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Editorials/Opinions Analyses for UPSC 06 December 2021

Contents

  1. A docket full of unresolved constitutional cases
  2. Implementation of Kasturirangan Committee recommendations

A docket full of unresolved constitutional cases

Context:

  • During the framing of the Indian Constitution, it was proposed that any petition alleging a breach of fundamental rights by the state ought to be judicially decided within one month.
  • It was recommended during the formulation of the Indian Constitution that every petition alleging a violation of basic rights by the state be determined by a court within one month. The suggestion was not incorporated into the Constitution’s text.
  • It was recommended during the formulation of the Indian Constitution that every petition alleging a violation of basic rights by the state be determined by a court within one month. The suggestion was not incorporated into the Constitution’s text.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Values, Judiciary)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Need of Resolution of Pending cases
  2. Significant Cases Pending Before Supreme Court
  3. What is the Impact of the Delays in Resolution?

Need of Resolution of Pending cases

  • Power and accountability are at the heart of issues such as the federal government’s structure, elections, and many others.
  • The longer it takes for courts to resolve such cases, the more we move away from accountability and toward impunity.
  • All of these cases raise important issues of governmental authority, accountability, and impunity.
  • The longer they are left hanging without a ruling, the more harm our constitutional democracy’s dedication to the rule of law suffers.

Significant Cases Pending Before Supreme Court

  • Case 1: Constitutional challenge to the Presidential Orders that effectively diluted Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and bifurcated the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
    • The case highlights several fundamental issues about constitutional authority and responsibility.
    • It raises the question of whether the Centre can use Article 356 in a state to impose permanent and irrevocable changes to the state’s structure.
    • The case addresses the question of whether the Union Legislature has the right under the Constitution to downgrade a State into a Union Territory.
  • Case 2: Constitutional challenge to the electoral bonds scheme.
    • The electoral bonds concept allows corporations to make unlimited, anonymous contributions to political parties.
    • The influence of anonymous political donations is felt not just on the integrity of the electoral process, but also on individuals’ fundamental right to vote.
  • Case 3: 2013 Gauhati High Court Judgement against CBI.
    • According to the Gauhati High Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was not constituted under any statutory authority.
    • CBI continues to operate despite a constitutional court ruling even though the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court but it has never been heard.
  • Case 4: Challenges to the Section 43(D)(5) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
    • Section 43(D)(5) section practically prohibits the granting of bail and has resulted in the detention of some persons for years. It is still used on a daily basis as in the Bhima Koregaon case.

What is the Impact of the Delays in Resolution?

  • The Court’s inaction plays as significant a role on the ground as does its action.
  • Delays help the state party that gains from the status quo in such big situations.
  • This type of judicial avoidance is also harmful to the judiciary’s capacity to hold itself accountable.
  • The rule of law suffers greatly when there is no choice and no logic.
  • It must be remembered that the Chief Justice of India is exclusively responsible for forming benches and scheduling cases, particularly those that are going to be heard by bigger Benches.

-Source: The Hindu


Implementation of Kasturirangan Committee recommendations

Context:

Recently Karnataka Chief Minister informed the Centre that the state is opposed to the Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats. Participating in a virtual meeting on the implementation of the report. At the meeting, the experts called the state’s opposition disastrous for the ecologically fragile Western Ghats.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster and Management (Natural and Anthropogenic Disasters, Disaster Management in India), GS-I: Geography (Important Geophysical phenomena)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Western Ghats
  2. Significance of Western Ghats
  3. Threats to Western Ghats ecology
  4. Madhav Gadgil committee
  5. Kasturirangan Committee
  6. What impact will the non-implementation of the report have on the Western Ghats?

About the Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats (also known as Sahyadri) is a mountain chain that runs almost parallel to India’s western coast. It runs to a length of 1,600 km, starting from the mouth of the river Tapti near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India in Tamil Nadu.
  • It traverses the 6 states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
  • According to UNESCO, the Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas.

Significance of Western Ghats

  1. A total of thirty-nine areas in the Western Ghats, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, were designated as world heritage sites in 2012 – twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.
  2. The Western Ghats is home to a vast biological diversity of flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species including hundreds of globally threatened species. Many of these species are also endemic to the region. Though covering an area of 180,000 sq.km, or just under 6 per cent of the land area of India, the Western Ghats contain more than 30 per cent of all the plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India.
  3. They influence Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer.
  4. The dense forests also contribute to the precipitation of the area by acting as a substrate for condensation of moist rising orographic winds from the sea. The Western Ghats form one of the four watersheds of India, feeding the perennial rivers of India. Approximately 245 million people live in the peninsular Indian states that receive most of their water supply from rivers originating in the Western Ghats. It feeds a large number of perennial rivers of peninsular India including the three major eastward-flowing rivers Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri.
  5. The forests of Western Ghats play a significant and important ecological function in the sequestration of atmospheric CO2 and hence have an important role in climate change. They account for a substantial proportion of carbon sequestration from the Indian forests.
  6. The Western Ghats include a diversity of medicinal plants and important genetic resources such as the wild relatives of grains, fruit and spices.
  7. The Western Ghats are rich in mineral resources like iron, manganese and bauxite ores in parts of their ranges.
  8. The Western Ghats host important plantation crops like pepper and cardamom, which are native to the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats. It also hosts large scale plantations of tea, coffee, oil palm and rubber. Also, the forests of Western Ghats are an important source of timber and support a large number of forest-based industries such as paper, plywood, poly-fibres and matchwood.
  9. The Western Ghats host a number of tourist destinations drawing tourists not only from India but also from foreign nations and thus they contribute to the economy of the host states.

Threats to Western Ghats ecology

  • Developmental activities: Large dam projects in the Western Ghats have resulted in significant environmental damage. This has led to large scale deforestation and submergence of pristine forests. Also, the conversion of forest land into agricultural land or for commercial purposes like tourism has resulted in shrinkage of the habitat for the endemic species of the region. This has had significant negative effects on biodiversity.
  • Resource extraction: Illegal logging for timber and livestock grazing within and bordering protected areas by high densities of livestock is leading to habitat degradation across the Western Ghats.
  • Mining activity: Environmentally unsustainable mining activities have increased the vulnerability of the fragile ecosystem to landslides and environmental pollution. Sand mining is of particular concern.
  • Climate change: Global warming and climate change have led to big variations in the duration and intensity of rainfalls in the region. This is giving rise to increased instances and intensity of extreme weather events in the region.

Madhav Gadgil committee

  • The Ministry of Environment & Forests had constituted the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under the Chairmanship of Madhav Gadgil in 2010 to recommend measures for the management of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats region.
  • The panel took a strong stance in favour of ecological conservation efforts of the Western Ghats region.
  • It designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).
  • It recommended the establishment of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority, as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It sought to have strict regulation of developmental activities like dam construction, mining.
  • It specified a bottom-up approach for governance of the environment with the establishment of fully empowered Biodiversity Management Committees in all local bodies.

Kasturirangan Committee

  • The Gadgil committee report was criticised for being too environment friendly and impractical to implement. The states opposed the report based on the stand that it would hamper the development process of the states. In this context, the Kasturirangan committee was constituted to examine the WGEEP report.
  • Its mandate was to give special attention to “the preservation of the precious biodiversity” and “the rights, needs and development aspirations of the local and indigenous people”.
  • The Kasturirangan committee took a more moderate stance on the conservation issue. Unlike Gadgil Committee, it designated only 37% of the Western Ghats as ESA. It sought to regulate developmental activities mainly in the ESA only.

What impact will the non-implementation of the report have on the Western Ghats?

  • Professor at the Institute of Science (IISc) said: “Considering the changes in climate (evident from recurring floods, droughts, landslides, increasing temperature, etc), which would affect the livelihood of all people (irrespective of poor or rich) and hurt the nation’s economy, it is prudent to conserve the fragile ecosystems that costs less compared to the situation prone to calamities (with changes in the climate) than spending money /resources for restoration / rejuvenation.”
  • As a researcher and someone who has extensively studied the Western Ghats for more than three decades, Dr Ramachandra suggests the government to accept and implement the report.
  • Wildlife conservationist Joseph Hoover said, “We are in the throes of extreme climate events, which are impacting nature and people. Yet, the government continues to stonewall valued suggestions of acclaimed researchers.
  • If the government truly cares for the welfare of 22 crore people who are sustained by the Western Ghats, it would accept at least 85 per cent of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan Committee. Else, it would be the reason for the sufferings of the people.”

-Source: Indian Express

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