Syllabus: GS 1 / History and Culture
• The Kohinoor diamond should be returned to India, according to a Parliamentary Standing Committee investigating misappropriation of cultural property.
- Kohinoor, whose name means “Mountain of Light,” is a colorless diamond.
- It is one of the world’s largest cut diamonds, weighting 105.6 carats.
- Currently, the diamond is set in Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s crown.
History of Kohinoor
- It is believed that the Kakatiya dynasty began mining it in the 13th century near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.
- Over time, the jewel passed through the hands of the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji, the Mughal empire, and the Persian invader Nadir Shah, who took it to Afghanistan.
- In 1809, it was acquired by Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Maharaja of Punjab, who ruled from Lahore.After the second Anglo-Sikh conflict, during which Punjab was placed under the control of the East India Company, Queen Victoria finally acquired the diamond in 1849. The British seized the diamond following the ratification of the Last Treaty of Lahore.
- Under the British Raj, the diamond endured a significant recutting because the original Kohinoor failed to appeal to Londoners, resulting in its current form.
• Multiple former territories of the British Raj have claimed claim to the diamond, including India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Since India’s independence in 1947, multiple claims have been made for the territory.
• The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, reignited the clamor in India for the return of the Kohinoor.
• The United Kingdom has rejected all of these claims. In 2010, the then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, declined the idea of returning the Kohinoor, stating, “If you say yes to one, the British Museum would be empty.”
• If India could stake claim to the diamond, then numerous other nations, such as Iran and Afghanistan, could do the same.
• Other looted artefacts from India, including the Darya Noor (the sister diamond of the Kohinoor) and portions of the Peacock throne, are in Iran, but no one mentions it.
Can it be returned to India?
• India lacks the legal authority to demand the diamond’s return. Under the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act of 1972, the Archaeological Survey of India can only retrieve unlawfully exported antiquities.
• The Kohinoor case is controversial because it was surrendered by Maharaja Dalip Singh as part of the 1849 Lahore treaty with the British.
• In 2016, the Ministry of Culture submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the diamond cannot be reclaimed because it was a gift.
UNESCO Convention of 1970
- The UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property is an international treaty to combat the illegal trade in cultural items.
- Articles 7 and 15 of the convention indicate that the convention does not prohibit state parties from entering special agreements for the restitution of removed cultural properties.
- The 1970 Convention provides protection for cultural property. Article I of the convention defines cultural property as anything of scientific, historical, aesthetic, or religious significance. However, each state may define its own cultural property, so long as it is significant and falls within the Article I categories.
Papua New Guinea-US Security Pact
Syllabus: GS1/Geography, Places in News
• Papua New Guinea and the United States will sign a security pact granting American forces access to the nation’s ports and airports.
• The two agreements will focus on defense cooperation and maritime surveillance between the two nations.
• The United States has placed a greater emphasis on the Pacific due to concerns about a more assertive China, which is attempting to woo nations with diplomatic and financial inducements in exchange for strategic support.
Papua New Guinea
- The Independent State of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific shares a land border with Indonesia.
- Papua New Guinea is the third largest island nation in the globe.
- Solomon Islands to the east and Australia to the south. It lies immediately south of the Equator.
- The physical geography of the island consists of mountains, coastal lowlands, and rolling foothills.
- To the north of this region is a swampy plain formed by sediment deposited by the major rivers Sepik and Ramu. These waterways originate in the mountains and flow into the Bismarck Sea.The Fly in the southwest, the Purari and Kikori in the south, and the Sepik and Ramu in the north are the major rivers of the mainland.
- Papua New Guinea is one of the countries along the Ring of Fire, a swath of active volcanoes and earthquake epicenters bordering the Pacific Ocean; up to 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and 75 percent of its volcanoes occur within the Ring of Fire.
- Geographical Features:
Appointment of judges to the Supreme Court
Syllabus: GS2/Judiciary, Government Policies & Interventions, GS1/ Social Justice
• The government has recently approved the appointment of two Supreme Court judges.
- The two new judges of the supreme court are Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and K.V. Viswanathan, who was appointed directly from the Supreme Court Bar.
Appointment of Judges
- Collegium system:
- Judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court are appointed in accordance with Articles 124 and 217 of the Indian Constitution.
- Articles 124 and 217 state that the President must consult with the Chief Justice of India and other judges before appointing judges to the Supreme Court and high courts.
- The Supreme Court Collegium is comprised of the CJI and the four most senior judges of the apex court.
- The High Court Collegium is comprised of the Chief Justice of the High Court and the two most senior judges of that court.
- The collegium system was designed to preserve the fundamental structure of the Constitution by preserving the independence of the judiciary.
- It was also intended to ensure that the Chief Justice of India does not impose his or her personal opinion on the appointment of judges, but rather that the body as a whole has the final say.
- Crucially, the Collegium’s recommendations are enforceable: while the government can raise concerns and request that the Collegium reconsider, if the Collegium chooses to reiterate its recommendations, they become enforceable.
- Significance of the system:
Issues with the current collegium system
- The collegium system provides no guidelines or criteria for the appointment of Supreme Court judges, thereby expanding the scope of bias.
- In the collegium system, there are no requirements for assessing the candidate or conducting a background check to establish the candidate’s credibility.
- In the absence of an administrative authority, the members of the collegium system are not accountable for the selection of any of the judges.
About the National Judicial Commission (NJAC)
- The need for the National Judicial Appointment Commission arose after numerous jurists criticized the existing collegium system, stating that India is the only nation in which judges appoint themselves and have the authority to decide their transfers.
- Statute for NJAC:
- The National Judicial Appointments Commission Act of 2014 proposed the NJAC.
- The National Judicial Appointment Commission Act was passed in order to create a more transparent system.
- The commission was constituted by the 2014 99th Amendment to the Constitution Act.
- The Act proposed that the NJAC would consist of legislative, judicial, and civil society representatives.
- Apex Court’s action:
• In a 2015 collective order, the Supreme Court struck down the 2014 NJAC Act by a majority of 4:1.
• The NJAC Act was deemed unconstitutional on the grounds that it compromised judicial independence.
Issues with NJAC
- SC’s previous action:
- The concept of NJAC has been considered by the Supreme Court three times, in 1993, 1998, and 2016.
- Each time, while emphasizing the necessity of judicial independence, the Supreme Court has rejected the NJAC framework.
- Critics assert that the judiciary is the only institution in the country that remains independent.
- It is detrimental to enable political influence over the judiciary.
- Also asserted is that the collegium system is operating efficiently.
- There is room for improvement, but no political interference is permitted. The federal government should have no authority over the selection of the judiciary.
- Legislative involvement in the appointment of justices may foster a culture of’reciprocity.’
- Meaning that judges may feel obligated to repay the political executive in exchange for their appointment to the position of justice.
- Issue of political influence:
- Culture of reciprocity:
- Constitutional impossibility:
- The recent measure was opposed in the Rajya Sabha as a “constitutional impossibility”
|Pendency of cases in India
Deficiency of Judges:
- Speedy appointment of judges:
- Immediate action is required to increase the judge-to-population ratio in order to reduce the workload of justices.
- Guidelines by Union government:
- The Centre proposed increasing the number of court working days, establishing fast track courts, and implementing Indian Courts and Tribunal Services (ICTs) to improve the efficiency of the court system.
- Improve judicial infrastructure through the use of e-platforms and the establishment of more courts.
- India has launched the eCourts Project’s eCourts National portal, ecourts.gov.in.
- It uses modes such as Arbitration, Mediation, and Conciliation.
- It employs a neutral third party to assist the parties in communicating, discussing their differences, and resolving the dispute.
- It offers to resolve all categories of civil disputes, as required by law.
- Conflicts can be resolved prior to litigation through counseling.
- Strengthen the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism:
Elections and the Airwaves
Syllabus: GS2/Indian Polity
• During the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly elections, political parties received free airtime on public broadcasters Akashvani and Doordarshan.
- The allocation was made available to six recognized national parties — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the National People’s Party (NPP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — as well as one recognized State party, the Janata Dal (Secular).The parties were allotted 45 minutes of base time plus additional periods based on their performance in previous elections.
- Through a 2003 amendment to the Representation of the People Act, the ability to provide free airtime to political parties during elections now has statutory backing.
- In a well-known decision (The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting vs. Cricket Association of Bengal and Others, 1995), the Supreme Court ruled that airwaves are public property and that their use must serve the public interest.
- As elections are the lifeblood of a democracy, the misuse or abuse of airwaves to obtain an unfair electoral advantage is a major regulatory concern for governments around the globe.
|About All India Radio
How does it work?
- Time vouchers are disseminated by the Election Commission through a transparent lottery system to prevent any preferential treatment in obtaining primetime slots.
- The transcripts of political parties are reviewed to ensure compliance with applicable codes. These codes prohibit content that is critical of other countries, attacks religions or other communities, or incites violence or personal attacks.
- Due to the pattern of ownership of media organizations in the Indian media landscape, the public generally identifies a broadcaster as belonging to one of two political parties. In this regard, State-sponsored airtime adds variety and color to the electoral process.
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) mandates that Akashvani and DD air a maximum of two panel discussions.
- These discussions provide an excellent forum for parties, both large and small, to debate and criticize one another’s policies and manifestos, and foster an informed citizenry in general.
Rohingya Refugees in India
Syllabus: GS 2/3:Foreign Policy/ Internal Security
- Recently, the report ‘A Shadow of Refuge: Rohingya Refugees in India’ was published.
About the recent report
• It was compiled by The Azadi Project, a non-profit advocating for women’s rights, and Refugees International, an international NGO advocating for the rights of stateless persons.
- The report is based on February and March 2023 visits to Rohingya settlements in Delhi and Hyderabad.
• The research was conducted through interviews with Rohingya refugees, refugee-led organizations, United Nations officials, local and international NGOs providing humanitarian and legal aid to the Rohingyas, and other experts.
Major Issues Highlighted by the Report
- India denies Rohingya refugees who have concluded refugee status determinations with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and “gained approval from third countries for resettlement” exit permissions.
- The Rohingya in India are stigmatized as “illegal migrants,” face increasing “anti-Muslim and anti-refugee xenophobia,” and live in constant dread of being deported back to Myanmar, “to the regime from which they fled genocide.”
- Other challenges: Arbitrary detention.
- Actual and threatened deportations have instilled dread in the Rohingya community, causing some to return to camps in Bangladesh.
- The report describes the harsh living conditions of the Rohingya in slum-like settlements with no access to essential healthcare, education for children, or employment opportunities.
- Those who advocate for the Rohingya are threatened, specifically with the denial of access to foreign funding.
- Downgrading of the UNHCR cards: whereas the UNHCR cards previously provided access to some level of education and livelihoods as well as protection from detention and deportation, the government has taken the position that “UNHCR refugee status without valid travel documents is of no consequence in India”
Suggestions and Recommendations
- Instead of refusing exit visas, India can help facilitate more resettlement opportunities” by advocating for resettlement in ally countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, and other European nations at forums like the G-20 summit.
- The report urges India to officially recognize the Rohingya in India as “refugees with the right to asylum” as opposed to “illegal migrants.”
- India must ratify the Refugee Convention and enact a domestic law on refugees and asylum for this to occur.
- Absent this, the least India could do is “a simple acknowledgement of residency” by accepting UNHCR cards.
- Better treatment of refugees is in India’s interest, as it would “give the government more global credibility” and “serve national security interests, as new arrivals would be officially documented and not incentivized to remain under the radar”
- The legal system and civil society have been advocating on behalf of the Rohingya, and their voices should be supported, not stifled.
- It also urges the United States to raise concerns with India regarding detention, deportation, and the status of Rohingya during forthcoming visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- The International Genocide Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child oblige India not to return the Rohingya to Myanmar.
|Do you Know?
NIA’s Operation Dhvast
Syllabus: GS 3/Internal Security
- In the terrorist-gangster-drug smugglers network cases, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested three individuals in conjunction with raids conducted as part of a nationwide drive codenamed “Operation Dhvast.”
• Since August 2022, the NIA has been investigating three cases relating to conspiracies involving targeted killings, terror funding of pro-Khalistan outfits, extortion, etc.
• The latest searches were part of the NIA’s ongoing action against terror networks and their funding and support infrastructure.
About National Investigation Agency (NIA)
- It was established after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008 and began operations in 2009.
- It is a central agency charged with investigating all offenses affecting the sovereignty, security, and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and violations of statutes enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions, and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies, and other international organizations.
- These include terrorist acts and their possible ties to crimes such as the smuggling of arms, drugs, and counterfeit Indian currency, as well as infiltration from across the borders.
- The agency has the authority to search, seize, arrest, and prosecute those involved in such offenses.
- The law under which the agency operates applies to the entire country of India, as well as to Indian citizens living abroad.
• The law under which the agency operates applies to: o the entirety of India, as well as Indian citizens outside the country; o persons in the service of the government, wherever they are posted; o persons on ships and aircraft registered in India, wherever they may be; o persons who commit a scheduled offence outside of India against an Indian citizen or against India’s interests.
- The NIA Act was amended in 2019 to expand the NIA’s mandate to include offenses related to human trafficking, the manufacture/sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and violations of the Explosive Substances Act of 1908, as well as to extend its jurisdiction beyond India.
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was amended in 2019 to empower the Director General (DG) of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to seize/attach properties related to proceeds of terrorism in NIA-investigated cases.
International Credit Card come under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)
Syllabus: GS3/ Economy
- The Centre has amended Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations to include international credit card purchases made outside India under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS).
- Additionally, as of 1 July, the Tax Collected at Source (TCS) rate for international credit card purchases will increase to 20%.
What is Tax Collected at Source (TCS)?
• TCS is a direct tax that is collected by the vendor from the buyer and deposited to the government. Then, taxpayers can request refunds on the TCS levy when filing tax returns.
Key Points about Change
• Credit card purchases made outside India now fall under the LRS, which allows all resident individuals, including minors, to remit up to US $250,000 (approximately Rs 2.06 crore) per year without prior sanction from the RBI.
• Bringing credit card transactions under LRS permits the imposition of a higher TCS, as announced in the 2023-24 budget.
• Until June 30, 5% TCS will be levied on such expenditure on overseas tour packages (without threshold) or any other category (above Rs 7 lakh threshold), excluding medical and educational expenses.
• It will not apply to purchases of foreign products or services made in India.
Why the Changes?
- These standards will aid in achieving parity between the international usage of credit and debit cards, which was already a component of LRS.
- •In addition, instances were identified in which “LRS payments are disproportionately high relative to the reported incomes.” It also clarified that the LRS does not cover employee business trips when the employer pays for them.
Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)
- It was introduced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2004.
- It is a program that enables Indian citizens to send money abroad for specific purposes.
- The scheme has been one of the most important instruments for facilitating capital transfers into and out of India and promoting international trade and investment.
- Prior to this, the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) of 1999 had placed a number of restrictions on the transmission of funds from India to other nations. Individuals were permitted to transfer up to $25,000 per fiscal year for eligible transactions. Subsequently, the amount was raised to USD 50,000 in 2007 and USD 250,000 in 2013.
- The primary purpose of the liberalized remittance scheme is to liberalize the current foreign exchange regulations and facilitate the transmission of funds abroad by Indian residents.
|Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA)