50th CJI & Collegium System

In Context

  • Justice Chandrachud recently said that criticism of the Collegium system must be looked at in a “positive light” and attempts made to improve it. 

More about the news

  • 50th CJI:
    • The President of India recently administered the oath of office to the 50th Chief Justice of India (CJI) – Justice Chandrachud. 
      • He is the youngest person in the last 10 years to be appointed as the CJI.
  • About the appointment of judges:
    • Issue:
      • The debate relating to the appropriate procedure for the appointment of judges continues to occupy the political space.
      • Recently, the charges were also made by a Minister that the Collegium working is opaque.
    • Opinion of Justice Chandrachud:
      • He opined that there is a legitimate public interest in knowing how judges are appointed but the judiciary also needs to preserve the privacy of the people, members of the Bar or judges of the High Court who are under consideration.
  • His priorities for the judiciary:
    • Justice Chandrachud said the first on the list is filling vacancies, from the district judiciary to High Courts to the Supreme Court. 
    • He also underlined the need to bring in more diversity in the judiciary.

More about the Collegium System

  • About:
    • It is a novel mechanism devised to ensure a democratic system of appointment and transfer of judges.
    • It came into existence through Second and Third Judges Case judgments.
    • There is no such law or constitutional provision that mentions or defines the collegium system.
  • Head: 
    • It is headed by the CJI and comprises 4 other senior-most judges of the court.
  • High Court (HC) Collegium: 
    • An HC collegium is led by its Chief Justice (CJ) and four other senior-most judges of that court.
  • Constitutional Provisions Backing it
    • Article 124(2): 
      • The Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President after consultation with such a number of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.
    • Article 217: 
      • The Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the CJI and the State Governor, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court.
  • Criticisms:
    • Critics have pointed out that the system is non-transparent, since it does not involve any official mechanism or secretariat.
    • It is seen as a closed-door affair with no prescribed norms regarding eligibility criteria, or even the selection procedure.
    • There is no public knowledge of how and when a collegium meets, and how it takes its decisions. 
      • There are no official minutes of collegium proceedings.
    • Lawyers too are usually in the dark on whether their names have been considered for elevation as a judge.

Governments Stand 

  • The Centre has not supported the collegium system. According to the government, the current system is not transparent and is to blame for the high number of vacancies in the higher judiciary.
    • In 2014, the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act was brought in by the NDA government, which would have accorded a major role to the executive in appointing judges to the higher judiciary.
    • But it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015, continuing the current Collegium system of judicial appointments. 
      • It said the NJAC was against the basic structure of the Constitution.
Evolution of Collegium SystemThe collegium system has its genesis in a series of Supreme Court judgments called the ‘Judges Cases’First Judges Case (1981): In S P Gupta Vs Union of India, 1981, the Supreme Court judgement held that consultation does not mean concurrence and it only implies an exchange of views.Second Judges Case (1993): In The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association Vs Union of India, 1993, a nine-judge Constitution Bench overruled the decision and devised a specific procedure called ‘Collegium System’ for the appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary.The majority verdict in the Second Judges Case accorded primacy to the CJI in matters of appointment and transfers while also ruling that the term “consultation” would not diminish the primary role of the CJI in judicial appointments.The role of the CJI is primal in nature because this being a topic within the judicial family, the executive cannot have an equal say in the matter.Third Judges Case (1998): In this, the Court opined that the consultation process to be adopted by the CJI requires ‘consultation of plurality judges’.The sole opinion of the CJI does not constitute the consultation process. He should consult a collegium of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and even if two judges give an adverse opinion, he should not send the recommendation to the government.The court held that the recommendation made by the CJI without complying with the norms and requirements of the consultation process is not binding on the government.

Way Ahead

  • Harmony between the three organs of the government (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary) for the growth of the nation is what is required now from a democratic country.
  • This is a time to revisit the Collegium issue, either through a Presidential reference to the Supreme Court, or a constitutional amendment with appropriate changes in the original NJAC law.

Age of Consent for Adolescents

In News

  • Recently, the Karnataka High Court (HC) said that the Law Commission of India would have to rethink the age criteria in case of age for consent, to take into consideration the ground realities.

Key Points

  • HC’s Stand:
    • The Karnataka HC dismissed a case filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
    • It stated that the aspect of consent by a girl of 16 years, but who is below 18 years, would have to be considered, if it is indeed an offence under the Indian Penal Code and/or the POCSO Act.
  • Terms of the POCSO Act:
    • Often, the offender had been booked under Section 366 of the IPC, Section 6 of the POCSO Act and Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
    • Under the POCSO Act, 2012, and under several provisions of the IPC, whoever commits a penetrative sexual assault on a child — anyone below 18 years of age — can be “imprisoned for a term which is not less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to [a] fine.” 
    • Even if the girl is 16 years old, she is considered a “child” under the POCSO Act and hence her consent does not matter, and any sexual intercourse is treated as rape, thus opening it up to stringent punishment.

Major Concerns with Age of Consent Aspect

  • Misuse of Law:
    • There have been several instances in the past few years when the courts have quashed criminal proceedings of rape and kidnapping, after being convinced that the law was being misused to suit one or the other party. 
    • In its order, and several other courts have passed similar judgments too, the Karnataka High Court said the effect of such criminal prosecution of a minor girl or boy is causing severe distress to all concerned, including the families. 
    • Sometimes, disgruntled parents file a case to foil a relationship between two adolescents. 
  • Vijaylakshmi vs State Rep case2021
    • The Madras High Court, while dismissing a POCSO case, said the definition of ‘child’ under Section 2(d) of the POCSO Act can be redefined as 16 instead of 18.
    • The court suggested that the age difference in consensual relationships should not be more than five years
    • This will ensure that a girl of an impressionable age is not taken advantage of by “a person who is much older.”
  • Why Girls Run Away To Marry – Adolescent Realities and Socio-Legal Responses in India
    • A study published by Partners for Law in Development in 2019.
    • It made a case for the age of consent to be lower than the age of marriage to decriminalise sex among older adolescents to protect them from the misuse of law, sometimes by parents who want to control who their daughters or sons want to marry. 
    • The study noted that in many cases, a couple elopes fearing opposition from parents resulting in a situation where families file a case with the police, who then book the boy for rape under the POCSO Act and abduction with the intent to marry under IPC or the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Way Ahead

  • The government needs to look into the issue with the courts and rights activists seeking amendment to the age of consent criteria.
  • Awareness about Laws: 
    • In the meantime, adolescents have to be made aware of the stringent provisions of the POCSO Act and also the IPC.
    • Even as activists are calling for a tweak to the POCSO Act, and raising awareness about its terms.
  • Evaluation of Increasing Minimum Age of Marriage: 
    • A parliamentary committee is looking into the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which seeks to increase the minimum age of marriage for women to 21 years. 
    • Rights activists feel instead of helping the community, raising the age may force vulnerable women to remain under the yoke of family and social pressures.

India-Russia Bilateral Talks

In News

  • India’s External Affairs Minister recently held wide-ranging talks with his Russian counterpart.

More about the news

  • On the Ukraine conflict:
    • Indian Minister stated that the Ukraine conflict was a dominant feature in his discussions with the Russian Foreign Minister.
    • Interdependence of economies:
      • He also stated that the global economy is too interdependent not to be impacted by a significant conflict and the Global South is feeling “this pain very acutely”, especially after two years of the pandemic.
    • Global South:
      • The Global South refers to the developing and less developed countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
    • Dialogue and diplomacy:
      • India “strongly advocates a return to dialogue and diplomacy” and is on the side of “peace, respect for international law and support for the UN Charter”.
      • He even offered help in issues including food grains and fertiliser shipments, and support for any initiative that de-risks the global economy.
  • Russian Oil:
    • On buying cheap Russian oil, he made it clear that India will continue with the purchases to cater to the needs of its consumers.
  • Trade:
    • Indian Minister expressed concern about the trade imbalance and also urged Russia to address impediments that stand in the way of greater Indian exports.
    • They talked about cooperation in the area of logistics and transportation, including the International North-South Transport Corridor, high-tech and nuclear.
    • Promotion of inter-regional cooperation has been a key priority for India, particularly with the Russian Far East.
  • Defence Cooperation:
    • Both ministers had a detailed discussion on the prospects in military and technical cooperation including joint production of weaponry.

India-Russia Relations

  • India and Russia have a history of strong strategic, military, economic, and diplomatic relationships.
  • Political Relations:
    • The Annual Summit meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between India and Russia. 
    • So far 20 Annual Summit meetings have taken place alternatively in India and Russia. 
  • Intergovernmental Commissions: 
    • There is regular high-level interaction between the two countries.
    • The IRIGC (India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission): 
      • It is the main body that conducts affairs at the governmental level between both countries. Both countries are members of international bodies including the UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO.
    • Two Inter-Governmental Commissions: 
      • One on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), co-chaired by EAM and the Russian DPM, and 
      • Another on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC) co-chaired by Russian and Indian Defence Ministers, meet annually.
  • Trade and Economic Relations: 
    • Both sides revised targets of increasing bilateral investment to US $50 billion and bilateral trade to US $30 billion by 2025. 
      • India’s merchandise imports from Russia include petroleum oil and other fuel items, fertilizers, coffee and tea, spices, nuclear reactors, and animal and vegetable fats, among others.
  • Nuclear Energy: 
    • Russia recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable non-proliferation record. 
    • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation. 
  • Space Cooperation: 
    • Both sides cooperate in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space.
  • Science & Technology: 
    • The Working Group on Science and Technology functioning under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP) and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme are the three main institutional mechanisms for bilateral Science and Technology cooperation.
  • Cultural Cooperation: 
    • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. 
    • There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda.
  • Defence and Security Cooperation:
    • India has longstanding and wide-ranging cooperation with Russia in the field of defence. 
    • BrahMos Missile System as well as the licensed production in India of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks are examples of such flagship cooperation.
    • Both sides concluded agreements on the supply of S-400 air defence systems, construction of frigates under Project 1135.6 and shareholders agreement on the formation of a joint venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopters in India.
    • The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces annually termed INDRA.
About the Far EastIt is the easternmost part of Russia. It borders two oceans, the Pacific and the Arctic, and five countries (China, Japan, Mongolia, the United States and the DPRK).It is rich in natural resources like diamonds, stannary, borax materials, 50 gold, tungsten, and fish and seafood. About 1/3 of all coal reserves and hydro-engineering resources of the country are here. In 2019 India announced a commitment to an “Act Far-East” policy. This policy is an important part of a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia.India has also made significant investments in the Russian far east in the fields of pharmaceuticals and diamonds.International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)The legal framework for the INSTC is provided by a trilateral agreement signed by India, Iran and Russia at the Euro-Asian Conference on Transport in 2000Aim: To reduce the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30% and reduce the transit time from 40 days by more than half.The corridor is expected to consolidate the emerging Eurasian Free Trade Area.Connectivity & Length:It is a 7,200-km multi-modal transport corridor that combines road, rail and maritime routes connecting Russia and India via Central Asia and Iran. It links the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea via the Persian Gulf onwards into Russia and Northern Europe.It offers the shortest connectivity route between India and Russia.

Mother Tongue Survey of India

In News

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs recently completed the Mother Tongue Survey of India (MTSI) with a field video of the country’s 576 languages.
    • The NIC and the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) will be documenting and preserving the linguistic data of the surveyed mother tongues in audio-video files.

What is the MTSI?

  • The Mother Tongue Survey of India is a project that surveys the mother tongues which are returned consistently across two and more Census decades.
    • It also documents the linguistic features of the selected languages.
  • The category “mother tongue” is a designation provided by the respondent, but it need not be identical with the actual linguistic medium. 

How many mother tongues are spoken in India?

  • According to the 2011 linguistic census data released in 2018, there are more than 19,500 languages and dialects spoken as mother tongues in India.  
    • These 19,500 languages were further grouped into 121 categories of mother tongue after linguistic scrutiny and rationalising.
  • According to the 2011 linguistic census, Hindi is the most widely spoken mother tongue, with 52.8 crore people or 43.6 percent of the population declaring it as the mother tongue.
    • Following that 8 percent of the population spoke Bengali, making it the country’s second most popular mother tongue

What is the Linguistic Survey of India?

  • The Linguistic Survey of India (LSI) is a regular research activity in the country since the 6th Five Year Plan.
  • The primary objective of the present Linguistic Survey of India is to present an updated linguistic scenario.
    • It further aims to provide necessary inputs to the social/educational planners in respective States for their planning to attain the envisaged goals.

Where does the mother tongue feature in the education of children?

  • Under the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 the focus is on promoting mother tongue and regional languages.
  • The new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for the foundational stages of education has recommended that mother tongue should be the primary medium of instruction in schools for children up to eight years of age.
    • Since children learn concepts most rapidly and deeply in their home language, the primary medium of instruction would optimally be the child’s mother tongue in the Foundational Stage.  

Status of the population census

  • The forthcoming decennial population census will be the 16th since the first exercise was conducted in 1872.
    • It will be the eighth census since independence.
  • The census was supposed to take place in 2021, but was postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Home Ministry has adopted some new initiatives, which include digital data processing and the use of geospatial technology.
    • Pre-census mapping activities like preparation and updation of maps that show administrative units will be carried out.
    • Census results will be disseminated via web-based interactive maps.
    • Jurisdictional changes that occurred in the country after Census 2011 till 2019 have been updated in the geo-referenced database and more than 6 lakh maps have been prepared and uploaded for census functionaries. 

India’s First Privately developed Launch Vehicle: Vikram-S

In News 

  • Hyderabad-based Skyroot’s Vikram-S is all set to make its maiden flight from the country’s only spaceport in Sriharikota making it India’s first privately developed launch vehicle.
    • The mission is code named ‘Prarambh’. 

About the Prarambh mission

  • It will mark the beginning of private sector launches in India.
    • The development of privately built rockets and satellites received a boost especially after the finance minister opened the space sector to private participation in 2020.
    • Skyroot will be the first private company to launch its rocket.
  • Other companies and missions:
    • Agnikul Cosmos tested its semi-cryogenic Agnilet engine.
    • ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV) is also likely to be manufactured and operated by private players soon.
  • Private satellite missions launches by ISRO:
    • ISRO’s heaviest launch vehicle Mark III launched 36 OneWeb satellites (India’s Bharti is a stakeholder).
    • ISRO will be launching another fleet of 36 satellites for the company as well. 
    • The space agency has also launched at least four satellites made by students. 

Vikram-S rocket

  • It is a single-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle.
  • It will carry three customer payloads in a sub-orbital flight. Among the three payloads is a 2.5kg satellite of another space startup, Space Kidz India, which has been built by students from India, the US and Indonesia. 
    • Sub-orbital flight are those vehicles which are travelling slower than the orbital velocity, meaning it is fast enough to reach outer space but not fast enough to stay in an orbit around the Earth.
    • It is roughly defined as a distance of more than 80 km from the Earth’s mean sea level.
    • Examples: the ones undertaken by Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. 
  • It will help test and validate technologies in the Vikram series space launch vehicles. 
    • The company is designing three Vikram rockets that will use various solid and cryogenic fuels to carry between 290 kg and 560 kg payloads to sun-synchronous polar orbits.
      • Vikram-I can carry 480 kilograms of payload to Low Earth Orbit. It will be powered by a Kalam-100 rocket. 
      • Vikram-II is equipped to lift off with 595 kilograms of cargo. 
      • Vikram-III can launch with 815 kg to 500 km Low Inclination Orbit.
    • In comparison, India’s PSLV can carry up to 1,750kg to such an orbit while the newly-developed small satellite launch vehicle meant for carrying smaller commercial satellites can carry up to 300 kg to sun-synchronous orbit.
  • Tribute to Vikram Sarabhai
    • Skyroot’s launch vehicles are named ‘Vikram’ as a tribute to the founder of the Indian space programme and renowned scientist Vikram Sarabhai.  

Significance of privatization of space sector

  • Higher autonomy: private companies have a greater degree of autonomy in making decisions, which enables them to take up new projects.
  • Quick decision making: There is quick decision making in private companies while the same process in a public enterprise would have to pass through a number of stages.
  • Low costs: It has allowed companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, etc. to cut their costs substantially and perform operations like launching a rocket to ISS at merely $57 million per seat as compared to $80 million per seat if aboard a Russian shuttle and $450 million each mission before NASA ended its space shuttle program. 
    • Making reusable landing rocket launchers, improvements in assembly lines and other such operations further ensure lower costs.
  • Better employment opportunities: The growth in the space industry also provides employment to millions all over the world, and the rise in the number of private space companies promotes competition amongst them and encourages constant improvements and advancements.
  • Creating widespread interest: The publicity of their operations, like live streaming launches, has sparked widespread interest in space exploration among the general public.
SkyrootThe company is based in Hyderabad.It builds state-of-the-art space launch vehicles for launching commercial satellites to space.It aims to disrupt entry barriers to cost-efficient satellite launch services and space-flight by advancing its mission to make space flights affordable, reliable and regular for all. 


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