Current Affair-March 25, 2021

National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2021

  • National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2021 is passed by Lok Sabha.
  • It seeks to set up a commission to regulate the allied healthcare sector, standardise training and qualifications across the country.
  • National Commission for Allied and healthcare Professions will be set up  to standardize and regulate the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals. It will also facilitate the maintenance and regulation of standards of education and services by healthcare professionals.

Functions of the National Commission

  1. The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions will frame the standards for education and practice of the professionals.
  2. It will create and maintain an online Central register of all the registered professionals.
  3. The Commission will provide uniform education standards for the allied and healthcare professionals.
  4. It will also provide for a uniform entrance and exit examination.

Who will be able to practice as an allied and healthcare professional?

  • Under the legislation by the government, only those who are enrolled in a National Register or the State Register as a healthcare professional or a qualified practitioner will be allowed to practice as an allied and healthcare professional.
  • The Allied and Healthcare professions that have been mentioned under the latest bill include the professionals working in trauma and burn care, life sciences, physiotherapists, surgical and anaesthesia-related technology, and nutrition science.
Source: The Hindu

Contempt of Court

Context: Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal has denied consent to the initiation of contempt proceedings against Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on the basis of a plea that he scandalised the judiciary in an interview.

Contempt of court

Contempt of court, as a concept that seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority.

Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court. Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.

  • Rationale
    • Making allegations against the judiciary or individual judges, attributing motives to judgments and judicial functioning and any scurrilous attack on the conduct of judges are normally considered matters that scandalise the judiciary.
    • The rationale for this provision is that courts must be protected from tendentious attacks that lower its authority, defame its public image and make the public lose faith in its impartiality.
    • The punishment for contempt of court is simple imprisonment for a term up to six months and/or a fine of up to ₹2,000.  Contempt of court, as a concept that seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority.

How did the concept of contempt come into being?

  • The concept of contempt of court is several centuries old.
  • In England, it is a common law principle that seeks to protect the judicial power of the king, initially exercised by himself, and later by a panel of judges who acted in his name.
  • Violation of the judges’ orders was considered an affront to the king himself. Over time, any kind of disobedience to judges, or obstruction of the implementation of their directives, or comments and actions that showed disrespect towards them came to be punishable.

Statutory basis for contempt of court

  • There were pre-Independence laws of contempt in India. Besides the early High Courts, the courts of some princely states also had such laws.
  • When the Constitution was adopted, contempt of court was made one of the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
  • Separately, Article 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish contempt of itself.
  • Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 gives statutory backing to the idea.

Kinds of contempt of court

  • The law codifying contempt classifies it as civil and criminal.
  • Civil contempt:  It is committed when someone wilfully disobeys a court order, or wilfully breaches an undertaking given to court.
  • Criminal contempt:  It consists of three forms: (a) words, written or spoken, signs and actions that “scandalise” or “tend to scandalise” or “lower” or “tends to lower” the authority of any court (b) prejudices or interferes with any judicial proceeding and (c) interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice.

Truth as a defence against a contempt charge

  • For many years, truth was seldom considered a defence against a charge of contempt. There was an impression that the judiciary tended to hide any misconduct among its individual members in the name of protecting the image of the institution.
  • The Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence, if it was in public interest and was invoked in a bona fide manner.
Source: The Hindu

Traffic in Suez Canal

  • Suez Canal has been blocked after a large cargo ship ran aground while passing through it, bringing traffic on the busy trade route to a halt.
  • Egypt is now diverting ships to an older channel to minimise disruption to global trade. The blockage has already led to a long queue of vessels waiting to cross the canal.

About Suez Canal

  • The Suez Canal is a critical shipping artery that connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas through Egypt.
  • It is a human-made waterway and was built in 1869
  • Suez Canal is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes, carrying over 12% of world trade by volume.
  • It provides a major shortcut for ships moving between Europe and Asia, who before its construction had to sail around Africa to complete the same journey.

The Suez Canal’s importance for Egypt

  • The 150-year-old canal was controlled by British and French interests in its initial years, but was nationalised in 1956 by Egypt’s then leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Over the years, the canal has been widened and deepened.
  • In 2015, Egypt announced plans to further expand the Suez Canal, aiming to reduce waiting times and double the number of ships that can use the canal daily by 2023.
  • The canal is a major source of income for Egypt’s economy.
Source: Indian Express

Electoral bond scheme

  • Supreme Court reserved its order on a plea seeking a stay on the sale of fresh electoral bonds ahead of state assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

About electoral bonds

  • Popularity of electoral bonds as a route of donation
    • In less than three years of their introduction, by virtue of the anonymity they offer to donors, electoral bonds have become the most popular route of donation.
    • More than half the total income of national parties and the regional parties analysed by ADR for the financial year 2018-19 came from electoral bonds donations.
      The Electoral bond scheme was announced in the 2017 Union Budget.
  • Electoral bonds are interest-free bearer instruments used to donate money anonymously to political parties. A bearer instrument does not carry any information about the buyer or payee and the holder of the instrument (which is the political party) is presumed to be its owner.
  • The bonds are sold in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore, and the State Bank of India (SBI) is the only bank authorised to sell them.
  • Donors can purchase and subsequently donate the bonds to their party of choice, which the party can then cash through its verified account within 15 days.
  • There is no limit on the number of bonds an individual or company can purchase. SBI deposits bonds that a political party hasn’t enchased within 15 days into the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
  • Along with companies, individuals, groups of individuals, NGOs, religious and other trusts are permitted to donate via electoral bonds without disclosing their details.

Election Commission’s stand on electoral bonds

  • The Election Commission, in its submission to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in May 2017, had objected to the amendments in the Representation of the People (RP) Act, which exempt political parties from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds.
  • It described the move as a “retrograde step”. In a letter written to the Law Ministry the same month, the Commission had even asked the government to “reconsider” and “modify” the above amendment.
Source: Indian Express

Hunger hotspots: FAO and WFP Report

  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) has released Report on Hunger titled ‘Hunger Hotspots’.

Report Findings

  • Acute hunger may rise in over 20 countries in the coming months.
  • Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria topped the list with populations facing catastrophic levels of acute hunger and starvation.
  • A majority of the affected countries mentioned in the report are in Africa.

The drivers

  1. Conflict, COVID-19 pandemic,economic blows, extreme climate weather and locust outbreaks were among the key drivers of acute food insecurity.
  2. Conflict or other forms of armed violence were likely to increase in parts of Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, central Sahel, Ethiopia, northern Nigeria, northern Mozambique, Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan.
  3. In several African countries such as the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Liberia, elevated levels of currency depreciation and food inflation continued to reduce people’s purchasing power, the report stated.
  4. Coupled with climate shocks that adversely affected agricultural production and a likely reduction in domestic food supply, food inflation may worsen in the coming months, the report warned.

Action needed

  • The report called for short-term actions in each hunger hotspots, including scaling up food and nutrition assistance, distributing drought-tolerant seeds, treating and vaccinating livestock, rolling out cash-for-work schemes, rehabilitating water-harvesting structures and increasing income opportunities for vulnerable communities.
  • $5.5 billion was needed in donation for 2021.
Source: Downtoearth

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