Prime Minister Narendra Modi has delivered a keynote address virtually at this year’s High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session.
The theme of the High-Level Segment of the ECOSOC this year is “Multilateralism after COVID19: What kind of UN do we need at the 75th anniversary”.
About UN ECOSOC –
- The UN Charter established ECOSOC in 1945 as one of the six main organs of the United Nations.
- The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is responsible for coordinating the economic, social, and related work of 15 UN specialised agencies, their functional commissions and five regional commissions.
- It has 54 members. The General Assembly selects 18 new members for ECOSOC each year for the term of 3 years with a provision that a retiring member can be re-elected.
- It holds one seven-week session each year in July, and since 1998, it has also held an annual meeting in April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- ECOSOC serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations system.
- A number of non-governmental organisations have been granted consultative status to the Council to participate in the work of the United Nations.
- India is a member country (since 1st January 2018) and entered through the council in 2017 elections.
Maternal Mortality Rate
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan has said that the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of India has declined by 9 points in one year as per the Special Bulletin on MMR released by the Registrar General of India.
What is ‘Maternal Mortality Rate’?
As per the World Health Organization, maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.
Key statistics –
- The ratio has declined from 122 in 2015-17 to 113 in 2016-18 (7.4 % decline).
- The country has been witnessing a progressive reduction in MMR from 167 in 2011-2013, 130 in 2014-2016, 122 in 2015-17, and to 113 in 2016-18.
- With this persistent decline, India is on track to achieving the SDG 3 of 70/ lakh live births by 2030 and National Health Policy (NHP) target of 100/ lakh live births by 2020.
- The number of states which have achieved the SDG target has now risen from 3 to 5 viz. Kerala (43), Maharashtra (46) Tamil Nadu (60), Telangana (63) and Andhra Pradesh (65).
- There are eleven states that have achieved the target of MMR set by the NHP which includes the above 5 and the states of Jharkhand (71), Gujarat (75), Haryana (91), Karnataka (92), West Bengal (98) and Uttarakhand (99).
- Three states (Punjab (129), Bihar (149), Odisha (150)) have MMR in between 100-150, while for 5 states namely, Chhattisgarh (159), Rajasthan (164), Madhya Pradesh (173), Uttar Pradesh (197) and Assam (215), MMR is above 150.
How India has achieved this feat?
- This success can be attributed to the intensive endeavour of the government in achieving impressive gains in institutional deliveries as well as focusing on quality and coverage of services under NHM through various schemes such as Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram, Janani Suraksha Yojana, and newer initiatives like LaQshya and Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan.
- Government of India also envisages rolling out the overarching SUMAN initiative including the midwifery initiative, assuring delivery of maternal and newborn healthcare services encompassing wider access to free and quality services, zero tolerance for denial of services along with respectful maternity care.
About Registrar General of India –
- It is under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Apart from conducting the Population Census and monitoring the implementation of the Registration of Births and Deaths in the country, it has been giving estimates on fertility and mortality using the Sample Registration System (SRS).
- SRS is the largest demographic sample survey in the country that among other indicators provide direct estimates of maternal mortality through a nationally representative sample.
Tenth Schedule of the Constitution
While hearing the plea of ousted Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, the Rajasthan High Court has observed that the constitutional courts cannot judicially review disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) of the Constitution until the Speaker or Chairman makes a final decision on merits.
What is the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law)?
- The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
- A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote.
- This implies that a legislator defying (abstaining or voting against) the party whip on any issue can lose his membership of the House.
- The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
Grounds of observation –
- A 28-year-old judgement of the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillu and Others has said that “judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman and a quia timet action would not be permissible. Nor would interference be permissible at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings”.
- The only exception for any interlocutory interference being cases of interlocutory disqualifications or suspensions which may have grave, immediate and irreversible repercussions and consequence.
- In Kihoto Hollohan case, the Supreme Court upheld the principle that individual legislators should follow the whips issued by the party. This case virtually recognised the political parties in India post-1985 when 10th Schedule was introduced in the Constitution.
Constitutional provisions under Tenth Schedule –
- Paragraph 7 of the Tenth Schedule bars courts from having jurisdiction on any matter related to disqualification under the Schedule.
- As per Paragraph 6 (1) of the Tenth Schedule, the decision of the Speaker or Chairman shall be final.
- Paragraph 6 (2) states that the proceedings in this respect shall be deemed to be within the meaning of Articles 122 or 212; that is, the validity cannot be questioned on grounds of alleged irregularity.
- The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992, thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court. However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order.
- The law does not specify a time-period for the Presiding Officer to decide on a disqualification plea. Given that courts can intervene only after the Presiding Officer has decided on the matter, the petitioner seeking disqualification has no option but to wait for this decision to be made.
- The anti-defection law seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides. However, this law also restricts a legislator from voting in line with his conscience, judgement and interests of his electorate.
Way forward –
- Various expert committees have recommended that rather than the Presiding Officer, the decision to disqualify a member should be made by the President (in case of MPs) or the Governor (in case of MLAs) on the advice of the Election Commission.
- This would be similar to the process followed for disqualification in case the person holds an office of profit (i.e. the person holds an office under the central or state government which carries a remuneration, and has not been excluded in a list made by the legislature).
Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act
The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 that prohibits sacrifice of animals and birds in temples to ‘please’ the deity.
What are the concerns with the act?
- The Act criminalises the intent behind the animal sacrifice, and not animal sacrifice per se.
- If the sacrifice is not for propitiating any deity but for personal consumption even in the precincts of temple, it is not forbidden. The appeal has criticised this arbitrary classification as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
- It argued that Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1960 does not make killing of animals for religious purposes an offence. However the 1968 State law bans killing of animals and birds for religious sacrifices but not for personal consumption.
- This amounted to arbitrary classification. The appellants said if killing of animals and birds was to be prohibited, let it be so for all purposes — religious or otherwise.
Defence Acquisition Council
Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has delegated the powers for progressing urgent Capital Acquisition Cases upto Rs 300 crore to the Armed Forces to meet their emergent operational requirements.
About Defence Acquisition Council –
- Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), under the Defence Minister was constituted for overall guidance of the defence procurement planning process. The composition of the DAC is as follows – Defence Minister: Chairman; Minister of State for Defence: Member; Chief of Army Staff: Member; Chief of Naval Staff: Member; Chief of Air Staff: Member etc. It decides on the new policies and capital acquisitions for the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Indian Coast Guard.
- It was formed, after the Group of Ministers recommendations on ‘Reforming the National Security System’, in 2001, post Kargil War (1999).
- The objective of the Defence Acquisition Council is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilising the allocated budgetary resources.
- The functions of the DAC include –
- in-principle approval of 15 Year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan for Defence Forces;
- accord of Acceptance of Necessity to acquisition proposals;
- categorisation of the acquisition proposals relating to ‘Buy’, ‘Buy & Make’ and ‘Make’;
- issues relating to Single vendor clearance;
- decision regarding ‘offset’ provisions in respect of acquisition proposals above Rs. 300 crores;
- decisions regarding Transfer of Technology under ‘Buy & Make’ category of acquisition proposals; and
- Field Trial evaluation.