Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court refuses to lift ban on jallikattu
- SC orders search engines to remove online sex-determinations ads
- Setting up of Industry Driven SRTMI
- NHRC writes to Centre over foreign funding for NGOs
- Plea against use of word ‘Dalit’ by media, HC seeks Centre’s reply
Bilateral & International Relations
- Russia withdraws backing for International Criminal Court treaty
Science & Technology
- DRDO’s combat drone Rustom-2 flies for the first time
Key Facts for Prelims
- Raad ul Barq
- Women Commandos
Polity & Governance
Supreme Court refuses to lift ban on jallikattu
In a severe blow to Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court refused to lift the ban on Jallikattu and dismissed the petition seeking review of the 2014 judgment banning jallikattu in the State.
What court has said?
The event had nothing to do with the exercise of the fundamental right of religious freedom and runs counter to the concept of welfare of the animal, which is the basic foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
State government’s arguments:
- The State has countered that the event was defined as an act of “taming” of bulls under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act of 2009 and did not amount to cruelty.
- Tamil Nadu contended why Jallikattu is illegal when bull-fighting, where the animal is killed, has been given constitutional protection as part of cultural heritage.
What is Jallikattu?
- Jallikattu is an ancient bull taming blood sport played in Tamil Nadu. It’s a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.
- According to experts, the term Jallikattu is derived from the term calli kacu (coins) and kattu (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money.
- One of the oldest blood sport, Jalllikattu is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festival.
- ‘Jellicut’ are the bulls bred specifically for the Jallikattu sporting event.
Why is it so controversial?
- It is controversial because the blood sport often results in major injuries and deaths
- Reportedly, from 2010 to 2014, there were approximately 1,100 injuries and 17 deaths as a result of Jallikattu events
- Over 200 people have died from the blood sport over the past two decades.
- The court held that use of bulls in such events severely harmed the animals and constituted an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to the Animals Act.
- PETA India has protested against the blood sport over the years for animal cruelty.
SC orders search engines to remove online sex-determinations ads
The Supreme Court issued a strict directive to all online search engines over illegal advertisements and information on sex determination tests.
- It asked popular search engines like Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft India to remove such content within 36 hours of receiving a complaint.
- It also directed the Centre to constitute a nodal agency to keep a tab on keywords used on search engines to enable a system of ‘auto-block’ that would black out such information.
- The court was hearing a PIL filed in 2008 seeking a blocking or withdrawal of advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex on popular search engines.
- The apex court had earlier said search engines are under an obligation to check pre-natal sex determination advertisements and they should develop an in-house method to prohibit such content.
- It had also directed the search engines to strictly comply with Indian laws and block advertisements on sex determination of a foetus.
What numbers say?
- Sex determination, though illegal, is still practised in India, which is grappling with a severe male-female ratio.
- According to UN data, India’s child sex ratio dropped from 964 in 1971 to a low of 918 in 2011.
- Between 2001 and 2011, the decline was seen in over two-thirds of the districts in the country. Numbers show that the problem is worse in urban areas.
- In 2011, Delhi, the National Capital Region had one of the lowest child sex ratios among states, with 871 girls born for every 1,000 boys.
About PCPNDT Act, 1994:
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
Main provisions in the act are:
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect:
- Genetic abnormalities
- Metabolic disorders
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Certain congenital malformations
- Sex linked disorders.
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
Act amended in 2003:
Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
Implications of the amendment are
- Amendment of the act mainly covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act
- Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
- Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board
- Provision for more stringent punishments
- Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
- Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies
Setting up of Industry Driven SRTMI
Ministry of Steel is planning to set up an Industry driven institutional mechanism namely Steel Research & Technology Mission of India (SRTMI).
- It is planned to facilitate joint collaborative research projects in the iron & steel sector in India.
- The conceptualization of SRTMI was done by a high level task force set up by the Ministry of Steel.
Features of SRTMI:
- SRTMI is an industry driven initiative which will be setup as a Registered Society wherein Ministry of Steel is a facilitator.
- SRTMI will be governed and administered by a Governing Body comprising the steel CEOs, Domain Experts and a representative of Ministry of Steel.
- The executive functioning of SRTMI will be carried out by the Director, SRTMI, who will be assisted by a suitable/appropriate supporting structure.
- Initial corpus for setting up of SRTMI is Rs. 200 crore of which 50% is to be provided by Ministry of Steel and the balance by the participating steel companies.
- Thereafter, the centre will run on yearly contributions from the steel companies based on their turnover of the previous year.
India’s steel sector:
- Indian Steel Sector’s contribution to overall Gross Domestic Product of the country is nearly 2% during 2015-16.
- The total exposure of steel industry is about Rs. 3.13 lakh crore out of which Gross Non Performing Assets is about Rs. 1.15 lakh crore.
NHRC writes to Centre over foreign funding for NGOs
Concerned about the rights of human rights defenders, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Union Home Ministry on the government’s alleged “draconian approach” in renewing the foreign funding approval for NGOs.
What’s the issue?
The Home Ministry had recently cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licences of thousands of NGOs over not applying for renewal in time.
What has the NHRC said?
- The NHRC said that the government’s approach towards renewing FCRA licences for the NGOs that defend human rights had been brought to its notice.
- NHRC also observed that prima facie, it appears that the FCRA licence non-renewal is neither legal nor objective, and thereby impinging on the rights of the human rights defenders, both in access to funding, including foreign funding.
- Taking suo-motu cognisance, the NHRC has directed the Home Secretary to provide details of the NGOs of human rights defenders whose licences had been cancelled, the number of such NGOs, the reason for nonrenewal and the amount of foreign funds received in the past three years.
- The Commission directed the government to provide the information in six weeks so that it can start hearing the matter and look at “whether the review of the law [FCRA] can be recommended”.
- The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is an autonomous public body constituted in 1993.
- It was given a statutory basis by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (TPHRA).
- Recommendations given by NHRC are just advisory and not binding in nature.
- NHRC submits Annual report to the Central government and to the concerned state governments.
The NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) consists of:
- A Chairperson, retired Chief Justice of India
- One Member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
- One Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
- Two Members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
- In addition, the Chairpersons of four National Commissions of (1. Minorities 2. SC and ST 3. Women) serve as ex officio members.
The Chairperson and members of the NHRC are appointed by the President of India, on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:
- The Prime Minister (chairperson)
- The Home Minister
- The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (House of the People)
- The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States)
- The Speaker of the Lok Sabha (House of the People)
- The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States)
Powers and Functions:
The NHRC has the following functions:
- To investigate complaints regarding the violation of human rights either suo moto or after receiving a petition.
- To investigate the failure of duties on the part of any public official in preventing the violation of human rights.
- To intervene in any judicial proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights.
- To visit any jail or any other institution under the control of the State Government to see the living conditions of the inmates and to make recommendations thereon.
- To review the safeguards provided under the constitution or any law for the protection of the human rights and to recommend appropriate remedial measures.
- To study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and to make recommendations for their effective implementation.
- To undertake and promote research in the field of human rights.
- To encourage the efforts of the non-governmental organisations working in the field of human rights.
- To spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and to promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other means.
- To review all facts related to the activities of the terrorists which obstruct the way of the protection of human rights and to make recommendations for their effective implementation.
Plea against use of word ‘Dalit’ by media, HC seeks Centre’s reply
The Delhi High Court has sought the response of the Centre on a plea seeking a direction to restrain media houses from using the word ‘Dalit’ in news articles.
- The court has issued a notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and asked it to take instruction on whether there is any law to prohibit the use of the word by media houses.
- A plea has been filed in the High Court seeking a direction to restrain media houses from using the word ‘Dalit’ in news articles, alleging it creates “inequality” in society.
- The petitioner has also sought a direction to the Press Council of India to restrain all print and electronic media from using the word ‘Dalit’.
What has been argued against the use of the word ‘Dalit’?
- The petitioner argued that the legislature has made provisions to ensure no one may create any kind of hatred or animosity between the different communities or religions in India.
- Aggrieved by the excessive use of the words ‘Dalit’ and ’upper caste’, the plea alleged that despite a law and guidelines in place, the media houses keep on raising the issue of ‘Dalit’ atrocities unnecessarily.
Bilateral & International Relations
Russia withdraws backing for International Criminal Court treaty
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree announcing Russia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- The decree has been signed just a day after the ICC released a prosecutor’s report in which Russia’s seizure of Crimea was equated to an international conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
- The executive order mentioned that Russia is pulling out of the 2002 Rome Statute, which establishes the ICC’s status and powers.
- However, Russia had never ratified the statue meaning it was never member subject to its jurisdiction.
What is the issue?
- Russia was against by ICC’s declaration that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula was an armed conflict.
- Russia is also under international pressure over its campaign of air strikes in Syria over the issue of bombing civilians and civilian targets. Russia has denied those allegations.
- Besides, ICC is also examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian and Georgian forces during a brief 2008 war.
What is the Rome Statute?
Rome Statute, also called the ICC charter, is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- This is a founding document that establishes the rules of criminal proceedings in relation to matters that fall under the ICC’s competence.
- The Rome Statute established four core international crimes:
- Crimes against humanity,
- War crimes, and
- The crime of aggression.
- Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves.
- The court has jurisdiction over crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a state party or if they are committed by a national of a state party; an exception to this rule is that the ICC may also have jurisdiction over crimes if its jurisdiction is authorized by the United Nations Security Council.
Science & Technology
DRDO’s combat drone Rustom-2 flies for the first time
DRDO successfully carried out the maiden flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM – II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.
- The maiden flight is heralded as a new era in the indigenous development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
- The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, Karnataka which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft.
- The flight accomplished the main objectives of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing etc.
About TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM – II):
- TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM – II) is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.
- The UAV weighs two tonnes. It has an endurance of 24 hours.
- It is multi-mission UAV which can conduct Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the armed forces.
- It can also be used as an unmanned armed combat.
- It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Long Range Electro Optic (LREO).
- It can also carry Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.
- It has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based lab of DRDO. HAL and BEL are the production partners.
- TAPAS 201 is also first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification and qualification for the first flight from Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
Key Facts for Prelims
Raad ul Barq
- It is military exercise conducted by Pakistan in a strategically located area in Punjab province, bordering India.
- It was the comprehensive joint exercise carried out jointly by Pakistan Army and Air Force to reflect the preparedness of our armed forces to respond to any threat to its national security.
- The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for the first time has deployed a team of women commandos in anti-Naxal operations in Jharkhand.
- They will be equally capable of neutralising Naxals in par with men commandos.
- They are experts in carrying out all types of anti-Naxal operations and shall play important role in tackling women Naxals.
- They have been trained in several case studies and carry out their operation in a perfect manner.
- They are also equipped with modern weapons and software to assist them in executing their plan.