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Daily Current AFfairs 26.02.2022 (Inflection point for the West-led global order, Union Law Secretary elevated as Delhi HC judge, Radiation spike in Chernobyl: Ukraine)

Daily Current AFfairs 26.02.2022 (Inflection point for the West-led global order, Union Law Secretary elevated as Delhi HC judge, Radiation spike in Chernobyl: Ukraine)

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1. Inflection point for the West-led global order

Its future will be defined by how it responds to the crisis in Ukraine, and in the shadow of growing Russia-China ties

The Ukraine crisis has come to a head with Russia biting the bullet and launching “a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.” Even as the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was warning that the world was facing a “moment of peril” and calling for “restraint, reason and de-escalation” to avoid “a scale and severity of need unseen for many years”, Russian troops that had massed on Ukraine’s borders for months now were preparing to launch an assault on Ukraine — after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the Russian-backed, rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent and even challenged the historical right of Ukraine to exist.

Mr. Putin continued to insist that he was open to “direct and honest dialogue” but with every step of the escalatory ladder he climbed, he ensured that dialogue was becoming difficult to sustain. And the Russian Foreign Ministry even suggested that the idea that Russia is to blame for the crisis in Ukraine is an invention by the West. But the invasion has now happened in full view of the international community, with Mr. Putin saying that Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine and demanding that its military lay down their arms. Launching a “special military operation” and alleging that Ukraine’s democratically elected government “had been responsible for eight years of genocide”, Moscow’s seeming goal is demilitarisation and a “denazification” of Ukraine.

Putin versus the West

Hours before the invasion, the western countries had imposed a new round of sanctions against Moscow (targeting Russian individuals and banks linked to Mr. Putin’s regime), and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended certification of Nord Stream 2, a major gas pipeline between Russia and his nation. But clearly it had no real impact on Mr. Putin’s calculus.

United States President Joe Biden, in his response to the invasion, has suggested that Washington and its allies would respond in a united and decisive way to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine. But the future course of action for the West remains rather murky. Perhaps because of this, Charles Michel, the head of the European Council, has continued to insist on the need “to be united and determined and jointly define our collective approach and actions”. The European Union has announced a “massive” package of sanctions as it comes to terms with “the darkest hour in Europe since the Second World War”.

Where Mr. Putin has shown resolve and a single-minded sense of purpose, the West has been incoherent in its response — not being able to present a united front, and worse, not even speaking the same language at times. For Mr. Putin, this is a moment to use Ukraine to highlight his broader demands of restructuring the post-Cold War European security order. For the West, this has been a moment when it has been found wanting — a lack of imagination, lack of will and lack of leadership, all rolled into producing a lackadaisical response to the one of most serious security crises in decades.

General disarray

Mr. Biden’s leadership has been found wanting. For all his talk of leading through coalitions, all he has to show for is a disarray in the European ranks. Where Germany has been reluctant to allow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to ship German-origin weapons to Ukraine, France has used this moment of crisis in trying to showcase its own leadership credentials. French President Emmanuel Macron has been talking of the European Union taking decisions independent of the U.S. in an attempt to showcase its ‘strategic autonomy’. The trans-Atlantic alliance has barely functioned despite all those who had argued that it was the fault of U.S. President Donald Trump fracturing this partnership. It turns out that even Mr. Biden has not been able to build the trans-Atlantic engagement around common objectives to be pursued collectively.

The energy factor

Moreover, the EU’s energy dependence on Russia is a reality that has to be factored into strategic considerations. With the EU importing 39% of its total gas imports and 30% of oil from Russia, and with the Central and Eastern European countries being almost 100% dependent on Russian gas, the reasons for internal EU dissonance are not that difficult to fathom.

Where Russia repeatedly made it clear that it remains willing to even use the instrumentality of force to attain its diplomatic objectives, the singular refrain from the West has been that it has no intention of escalating. In such a scenario, the initiative is always with the side that can demonstrate a willingness to ratchet up tensions. Mr. Putin is willing to take significant strategic risks which the West is not ready to do. And, as a result, the initiative since the very beginning of this conflict has been with Russia. The West has been left to respond reactively to the developments around it. And it is in the very nature of great power politics that smaller and weaker nations such as Ukraine struggle to preserve their very existence.

A strong Beijing

This ineffectual western response has emboldened not only Russia but also China as the focus of the West is in danger of moving away from the Indo-Pacific. The Russia-China ‘axis’ is only getting stronger as the two nations seem ready to take on the West that seems willing to concede without even putting up a fight.

It was this week in 1972 that U.S. President Richard Nixon shook hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and radically altered the contours of the global order by reshaping the extant balance of power. It allowed China to emerge as the leading global economic power and helped the U.S. in winning the Cold War.

Today, the balance of power is once again in flux, and as China develops a strategic partnership with Russia, the future of the West-led global order will be defined by how effectively it responds to the crisis in Ukraine. The tragedy of great power politics is unfolding in Europe but its embers will scorch the world far and wide, much beyond Europe.

Harsh V. Pant is Director of Research at the Observer Research Foundation,

New Delhi and Professor of International Relations, King’s College London

2. Union Law Secretary elevated as Delhi HC judge

Mendiratta was in Delhi Higher Judicial Services

In a first, Union Law Secretary Anoop Kumar Mendiratta on Friday was elevated as a judge of the Delhi High Court.

The formal official notification of the latest appointments in the Delhi High Court was tweeted by the Department of Justice in which Mr. Mendiratta was among four judicial officers who were elevated as judges.

Sources in the government claimed that Mr. Mendiratta, who belongs to the Delhi Higher Judicial Services, was appointed judge based on his seniority.

His name was recently recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium, one of the sources said.

Mr. Mendiratta was serving as the District and Sessions Judge of Karkardooma in northeast district when he was made the Law Secretary in October 2019.

A break with tradition

That appointment too was a break with tradition.

The post of Law Secretary used to be filled by elevating one of the additional secretaries coming from the Indian Legal Service (ILS) cadre.

His appointment order said he was appointed on a contractual basis until March 30, 2023, his attaining the age of 60.

Constitutional Provision for High Courts

  • Article 214 of the Constitution of India provides that there shall be a High Court in each State.
  • Under Article 231, Parliament has power to establish a common High Court for two or more States.

Oath

Oath of a Judge of a High Courts

  • Under Article 219, a person appointed as a High Court Judge must take and swear an oath or affirmation before the Governor of the State before taking office.

Qualifications

Qualifications for appointment as a Judge of High Courts

  • A person to be qualified for appointment as a Judge of a High Court:
  • He must be an Indian citizen.
  • Must have served in a judicial capacity in India for at least ten years.
  • For at least 10 years, he must have worked as an advocate in a High Court or two or more such Courts in succession.

Appointment

Appointment of High Court Judges

  • The Judges of a High Court are appointed by the President. But the President shall consult the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of that High Court while appointing the Judges of High Courts other than the Chief Justice.
  • Consultation Process: A Collegium consisting of the CJI and four senior-most judges recommends High Court judges.
  • The plan, on the other hand, is spearheaded by the Chief Justice of the High Court in question, in cooperation with two senior colleagues.
  • The Governor is advised to convey the proposal to the Union Law Minister after receiving the recommendation from the Chief Minister.
  • The Chief Justice of the High Court is appointed in accordance with the policy of appointing Chief Justices from states other than their own.
  • Transfer of Judge: Under Article 222 the President after consultation with the Chief Justice of India can transfer the Judges of the High Court.

Acting Chief Justice:

Appointment of acting Chief Justice

  • When the Chief Justice of a High Court is absent or unable to discharge his duties, the President may designate one of the other Judges of the Court to fill the vacancy.

Retired Judges:

Appointment of Retired Judges

  • With the President’s consent, the Chief Justice of a High Court may ask a retired High Court Judge to shit and act as a judge of the High Court for a limited time.

Additional and Acting Judges:

Appointment of Additional and Acting Judges

  • Additional Judge: When it appears to the President that the number of Judges should be increased due to a temporary rise in the business of the High Court or work arrears, the President may appoint duty qualified persons as additional Judges for a period of not more than two years (Article 224(1)).
  • Acting Judge: When a judge, other than the Chief Justice, is unable to perform his duties due to absence or otherwise, or when a permanent judge of the High Court is appointed as its acting Chief Justice, an acting judge might be appointed. Article 224 (2) states that an acting judge serves until the permanent judge resumes his duties.
  • Note: The tenure cannot go beyond the age of 62 years.

Tenure and Removal

Tenure and Removal of Judges of High Courts

  • A permanent Judge of the High Court serves until he or she reaches the age of 62.
  • Any disputes over the age of judges are resolved by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, with the President’s decision being final.
  • A judge does not hold office while the President is in office.
  • Removal: Judge can be removed from his office by an order of the President on the recommendation of the Parliament.
  • Ground for Removal: Misbehaviour and incapacity only.
  • The President has received the order passed after each House of Parliament delivered an address supported by a majority of the total membership of the House and a two-thirds majority of the members of each House present and voting in the same session.

Collegium System

Collegium System for the Appointment of Judges

Collegium System: The method of appointing and transferring judges has evolved as a result of Supreme Court decisions rather than an Act of Parliament or a provision of the Constitution and the government is only involved after the collegium has settled on names.

  • Supreme Court Collegium: Chief Justice and four of the senior most judges.
  • High Court collegium: Chief Justice and four of the seniors most judges.
  • Only after confirmation by the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court collegium do names suggested for appointment by a High Court collegium reach the government.
  • If a lawyer is to be raised as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court, the government’s participation is limited to requesting an investigation by the Intelligence Bureau.
  • It can also protect the collegium’s choices and seek clarifications, but if the collegium repeats the same names, the government is compelled by Constitution Bench decisions to install them as judges.

Evolution

Evolution of Collegium System

  • The President appoints the Supreme Court judges, according to Article 124(2) of the Indian Constitution. He/she should consult as many Supreme Court and State High Court Judges as he/she deems necessary for the purpose.
  • The President of India, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the State, appoints the Judge of a High Court, according to Article 217 of the Indian Constitution. In addition, except in the instance of his or her own appointment, the Chief Justice of the High Court should be consulted.
  • The court stated in the First Judges Case (1981) in S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India that consultation under Article 124 does not imply concurrence. According to this ruling, the President is not bound by the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice of India.
  • In the Second Judges Case (1993), Supreme Court advocates on record association vs Union of India, the court reversed its prior ruling and declared the opinion of the Chief Justice of India to be binding. In addition, the Chief Justice of India must formulate his or her opinion with the help of a collegium of judges that includes the Chief Justice of India and two of the Supreme Court’s most senior judges.
  • The court extended the collegium to a five-member body in the Third Judges Case (1998), which included the CJI and the four senior-most judges on the court after the CJI.

Issues

Issue related to collegium system

  • Because of its lack of transparency and accountability, the Collegium System has received a lot of criticism from both the government and civil society.
  • As a result of this: The National Judicial Commission Act (NJAC), the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2014, was enacted to replace the collegium system for appointing judges.
  • In the Fourth Judges Case (2015). The Supreme Court recognized the collegium’s primacy and the NJAC (National Judicial Appointments Commission) Act was also declared unconstitutional and void.
  • The Supreme Court decided that the Act allowed the government broad authority to nominate judges. The Court found that the Act harmed the judiciary’s independence and compromised its fundamental structure.

3. Radiation spike in Chernobyl: Ukraine

Russia has seized the nuclear plant

Ukrainian authorities said on Friday that radiation levels had increased in the Chernobyl exclusion zone and warned the seizure of the nuclear plant by invading Russian troops could have “terrible consequences.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his troops to invade Ukraine and on the same day they seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in one of the most radioactive places on earth.

Ukrainian authorities also said that they had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that they had lost control of highly radioactive fuel rods from the power plant.

‘Grave consequences’

“In the terrible hands of the aggressor, this significant amount of plutonium-239 can become a nuclear bomb that will turn thousands of hectares into a dead, lifeless desert,” said Ukraine’s Environmental Protection Ministry. The Ministry said the Russian troops’ takeover of the Chernobyl exclusion zone could have grave consequences.

“The humanitarian and environmental consequences of such a catastrophe have no borders,” the Ministry added. Separately, the Ukrainian Parliament said that data from the automated radiation monitoring system indicated higher than usual levels of radiation.

Chernobyl Disaster

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in today’s Ukraine faced a fore explosion. The reactor began to emit radioactive materials. Though, the casualties are minimal, the radioactive materials are still present in the atmosphere and are posing challenges to human survival in the region. Due to the accident, several children even today are facing thyroid, cancer in the regions of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Significance

The fire explosion spread huge radioactive cloud over Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. More than 8.4 million people were exposed to radioactive waves. In 1991, the Chernobyl Trust Fund was created by the United Nations. It is now being managed by the OCHA-Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Role of United Nations

The United Nations that was formed for world peace after second world war is keen in addressing nuclear issues after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incident. The United Nations launched the International Chernobyl Research and Information Network. The network provides support to the national, international and public programmes that aim at sustainable development of these territories.

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