initiatives.
Carnot Prize: The Carnot Prize is intended to honour those leading revolutions in energy policy to further progress and prosperity. The ministry is being recognised for directing a fast-track effort to electrify 18,000 villages in remote parts of India, helping bridge the country’s vast energy divide.
The Carnot Prize is named in memory of French scientist Sadi Carnot, who in 1824 published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, which is recognised as the first statement of what, is now known as the second law of thermodynamics.
Carnot recognised that the power of the steam engine would produce a great revolution in human development.