1. Breaking the logjam, handing over the baton
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Indian polity and judicial governance
Sub Theme: Judicial appointments | UPSC
How did the Collegium system come into being?
The Collegium of judges is the Supreme Court’s invention. It does not figure in the Constitution, which says judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are appointed by the President and speaks of a process of consultation. In effect, it is a system under which judges are appointed by an institution comprising judges. After some judges were superseded in the appointment of the Chief Justice of India in the 1970s, and attempts made subsequently to effect a mass transfer of High Court judges across the country, there was a perception that the independence of the judiciary was under threat. This resulted in a series of cases over the years. The ‘First Judges Case’ (1981) ruled that the “consultation” with the CJI in the matter of appointments must be full and effective. However, it rejected the idea that the CJI’s opinion, albeit carrying great weight, should have primacy.
The Second Judges Case (1993) introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”. It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the Supreme Court. On a Presidential Reference for its opinion, the Supreme Court, in the Third Judges Case (1998) expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.
What is the procedure followed by the Collegium?
The President of India appoints the CJI and the other SC judges. As far as the CJI is concerned, the outgoing CJI recommends his successor. In practice, it has been strictly by seniority ever since the supersession controversy of the 1970s. The Union Law Minister forwards the recommendation to the Prime Minister who, in turn, advises the President. For other judges of the top court, the proposal is initiated by the CJI. The CJI consults the rest of the Collegium members, as well as the senior-most judge of the court hailing from the High Court to which the recommended person belongs. The consultees must record their opinions in writing and it should form part of the file. The Collegium sends the recommendation to the Law Minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.
The Chief Justice of High Courts is appointed as per the policy of having Chief Justices from outside the respective States. The Collegium takes the call on the elevation.
Supreme Court Secretary-General Sanjeev S. Kalgaonkar. Photo: sci.gov.in/registry-officers
Cogent reasons for High Court judge transfers: Supreme Court
High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges. The proposal, however, is initiated by the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues. The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.
Does the Collegium recommend transfers too?
Yes, the Collegium also recommends the transfer of Chief Justices and other judges. Article 222 of the Constitution provides for the transfer of a judge from one High Court to another. When a CJ is transferred, a replacement must also be simultaneously found for the High Court concerned. There can be an acting CJ in a High Court for not more than a month. In matters of transfers, the opinion of the CJI “is determinative”, and the consent of the judge concerned is not required. However, the CJI should take into account the views of the CJ of the High Court concerned and the views of one or more SC judges who are in a position to do so. All transfers must be made in the public interest, that is, “for the betterment of the administration of justice”.
What is the common criticism made against the Collegium system?
Many have faulted the system, not only for its being seen as something unforeseen by the Constitution makers, but also for the way it functions. Opaqueness and a lack of transparency, and the scope for nepotism are cited often. Retired SC judge Justice Ruma Pal once said: “The mystique of the process, the small base from which the selections were made and the secrecy and confidentiality ensured that the process may on occasions, make wrong appointments and, worse still, lend itself to nepotism.” The attempt made to replace it by a ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission’ was struck down by the court in 2015 on the ground that it posed a threat to the independence of the judiciary. Dissenting judge, Justice J. Chelameswar, termed it “inherently illegal”. Even the majority opinions admitted the need for transparency. In an effort to boost transparency, the Collegium’s resolutions are now posted online, but reasons are not given.
2. 387 ‘Moplah Martyrs’ to be removed from dictionary
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS I: Modern Indian History
Theme: Moplah revolt | UPSC
Context: Indian Council of Historical research have recommended the deletion of Moplah rebellion names as it felt that the 1921 rebellion was never part of the Independence struggle.
- It was a fundamentalist movement focused on religious conversion.
- None of the slogans raised by the rioters were in favour of nationalism and anti-British
- Rebellion as an attempt to establish a Caliphate.
- It concluded that Haji was a rioter who established a Sharia court and beheaded many Hindus. The rioters did not spare secular Muslims.
- Many ‘Moplah martyrs’ facing trial died from disease or natural causes, and could not be treated as martyrs.
In 2020, the Indian Council for Historical research (ICHR) has constituted a three-member committee to review the entries in the book Dictionary of Martyrs: India’s Freedom Struggle 1857-1947, which was released by the Prime Minister on 7th March 2019.
The book contains an account of the martyrs from India’s First War of Independence in 1857, to India’s Independence in 1947. The project for its compilation was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture to ICHR to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the uprising of 1857.
Let us understand more on the Moplah rebellion:
Moplah is an anglicised word of Mappilla given to Malayali-speaking Muslims who reside along the entire length of the Malabar Coast in Kerala.
With the rise in Portuguese commercial power, the Mappilas found themselves a competitor and increasingly started moving inland in search of new economic opportunities.
The shifting of the Mappilas led to a clash of religious identities both with the local Hindu population and the Portuguese.
The trigger of the uprising came from the Non-Cooperation Movement launched by the Congress in 1920 along with the Khilafat agitation. The anti-British sentiment fuelled by these agitations affected the Muslim Mappilas (also known as Moplahs) of south Malabar region of Kerala.
The British had introduced new tenancy laws that tremendously favoured the landlords known as Janmis and instituted a far more exploitative system for peasants than before. The new laws deprived the peasants of all guaranteed rights to the land, share in the produce they earlier got and in effect rendered them landless.
Most of the landlords were Namboodiri Brahmins while most of the tenants were Mappilla Muslims.
In early 20th century, Fuelled by the fiery speeches by Muslim religious leaders and anti-British sentiments, the Moplahs launched a violent rebellion. Numerous acts of violence were reported and a series of persecutions were committed both against the British and the Hindu landlords. The subsequent riots led to the mass killings of over 10,000 Hindus, raping of women, forced religious conversions, destruction or damage of nearly 300 temples, loot and arson of properties worth crores of rupees and burning of houses belonging to the Hindus.
- Gandhiji along with Shaukat Ali, the leader of the Khilafat movement in India, visited Calicut in August 1920 to spread the combined message of non-cooperation and Khilafat among the residents of Malabar.
- In response to Gandhiji’s call, a Khilafat committee was formed in Malabar and the Mappilas, under their religious head Mahadum Tangal of Ponnani who pledged support to the non-cooperation movement.
- Most of tenants’ grievances were related to the security of tenure, high rents, renewal fees and other unfair exactions of the landlords.
By the end of 1921, the rebellion was crushed by the British who had raised a special battalion, the Malabar Special Force for the riot.
In November 1921, 67 Moplah prisoners were killed when they were being transported in a closed freight wagon from Tirur to the Central Prison in Podanur. They died of suffocation. This event is called the Wagon Tragedy.
This also came during the high time of Non-cooperation movement and further fuelled the emotional sentiments of different communities.
While there are some who call it a case of religious fanaticism, there are others who look at it as an instance of struggle against British authority, and then there are others who perceive the Malabar rebellion to be a peasant revolt against unfair practices of the landlords.
The broad consensus on the episode notes it to have started off as a struggle against political power, which later took on a communal colour.
Indian Council of Historical Research
ICHR is an autonomous organization, established under Societies Registration Act,1860 in 1972. It is under the Ministry of Education.
- To bring historians together for exchange of views.
- To give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history.
- To promote, accelerate and coordinate research in history and ensure its dissemination.
- The council also provides grants, assistance and fellowships for historical research.
3. Focusing on diseases side lined by COVID-19
UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS II, III; Public Health system
Sub Theme: lifestyle diseases | UPSC
Associated Challenges With Public Health Systems in India
Lack of Primary Healthcare Services: The existing public primary health care model in the country is limited in scope.
Even where there is a well-functioning public primary health centre, only services related to pregnancy care, limited childcare and certain services related to national health programmes are provided.
This represents only 15% of all morbidities for which people seek care.
Supply-Side Deficiencies: Poor health management skills and lack of appropriate training and supportive supervision for health workers prevent delivery of the desired quality of health services.
Inadequate Funding: Expenditure on public health funding has been consistently low in India (approximately 1.3% of GDP). As per OECD, India’s total out-of-pocket expenditure is around 2.3 % of GDP.
Overlapping Jurisdiction: There is no single authority responsible for public health that is legally empowered to issue guidelines and enforce compliance of the health standards.
Sub-optimal Public Health System: Due to this, it is challenging to tackle Non-communicable Diseases, which is all about prevention and early detection.
It diminishes preparedness and effective management for new and emerging threats such as pandemic like Covid-1
4. Hurriyat may face wrath of UAPA, Pro-Pak. slogans: NSA invoked
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III: Indian national security and defence
Sub Theme: UAPA | UPSC
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019
Origin of the UAPA?
- The Act was introduced in 1966 for curbing the cession of a part of the territory of India”, or its “secession”, or which questions or disclaims the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- In 2004 and 2008, the UAPA was amended to be modelled as an ‘anti-terror law’.
- In August 2019, Parliament cleared the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 to empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists on certain grounds provided in the Act.
Recently in News due to – The death of Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, while in judicial custody, has brought to focus the stringent nature of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Issue with the law
- Considered antithetical to constitutional freedom to dissent, rule of law and fair trial.
- Frequent application of UAPA – Between 2016 and 2019, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Data suggest, a total of 4,231 FIRs were filed under various sections of the UAPA, of which 112 cases have resulted in convictions.
- Denial of Bail – Under Section 43D(5) of the Act, bail cannot be granted to a suspect if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the charges are prima facie true.
- Wide and ambiguous definition of a “terrorist act” which includes the death of, or injuries to, any person, damage to any property, etc. This differs from the definition internationally accepted by the United Nations (UN).
In this regard, Recently, the judgment of the Delhi High Court assumes significance as the judgment granted the bail to three activists, who were charged under UAPA and had been in jail for over a year without trial, for their alleged role in the 2020 Delhi riots.
Taking clue from this judgment, need of the hour is to find a way to strike a balance between constitutional freedom and state imperative to provide security.
National Security Act, 1980
- NSA is a preventive detention law created as per Article 22 (3) (b) of the Constitution that allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
- NSA empowers the Centre or a State government to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security. The government can also detain a person to prevent him from disrupting public order or for maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community.
- The maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months. But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.
Issues with the act:
- No Record of Detentions under the NSA: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects and analyses crime data in the country, does not include cases under the NSA in its data as no FIRs are registered. Hence, no figures are available for the exact number of detentions under the NSA.
- Misuse by the authorities: It has sometimes use it as an extra-judicial power. The police on Sunday invoked the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against four persons out of ten arrested so far for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans during a Muharram event in Ujjain of Madhya Pradesh.
- Takes away all basic rights:
- Right to be informed of the reason for the arrest and be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest – A person detained under the NSA could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
- Right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice – The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter
5. Afghan Sikhs, Hindus among 392 airlifted from Kabul
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II, III: India’s neighbourhood, India’s international relations, defence
Sub Theme: C-17 globe master | UPSC
BOEING C-17 Globemaster
It is a large military transport aircraft that was developed for the US Air Force. It has been developed by US company Boeing.
C-17 can carry large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world day or night.
The massive, sturdy, long-haul aircraft tackles distance, destination and heavy, oversized payloads in unpredictable conditions.
- Take off from very high altitude airfields.
- Fuel refuelling capability
- Land in a paved or unpaved airfield in day or night.
6. India signs deal for 70,000 assault rifles
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III: India’s defence
Sub Theme: C-17 globe master | UPSC
AK 203 assault rifles
It is an assault rifle that India is importing from Russia. This rifle in based on the Kalashnikov platform.
This rifle is considered to be the most advanced version of AK-47 rifles.
It is expected to replace the Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) assault rifle.
The main characteristics of this are: Reliability, durability and easy maintenance.
India’s plans to import 70000 of these rifles off the shelf.
India has also signed a deal with Russia for indigenous manufacturing of these rifles at the Korwa Defence Factory in UP.
For this a joint venture was established between India and Russia named as Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited.