Govt. sets up new panel to review all NSO data
f India’s statistical machinery; new panel to advise govt. on surveys, identify and plug data gaps
The Union government has constituted a new internal oversight mechanism for official data, revamping a Standing Committee on Economic Statistics (SCES) set up in late 2019, soon after the findings from the last round of household surveys on consumption expenditure and employment were junked over “data quality issues”.
In an order issued last Thursday, the Statistics Ministry said that the SCES, which was tasked with examining economic indicators only, will now be replaced by a Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS) which has a broader mandate to review the framework and results of all surveys conducted under the aegis of the National Statistical Office (NSO).
Pronab Sen, former Chairman of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), has been named the chair of the new panel.
The SCoS — with “enhanced terms of reference” vis-à-vis the SCES, “to ensure more coverage” — has 10 official members, and four non-official members who are eminent academics. It can have up to 16 members, as per the order issued by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
The development comes amid sharp critiques of India’s statistical machinery by members of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, including its chairperson Bibek Debroy. He had mooted an overhaul of the system, and contended that the Indian Statistical Service has “little expertise in survey design”.
“The term of the SCES was coming to an end in any case, so it was decided to expand the committee’s mandate beyond economic data and advise the Ministry on technical aspects for all surveys, such as sampling frame, design, survey methodology and finalisation of results,” an official said.
Apart from addressing issues raised from time to time on the subject, results and methodology for all surveys, the terms of reference of the SCoS include identification of data gaps that need to be filled by official statistics, along with a strategy to plug those gaps. It has been mandated to explore the use of administrative statistics to improve data outcomes. While the panel will help finalise survey results, the NSC will have the ultimate authority to approve the publication of those results.
Facts about the News
Earlier The National Sample Survey Office used to work under the Ministry of Statistics of the Indian government until 2019. On 23rd May 2019, the government of India has passed the order of merge for NSSO with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to form the National Statistical Office (NSO). The NSO will be headed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI).
The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), formerly called the National Sample Survey Organisation was the largest organization in India conducting periodic socio-economic surveys.
Note- While NSSO is responsible for conducting socio-economic surveys CSO is responsible for the coordination of statistical activities in the country.
China event raises concern over India’s only ape
The hoolock gibbon, unique to the Northeast, is one of 20 species of apes at a high risk of extinction
The conservation status of India’s only ape was a cause for concern at a global event on gibbons held a week ago in China.
Gibbons, the smallest and fastest of all apes, live in tropical and subtropical forests in the southeastern part of Asia. The hoolock gibbon, unique to India’s Northeast, is one of 20 species of gibbons on Earth.
The estimated population of hoolock gibbons is 12,000.
“Like all apes, they are extremely intelligent, with distinct personalities and strong family bonds. Unfortunately, the current conservation status of gibbon species is alarming – all 20 species are at a high risk of extinction. Since 1900, gibbon distribution and populations have declined dramatically, with only small populations in tropical rainforests,” the Global Gibbon Network (GGN), which had its first meeting at Haikou in China’s Hainan province from July 7-9 said.
Dilip Chetry, a senior primatologist who heads the primate research and conservation division at Aaranyak, an Assam-based non-profit conservation organisation, gave an account of the conservation status of the hoolock gibbon in India.
The hoolock gibbon faces threat primarily from the felling of trees for infrastructure projects.
“GGN was founded with a vision to safeguard and conserve a key element of Asia’s unique natural heritage – the singing gibbon and their habitats, by promoting participatory conservation policies, legislations, and actions,” Dr Chetry said.
Aaranyak, he said, is one of the 15 founding organisations of the GGN from seven countries.
One species, not two
American naturalist R. Harlan was the first to describe the hoolock gibbon, characterised by their vigorous vocal displays, from Assam in 1834.
Over the decades, zoologists thought the Northeast housed two species of the ape – the eastern hoolock gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys) found in a specific region of Arunachal Pradesh and the western hoolock gibbon(Hoolock hoolock)distributed elsewhere in the northeast.
A study led by Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in 2021 proved through genetic analysis that there is only one species of ape in India. It debunked earlier research that the eastern hoolock gibbon was a separate species based on the colour of its coat.
Facts about the News
- The tailless Hoolock Gibbon is the only ape found in India.
- The primate is native to eastern Bangladesh, Northeast India and Southwest China.
- The Hoolock Gibbon is categorised into two types:
Western hoolock gibbon:
- It inhibits in all the states of the north-east, restricted between the south of the Brahmaputra river and east of the Dibang river. And outside India, it is found in eastern Bangladesh and north-west Myanmar.
- It is listed as Endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
- Eastern hoolock gibbon:
– It inhabits specific pockets of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India, and in southern China and north-east Myanmar outside India.
– It is listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN Redlist.
– In India, both the species are listed on Schedule 1 of the Indian (Wildlife) Protection Act 1972.
Commonly found cicada species sheds foreign tag to embrace Indian identity
A ‘foreign’ cicada that is commonly found in several parts of South India has assumed an Indian identity.
The insect species that has now been named Purana cheeveeda (after its Malayalam name Cheeveedu) used to be mistaken for Purana tigrina, a species that was first described in Malaysia in 1850. In view of the differences in their morphological characteristics, the Association for Advancement in Entomology has corrected the long-standing error in taxonomic identification and has excluded the Malaysian species from the South Indian cicada fauna.
The ‘discovery’ that involved correcting the mistaken identity was undertaken by a research team led by Travancore Nature History Society research associate Kalesh Sadasivan and including independent researchers Jebine Jose, Bernad M. Thampan, P.V. Muralimohan, Baiju Kochunarayanan, Anzil Shereef and Mick Webb of the National History Museum in the U.K.
The researchers in Kerala chanced upon the ‘discovery’ after observing differences in the structure of the male genitalia and operculum.
Once a common sight in homesteads, their gradual disappearance could be an indicator of the deteriorating quality of soil and vegetation, they cautioned.
Facts about the News
– Cicadas are hemipteran insects known for their loud, complex and species-specific acoustic signals or songs.
- Hemipteran insects, also called true bugs, have mouthparts used for piercing and sucking and have two pairs of wings.
– The new cicada species belongs to the Platylomia radha group described from the Naga Hills in the eastern Himalayas.
– It is a dusk singing, large-sized cicada that calls for a short window during the evening twilight hours. It timbalises in the form of a continuous and regular cackling.
- Timbal is a sound producing membrane in various insects.
Significance of Cicadas:
- They are mostly beneficial. They prune mature trees, aerate the soil, and once they die, their bodies serve as an important source of nitrogen for growing trees.
- With their acoustic signatures, they act as indicators of a healthy forest ecosystem.
- Most cicadas are canopy dwellers and are found in natural forests with large trees.
- The generic diversity of cicadas in India and Bangladesh ranks the highest in the world, followed by China.
- Large-scale clearing of natural forest land into human settlement and agricultural fields, along with burning of forests is behind the shrinking distribution of Cicada.
- Since it is considered a delicacy and fetches a good price, its unabated capturing and killing during its mass emergence poses a great threat to its survival.
On Rahul Gandhi’s conviction
The Constitution of India under Article 19(2) had declared “defamation” as one among the exceptions to free speech. In criminal defamation, the actual harm inflicted or suffering caused is not a condition to constitute offence as intention or knowledge is sufficient
LETTER & SPIRIT
The Gujarat High Court verdict on Rahul Gandhi’s criminal revision petition raises pertinent questions on defamation, disqualification and electoral representation law. The High Court was deciding on an application challenging the refusal of the Sessions Court to suspend the order of conviction against Mr. Gandhi under Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The Court ultimately denied relief to the petitioner relying on the principle that a stay of conviction is not a rule but an exception to be resorted to in rare cases.
The verdict that this case does not fall in the category of such rare cases is central to the animated debate on this issue.
Speech and reputation
The Constitution of India under Article 19(2) had declared “defamation” as one among the exceptions to free speech which was thereby validated under Sections 499 and 500 (dealing with the definition and punishment of defamation cases) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). One is accused of criminal defamation when an imputation is made with the intention to harm, or having reason to believe that it will harm, the reputation of a person. In criminal defamation, the actual harm inflicted or suffering caused is not a condition to constitute offence as intention or knowledge is sufficient.
The comment by Mr. Gandhi, “why all thieves have Modi surname” is found penal under Section 499 that makes defamatory an imputation concerning “a company or an association or collection of persons as such.” The applicability of the expression “collection of persons” to Mr. Gandhi’s remark is the fulcrum of the case. The Magistrate Court was of the opinion that people with the surname Modi or belonging to the Modi community constitute an identifiable class and pronounced the accused guilty with maximum possible sentence.
Earlier judgments on defamation
In one of its pioneering pronouncements on defamation law, the Supreme Court in Sahib Singh Mehra versus State of Uttar Pradesh (1965) relied on the criteria of identifiability and definitiveness as determinants to fall in the category of a “collection of persons”, in order to rule that public prosecutors and assistant public prosecutors at Aligarh constitute a definite and identifiable category.
Further, the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in Tek Chand Gupta versus R. K. Karanjia and Ors. (1967) stated that the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) having a constitution for itself establishes it as an association or collection of persons which is not indefinite and unidentifiable. This definition was affirmed by the Supreme Court in G. Narasimhan versus T. V. Chokkappa (1972), wherein it quashed complaints, against office bearers of certain newspapers including The Hindu, which alleged that newspaper reports on a resolution passed in a conference organised by the Dravida Kazhagam in 1971 was defamatory. The Court said that the conference was not a determinate and identifiable body to be considered a “collection of persons”.
In the light of these precedents, it would be interesting to see whether the apex court would view people bearing the surname Modi as an identifiable or definite class in order to be called a “group of persons”.
‘Purity in politics’
The categoric refusal of the Gujarat High Court to grant a stay on the conviction was also premised on the “need of the hour to have purity in politics”. This observation seems to have gone against the view of the Kerala High Court which recently stayed the conviction of Mohammed Faizal, the MP of Lakshadweep, under Section 307 of the IPC (attempt to murder), after taking note of the representative nature of his office. The Court held that “on consideration of various legal and other circumstances and special features arising out of this case, this court is of the view that the case of the second petitioner [the MP] falls within the category of rare and exceptional circumstances. The ramifications of not suspending the conviction are enormous.” Interestingly, the Supreme Court refused to stay the order of the Kerala High Court in Mr. Faizal’s case when the UT administration came on appeal. The term of sentence imposed in this case was ten years rigorous imprisonment whereas in the defamation case, the sentence is for two years.
The concurrent views held by the Sessions Court and the Gujarat High Court have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the parliamentary membership of Mr. Gandhi. It is germane to note that the Supreme Court in a plethora of judgments had well chiselled the jurisprudence on suspending an order of conviction. A three Judge bench in Rama Narang versus Ramesh Narang & Ors. (1995) held that “in certain situations the order of conviction can be executable, in the sense, it may incur a disqualification as in the instant case. In such a case the power under Section 389(1) of the Code could be invoked. In such situations the attention of the Appellate Court must be specifically invited to the consequence that is likely to fall to enable it to apply its mind to the issue since under Section 389(1) it is under an obligation to support its order ‘for reasons to be recorded by it in writing’.”
Relying on this judgment, the Supreme Court in Navjot Singh Sidhu versus State Of Punjab & Anr (2007), suspended the order of conviction to enable the cricketer turned politician to contest the election. Even in Lily Thomas versus Union of India (2013), through which Section 8 (4) of the Representation of People Act (1951) was struck down, the Supreme Court rebutted in explicit terms the concern that the disqualified legislator would become helpless by quoting from the Rama Narang judgment (1995) that the power to stay the order of conviction would remain unscathed.
However, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to stay convictions in corruption cases as was seen in State of Tamil Nadu versus A. Jaganathan (1996) and K.C. Sareen versus C.B.I., Chandigarh (2001) as the court felt that the convicted person in such cases should be kept under the disability of conviction. But these decisions are of no applicability to defamation cases which are non-cognisable, bailable and compoundable. Even the Representation of People Act, 1951, differentiates the gradients of criminality for incurring disqualification by classifying various categories of offences. The offence of defamation steps in only in cases of maximum sentence and, hence may deserve differential treatment.
The disqualified MP is reportedly approaching the Supreme Court challenging the order passed by the Gujarat High Court in the revision petition. When the High Court decides during a revisional stage a challenge against the appeal court order on an application during the pendency of the appeal, the Supreme Court usually does not interfere. But amalgamating the principles of law as declared by the Supreme Court in various cases, it is left to the top Court to grant indulgence to stay the conviction in this particular case on defamation and disqualification by employing its sweeping power to do substantive justice under Article 136. However, the final decision of the sessions court in the pending criminal appeal would hang like the sword of Damocles over the restored membership of Mr. Gandhi as an adverse decision puts him back to square one anytime afterwards.
The implication of this is long lasting as the conviction entails a six year disqualification from contesting the elections which will have grave ramifications.
Abhilash M.R is a lawyer practising in the Supreme Court
The High Court was deciding on an application to suspend the order of conviction against Mr. Gandhi. The Court ultimately denied relief to the petitioner relying on the principle that a stay of conviction is not a rule but an exception to be resorted to in rare cases.
The comment by Mr. Gandhi, “why all thieves have Modi surname” is found penal under Section 499 that makes defamatory an imputation concerning “a company or an association or collection of persons as such.”
It remains to be seen whether the apex court would view people bearing the surname Modi as an identifiable or definite class in order to be called a “group of persons”.
Facts about the News
- Defamation is the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person when observed through the eyes of an ordinary man.
- Any false and unprivileged statement published or spoken deliberately, intentionally, knowingly with the intention to damage someone’s reputation is defamation.
|Defamation – Meaning (Section 499)||A person is said to be defamed when someone makes or publishes any accusations about them with the intent of damaging their image through words, signs, or other visible representations.
|Types – Civil and Criminal:
|In civil defamation, a person who is defamed can move either HC or subordinate courts and seek damages in the form of monetary compensation.||In criminal defamation (Section 500), the person against whom a defamation case is filed might be sentenced to two years imprisonment or fined or both.|
Defamation Law in India:
– Article 19 of the Constitution grants freedom of speech to its citizens. However, Article 19(2) has imposed certain reasonable exemptions to this freedom such as – Contempt of Court, defamation and incitement to an offense.
– In India, defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offense, depending on the objective they seek to achieve.
- A Civil Wrong sees a wrong being redressed with monetary compensation, while a criminal law seeks to punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to commit such acts, with a jail term.
- In a Criminal Offense, defamation has to be established beyond reasonable doubt but in a civil defamation suit, damages can be awarded based on probabilities.
-It is argued that the defamation laws are a violation of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the constitution.
- The Supreme Court has ruled that the criminal provisions of defamation are constitutionally valid and are not in conflict with the right to free speech.
– The SC has also held that it is valid to treat defamation as a public wrong and that criminal defamation is not a disproportionate restriction on free speech, because protection of reputation is a fundamental right as well as a human right.
– The Court relied on the judgments of other countries and reaffirmed the right to reputation as a part of the right to life under Article 21.
Analysing the 2016 SC verdict:
Article 21 vs 19 (1)(a):
- The court held that the right to “reputation” was protected under Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees “life and personal liberty”.
- The right under Article 19(1)(a) had to be “balanced” against the right to “reputation” under Article 21.
- Thus, the court elevated “reputation” to the level of a fundamental right and made it prevail over free speech.
- Over the years, the court has expanded the scope of Article 21 to force the state to undertake various “social justice” measures.
- But in this case, the SC used Article 21 as a sword to cut down the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression (“death by Article 21”).
What if Lawmaker/MP is Convicted-
– The conviction may disqualify an MP if the offense for which he is convicted is listed in Section 8(1) of the Representation of the People (RPA) Act of 1951.
- This section includes offences such as section 153A (offence of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) or section 171E (offence of bribery) or section 171F (offence of undue influence or personation at an election) and a few others.
– Section 8(3) of the RPA mandates that an MP can be disqualified if convicted and sentenced to at least 2 years of imprisonment.
- However, the section also states that the disqualification takes effect only “after three months have elapsed” from the date of conviction.
- Within that period, the convicted MP can file an appeal against the sentence before the High Court.
How gaps in cloud system configuration could expose sensitive user data
The story so far:
According to a 2023 survey by Thales Cloud Security, which included responses from nearly 3,000 IT and security professionals across 18 countries, 35% of organisations in India note that their data was breached in a cloud environment last year. Moreover, 68% of businesses in India, and 75% globally, say that more than 40% of data stored in the cloud is classified as sensitive.
Have there been breaches?
In June, a bot on the messaging platform Telegram allegedly returned the personal data of Indian citizens who registered with the CoWIN portal. The country’s Health Ministry denied reports of any data leak and said that the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) was reviewing the existing security infrastructure of the portal.
Earlier, in January, reports emerged that HR management portal myrocket.co allegedly exposed personal information of employees and job candidates. Later, in separate breaches, in April and May, the ICICI Bank’s and university admission platform Leverage EDU’s data were also allegedly leaked.
While these breaches were fixed after the organisations and authorities were notified, even momentary exposure of personal user data can have far-reaching consequences. In particular, personally identifiable information can be used by threat actors to target individuals’ financial assets and online accounts.
What is cloud storage and why do companies use it?
Cloud storage is a method through which digital data, including files, business data, videos, or images, are stored on servers in off-site locations. These servers may be maintained by the companies themselves or by third-party providers responsible for hosting, managing, and securing stored data. These servers can be accessed either by the public or through private internet connections, depending on the nature of the data. Companies use cloud storage to store, access and maintain data so that they do not need to invest in operating and maintaining data centres. An added advantage of cloud storage is its scalability — organisations can expand or reduce their data footprint depending on its needs.
Most cloud providers offer security features like physical security at data centres, in addition to zero-trust architecture, identity and access management, and encryption to ensure the security of data on their servers.
What are the risks associated with cloud storage?
The risks arise from the deployment of incompatible legacy IT systems and third-party data storage architecture. Additionally, the use of weak authentication practices and easily guessable passwords can allow unauthorised individuals to access sensitive data. Data stored in the cloud also faces the risk of exposure due to insecure APIs, poorly designed or inadequate security controls, internal threats due to human error and inadequate encryption during transfer or storage, Jaydeep Singh, General Manager for India, Kaspersky told The Hindu.
How do legacy systems weaken cloud storage setup?
Though cloud security may appear similar to legacy IT security, the difference in their architecture necessitates different strategies, Mr. Singh explained.
Due to the lack of support or upgrades, legacy IT security may have known vulnerabilities that are yet to be fixed. Such vulnerabilities make them an appealing target for hackers who may use the gaps to gain unauthorised access to cloud resources connected with these legacy systems. Additionally, legacy systems may not be capable of supporting more advanced encryption techniques such as secure boot methods or hardware-based encryption, which increases the risks to cloud infrastructure. Therefore, updating and auditing legacy systems when used in tandem with cloud infrastructure is important.
Should data breaches be treated on par with data exposures?
Data breaches and data exposure incidents in the cloud should be treated identically. While in a data breach, confidential or protected information is exposed to unauthorised individuals, data exposure is often depicted as the unintentional disclosure or accidental disclosure of data, resulting from misconfiguration or human error. “Both data breaches and data exposure incidents require close monitoring to ensure the confidentiality and availability of sensitive information housed in the cloud, ” Mr. Singh said.
What are system misconfigurations?
Cloud storage involves multiple systems, servers, and software working in tandem. The overall system is designed to ensure individuals within a company can access data stored on the cloud as and when required.
A system misconfiguration arises when there is a lack of thorough security configurations on the devices accessing the cloud data and the servers, or a weakness in the software used. Misconfigurations can expose user data, making it accessible to unauthorised individuals, and compromising security. “Many times, companies using cloud storage leave security configuration to the cloud vendor, but the cloud vendor is just a vendor and the plans companies opt for may not include access encryption or firewall rules on the cloud. These settings, though important, may be missed, leading to threat actors making use of the misconfigurations in the cloud to access stored data,” said Sanjay Katkar, CTO and joint MD, Quick Heal Technologies.
Who is liable for data protection in the cloud?
The onus of ensuring data security lies with the companies even though they grant access to data to vendors and partners. If the data is sensitive in nature, it is the company’s responsibility to make sure that a selected vendor has all the right checks in place and has conducted due diligence. This includes checking cloud compliances like ensuring passwords have two-factor authentication, monitoring access to the database, ensuring it is encrypted, and ensuring all firewall rules are set so that only access through certain places and certain departments is allowed.
Data encryption is seen as one of the most effective approaches for securing sensitive information in the cloud. However, it comes with its own set of challenges which include encryption before data is stored, ensuring the security of encryption keys, and changing the encryption keys periodically to ensure continued safety.
What are the risks of data migration in the cloud?
There is risk involved when switching between vendors for cloud storage or when systems are upgraded, Mr. Katkar said. Without a proper migration plan and process based on thorough assessment of the cloud provider, data could get exposed.
Additionally, ensuring that data is encrypted whenever in transit, and making relevant backups are also key aspects of ensuring data security, he added.
How can users keep their data safe?
When users get to know of possible data breaches, they are recommended to change passwords and the two-factor authentication setup, push security question answers, and monitor accounts for unauthorised transactions and SMSs for suspicious activity. The lifespan of financial data exposed in a breach is short. It is used by threat actors within weeks. However, for personally identifiable data, the lifespan can be longer, with data sold on the dark web to target users for phishing scams and other illicit activities.
SC Collegium’s quiet transparency is driving change
The Supreme Court Collegium under Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has quietly and transparently streamlined the appointment process of judges to the constitutional courts while adding a deft mix of merit and seniority in the judicial ranks through a selection procedure which involves “meaningful discussion on and assessment of candidates’ judicial acumen”.
The once-constant tide of barbs from the government about the “opacity” of the collegium system has died off with the change of guard at the top in the Law Ministry. Recommendations made by the collegium for judicial appointment are now notified within days by the government.
Since early this year, the collegium’s resolutions have embraced transparency. They have publicly laid bare the requirements for candidates in the zone of consideration for appointments to the top court and the High Courts.
Quality of judgments
Of primary concern for the collegium is the quality of judgments of the candidates. For this, their judgments are circulated among the members of the collegium, well in advance. The Centre for Research & Planning of the court also prepares a compilation of “relevant background material to assist the collegium”.
There is also a Judgment Evaluation Committee which goes through the judicial work of the candidates with a fine-tooth comb. The judgments are graded, with the very best receiving an “outstanding” grade. This procedure of circulating the judgments of prospective candidates and making an objective assessment of their relative merit was introduced for the first time at a collegium meeting held on September 26 last year.
While proposing Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and S. Venkatanarayana Bhatti for Supreme Court appointments on July 5, the collegium listed out the three basic criteria which guide its selection process to the top court.
“While recommending appointments to the Supreme Court, the collegium has taken into consideration the following aspects: the seniority of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges in their respective parent High Courts as well as overall seniority of the High Court judges; The merit, performance and integrity of the judges under consideration; the need to ensure diversity and inclusion in the Supreme Court,” the July 5 resolution said.
The collegium further explained that “diversity and inclusion” referred to the “representation of High Courts, which are not represented or are inadequately represented, in the Supreme Court; appointment of persons from marginalised and backward segments of society; gender diversity; and representation of minorities”.
The same criteria were followed recently while proposing Chief Justices to the High Courts of Kerala, Orissa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Telangana and Gujarat.
The Collegium made it clear that its selection of Chief Justices to these High Courts was purely based on the objective criteria in Paragraph 3 of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) relating to appointment of Chief Justices of High Courts. “A fair representation shall be given to various High Courts for selection of Chief Justices. For purposes of such selection, inter-se seniority of puisne Judges will be reckoned on the basis of their seniority in their own High Court. The consideration for appointment of Chief Justices shall be based on the criterion of seniority subject to merit and integrity,” the MoP provided.
The Collegium’s proposal to appoint Allahabad High Court judge Justice Sunita Agarwal as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat was a step towards the goal of gender diversity in the High Courts. “She would be the only woman Chief Justice of a High Court as presently there is no woman among the Chief Justices of the High Courts,” it noted.
The objectivity was also apparent in its decision not to bow to the request made by three High Court judges — Justices Guarang Kanth, Dinesh Kumar Singh and Manoj Bajaj — against their out-of-State transfers. All three were told that their transfers were proposed to ensure the “better administration of justice”. The government too backed the Collegium by notifying the transfer of the three judges within days.
Facts about the News
- The SC collegium is headed by the CJI (Chief Justice of India) and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.
- A High Court collegium is led by the incumbent Chief Justice and two other senior most judges of that court.
- Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.
Lightning not a natural disaster, says Centre
Number of deaths due to lightning has been increasing of late; if it joins the list of natural disasters, victims will be entitled to compensation under the State Disaster Response Fund; but an official says Centre is not in favour of it as deaths can be prevented through awareness programmes
The Union government is not in favour of declaring lightning a natural disaster as deaths caused by it can be prevented by making people aware of safety steps, a senior government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says.
India is among only five countries in the world that has an early warning system for lightning — the forecast is available from five days to up to three hours.
The States such as Bihar and West Bengal have been demanding that lightning deaths be covered as a natural disaster. Once this is notified, the victims will be entitled to compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The Centre makes 75% of the contribution to the SDRF.
Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslip, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold wave are now considered disasters under the SDRF.
Bihar’s Disaster Management Minister Shahnawaz Alam told The Hindu that Bihar is one of the most vulnerable States and as many as 107 had died after being struck by lightning till July 6.
“In the past few years, there has been a spurt in deaths due to lightning. It is possible that climate change is one of the reasons. In the past five years, more than 1,500 people have lost their lives in Bihar. On June 25, 2020, more than 100 people died in a single day after they were struck by lightning,” Mr. Alam said.
He said he had raised the issue at the July 13 meeting of State Ministers of Disaster Management that was chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.
The Minister said that timely alerts were sent out to people and pamphlets were distributed at the panchayat level to make people aware of the dangers associated with lightning.
“There are times when people acknowledge the message and take adequate precautions, but during peak farming season, sometimes people tend to ignore the warnings. Some of them are receptive but it is the poorest who bear the brunt,” Mr. Alam said.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data show that 2,880 people died in lightning strikes in 2021.
The deaths made up 40% of all accidental deaths caused by “forces of nature”.
While 2,862 people died in 2020, the number stood at 2,876 in 2019. There has been an increase in proportion of such deaths compared with the total accident deaths caused by events related to nature.
For instance, in 2003, deaths from lightning made up just 0.2% of the total deaths caused by “forces of nature”.
A presentation made by the Director-General, India Meteorological Department (IMD) at the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction Conference (NPDRR) in March said the frequency of lightning was the highest in northeastern States and in West Bengal, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar, but the number of deaths is higher in the central Indian States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
WHAT IS IT?
Record temperatures around the world have left animals, including humans, in dire straits. Of them, corals are particularly vulnerable: when the water around them becomes too warm, they are susceptible to bleaching.
When corals lose their vibrant colours and turn white, they have bleached. This appearance-based definition is valuable because, just by the corals’ pallor, an observer can say that the surrounding water has changed somehow.
There is more to bleaching, however: most corals are home to a type of algae called zooxanthellae, which give the corals their colours as well as have a symbiotic relationship with them. The zooxanthellae provide amino acids and sugars, and receive many minerals and carbon dioxide in return.
When the ocean environment changes – for example, if its temperature rises beyond a point, it becomes too acidic, or it becomes too bright – the zooxanthellae living within the coral leave. As they do, the coral fades until it appears to have been bleached; if the corals continue to be stressed, they won’t welcome the algae back and eventually die. Other stressors include low tides and water pollution, as well as ecosystem changes wrought by the climate crisis.
Bleaching is not always a death knell. Some colonies have been known to survive a bleaching event, like, famously, one near Japan’s Iriomote Island: it was bleached in 2016 but showed signs of recovery in 2020.