Current Affairs for today- 23rd October 2019
GS Paper II, Paper III
Chidambaram granted bail by the SC on INX Media scam case
Since the Enforcement Directorate has already taken Mr Chidambaram into custody, he will not be let free in the money laundering case.
What we need to know?
Economic offences relate to fraud, counterfeiting, money-laundering, and tax evasion, among others.
Currently, various laws contain provisions to penalise such offences. These include:
- the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 which prohibits money-laundering
- the Benami Properties Transactions Act, 1988 which prohibits benami transactions
- the Companies Act, 2013 which punishes fraud and unlawful acceptance of deposits
- the Indian Penal Code, 1860
- the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 also cover economic offences, such as forgery and cheating
Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018: Came into existence on March 12, 2018
Why the bill?
In March 2018, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that over 30 businessmen, under investigation by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, had absconded to avoid facing prosecution before Indian courts or to evade for tax. The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 12, 2018.
Highlights of the Bill and Ordinance
The Bill allows for a person to be declared as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) if:
- an arrest warrant has been issued against him for any specified offences where the value involved is over Rs 100 crore.
- he has left the country and refuses to return to face prosecution.
Filing of application to declare a person as FEO:
- An application needs to be filed in a Special Court (designated under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002) containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts.
- The Special Court will require the person to appear at a specified place at least six weeks from issue of notice. Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears.
Declaration of an FEO:
- Upon declaration as an FEO, the properties of a person may be confiscated and vested in the central government, free of encumbrances (rights and claims in the property).
- Further, the FEO or any company associated with him may be barred from filing or defending civil claims.
Fugitive economic offender (FEO):
An FEO is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing any offence listed in the Schedule to the Bill, and the value of the offence is at least Rs 100 crore.
Further, the person has left the country and refuses to return, in order to avoid facing prosecution. The Bill lists 55 economic offences in the Schedule, which include: (i) counterfeiting government stamps or currency, (ii) dishonouring cheques, (iii) benami transactions, (iv) transactions defrauding creditors, (v) tax evasion, and (vi) money-laundering. The central government may amend the Schedule through a notification.
Key Issues and Analysis
- Under the Bill, any court or tribunal may bar an FEO or an associated company from filing or defending civil claims before it. However, barring persons from filing civil claims means in itself a violation of Article 21, i.e Right to Life. It has been implemented to include right to access justice.
- Under the Bill, an FEO’s property may be confiscated and vested in the central government, but allows exemption in cases of secured creditors, etc and does not mention about the distribution of the sales proceeds by the Central Government to the non-secure creditors or other claimants, who have no interest in it.
- It does not require the authorities to obtain a search warrant or ensure the presence of witnesses before a search that differs from other laws like the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, which contain such safeguards that protect against harassment and planting of evidence.
- The Bill provides for confiscation of property upon a person being declared an FEO that differs from laws like CrPC, 1973, where confiscation is final, two years after proclamation as absconder.
GS Paper II
Government moves the court to allow more access into the houses of the social media giants
Supreme Court to look into the plea of Govt. to gain more access into the social media giants like WhatsApp, Facebook who are unwilling to divulge the access credentials in lieu of safeguarding their service proposition of end-to-end encryption. The draft of the revised new Information Technology Guidelines (Amendment) Rules by January 15, 2000.
What is the Government’s stand?
- The deepest concern of the government is in the nation’s security, integrity and sovereignty.
- Has to no intention to hack into the private windows of the consumers, but just a good access enough to axe out the spread of pornography, sedition, fake news, hate speech, threats, anti-national activities, terror group mafia online.
- Empowerment of the Section 69(1) of the Information technology Act, 2000 that allows the government to lawfully intercept, monitor and decrypt information through a computer resource “if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence or investigation of any offence.”
- That the government is only demanding to get provided with the facilities of gaining access to the recording system of the system of social media applications, and not any technical assistance as the decryption can be done with Indian requirements if needed only.
Adversaries to the government’s plea
- Violation of the individual’s privacy on social media platforms.
- The social media intermediaries are under no obligation to disclose details of private accounts as it would naturally cause a security and privacy breach.
GS Paper I, Paper II
Power firm takes Water Ministry to court over Ganga notification
Alakananda Hydropower Company (AHC) has taken the Union Water Ministry and the Uttarakhand Government to court following a 2018 notification by the National Commission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
The Central Water Commission (CWC) issued the 2018 order that the hydel projects must change their designs to incorporate more water flow by October 2021 has been advanced to 2019. The notice went to 19 power projects along the river and its tributaries to release more water, but the companies are worried that it will be financially detrimental, might indefinitely impede the power generation and demanded the government compensation for the loss that would thus accrue due to the notification.
What is NMCG?
The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of National Ganga Council which was set up on 7th October 2016 under the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities order 2016.
It was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860. It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) that was formed as an empowered planning, implementing and monitoring authority for the Ganga constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986.
NMCG was formed after dissolving the NGRBA, post declaration of the Ganga as the national river in November 2008.
The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river and shall supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long banks by building a management structure. There has been a host of dams on the upper stretches of Ganga probing the government to necessitate the hydropower projects to change their design plans to ensure minimum flows all through the year without interruption to the generic flow.
- An armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) deployed by the Ministry of Home Affairs whose personnel will have powers to arrest those who pollute the river; treating the actions that obstruct the ecological flow to commercial fishing as cognizable offences that may attract a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
- Aquaculture: The draft Bill says that commercial fishing or aquaculture activities in the Ganga and any of its tributaries shall be punishable with imprisonment for two years or a fine of Rs 2 lakh or both.
- Construction: Banning of the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the NGRA.
“Unauthorised” activities causing obstruction due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water, could be liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto Rs. 50 crore, or both.
- Obstruction: No person or municipal authority will establish or take any steps to set up any industrial or residential or commercial premises or structure which may result in discharge of any sewage or trade effluent into the Ganga, otherwise he may face a five-year prison term or a fine of Rs 50,000 per day or both.
- The e-flow notification as it is called, specifies that the upper stretches of the Ganga, from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar- would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
Cognizable offences under the act
- Construction activities causing obstruction in the river.
- Withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries.
- Commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries.
- Discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.
GS Paper II
Ayodhya “deepostav” given State Fair tag
Since the festival sustains an international status, the District Magistrate under Uttar Pradesh government will be now in charge of the organisation of the Mela.
GS Paper II
Central Treaty Organisation
The Central Treaty Organization, originally known as the Baghdad Pact or the Middle East Treaty Organization, was a military alliance of the Cold War. It was formed in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Kingdom and dissolved in 1979, with the withdrawal of Iran after the fall of Shah.
Headquarters: Ankara, Turkey
Aim: To prevent Middle East from the influence of Russian Communism. The USA gave financial help to this Pact. But in 1959 Iraq resigned from Baghdad Pact.
(a) It was determined to keep Soviet Russia away from the Middle East and also played as a warning to other Arab Countries.
(b) It was expected that peace would be established in the Middle East, it would help the growth of trade and commerce among the member countries.
(c) This organisation became successful in projecting the defence system of America and England.
Analysis of CENTO:
- CENTO was not successful in achieving its goal with no need of such type of organisation in the Middle East.
- Secondly, it doubled the anger of Soviet Russia. When Pakistan joined in CENTO, Soviet Russia came closer to India.
- Thirdly, the interference of Turkey and England became unbearable by the member states.
- Fourthly, America wanted to play an active role in CENTO which neither was nor accepted by the member states.
- At last due to the lack of adequate finance, the importance of CENTO in the international affairs was reduced.
The Regional Co-operation for Development (RCD) was set up by the regional members of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, in July 1964 to strengthen their socio-economic development.
However, a number of financial, political and administrative difficulties made progress under RCD slow. In January 1985, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan established a new organisation called the Economic Co-operation Organization (ECO) after 12 years of failure of RCD even after the Treaty of Izmir, 1977 was signed as the legal framework of RCD.