Topic 1 : Exercise Milan
Why in news: The Indian Navy is gearing up to host its largest multilateral exercise early next year.
- The next edition of Exercise Milan is scheduled for February 2024.
- It is expected to see the participation of over 50 countries.
- This reflects the significant expansion of the Navy’s engagements as well as capacity to assist countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as the first responder and Preferred Security Partner.
- Exercise Milan is a biennial multilateral naval exercise.
- It began in 1995, and has since significantly expanded in scope and scale to become the largest exercise held by India.
- The last edition of Milan, which is held off Visakhapatnam, saw participation from over 40 countries.Topic 2 : Cyclone Michaung
Why in news: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a cyclonic storm, Cyclone Michaung, over the southwest Bay of Bengal.
- It is likely to make landfall in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
- As a result, the government agency has issued an ‘orange’ alert over Tamil Nadu, as well as coastal and interior Andhra Pradesh.
- Cyclone Michaung is the fourth tropical cyclone of the year over the Bay of Bengal.
- The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) classifies cyclones broadly into two categories:
- extratropical cyclones and
- tropical cyclones.
What is a cyclone?
- A cyclone is a large-scale system of air that rotates around the centre of a low-pressure area.
- It is usually accompanied by violent storms and bad weather.
- As per NDMA, a cyclone is characterised by inward spiralling winds that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
What are extratropical cyclones?
- Also known as mid-latitude cyclones, extratropical cyclones occur outside the tropics (that is beyond the areas that fall under the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn).
- They have cold air at their core, and derive their energy from the release of potential energy when cold and warm air masses interact.
- Such cyclones always have one or more fronts connected to them.
- A front is a weather system that is the boundary between two kinds of air masses, where one front is represented by warm air and the other by cold air.
- Such cyclones can occur over land and ocean.
What are tropical cyclones?
- Tropical cyclones are those which develop in the regions between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer.
- They are the most devastating storms on Earth.
- Such cyclones develop when thunderstorm activity starts building close to the centre of circulation, and the strongest winds and rain are no longer in a band far from the centre.
- The core of the storm turns warm, and the cyclone gets most of its energy from the latent heat released when water vapour that has evaporated from warm ocean waters condenses into liquid water.
- Warm fronts or cold fronts aren’t associated with tropical cyclones.
- Tropical cyclones have different names depending on their location and strength. For instance:
- They are known as Hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Atlantic Ocean and the eastern and central North Pacific Ocean.
- In the western North Pacific, they are called typhoons.
Topic 3 : The Green Credits scheme
Why in news: Prime Minister of India launched an initiative focusing on generating Green Credits through plantation on degraded wasteland.
About the Green Credits Programme:
- The Green Credits Programme was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- It is an effort to create a market-based incentive for different kinds of environment-positive actions, not just for carbon emission reductions.
- Carbon Market:
- Such a market-based system already exists for carbon, at the national as well as international level, that allows trade in carbon credits.
- Companies, or nations, can claim carbon credits if they take action to reduce their carbon footprint.
- These credits can they be traded for money.
- Companies unable to achieve their emission standards pay to buy these credits and improve their performance.
- Replicating the carbon credit market:
- Green Credits programme attempts to replicate this mechanism for other environmental actions, like water conservation or soil improvements.
- Methodologies and standards to measure and verify such actions are still being developed.
- As a starting point, it is envisaged that private companies would buy these green credits as part of their CSR obligations.
- Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.
- Unlike the carbon markets, which are more focused at industry and corporations, green credit programme can benefit individuals and communities as well.Topic 4 : All India Tourist Vehicles (Permit) Rules, 2023
Why in news: The state-owned Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has moved the High Court, challenging the legal validity of the Centre’s All India Tourist Vehicles (Permit) Rules, 2023.
- The Kerala State Transport Authority cancelled an All-India Tourist Permit (AITP) invoking powers vested with it under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.
- Contract carriage and stage carriage
- In Kerala, bus permits are granted by the respective Regional Transport Authorities in various districts, under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
- The Act provides for two types of permits for buses:
- contract carriage and
- stage carriage.
- A contract carriage is a vehicle/bus hired by a passenger or groups of passengers to go from one point to another, regardless of the route, and without stopping to pick up or drop off passengers along the way.
- Tourist buses in Kerala mainly operate under this permit.
- A stage carriage bus runs on a specific route with the fare fixed by the government.
- A state carriage runs as a regular bus service, where the entire route is broken into various specified stages till the destination point.
- KSRTC comes under the stage carriage category.
- All India Tourist Permit:
- The central government earlier this year framed the All India Tourist Vehicles (Permit) Rules, 2023.
- This all-India permit enables a tourist vehicle operator to ply throughout the country on the strength of a permit fee.
- This fee would be distributed among the states and the Union Government under a sharing formula.
- Kerala is opposed to this All-India permit, though it is also a beneficiary of this fee-sharing formula.
- Earlier case:
- Earlier, tourist bus permits under Motor Vehicles (All India Permit for Tourist Transport Operators) Rules, 1993.
- The 2023 Rules have simplified the granting of the permit, and by obtaining a permit from one state, the operator can use their vehicle throughout India.
- The issue:
- As per the permit regulations 2023, an operator with AITP can enter into individual contracts with passengers and therefore can pick and drop them at different points en route.
- This in a way allows a tourist permit holder to operate like a stage carriage, whereas in Kerala, tourist vehicles operate as contract carriages.
- The changed system can eat into the revenue of state carriages.
- Kerala’s arguments
- The state government has challenged the rules to allow a tourist vehicle to work as a state carriage, saying that it goes against the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and several Supreme Court verdicts.
- It has demanded that these rules be struck down.
- Challenges for Kerala:
- Kerala’s problem is that if private operators with AITPs start operating like a regular bus service, it would hit the revenue of the state transport entity, already running under huge losses.
- The state has banned private operators from several routes in Kerala, under the norms of nationalisation, to help the KSRTC, but at the cost of passenger facilities.
About the new rules:
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) have proposed new rules regarding tourist vehicles under All India Tourist Permit which is basically required under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.
- Permit is issued in order to enable tourist vehicle to move their vehicle all around India.
- The All-India Tourist Vehicles (Permit) Rules, 2023 are a set of regulations that govern the operation of tourist vehicles in India.
- The permit will be granted only to the tourist vehicle operator who owns a vehicle.
- If the particular vehicle is driven on battery or on methanol or ethanol fuel, the permit will be issued without fee.
- Scope and validity of the permit:
- The All-India Tourist Permit shall be valid throughout the territory of India.
- The All-India Tourist Permit shall be used for the transport of tourists individually or in a group, along with their personal luggage.
- Cancellation and suspension of the permit:
- Uses or causes or allows a tourist vehicle to be used in contravention to the provisions of these rules
- Ceases to own vehicle,
- Obtained the All India Tourist Vehicle permit by fraud,
- Acquires the citizenship of any foreign county.Topic 5 : Understanding simultaneous elections (updated from 20th September 2023)
Why in news: The Union Government notified the formation of a six-member panel to ‘examine and make recommendations for holding simultaneous elections’ in the Lok Sabha, State assemblies and local bodies.
- For this purpose, the panel has been entrusted with the task of proposing specific amendments to the Constitution and any other legal changes necessary to enable simultaneous elections.
- The panel also has to give its opinion on whether the proposed amendments shall require the assent of half of the State assemblies, as stipulated in Article 368.
- The panel had an interaction with the Law Commission to discuss the roadmap to synchronise Parliamentary and Assembly elections by 2029.
What are simultaneous polls?
- Currently, elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha are held separately.
- It is held whenever the incumbent government’s five-year term ends or whenever it is dissolved due to various reasons.
- This applies to both the state legislatures and the Lok Sabha.
- The terms of Legislative Assemblies and the Lok Sabha may not synchronise with one another.
- The idea of “One Nation, One Election” envisages a system where elections to all states and the Lok Sabha will have to be held simultaneously.
- This will involve the restructuring of the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to the states and the centre synchronise.
- This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day, at the same time.
Demand for simultaneous elections
- The first four general elections involved simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
- It was possible then as the Congress was in power both at the national and State levels.
- The bifurcation of elections happened due to the advancing of Lok Sabha elections by the Congress, which after suffering a split in 1969 was looking to secure a majority of its own.
- As of now the Lok Sabha elections coincide with the Assembly elections in four States namely:
- Andhra Pradesh,
- Arunachal Pradesh, and
- Most recently, the proposal received support in the Law Commission Report, which is reportedly exploring the feasibility of a common electoral roll.
Law Commission and Simultaneous elections:
- In 2018, the Law Commission of India, chaired by Justice B. S. Chauhan, released a draft report stipulating that simultaneous elections are not feasible within the existing framework of the Constitution.
- It suggested that appropriate amendments have to be brought about in the Constitution, the Representation of the People’s Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies before such a poll is conducted.
- Notably, the Commission highlighted that a constitutional amendment to this effect must receive ratification from at least 50% of the States.
- In order for simultaneous polls to take place all existing State Assemblies have to be dissolved, which currently have different tenures.
- This can be done in two ways:
- either the ruling government in the State recommends this voluntarily and the Governor gives assent, or
- there is a breakdown of constitutional machinery and the President gets involved through a recommendation of the Central government.
- However, since the latter is hardly likely for every State simultaneously, the only option left is for the Union government to amend Article 172 which stipulates that every legislative Assembly of every State, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.
Which Articles deal with the process of amendment?
- Article 368 governs the process of amending the Constitution.
- Constitutional amendments can take place through three different procedures.
- Simple majority:
- The first is through a simple majority of those present and voting in each House of Parliament.
- That is, some provisions in the Constitution can be amended in the same way ordinary legislations are passed.
- It does not require a specific quorum.
- Such provisions are excluded from the purview of Article 368, thereby creating a separate category.
- Some examples include:
- amendments contemplated in Article 4 (changes related to the organisation of States),
- Article 169 (abolition or creation of Legislative Councils in States), and
- para 21(2)13 of Schedule VI (provisions for the administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram).
- Special majority:
- For amending provisions not within the first category, Article 368 stipulates that they can be effected by a prescribed ‘special majority,’.
- Here not less than two-thirds of the members are present and voting in each House of Parliament as well as by a majority of the total membership of each House.
- Ratification by state legislatures:
- A third category requires both a ‘special majority’ and ratification by at least one-half of the State legislatures.
- No specific time limit for ratification by the State legislatures has been specified but resolutions ratifying the proposed amendment should be passed before the Bill is presented to the President for his assent.
- Simple majority:
- It will need at least five constitutional amendments:
- Article 83 (2):
- It says the Lok Sabha’s term should not exceed five years but it may be dissolved sooner.
- Article 85 (2) (B):
- A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House and a new House is constituted after general elections.
- Article 172 (1):
- A state assembly, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years
- Article 174 (2) (B) –
- The Governor has the power to dissolve the assembly on the aid and advice of the cabinet.
- The Governor can apply his mind when the advice comes from a Chief Minister whose majority is in doubt.
- Article 356:
- Imposition of President’s Rule in states.
- For a Constitutional Amendment, two-third members of the House must be present for the vote.
- A consensus of all political parties and state governments is needed.
- After the Constitutional Amendment Bill is passed in parliament, it needs to be ratified by half the states in India through resolutions in their assemblies.
Which amendments require ratification by States?
- The constitutional provisions that require ratification in order to be amended are specifically listed in the proviso to Article 368(2) and pertain to the federal structure of the Constitution.
- They are commonly referred to as ‘entrenched provisions’ and are as follows:
- if there is a change in the provisions regarding elections to the post of the President of India (Article 54 and 55);
- if there is a change in the extent of the executive power of the Union or the State governments (Article 73 and 162);
- if there is any change in the provisions regarding the Union judiciary or the High Courts. (Articles 124–147 and 214–231);
- if the distribution of legislative and administrative powers between the Union and the States is affected (Article 245 to 255);
- if any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule is affected;
- if the representation of the States in Parliament is changed (Article 82); and
- if Article 368 itself is amended.
Can a constitutional amendment be struck down if not ratified?
- 57th Amendment:
- In Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu (1992) popularly known as the Anti-Defection case, the constitutional validity of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985 was challenged on the grounds that the amendment was not ratified by the States.
- Though the Tenth Schedule was to deal with defection, it also purported to oust the jurisdiction of all courts by virtue of Paragraph 7.
- The amendment brought about changes with respect to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Courts — one of the provisions that require ratification by half of the States.
- A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Tenth Schedule but declared Paragraph 7 of the Schedule invalid for want of ratification.
- 97th Amendment:
- In 2021, the Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Constitution (97th Amendment) Act, 2011 to the extent that it introduced Part IX B in the Constitution to deal with co-operative societies.
- The Court unanimously held that the amendment required ratification by at least one-half of the State legislatures as per Article 368(2) of the Constitution, since it dealt with an exclusive State subject.
- The majority judgment invoked the doctrine of severability to make Part IXB operative only insofar as it concerns multi-State cooperative societies.
Can a State rescind its ratification?
- There is no specific mention of it in the Constitution nor have courts in India dealt with this before.
- Moreover, since the prevailing constitutional practice makes ratification by at least half of all the States sufficient for compliance without requiring all States to consent, such a situation is unlikely to arise.
- Permitting the rescinding of a ratification not only creates confusion but also makes the amending process more rigid.
Arguments for simultaneous elections:
- Cost saving:
- Holding separate elections incurs massive recurring expenditure for the State and the Central government.
- In case of simultaneous elections, there would only be one electoral roll for all elections and the government would need the services of security forces and civilian officials only once.
- This would save public money and human resources that can be put to other public causes.
- Can save excessive usage of government resources:
- The dense electoral cycle involves prolonged deployment of security and police forces on election duty, thus posing a concern for national security and maintenance of law and order.
- The administration comes under strain due to the mass-scale transfers of officials within the State, either by the government looking for pliable officers in key positions or by the order of the ECI once code of conduct comes into force.
- High-ranking officers from other States are also deputed as observers in the poll-bound State.
- There is a climate of political uncertainty, wherein officials remain perpetually in election mode.
- Recurring elections affect development works:
- Holding separate elections comes in the way of development as the enforcement of the code of conduct for a longer period leads to the stoppage of ongoing development work.
- No new projects can be started during this period and even on-going projects suffer from inertia.
- Looking to reap the electoral dividend, parties in power invariably indulge in populist schemes and do not commit to long-term investment in primary sectors.
- This happens frequently, burdening the state exchequer.
- Reduce money power in elections:
- Simultaneous elections would lessen the role of money in elections as campaign finance of parties’ would come down.
- The monitoring of election expenditure by the ECI will also become more effective due to a concerted effort at the national level.
- Reduce divisive tendencies:
- Given the increasing role of divisive politics for electoral gains, the ‘one nation-one election’ plan would help in reducing the pernicious role of regionalism, casteism, and communalism in mobilising electorates.
- It would help in bringing issues of national importance on the electoral agenda.
- Will boost voter turnout:
- Having too many elections creates a sense of fatigue among electorates.
- Voter turnout at the national level has stagnated in recent elections.
- Simultaneous elections will boost voter morale and turnout.
Arguments against simultaneous elections
- Against federal spirit:
- The Centre’s initiative is being viewed as being antithetical to the federal spirit as there has not been wider consultation with constituent States.
- Less focus on regional issues:
- Holding simultaneous elections would most likely push local and regional issues to the periphery.
- There would be a ‘national constituency phenomenon’ favouring polity-wide parties due to their comparative advantage in terms of their claim to better serve ‘national interest/ national security/national unity’ rather than regional parties who will be sidelined for focusing on ‘narrow, parochial’ issues.
- Simultaneous elections in a federal polity, would incentivise regional discontent.
- Cost saving would not be enormous:
- As far as cost saving is concerned, holding simultaneous elections would require large-scale purchase of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail Machines (VVPAT).
- Biennial elections to Legislative councils/Rajya Sabha and by-elections would still be held, costing money and resources.
- Recurrent elections boost voter morale and accountability:
- Frequent elections rather than sagging the enthusiasm of voters keep them enthused, as evident in the comparatively higher percentage of voting in State and local elections.
- Frequency of elections at different layers also helps in increasing accountability as elected representatives and their parties remain on their toes.
Legal and constitutional issues
- Constitutional amendments:
- At least five Articles in the Constitution shall need amendment. These articles are:
- Articles 83(2) and 85(2) that relate respectively to the duration and dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
- Articles 172(1) and 174(2), which provide for the duration and dissolution of the State Assemblies.
- Article 85 (1) and 174 (2) allows the President and the Governor to dissolve the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha before the completion of their tenure of five years, under the circumstances mentioned in the Constitution.
- Article 83(2) allows the tenure of the Lok Sabha to be extended for one year at a time in case of an Emergency being proclaimed under Article 352.
- Article 172(1) makes a similar provision for State assemblies.
- Such amendments need not only the two-third-majority support of both Houses of Parliament but also ratification by at least half of the State Legislatures under Article 368.
- Currently, no party has even simple majority in Rajya Sabha while the States have different parties in power, many of which are not in favour of such amendments.
- At least five Articles in the Constitution shall need amendment. These articles are:
- Linking of national and regional elections difficult:
- It would also be much more complex and difficult to link general elections with local bodies elections.
- This is because local government is a State subject (seventh schedule, List II) and all the State Legislatures have passed separate Panchayati Raj Acts and Municipal Acts, fixing the tenure of these bodies (five years) as per Article 243(E) and 243 (U) respectively.
- Since all 28 States have their own specific Acts, it would require changes in 56 sets of legal provisions.
- Given the complexity of the issue, likely focus is going to be on how Lok Sabha and Assembly elections can be held simultaneously.
- Even for that, multiple amendments would be required.
- Since the proposal involves Centre-State relations, judicial review of the amendment acts shall be a major block.
- What seems doable is to make an attempt to club as many Assembly elections as possible to be held together or with the Lok Sabha elections in one go and hope that the verdicts favour formation of a stable government.
- Even for realising this, there is a need for wider consultation across parties and constituent States.
- Holding simultaneous elections would cut down on the costs involved in separate elections.
- Experts argue that it will increase efficiency in the administrative set-up throughout the country since it slows down considerably during polling.
- However, such an amendment cannot be brought about without violating the federal structure, particularly in States ruled by the Opposition.
Topic 6 : Interpol
Why in news: A high-ranking Indian delegation to the 91st Interpol General Assembly has urged other member countries to deny safe haven to crime, criminals, and the proceeds of crime.
What is the Interpol?
- The Interpol, or International Criminal Police Organization, is an inter-governmental organisation comprising 195 member countries, which helps police forces in all these countries to better coordinate their actions.
- It is the world’s largest international police organization.
- Headquarters: Lyon, France.
- The organisation enables member countries to share and access data on crimes and criminals, and offers a range of technical and operational support.
- Interpol manages 19 police databases with information on crimes and criminals (from names and fingerprints to stolen passports), accessible in real-time to countries.
- It also offers investigative support such as forensics, analysis, and assistance in locating fugitives around the world, according to the Interpol website.
- Interpol provides investigative support, expertise and training to law enforcement worldwide, focusing on three major areas of transnational crime:
- cybercrime and
- organized crime.
Who makes up INTERPOL?
- The General Secretariat coordinates the day-to-day activities to fight a range of crimes.
- It is run by the Secretary General and is staffed by both police and civilians and comprises.
- In each country, an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) provides the central point of contact for the General Secretariat and other NCBs.
- An NCB is run by national police officials and usually sits in the government ministry responsible for policing.
- INTERPOL Notices are international requests for cooperation or alerts allowing police in member countries to share critical crime-related information.
- How they are issued:
- Notices are issued by the General Secretariat at the request of a member country’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau and are made available for all member countries.
- Notices can also be issued at the request of International Criminal Tribunals and the International Criminal Court to seek persons wanted for committing crimes within their jurisdiction, notably genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
- They can also be issued at the request of the United Nations in relation to the implementation of sanctions imposed by the Security Council.
- Most Notices are for police use only and are not available to the public.
- However, all United Nations Special Notices are public.
Types of Notice
- Red Notice:
- To seek the location and arrest of persons wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence.
- Yellow Notice:
- To help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify persons who are unable to identify themselves.
- Blue Notice:
- To collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a criminal investigation.
- Black Notice:
- To seek information on unidentified bodies.
- Green Notice:
- To provide warning about a person’s criminal activities, where the person is considered to be a possible threat to public safety.
- Orange Notice:
- To warn of an event, a person, an object or a process representing a serious and imminent threat to public safety.
- Purple Notice:
- To seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.
- INTERPOL–United Nations Security Council Special Notice:
- Issued for entities and individuals who are the targets of UN Security Council Sanctions Committees.