National Current Affairs – UPSC/IAS Exams- 5th October 2019
Topic: Polity and Governance
In News: President of India has decided to commute the death sentence of an accused as a humanitarian gesture ahead of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
More on the Topic:
- Article 72 of the Constitution empowers the President to grant pardons to persons who have been tried and convicted of any offence in all cases where the: Punishment or sentence for an offence against a Union Law, Punishment or sentence is by a court-martial (military court), and Punishment is a Death sentence.
- It empowers the President the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.
- The meaning of these terms is as follows:
- Pardon: It removes both the sentence and the conviction and completely absolves the convict from all sentences, punishments, and disqualifications.
- Commutation: It denotes the substitution of one form of punishment with a lighter form of punishment. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to rigorous imprisonment.
- Remission: It implies reducing the period of the sentence without changing its character. For example, a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for five years may be remitted to rigorous imprisonment for one year.
- Respite: It denotes awarding a lesser sentence in place of one originally awarded due to some special fact, such as the physical disability of a convict or the pregnancy of a woman offender.
- Reprieve: It implies a stay of the execution of a sentence (especially that of death) for a temporary period. Its purpose is to enable the convict to have time to seek pardon or commutation from the President.
- Accused files a mercy petition with the President under Article 72 of the Indian Constitution.
- Such a petition is then sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration which is then consulted with the concerned State Government.
- After the consultation, recommendations are made by the Home Minister and the petition is sent back to the President.
Supremes Court Rulings:
- In Maru Ram v Union of India case (1980), the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India held that the power under Article 72 is to be exercised on the advice of the Central Government and not by the President on his own at his discretion. And that the advice of the Government is binding on him.
- The Supreme Court in Epuru Sudhakar v Ors. case (2006) stated that to rule out any case of arbitrariness or executive mala fide upheld that the granting of clemency by the President or Governor can be challenged in court on various grounds such as, the order has been passed without application of mind, or the order is mala fide, or the relevant material has been kept out of consideration.
In News: Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India have launched Youth Co:Lab which aims at accelerating social entrepreneurship and innovation in young India.
More on the Topic:
- Through Youth Co:Lab, young entrepreneurs and innovators will get a chance to connect with governments, mentors, incubators and investors, who will help equip them with entrepreneurial skills.
- The initiative will also convene a series of youth dialogues across several cities such as New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai to promote entrepreneurship across India.
- The first phase of Youth Co:Lab will focus on six SDGs: SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
- The initiative will convene social innovation challenges at the national and sub-national level, which will invite young people in the age group of 18-29 years and start-ups to showcase their proposed ideas and solutions to tackle some of the region’s biggest social challenges.
- They will also get the opportunity to pitch their ideas at the UNDP’s regional centre in 2020.
About Atal Innovation Mission:
- The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is the Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
- AIM is mandated to create an umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country and revolutionizing the innovation eco-system – touching upon the entire innovation life cycle through various programs.
The Atal Innovation Mission have two core functions:
- Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs.
- Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated.
Source: The Hindu
Topic: Environment and Ecology
In News: Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus has killed five elephants in Nandan Kanan Zoo &Chandaka forest in Odisha.
More on the Topic:
- Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) is a rare viral disease that causes fatal disease in young Asian Elephants.
- When it is triggered, the elephant dies of massive internal bleeding and symptoms which are hardly visible.
- Some elephants show symptoms such as reduced appetite, nasal discharge and swollen glands.The disease is usually fatal, with a short course of 28-35 hours.
- It is lethal for young elephants between the ages of 1 and 12.
- There is no true cure for herpesviruses in animals or in humans.
- If a young elephant dies before reproducing, it affects the population of the species in the concerned geography.
Topic: Social Justice
In News: Amnesty International India’s interactive tracker has recorded the steepest rise in alleged hate crimes in six months of 2019 since 2016.
More on the Topic:
- The tracker scours English and Hindi media for reports of hate crimes and collates this on the platform. The classification depends on how violent the crimes were, who they were directed at and what the alleged motive behind the committing of such a crime was.
- Amnesty found that in just the first six months of 2019, most number of hate crimes reported were on account of the victims’ Dalit identity (121), followed by Muslim (40), Adivasi (12), Christian (4) and their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity (6).
- Uttar Pradesh stands out with the highest number of alleged hate crimes in the country.
- 72 of the hate crimes recorded in the six-month time period in 2019 were mob attacks, over half of which (37) were directed at Muslims.
- The true extent of hate crimes in India is unknown because the law with some exceptions does not recognise hate crimes as separate offences.
- As a result, government data on discriminatory motives behind crimes remains missing. The alarming rise of the alleged hate crimes clearly indicates that lack of implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines.
Supreme Court Guidelines:
- The Supreme Court had emphasised the need for a concrete definition of ‘lynching’ as a form of vigilantism, and directed states to enact preventive, remedial and punitive measures against mob violence. However, only Manipur and Rajasthan have passed a legislation to address the same so far.
- Without a dedicated legislation, the gravity of the crimes is often diluted as the accused are booked under various other laws such as those against rioting, unlawful assembly, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, murder and so on.
- It is imperative that the authorities investigate suspected hate crimes promptly, impartially and thoroughly.
- The prosecuting authorities must consistently bring alleged discriminatory motives to the attention of the court when there is sufficient evidence to do so.
- Importantly, there must be public denouncement of hate and hate crimes, starting with our political leaders.
Source: The News Minute
Topic: Polity and Governance
In News: An FIR (Including sedition, public nuisance and hurting religious feelings) was lodged against nearly 50 celebrities, including Ramchandra Guha, Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen, who had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising concern over the growing incidents of mob lynching,
More on the Topic:
- The letter was written by 49 eminent personalities, including filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal, actor Soumitra Chatterjee as well as vocalist Shubha Mudgal recetly.
- It had said that the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately, while stressing that there was “no democracy without dissent”.
About Sedition Law:
- The offense of sedition is provided under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter IPC). The relevance of this section in an independent and democratic nation is the subject of continuous debate.
- Before Independence, this charge was used by the British to suppress the freedom movement.
- As a result of the ardent opposition in the Constituent Assembly, the word sedition‘ does not find a place in our Constitution.
- Presently, section 124 A IPC defines sedition as an act that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise.
Arguments which favours Sedition Law:
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens. However, this freedom is subjected to certain restrictions namely, interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense.
- Balancing freedom of expression with collective national interest is one of the key ingredients of this law.
- Though it is argued that this law is a colonial vestige, the Indian courts have upheld its constitutionality.
- The Kedar Nath judgment upholds the restrictions imposed by Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code on the fundamental right to free speech and expression. But the court makes it clear that such restraints apply only to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance of law and order or incitement to violence”.
- Denunciating the sedition law for ‘rampant misuse’ concedes ground that there exist instances where its ‘use’ may be necessary.
- For Example- Demand for separate Khalistan or separate Kashmir and other atrocity propaganda, which does not qualify as protected speech and has the ability to denude the legitimacy of a democratically elected government.
- The Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the mere possibility of misuse of a provision does not per se invalidate the legislation.
Arguments Against Sedition Law:
- It is an irony to retain a provision that was used extensively to suppress the freedom struggle. It is to be noted that, Britain itself abolished it 10 years ago.
- The foremost objection to the provision of sedition is that its definition remains too wide. ‘Overbroad’ definitions typically cover both what is innocuous and what is harmful.
- Under the present law, strong criticism against government policies and personalities, slogans voicing disapprobation of leaders and stinging depictions of an unresponsive or insensitive regime are all likely to be treated as ‘seditious’, and not merely those that overtly threaten public order or constitute actual incitement to violence.
- In recent years that the core principle enunciated by the Supreme Court that the incitement to violence or tendency to create public disorder are the essential ingredients of the offense has been forgotten.
- For Example, Beyond the high-profile urban cases, the reach of Section 124-A has extended even to faraway places. An entire village in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu had sedition cases slapped against it for resisting a nuclear power project.
- As long as sedition is seen as a reasonable restriction on free speech on the ground of preserving public order, it will be difficult to contain its mischief.
- There are thus two ways of undoing the harm that sedition provision does to citizens’ fundamental rights:
- It can be amended so that there is a much narrower definition of what constitutes sedition. The second and best course is to repeal the section altogether.
Topic: Government Policies
In News: Ministry of Tourism has launched Audio Guide facility App “Audio Odigos” for 12 iconic sites.
More on the Topic:
- It is launched during Paryatan Parv programme, which aims to develop responsible tourism.
- It offers verified content, with visuals & voice over support and an inbuilt map of the site for a smooth navigation during the tour.
- The audio can be chosen in their preferred language & version of the history.
- The 12 sitesinclude Amer Fort, Rajasthan, Chandni Chowk, Red Fort, Purana Quila, Humayun’s tomb, Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, Somnath and Dholavira, Gujarat, Khajuraho, Madhya pradesh, Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu and Mahabodhi Temple.
In News: The Further Fund Offer 2 (FFO 2) of Bharat 22 Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) will be opened as a part of government’s disinvestment programme.
More on the Topic:
- Bharat-22 will comprise stocks of 22 blue-chip public sector units, State-owned banks and three private companies where Specified Undertakings of the Unit Trust of India (SUUTI) has stakes.
- It is managed through ICICI Prudential Fund and it is in pursuance of government’s disinvestment policy targeting an initial amount of Rs.6,000 crore.
- Earlier the government has launched Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSE) ETF, which had stocks of many energy companies.
- Bharat 22 is a well diversified ETF spanning six sectors such as basic materials, energy, finance, FMCG, industrials and utilities.
- While CPSE ETF has only state-run companies as its constituents, Bharat-22 will give the government a shot at selling stakes in some of the private sector blue-chip companies as well.
- An ETF is a type of fund that tracks the underlying assets and divides ownership of those assets into shares.
- The underlying assets can be shares of stock, bonds, oil futures, gold bars, foreign currency, etc.
- Shareholders do not directly own or have any direct claim to the underlying investments in the fund, rather they indirectly own these assets.
- The ETFs trading value is based on the net asset value of the underlying stocks that it represents.
- ETF shareholders are entitled to a proportion of the profits, such as earned interest or dividends paid, and they may get a residual value in case the fund is liquidated.
- ETF Vs Mutual Fund: The transaction of stocks and bonds under the Mutual Fund is with the company that manages the fund.
- Whereas in ETF, the ownership of the fund can easily be bought, sold or transferred in the same way as shares of stock, since ETF shares are traded on public stock exchanges.