Luxury diesel vehicles banned in Delhi, NCR – (Environment)
- In a strong step to release the stranglehold of air pollution on the Capital city, the Supreme Court on Wednesday imposed a ban on the registration of diesel-run private cars of the capacity of 2000 CC and above and SUVs, noting that these vehicles were used by the rich and the common man or average citizen would hardly feel the pinch.
- The order by a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur reasoned that these high-end diesel vehicles were prone to cause higher levels of pollution.
Maneka renews plea to amend Juvenile Justice Act – (Social Issues)
- Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi feels the intelligence reports of a “Kashmiri militant” radicalising the juvenile accused in the Delhi gang rape in a correctional home vindicates her stand that law should treat as adults those aged 16-18 accused of heinous crimes.
- She said this in an interaction with The Hindu on the third anniversary of the gang rape that shook the nation and sparked protests in the capital. Ms. Maneka Gandhi said it was “shameful” the Rajya Sabha did not pass the Bill to amend the Juvenile Justice Act for “political reasons”.
SC backs appointment of priests as per Agamas – (Indian Polity)
- Reiterating that the fundamental right to freedom of religion is not confined to doctrines and beliefs but extends to “essential practices” done in pursuance of that faith, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that appointment of archakas (priests) in Tamil Nadu temples as per the restrictions prescribed by the age-old Agamas (treatises) is not a violation of the right to equality.
- A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana invoked Article 16(5) of the Constitution to hold that “exclusion of some and inclusion of a particular segment or denomination for appointment as archakas would not violate Article 14 [right to equality].”
Exclusive right to enter sanctum sanctorum is not untouchability: court – (Indian Polity)
- The Supreme Court, which ruled on Wednesday that appointment of archakas in Tamil Nadu temples as per the Agamas was not a violation of the right to equality, said the exclusive right given to a particular group or denomination to enter the sanctum sanctorum of a temple and perform rituals could not be construed as a practice of untouchability.
- To justify this reasoning, the Bench referred to a century-old ruling of the Madras High Court in the Gopala Moopanar case which explained that the exclusion prescribed in the Agamas was not on the basis of caste, birth or pedigree.
ISRO launches 6 Singapore satellites – (Science and Technology)
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) never misses an opportunity. This time, even as it successfully launched six Singapore satellites on Wednesday, the national space agency also tested the fourth stage of its PSLV rocket.
- The test to restart the fourth stage of the PSLV rocket would help the country in its future launches while attempting to launch multiple satellites in different orbits.
Ready to fight IS under U.N.: Parrikar – (International Relation)
- India is willing to participate in military operations against the Islamic State (IS) if it is a United Nations-sanctioned operation carried out under the U.N. flag, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Wednesday in the first formal response of the Narendra Modi government on the issue.
- “We have made it clear that if there is a U.N. resolution and if there is a U.N. flag and a U.N. mission, then as per India’s policy to operate under the U.N. flag, we will participate,” Mr. Parrikar said.
India, Bangladesh begin land survey – (International Relation)
- Bangladesh and India have started demarcating the land in “adverse possessions” (AP) and raising pillars on the international border in Jalpaiguri district of north Bengal.
- The Survey of India officers have reached the disputed South Berubari gram panchayat in the district and demarcating the boundary, sources told The Hindu .
$1.5-bn WB loan for Swachh Bharat – (International Relation)
- To help India ensure that all its citizens in rural areas have access to improved sanitation to end open defecation by 2019, the World Bank has approved a $1.5-billion loan for a support operation project of Swachh Bharat, a sanitation campaign launched by the Union government.
- This will support SBM-Gramin, the rural component of the campaign, over five years with a programme which links funds to the results.
SC affirms Centre’s role in collegium – (Indian Polity)
- Putting the ball back in the government’s court, the Supreme Court directed the Centre on Wednesday to take the lead in drawing up a new memorandum of procedure (MoP) on appointment of judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court, in consultation with the President and the Chief Justice of India.
- A Constitution Bench, led by Justice J.S. Khehar, said the process should take into confidence the four senior-most puisne judges of the Supreme Court, who are part of the collegium
Rural landholding almost halved over 20 years – (Governance)
- The average rural Indian household is a marginal landowner, growing mainly cereals on a small patch of land and reliant on groundwater for irrigation, new official data show.
- Over 80 per cent of rural households have marginal landholdings of less than one hectare (10,000 square metres) and just seven per cent own more than two hectares, data on household land ownership from the National Sample Survey Office show.
The strange love for nuclear energy – (International Relation)
- More than 50 years ago, Japan succumbed to pressure from nuclear suppliers and instituted a law to indemnify them. Consequently, when the GE reactors at Fukushima suffered an accident, the cost of the clean-up, at about $200 billion, has been borne almost entirely by Japanese taxpayers.
- The prospect of a nuclear deal with Japan is worrying because it ignores voices on the ground and takes India a step closer to the construction of untested and expensive reactors.
Cautionary signals from the export slump – (Economics)
- The protracted slump in merchandise exports, which rounded out a 12th straight drop in November, is a cause for serious concern.
- The sharp, almost 25 per cent, contraction in the overseas shipment of goods from a year earlier to $20 billion signals there is more to this extended contraction than just the global economic weakness that has cast its shadow across trade worldwide.
History will judge WTO poorly if inequities persist’ – (Economics)
- History will judge ministers from the World Trade Organization poorly if the ongoing Doha Round talks perpetuate inequities, Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, said at the Plenary Session of the Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the WTO, a body which has 162 nations as its members.
- Nations must not overload the current agenda with “new issues” as there are still many outstanding matters such as protection of poor farmers’ interests and food security rights.
India opposes rich nations’ bid to cherry pick farm issues – (Economics)
- India, at the ongoing WTO’s Nairobi meet, called for a balanced outcome in negotiations on agriculture including an agreement on Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM).
- SSM is a trade remedy that will allow developing countries to temporarily increase duties to address import surges and price dips due to heavily subsidised imports of agricultural products from developed countries.
Google to invest more in India – (Economics)
- Google is ramping up investments in India for development of more local products, building engineering capabilities and setting up a new campus in the country as it aims to bring all Indians online.
- India as one of the most important markets, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “Our focus is on bringing Internet access to everyone, making sure our products are working for them in a meaningful way and then ensure our platform allows them to add their voice to the Internet.”