Contents

  1. Lokpal selection committee
  2. Govt. to clarify e-com FDI rules
  3. Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF)

LOKPAL SELECTION COMMITTEE

Context:

The Centre has refused to disclose the minutes of the Lokpal selection committee’s meetings, and its decision has now been upheld by the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The story so far regarding the RTI request of Lokpal selection committee’s minutes
  2. About Lokpal
  3. Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020
  4. Handling complaints
  5. Disposition of Complaints

The story so far regarding the RTI request of Lokpal selection committee’s minutes

  • The Lokpal was set up in 2013 as an anti-corruption authority which had jurisdiction over the Central government to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries.
  • However, no members were appointed for the next five years.
  • In 2015 an RTI request seeking information about the five-member Lokpal selection committee was filed.
  • The Department of Personnel and Training, which works as a nodal Ministry for both Lokpal and CIC, refused to provide a copy of the minutes. Instead of the minutes, a brief summary of the committee’s decisions at each meeting was provided.
  • The rejection at the CIC was appealed in 2019, noting that the Centre had not invoked any of the exemptions permitted under the RTI Act.

About Lokpal

  • Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013 establishes Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries.
  • Almost a year after the Lokpal became functional, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had issued a notification in 2020 providing the rules and prescribed format for filing complaints with the anti-corruption ombudsman under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act called the Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020.
  • Justice P.C. Ghosh was appointed as the first Lokpal of India on March 19, 2019.

Composition

  • Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, of which 50% shall be judicial members and 50% shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.

Appointment process

It is a two-stage process.

  1. A search committee which recommends a panel of names to the high-power selection committee.
  2. The selection committee comprises the
    1. Prime Minister,
    2. the Speaker of the Lok Sabha,
    3. the Leader of the Opposition,
    4. the Chief Justice of India (or his nominee) and
    5. an eminent jurist (nominated by President based on the recommendation of other members of the panel).

President will appoint the recommended names.

Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of Lokpal extends to

  1. Anyone who is or has been Prime Minister, or a Minister in the Union government, or a Member of Parliament, as well as officials of the Union government under Groups A, B, C and D.
  2. The chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre.
  3. Any society or trust or body that receives foreign contribution above ₹10 lakh.

Exception for Prime Minister

  • It does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  • Complaints against the PM are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of inquiry and at least 2/3rds of the members approve it.
  • Such an inquiry against the PM (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

Salaries and Service conditions

  • Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.

Inquiry wing and prosecution wing

  • Inquiry Wing for conducting preliminary inquiry and Prosecution Wing for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act.

Power with respect to CBI

  • Power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal.
  • Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal would need approval of Lokpal.

Timelines for enquiry, investigation

  • Act specifies a time limit of 60 days for completion of inquiry and 6 months for completion of investigation by the CBI.
  • This period of 6 months can be extended by the Lokpal on a written request from CBI.

Suspension, removal of Chairperson and member of Lokpal

  • The Chairperson or any Member shall be removed from his office by order of the President on grounds of misbehaviour after the Supreme Court report.
  • For that a petition has to be signed by at least one hundred Members of Parliament.

Special Court

  • A Special Court shall be setup to hear and decide the cases referred by the Lokpal.

Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020

  • Complaint can be filed with the Lokpal against the sitting Prime Minister, Union Ministers, MPs, bureaucrats, among others.
  • A complaint filed against a sitting or former prime minister shall be decided by full bench of Lokpal comprising of its Chairman and all members in admission stage.
  • If such complaint is dismissed by the full bench, records of enquiry are not to be published.
  • A complaint against Union Minister/ MP is to be looked into by bench of not less than three members.

Handling complaints

  • The Lokpal bench will decide the complaint in the first instance at the admission stage. The Lokpal may seek other details or affidavit, if necessary.
  • The identity of the complainant or the accused official will be protected by the Lokpal till the conclusion of inquiry or investigation.
  • However, the protection will not be applicable in cases where the complainant herself reveals her identity to any other office or authority while making the complaint to Lokpal.
  • The complaints, whose contents are illegible, vague or ambiguous, contents of the complaint are trivial or frivolous; or do not contain any allegation, are not filed within the limitation period of seven years, or are pending before any other court, tribunal or authority, will have to be disposed of within 30 days.
  • Any false, frivolous complaint is punishable with imprisonment for the term upto one year and a fine upto 1 lakh rupees.

Disposition of Complaints

  • The Lokpal can send complaint to the enquiry wing of the Lokpal which may than order a preliminary inquiry.
  • If a prime facie case is found, the Lokpal can refer the complaint for an investigation by a probe agency like CBI.
  • The investigation must be completed within 6 months and the trail must be finished within a maximum duration of 2 years.

-Source: The Hindu


GOVT. TO CLARIFY E-COM FDI RULES

Context:

The Centre plans to issue a clarification on the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy for the e-commerce sector in the wake of investigations into some foreign players’ operations following complaints about malpractices.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Electronic Commerce (e-commerce)?
  2. Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020
  3. Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019

What is Electronic Commerce (e-commerce)?

  • Electronic commerce or e-commerce (sometimes written as eCommerce) is a business model that lets firms and individuals buy and sell things over the internet.
  • E-commerce, which can be conducted over computers, tablets, or smartphones may be thought of like a digital version of mail-order catalog shopping.
  • Nearly every imaginable product and service is available through e-commerce transactions, including books, music, plane tickets, and financial services such as stock investing and online banking.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Commerce

Advantages

  • Convenience. E-commerce can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Increased selection. Many stores offer a wider array of products online than they carry in their brick-and-mortar counterparts. And many stores that solely exist online may offer consumers exclusive inventory that is unavailable elsewhere.

Disadvantages

  • Limited customer service. If you are shopping online for a computer, you cannot simply ask an employee to demonstrate a particular model’s features in person. And although some websites let you chat online with a staff member; this is not a typical practice.
  • Lack of instant gratification. When you buy an item online, you must wait for it to be shipped to your home or office. However, retailers like Amazon make the waiting game a little bit less painful by offering same-day delivery as a premium option for select products.
  • Inability to touch products. Online images do not necessarily convey the whole story about an item, and so e-commerce purchases can be unsatisfying when the products received do not match consumer expectations. Case in point: an item of clothing may be made from shoddier fabric than its online image indicates.

Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020

The recent rules relating to e-commerce, issued by the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 needs some changes.

What the recent rules specify?

  • The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 regulates all commercial transactions sold over a digital or electronic network.
  • The e-com rules currently recognise two e-commerce business models, namely, marketplace model and inventory-based model.
  • The rules have separate specified provisions for marketplace- and inventory-based entities.
  • The e-com rules require that all information on the return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment of the goods or services being sold, including their country of origin, be provided on the platform.
  • Such details enable consumers to make an informed decision.

What the new rules seek to achieve?

  • The country-of-origin requirement is significant as India and several other countries are currently re-negotiating their free trade agreements.
  • E-com rules prohibit unfair trade practices by entities and sellers on marketplaces and manipulation of price.
  • The entities are prohibited from manipulating the price of the goods or services to gain unreasonable profit by imposing unjustified price or charges on consumers.

Issues with the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020

  • It remains unclear as to what would constitute price manipulation.
  • It also remains unclear how the e-commerce entities and sellers are expected to navigate these roadblocks without falling foul of such provisions.
  • Both the marketplace entity and sellers are now required to set up a grievance redressal mechanism, small businesses may not be in a position to comply.
  • The rules also prohibit an e-commerce entity from levying a charge for cancellation post confirmation.
  • While the provisions may be intended as safeguards that ensure a level-playing field, some of these conditions are impractical.
  • Applying identical rules does not convey a business-friendly approach.

Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019

  • The Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019 currently recognise the marketplace and inventory model.
  • It permits 100% FDI under the automatic route to marketplace entities as also to those engaged in single-brand retail.
  • Foreign investments, up to 51%, are permitted in multi-brand retail with prior government approval.
  • As per the non-debt rules, entities engaged in single-brand retail are permitted to undertake retail trading through e-commerce.
  • However, single-brand retail trading through e-commerce has to open a brick-and-mortar store within two years from the date it commences online retail.
  • Retail trading, in any form, by means of e-commerce, is not permissible for entities engaged in inventory-based multi-brand retail trading and having foreign investment.

Recent developments regarding complaints about certain practices of e-commerce companies

  • The government had sought information from the online marketplaces as part of a probe into ‘certain complaints from consumers and small retailers about certain practices of e-commerce companies.
  • Commerce and Industry Minister added the caveat that the e-commerce policy per se would, however, not be changed as it was ‘robust, well-designed and operating in India in several sectors.
  • To reiterate, e-commerce is supposed to provide an agnostic platform so that buyers and sellers can trade with each other, the platform should not become a part of the trading transaction, neither should it be funding it or having algorithms that give preference to one or the other.
  • They should neither be promoting their own products, but provide all data required to make a rational choice and the choice should be the free choice of the consumers.

-Source: The Hindu


GLACIAL LAKE OUTBURST FLOODS (GLOF)

Context:

  • A glacier break is suspected to have caused the flash floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli.
  • In 2020, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had issued detailed guidelines on how to reduce and deal with disasters caused by what is scientifically called Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs).

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography, GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Glacial lakes?
  2. How glaciers and glacial lakes form?
  3. What is GLOF?
  4. How vulnerable are the Himalayas to GLOFs?
  5. Why did the glacier in Uttarakhand burst?
  6. How can the risk of GLOFs be reduced?
  7. Important Glaciers of the Himalayas

What are Glacial lakes?

  • A glacial lake is a body of water with origins from glacier activity.
  • They are formed when a glacier erodes the land, and then melts, filling the depression created by the glacier.

How glaciers and glacial lakes form?

  • Glaciers are found on every continent except Australia and some are hundreds of thousands of years old; and a large cluster of glaciers are in the Himalayas.
  • Glaciers are made of layers of compressed snow that move or “flow” due to gravity and the softness of ice relative to rock.
  • A glacier’s “tongue” can extend hundreds of kilometers from its high-altitude origins, and the end, or “snout,” can advance or retreat based on snow accumulating or melting.
  • Proglacial lakes, formed after glaciers retreat, are often bound by sediment and boulder formations.
  • Additional water or pressure, or structural weakness, can cause both natural and manmade dams to burst, sending a mass of floodwater surging down the rivers and streams fed by the glacier.

What is GLOF?

  • A GLOF is a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
  • An event similar to a GLOF, where a body of water contained by a glacier melts or overflows the glacier, is called a jökulhlaup.
  • The dam can consist of glacier ice or a terminal moraine.

Causes of GLOF

  1. A buildup of water pressure or structural weakness of boundary due to an increase in the flow of water.
  2. An earthquake (Tectonic) or cryoseism (non-tectonic seismic event of the glacial cryosphere) can also cause GLOF. During this, the boundary of the glacial lake will collapse suddenly and release the water in the glacial lake.
  3. An avalanche of rock or heavy snow: During this, the water in the glacial lake might be displaced by the avalanche.
  4. Volcanic eruptions under the ice can also cause GLOF. These volcanic eruptions might displace the boundary or increase the pressure on glacial lake or both.
  5. Heavy rainfall/melting of snow: This can lead to massive displacement of water in a glacial lake.
  6. Long-term dam degradation can also induce GLOF.
  7. Other reasons such as the collapse of an adjacent glacial lake, etc.

How vulnerable are the Himalayas to GLOFs?

Unlike earthen dams, the weak structure of the moraine dam leads to the abrupt failure of the dam on top of the glacial lake, which holds large volume of water.

A failure of the dam has the potential of releasing millions of cubic metres of water in a short period, causing catastrophic flooding downstream.

According to NDMA, glacial retreat due to climate change occurring in most parts of the Hindu Kush Himalaya has given rise to the formation of numerous new glacial lakes, which are the major cause of GLOFs.

Since glaciers in the Himalayas are in a retreating phase, glacial lakes are growing and pose a potentially large risk to downstream infrastructure and life.

Why did the glacier in Uttarakhand burst?

  • It’s not yet known what caused part of the Nanda Devi glacier to snap off Sunday morning, sending floodwater surging downstream toward power plants and villages in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand.
  • Seismic activity and a buildup of water pressure can cause glaciers to burst, but one particular concern is climate change.
  • High temperatures coupled with less snowfall can accelerate melting, which causes water to rise to potentially dangerous levels.
  • Most mountain glaciers around the world were much larger in the past and have been melting and shrinking dramatically due to climate change and global warming.

How can the risk of GLOFs be reduced?

  • The NDMA guidelines say that risk reduction has to begin with identifying and mapping such lakes, taking structural measures to prevent their sudden breach, and establishing mechanism to save lives and property in times of a breach.
  • Potentially dangerous lakes can be identified based on field observations, records of past events, geomorphologic and geotechnical characteristics of the lake/dam and surroundings, and other physical conditions.
  • NDMA has recommended use of Synthetic-Aperture Radar imagery to automatically detect changes in water bodies, including new lake formations, during the monsoon months. It has said methods and protocols could also be developed to allow remote monitoring of lake bodies from space.
  • To manage lakes structurally, the NDMA recommends reducing the volume of water with methods such as controlled breaching, pumping or siphoning out water, and making a tunnel through the moraine barrier or under an ice dam.

Important Glaciers of the Himalayas

Glaciers of the Karakoram Range

  • Maximum development of glaciers occurs in the Karakoram range.
  • Some of the largest glaciers outside the polar and sub-polar regions are found in this range. The southern side of this range has many gigantic glaciers.
  • The 75 km long Siachen Glacier in Nubra valley has the distinction of being the largest glacier outside the polar and the sub-polar regions.
  • The second largest is the 74 km long Fedchenko Glacier (Pamirs)
  • Third largest is the Hispar Glacier. It is 62 km long and occupies a tributary of the Hunza River.

Glaciers of the Pir Panjal Range

  • The glaciers of the Pir Panjal Range are less numerous and smaller in size as compared to those of the Karakoram Range.
  • The longest Sonapani Glacier in the Chandra Valley of Lahul and Spiti region is only 15 km long.

Glaciers of the Kumaon-Garhwal Region

  • In the Kumaon-Garhwal region of the Himalayas, the largest is the 30 km long Gangotri Glacier which is the source of the holy Ganga.
  • Kumaon-Garhwal Region – uttarakhand

Garhwal Region

  • Lying in the Himalayas, it is bounded on the north by Tibet, on the east by Kumaon region, on the south by Uttar Pradesh state, and on the northwest by Himachal Pradesh state.
  • It includes the districts of Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal, and Uttarkashi.

Glaciers of Central Nepal

  • Zemu and the Kanchenjunga glaciers are the major ones.

-Source: The Hindu

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