Current Affairs Current Affairs - 09 July 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 09 July 2018

General Affairs 

Air Force Spent 29 Crore To Ferry Currency After Notes Ban: RTI
  • Over Rs. 29.41 crore was spent on using the Indian Air Force's ultra-modern transport aircraft - the C-17 and the C-130J Super Hercules - to ferry the newly-issued Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 500 currency notes post-demonetisation, according to an RTI reply.
    The move to scrap the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016, and saw 86 per cent of currency being sucked out of the system, needing an urgent operation to replenish it with the new Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 500 notes issued after demonetisation.

    According to the response provided by the IAF, its frontline transport aircraft, the C-17 and the C-130J Super Hercules, undertook 91 sorties to transport bundles of currency from security printing presses and mints to various destinations across the country after the Rs. 1,000 and the Rs. 500 notes were demonetised by the government in a sudden move on November 8, 2016.

    As on November 8, 2016, there were 1,716.5 crore pieces of Rs. 500 and 685.8 crore pieces of Rs. 1,000 notes in circulation, totalling Rs. 15.44 lakh crore, about 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation, according to RBI and government data.

    In its RTI response to Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), the IAF said it has billed the government-owned Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India and the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Ltd to the tune of Rs. 29.41 crore for its services.

     "I am of the opinion that the government should have avoided using defence assets and instead could have easily requisitioned the services of civil transport aircraft," Mr Batra told PTI.

    This situation could have been avoided, had the government fully prepared itself before making the announcement to demonetise currency notes of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 on November 8, 2016, he said.

    Post-demonetisation, the RBI had spent Rs. 7,965 crore in 2016-17 on printing the new Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 notes, and those of other denomination, more than double the Rs. 3,421 crore it had spent in the previous year.

    The demonetisation was hailed as a step that would curb black money, corruption and check counterfeit currency, but the RBI, in its annual report for 2017, had said just 7.1 pieces of Rs. 500 note per million in circulation and 19.1 pieces of Rs. 1,000 notes per million in circulation were found to be fake in its sample survey.

    The Bankers' Bank had said that as much as 99 per cent of the junked Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes had returned to the banking system, which had prompted the opposition to question the efficacy of the government's unprecedented note ban decision to curb black money and corruption.

    Following the note ban, old notes were allowed to be deposited in banks, with unusual deposits coming under the Income Tax department's scrutiny.

    A collateral damage as a result of rise in printing and other cost was dividend RBI pays to the government.

    The RBI had said its income for 2016-17 decreased by 23.56 per cent while expenditure jumped 107.84 per cent.

Nitish Kumar's Party To Contest 4 State Polls On Its Own, Not With BJP
  • Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said his party will take a final call on seat sharing in the state for 2019 general elections after seeing what the BJP has to offer. Mr Kumar's party is seen as growing apart from the BJP over seat sharing and his projection as the face of the NDA in the state in next year's Lok Sabha elections. His party today issued a carefully crafted statement after a strategy session during its crucial executive meet.
    "We aren't helping or supporting or opposing the BJP. The Janata Dal United will fight elections in four states on its own," senior party leader KC Tyagi told reporters. "We fought in Gujarat, in Nagaland, in Karnataka on limited seats... We carry the political agenda of our party," he added.

    In his address at a closed-door meeting, Mr  Kumar said all efforts to "eliminate and isolate our party will end up in isolation of those forces trying to do so", a party leader said.

    The JD(U), an ally of the NDA, is seen as being increasingly disappointed by the BJP stance since Mr Kumar formed the alliance last July after breaking ties with the Congress and Lalu Yadav's party.

    There has not been any positive response from the Centre on special economic status for the state, which has been a key objective of Mr Kumar for the voters back home. The party has also been snubbed in terms of cabinet seats in PM Modi's last reshuffle.

    Seat sharing will be a key issue for the JD(U). Ahead of the executive meeting, Mr Tyagi was reported as saying that it would be "a big brother in seat sharing for 2019 polls in Bihar".

    But senior BJP leaders like Giriraj Singh, who is also a Central minister, and BJP general secretary Rajendra Singh had hinted that Mr Kumar is not indispensable. Mr Singh had indicated that even without the JD(U), the BJP-led alliance was capable of contesting Bihar's 40 Lok Sabha seats and ending up winning three-fourth.

    Sources have said the JD(U) leadership has conveyed to the BJP that they are not willing to settle for fewer seats.

Drug Menace Haunts Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's Goverment
  • Punjab's drug menace, which Chief Minister Captain (Retd) Amarinder Singh had sworn by the holy Gutka Sahib to wipe out within four weeks of coming to power, has come to haunt his government with reports suggesting a surge in the deaths of addicts.

    The 16-month Congress government in Punjab is in a spot after a spate of deaths, allegedly due to drug overdose or the use of adulterated heroin.

    The apparent surge in such cases comes at a time when the government is implementing an ambitious mission called 'Tandrust Punjab', meant to improve the people's physical and mental health by taking care of the state's air, water and food quality.

    Wary of a public backlash if it fails to tackle the menace ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the state Cabinet recently recommended to the Centre to allow death penalty for drug peddlers and smugglers, a move some activists dubbed a "knee-jerk" reaction.

    Under immense pressure from social activists and the opposition parties, the state government also announced mandatory dope tests for all government employees.

    This angered them and also triggered a political slugfest with the main opposition Aam Aadmi Party daring the chief minister to set an example by coming forward to take the test himself.

    However, Shiromani Akali Dal, whose previous coalition government was accused of patronizing the drug mafia, has urged people to rise above political affiliations and fight a "comprehensive war" against a common enemy.

    According to reports, about 20 people died last month in Punjab because of drug overdose although the state health department has confirmed only two such deaths.

    Some videos purportedly showing addicts dying of drug overdose have also surfaced on social media, adding to the pressure on Captain Singh.

    But the state government claims it is acting effectively against the problem.

    A special task force formed by Captain Singh soon after coming to power claimed to have choked the supply of drugs, especially heroin, to the state.

    It is argued that it is this "shortage" that has forced addicts to consume adulterated drugs, which was leading to the deaths.

    "The intensive action plan unfolded and executed by us over a year has resulted in the arrest of 18,977 drug peddlers and the treatment of more than two lakh drug victims," Captain Singh has said.

    But the opposition parties blame the "nexus" between the police and drug peddlers for the problem and accuse the state government of failing to deal with it.

    "The investigation into the recent drugs-related deaths should be handed over to a high court-monitored CBI team so that a fair and proper inquiry is conducted," said an AAP leader.

    A study by the premier medical institute PGIMER reported last September that an estimated 2.70 lakh people in Punjab are addicted to drugs like include opium, heroin, poppy husk and synthetic drugs.

    RS Ghuman, Professor of Economics at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), said the "deceleration" of the economy and unemployment were the main factors driving the youth to drugs.

    Professor Ghuman, who is carrying out a study on drug abuse in northwest India, stressed on smashing the "nexus" between the police and drug peddlers at the village level.

    The problem cannot be addressed unless the youths are gainfully employed and a serious effort made to boost economic growth, he said.

    Noted economist and Padma Bhushan awardee Sardara Singh Johal has asked youths to form groups to stop the supply of drugs into their villages, saying the state government could not do it alone.

    "Sober youths should stand like a wall in their villages and prevent drug suppliers from selling any sort of intoxicant," said Mr Johal who supported a campaign called 'Black Week against Chitta (drugs)'.

    Punjab government has claimed to have arrested 18,977 drug peddlers and registered 16,305 cases from March 16, 2017 to June 24, 2018.

    Seizures during this period amounted to 378 kg heroin, 117 kg charas and 14 kg smack, along with varying quantities of other drugs, officials said.

    The government has also constituted a special working group to monitor on a day-to-day basis the action being taken to check drug abuse.

    Punjab has over 130 drug de-addiction centres and around 100 rehabilitation centres.

    An Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) programme was launched by the health department last year to provide outdoor healthcare to addicts.

    So far, over 8,000 patients have registered and are being treated. The total footfall at OOAT clinics has been recorded at 2,74,938, a health department official said.

    Death penalty, however, will not work, according to city-based human rights lawyer Navkiran Singh.

    "Death penalty is no solution to combat the drug problem," he said, calling it a mere knee-jerk reaction and reminding that government had not even called an all-party meeting on drug abuse in the state.

Foodgrain Output May Surpass Last Year's Level: Agricultural Secretary
  • India's foodgrain output could exceed last year's record of 279.51 million tonne (MT) buoyed by favourable monsoon, higher MSP and likely increase in crop productivity, an official said.

    Agriculture Secretary Shobhana Pattanayak exuded confidence that sowing, which is lagging behind so far, will pick up in the coming weeks with wide coverage of rainfall in all growing states.

    Moreover, farmers will now be enthused to bring more acreage on the back of sharp increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for all 14 kharif crops announced last week.

    The sowing area of kharif crops like paddy is currently lower than the last year because of deficit rains in some parts of the country, he added.

    Sowing of kharif crops begins from June with the onset of southwest monsoon and harvesting takes place from October onwards.

    "The shortfall in acreage will be made up in the coming weeks. We will definitely exceed last year's production," Mr Pattanayak told news agency PTI.

    This year's situation is "much better", and is not like what was witnessed in 2014-15 and 2015-16, he said.

    Till last week, area sown to all kharif crops was lagging behind by 14.17 per cent at 333.76 lakh hectare, as against 388.89 lakh hectare in the year-ago period, as per the ministry's data.

    Rice acreage was down 15 per cent at 67.25 lakh hectare as against 79.08 lakh hectare, while that of pulses by 20 per cent at 33.60 lakh hectare as against 41.67 lakh hectare in the said period.

    Even area under coarse cereals was down 13.45 per cent at 57.35 lakh hectare as against 66.27 lakh hectare, acreage of oilseeds was lower 13.42 per cent at 63.59 lakh hectare from 73.45 lakh hectare in the said period.

    Among cash crops, area sown to cotton was down 24 per cent at 54.60 lakh hectare till last week of the 2018-19 kharif season when compared with 71.82 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

    According to Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the overall rainfall till July 11 is likely to be normal to above normal over south Peninsular India and below normal over remaining parts of the country.

    From July 12 onwards for a week, the rainfall is very likely to increase over most parts of the country outside northeast and the adjoining east India, where it is likely to be below normal, it added.

    Southwest monsoon covered the entire country on June 29, two weeks earlier than the normal date.

Foodgrain Output May Surpass Last Year's Level: Agricultural Secretary
  • India's foodgrain output could exceed last year's record of 279.51 million tonne (MT) buoyed by favourable monsoon, higher MSP and likely increase in crop productivity, an official said.

    Agriculture Secretary Shobhana Pattanayak exuded confidence that sowing, which is lagging behind so far, will pick up in the coming weeks with wide coverage of rainfall in all growing states.

    Moreover, farmers will now be enthused to bring more acreage on the back of sharp increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for all 14 kharif crops announced last week.

    The sowing area of kharif crops like paddy is currently lower than the last year because of deficit rains in some parts of the country, he added.

    Sowing of kharif crops begins from June with the onset of southwest monsoon and harvesting takes place from October onwards.

    "The shortfall in acreage will be made up in the coming weeks. We will definitely exceed last year's production," Mr Pattanayak told news agency PTI.

    This year's situation is "much better", and is not like what was witnessed in 2014-15 and 2015-16, he said.

    Till last week, area sown to all kharif crops was lagging behind by 14.17 per cent at 333.76 lakh hectare, as against 388.89 lakh hectare in the year-ago period, as per the ministry's data.

    Rice acreage was down 15 per cent at 67.25 lakh hectare as against 79.08 lakh hectare, while that of pulses by 20 per cent at 33.60 lakh hectare as against 41.67 lakh hectare in the said period.

    Even area under coarse cereals was down 13.45 per cent at 57.35 lakh hectare as against 66.27 lakh hectare, acreage of oilseeds was lower 13.42 per cent at 63.59 lakh hectare from 73.45 lakh hectare in the said period.

    Among cash crops, area sown to cotton was down 24 per cent at 54.60 lakh hectare till last week of the 2018-19 kharif season when compared with 71.82 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

    According to Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the overall rainfall till July 11 is likely to be normal to above normal over south Peninsular India and below normal over remaining parts of the country.

    From July 12 onwards for a week, the rainfall is very likely to increase over most parts of the country outside northeast and the adjoining east India, where it is likely to be below normal, it added.

    Southwest monsoon covered the entire country on June 29, two weeks earlier than the normal date.

Business Affairs

Rupee may fall to 70/dollar mark this week, say bankers
  • Continued strengthening of the US dollar, lack of foreign investment inflows and concerns over rising oil prices are likely to keep the rupee under pressure and push it down to the 70 mark this week, said bankers.

    They added 69.30 remains a crucial level for the domestic currency, which if breached, could further plumb down to the 70 mark against the dollar.

    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), however, will not be comfortable with the currency touching 70 and would strongly defend the same, according to them.

    The rupee had touched an all-time low of 69.10 against the dollar on June 28. It closed at a lifetime low 68.95 on Thursday and 68.87 on Friday.

    "Concerns over widening current account deficit due to higher crude prices and demand for dollar from oil companies and general importers is impacting the rupee. It may briefly touch the 70 mark this week but would not remain there," said a senior bank official.

    Those companies who have to repay their external commercial borrowing (ECB) debt are also stocking up the US currency, a bank treasurer said.

    "The RBI won't allow the rupee to fall below 69.30. If it breaches this level, the rupee will touch the 70 level in no time," said another banker.

    The apex bank has always stated that it does not target any level of the domestic currency but intervenes in the foreign exchange (forex) market to check its volatility.

    The forex reserves at USD 406.058 billion as of June 29, gives RBI enough comfort to intervene in the forex market.

    Analysts said trade war between China and the US is putting pressure on all the Asian currencies, but rupee is the worst hit so far.

    Foreign portfolio inflows into the domestic equity market has also come down due to the worries over US-China trade war, said another banker.

    According to a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML), RBI rate hikes often hurt the rupee.

    The rupee has depreciated 1.9 per cent since the RBI's June 6 repo rate hike, with USD 2 billion of FPI outflows, it had said in the report.

    The brokerage said delay in FPI flows till, say December, may drive the rupee beyond 70 against the dollar and the RBI may issue NRI bonds.

    "We think the RBI may issue NRI bonds to raise USD 30-35 billion to comfort the forex market, if FPI flows do not revive by the December quarter," BofAML had said.

    If lack of FPI flows force the central bank to sell USD 20 billion, it would have to do open market operations (OMOs) worth USD 50 billion to contain lending rate hikes, the report had said.

GST Council may approve annual returns form on July 21; experts expect reconciliation with ITR
  • The format for annual returns and audit is likely to be approved by the GST Council in its meeting on July 21 and industry expects that there could be some reconciliation with annual IT returns as the government aims to check tax evasion.

    Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rolled out on July 1, 2017, and this is the first year when businesses will have to file annual returns (GSTR-9) for 2017-18 fiscal by December 31, 2018. Also those businesses with turnover of more than Rs 2 crore will have to file audit reports along with the annual returns.

    The revenue officers have prepared a draft of the annual returns form, which will be deliberated by the all powerful GST Council chaired by Union Finance Minister and comprising state finance ministers as members, in its meeting on July 21.

    The GST Network, which manages the IT backbone for the new indirect tax regime will thereafter finalise the software to enable businesses to file the returns.

    Tax experts said they expect the annual returns form to be in line with that in the erstwhile Value Added Tax (VAT) regime, with some columns for reconciliation with Income Tax returns and audit report. They expect the forms to be made available online by October, so that the returns could be filed within the December due date.

    Deloitte India Partner M S Mani said: "Considering the fact that the key objective of GST is to expand the tax base, it is expected that the GST annual return would require some information related to annual accounts and income tax returns, in addition to the details which were required to be submitted in the erstwhile VAT annual returns".

    They expect that in the VAT era, assessments were made on the basis of annual returns and the same process should be followed in the GST regime as well.

    Experts said the businesses might commit some error in the monthly returns filed and those could get corrected in the annual returns and hence assessment should be on the basis of annual returns.

    EY India Tax Partner Abhishek Jain said: "Given the first year of GST, the industry would expect the Annual Return format to be simple and if possible only require PAN based data reconciliation with the financials and not state wise or GSTIN wise data reconciliation with financials. The said demand essentially being on account of most company IT systems not being configured to extract state wise financials".

    Under the VAT regime, businesses were required to file returns in every state where they are registered and hence linking their annual returns with that of the same filed under IT returns was not feasible.

    AMRG & Associates Partner Rajat Mohan said: "Some of the Industry expectations are online forms with least manual intervention seeking selected information, clarity on the need for annual state-wise financial statements and finally, deferment of GST audits in the first year".

    But, with GST being PAN based registration, it would be easier to reconcile the sales and purchases with that reported in IT returns.

    As per the IT return forms notified by the income tax department, businesses filing ITR-4 (Presumptive Income From Business & Profession) will have to give information regarding turnover/gross receipt reported for GST as well as GST Identification Number (GSTIN). Besides, in ITR-6 which is to be filed by companies, businesses have to specify GST paid or refunded or credit outstanding.

    Over 1.14 crore businesses are registered under the GST regime. Of these, about 18 lakh businesses have opted for composition scheme.

Samsung expands manufacturing facility in Noida; to produce 120 million units annually
  • Samsung India has set up one of the world's largest mobile manufacturing facility at Sector 81 in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in who is on a visit to India will inaugurate the new 35-acre Samsung Electronics facility on Monday, news agency IANS reported today. Samsung currently manufactures over 60 million smartphones annually in India and with the new plant, it is expected to manufacture nearly 120 million mobile phones.

    Last year in June, the consumer electronics major had announced that it would invest Rs 4,915 crore to double its manufacturing capacity for smartphones and refrigerators at its Noida plant. In a statement issued then, the company had said: "The expansion of the plant on an additional 35 acres of land adjacent to the current facility will double the production capacity of both mobile phones and refrigerators."

    Samsung has two manufacturing plants -- in Noida and in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu -- and five research and development centres in India. The company has one design centre in Noida with workforce of over 70,000 people. According to the report, Samsung's new facility will not only help in mobile manufacturing but also double its production capacity of consumer electronics like refrigerators and flat-panel televisions - which will further consolidate the company's leadership in these segments.

    Samsung's Noida plant was set up in 1996 and is the first of two manufacturing units in India. The plant started with the manufacture of televisions way back in 1997, and mobile phone manufacturing unit was added in 2005. By 2012, Samsung became the market leader in mobile phones in the country and the Noida facility rolled out the first-ever 'Galaxy S3' device.

    As a result of the latest investment in the Noida factory, the production capacity of smartphones is expected to rise to 12 million units a month from the existing 5 million. The capacity for refrigerators would double to 3 million units per annum against 1.5 million at present.

    While announcing the investment last year, the company had said that it would position the Noida plant as a major production hub and create about 5,000 new jobs. "The investment reaffirms Samsungs commitment to Make- in-India and Make-for-India and to the state of Uttar Pradesh," Samsung India had said in a statement.

Ministerial group to recommend deferring sops for digital payments under GST
  • The Sushil Modi-led ministerial panel will recommend to the GST Council to defer by a year the proposal to incentivise digital payments under GST, citing revenue implications of doling out concessional tax rate.

    The panel, in its meeting today, has decided to wait for stabilisation of revenues under Goods and Services Tax and the new return filing systems in the current fiscal before considering differential GST rates for people making payments using the digital mode.

    Besides, another ministerial panel under Modi, on Reverse Charge Mechanism has decided to recommend powers to the GST Council to notify the registered persons who would come under RCM purview.

    The meetings of the two Group of Ministers (GoM) were held here today.

    The recommendations of these ministerial panels will be placed before the GST Council, chaired by Union Finance Minister and comprising his state counterparts, in its next meeting on July 21.

    Modi said the GoM on digital transaction has decided that this is not an opportune moment to incentivise digital payments as it will have revenue implication. "Let returns and GST revenues stabilise, then we can think about incentivising digital transaction".

    "The GoM will be recommending to the Council that it may think about the proposal of incentivising digital transaction again after a year. The GoM is recommending deferring the proposal for a year," the Bihar deputy chief minister said.

    To incentivise digital transaction, the GST Council in its last meeting in May had discussed giving a concession of 2 per cent in GST rate (where the tax rate is 3 per cent or more) to consumers making payment through cheque or digital mode. The discount would be capped at Rs 100 per transaction.

    The five member GoM on incentivising digital transaction include Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitinbhai Patel, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, Haryana Excise & Taxation Minister Capt Abhimanyu and Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal.

    With regard to the decision on RCM, Modi said the GoM will recommend that the GST Council will decide on the class of registered persons who would be required to deposit taxes on reverse charge basis.

    "We have recommended omitting the present Section 9(4) and introducing a new Section 9(4) which will permit the government, on the recommendations of the GST Council, to notify specific class of registered persons, goods which would be covered under RCM provision," he added.

    The conditions and the date for levying of RCM will be decided by the council, Modi noted.

    Under the RCM in GST law, registered dealers are required to make tax payments in case they procure goods from unregistered businesses.

    Currently, RCM, which is touted as an anti-evasion measure, has been deferred till September 30.

    Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, and Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac, among others are a part of the GoM on RCM, which was constituted in March by the GST Council.

PNB's big wilful defaulters' dues fall to Rs 15,354 crore in June
  • Dues from big wilful defaulters of Punjab National Bank fell by 0.87 per cent to Rs 15,354.52 crore on June 30 compared to previous month, the bank data has showed.

    The data on big wilful defaulters is pertaining to those borrowers who took loan of Rs 25 lakh and above from the public sector lender.

    Such borrowers had an outstanding of Rs 15,490 crore at the end of May 2018.

    For financial year ended March 2018, the bank's balance sheet had closed with big wilful defaults owing Rs 15,171.91 crore.

    PNB suffered a standalone net loss of Rs 12,282.82 crore in 2017-18, as against a profit of Rs 1,324.80 crore in 2016-17.

    The major defaulters included Kudos Chemie Ltd - Rs 1301.82 crore; Kingfisher Airlines Rs 597.44 crore; Jas Infrastructure Rs 410.96 crore; VMC Systems Rs 296.08 crore; MBS Jswellers Rs 266.17 crore; Tulsi Extrusion Rs 175.41 crore and Arvind Remedies Rs 158.16 crore.

    Among others included ICSA (India) Ltd Rs 134.76 crore; Bhawani Industries Rs 106.66 crore; Indu Projects Rs 102.83 crore; BBF Industries Rs 101 crore. These borrowers took loan from PNB as part of a consortium lending from various banks.

    The defaulters who took loan solely from PNB were: Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery - Rs 899.70cr; Forever Precious Jewellery & Diamonds - Rs 747.97 crore; Zoom Developers - Rs 410.18 crore; Apple Industries Rs 248.34 crore; Mahua Media Pvt Ltd - Rs 104.86 crore and Shree Sidhbali Ispat Rs 165.98 crore.

    Among others were: Rupana Papers Rs 100.49 crore; Surya Vinayak Industries Rs 133.96 crore;Vishal Exports Overseas Rs 98.39 crore; Ramsarup Nirmaan Wires Rs 148.10 crore; Ramsarup Lohh Udyog Rs 129.34 crore; Rupana Papers Rs 100.49 crore and Rana Alloys Rs 78.90 crore.

    The banking sector, particularly state-owned lenders, is grappling with mounting non performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans as also a host of scams and frauds. NPAs in the banking sector stood at Rs 8.31 lakh crore as of December 2017.

    The total bad loan write-off by the public sector banks stood at over Rs 1.20 lakh crore in the last fiscal, with SBI bearing the burnt at Rs 40,196 crore, nearly 25 per cent of the total write-offs during 2017-18.

    This was followed by Canara Bank (Rs 8,310 crore), Punjab National Bank (Rs 7,407 crore) and Bank of Baroda (Rs 4,948 crore).

    Scam-hit PNB, which has suffered a fraud of Rs 14,357 crore allegedly carried out by celebrity jewellery designer Nirav Modi and his associates, witnessed a sharp deterioration in its asset quality with gross loans mounting to 18.38 per cent of gross advances at the end of March 2018, as against 12.53 per cent a year ago.

    Net NPAs were also soared to 11.24 per cent against 7.81 per cent year ago.

    In absolute terms, the gross NPAs of PNB surged to Rs 86,620 crore in the fourth quarter last fiscal as compared to Rs 55,370 crore in same quarter previous year. Similarly, the net NPA also rose to Rs 48,684.29 crore from Rs 32,702 crore at the end of March 2017.

General Awareness

    Chief Justice of India as ‘Master of Roster’
    • Context: The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the “master of the roster,” the Supreme Court has reaffirmed, declining to accept former law minister Shanti Bhushan’s suggestion that the CJI consult his collegium colleagues –the top four judges after him in seniority –in allocating cases to various benches.

      Supreme Court’s observations:

      Position of CJI: CJI is the master of roster in allocating cases to different benches and his power cannot be delegated to collegium comprising of CJI and four senior most judges. Although the constitution is silent on the CJI’s role as the master of the roster, his power is based on a healthy practice and “convention aimed at maintaining discipline and decorum.” He is described as “first among equals.”

      Moral responsibility of CJI: SC highlighted that the CJI owes a moral responsibility to his colleagues and the public at large while flexing his powers as ‘Master of Roster’ to allocate cases. “Absolute discretion” cannot be confined in just one man, the CJI.

      Qualities for a CJI: The court listed some of the qualities a CJI should possess as the Master of Roster, including balance, fortitude, moral courage and independence of mind. Also, as the court’s spokesperson, it is the CJI’s duty to usher in and administer reform as a continuous process.

      What does ‘master of the roster’ mean?

      ‘Master of the Roster’ refers to the privilege of the Chief Justice to constitute Benches to hear cases.
      This privilege was emphasised in November last year, when a Constitution Bench, led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, declared that “the Chief Justice is the master of the roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted.”
      It further said that “no Judge can take up the matter on this own, unless allocated by the Chief Justice of India, as he is the master of the roster.”
      The immediate trigger for this was a direction by a two-judge Bench that a petition regarding a medical college corruption case, involving an alleged conspiracy to bribe Supreme Court judges, be heard by a Bench fo the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.

      Concerns associated:

      Undoubtedly, the chief justices enjoy a special status and they alone can assign work to a judge sitting alone and to the judges sitting in division bench or full bench. They have the jurisdiction to decide which case will be heard by which bench. If judges were free to choose their jurisdiction or any choice was given to them to do whatever case they may like to hear and decide, the machinery would collapse and the judicial work of the court would cease by generation of internal strife on account of hankering for a particular jurisdiction or a particular case.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: CJI- appointment and powers.
      For Mains: Master of Roster- meaning, concerns and viable solutions, moral responsibilities of CJI.

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