9th February 2021

Index

A) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

1. Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (TH)

2. Explained: Whether Internet Access is a part of Fundamental Right? (IE)

B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

3. Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) (TH)

C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

4. Kisan Rail and Krishi Udaan (TH)

5. Migration Commission (PIB)

D) International Relations

6. U.S. to rejoin UN human rights forum (TH)

A) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

1. Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (TH)

Context: The Odisha government on Monday decided to move the Supreme Court challenging the conduct of panchayat elections by Andhra Pradesh in three villages of Koraput district and violation of status quo on the border dispute.

Analysis

Jurisdiction and powers of Supreme Court

  • The Constitution has conferred a very extensive jurisdiction and vast powers on the Supreme Court.
  • It is not only a Federal Court like the American Supreme Court but also a final court of appeal like the British House of Lords (the Upper House of the British Parliament).
  • It is also the final interpreter and guardian of the Constitution and guarantor of the fundamental rights of the citizens.
  • Further, it has advisory and supervisory powers.
  • Therefore, Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, a member of the DraftingCommittee of the Constitution, rightly remarked: “The SupremeCourt of India has more powers than any other Supreme Court inany part of the world.”
  • The jurisdiction and powers of the SupremeCourt can be classified into the following:
  1. Original Jurisdiction.
  2. Writ Jurisdiction.
  3. Appellate Jurisdiction.
  4. Advisory Jurisdiction.
  5. A Court of Record.
  6. Power of Judicial Review.
  7. Constitutional Interpretation
  8. Other Powers.

Original Jurisdiction

  • As a federal court, the Supreme Court decides the disputes between different units of the Indian Federation. More elaborately,any dispute:
  1. Between the Centre and one or more states; or
  2. Between the Centre and any state or states on one side andone or more other states on the other side; or
  3. Between two or more states.
  • In the above federal disputes, the Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction.
  1. Exclusive means, no other court can decidesuch disputes and original means, the power to hear suchdisputes in the first instance, not by way of appeal.
  • With regard to the exclusive original jurisdiction of the SupremeCourt, two points should be noted.
  1. One, the dispute must involve a question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends. Thus, the questions of political nature are excluded from it.
  2. Two, any suit brought before the Supreme Court by a private citizen against the Centre or a state cannot be entertained under this.
  • Further, this jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not extend to the following:
  1. A dispute arising out of any pre-Constitution treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instrument.
  2. A dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, etc., which specifically provides that the said jurisdiction does not extent to such a dispute.
  3. Inter-state water disputes.
  4. Matters referred to the Finance Commission.
  5. Adjustment of certain expenses and pensions between the Centre and the states.
  6. Ordinary dispute of Commercial nature between the Centre and the states.
  7. Recovery of damages by a state against the Centre.

2. Explained: Whether Internet Access is a part of Fundamental Right? (IE)

Context: A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government to restore mobile internet at areas on the Delhi-Haryana border where thousands of farmers are camping in protest against three new farm laws.

  • The petition says denying access to internet is a violation of fundamental rights.

Analysis

Right To Internet A Basic Human Right

  • In 2016, UNHRC General Assembly articulated access to the Internet an essential human right.

Internet Access A Part Of Fundamental Right

  • In Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India (2020), SC in its judgement observed that freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys Constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g), but the restriction of such fundamental rights should be according to Article 19(2) and (6) of the Constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality.
  • Internet is an imperative tool for trade and commerce and plays an important role in carrying e-commerce business as it provides a virtual platform to a businessman which is more affordable.
  • It protected the right to use internet as medium for fulfilment of our fundamental rights, especially freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of trade and commerce.
  • Thereafter it has been widely reported and is believed that the Court has declared access to internet as a fundamental right. It is factually incorrect, as the court in its own words said, “none of the counsels have argued for declaring the right to access the internet as a fundamental right and therefore we are not expressing any view on the same.
  • In Faheema Shirin RK Vs State of Kerala, Hon’ble High Court stated that Right to access internet is a part of Right to education and Right to Privacy under Article 21A and Article 21 of the Constitution of Indian respectively.
  • According to our constitution Article 19(1) All citizens shall have the right—
  1. To freedom of speech and expression;
  2. To assemble peaceably and without arms;
  3. To form associations or unions;
  4. To move freely throughout the territory of India;
  5. To reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;
  6. To practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Reasonable restrictions

  1. By enforcing Article 19(2) of the Constitution, the State can enforce reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression based on eight grounds.

    These are:
  1. Defamation:  Refers to statements which injures a man’s reputation.
  2. Contempt of court: Restriction may be instituted on the freedom of speech and expression if it surpasses the reasonable limit and amounts to contempt of court.
  3. Decency or morality: Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code provide for situations where freedom of speech and expression is limited in the interests of dignity or morality.
  4. Security of the state: Under Article 19(2), fair limitations on the freedom of speech and expression can be placed in the context of State’s security.
  5. Friendly relations with other states: The intention behind the provision is to prevent unrestricted malicious publicity against a foreign friendly state that can disrupt India’s good ties with that state.
  6. Incitement to an offence: Added through the 1951 Constitution (First Amendment) Act. Freedom of speech and expression cannot provide citizens with a privilege to incite people in committing offence.
  7. Sedition: Sedition supports all those activities, whether through words or writing, determined to disrupt the State’s tranquility and drive misguided individuals to subvert the government.
  8. Public Order: Introduced by the Constitution Act (first amendment). That which perturbs public peace or tranquility perturbs public order. ‘In the interest of public order’ involves not only utterances meant explicitly but also those which appear to contribute to disorder.
  • In addition to the above 8 limitations, the rights to freedom under Article 19 of the Indian constitution are revoked during the time of National Emergency proclaimed by the President of India.
  • Furthermore, during the time of action of the National Emergency, the President is authorized to suspend citizens’ right to move to the Supreme Court to implement their personal freedom.

B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

3. Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) (TH)

Context: Kerala Chief Minister has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister to allay the apprehension of the people in Wayanad over the recent draft notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) that envisages a buffer zone around the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS).

  • State government had prepared recommendations for notifying eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around 21 protected areas in December 2019. According to the amended proposal for draft notification, the ESZ measures 88.2 sq km around the WWS.
  • The present draft issued by the MOEFCC notifies 118.59 sq km around the WWS as ESZ.

Analysis

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)?

  • ESZs are notified by MoEFCC, Government of India underEnvironment (Protection) Act 1986.
  • Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas are areas within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • In case of places with sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even area beyond 10 km width can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone.
  • The basic aim behind notifying ESZs is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.

Activities in these Areas are categorized as ‘Prohibited, Regulated and Permitted’ activities.

  • Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Regulated activities: Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
  • Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.

About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS)

  • It is the only sanctuary of Kerala where sighting of four-horned antelope has been reported.
  • The Nagarhole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad forest complex is also one of the most important tiger habitats in the country.
  • The forests of the wildlife division form the major catchments for the tributaries of the Kabani river system, which is the lifeline of the eastern portion of the Wayanad plateau and the adjoining plains of Karnataka.

Western Ghats

  • Older than the Himalaya mountains, the Western Ghats is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
  • The Ghats extend from Dang in Maharashtra-Gujarat to a place near Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, along the western coast.
  • The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern.

Note: Ecologically Sensitive Areas are different from Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)

  • For “Ecologically Sensitive Areas’ refer 22nd May 2020 file.

C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

4. Kisan Rail and Krishi Udaan (TH)

Context: The South Central Railway started the first ‘Kisan Rail’ service from Telangana.

Analysis

  • Introduction of Kisan Rail is conceptualized to provide priority to the farming sector and facilitate transportation of perishable agricultural products to various market places across the country.
  • The trains with frozen containers are expected to build a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables.
  • Kisan Rail service was announced in the Union Budget 2020-21 and it was also stated that the Indian Railways will set up a Kisan Rail through PPP arrangements.
  • The first such train runs weekly between Devlali (Maharashtra) to Danapur (Bihar).

Krishi Udaan

  • Krishi Udaan will be launched by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on international and national routes.
  • This scheme aims to assist farmers in transporting agricultural products so that it improves their “value realisation”, especially in the north-east and tribal districts.

5. Migration Commission (PIB)

  • Context: Setting up of Migration Commission under NITI Aayog.

Analysis

  • NITI Aayog has constituted a sub-group to prepare a National Action Plan for Migrant Workers.
  • The sub-group comprises the members from various Ministries of Govt. of India, subject experts, NGOs and civil society organisations, to prepare a tangible action plan to address issues related to migrant workers.
  • In order to safeguard the interest of the migrant workers, the Central Government had enacted the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.
  • This Act has now been subsumed in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code).
  • OSH Code, has been notified on 29.09.2020, provides for decent working conditions, minimum wages, grievances redressal mechanisms, protection from abuse and exploitation, enhancement of the skills and social security to all category of organised and unorganised workers including Migrant workers.                 
  • The OSH Code is applicable to every establishment in which 10 or more inter-state migrant workers are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months.

International Precedents

  • The Global Commission on International Migration, the first-ever global panel addressing international migration, was officially launched by the United Nations Secretary-General and a number of governments on 9 December 2003 in Geneva.
  • It was composed of members, drawn from all regions and bringing together a wide range of migration perspectives and expertise.
  • The Global Commission on International Migration finished its work on 31 December 2005.

D) International Relations

6. U.S. to rejoin UN human rights forum (TH)

Context: The U.S. announced plans to reengage with the much-maligned UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago, as President Joe Biden’s administration reverses another Trump-era move away from multilateral organisations and agreements.

  • U.S. withdrew from the council in 2018, calling it a “cesspool of political bias” and a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights.”
  • In particular, U.S. had slammed the council for adopting resolutions condemning Israel, which has come under scrutiny by the council for its treatment of Palestinians.

UN Human Rights Council

  • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system.
  • It can mandate independent inquiries into specific situations.
  • It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year.
  • It meets at the UN Office at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The Human Rights Council replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • To do all the work, the Human Rights Council gets help from groups of experts. They are called ‘Advisory Committees’.
  • Sometimes, the Human Rights Council also works with other experts who know a lot about 1 right or 1 country. When this happens, we call it ‘Special Procedures’.

HRC Meetings

  • The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year.
  • If one-third of the Member States so request, the HRC can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

Membership

  • The Council is made up of 47 UN Member States, which are elected by the UNGA through a direct and secret ballot.
  • The General Assembly takes into account the contribution of the candidate states to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • Seats on the Council are distributed as follows:
  1. African States: 13 seats
  2. Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  3. Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  4. Western European and other States: 7 seats
  5. Eastern European States: 6 seats
  • Members of the Council serve for a period of three years, and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
  • Both India and Pakistan as the members of UNHRC.
  • The HRC has a Bureau of one President and four Vice-Presidents, representing the five regional groups. They serve for a year, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.

Human Rights Day

  • It is observed by the international community every year on 10 December.
  • It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document.

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

  • Also known as VDPA, it is a human rights declaration adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993 in Vienna, Austria.
  • The position of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was recommended by this Declaration and subsequently created by General Assembly.

What are human rights?

  • Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.
  • They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.
  • These basic rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence.
  • These values are generally defined and protected by law.

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