Chief Election Commissioners (CECs)
GS PAPER 2: Appointment to various constitutional posts
Prelims Exam: Constitutional Provisions, Appointment, Tenure
Mains Exam: Significance of Chief Election Commissioners
Why in News?
Shri ArunGoel assumed charge as the new Election Commissioner (EC) of India. Chief Election Commissioner Shri Rajiv Kumar, who is currently in Nepal as International Observer for their ongoing national elections, personally called.
- UPA government had six CECs in just eight years.
- After the present government took over, from 2015 to 2022, for seven years, we have had eight CECs!” said Judge of Supreme Court
- Justice also said successive governments, particularly after 2004, have “picked” people whom it knew would “never ever” get close to the full term of six years prescribed under the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act of 1991. Section 4 of the 1991 Act says the term of a CEC and Election Commissioners is six years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- “This is a very, very, very disturbing trend! After 2004, particularly, the slide has begun in terms of picking up those persons whom of course the government knows the date of birth of… They (government) know that these persons would never ever get anywhere close to six years,”
- The judge said the government needed to respond as to why there had been “no checks and balances” in the issue. He referred to the constitutional mechanisms prevalent in countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and the United Kingdom in the appointment of Election authorities.
- The Supreme Court said the government pays mere “lip-service” to the independence of the Election Commissioners and this is evident from the way the tenures of Chief Election Commissioners (CECs) have “slid” down from over eight years in the 1950s to just about a few hundred days after 2004.
Election Commission of India
- The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
- The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
- Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body. The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950. The Commission celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2001.
- Originally the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. It currently consists of Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
- For the first time two additional Commissioners were appointed on 16th October 1989 but they had a very short tenure till 1st January 1990.
- Later, on 1st October 1993 two additional Election Commissioners were appointed. The concept of multi-member Commission has been in operation since then, with decision making power by majority vote.
Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners
The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through impeachment by Parliament.
Budget & Expenditure
- The Secretariat of the Commission has an independent budget, which is finalised directly in consultation between the Commission and the Finance Ministry of the Union Government.
- The latter generally accepts the recommendations of the Commission for its budgets. The major expenditure on actual conduct of elections is, however, reflected in the budgets of the concerned constituent units of the Union, States and Union Territories.
- If elections are being held only for the Parliament, the expenditure is borne entirely by the Union Government while for the elections being held only for the State Legislature, the expenditure is borne entirely by the concerned State.
- In case of simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Legislature, the expenditure is shared equally between the Union and the State Governments. For Capital equipment, expenditure related to preparation for electoral rolls and the scheme for Electors’ Identity Cards too, the expenditure is shared equally.
- The decisions of the Commission can be challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court of the India by appropriate petitions.
- By long standing convention and several judicial pronouncements, once the actual process of elections has started, the judiciary does not intervene in the actual conduct of the polls.
- Once the polls are completed and result declared, the Commission cannot review any result on its own. This can only be reviewed through the process of an election petition, which can be filed before the High Court, in respect of elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
- In respect of elections for the offices of the President and Vice President, such petitions can only be filed before the Supreme Court.
Short Service Commission
GS PAPER 2: Government policies and interventions for the development of various sectors
Prelims Exam: Air force Exercises, About Indian Air Force
Mains Exam: Significance of Women in Indian Air Force
Why in News?
Supreme Court asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to consider the grant of pensionary benefits to 32 Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers, who fought for 12 long years to be reinstated and granted permanent commission.
What did the Court say?
- Bench remarked that, “we are of the view that these women SSC officers be considered for grant of pensionary benefits,” while exercising its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution for doing complete justice in any matter pending before it. The officers had joined the service between 1993-1998 and were granted extensions of six and four years successively before being released from service between 2006 to 2009.
- The cases of the appellants will be evaluated on the basis of the HR Policy of November, 2010, the court said while making it clear that the officers shall not be entitled to arrears of salary.
- “Reinstatement cannot be a viable option keeping in mind the requirement related to exigencies of serving the nation,”.
Does the Army also offer permanent commission?
- The Navy and the IAF had opened up permanent commission to women much before the Army.
- In a landmark judgment in the BabitaPuniya case, the Supreme Court directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission (PC) as well as command postings in all services other than combat.
- Supreme Court in Lt. Col. Nitisha vs. Union of India held that the Army’s selective evaluation process discriminated against and disproportionately affected women officers seeking permanent commission.
- Minister of State said that in the Army, women are commissioned in 10 arms and services as officers and that permanent commission had been granted. “Women serve as medical doctors and dentists in the Indian armed forces. Only women serve as nurses in Military Nursing Service. Women are being inducted as jawans in Corps of Military Police since 2019,”.
- Government informed that the National Defence Academy (NDA) has started inducting women cadets from the Autumn 2022 term, with 19 vacancies being allotted to women. The Navy has also opened 12 branches, cadres and specialisations for women officers. It has already announced that women would be inducted as Agniveers under the Agnipath scheme, with training set to commence shortly.
About Indian Air Force (IAF)
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is the air arm of the Indian Armed Forces. Its complement of personnel and aircraft assets ranks third amongst the air forces of the world. Its primary mission is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during armed conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire which honoured India’s aviation service during World War II with the prefix Royal. After India gained independence from United Kingdom in 1947, the name Royal Indian Air Force was kept and served in the name of Dominion of India. With the government’s transition to a Republic in 1950, the prefix Royal was removed.
Indian Airforce Military Exercises 2022
India-Australia trade agreement
GS Paper: 2- International treaties
Prelims exam: India-Australia trade agreement
Mains exam: Importance of India-Australia trade agreement
Why in News?
The trade pact with Australia that was ratified by the Australian Parliament will “significantly open up opportunities” for many Indian business sectors.
About India-Australia trade agreement
- Under the pact, Australia is offering zero-duty access to India for about 96.4 per cent of exports (by value) from day one. This covers many products that currently attract 4-5 per cent customs duty in Australia.
- Labour-intensive sectors which would gain immensely include textiles and apparel, few agricultural and fish products, leather, footwear, furniture, sports goods, jewellery, machinery, electrical goods and railway wagons.
- Taxes on 90% of Australian goods exported to India including meat, wool, cotton, seafood, nuts and avocados will also be removed.
What is Economic cooperation and Trade agreement?
- It is India’s first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with a significant developed nation in more than ten years.
- India inked an FTA with the UAE in February and is actively negotiating FTAs with Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
- An institutional mechanism for promoting and enhancing trade between the two nations is provided by ECTA.
- Nearly all of the tariff lines that India and Australia, respectively, deal in are covered by the ECTA.
- India will profit from Australia’s offer of preferential market access on all of its tariff lines.
- This comprises all the labor-intensive export industries that India is interested in, such as textiles, leather goods, footwear, furniture, and gems and jewellery.
- On the other hand, India will grant Australia preferential access to more than 70% of its tariff lines, including those that are relevant to Australia’s export interests and are primarily for the importation of raw materials and intermediaries like coal, mineral ores, and wine.
- Indian graduates from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will be eligible for extended post-study work visas under the terms of the agreement.
- Additionally, Australia will set up a programme to issue visas to young Indians desiring to take working holidays in Australia.
What are free trade agreements?
- It is an agreement between two or more countries to lower import and export restrictions.
- Under a free trade policy, there are little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions that prevent the exchange of products and services across international borders.
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements (CECA), and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPA) are three types of FTAs.
- 96% of India’s exports to Australia, including shipments from important industries like engineering items, gems and jewellery, textiles, apparel, and leather, will have zero-duty access.
- According to a government estimate, it will increase bilateral trade in products and services to USD 45-50 billion over the course of five years, up from roughly USD 27 billion, and create more than one million jobs in India.
- Additionally, it will grant zero-duty access to the Indian market to about 85% of Australian exports, including coal, sheep meat, and wool, as well as reduced duty access for Australian wines, almonds, lentils, and some fruits.
- The agreement will strengthen geopolitical partnership between India and a “friendly democratic country like Australia.
- Pharma industry will get a big boost because medicines which have already gone through a rigorous approval process from the U.S. and the U.K. will have a pathway of fast-track mechanism to get approval in the Australian regulatory system.
- The ECTA will give “improved market access” for business classes on both sides.
Tamil Nadu’s first biodiversity heritage site
GS Paper: 3- Environment conservation and degradation
Prelims exam: Arittapatti
Mains exam: Importance of Biological Diversity Heritage Sites
Why in News?
The Tamil Nadu Government declared Arittapatti in Madurai district, a biodiversity heritage site to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to preserve the cultural and architectural heritage of bygone times.
- Arittapatti village, rich in ecological and historical significance, houses around 250 species of birds including three important raptors — birds of prey, namely the Laggar Falcon, the Shaheen Falcon and Bonelli’s Eagle.
- The biodiversity-rich area is surrounded by a chain of seven hillocks or inselbergs that serve as a watershed, charging ‘72 lakes, 200 natural springs and three check dams.’
- The Anaikondan tank, built during the reign of Pandiyan kings in the 16th century is one among them.
- Several megalithic structures, rock-cut temples, Tamil Brahmi inscriptions and Jain beds add to the historical significance of the region.
- To prevent the loss of biodiversity and to preserve the cultural and architectural heritage of bygone times, the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board has declared Arittapatti a biodiversity heritage site.
- The declaration of the site has been made under the Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
Laggar Falcon: Near Threatened
Shaheen Falcon: Vulnerable
Bonelli’s Eagle: Least Concern
What are Biological Diversity Heritage Sites?
Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS) are areas that are unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems having rich biodiversity comprising of any one or more of the components such as; species richness, high endemism, presence of rare, endemic and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance, wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or land races or their varieties, past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds and having cultural or aesthetic values.
Importance of Biological Diversity Heritage Sites:
- Biodiversity is closely linked to ecological security. Loss of biodiversity and bioresources show an increasing trend mainly due to human activities. Therefore, it is necessary to instil and nurture conservation ethics in the community.
- Declaration of Biodiversity Heritage Sites is a welcome step which will exhibit the conservation ethics and values practiced by these societies to the wider world.
- Such declaration will help them renew their commitment to conservation besides acting as a model for other communities to follow. This is a small but important step that a community can take towards protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability of bio-resources across generations.
- BHS declaration marks the voluntary participation of communities in protection and conservation of biodiversity which helps in expanding the reach of conservation.
Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act:
- As per this section, the State Governments are empowered to notify in the official gazette, in consultation with ‘local bodies’, areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites.
- Under sub section (2) of Section 37 of the BD Act, the State Government in consultation with the Central Government may frame rules for the management and conservation of BHS.
- Under sub section (3) of Section 37 of the BD Act, the State Governments are empowered to frame schemes for compensating or rehabilitating any person or section of people economically affected by such notification.
Indian Biological Data Centre
GS Paper 3: Science and technology
Prelims exam: Indian Biological Data Centre
Mains exam: Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) and its importance
Why in News?
The Indian Biological Data Bank was recently established by the government at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Faridabad. Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) is the alternative name for Indian Biological Data Bank.
What is Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC)?
- IBDC is the first national repository for life science data in India, where data may be accessible by researchers from all over the country in addition to being submitted from all over the country.
- All life science data produced by publically sponsored research in India is mandated to be archived in the IBDC.
- The Department of Biotechnology provides funding for the data centre (DBT).
- In association with the National Informatics Centre (NIC), Bhubaneshwar, it is being established at the RCB.
- The setup cost was about 85 crore rupees.
- The digitised information will be stored on the “Brahm”, a four petabyte supercomputer.
- 10, 00,000 gigabytes equals one petabyte.
- Typically, different IBDC sections would handle various types of life science data.
- There would be a specific data submission and access schema for each IBDC segment.
- At NIC, IBDC maintains a backup data “Disaster Recovery” site.
- Additionally, IBDC will create well curated data sets to facilitate knowledge discovery in various domains of life sciences.
- Additionally, it would offer the necessary infrastructure and knowledge to analyse biological data.
- Nucleotide sequences, the digitalized genetic material of humans, plants, animals, and microbes, are currently accepted.
- The “1,000 Genome Project,” an international initiative to map human genetic variations, has so far sequenced 200 billion base pair data, including 200 human genomes.
- The research will also pay attention to populations that are more likely to contract particular diseases.
- Additionally, it will support zoonotic disease research.
- Although the database only accepts such genomic sequences at the moment, it is likely to later expand to storage of protein sequences and imaging data, such as copies of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Provide an IT platform to the nation for perpetually archiving biological data.
- Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) to store and share data in accordance with the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) Principle.
- Perform quality assurance, data curation and annotation, data backup, and data life cycle management.
- Creation of web-based tools and Application Programming Interface (API) for data retrieval and sharing.
- Organizing training programmes on big data analysis and the advantages of data sharing.
- IBDC would primarily use two types of data access:
- Open access/time-release access: In accordance with global open-access principles, data uploaded to IBDC will be freely accessible anywhere. However, the submitter has the option to limit data access for a predetermined amount of time.
- Restricted access: The information would not be made readily available. It can only be accessed with the original data submitter’s prior consent via IBDC.
- It will lessen Indian researchers’ reliance on American and European data banks.
- In addition to giving researchers a platform to safely store their data within the country, it will also give them access to a large database of indigenous sequences for analysis.
- Such databases have traditionally played a key role in determining the genetic basis of various diseases and finding targets for vaccines and therapeutics.