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Daily Current Affairs 03.08.2020 (Contempt of Court, EIA, Production Linked Incentive Scheme)

Daily Current Affairs 03.08.2020 (Contempt of Court, EIA, Production Linked Incentive Scheme)

1. Samsung, Foxconn, 20 others apply under incentive scheme

Global phonemakers propose output worth ₹9 lakh crore

  • The government on Saturday said that a total of 22 companies, including Samsung, Apple’s three contract manufacturers Foxconn, Pegatron and Wistron, Lava and Micromax, have filed applications under the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme that aims to boost local manufacturing of mobile phones and components.
  • This is expected to bring in additional investment of about ₹11,000 crore in electronics manufacturing, while leading to total production worth ₹11.5 lakh crore over the next five years, Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said on Saturday.
  • The PLI scheme, which has a budgetary outlay of ₹40,995 crore for five years and notified on April 1, 2020, offers an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales of goods manufactured in India.
  • Of the global mobile phone manufacturing firms that have applied, three — Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron — are contract manufacturers for Apple iPhones.
  • “Apple (37%) and Samsung (22%) together account for nearly 60% of global sales revenue of mobile phones and this scheme is expected to increase their manufacturing base manifold in the country,” an official release said.

Domestic firms pitch in

  • Domestic firms that have applied under the scheme include Lava, Dixon Technologies, Bhagwati (Micromax), Padget Electronics, Sojo Manufacturing Services and Optiemus Electronics. “Ten companies have filed applications under the Specified Electronic Components Segment which include AT&S, Ascent Circuits, Visicon, Walsin, Sahasra, Vitesco and Neolync,” it added.
  • While international mobile phonemakers have proposed production of goods worth over ₹9 lakh crore, domestic companies have proposed a production of about ₹2 lakh crore. The firms under Specified Electronic Components segment have proposed a production of over ₹45,000 crore.
  • The Minister added that under the scheme, domestic value addition was expected to grow from the current 15-20% to 35-40% in the case of mobile phones and 45-50% for electronic components.
  • Replying to a query on lack of participation from Chinese firms, Mr. Prasad said, “This scheme is not against any country. It is only India positive.
  • “We have proper rules and regulations with regard to our security, the bordering countries… all compliance [is] very important.”
Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing
The domestic electronics hardware manufacturing sector faces lack of a level playing field vis-à-vis competing nations. The sector suffers disability of around 8.5% to 11% on account of lack of adequate infrastructure, domestic supply chain and logistics; high cost of finance; inadequate availability of quality power; limited design capabilities and focus on R&D by the industry; and inadequacies in skill development. The vision of National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019) is to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally. 
Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing notified vide Gazette Notification No.CG-DL-E-01042020-218990 dated April 01, 2020 offers a production linked incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in mobile phone manufacturing and specified electronic components, including Assembly, Testing, Marking and Packaging (ATMP) units. The Scheme would tremendously boost the electronics manufacturing landscape and establish India at the global level in electronics sector. The scheme shall extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales (over base year) of goods manufactured in India and covered under target segments, to eligible companies, for a period of five (5) years subsequent to the base year as defined. The Scheme is open for applications for a period of 4 months initially which may be extended. Support under the Scheme shall be provided for a period of five (5) years subsequent to the base year The Scheme will be implemented through a Nodal Agency which shall act as a  Project Management Agency (PMA) and be responsible for providing secretarial, managerial and implementation support and carrying out other responsibilities as assigned by MeitY from time to time. 

2. Novel coronavirus circulated unnoticed in bats for decades, study says

SARS-CoV-2 virus diverged from closely related bat viruses 40-70 years ago

  • The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which has so far infected over 17.6 million people and killed nearly 6.8 million across the world, has been circulating unnoticed in bats for decades. Bats have been the “primary reservoirs” for novel coronavirus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely to have diverged from closely related bat viruses called the sarbecovirus, 40-70 years ago, a study published in Nature Microbiology says.
  • In early February, Chinese researchers had found that SARS-CoV-2 is most closely related to RaTG13 sarbecovirus, which was isolated from a horseshoe bat in Yunnan province in 2013. Based on the nearly 96% genome sequence identity between SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13, a team led by Zheng-Li Shi from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China said in a paper published in February in Nature that an origin in bats is probable for the COVID-19 outbreak. The current study by Prof. Maciej Boni from the Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. and others not only confirms the findings of Dr. Shi but also suggests the probable time when SARS-CoV-2 diverged from RaTG13.
  • The authors analysed the evolutionary history of SARS-CoV-2 using genomic data on sarbecoviruses. They employed three approaches to identify regions in the virus that had not undergone recombination and that could be used to reconstruct its evolution. All approaches suggest that RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2 share a single ancestral lineage and estimate that SARS-CoV-2 genetically diverged from related bat sarbecoviruses in 1948, 1969 and 1982, respectively. “The findings demonstrate how critical it is to undertake genomic analysis of bat viruses,” says Prof. Satyajit Mayor, Director of the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences. “Many species of bat harbour several viruses which can cross over to new hosts. When we disrupt habitats, we will face more such threats.”

No recombination

  • Importantly, Prof. Boni and co-authors say that novel coronavirus itself has not arisen from recombination of any sarbecoviruses. The ability of the spike protein in the virus to bind to ACE2 human receptors had emerged within bats and is an ancestral trait shared with bat viruses and “not one acquired recently via recombination”. According to them, the results suggest the presence of a “single lineage” circulating in bats with properties that allowed it to infect human cells. This was also the case with the bat sarbecoviruses related to the 2002 SARS lineage.
  • The Nature Microbiology paper also challenges the notion that pangolins would have served as an intermediate host where the virus would have acquired its ability to infect human cells thus facilitating the jump into humans. They conclude that it is plausible that pangolins could have been a conduit for transmission to humans, but there is “no evidence that pangolins facilitated adaptation to humans” by being an intermediate host.
  • While pangolins or other species might have served as an intermediate host before the virus jumped into humans, “current evidence is consistent with the virus having evolved in bats” and rendering the virus the ability to replicate in the upper respiratory tract of both humans and pangolins, they say.
  • Before pangolins, snakes were thought to have served as intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2. But the present study found no evidence to support this hypothesis. Days after this was hypothesised, the scientific community had nearly ruled it out.

Lurking danger

  • The researchers also caution that the long divergence period raises the possibility of other undocumented virus lineages circulating in horseshoe bats that have the potential to jump from bats to humans. Different and yet unstudied bat sarbecoviruses that have descended from the SARS-CoV-2/RaTG13 common ancestor forms a clade with properties to infect many different mammals, including humans.
  • “Without better sampling, however, it is impossible to estimate whether or how many of these additional lineages exist,” they write.
  • The diversity and dynamic process of recombination amongst lineages in the bat reservoir makes identifying viruses that can cause major outbreaks difficult. “This underscores the need for a global network of real-time human disease surveillance systems… for pathogen identification and characterisation,” they say.
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3. Will environment regulation be weakened?

What are the key changes in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification compared to the past?

The story so far: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has published the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020, with the intention of replacing the existing EIA Notification, 2006 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The government wants to incorporate modifications made to the regulations through amendments in the interim period. An EIA makes a scientific estimate of the likely impacts of a project, such as a mine, irrigation dam, industrial unit or waste treatment plant. There is also a provision for public consultation in the rules, including a public hearing at which the local community and interested persons can give opinions and raise objections, based on the draft EIA report prepared by experts for the project.

How does the draft EIA Notification differ from the one now in force?

  • Among the major departures from existing regulations is the removal of several activities from the purview of public consultation. A list of projects has been included under Category B2, expressly exempted from the requirement of an EIA (Clause 13, sub cl. 11).
  • The projects under this category include offshore and onshore oil, gas and shale exploration, hydroelectric projects up to 25 MW, irrigation projects between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares of command area, small and medium mineral beneficiation units, small foundries involving furnace units, some categories of re-rolling mills, small and medium cement plants, small clinker grinding units, acids other than phosphoric or ammonia, sulphuric acid, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in dye and dye intermediates, bulk drugs, synthetic rubbers, medium-sized paint units, all inland waterway projects, expansion or widening of highways between 25 km and 100 km with defined parameters, aerial ropeways in ecologically sensitive areas, and specified building construction and area development projects.
  • The projects in this list are, under existing norms, identified on the basis of screening by Expert Appraisal Committees, rather than being exempted through listing in the Schedule. Also, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting and solar photovoltaic projects do not need prior environmental clearance or permission in the new scheme.

What are the apprehensions?

  • There is apprehension that the exemption from EIA and public consultation for listed B2 category activity and expansion and modernisation projects will seriously affect the environment, since these will be carried out without oversight. Combined with a new provision for post-facto environmental clearance (of projects executed without prior clearance), this would further weaken protections. Moreover, the notice period for public hearing has been cut from 30 days to 20 days. This will make it difficult to study the draft EIA report, more so when it is not widely available or provided in the regional language.
  • Similarly, for project modernisation and expansion, the norms in Notification 2020 are liberal, with only those involving more than 25% increase requiring EIA, and over 50% attracting public consultation.
  • Under the proposed changes, project proponents need to submit only one annual report on compliance with conditions, compared to the existing two. The move is seen as retrograde, because the CAG found in 2016 that the deficiency in semi-annual compliance reporting was between 43% and 78%, while failure to comply with conditions ranged from 5% to 57%. Non-compliance was encountered particularly in river valley and hydroelectric power projects and thermal power projects. After the gas leak at LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam on May 7, the Environment Ministry told the National Green Tribunal that the unit lacked environment clearance, exposing the low effectiveness of rules.

How would the new rules enable post-facto approval of violations?

  • The MoEF&CC cites its own order of March 14, 2017 enabling appraisal of projects involving violations — where construction had begun or expansion or modernisation was carried out without clearance — and an order of the Jharkhand High Court asking for consideration of a case on merits, independent of penal action for violation, to introduce a beneficial scheme for violators.
  • The EIA Notification 2020 excludes reporting by the public of violations and non-compliance. Instead, the government will take cognisance of reports only from the violator-promoter, government authority, Appraisal Committee or Regulatory Authority. Such projects can then be approved with conditions, including remediation of ecological damage, which, again, will be assessed and reported by the violator (and not an unconnected agency), although Central Pollution Control Board guidelines must be used.

How does the draft notification compare with global norms?

  • EIA rules must meet the requirements of the precautionary principle of avoiding harm, and intergenerational equity. The European Union, as an evolving example, has modified its processes in accordance with the Aarhus Convention, 1998, which stipulates that environmental rights and human rights are linked, the present generation owes an obligation to future generations, sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders, government accountability and environmental protection are connected, and interactions between the public and public authorities must take place in a democratic context. The EU Directive on EIA includes climate change and biodiversity concerns.
  • The rules in India, including EIA 2006, it can be argued, privileged the interests of the project proponent by whittling down public consultations, accepting flawed and faulty EIA reports resulting from external influences, and ignoring the non-renewable nature of resources. Notification 2020 deepens the impact of that paradigm.
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4. The subject of contempt of court

What is the rationale for this provision? Do judicial institutions need protection?

The story so far: Contempt of court, as a concept that seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority, is back in the news in India. This follows the initiation of contempt proceedings by the Supreme Court of India, on its own motion, against advocate-activist Prashant Bhushan.

How did the concept of contempt come into being?

  • The concept of contempt of court is several centuries old. In England, it is a common law principle that seeks to protect the judicial power of the king, initially exercised by himself, and later by a panel of judges who acted in his name. Violation of the judges’ orders was considered an affront to the king himself. Over time, any kind of disobedience to judges, or obstruction of the implementation of their directives, or comments and actions that showed disrespect towards them came to be punishable.

What is the statutory basis for contempt of court?

  • There were pre-Independence laws of contempt in India. Besides the early High Courts, the courts of some princely states also had such laws. When the Constitution was adopted, contempt of court was made one of the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression. Separately, Article 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish contempt of itself. Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts. The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, gives statutory backing to the idea.

What are the kinds of contempt of court?

  • The law codifying contempt classifies it as civil and criminal. Civil contempt is fairly simple. It is committed when someone wilfully disobeys a court order, or wilfully breaches an undertaking given to court. Criminal contempt is more complex. It consists of three forms: (a) words, written or spoken, signs and actions that “scandalise” or “tend to scandalise” or “lower” or “tends to lower” the authority of any court (b) prejudices or interferes with any judicial proceeding and (c) interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice.
  • Making allegations against the judiciary or individual judges, attributing motives to judgments and judicial functioning and any scurrilous attack on the conduct of judges are normally considered matters that scandalise the judiciary. The rationale for this provision is that courts must be protected from tendentious attacks that lower its authority, defame its public image and make the public lose faith in its impartiality.
  • The punishment for contempt of court is simple imprisonment for a term up to six months and/or a fine of up to ₹. 2,000.

What is not contempt of court?

  • Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court. Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.

Is truth a defence against a contempt charge?

  • For many years, truth was seldom considered a defence against a charge of contempt. There was an impression that the judiciary tended to hide any misconduct among its individual members in the name of protecting the image of the institution. The Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence, if it was in public interest and was invoked in a bona fide manner.
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