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Current Affairs: 15 December 2018


Supreme Court rejects PIL pleas for Rafale deal probe
  • The Supreme Court refused to embark on a “fishing enquiry” into the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets merely on the basis of PIL petitions spurred by a media interview of former French President Francois Hollande and reports of favouritism shown by the Narendra Modi government.
  • Mr. Hollande was reported to have said the French government had no option in the choice of an Indian Offset Partner (IOP). It had to agree to take on board a company suggested by the Indian government. The petitioners had alleged that the government wanted a “novice” company, Reliance Defence, as the IOP in the multi-crore deal.
  • The court concluded that the government had no role in the choice of an IOP. The option to choose an IOP rests fully with the French manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, under the Defence Procurement Procedure, it said.
Jammu & Kashmir legislation to stop ‘sextortion’ of women
  • Governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration in Jammu & Kashmir approved an amendment to the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), to insert a section to provide for the offence of “sextortion.”
  • Under Section 354E of the RPC, the new law explicitly bans sexual exploitation of women by those in positions of authority, having a fiduciary relationship, or a public servant, reads the order issued by Governor Malik-headed State Administration Council (SAC).
  • J&K has become the first State in the country to bring a law to prevent people in power from exploiting subordinates sexually.
  • Mr. Malik approved the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, to incorporate the new Section.
  • Terming the offence as “Sextortion”, the amendments will “bring sextortion at par with similar offences prescribed under the Ranbir Penal Code and amendment is being made in the Prevention of Corruption Act to amend the definition of misconduct and to provide that demand for sexual favours would also constitute misconduct within the meaning of Section 5.”
  • An official said the J&K government decided to reinforce the legal framework to curb instances of women being victimised by the persons in authority or in fiduciary relationships.
  • Besides, the State Administrative Council (SAC) also approved introduction of the use of video conferencing “as an admissible method for presence of accused in criminal trials.”
One-stop centres help 2 crore women
  • Almost two crore women survivors of violence received help at one-stop centres opened in the past three years, the government informed Parliament.
  • Since April 2015, 234 one-stop centres have been established across the country for women facing physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
  • The total number of women who have been given assistance at these centres is 1,90,527, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Virendra Kumar said in the Lok Sabha.
  • Uttar Pradesh was at the top spot in the total number of women seeking help — 1,18,833. It was followed by Andhra Pradesh, 26,884, Chhattisgarh, 10,868, Telangana, 7,807, Punjab, 4,964, and Haryana, 3,878. The number is the highest in Uttar Pradesh because it is the only State that offers tele-counselling services at its 23 centres. 
  • All the States and the Union Territories, barring Delhi, West Bengal and Lakshadweep, have one-stop centres.
HC quashes Centre’s ban on oxytocin manufacture
  • The Delhi High Court on Friday quashed the Centre’s decision to ban the manufacture and sale of oxytocin, a drug which induces labour and controls bleeding during child birth, by private firms.
  • A Bench of Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and A.K. Chawla set aside the government’s April 27 notification imposing the ban, saying it was “arbitrary and unreasonable”.
  • “The UoI did not adequately weigh in the danger to the users of oxytocin, nor consider the deleterious effect to the public generally and women particularly, of possible restricted supply if manufacture is confined to one unit, to the pregnant women and young mothers, of a potentially life-saving drug,” the Bench said. It said the Centre’s decision to allow only a single, state-run entity — with no prior experience in manufacturing oxytocin — to make and sell the drug, was “fraught with potential adverse consequences”. 
  • The Bench was not impressed with the Centre’s “far greater” reliance on the need to prohibit availability of oxytocin from what was perceived to be widespread veterinary misuse. 
Term of IB, RAW chiefs extended
  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a six-month extension in service to Intelligence Bureau Director Rajiv Jain and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Secretary A.K. Dhasmana.
  • The Centre has sought to maintain status quo in top security posts till the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
  • The two heads of country's internal and external intelligence wings had a fixed two-year tenure each. 
  • Mr. Jain, a 1980-batch IPS officer of the Jharkhand cadre, took over in December 2016. The next senior- most officer in the IB, Arvind Kumar, who superannuates in September 2019, will still have a chance to bag the two-year post if his appointment comes after June the same year.
  • Mr. Dhasmana, a 1981-batch officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been with RAW for 23 years, during which he served in important areas, including the Pakistan Desk.
  • The ACC has also re-designated Anil Srivastava, a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, from Adviser, NITI Aayog, to Principal Adviser. The government also appointed Ramphal Pawar, a 1988-batch IPS officer of the West Bengal cadre, as the Director of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Rajapaksa to resign, pave the way for Ranil’s return
  • Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to vacate the office of Prime Minister — which he controversially held for seven weeks — paving the way for the return of ousted leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The move signals an end to the political crisis in the island nation.
  • He said their new party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or Sri Lanka People’s Front), would form a coalition with President Maithripala Sirisena.
  • Mr. Rajapaksa’s decision to “step down” came after the Supreme Court ruled that his November 9 move dissolving Parliament and calling for snap polls was illegal.
  • The front led by Mr. Wickremesinghe, with the support of other Opposition MPs resisting Mr. Rajapaksa’s appointment, showed a majority in the House several times since October 26, but both Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Rajapaksa refused to recognise the trust votes.

RBI Board discusses governance
  • The board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) agreed to examine the issue of governance further.
  • This was the first board meeting under the chairmanship of the new RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, who assumed charge.
  • The statement also said the board reviewed various issues like current economic situation, global and domestic challenges, matters relating to liquidity and credit delivery to the economy, and issues relating to currency management and financial literacy.
  • Mr. Das assured the board that he would discuss the deliberations on capital management and governance with the government for an early resolution, sources said.
  • Mr. Das listened to all the points of discussions, including those which had caused discomfort within the RBI brass, they said.
  • RBI had imposed restrictions under the PCA framework for 11 public sector banks, which irked the government as it believed loan growth was impacted due to such restrictions.
  • There is a possibility that a formal proposal on PCA will be brought before the board at its next meet in mid-January.
  • The issue of liquidity and credit delivery were the two contentious issues between the government and RBI with the former wanting a special window for non-banking finance companies.
Shun loan waivers, Rajan tells States
  • State governments should resist giving farm loan waivers since they will create fiscal stress and not reach the farmers that need them, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said. 
  • Mr. Rajan’s comments assume significance at a time when speculation is increasing about a possible farm loan waiver from the Centre similar to those given by some State governments. “Government-imposed credit targets are often achieved by abandoning appropriate due diligence, creating the environment for future NPAs,” he said. 
  • That said, Mr Rajan did stress that the agriculture sector needed serious attention, and that an all-party agreement on this would be in the nation’s interest.
  • Mr. Rajan’s note pertained to banking reforms in which he argued that public sector bank boards are still not adequately professionalised and that the government’s role in deciding board appointments leads to “inevitable politicisation.”
  • “The government could follow the P.J. Naik Committee report more carefully,” he wrote. “Eventually, strong boards should be entrusted with all bank-related decisions, including CEO appointment, but held responsible for performance. Strategic investors could help improve governance.”
  • Mr. Rajan further said that the out-of-court restructuring process and the bankruptcy process both need to be strengthened and made speedier.
          India Post launches e-com portal
          • India Post launched its own e-commerce website to help sellers, particularly rural artisans and SHGs sell their products across the country. 
          • “The small and local sellers, who have been left behind in e-commerce space, will now be able to maximise their reach and retailing power by leveraging the vast physical and lT network of the Department of Posts,” an official release said.
          • The products will be shipped through Speed Post. “India Post is open for registration of all vendors for e-commerce business. It will pick up products from vendor and deliver to doorstep of customers,” Minister of State for Communications Manoj Sinha said.

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