Topic 1 : Solar Geoengineering
Why in news: As the world struggles to renounce its burning of fossil fuels, scientists are studying whether atmospheric geoengineering could help limit warming and avert climate catastrophe.
Solar radiation management:
- Solar radiation management (SRM), seeks to reflect the sun’s rays back into space, with the most well-known proposal being to blast sulphur dioxide – a coolant – into the higher reaches of the atmosphere.
- The idea of injecting sulphur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere is not new.
- The U.S. National Academy of Sciences proposed the idea as early as 1992.
- Scientists have documented that volcanic eruptions, which spew huge amounts of SO2 into the air, have a cooling effect on the planet.
- While these methods were less intrusive and less potentially damaging than stratospheric aerosol injection, they could prove more expensive and too energy-intensive.
- Side effects of this method:
- While the injection of sulphate aerosols might cool the planet, the side effects could prove even more destructive.
- It could impact weather patterns, agriculture, and the provision of basic needs of food and water.
- Disruption of monsoons:
- It could disrupt monsoons and cause droughts in Africa and Asia.
- Effect on the ozone layer:
- It could also slow the recovery of the ozone layer or lead to a dangerous spike in acid rain.
- Weaponisation of this technology:
- The technology could even be weaponised by “rogue states” or unscrupulous private companies and create new geopolitical and security threats, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned in a report published this year.
- Delay in achieving climate targets:
- The technology could serve as an excuse to delay the shift towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
- Even if SRM interventions successfully keep temperatures down, they will not fix other consequences of rising CO2 levels, like ocean acidification.
- Short term impact only:
- Its impact will also only be short term, raising the possibility that countries would be forced to deploy SRM for centuries.Topic 2 : Pralay Missile
Why in news: India has recently launched Pralay missile.
- It is an indigenous, new-generation surface-to-surface missile.
- As part of its broader effort to establish the Indian Rocket Force (IRF), the Indian government has approved the acquisition of around 120 Pralay ballistic missiles.
- The Pralay missile system addresses India’s tactical ballistic missile gap.
- Both China and Pakistan have already possessed similar weapons in their arsenals.
- ‘Pralay’ is a 350-500 km short-range, surface-to-surface missile with a payload capacity of 500-1,000 kg.
- The solid-fuel, battlefield missile is based on the Prithvi Defence Vehicle.
- Pralay has been developed for deployment along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Line of Control (LoC), he said.
- It can be compared with China’s ‘Dong Feng 12’ and Russia’s ‘Iskander’, which was used in the ongoing war with Ukraine.Topic 3 : The MiG-21 fighter jet
Why in news: Recently MiG-21 fighter jets of the No. 4 squadron ‘OORIALS’ of the Indian Air Force (IAF) flew one last time over Uttarlai in Rajasthan.
- The squadron has been operating the MiG-21 since 1966 and is now being re-equipped with the Sukhoi-30 MKI
- The IAF is now at 31 fighter squadrons as against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.
- The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft, designed in the Soviet Union.
- Approximately 60 countries across four continents have flown the MiG-21, and it still serves many nations six decades after its maiden flight.
- It set aviation records, becoming:
- the most-produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history,
- the most-produced combat aircraft since the Korean War and,
- previously, the longest production run of any combat aircraft
What role did the MiG-21 jets play?
- The MiG-21 was the first supersonic fighter in service of the IAF and was inducted in 1963 and has participated in all major conflicts since.
- More than 800 variants of the supersonic fighter have been inducted into service, and it remained the frontline fighter jet of the IAF for a long time.
- The IAF now has two MiG-21 squadronsin service comprising the upgraded Bison variants:
- the No. 3 squadron ‘Cobras’ at Bikaner and
- No. 23 squadron ‘Panthers’ at Suratgarh.
- During the 1971 War of Bangladesh, the MiG-21s showed its true grit.
- In the course of six decades, the MiG-21 fleet saw over 400 accidents claiming the lives of around 200 pilots.
- The IAF was to phase out the MiG-21s much earlier but it was extended as newer inductions especially the LCA Tejas were delayed.
The MiG replacement:
- In the last few years, the IAF has inducted two squadrons of the LCA Tejas and two squadrons of Rafale fighter jets procured from France.
- In 2021, the IAF signed a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 LCA Mk1A which it will start receiving from early 2024 onwards.
- A larger LCA-Mk2 as well as the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) are under development.
Topic 4 : Collegium recommends Chief Justices of three High Courts for appointment to SC
Why in news: The Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, recently, recommended the Chief Justices of three High Courts for appointment to the apex court.
- Currently, the court is functioning with 31 judges, while the sanctioned strength is of 34 judges.
- In India, until 1993, the appointment of judges was done by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and two other senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
- Since 1993, it is the Collegium system evolved by the Supreme Court that decides on appointments and transfers of judges in the higher judiciary, though the nominal appointing authority is the President of India.
- The Collegium was the result of the differences between the executive and the judiciary.
- While the Collegium system finds no mention in the Constitution of India, it has evolved through the Supreme Court’s own three judgments, known collectively as the Three Judges Cases (1981, 1993 and 1998).
What is the Collegium?
- The Colllegium system is a group — headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI), consisting of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, that decides appointments to the higher judiciary and transfer of judges.
Procedure For Appointment Of Judges To The Supreme Court:
- Article 124 (2) of the Constitution lays down the process to appoint judges to the higher judiciary. It says:
- Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President after consultation with such of the judges of the Supreme Court and of the high courts in the states.
- In the case of appointment of a judge other than the chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India shall always be consulted.
- Under the Collegium system, the Chief Justice of India and his 4 senior-most colleagues make recommendations for the candidates to be appointed as SC and HC judges to the President.
- The Collegium right now has six judges instead of five.
- This is because none of the 4 senior most judges will become the next CJI, and it is mandatory for the next CJI to be a part of the Collegium.
- Justice Sanjiv Khanna is therefore the 6th member of the Collegium right now who will succeed Chief Justice DY Chandrachud as the next CJI.
- The recommendations by the Collegium for the Supreme Court can be of two types:
- One, when high court judges are to be elevated to the Supreme Court; and
- Two, when senior lawyers are directly appointed as Supreme Court judges.
- For appointments to the high courts, the Supreme Court Collegium consists of only 3 judges:
- The Chief Justice of India and
- two senior-most judges.
- For appointments to the Supreme Court, the Collegium consists of five judges (right now, 6).
- Like the Supreme Court, the high courts, too, have a Collegium, headed by the chief justice of the high court and two senior-most judges as members.
- The high court Collegium sends its judicial appointments recommendation only to the Supreme Court Collegium.
Procedure For Appointment Of Judges To High Courts
- For appointments or elevations to the high courts, the HC collegium (The HC Chief Justice + 2 senior-most judges) makes the recommendation to the state government.
- The State Government sends the names to the Centre with its input.
- The Centre gives the names to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to conduct background checks.
- The IB then sends its report to the Supreme Court Collegium (CJI + 2 Senior-most judges).
- The SC Collegium goes through the IB report and recommends the names to the Centre for appointment.
- The Centre can accept the appointments or return the file back to the Collegium for reconsideration.
- The Collegium has the right to reiterate the names sent back by the Centre for reconsideration.
- If the Collegium reiterates a name, the Centre is bound to appoint the candidate.
- But there is no time limit fixed for doing so.
- A similar procedure is followed for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, as per the steps laid down in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
- The exception being, the first recommendation comes from the Supreme Court Collegium directly.
Evolution of Collegium System:
- Supreme Court has given different interpretation of the word ‘consultation’:
- First Judges case (1982), the Supreme Court held that the term “consultation” used in Articles 124 and 217 did not mean “concurrence”.
- It only implies exchange of views.
- The judgment in the First Judges Case tilted the balance of power in appointments of judges of High Courts in favour of the executive.
- This situation prevailed for the next 12 years.
- In the Second Judges case (1993), the Court reversed its earlier ruling and changed the meaning of the word consultation to concurrence.
- Hence, it ruled that the advice tendered by the Chief Justice of India is binding on the President in the matters of appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court.
- But the Chief Justice would tender his advice on the matter after consulting two of his senior most colleagues.
- In the Third Judges case (1998), the Court ruled that consultation process to be adopted by the Chief justice of India requires ‘consultation of plurality judges.
- The sole opinion of the chief justice of India does not constitute the consultation process.
- He should consult a collegium of four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court and even if two judges give an adverse opinion, he should not send the recommendation to government.
- Therefore, as per standard, the latest judgment, Third Judges case (1998) is followed for the appointment of the judges.
Arguments for the collegium system:
- It makes judiciary independent of politics.
- Having been kept outside of the legislature and executive, the system is believed to keep selection of future judges free from outside interference.
- It upholds the seniority of candidates and is supposed to abide by the principles of separation of powers in the Constitution.
- With the government’s involvement, many fear the judiciary might have to compromise on its independence.
Arguments against collegium:
Arguments against the collegium system:
- It is an administrative burden of appointing and transferring judges without a separate secretariat or intelligence-gathering mechanism dedicated to collection of and checking personal and professional backgrounds of prospective appointees;
- It is a closed-door affair without a formal and transparent system;
- The limitation of the collegium’s field of choice to the senior-most judges from the High Court for appointments to the Supreme Court, overlooking several talented junior judges and advocates.
Suggested alternative to the collegium:
- The Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, which established the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) and the NJAC Act, was passed by Parliament in 2014 to set up a commission for appointing judges, replacing the Collegium system.
- This would essentially increase the government’s role in the appointment of judges.
- The NJAC was to comprise:
- the Chief Justice of India as the ex officio Chairperson,
- two senior-most Supreme Court Judges as ex officio members,
- the Union Minister of Law and Justice as ex officio member, and
- two eminent persons from civil society:
- one of whom would be nominated by a committee consisting of the CJI, Prime Minster and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and
- the other would be nominated from the SC/ST/OBC/minority communities or women.
- The laws were repealed in October 2015 after the Supreme Court struck them down.
- The institutional decline in terms of erosion of judicial independence and autonomy of the SCI is matching with that of the firm grounding of majoritarian regimes across the world, including India.
- The libertarian and rights-based approach of the new CJI is critical for democratic governance, and it is timely wherein the judiciary, as an organ of democracy and institutional instrument for delivering justice, is being watched by the citizens of India and global nations.
- The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution’s (NCRWC) recommendation to establish a National Judicial Commission with suitable alterations and modifications is worth considering.
- It would be worthwhile to have a participatory mode with the participation of both the executive and the judiciary in making such recommendations.
- The opinions/views of the executive can be included as a consultative process.
- Logically, the decisions arrived at by the two organs of the state stand better when compared to only one organ of the state, so as to achieve the principles of good governance with particular reference to democratic representation, legitimacy, transparency and accountability.
- Judicial accountability is part and parcel of the independence of the judiciary, and the appointment of judges is not an exception to this phenomenon.
- There is a need to include democratic voices and civil society’s representation in judges’ appointments for better legitimacy, transparency and accountability.
Topic 5 : The Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness initiative
Why in news: Recently, India’s Navy chief Admiral said that the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative, announced by the Quad grouping, is a testament to the commitment to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific.
About the initiative:
- IPMDA is a technology and training initiative to enhance maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific region and to bring increased transparency to its critical waterways.
- IPMDA harnesses innovative technology, such as commercial satellite radio frequency data collection, to provide partners across Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean region and the Pacific with near real-time information on activities occurring in their maritime zones.
- This initiative [IPMDA] seeks to establish:
- a comprehensive system for monitoring and securing maritime activities in the Indo-Pacific,
- ensuring the safety of critical sea lines of communication, and
- promoting cooperation among like-minded nations in the region.
- The IPMDA was announced by the Quad grouping, comprising India, Australia, Japan and U.S., at the Tokyo summit in early 2022.
- to track dark shipping and build a faster, wider, and more accurate maritime picture of near-real-time activities in partners’ waters, integratingthree critical regions in the Indo-Pacific:
- the Pacific Islands,
- Southeast Asia, and
- the Indian Ocean Region.
- to track dark shipping and build a faster, wider, and more accurate maritime picture of near-real-time activities in partners’ waters, integratingthree critical regions in the Indo-Pacific:
- Benefits to regional partners
- It supports the ability of Indo-Pacific partners to rapidly detect and respond to a wide range of challenges involving illicit maritime activities such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, climate events, and humanitarian crises.
- The initiative also involves regional information centres, helping to establish a common operating picture of the maritime domain across the Indo-Pacific region.Topic 6 : Electoral Bonds and Electoral Trusts
Why in news: After a three-day hearing, the Supreme Court reserved its judgment on the challenge to the central government’s Electoral Bonds Scheme.
- Before the controversial Electoral Bonds (EB) Scheme was introduced in 2018, there was something called an Electoral Trusts (ET) Scheme, which was introduced by the UPA government in 2013.
- Both schemes were meant to facilitate donations to political parties by corporates and individuals.
- But while the EB scheme seeks to ensure anonymity for the donor, the electoral trusts under the previous scheme were required to submit to the Election Commission of India a report on contributions from individuals and companies, and their donations to parties every year.
What are electoral trusts?
- Under the scheme, any company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, can form an electoral trust.
- Who can donate under the scheme under Income-tax Act, 1961:
- any citizen of India,
- a company registered in India,
- a firm or Hindu Undivided Family
- association of persons living in India.
- The electoral trusts have to apply for renewal every three financial years.
- They must donate 95% of contributions received in a financial year to political parties registered under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- The contributors’ PAN (in case of a resident) or passport number (in case of an NRI) is required at the time of making contributions. passport number
Difference between the ET and EB scheme:
- The ET scheme:
- The electoral trusts route is transparent on contributors and beneficiaries.
- Where there is only one contributor and one beneficiary of a particular trust, the public can know for sure who is funding whom.
- However, if there are multiple contributors and recipients of donations, it cannot be specified which company is funding which party.
- The EB scheme:
- Electoral bonds, on the other hand, are exempt from disclosure requirements.
- Parties inform the ECI of the aggregate donations received through EBs, but give no details of the donors, which they are required to do in case of donations in cash or by cheque or bank transactions over Rs.20,000 each.
- The government argues that this lack of transparency in donations through EBs is to maintain the privacy of donors.
Topic 7 : Fundamentals of Electricity Transmission
About electricity transmission:
- Any power supply system has three broad components:
- transmission, and
- Electricity is generated at power plants as well as at smaller renewable-energy installations.
- Then it is transmitted using a distributed network of stations, substations, switches, overhead and underground cables, and transformers, among other elements.
- Finally, it is distributed to consumers in a standardised way, befitting the needs of various machines and applications.
Basics of transmitting electricity:
- A conductor:
- In any conductor that transports electric current, the transmission efficiency is higher at lower current and higher voltage.
- This is because the energy loss during transmission increases as the square of the current, whereas the amount of voltage increase corresponds on a 1:1 basis with the amount of current decreased.
- That is, if voltage is increased by five units, the amount of current will drop by five units, but the amount of energy lost will be reduced by 25 units.
- Role of transformers:
- They increase the voltage and reduce the current before feeding into transmission lines, and the reverse when receiving current to be supplied to consumers.
- The cables that move the current still have some resistance, which results in some energy loss.
- The amount of loss can be controlled by adjusting the cable’s thickness:
- the thicker it is, the less energy is lost, but the cost increases.
- Transmission distance:
- The longer the distance of transmission, the lower the transmission cost.
- AC and DC:
- All these factors are further complicated by the use of alternating current (AC).
- AC can be modified more easily in transformers than direct currents (DC) and also has higher transmission efficiency.
- But when the AC frequency is higher, the amount of resistance the current encounters in the material increases.
What is AC power?
- The most common way to transfer electric power is in the form of three-phase AC.
- In AC, the voltage flips polarity.
- If one polarity urges the current to flow in one direction, the opposite polarity urges the current to flow the other way.
- The AC frequency is equal to the voltage flipping frequency.
How do grids operate?
- Transmission is situated between production and distribution.
- National grid:
- A national grid includes all the above components, and as a result transmission also has to account for the particulars of power production at different types of sources, at various locations, and how and where that power is consumed.
- For example, some sources, like coal-fired or nuclear reactors can produce energy continuously, whereas renewable energy sources are intermittent.
- Storage and distribution:
- So grids also have storage facilities that store electrical energy when there’s a surplus supply and release it in times of deficit.
- They are also connected to sources like gas turbines that can provide power on short notice, such as during emergencies, as well as automated systems that ‘tell’ sources to increase or decrease their output in response to fluctuating consumer demand.
- Grids also need to:
- respond to failure in different parts of the network
- prevent them from carrying over to other parts,
- adjust voltages in response to demand (as well as manage demand),
- control the AC frequency,
- improve the power factor (the power drawn by a load versus the power available in a circuit), etc.
- Wide area synchronous grid:
- A grid becomes a wide-area synchronous grid if all the generators connected to it are producing an AC current at the same frequency.
- The world’s largest such grid covers Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Russia.
- The world’s most powerful is the North Chinese State Grid, with a connected capacity of 1,700 GW.
- India’s national grid is also a wide-area synchronous grid.
- Such grids result in lower power cost but also require measures to prevent cascading power-supply failures.