1.CJI raises concern over backlog of criminal cases in Allahabad HC
1.83 lakh criminal appeals pending in court, Uttar Pradesh govt. had told SC
Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Saturday said the pendency of criminal cases in the Allahabad High Court was “very worrying”.
“I do not want to point any fingers or lay any blame regarding the pendency in the Allahabad High Court relating to criminal cases, which is very worrying. I request the Allahabad Bar and Bench to work together and co-operate to resolve this issue,” the Chief Justice said.
Chief Justice of India Ramana was speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the National Law University in the Uttar Pradesh, the new multi-level parking and advocates’ chamber complex in the Allahabad High Court, and the unveiling of the portrait of the late Anand Bhushan Saran, veteran advocate and the father of Supreme Court judge Justice Vineet Saran.
The CJI expressed his concerns over the case pendency in the presence of President Ram Nath Kovind, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Supreme Court and High Court judges and lawyers at the ceremony in Prayagraj.
The CJI recalled the 150-year-old history of the Allahabad High Court and its legacy of producing some of the greatest legal luminaries in the country.
“This Bar has left an indelible mark in India’s freedom struggle and the drafting of our Constitution. I expect you to carry forward the extraordinary legacy, tradition and culture of this historic Bar. I urge you all, to take a lead in protecting the rights, liberties and freedoms of the citizens,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
According to an affidavit filed by the U.P. government in the Supreme Court in August, the Allahabad High Court has 1.83 lakh pending criminal appeals. The High Court has 68 judicial vacancies out of a total sanctioned strength of 160 judges, according to the Department of Justice statistics as on September 1.
President Kovind also highlighted the need to expedite the disposal of pending cases and increasing the efficiency of the subordinate judiciary as the “need of the hour”. The President noted that the judicial process would be strengthened with the arrangement of adequate facilities for the subordinate judiciary, increasing the number of working judges and providing enough resources as per the provisions of the budget.
In his speech, the CJI said the country “neglected and failed to focus on providing good infrastructure for courts in India after the British left”. Chief Justice Ramana reiterated the need to form a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) to help courts come out of the dilapidated structures and the “severely detrimental” and “unpleasant work environment”.
“The NJIC shall be along the lines of different infrastructure development statutory bodies that work towards creating national assets across the country. One of the design principles that the NJIC will follow is socially responsible and inclusive architecture,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
In his speech, Mr. Rijiju said the government intends to table a new Bill on mediation. The Law Minister said the government believes in judicial independence and wants to strengthen the judiciary.
To shore up the justice delivery system, groaning under the burden of over three crore pending cases, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has unveiled an ambitious plan to set up a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) to build modern and self-sufficient judicial infrastructure across India.
In the two-day-long deliberations with high court chief justices in four sessions on June 1 and 2, the CJI said poor infrastructure was proving to be a major stumbling block in delivery of justice and shared his vision for creation of NJIC, which according to him would be tasked to build “comprehensive, self-contained, all-inclusive and modern court complexes across the country to augment judicial infrastructure”. Though most CJIs in the past two decades have highlighted the deficient infrastructure, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, as a major stumbling block for speedy delivery of justice, the judiciary had always remained dependent on the mercy of state and central governments for grants to augment its infrastructure, including the use of information technology.
The proposal for creation of NJIC appears timely, but much will depend on what characteristics it will have in its final shape and the command under which it will build modern court complexes.
Justice Ramana’s plan envisages that the NJIC will be managed by a CJI-led committee comprising SC judges who would become CJIs in future. The NJIC managing committee will also include finance secretaries to the Union/state governments and HC CJs having long tenures. Under the new proposal, states would be required to fund modern court complexes through a one-time grant.
The pandemic-caused disruption of physical hearings and courts functioning virtually has given rise to the urgent need for augmenting the video-conferencing systems in trial courts, especially in rural areas with links to litigants. Some HC CJs suggested mobile vans to establish connections between courts and rural populations. The CJI agreed to examine the feasibility of the proposals and integrate them as part of the modern court complex infrastructure.
Justice Ramana said, “I am of the firm belief that unless infrastructure is strengthened, it is unfair to expect courts, particularly lower courts, to do miracles and increase the pace of justice delivery. Both quality and quantity of justice delivery can be improved only when support systems are strong enough to meet the challenges.”
2.Collection of rare paintings, dyes, fabrics and type specimens to go public
Decade-long exercise by the Kolkata-based Botanical Survey of India is a valuable and fascinating online record of India’s plant diversity
In the 1840s, when British botanist William Griffith came across the rare holoparasitic flowering plant Sapria himalayana in Arunachal Pradesh, there were not enough ways to document it. A botanical portrait of the root parasite plant with bright red flowers and sulphur yellow dots was made as early as in 1842 hundreds of miles away, near Kolkata, by a painter named Lutchman Singh.
Botanical painting was crucial to the discovery of numerous other such plants, including the Eulophia nuda, an orchid painted by G.C. Dass in May 1862 at the same historic location, the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden. Thousands of such botanical paintings, unique and almost two centuries old, are rare and valuable not only because of the artistic talent of their Indian painters but also because they highlight the country’s plant diversity. The Central National Herbarium of the Kolkata-based Botanical Survey of India (BSI) has the biggest collection of 3,280 large botanical paintings by about 20 painters, whose names appear on the paintings but not much else is known of them.
Made prior to these works by Lutchman Singh, Gopal Dass and others were the 2,532 Roxburgh drawings, which don’t name their painters. The paper for the Roxburgh drawings was imported from London, and painters were paid ₹3 for each work. Most of the Roxburgh artists are believed to be painters of miniatures from the Mughal courts.
Father of Indian botany
Scottish botanist and physician, William Roxburgh (1751-1815), is also known as the father of the Indian botany for his contribution to plant taxonomy in India. Earlier this month, the Botanical Survey of India digitised the entire collection of Roxburgh drawings held by it.
A.A. Mao, Director, Botanical Survey of India, said that the only other place where the Roxburgh paintings can be viewed are the Kew Museum in London. “The BSI, however, has the largest collection of Indian Botanical paintings, about 6,000 in number, which has been brought into the public domain through archiving and digitisation,” he added.
Apart from botanical paintings, the digital archive also displays rare natural dyes, fabrics and type specimens (the first collection that’s used for describing a plant). Each one of these rare holdings has its own story. Thomas Wardle, a Scottish businessman, whose business in silk dyes wasn’t doing well, visited the industrial section of the Indian Museum and, in one year, came up with about 3,500 samples of dye patterns extracted from 64 Indian plants.
The 15 volumes of Wardle’s Specimen of Fabrics Dyed with Indian Dyes, published in 1886 and preserved with the BSI, has also been digitised.
Manas Bhaumik, head of Indian Museum’s Industrial Section, which has been a part of the BSI since 1911, said that the dyes were made with a combination of natural extracts from different plants by mixing them in a variety of combinations. Among them are plants such as the Rubia cordifolia (which has the common name of Indian madder) with roots that give a bright red colour, and the Bixa orellana, called the lipstick plant for the beautiful colour it yields. Seeds, roots, leaves and extracts of several plants that were used for making dyes are still preserved at the Industrial Section of the Indian Museum.
Along with the natural dyes, there are 18 volumes of textile designs containing about 1,700 samples, starting with turbans and “garment pieces” for men and women, including the sari, dhoti and lungi, which is available with the BSI. Silk, cotton, muslin and wool fabrics have been captioned as the Textiles Manufactures and Costumes of the People of India, compiled by John Forbes Watson in 1866 and 1874.
The different categories of commercially important plants in the collection include gums, resins, natural dyes, fibre, cereals, pulses, and medicinal and timber yielding plants.
“In the post COVID-19 pandemic scenario, this online database will be of immense help to the scientific fraternity working in plant taxonomy and other applied fields,” said S.S. Dash, Scientist and in-charge of the BSI’s Technical Section.
Scientists of the BSI said that process of making the rare holdings available to the public through digitisation took almost a decade. “This is undoubtedly the biggest ever exercise of bringing out the country’s rare botanical documents and holdings, and putting them in the public domain,” Dr. Mao said.
3.WHO simplifies treatment guidelines for hypertension
While several international guidelines do exist, many of them reflect the tertiary care perspective of high-income countries
The World Health Organization recently released guidelines for pharmacological treatment of hypertension. Though high blood pressure is a leading cause of disease, disability and death in all regions of the world, affecting an estimated 1.4 billion persons across the world, only 14% have it under control. This is because of three gaps in health system performance. Many who have hypertension are unaware, several of those who are detected are not on treatment and only half of those who are treated are effectively controlled on their prescribed treatment. If health systems do not improve their ability to detect and effectively treat hypertension, serious diseases of heart, brain, kidneys and blood vessels will mount.
Adopt healthy habits
All persons with raised blood pressure will need to adopt healthy living habits: reduced salt intake; consumption of more fruit and vegetables; avoidance or limited intake of alcohol; regular physical activity; maintenance of a healthy body weight; adequate water consumption, good sleep and stress reduction. In addition, several will need drugs for adequate control of blood pressure. The recent WHO guidelines, specifically addressing drug treatment, were framed by an international expert group chaired by me. Apart from assessing the strength of published scientific research, we also drew on the perspectives of policy makers, health system managers, healthcare providers, patients and communities.
While several international guidelines on management of hypertension do exist, many of them reflect the tertiary care perspective of high-income countries. Effective hypertension control must pivot on competent and continuous primary care, for both early detection and long-term management. Guidelines have also been divided over whether hypertension treatment should be initiated on the basis of blood pressure values alone or on a comprehensive risk assessment which takes into account age, gender, smoking status, body mass, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes and blood cholesterol profile besides blood pressure values. While these measures are useful for customised future risk assessment, insistence on such detailed a priori assessment requiring various laboratory tests may delay initiation of treatment and increase loss to follow-up in primary care. Guidelines must maximise benefits and minimise harm and inconvenience to patients.
The benefit of drug treatment was assessed on health outcomes which included the following: blood pressure control, deaths from any cause, cardiovascular mortality, heart attacks, brain strokes, heart failure and advanced kidney disease. Recommendations were graded on the strength of evidence available and distilled with health system perspectives on feasibility of implementation. The aim was to develop evidence-informed, situationally adaptable, resource-optimising, operationally steerable and equity-promoting guidelines which can be implemented in all countries despite varying health system capacities.
Initiation was recommended for all adults whose blood pressure readings, reliably measured, exceed 140 mm of mercury for the upper level (systolic) or above 90 mm for the lower level (diastolic). However, for persons with a prior history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, treatment should be initiated if the systolic pressure exceeds 130 mm. The same threshold is advised for persons with a high future risk of developing cardiovascular disease, based on clinical and laboratory assessment. Laboratory tests should be performed at the time of diagnosis of hypertension. However, if testing facilities are not readily available and tests are likely to be delayed, treatment may be initiated with a single relatively safe drug amlodipine (a long acting calcium channel blocker) and tests may then be ordered. When test results are available, they will help with choice of further treatments and in comprehensive risk assessment.
When tests confirm that there are no contraindications to certain drugs, three classes of drugs are offered to the prescribing physician on the strength of evidence. They are: thiazide diuretics and thiazide-like agents; angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (both of which act at different levels of the renin–angiotensin system) and calcium channel blockers. Better clinical outcomes are achieved in most persons when drugs from any two of these categories are initially used in combination, in moderate doses, rather than using a single drug in a high dose. This provides the advantage of combining two different but complementary modes of action and avoids the side-effects that accompany a high dose of any single drug.
The target is to lower blood pressure values to less than 140/90 mm, in all adults. In persons with known cardiovascular disease, the target is a systolic value less than 130 mm. This is based on strong evidence. The same target is also recommended for persons at a high risk of cardiovascular disease or with co-existing diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Persons in whom treatment has been initiated should be followed up monthly, till the target level has been achieved. Once that has been reached, follow up may be once in three to six months, as feasible.
It has been recommended that non-physicians like nurses and pharmacists can provide drug treatment for hypertension if they receive proper training, have prescribing authority, follow specific management protocols and have physician oversight. Community health workers may assist in patient education, blood pressure measurement and delivery of medications, as part of a health team. Telemonitoring and home or community-based self-care are encouraged to improve blood pressure control, as part of an integrated management system.
These guidelines are positioned within a strong scientific frame of evidence, while accommodating the practical aspects of implementation across diverse health systems. Low- and middle-income countries, which have the highest health burdens resulting from uncontrolled hypertension, should find it easier to implement these guidelines rather than those tailor-made for high-income countries.
4.Panel urges more support for exporters
Parliamentary committee frowns on RoDTEP delay, outlay; moots local manufacture of containers
A Parliamentary panel has asked the Commerce and Industry Ministry to seek more funds from the Finance Ministry for the new tax refunds scheme for exporters — the Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) — after expressing its displeasure at the long delay in notifying the scheme’s details.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce has also nudged the government to promote domestic manufacturing of shipping containers to cope with the container shortages hurting exports and promote Indian shipping lines which currently account for just 10% of cargo movement in the country.
In its report on augmenting infrastructure facilities to boost exports, presented on Saturday, the panel questioned the delay in implementing RoDTEP scheme, announced on January 1 but notified only in August.
“The Committee is discontented that notification of rates under the scheme has been delayed by more than seven months and benefits under the scheme have not been passed on to exporters till date. The Committee also opines that the budget allocation of ₹12,500 crore for the scheme would be inadequate to meet its objectives,” it noted, urging the Commerce ministry to engage with the Finance ministry for additional allocation.
Urging the Department of Revenue to adopt a more transparent approach while dealing with exporters it tags as ‘risky’, the panel has also questioned the government’s indecision on the continuation of the Interest Equalisation Scheme (IES) for exporters which expired on June 30.
Emphasising that ‘uncertainty’ is not conducive for India’s overall export ecosystem, the panel indicated that the suspense over the IES’s continuation makes it difficult for exporters to decide whether or not to factor the benefit of the scheme in their costing. The IES provides pre- and post-shipment rupee export credit to eligible exporters, including all micro, small and medium enterprises at a 3% lower interest rate.
The panel has suggested that the scheme be extended ‘for at least five years or till the time our interest rates are at par with rates of the competing countries’.
The committee also voiced its displeasure after exporters complained about the ‘risky’ exporters tag, which leads to 100% mandatory checks on export consignments and the suspension of IGST refunds.
While it welcomed the Revenue department’s steps to identify and penalise fraudulent input tax credit claims by some exporters, the panel cautioned against punishing genuine exporters due to an error in identification.
India’s Parliament recently passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which significantly alters the way the government in New Delhi functions. Despite the nature of the sweeping changes this bill proposed, it was not sent to a parliamentary committee.
In a parliamentary democracy, the bills of such significance are sent to parliamentary committees for closer scrutiny. However, 71% of the bills went to parliamentary committees between 2009 and 2014, and this dipped to only 25% between 2014 and 2019.
Sidelining parliamentary committees is increasingly becoming the norm in India. But, given the significance of the parliamentary committee system in democracy, it needs to be strengthened rather than rendered defunct.
Significance of the Parliamentary Committees
- Provides Legislative Expertise: Most MPs are not subject matter experts on the topics being discussed — they are generalists who understand the pulse of the people but rely on advice from experts and stakeholders before making decisions.
- Parliamentary committees are meant to help MPs seek expertise and give them time to think about issues in detail.
- Acting as a Mini-Parliament: These committees act as a mini-parliament, as they have MPs representing different parties are elected into them through a system of the single transferable vote, in roughly the same proportion as their strength in Parliament.
- Instrument for Detailed Scrutiny: When bills are referred to these committees, they are examined closely and inputs are sought from various external stakeholders, including the public.
- Provides a Check on the Government: Although committee recommendations are not binding on the government, their reports create a public record of the consultations that took place and put pressure on the government to reconsider its stand on debatable provisions.
- By virtue of being closed-door and away from the public eye, discussions in committee meetings are also more collaborative, with MPs feeling less pressured to posture for media galleries.
Sidelining of Parliamentary Committee: Issues
- Weakening of Parliamentary System Government: A parliamentary democracy works on the doctrine of fusion of powers between parliament and the executive, but the Parliament is supposed to maintain oversight of the government and keep its power in check.
- Thus, by circumventing the Parliamentary committees in the passing of significant legislation, there is a risk of weakening democracy.
- Enforcing Brute Majority: In the Indian system, it is not mandatory for bills to be sent to committees. It’s left to the discretion of the Chair — the Speaker in the Lok Sabha and Chairperson in the Rajya Sabha.
- By giving discretionary power to the Chair, the system has been specially rendered weak in a Lok Sabha where the ruling party has a brute majority.