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JULY 29, 2017

SC rejects abortion plea of 10-year-old

  • A 10-year-old rape victim has been left with no choice but to continue with her pregnancy after a medical panel informed the Supreme Court on Friday that an abortion will endanger both the girl and her 32-week-old foetus.

Permanent boards

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 bars abortion if the foetus has crossed the 20-week mark. An exception to the law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for either the mother or the baby.
  • Presently, women are forced to undertake the cumbersome process of approaching different courts, from district courts to high courts and finally the Supreme Court, for permission to medically terminate their pregnancies which are over 20 weeks.
  • The frequent number of such cases which have come to the Supreme Court range from child rape victims to destitute women to women with substantial foetus abnormalities.
  • “In all such cases, time is very short. We are considering those cases under Article 142 (orders passed by the apex court to do complete justice). Can a permanent medical board be set up at State-level to examine the cases till the Bill is pending for amendment into the law?” the Bench asked Mr. Kumar.

Amendment pending

  • An amended Bill of the 1971 law which extends the bar from 20 to 24 weeks has been in the cold storage for the past three years. This draft Bill allows women, whose pregnancies are within 24 weeks, reproductive rights in consultation with their medical practitioners. The draft Bill also allows abortion beyond 24 weeks in case the foetus suffers from substantial abnormalities.


Scientists set sail to unlock secrets of lost continent

  • Scientists are attempting to unlock the secrets of the “lost continent” of Zealandia, setting sail on Friday to investigate the huge underwater landmass east of Australia that has never been properly studied.

  • Zealandia, which is mostly submerged beneath the South Pacific, was once part of the Gondwana super-continent but broke away some 75 million years ago.
  • They said it was a distinct geological entity that met all the criteria applied to Earth’s other continents, including elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor.
  • The recovered cores will be studied onboard, allowing scientists to address issues such as oceanographic history, extreme climates, sub-seafloor life, plate tectonics and earthquake-generating zones.
  • “As Australia moved north and the Tasman Sea developed, global circulation patterns changed and water depths over Zealandia fluctuated,” he said. “This region was important in influencing global changes.”
  • It will help better understand major changes in the global tectonic configuration that started about 53 million years ago. This is around the time that the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for volcanoes and earthquakes, came into existence.


Preserving unique identity

  • Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti on Friday hit out at Delhi-based television anchors for portraying Kashmir in a bad light.
  • Any attempts to tinker with Article 35(A) of the Constitution, which accords special privileges to permanent residents in the State, would have “repercussions and nobody would be able to protect the Indian flag in J&K”.
  • “This is one of the problem,” she said stressing that both the Articles 370 and 35A are very dear to the State and they help preserve the State’s unique identity.


CAG spots weaknesses in missile defence system

  • The strategic missile system, a medium range supersonic surface to air missile system to counter aerial threats were “deficient in quality”, according to a report tabled by the Comptroller and Auditor General in Parliament on Friday.
  • Over 70% of the under vehicle scanners (UVS) installed at Indian Air Force (IAF) bases were non-functional, the report said. It also said that the IL series of aircraft, which provides vital transport support to the IAF during contingencies, “has not been upgraded, and continue to fly with 1985 vintage avionics”.
  • “Strategic missile system is vital for the country’s air defence and deterrence capability. Audit found that the system delivered by Bharat Electricals Limited was deficient in quality,” the report added.

Most private hospitals evade tax: CAG

  • A performance audit of India’s private hospitals has revealed that a majority of the institutions is evading tax. The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), released on Friday, pointed out that data on ‘non-filers’ of income tax was available only in three states — West Bengal, Assam and Gujarat.
  • The auditors found that Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu had no process of identifying hospitals that were evading tax.
  • The private sector accounts for 80% of out patient care and 60% of in patient care in the country. According to State-wide data from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the health sector attracted Foreign Direct Investment of Rs. 23, 169.91 crore between April 2000 and September 2016. Yet, the report states that most private hospitals and practitioners did not submit valid Permanent Account Numbers (PAN).
  • On the basis of data from Charity Commissioner in Mumbai, the CAG analysed 10 trust hospitals and found that none of them fulfilled the conditions of Bombay Public Trust Act. “Bed occupancy in eight out of 10 hospitals was less than the mandated 10% for weaker sections,” the report added.


Sri Lanka set to sign Hambantota port deal

  • The Hambantota port straddles the world’s busiest east-west shipping route and several countries, including neighbouring India, had raised concerns China could use it for its own military needs.
  • Wickremesinghe said the government would sign off Saturday on the $1.12 billion deal with China Merchants Port Holdings to jointly manage the facility. Cash from the firm’s majority stake will be used to repay part of the island nation’s huge foreign debt.

‘Regulators shouldn’t restrain innovation’

  • India’s financial sector regulators should stop hindering ideas in the financial technology sector and instead opt for a regulatory sandbox approach to nurture innovative financial technology applications, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said on Friday.
  • A regulatory sandbox is an experimental oversight mechanism for innovative products and services that do not fall into an existing regulatory regime or cut across traditional regulators’ domains. Such innovations are permitted to operate for a limited period of time at a limited scale to understand their efficacy and implications, so that the best alternatives for regulation can be evolved based on concerns that emerge.

‘Consumer-centric lens’

  • “The sandbox needs to be designed to adopt this unified consumer-centric lens through a single integrated sandbox, serving all four financial sector regulators… technology will always be ahead of regulation,” said Mr. Kant, speaking at a CII event on making India a global fintech hub.
  • He was referring to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).
  • Globally, regulatory sandboxes have been introduced in the U.K., Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and UAE. Each country has a certain “target group” for which sandboxing is done. All these countries have so far created a sandboxed environment to support financial institutions (FIs) and fintech firms, the report noted.


  • In India, for instance, since cryptocurrencies are not recognised officially, virtual currencies stored in e-wallets are exposed to hacking and users are exposed to a lack of recourse in case of any problems or disputes. The RBI has been cautioning users about the risks of dabbling in virtual currencies that it does not recognise, since 2013.
  • The finance ministry has set up a panel to study regulation of virtual currencies.

‘Scheme for banks not applied as envisaged’

  • The Centre’s ‘Indradhanush’ scheme to recapitalise public sector banks (PSBs) based on their performance was not implemented in a manner envisaged, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)

Rising NPAs

  • The CAG report said gross NPAs with PSBs had risen sharply in recent years, from Rs. 2.27 lakh crore as of March 31, 2014 to about Rs. 5.4 lakh crore at the end of March 2016.
  • According to the CAG report tabled in Parliament on Friday, as per the scheme, a portion of the recapitalisation was to be based on the bank’ performance. However, this was not followed during disbursal of funds.