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15th February – Prelims Booster

Publish criminal history of candidates, SC orders

The Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.

Details –

  • The information should be published in a local and a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.

Earlier Supreme Court proposition –

  • Recently, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a proposition made by the Election Commission (EC) to ask political parties to not give ticket to those with criminal antecedents.
  • The judgment had urged Parliament to bring a “strong law” to cleanse political parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes.
  • The ruling by a five-judge Bench concluded that rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but should begin by “cleansing” the political parties.

Background –

  • In 2002, Supreme Court gave a historic ruling in Union of India (UOI) vs. Association for Democratic Reforms that every candidate, contesting an election to the Parliament, State Legislatures or Municipal Corporation, has to declare their criminal records, financial records and educational qualifications.
  • In 2005, the Supreme Court in Ramesh Dalal vs. Union of India held that a sitting Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of State Legislature (MLA) shall also be subject to disqualification from contesting elections if he is convicted and sentenced to not less than 2 years of imprisonment by a court of law.
  • In 2013, in Lily Thomas vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that Section 8(4) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 is unconstitutional which allows MPs and MLAs who are convicted to continue in office till an appeal against such conviction is disposed of.
  • In 2013 in People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India case Supreme Court asked Election Commission to provide ‘none of the above’ choice to voters to exercise their right to express no confidence against all candidates in fray.

Slapping Section 144 during CAA protests ‘illegal’ : HC

The Karnataka High Court has declared as “illegal” the order passed by the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner imposing Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Cr.PC) from December 19 to 21, 2019, ahead of a series of pro- and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) rallies.

What is Section 144 of CrPC?

  • Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is used to prohibit assemblies of four or more individuals.
  • It is also used to order mobile phone companies to block voice, SMS, or Internet communications in one or more geographical areas.
  • It empowers a district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate or any other executive magistrate specially empowered by the state government in this behalf to issue orders to prevent and address urgent cases of apprehended danger or nuisance.
  • The orders may be directed against a particular individual, or to persons residing in a particular place or area, or to the public generally when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area.
  • No order passed under Section 144 can remain in force for more than two months from the date of the order.
  • The state government can extend this, but not more than six months.

Experts’ meet to discuss restoration of Sun Temple

A plan to restore and preserve the nearly 800 year-old Konark Sun temple in Odisha would be drawn up soon, after a two-day conference of experts on the matter.

Why?

The 13th century temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been filled with sand and sealed by the British authorities in 1903 to stabilise the structure. The sand filled in more than 100 years ago had settled, leading to a gap of about 17 feet.

About Konark Sun Temple –

  • Konark Sun Temple, located in the eastern State of Odisha near the sacred city of Puri, is dedicated to the sun God or Surya.
  • It is a monumental representation of the sun God Surya’s chariot; its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of seven horses.
  • It is a masterpiece of Odisha’s medieval architecture and one of India’s most famous Brahman sanctuaries.
  • The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. It marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture depicting the grace, the joy and the rhythm of life all its wondrous variety.
  • The temple declared a world heritage by UNESCO was built in A.D. 1250, during the reign of the Eastern Ganga King Narasimhadeva-I (A.D. 1238-64).
  • There are two rows of 12 wheels on each side of the Konark sun temple.
  • It is said that the wheels represent the 24 hours in a day and many others believe that they represent the 12 months.
  • The seven horses are said to symbolise the seven days of the week.
  • Sailors once called this Sun Temple of Konarak, the Black Pagoda because it was supposed to draw ships into the shore and cause shipwrecks.

Government notifies medical devices as drugs

The Union Health Ministry has notified medical equipment used on humans as drugs under Section 3 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act with effect from April 1, 2020. The Ministry, through a gazette notification, also released the Medical Devices Amendment Rules, 2020, for mandatory registration of medical devices.

Why?

It is aimed at ensuring that all medical devices meet certain standards of quality and efficacy, the notification will also make medical device companies accountable for quality and safety of their products.

About Medical Devices Amendment Rules, 2020 –

  • Called the Medical Devices (Amendment) Rules, 2020, these are applicable to devices “intended for internal or external use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of disease or disorder in human beings or animals” (as notified by the ministry) and require online registration of these devices “with the Central Licensing Authority through an identified online portal established by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation for this purpose”.
  • Every medical device, either manufactured in India or imported, will have to have quality assurance before they can be sold anywhere in the country.
  • A large number of commonly used items including hypodermic syringes and needles, cardiac stents, perfusion sets, catheters, orthopaedic implants, bone cements, lenses, sutures, internal prosthetic replacements etc are covered under the new rules and will have to comply starting April.

United States Trade Representative (USTR) taken off developing country list

The U.S. government has changed an administrative rule making it easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India and certain other countries.

Details –

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has published a notice, amending lists of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible for preferential treatment with respect to CVD investigations.

What is USTR?

The Office of the United States Trade Representative is the United States government agency responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the President of the United States.

What is Countervailing Duty?

Countervailing duty is an import duty imposed on imported goods to neutralise some of the benefits enjoyed by the imported goods (from governments of the exporter). It is imposed in order to counter the negative impact of import subsidies to protect domestic producers.

Why did it pull India out of developing country list?

A CVD investigation must be terminated if the offending subsidy is de minimis (too small to warrant concern) or if import volumes are negligible. The de minimis thresholds and import volume allowance are more relaxed for developing and least-developed countries. The USTR used the following criteria to determine whether a country was eligible for the 2% de minimis standard –

  • Per capita Gross National Income or GNI
  • Share of world trade
  • Other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership.

Status of India – India, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were taken off the list since they each have at least a 0.5% share of the global trade, despite having less than $12,375 GNI (the World Bank threshold separating high income countries from others). India was taken off the list also because — like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa — it is part of the G20. Given the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership (which accounts for large shares of global economic output and trade), G20 membership indicates that a country is developed.

Other issues in context with USTR –

Generalised System of Preference (GSP) restoration has been India’s key demand as part of the trade deal talks. Under the GSP, the country had exported goods worth $6.3 billion (as per USTR figures) to the US, accounting for around 12.1% of India’s total export to the US.

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