1. PIL misuse
Context: While rejecting a bath of PILs in a case, the Supreme Court has observed that Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have been brazenly misused by people with political agenda and they pose a grave danger to the entire judicial process.
- It is a travesty of justice for the resources of the legal system to be consumed by an avalanche of misdirected petitions purportedly filed in public interest that are found to promote a personal, business or political agenda. This has spawned an industry of vested interests in litigation.
- Frivolous or motivated petitions, detract the time and attention that courts must devote to genuine causes. Besides, such petitions pose a grave danger to the credibility of the judicial process.
- Also, PILs have been used to seek publicity, instituted at the behest of business or political rivals to settle scores behind the facade of public interest.
What is PIL?
‘Public Interest Litigation’ denotes a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of public interest where the rights of an individual or a group have been affected.
Why we need PIL?
- In Public Interest Litigation (PIL) vigilant citizens of the country can find an inexpensive legal remedy because there is only a nominal fixed court fee involved in this.
- Further, through the so-called PIL, the litigants can focus attention on and achieve results pertaining to larger public issues, especially in the fields of human rights, consumer welfare and environment.
Demerits of PIL:
- The genuine causes and cases of public interest have in fact receded to the background and irresponsible PIL activists all over the country have started to play a major but not a constructive role in the arena of litigation. Of late, many of the PIL activists in the country have found the PIL as a handy tool of harassment since frivolous cases could be filed without investment of heavy court fees as required in private civil litigation and deals could then be negotiated with the victims of stay orders obtained in the so-called PILs.
- The flexibility of procedure that is a character of PIL has given rise to another set of problems. It gives an opportunity to opposite parties to ascertain the precise allegation and respond specific issues.
- The credibility of PIL process is now adversely affected by the criticism that the judiciary is overstepping the boundaries of its jurisdiction and that it is unable to supervise the effective implementation of its orders.
- It has also been increasingly felt that PIL is being misused by the people agitating for private grievance in the grab of public interest and seeking publicity rather than espousing public cause.
PIL now does require a complete rethink and restructuring. Anyway, overuse and abuse of PIL can only make it stale and ineffective. Since it is an extraordinary remedy available at a cheaper cost to all citizens of the country, it ought not to be used by all litigants as a substitute for ordinary ones or as a means to file frivolous complaints. It is, indeed, time that the PIL was reclaimed for its original constituents by limiting it to matters concerning the protection of fundamental rights of the disadvantaged and underprivileged. This would help restore the legitimacy and efficacy not only of the PIL as a means of providing access to justice to the poorest of the poor, but also of the judiciary as an institution.
2. Defence Planning Committee (DPC)
Context: The Centre has set up a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) chaired by National Security Advisor (NSA) to facilitate “comprehensive” planning for the defence forces besides focusing on military doctrines to deal with emerging security challenges.
About the DPC:
The DPC will be a permanent body chaired by the National Security Advisor.
The committee will comprise:
- National Security Advisor (NSA).
- Foreign secretary.
- Chairman of chiefs of staff committee.
- The Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs.
- Secretary (expenditure) in the Finance Ministry.
The chairman of the DPC can co-opt experts into it depending on requirement.
Functions of the committee:
- Prepare drafts of national security strategy and doctrines, international defence engagement strategy and roadmap to build defence manufacturing ecosystem.
- Work on strategy to boost defence exports, and prioritised capability development plans for the armed forces.
- Analyse and evaluate all relevant inputs relating to defence planning and foreign policy imperatives besides focusing on defence acquisition and infrastructure development plans including the 15-year-long integrated perspective plan.
- Work on development of Indian defence industry and technology advancements.
Benefits of having DPC:
Because the Prime Minister’s Office, the defence ministry, the finance ministry and the three services are part of the same committee, decisions on military purchases could now happen much faster.
The DPC would submit its draft reports to the Defence Minister according to “given timelines” following which further approvals will be obtained as required.
Significance of the move:
While India does have a defence planning architecture in place, this is the first time it is creating a body that will factor in everything from foreign policy imperatives to operational directives and long-term defence equipment acquisition and infrastructure development plans to technological developments in other parts of the world while coming up with a plan.
The move, which is a significant change in India’s defence strategy architecture, comes as the country faces several potential threats in a highly militarised neighbourhood; is trying to balance budgetary constraints with its need for arms; and is working on increasing its own expertise in manufacturing and exporting defence equipment. Until now, defence planning has been synonymous with hardware acquisition.
3. Gram swaraj abhiyan
Context: As part of the “Gram SwarajAbhiyaan”, the “Swachh Bharat Parva” was recently organized all over the country.
About Gram Swaraj Abhiyan:
“Gram Swaraj Abhiyan” is being organised between 14th April to 05th May, 2018.
- The campaign, undertaken under the name of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Gaon, Sabka Vikas”, is to promote social harmony, spread awareness about pro-poor initiatives of government, reach out to poor households to enroll them as also to obtain their feedback on various welfare programmes.
- As a special endeavour during the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, saturation of eligible households/persons would be made under seven flagship pro-poor programmes in 21,058 identified villages.
- The programmes covered are Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya, Ujala scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Mission Indradhanush.
5. Uniform road tax
Context: A group of ministers (GoM) on transport constituted by the roads ministry has recommended a uniform road tax structure for vehicles across states.
The group was constituted to find a solution to the various problems plaguing the road sector in the country. It was also asked to suggest ways to improve road safety and facilitate ease of transport.
Important recommendations made:
One national bus and taxi permit: The GoM has recommended one national bus and taxi permit on the lines of permits for goods transporters. Public transport in the country is growing annually at a rate of just about 2%, as against a 20% annual growth in private transport. Therefore, a national permit will give the much-needed fillip to public transport and help reduce road congestion.
Boost to electric vehicles: The GoM proposed to liberalize the permit system for electric vehicles to promote alternative fuels. It suggested raising the tax on diesel vehicles by 2% while lowering the tax on electric vehicles.
Benefits of uniform road tax:
- It will end the practice of people registering their vehicles in low-tax states and using them in other states. The move will also bring relief to consumers moving across states.
- If the states agree to One Nation, One Permit, One Tax then the revenues of the states will increase. This will also reduce the chances of one operator taking a few permits and running a large number of buses.
- It will also go a long way in improving the interstate transfer of used cars making the lengthy and rather a cumbersome process that exists today into a much more streamlined and less complicated one.
The One Nation – One Permit proposal will have farther fetching results. With an easier structure to transport goods across the country, the struggling road transport segment will see a most certain boost in morale, which could also lead to a reduction in prices of essential commodities like food, etc. The standardized permit will be an additional boost to the industry that already has seen a big improvement since GST came along and scrapped the state excise policies.
5. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
Context: TESS, NASA’s planet-hunting satellite was recently launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
About TESS mission:
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA mission that will look for planets orbiting the brightest stars in Earth’s sky.
Mission: The mission will monitor at least 200,000 stars for signs of exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized rocky worlds to huge gas giant planets. TESS, however, will focus on stars that are 30 to 100 times brighter than those Kepler examined. This will help astronomers better understand the structure of solar systems outside of our Earth, and provide insights into how our own solar system formed.
Orbit: TESS will occupy a never-before-used orbit high above Earth. The elliptical orbit, called P/2, is exactly half of the moon’s orbital period; this means that TESS will orbit Earth every 13.7 days. Its closest point to Earth (67,000 miles or 108,000 kilometers) is about triple the distance of geosynchronous orbit, where most communications satellites operate.