Current Affair-March 17, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been passed by Rajya Sabha.
  • It increases the time period within which an abortion may be carried out.

Present position:

  • Currently, abortion requires the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception, and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.

The original Bill was framed in 1971.

Changes made by amendment

  • Abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks.
  • Advice of two doctors in the case of certain categories of women, between 20 and 24 weeks.
  • For a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities, the opinion of the State­level medical board is essential.

Need for change

  • Rising number of pleas in the court. There are 23 petitions in front of the Supreme Court and many hundreds in the High Courts.
  • Amendments in the Bill had been made after studying global practices and wide consultation within the country.

Criticism:

  • It did not give women the freedom to decide, since they would need a nod from a medical board in the case of pregnancies beyond 24 weeks.
  • Medical board had to have specialists but government data showed a grave shortage in availability of doctors.
  • It is not based on a “right­based” approach. Instead, it had a “need­based” approach.
Source: The Hindu

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

Context: World Energy Transitions Outlook Report 2020 released by IRENA.

Report Suggestions

  • The COVID­19 crisis offers an unexpected opportunity for countries to decouple their economies from fossil fuels and ac­celerate the shift to renewable energy sources.
  • The report proposes energy transition solutions for the narrow pathway available to contain the rise of temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius.
  • It observed that the emergence of a new energy system based on renewable technologies and complemented by green hydrogen and modern bioenergy.
  • It estimated that by 2050, 90% of total electricity needs would be supplied by renewables, followed by 6% from natural gas and the remaining from nuclear.
  • The agency has identified 30 innovations for the integration of wind and solar PV in power systems.

About IRENA

  • Taking an all-fuels, all-technology approach, the IEA recommends policies that enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy. It examines the full spectrum issues including renewables, oil, gas and coal supply and demand, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies, electricity systems and markets, access to energy, demand-side management, and much more.
  • The IEA was born with the  1973-74 oil crisis when industrialised countries were not adequately equipped to deal with the oil embargo imposed by major producers that pushed prices to historically high levels.
  • This first oil shock led to the creation of the IEA in November 1974 with a broad mandate on energy security and energy policy co-operation. This included setting up a collective action mechanism to respond effectively to potential disruptions in oil supply. The framework was anchored in the IEA treaty called the “Agreement on an International Energy Program,” with newly created autonomous Agency hosted at the OECD in Paris.
  • The IEA was established as the main international forum for energy co-operation on a variety of issues such as security of supply, long-term policy, information transparency, energy efficiency, sustainability, research and development, technology collaboration, and international energy relations.

Members

  • The IEA is made up of 30 members.
  • Three countries are seeking accession to full membership, Chile, Israel and Lithuania
  • A candidate country to the IEA must be a member country of the OECD.
Source: The Hindu

Anti-defection law

Context: Nominated MP Swapan Dasgupta resigned from Rajya Sabha.  Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra had raised the issue of his disqualification from Rajya Sabha under the anti-defection law, after the BJP had fielded Dasgupta as its candidate for Tarakeswar constituency in the West Bengal Assembly elections.

Nominated members

  • During the making of the Constitution, members of the Constituent Assembly felt that Rajya Sabha should have members who might not win elections but will bring knowledge and expertise to discussions in the Upper House.
  • It led to Rajya Sabha having 12 nominated members from different walks of life.
  • The broad criterion for their nomination is that they should have distinguished themselves in fields like literature, science, art, and social service.
  • The President nominates such individuals as recommended by the Centre. Nominated members have the same rights and privileges as elected members, with one notable difference — they cannot vote in the election of the President.

The law covers three types of scenarios with respect to an MP switching parties:

  1. When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House contrary to the wishes of the party.
  2. The second possibility is when an MP who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate after the election joins a political party. In both these instances, the MP lose the seat in the House on changing (or joining) a party.
  3. The third scenario relates to nominated MPs. The law specifies that within six months of being nominated to the House, they can choose to join a political party. The time is given so that if a nominated MP is not a member of a political party, they can decide to join one if they want. But if they don’t join a political party during the first six months of their tenure, and join a party thereafter, then they lose their seat in Parliament.
  4. That is what has happened in Dasgupta’s case. After his nomination to Rajya Sabha in 2016, he did not join a political party within the mandatory period of six months, and his membership was open to challenge under the anti-defection law.

Anti-defection law

  • In 1985 the Tenth Schedule, popularly known as the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution. But its enactment was catalysed by the political instability after the general elections of 1967. This was the time when multiple state governments were toppled after MLAs changed their political loyalties.
  • The purpose of the 1985 Constitution Amendment was to bring stability to governments by deterring MPs and MLAs from changing their political parties on whose ticket they were elected. The penalty for shifting political loyalties is the loss of parliamentary membership and a bar on becoming a minister.
  • The law specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by MPs invite action under the law.

Changing/joining a party

  • Over the years, courts have decided that changing a party or joining another does not have to be a formal act. It can also be interpreted through an MP’s actions, on a case-by-case basis.
  • Now the continuity and stability of an elected government are decided in Lok Sabha, where a no-confidence motion can be moved against the government. But the anti-defection law applies equally to both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, even though the Upper House has no role in deciding the government’s fate. Earlier versions of the law did not contain the provision for the disqualification of nominated MPs.

In the past, actions like campaigning for another political party, joining a delegation of elected representatives from another political party to give a representation to the Governor, appearing in political rallies or fighting an election on the symbol of a political party have been held to constitute defection.

Source: Indian Express

Taxpayers’ Charter 

It comprises of commitments by the Income Tax Deparment and obligations of the taxpayers. It  emphasizes the importance of fair, courteous and reasonable treatment to taxpayer.

Income Tax Department’s commitment:

  1. Courteous, fair and reasonable treatment to taxpayers.
  1. Treatment of taxpayers as honest
  2. Maintaining confidentiality
  3. Accountability for the actions of the tax authorities.
  4. Allow taxpayer to choose an authorized representative of his choice.
  5. Resolving the tax issues in a time-bound manner

Taxpayers’obligations

  1. Honestly disclose full information and fulfil his compliance obligations.
  2. Expected to be aware of his compliance obligations under tax law and seek help if need.
  3. Keep accurate records required as per law.
  4. Timely submissions.
Source: Economic Surve

IQ Air Report 2020

  • IQ Air is a Swiss air quality technology company specialising in protection against air­ borne pollutants, and developing air quality monitoring and air cleaning products.
  • In the 2020 report, 106 countries were evaluated. The pollution levels are weighted averages, meaning that the population of a country influences the pollution values reported.

Report Findings

  1. Delhi remained the most polluted capital city in the world.
  2. Delhi’s PM2.5 concentration level, based primarily on data from the Central Pollution Control Board, was 84.1 μg/m3 in 2020, a 15% improvement from the 98.6 μg/m3 recorded in 2019 when the city was ranked the world’s most polluted capital for the second straight year.
  3. India, on the whole, had improved its average annual PM2.5 levels in 2020 than in 2019.
  4. Average pollution levelswere 51.9 μg/m3 in 2020 com­ pared with 58.1 μg/m3 in 2019, making India the third most polluted country in 2020, unlike in 2019, when its air was at fifth place.

Worldwide

  • Bangladesh and Pakistan were the countries in 2020 with worse average PM2.5 levels than India.
  • China ranked 11th in the latest report, a deterioration from the 14th in the previous edition of the report.
  • 84% of all monitored countries observed air quality improvements.
  • Of the 106 monitored countries, only 24 met the World Health Organization annual guidelines for PM 2.5.
  • When ranked by cities, Hotan in China was the most polluted, followed by Ghaziabad in Ut­ tar Pradesh. Of the 15 most polluted cities, 13 were in India.
Source: The Hindu

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