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Current Affairs: 24 January 2019


Oral mentions in SC will soon be history
  • The Supreme Court is drafting new guidelines that would help ensure that urgent cases automatically come up before a Bench for hearing within four days of their being filed, obviating the need for lawyers to appear before the Chief Justice of India to orally mention their cases for urgent listing.
  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday informed the crowded courtroom that new norms had been settled by which urgent cases would automatically come up before a Bench for hearing.
  • The CJI added that if such cases did not come up for hearing, the lawyers concerned could make a mention before the Registrar to have their cases listed.
  • Oral mentioning is a convention by which lawyers circumvent the long-winded filing procedures and make a direct appeal to the CJI, who is the court’s administrative head and master of the roster, for early hearing.
Collegium best system, but needs tweaking: Lokur
  • Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur on Wednesday said he was disappointed that the Collegium’s resolution to elevate Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Rajendra Menon as apex court judges was not put up in the public domain.
  • Justice Lokur was a member of the five-judge Supreme Court Collegium which had on December 12 last year recommended the names of the sitting Chief Justices of Delhi and Rajasthan High Courts for elevation to the Supreme Court.
  • Ten days after his retirement on December 31, a newly constituted Collegium decided to drop the two names and instead elevated Delhi High Court judge Sanjiv Khanna and Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court Justice Dinesh Maheshwari by superseding over 30 senior judges.
  • He pointed out that the contentious Memorandum of Procedure, for appointment of higher court judges, was silent on many things, including details of eligibility criteria. He, however, supported the Collegium system saying that “in the existing circumstances, it was the best system. But it needs tweaking”.
  • Referring to the row over delayed elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, Justice Lokur said that the government may sit on a file if it does not want the person to be elevated.
  • Justice Lokur said there was “nothing wrong” in Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending a dinner hosted by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in November last year as it was for a convention of judges from BIMSTEC countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand.
  • Justice Lokur, who was part of the controversial presser held in January last year by four sitting judges of the apex court against the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said “it was worth it”. “It has brought about some openness in the system,” he said.
23,000 Railway posts for the poor
  • Almost four months ahead of the 2019 general election, the government-owned Railways on Wednesday announced a massive recruitment drive to hire about 2.30 lakh people in the next two years.
  • Following the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, 10% of the vacancies, i.e. around 23,000 vacancies will be reserved for candidates from economically weaker sections, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said.
  • The 2.30 lakh people to be hired, is in addition to the hiring of 1.5 lakh employees now under way, and is expected to be completed by April.
  • Currently, Indian Railways has a sanctioned strength of 15,06,598 employees, of which 12,23,622 personnel are on the rolls, leaving 2,82,976 vacant posts. With the current drive to recruit 1,51,548 people, 1,31,428 posts will still be vacant. It is estimated that about 53,000 and 46,000 employees will retire in 2019-20 and 2020-21 respectively, creating about 99,000 additional vacancies.
  • The recruitment will take place in two phases. The first will be initiated in February-March, 2019, while the second cycle is targeted to be completed by April-May, 2020.
ISRO to launch military satellite tonight
  • Just before midnight on Thursday, Indian Space Research Organisation's first mission of 2019 will put into space a 130-kg military imaging satellite, Microsat-R.
  • ISRO has shied away from sharing details of the spacecraft or its uses as it does routinely each time during its missions; except to say the satellite would be placed within 15 minutes after take-off in a polar orbit 274 km away from Earth.
  • This is much lower than any of its civil Earth observation spacecraft, which fly pole to pole over the globe at between 400 km and 700 km.
  • According to information obtained from different sources Microsat-R and its payload come assembled from a handful of laboratories of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and is meant for military use. 
  • PSLV-C44 will be launched around 11.30 p.m. from the older First Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. For its part, ISRO is experimenting on two aspects of the vehicle. One is to reuse a waste stage.
  • Amid the 28-hour countdown for the launch, ISRO Chairman K.Sivan said the PS4-Kalamsat experiment would be short-lived.
  • For the third time in ISRO’s recent history, the mission team is slated to cut off and restart the PS4 engine twice over a flight lasting around 100 minutes.
  • ISRO’s pre-launch brochure said, “In PSLV-C44, the fourth stage (PS4) of the vehicle will be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments.”
  • The other experiment with the launcher PSLV-C44 vehicle will be a new third variant having two strap-on boosters. Called the PSLV-DL, D standing for demonstration, it ranges between the older two variants.
India conducts ‘largest coastal security drill’
  • Ten years after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, India conducted its largest coastal defence drill, Exercise Sea Vigil, to test its preparedness along the entire 7,516.6 km-long-coastline and exclusive economic zone of the country.
  • The first of its kind exercise was conducted on January 22 and 23 and coordinated by the Navy.
  • This involves the evaluation of critical areas and processes, including inter-agency coordination, information sharing and technical surveillance. “Multi agency audit and identification of gaps, shortfalls and incorporation of lessons learnt into Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are also the desired outcomes,” the Navy stated.
  • Post 26/11, the Navy was designated as the agency responsible for overall maritime security, including offshore and coastal security, while the Coast Guard was designated as the agency responsible for coastal security in territorial waters.
  • A multi-tiered patrol and surveillance mechanism with focus on technical surveillance and augmenting Maritime Domain Awareness through the coastal radar chain was adopted.
Now, an app to help the visually impaired
  • In a bid to assist visually impaired people to easily determine denomination of currency notes, the Indian Institute of Technology at Ropar in Punjab has developed an Android App “Roshni”, using image processing and analytics.
  • The App was launched on Wednesday at the IIT Ropar. Assistant professor Puneet Goyal, said that ‘Roshni’ is the first Android App that works successfully with new currency notes that were released after demonetisation and it works well in broad range of light conditions and holding angles.
  • “This App utilises an adaptable deep learning framework, which further uses the patterns and features embedded on the notes to differentiate and determine the currency denomination. Our IPSA (Image processing, Security and Analytics) lab prepared a rich dataset of more than 13, 000 images of currency notes under varied real-world conditions. The user has to bring the currency note in front of phone camera and the App would provide audio notification intimating the currency note denomination to the user," said Mr. Goyal.
Pakistan’s move to allow only Sikhs to Kartarpur opposed
  • Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday voiced his protest against Pakistan’s proposal to allow only Sikh pilgrims to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, pointing out that Guru Nanak Dev was a universal Guru, revered by followers of all religions, especially Hindus.
  • The Chief Minister has urged the Centre to take up the issue with Islamabad when the latter sends its draft agreement for regulating entry into its territory through the Kartarpur Corridor.
Cabinet okays MoU between India, Kuwait
  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Kuwait for cooperation on the recruitment of domestic workers.
  • The move is likely to benefit around three lakh Indian workers deployed in Kuwait, including about 90,000 female domestic workers.
  • The MoU is initially valid for a period of five years and incorporates provision for automatic renewal. Under this MoU, a joint committee will also be set up to follow up the implementation.
Panel rejects plea to form medical board
  • The Justice (retd.) A. Arumughaswamy Commission has dismissed Apollo Hospital’s application to form a medical board to look into the testimonies provided to the Commission by a number of doctors on the treatment administered to former CM Jayalalithaa.
  • Sources said that the petition was dismissed on the grounds that it was a ‘belated application’ and that it was made with an attempt to scrap the evidence already recorded at the Commission by various doctors.
Karmapa says India didn’t issue visa to him, wants to return
  • Tibetan monk Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who acquired a Dominica passport, has said in a video message that after a lot of “back and forth” he couldn’t get an Indian visa but he hoped to “return quickly.”
  • This is contrary to the claims made by Indian officials who have said that Dorje, who has been living in the U.S for more than a year now, never applied for a visa. 
  • The source said that he was free to get a visa and has never in fact “presented his passport” for a visa to be granted. “He... has been living in India as a Tibetan refugee. He wanted to travel abroad and we gave him an IC (Identity Certificate). When he acquired the Dominica passport, he didn’t share the information with India. We have conveyed to him that we are ready to give him a visa on his Dominica passport, his IC is now invalid,” said the source.
Cabinet decides to strengthen northeast autonomous councils
  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a landmark amendment to Article 280 and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 autonomous councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the northeast.
  • The amendment would impact a population of about 1 crore tribals living in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to the Centre.
  • The Finance Commission would be mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to the councils, the government said in an official statement.
  • Till now, the autonomous councils have depended on grants from Central Ministries and the State governments for specific projects.
  • As per the proposed amendment, at least one third of the seats would be reserved for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura. 
  • The amendment also provides for transfer of additional 30 subjects, including the departments of Public Works, Forests, Public Health Engineering, Health and Family Welfare, Urban Development and Food and Civil Supply to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council in Assam.
  • A Bill in this regard is expected to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament, a Home Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
  • The proposed amendments provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grass-roots level. The State Election Commissions would hold elections to the autonomous councils, village and municipal councils in the areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.

Missile’s range does not violate INF treaty: Russia
  • MOSCOW on Wednesday insisted that the range of a missile system that has prompted  Washington to say it will withdraw from a key Cold War arms treaty is allowed under the agreement.
  • Russian artillery chief Mikhail Matveevsky told a briefing that the 9M729 missile’s maximum range is 480 km. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty bans missiles with a range above 500 km.
  • Standing next to the system, he detailed the missile’s features to assembled foreign media and foreign military officials. Russia has long denied it violates the treaty but Wednesday’s briefing was the first time it has offered details of the missiles in question.
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, also in attendance, said Moscow decided to unveil the missile after talks with U.S. officials in Geneva this month resulted in “complete failure”.
  • Last month, Washington gave Russia a 60-day deadline — which ends on February 2 — to dismantle the 9M729 or the U.S. would begin the six-month process of formally withdrawing from the treaty.

Australia looks to invest A$100 billion in India
  • The Australian government has committed to invest A$100 billion in India and Tamil Nadu will be one of the key States her country would be looking to invest in, Susan Grace, the Australian Consul General in , said.
  • “Currently, our investments account for only one fifth of the target and we are looking to invest a lot more,” she said at a press conference during the Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet 2019. An announcement on the investment would be made in three months, Ms. Grace said.
Cabinet gives nod to set up GST Appellate Tribunal
  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the creation of a National Bench of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT), which would serve as the forum of second appeals to do with the applicability of GST, and will also be the first common forum of dispute resolution between the Centre and the States.
  • The National Bench of the Appellate Tribunal, to be situated in New Delhi, will be presided over by its president. It will consist of a technical member from the Centre and a representative of the States.
  • Chapter XVIII of the CGST Act provides for an appeal and review mechanism for dispute resolution under the GST regime. Section 109 of this chapter empowers the Centre to constitute, on the recommendation of the GST Council, an appellate tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by the Appellate Authority.
  • The government, it is learnt, was initially planning an appellate tribunal in each State. However, the idea was discarded in favour of one at the national level following the experience with the various state-level advance ruling authorities, which often gave conflicting judgments.
  • The creation of the National Bench would involve a one-time expenditure of ₹92.50 lakh.

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