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GS Paper II  Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries

Process of filling vacancies of HC judges on war footing: Supreme Court

What’s Happening-
The Supreme Court said the memorandum of procedure (MoP) for appointments to the higher judiciary has been cleared and the process of filling the vacancies in the high courts was proceeding on a “war footing”.

Key Points discussed were:

  • A three-judge Bench headed by chief justice J.S. Khehar, while disposing of public interest litigations (PILs) seeking filling of vacancies for reducing the huge pendency of cases, said progress has been made and the number of posts of judges in high courts would be increased by 25%.

Procedure:

  • In the first stage, filling up of vacancies of high court judges and then looking into increasing the number of high court judges.
  • The bench said a committee of senior apex court judges has been formed for suggesting ways for reducing the pendency of cases up to three years.
  • It also gave liberty to Delhi BJP spokesperson and advocate Ashwini Upadhaya to approach the apex court if he wanted to suggest ways to increase the number of judges.
  • The bench also disposed of other petitions pertaining to the same issue.

SC Collegium finalisations:

  • Earlier, this month the Supreme Court collegium finalised the MoP for the appointment of judges in the higher judiciary, ending a year-long face-off with the executive by agreeing to include the contentious clause of national security in a selection of judges.
  • It had agreed to the national security clause, which the government had been insisting be included as one of the necessary criteria for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
  • The collegium after deliberations had also agreed on setting up secretariats in the apex court and the high courts to collate data about judges and assist in the selection procedure for their appointment to the higher judiciary.

Background-
The draft memorandum had been hanging fire for over the past year following the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) judgment in October 2015, which had quashed constitutional amendments giving the political class an equal role in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
Discussions on the MoP had, till recently, centred around the controversial clause of national security, with the government proposing that it wanted to retain the power to veto a judicial name recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium if the person was found to be a national threat.
The sanctioned strength of judges across the 24 High Courts is 1,079. But the strength has come down to half.

GS Paper III  Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Third largest hypersonic wind tunnel at VSSC

What’s Happening-

  • Indigenously developed hypersonic wind tunnel and shock tunnel, the third largest in terms of size and simulation capability in the world, were commissioned at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
  • Key Points discussed were:
  • A wind tunnel is used to study the effects of air flowing past a solid object—in ISRO’s case, space vehicles.
  • With the space agency lining up big missions like the ‘Reusable Launch Vehicle’ (RLV), ‘Two Stage to Orbit’ (TSTO) rockets, air breathing propulsion systems, and the human space flight programme for the future, the aero-thermodynamic modelling of such vehicles in a hypersonic environment is vital for optimal designs.
  • ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar, commissioned two facilities—a one-metre Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and a one-metre Shock Tunnel. 
  • ”These facilities are the third largest in terms of size and simulation capability in the world. These facilities—named after former ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan—have been indigenously designed, developed and made in India with the support of Indian Industries”.
  • Commissioning of such facilities would provide adequate data for design and development of current and future Space transportation systems in the country. 
  • The commissioning of the facility also symbolises the country’s capability in establishing such world class facilities wherein technology from outside is restricted or not available.
  • The new facility will help aerodynamic characterisation of advanced space transportation systems.
  • The need for wind tunnels and shock tunnels:
  • Aerospace vehicles fly at high speed, often greater than the speed of sound. Their re-entry through the atmosphere is at high Mach numbers, the modelling of which is intricate.
  • Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and Shock Tunnel facilities are used to simulate the aero-thermal environment where characterisation of vehicles is carried out. Facilities existing in the country are smaller in size and have limited simulation capabilities
  1. One metre hypersonic wind tunnel can simulate flow speeds of Mach 6 to 12.
  2. One metre shock tunnel simulates flight speed of 4.5 kilometres per second.

GS Paper III – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Sarbananda Sonowal launches initiative to make Majuli carbon neutral

What’s Happening-
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal launched initiative to develop Majuli, the world’s largest river island, as the country’s first carbon neutral district and a biodiversity heritage site.

Key Points discussed were:

  • Context: Occasion of International Day of Forest.
  • Majuli is facing existential crisis and therefore initiatives like designating carbon neutral district and biodiversity heritage site are needs of the hour to preserve its rich heritage and legacy,”. 
  • Sonowal also launched through remote a registry in Majuli which would record and analyse the climate impact of all proposed projects in the state’s newest district.
  • He said the Sustainable Actions for Climate Resilient Development (SaCReD) Initiative would ensure that infrastructure in Majuli had less carbon.
  • The chief minister also launched “Forests are Lives” campaign to underline the importance of Assam’s rich forest and biodiversity and urged all to take a pledge to conserve its biodiversity to make the state pollution free.

Background-
Majuli is a  in the , Assam, India and the 1st island district of the country.
It is recognised by Guinness Book of World Records as World’s Largest River Island.
The island is formed by the  river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an  of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north.
The island is about 300–400 kilometres east from the  largest city.
It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit.
Majuli is the abode of the  neo-Vaishnavite culture.
A , Majuli is a hotspot for flora and fauna, harbouring many rare and endangered avifauna species including migratory birds that arrive in the winter season.
Among the birds seen here are the , ,  and the .
The island is under threat due to the extensive  on its banks. The reason for this magnitude in erosion is the large embankments built in neighbouring towns upriver to prevent erosion during the  season when the river distends its banks.
Local environmental activist  has planted a 550 hectare forest, known as Molai Forest to combat erosion on the island.