1. 5 collegium-picked judges to be posted soon: Centre
Govt. response comes after SC flags delay in appointment to its Bench; court gives Centre 10 days to clear pending transfer recommendations of HC judges and appointments of HC Chief Justices
The Supreme Court on Friday recorded a submission by Attorney General R. Venkataramani that warrants of appointment of five judges to the top court will likely be issued by February 5.
“It is happening… The five warrants of appointment are being issued… It goes to the President by evening,” Mr. Venkataramani said.
The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended Justices Pankaj Mithal, Sanjay Karol, P.V. Sanjay Kumar, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Manoj Misra for appointment to the top court on December 13, 2022.
They have been pending with the government for nearly two months.
The collegium had further proposed Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Rajesh Bindal and Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Aravind Kumar to the government for appointment as Supreme Court judges on January 31. The appointment of all seven would see the court function with its full sanctioned strength of 34 judges.
“The five recommendations were made in December, we are in February… You are saying, and we have faith in you, that the warrants will be issued. That ‘it is happening’… ‘When’ is the next question,” a Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and A.S. Oka asked the top law officer.
“By Sunday, they will be issued… it is happening,” Mr. Venkataramani said, hesitant to be pinned down to a specific day.
“’Happening, happened, will happen’… When things have not been happening for years together, we do not want you to give a date, but tell us in how many days it will happen… two days, three days, four days? How many days should we record in our order?” Justice Kaul asked.
“With a sense of responsibility I am saying, the five warrants will be issued. It is happening,” Mr. Venkataramani said.
The court further put the government on an ultimatum, giving it 10 days to clear Supreme Court Collegium recommendations on transfer of High Court judges and High Court appointments, especially pending appointments of High Court Chief Justices.
“Mr. Attorney, something has greatly disturbed us, if the transfer order of judges is not implemented… what do you want us to do? If you keep them pending… you will make us take some very, very difficult decisions,” Justice Kaul said.
Mr. Venkataramani urged the court to give him more time. The court told the government not to compel it to take judicial or administrative action and make things “uncomfortable”.
“One of the Chief Justices is demitting office in 19 days, you want him to go without becoming a Chief Justice,” Justice Kaul asked.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan highlighted cases in which the government has not appointed judges despite repeated reiterations by the collegium.
When advocate Amit Pai pointed to the “attack” made by public authorities on the judiciary, the Bench said the court was not affected beyond a particular stage by these remarks. It said the focus should be on the more important issue of filling judicial vacancies in the courts. Mr. Pai was referring to disparaging comments made by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju about the collegium system of judicial appointments upheld by the court in the NJAC judgment of 2015.
“We are used to handling this from all sides… It is for authorities to see what they say is appropriate or inappropriate,” Justice Kaul said.
Supreme Court Bar Association president, senior advocate Vikas Singh, conveyed the Bar’s approval of the collegium’s four-page resolution on January 31 in which it gave no room for the government to tinker with seniority of recommended names either bifurcating them or by appointing one over the other.
“The names [five judges to the Suprepe Court] recommended earlier by the collegium by its resolution dated December 13, 2022 shall have precedence over the two names [Justices Bindal and Kumar] recommended presently for appointment to the Supreme Court. Therefore, the appointments of five judges recommended on December 13, 2022 should be notified separately and earlier in point of time before the two judges recommended by this resolution,” the five-member collegium headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and including Justices Kaul, K.M. Joseph, M.R. Shah and Ajay Rastogi, had clarified in its January 31 resolution.
The court scheduled the next hearing on February 13.
2. The International Theatre Festival of Kerala to turn Thrissur into global stage
Hero Beauty, a play from Taiwan, will be part of the 13th edition.
Music, art, drama, dance and dialogue will light up the 13th edition of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK). Making a resounding comeback after a two-year pandemic break, ITFoK is all set for a mega show that promises to turn Thrissur into a massive interactive stage from February 5 to 14.
With 10 international productions, 14 plays from across India, talks, discussions, workshops and art shows, the festival is a celebration of theatre and a unique meeting place for theatre-makers and theatre-goers.
Audiences can look forward to watching productions by famous theatre practitioners from Brett Bailey to Romeo Castellucci, and also listen to Indian thespians such as Naseeruddin Shah, Prakash Raj and M.K. Raina.
Deepan Sivaraman, a prominent contemporary theatre director, has curated the festival with B. Ananthakrishnan, dean of Sarojini Naidu School of Art, and veteran theatre-person Anuradha Kapur.
There are plays by contemporary legends such as Romeo Castellucci from Italy, Eugenio Barba from Denmark and Palestinian playwright and director Bashar Markus.
There are two plays for children – Hero Beauty, an opera from Taiwan, and Maya Bazaar, staged by Telangana-based Surabhi, the family-based theatre repertoire. The grand finale will be Royston Abel’s magnus opus Manganiyar Seduction, which has toured 33 countries.
3. Govt. extends deadline for laggard solar scheme
The deadline for a key scheme by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to install 30,000 MW solar power capacity in rural India by 2022, has now been pushed to March 2026, Power Minister R.K. Singh told the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Uttham Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) has three parts: having farmers instal solar power plants worth 10,000 MW; installing 20 lakh solar-powered agriculture pumps that aren’t connected to the grid (off-grid), and converting 15 lakh agriculture pumps, already connected to the grid, into solar.
As of December 31, 2022, only 88.46 MW of solar capacity had been added; 181,058 solar pumps had been installed and 1,174 grid-connected pumps converted.
4. India to showcase success in rural and archaeological tourism at G-20 meeting
Responsible travel: A view of Nagaland’s Khonoma village, which will be showcased as a model for ecotourism.
The Ladpura Khas village of Madhya Pradesh, Khonoma village of Nagaland and heritage sites like Dholavira will be showcased as success stories of rural and archaeological tourism by India during the first tourism working group meeting of the G-20 nations to be held at the Rann of Kutch.
Rural tourism and archaeological tourism will be the topics for two side events at the first tourism ministerial meeting of the G-20 from February 7 to 9 where India will highlight the most successful and innovative initiatives of these from various parts of India, Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh said on Friday. Ladpura Khas was nominated as the Best Rural Tourism Village by the UNWTO.
India will also present the innovative model of community based Astrotourism that involves rural homestays and community spaces that are completely run by villagers and provides travellers an integrated experience of stargazing along with cultural immersion in the Himalayas, while Nagaland’s Khonoma Village will present the model of Ecotourism Management Board that develops Rural Tourism Products and promotes responsible travel.
The success of developing many rural tourism products in and around Rann of Kutch will also be presented.
“The idea is to present rural tourism as a means of community empowerment and poverty alleviation,” Mr. Singh said.
5. Editorial-1: Going green
The Budget can help India transition out of its dependence on fossil fuels
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s latest Budget is noteworthy for the emphasis she has laid on the government’s commitment to move towards net-zero carbon emission by 2070. As an article presented at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos last month notes, India holds the key to hitting global climate change targets given its sizeable and growing energy needs. With the country’s population set to overtake China’s some time this year, India’s appetite for energy to propel the economy is set to surge exponentially. The transition to green alternatives from the current reliance on fossil fuels is therefore an urgent imperative and an opportunity to leverage this move to catalyse new industries, generate jobs on a sizeable scale, and add to overall economic output. In a nod to this, Budget 2023-24 devoted a fair amount of space to the green industrial and economic transition needed. With the electric vehicle (EV) revolution poised to take off as every automobile major rolls out new EV models to tap demand, the availability of indigenously produced lithium-ion batteries has become a necessity, especially to lower the cost of EVs. The Budget hearteningly proposes to exempt customs duty on the import of capital goods and machinery required to manufacture lithium-ion cells used in EV batteries. This ought to give a fillip to local companies looking to set up EV battery plants.
Another key proposal relates to the establishment of a viability gap funding mechanism to support the creation of battery energy storage systems with a capacity of 4,000 MWh. Energy storage systems are crucial in power grid stabilisation and essential as India increases its reliance on alternative sources of power generation including solar and wind. With wind turbine farms and solar photovoltaic projects characteristically producers of variable electric supply, battery storage systems become enablers of ensuring the electricity these generators produce at their peak output is stored and then supplied to match the demand arriving at the grid from household or industrial consumers. Ms. Sitharaman also set aside a vital ₹8,300 crore towards a ₹20,700 crore project for building an inter-State transmission system for the evacuation and grid integration of 13 GW of renewable energy from Ladakh. With its vast stretches of barren land and one of the country’s highest levels of sunlight availability, Ladakh is considered an ideal location to site photovoltaic arrays for producing a substantial capacity of solar power. The transmission line will help address what had so far been the hurdle in setting up solar capacity in the region, given its remoteness from India’s main power grid.