1. THE QUESTION OF ENFORCEMENT DIRECTORATE (ED) TENURE
TAGS: GS 2: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE; PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
CONTEXT: Supreme Court said it might revisit its 2021 ruling that the tenure of a superannuated officer may be extended only in exceptional circumstances. The Supreme Court will decide whether the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and the Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, which allow the Union to extend the tenure of the ED Directors, are unconstitutional.
- The Directorate of Enforcement was established in the year 1956 with its headquarters in New Delhi. The Directorate is under the administrative control of the Department of Revenue for operational purposes.
- The Directorate of Enforcement is a multi-disciplinary organization mandated with the investigation of the offence of money laundering and violations of foreign exchange laws.
- It is responsible for the enforcement of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and certain provisions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
- The policy aspects of the FEMA, its legislation and its amendments are within the purview of the Department of Economic Affairs. Policy issues pertaining to PML Act, however, are the responsibility of the Department of Revenue.
- Before FEMA became effective (1 June 2000), the Directorate enforced regulations under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, of 1973.
Tenure of Director of Enforcement:
- In November 2021, the President of India promulgated ordinances allowing the Centre to extend the tenures of the directorsof the Enforcement Directorate from two years to up to five years.
- TheDelhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946 have been amended to give the government the power to keep the chief in post for one year after they have completed their two-year terms.
- The Chief of the Central Agency currently has a fixed two-year tenure, butcan now be given three annual extensions.
- However, no further extension can be granted after the completion of a period of five years in total including the period mentioned in the initial appointment.
Structure of Directorate of Enforcement:
- The Directorate of Enforcement, with its headquarters in New Delhi, is headed by the Director of Enforcement.
- This agency is a part of the Revenue Department, Ministry of Finance.
- Five regional offices are in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, and Delhi. These offices are headed by Special Directors of Enforcement.
- Its zonal offices are in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Patna, Srinagar, Panaji, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kochi, Chennai, Jaipur, Jalandhar, and Kolkata. These offices are headed by Joint Director.
- Its sub-zonal offices are in Bhuvneshwar, Kozhikode, Indore, Madurai, Nagpur, Surat, Allahabad, Raipur, Ranchi, Dehradun, and Shimla. These offices are headed by Deputy Director.
- Recruitment of the officers is done by pooling officers from other Investigation Agencies. So, it comprises officers of IRS (Indian Revenue Services), IPS (Indian Police Services) and IAS (Indian Administrative Services) such as Income Tax officers, Excise officers, Customs officers, and Police.
- To collect, develop and disseminate intelligence relating to violations of FEMA, 1999, the intelligence inputs are received from various sources such as Central and State Intelligence agencies, complaints etc.
- To investigate suspected violations of the provisions of the FEMA, 1999 relating to activities such as “hawala” foreign exchange racketeering, non-realization of export proceeds, non-repatriation of foreign exchange and other forms of violations under FEMA, 1999.
- To adjudicate cases of violations of the erstwhile FERA, 1973 and FEMA, 1999.
- To realize penalties imposed on the conclusion of adjudication proceedings.
- To handle adjudication, appeals and prosecution cases under the erstwhile FERA, 1973.
- To process and recommend cases for preventive detention under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA).
- To undertake survey, search, seizure, arrest, prosecution action etc. against offender of PMLA offence.
- To provide and seek mutual legal assistance to/from contracting states in respect of attachment/confiscation of proceeds of crime as well as in respect of transfer of accused persons under PMLA.
The statutory functions of the Directorate include the enforcement of the following Acts:
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA):It is a criminal law enacted to prevent money laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from, or involved in, money laundering and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. ED has been given the responsibility to enforce the provisions of the PMLA by conducting an investigation to trace the assets derived from proceeds of crime, to provisionally attach the property and to ensure prosecution of the offenders and confiscation of the property by the Special court.
- The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA): It is a civil law enacted to consolidate and amend the laws relating to facilitating external trade and payments and to promote the orderly development and maintenance of the foreign exchange market in India. ED has been given the responsibility to conduct an investigation into suspected contraventions of foreign exchange laws and regulations, and to adjudicate and impose penalties on those adjudged to have contravened the law.
- The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 (FEOA):This law was enacted to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. It is a law whereby the Directorate is mandated to attach the properties of fugitive economic offenders who have escaped from India warranting arrest and provide for the confiscation of their properties to the Central Government.
- The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973 (FERA):The main functions under the repealed FERA are to adjudicate the Show Cause Notices issued under the said Act upto 31.5.2002 for the alleged contraventions of the Act which may result in the imposition of penalties and to pursue prosecutions launched under the FERA in the concerned courts.
- Sponsoring agency under COFEPOSA:Under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 (COFEPOSA), this Directorate is empowered to sponsor cases of preventive detention with regard to contraventions of FEMA.
2. ‘i-DRONE’ (Drone Response and Outreach for North East) Initiative
TAGS: PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
CONTEXT: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) successfully conducted a trial run of the delivery of blood bags by drones under its i-Drone initiative. The trial run, as part of a pathbreaking validation study, has been undertaken for the first time in the country by the ICMR; Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC); Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS), Greater Noida; and the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology (JIIT), Noida.
- The vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of expanding the drone ecosystem in India has provided a ground for the innovative use of drones in various sectors such as agriculture, defence, disaster relief and healthcare.
- With the relaxations in the Drone Rules 2022, the inclusion of novel technologies such as drones in these sectors has been eased for researchers and drone operators.
- Leveraging upon the recent liberal regulation policies in India for low-altitude airspace for drones, the current feasibility study paved the path for using unmanned drones for the delivery of life-saving medical supplies in austere environments in future.
- The project ‘i-DRONE’ (Drone Response and Outreach for North East) assessed the feasibility of using drones to deliver vaccines and medical supplies. This was carried out in difficult geographical terrains including land, island, foothills and across hills.
- Regulators of the initiative include the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and the State Health Authorities of Nagaland and Manipur.
- This ‘i-DRONE’ was first used during the Covid-19 pandemic by the ICMR for distributing vaccines to unreachable areas.
- The medical supplies delivered under the i-Drone project included COVID-19 vaccines, vaccines used in routine immunisation programs, antenatal care medicines, multi-vitamins, syringes and gloves.
- The drone delivery system focused on an end-to-end ecosystem for drone-based logistic transportation within the states and was the first successful example of delivering vaccines through drones from land to islands in South Asia.
- The aforementioned operations connected the district hospitals to the community and primary health care centres in the study districts.
- The longest drone flight under this project carried 3525 units of medical supplies from Mokokchung to the district Tuensang in Nagaland (approx. 40 km).
- Latest development in the iDrone initiative is transportation of blood and blood related products which can be done by maintaining a low temperature to avoid any damage to the products.
3. MODEL PRISONS ACT 2023
TAGS: GS 2: PRISON REFORMS
CONTEXT: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has prepared the ‘Model Prisons Act 2023’ which will replace a British-era law to overhaul the prison administration that will focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
- Prisons in the country and ‘persons detained therein’ are a state subject and the existing law in this context, the Prisons Act of 1894 is a pre-independence era Act and is almost 130 years old.
- Two other related laws The Prisoners Act, 1900 and The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950 are also decades-old. The existing Act mainly focuses on keeping criminals in custody and enforcement of discipline and order in prisons. There is no provision for the reform and rehabilitation of prisoners in the existing Act.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs hence, directed the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), a Union government think tank on policing subjects, to review the laws and prepare a new draft.
- The Centre has finalised a comprehensive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ to replace the pre-independence era ‘Prisons Act, 1894’ which mainly focused on keeping criminals in custody and enforcing discipline and order in prisons.
- Under the new Act, prisons will be viewed as reformative and correctional institutions, with a focus on transforming and rehabilitating inmates back into society as law-abiding citizens.
- It aims to address the gaps in the existing Prisons Act by providing guidance on the use of technology in prison management, making provisions for parole, furlough, and remission to prisoners to encourage good conduct, special provisions for women and transgender inmates, and a focus on the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
The salient features of the Model Act:
- Provisions of punishment for prisoners and jail staﬀ for use of prohibited items such as mobile phones in jails.
- Establishment and management of high-security jails, open jails (open and semi-open).
- Provisions for protecting society from the criminal activities of hardened criminals and habitual offenders.
- Provisions for providing legal aid to prisoners, parole, furlough and premature release to incentivize good conduct.
- Provision for security assessment and segregation of prisoners, individual sentence planning, grievance redressal, the establishment of a prison development board, and a focus on the physical and mental well-being of prisoners.
- Provisions for the use of technology in prison administration, such as video conferencing with courts and scientific and technological interventions in prisons.
- Act focuses on vocational training and skill development of prisoners to facilitate their reintegration into society.
- Provision for individual sentence planning; grievance redressal, prison development board, attitudinal change towards prisoners and provision of separate accommodation for women prisoners, transgender, etc.
4. UNITED NATIONS FORUM ON FORESTS (UNFF)
TAGS: GS III: ENVIRONMENT; PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
CONTEXT: The eighteenth session of UNFF18, held from May 8-12, 2023, in New York, discussed the contributions of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) to energy, livelihoods and the SDGs. Discussions on integrated policies on SFM and energy to meet the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) took centre stage. The 18th session of the UN Forum on Forests (8 -12 May, CR4) reviewed progress towards the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 and its six Global Forest Goals, and discuss its work on capacity development, forest financing, monitoring, assessment and reporting, enhanced cooperation and coordination, regional collaboration, communication and outreach, and stakeholder engagement.
United Nations Forum on Forests:
- It has been established in October 2000 by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
- It is a subsidiary body with the main objective to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end, based on the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key milestones of international forest policy.
- The Forum has universal membership and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialized agencies.
- It is serviced by a compact Secretariat, which is responsible for logistic preparations for UNFF-related meetings, timely preparation and dissemination of documents, as well as servicing meetings of the UNFF and its Bureau.
- The Secretariat also serves as the Secretariat for the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and facilitates UNFF inter-sessional activities, such as expert group meetings and country-led initiatives.
UNFF18 (8 to 12 May 2023, UNHQ, New York):
- The sustainable management of the world’s forests takes centre stage at the United Nations Headquarters in New York at the UN Forum on Forests on 8-12 May 2023.
- Officials from UN Member States, the UN system, and international and regional organizations, will gather to discuss this critical planetary resource.
- According to a background paper, concurrently, there is growing recognition of the need to halt deforestation and tap into the potential of forests to address many of the socio-economic challenges in the light of the increased level of inequality and poverty around the world and issues related to food and energy insecurity, as well as increased prices of foods and goods.
- It is expected to include an interactive exchange of experiences and lessons learned on thematic priorities among Members of the UNFF, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) and its member organizations, regional and subregional organizations and processes, and major groups and other relevant stakeholders.
- Besides, the interactive exchanges are expected to include consideration of the science-policy interface and cross-sectoral and emerging issues and will take into account youth, gender and region perspectives. The main outcome of UNFF18 will be a chair’s summary of the discussions, including possible proposals for consideration at UNFF19.
In view of this, five crucial issues underlined the importance of this 18th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF18):
- Forests are essential to life on Earth: Forests cover 31 per cent of the Earth’s land area, contain over 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and store more carbon than the atmosphere.
- They support our well-being and livelihood: More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, employment and income. Some 2 billion people, roughly one-third of the world’s population and two-thirds of households in Africa, still depend on wood fuel for cooking and heating.
- Healthy forests support healthy people: Forests and trees provide clean air and water and sustain us regardless of where we live. Zoonotic diseases account for 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases, and they usually occur when natural landscapes, such as forests, are cleared. Restoring forests and planting trees is an essential part of an integrated one health approach for people, species and the planet.
- Forests continue to be at risk: Every year, we continue to lose 10 million hectares of forests, an area roughly the size of the Republic of Korea. The world’s forests are at risk from illegal or unsustainable logging, forest fires, pollution, disease, pests, fragmentation and the impacts of climate change, including severe storms and other weather events.
- Restoring forests holds the key to a sustainable future: It is estimated that two billion hectares of degraded land worldwide have the potential to be restored. Revitalizing degraded forests is critical for meeting the UN target of increasing global forest area by 3 per cent by 2030. Doing so would also help countries to create new jobs, prevent soil erosion, protect watersheds, mitigate climate change, and safeguard biodiversity.
The thematic priorities for UNFF18 are:
- Enhancing forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits.
- Increase significantly the area of protected forests worldwide and other areas of sustainably managed forests, as well as the proportion of forest products from sustainably managed forests.
- Mobilizing financial resources and strengthening scientific and technical cooperation promoting governance frameworks to advance implementation.
- Enhancing cooperation, coordination and coherence, for Sustainable Forest Management.
UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030
- On 27 April 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted the first ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030.
- The Strategic Plan provides a global framework for actions at all levels to sustainably manage all types of forests and trees outside forests and halt deforestation and forest degradation.
- At the heart of the Strategic Plan are the six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets to be achieved by 2030, which are voluntary and universal.
- They support the objectives of the International Arrangement on Forests and aim to contribute to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international forest-related instruments, processes, commitments and goals.
5. INDIAN OCEAN CONFERENCE
TAGS: GS 2: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
CONTEXT: Two-day Indian Ocean Conference with the theme ‘Peace Prosperity and Partnership for a Resilient Future’ held in Dhaka, Bangladesh to discuss cooperation between the countries of the Indian Ocean region. Improving and enhancing connectivity should be the priority of the countries in the Indian Ocean region.
Indian Ocean Conference:
- It is a flagship consultative forum of the Indian Ocean countries to deliberate upon the prospects of regional cooperation for Security and Growth for All in Region (SAGAR).
- This process began in 2016. More than 150 participants from 25 countries participated in the conference.
- It is an annual event to bring together Heads of State/Governments, Ministers, Thought Leaders, scholars, diplomats, bureaucrats and practitioners from across the region to discuss aspects of strengthening cooperation between the countries of the Indian Ocean region.
6th Indian Ocean Conference:
- The conference was organized by the Indian Foundation, supported by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Bangladesh government.
- The theme of the conference was “Peace, Prosperity, and Partnership for a Resilient Future.”
Indian Foreign Minister highlighted:
- Member countries believe that a seamless transition into an Indo-Pacific is to their collective advantage and the Indian Ocean forms one of the core constituents of the Indo-Pacific and has the potential to shape the narrative for the entire region. India has a close association with dedicated bodies like the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, which have their specific mandates.
- India’s policies are based on Neighbourhood First, Extended Neighbourhood and Security and Growth for All in Region (SAGAR). Despite India’s links with the West and Europe, it remains committed to its neighbours.
- India’s perspective for efficient and effective connectivity to ASEAN will be “a game-changer.” This aspect must be accorded priority and put in place the bilateral, plurilateral and regional tools and mechanisms to achieve their ends.
- It is essential for the credibility of the global order that foundational regimes such as the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) are respected and scrupulously observed by all signatories.
- Nations in the region must be conscious of the threats to the social fabric posed by extremism and fundamentalism taking advantage of democratic openness and global challenges like climate change and terrorism.
SAGAR or ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region’
- The vision of SAGAR or ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ was introduced in 2015 to focus on cooperative measures for sustainable use of the oceans.
- The mission also provides a framework for a safe, secure, and stable maritime domain in the region with the vision of marine security, maritime commons, and cooperation for nations’ security and economic aspirations.
- The vision is important for the country to leverage the blue economy. The blue economy offers India a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve its national socioeconomic goals (job creation, energy security, environmental resilience, and so on) while also improving connections with its neighbours.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- The convention is sometimes referred to as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty and was adopted in 1982.
- It lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources.
- It contains, among other things, provisions relating to the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone and the high seas. It also provides for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, for marine scientific research and for the development and transfer of marine technology.
- One of the most important parts of the Convention concerns the exploration for and exploitation of the resources of the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (the Area).
- The Convention declares the Area and its resources to be “the common heritage of mankind”. The International Seabed Authority, established by the Convention, administers the resources of the Area.