Supreme Court of India Current Affairs - 2019

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SC forms Panel to frame Emergency Plan to prevent extinction of Indian birds

Taking serious note of alarming extinction of two Indian birds namely Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican, the Supreme Court of India has constituted a High Powered Committee to urgently frame and implement an Emergency Response Plan for protection of these species, considering the approaching monsoon and breeding season.

Both the birds are protected under Wild Life (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972 but despite being accorded highest level of protection under national law, birds face threat of imminent extinction.

Key Highlights

Apex court constituted 3 Member Panel comprising of-

  • Deepak Apte-Director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)
  • Asad R Rahmani– former Director of BNHS and member of governing body of Wetlands International South Asia
  • Dhananjai Mohan– Chief Conservator of Forests of Uttarakhand.

SC has also sought responses from Centre as well as concerned state governments where these two species of birds are prominently found.

Petition: A plea of wildlife activists contended that over last 50 years population of Great Indian Bustard has recorded a decline of more than 82%. It fell from an estimated 1260 in 1969, to 100-150 in 2018. Over the past few decades, the population of Lesser Florican (also known as likh or kharmore) has seen a sharp decline of 80%, from 3530 individuals recorded in 1999, to less than 700 in 2018.

Reasons given in plea: for threats faced by two endangered birds includes- Mortality by collision with infrastructure (particularly powerlines and wind turbines), hunting, depletion of grasslands, development of mines and human habitation in and around their habitats and ingestion of pesticides.

Emergency Response Plan: Under it, the wildlife activists have suggested certain steps that could be taken. Such as-

  • Urgent dismantling and undergrounding of powerlines and wind turbines
  • Immediate embargo on any upcoming wind, solar power projects, and powerlines in and around critical habitats

Other immediate steps includes-

  • Installation of diverters on powerlines in semi-critical habitats of birds
  • Urgent installation of predator-proof fencing in critical habitats to protect breeding grounds of both the species from invasive human activities as well as predators
  • Implementation of dog population control program

Supreme Court gets full strength of Judges

Supreme Court has reached its full sanctioned strength of 31 with appointment of 4 new judges to the apex court. The total sanctioned strength of Supreme Court is 31 (30 + 1), which includes 30 Supreme Court Judges and 1 Chief Justice of India (CJI). The length of their term is from their joining till they retire at the age of 65.

Key Highlights

  • The Centre has cleared the four names recommended by five-member Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, for elevation as judges of the apex court.
  • The law ministry issued notification regarding appointment after President of India Ram Nath Kovind signed their warrants of appointment.
  • Delay: The government initially returned the names of Justices Bose and Bopanna to the SC collegium after citing seniority and representation of regions as the reasons. But, SC collegium passed a resolution in early May which reiterated its recommendation to elevate Justices Bose and Bopanna to apex court and also recommended the names of justices B R Gavai and Justice Kant. The collegium observed that nothing wrong has been found regarding their conduct, competence or integrity.
  • Importance: As of now, Supreme Court was functioning with 27 judges including the Chief Justice of India. After the elevation of four new judges, the apex court reached its full sanctioned strength of 31 judges. In recent past this is the first time that SC will have its full sanctioned strength.
  • The four newly appointed judges are-
  1. Justice Aniruddha Bose– His parent High Court is Calcutta HC. He is Chief Justice of Jharkhand HC and stands at number 12 in all-India seniority of judges.
  2. Justice Surya Kant– is incumbent Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh HC.
  3. Justice A S Bopanna– His parent high court is Karnataka HC. He is Chief Justice of Gauhati HC and stands at number 36 in all-India seniority of judges.
  4. Justice B R Gavai – is a judge of the Bombay High Court. Once sworn in, he could become the Chief Justice of India in May, 2025 and will be second Dalit CJI after K G Balakrishnan who retired on May 11, 2010.