1.Motor vehicle amendment bill (The Hindu, Business standard)
2.Powering India-Nepal ties (The Hindu)
3.Abolishing summer vacations : Judicial reforms (Indian Express)
4.Ending nuclear lawlessness (The Hindu)
1.Motor vehicle amendment bill(The Hindu, Business standard)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the implications of Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016. (GS paper III)
- The Lok Sabha had recently passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill amends the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to address issues such as third party insurance, regulation of taxi aggregators, and road safety.
- It will have huge implications for the motor vehicle regime and the concerns associated with it.
Key highlights of the bill
Issues like road safety, e-governance, insurance among others are addressed in the Bill which amends the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
- The Bill provides for a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund which would provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
- The Bill defines taxi aggregators, guidelines for which will be determined by the central government.
- The Bill also provides for: (i) amending the existing categories of driver licensing, (ii) recall of vehicles in case of defects, (iii) protection of good Samaritans from any civil or criminal action, and (iv) increase of penalties for several offences under the 1988 Act.
- Improving delivery of services to the stakeholders using e-Governance is one of the major focuses of this Bill. This include enabling online learning licenses, increasing validity period for driving licenses, doing away with the requirements of educational qualifications for transport licenses are some of the features.
- To bring down traffic offenses, the bill has proposed a three-year jail term for parents of minors who are caught driving. It also proposes a 10-fold increase in compensation to the family of a victim in case of an accident
Positive Implications of the bill
- Bill provides for more empowered role of centre government as it assumes a direct responsibility in the reforms as the union will introduce guidelines that bind State governments in several areas, notably in creating a framework for taxicab aggregators, financing insurance to treat the injured and to compensate families of the dead in hit-and-run cases.
- Moreover, there have been a dire need to have clear rules and transparent processes in all these areas, since transport bureaucracies have remained unresponsive to the needs of a growing economy that is witnessing a steady rise in motorisation.
- However, there are some concerns that the move to amend the MV Act overly emphasises the concurrent jurisdiction of the Centre at the cost of State powers, but the proposed changes come after a long consultation exercise.
- The Bill does not address several issues around road safety that have been highlighted by other committees such as: (i) creating road safety agencies, and (ii) improving road design and engineering.
- The amendments to the MV Act set enhanced penalties for several offences, notably drunken driving, speeding, jumping red lights and so on, but periodic and ineffective enforcement, which is the norm, makes it less likely that these will be uniformly applied.
- There is an urgent need of an accountable and professional police force, without which the frightening record of traffic casualties is unlikely to change.
- State governments must prepare for an early roll-out of administrative reforms prescribed in the amended law, such as issuing learner’s licences online, recording address changes through an online application, and electronic service delivery with set deadlines.
- Moreover, to eliminate corruption, all applications should be accepted by transport departments online, rather than merely computerising them.
Question: How Motor Vehicle Amendment bill can address the issue of traffic management along with fixing protection issues for good Samaritans?
2.Powering India-Nepal ties (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the potential of Indo-Nepal ties on electricity front. (GS paper II)
- India and Nepal should explore the hidden potential of electricity trade between two countries in order to boost the pace of development.
- Such an arrangement can be fruitful for both the countries in the long run. India will get power for its developmental needs while Nepal will get Market.
- Power Trade Agreement (PTA) was signed between Nepal and India in 2014 and was much touted as the one of the most significant achievement. This agreement was perceived as a major advance in not just addressing the increasing power demand in India and Nepal but also as a major economic boost for Nepal.
- The agreement aimed at enhancing the friendly relations and mutual trust between Nepal and India through increased cooperation in the field of transmission interconnection, grid connectivity and power trade. It facilitates governments, public and private enterprises in planning and construction of interconnection facilities and power trade.
- It also allows licensed electricity producers, buyers and traders from both countries to engage in cross-border electricity trading, including via power exchanges, and to seek cross-border transmission access as per the laws of the respective countries.
Strategy to be followed
- There are huge prospects of electricity trade between two countries. Nepal is short of power and will need to import power for some years to accelerate its economic growth. India has surplus capacity at present.
- However, in the years to come, India can fruitfully import flexible hydropower from Nepal to balance its fast growing renewable generation and also to provide a market for Nepal’s electricity.
- Moreover, Nepal’s apprehensions that it would not get a fair deal trading with a large neighbour, will also be addressed as power is now traded in India on exchanges transparently and the price is known to all.
Advantages for Nepal
Nepal has a huge wealth and potential of hydro-electric power but political uncertainty and economic unviability had taken a toll on the development of Nepal’s hydro potential.
- Out of an economically viable and technically feasible potential of 43.5 GW, only 0.8 GW had been developed by March 2016. Thus, a great opportunity has been missed. By selling power to India, Nepal could have developed its economy at a faster rate.
- Nepal’s revenue from export of electricity to India increases its ability to import more goods and also to invest more in the economy. This increases its gross domestic product, consumption and use of electricity, which improves quality of life.
Benefits for India
- Trade will benefit India as well. Meeting the evening peak in India when its large solar PV capacity would not be available becomes easier and cheaper. The gains in monetary terms are comparable for both Nepal and India.
- Building hydropower projects and transmission infrastructure is highly investment-intensive. Without a stable, long-term conducive policy and an institutional environment in place, which ensures payment security, it is unlikely that investors will put their money in this risky business.
- A climate of confidence and trust in the long-term trading relationship between India and Nepal can greatly help Nepal meet its ambitious target and provide an opportunity for Indian investors to invest in Nepal. Hence, an array of systematic confidence-building mechanisms should be adopted
Question: Enhancing trade and cooperation with Nepal is more crucial for India than for Nepal. Comment.
3.Abolishing summer vacations : Judicial reforms (Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of abolishing summer vacations in Supreme court. (GS paper II)
- For the first time in the Supreme Court’s history, three constitution benches of five judges each will sit during the summer break. These would be in addition to the two regular vacation benches set up every year to hear urgent matters.
- Such a development holds considerable prospects for the administration of Justice to the long list of pending cases
A brief Background
- The summer vacation system is invariably ascribed to a British colonial legacy, avoiding the hot Indian summer. Consequently, Supreme Court has just 193 working days a year for its judicial functioning, the high courts function for 210 days and trial courts for 245 days.
- However, things are about to change as 15 judges of the Supreme Court, comprising more than half its strength, will be sitting through prolonged hearings in the forthcoming summer vacation to deal with three cases of Constitutional importance, including the validity of triple talaq and polygamy under Muslim personal laws.
- The court will also hear if WhatsApp sharing with Facebook, its parent company, details of calls, messages, photographs and documents exchanged by 160 million Indian users violated the citizens’ right to privacy.
- The durations of vacations are fixed by high courts or the Supreme Court through rules and regulations whereas for district or subordinate courts, they are fixed by high courts. Hence, the Supreme Court Rules of 2013 provides that the period of the summer vacation shall not exceed seven weeks.
- Though, before 2013, there were the Supreme Court Rules of 1966 which defined the extent of holidays for court.
Idea of 365 day Court
- There are 61,344 matters pending before the Supreme Court. Idea of a 365 day court was mooted In 2014 by the then-Chief Justice of India (Justice Lodha).
- In other words, the courts should function all year round, giving individual judges the choice of holidays and vacations. For working of this idea, it has been suggested that by the end of September, each judge should indicate holidays and vacations he or she wants to avail of in the succeeding year. The registry will then finalise the sittings having regard to the options given by the respective judges.
- Justice Lodha had even suggested having 10 bench sittings every day instead of the 14 to 15 bench sittings for 193 days in a year, in an attempt to improve the delivery of justice. By a back-of-the-hand calculation, this would have raised the number of sittings by 26% a year.
- The precedent of 365-day court is being followed in US supreme court.
- The idea of 365-day court and curtailing of summer vacations is a noble step in the direction of Judicial reforms. Observing the huge backlog of pending cases, such a step becomes crucial.
- Moreover, government should also focus on increasing the number of incumbent judges in lower as well as higher judiciary. According to some reports, approx. 20% seats are vacant in high courts, government and judiciary should focus on filling the vacancies on priority basis.
- National Litigation policy should also be reformed so that government litigation in courts may decrease and free-up judiciary to hear more urgent cases.
Question: On the lines of Judicial reforms, how abolishing of summer vacations may bring respite to justice dissemination?
4.Ending nuclear lawlessness (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the need of nuclear ban treaty over humanitarian ground. (GS paper II)
- Nuclear weapons are the ultimate means of mass destruction and history has shown their use brings immeasurable death and suffering.
- The nuclear weapons ban talks are the fulfilment of a long-standing demand that all countries deserve equal security. For decades, the world has pressed the handful of countries with nuclear weapons to free humanity from the nuclear danger.
- The driving force for the demand for a nuclear weapon-free world is a simple humanitarian impulse, the love and compassion for other human beings.
Nuclear ban treaty 2017
- To give equal security to all countries, recently there were negotiations at the United Nations in New York for an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, it will be “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.
- It declared that it is illegal for any country to produce, possess, stockpile, deploy, and threaten to use, or use nuclear weapons. The final treaty could be approved and ready for signature before the end of this year.
- But a ban treaty has no support from the states that actually have nuclear weapons. The nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, all oppose a ban treaty. U.S. has boycotted with stating that “to ban nuclear weapons now would make us and our allies more vulnerable.”
- It all started during the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union argued that the world was in a life or death struggle and nuclear weapons were a tragic necessity. Both sides knew no one would win in a nuclear war but they prepared to fight regardless with the only acceptable outcome was mutual assured destruction.
- Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.
- In 1961 UN General Assembly resolution declared that “Any state using nuclear and thermonuclear weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the United Nations, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity, and as committing a crime against mankind and civilisation.” In 1946 resolution passes at the UN, called for a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”
- A number of multilateral treaties have since been established with the aim of preventing nuclear proliferation and testing, while promoting progress in nuclear disarmament. These include the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, In Outer Space and under Water also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
- In 1996 United Nations General Assembly adopted, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. It has not entered into force as eight specific states have not ratified the treaty.
- In 2010, after a review conference of the NPT, proposals for a nuclear weapon ban treaty first emerged at which the five nuclear-armed states parties United States, Russia, Britain, France and China has rejected calls for the start of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention.
- In 2014 a group of non nuclear armed nations known as the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) presented the idea of a nuclear weapon ban treaty to NPT states parties as a possible “effective measure” to pursue negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament.
- In 2015 the UN General Assembly established a working group with a mandate to address “concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for attaining and maintaining a nuclear-weapon-free world.
- In August 2016, UNGA adopted a report recommending negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
Why so much resistance
- India’s geographical position is vulnerable, it is sandwiched between China and Pakistan and both are nuclear state and hostile towards India, which create constant threat for nuclear attack on India. India has opposed CTBT, as it finds this as discriminatory for nuclear power as it sought only ban on nuclear testing in future without talking about disarmament.
- India’s main argument was that nuclear disarmament talks should only happen at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, because the conference works by consensus, which means any state can block progress. India used this feature to try to block the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996, and Pakistan now uses this power to stop talks on a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
Way ahead –
- Recent chemical weapon attack on Syria has again highlighted the issue for need of a ban treaty, the world now condemns such actions and decent people everywhere are supporting these efforts to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
- Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over years, with frustration at the ineffectiveness of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in reducing nuclear arsenals. Majority of nations at the UN voted in favour of negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapon free countries have decided to take matters into their own hands to come out with the ban treaty.
- The attempt at the UN to ban atomic weapons is based on the premise that all countries deserve equal security. Decision for outlawing nuclear weapons heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.
- India, Pakistan and all of the nuclear weapons states should prepare to give up their arsenals or be treated as outlaws.
Question: What can be the ethical issues involved in signing of disarmament treaty? What can be implications of India’s abstention for Nuclear ban treaty?