Current Affairs Analysis

19th & 20th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Kaziranga National park; Global Multidimensional Poverty Index; Bathynomus raksasa; National Disaster Response Fund; State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF); U.S.-India Strategy Energy Partnership; IntelliMAST and TouF; Plea bargaining; Difference between plea bargain and guilty plea; Types of Plea Bargaining; Role of floods in Kaziranga’s ecosystem; Maru Ram vs Union of India (1980); Pardoning power under the law; etc.
By IASToppers
July 20, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Plea bargaining in India
  • SC refers to larger bench issue of grant of remission to convicts by state

Economy

  • Global Multidimensional Poverty Index

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Floods are essential for the survival of Kaziranga National Park
  • Bathynomus raksasa
  • National Disaster Response Fund

Bilateral & International Relations

  • U.S.-India Strategy Energy Partnership

Science & Technology

  • IntelliMAST and TouF

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Polity & Governance

Plea bargaining in India

Many members of the Tablighi Jamaat belonging to different countries have obtained release from court cases in recent days by means of plea bargaining.

  • Accused of violating visa conditions by attending a religious congregation in Delhi, these foreign nationals have walked free after pleading guilty to minor offences and paying the fines imposed by the court.

What is Plea bargaining?

  • Plea bargaining refers to a person charged with a criminal offence negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser punishment than what is provided in law by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.
  • It primarily involves pre-trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecutor. It may involve bargaining on the quantum of sentence.
  • It is common in the United States, and has been a successful method of avoiding complicated trials. As a result, conviction rates are significantly high there.

Difference between plea bargain and guilty plea

  • A plea bargain usually is a contract where one plead guilty in exchange for some benefit.
  • A guilty plea is just the person saying that they are guilty. It would include throwing yourself upon the mercy of the court. It could be with or without the benefit of a plea agreement.

When it was added?

  • The Law Commission of India had many a times advocated the introduction of ‘Plea Bargaining’ in its 142nd, 154th and 177th reports. 
  • Hence, plea bargaining was introduced in 2006 as part of  Criminal Law (Amendment) Act Act of 2006, containing Sections 265A to 265L.
  • Before the Amendment Act, the Indian judicial system did not recognize the concept of plea bargaining and thus opposed it. 

Types of Plea Bargaining

  • Sentence bargaining: Main motive is to get a lesser sentence. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to the stated charge and in return, he bargains for a lighter sentence. E.g. defendant pleads guilty to a crime punishable by up to 15 years, but prosecution recommends only 5
  • Charge bargaining: This kind of plea bargaining happens for getting less severe charges. This the most common form of plea bargaining in criminal cases. Here, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in consideration of dismissing greater charges. E.g. Pleading for manslaughter for dropping the charges of murder.
  • Fact bargaining: It occurs when a defendant agrees to stipulate to certain facts in order to prevent other facts from being introduced into evidence. E.g., defendant charged with forgery and theft pleads guilty to forgery and prosecution agrees to drop theft charge.

Process of plea bargaining

  • Unlike in the U.S., where the prosecutor plays a key role in bargaining with offender, in India, plea bargaining can be initiated only by the accused. Further, the accused will have to apply to the court for invoking the benefit of bargaining.
  • The applicant should approach the court stating that it is a voluntary preference and that he has understood the nature of punishment for the offence.
  • The Court shall examine the accused in camera, where the other party in the case shall not be present, to satisfy itself that the accused has filed the application voluntarily. Thereafter, the court may permit the prosecutor, the investigating officer and the victim to hold a meeting for a “satisfactory disposition of the case”. The outcome may involve payment of compensation and other expenses to the victim by the accused.
  • Once mutual satisfaction is reached, the accused may be sentenced to a prison term that is half the minimum period fixed for the offence. If there is no minimum term prescribed, the sentence should run up to one-fourth of the maximum sentence stipulated in law.

Criteria’s for plea bargaining

  • Someone who has been charge sheeted for an offence that does not attract the death sentence, life sentence or a prison term above seven years can make use of the scheme.

Who can not apply? Involve offences affecting the “socio-economic conditions” of the country, or committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14.

Benefits

  • Ensure speedy trial,
  • End uncertainty over the outcome of criminal cases,
  • Save litigation costs and relieve the parties of anxiety.
  • Reduction in pendency of cases
  • Decongesting prisons
  • May help offenders make a fresh start in life.
  • It avoids publicity and unnecessary stigmatization.

Disadvantages

  • Corruption: Section 265C provides for guidelines for mutually satisfactory disposition, where a victim is called to participate in a meeting with accused to work out disposition. However, knowing the nature of prevalent corruption, the chance of coercion of victim would be writ large. 
  • Involvement of Police: India is infamous for the custodial torture by police. In such scenario, the concept of Plea Bargaining is more likely to aggravate the situation.
  • Forcefully: Persons who are falsely implicated in offences and are forced to admit crimes and thereafter further forced for plea bargain under Section 265B of the Code to justify State’s action against such persons.
  • Criminal record for the innocent: An innocent person may agree to a plea bargain to cut their losses. That agreement means they will have a criminal record.
  • Soft justice for the guilty: In many circumstances, a plea bargain provides a lighter sentence for someone, even if they may be guilty. It can be treated as an escape route for a prosecutor.
[Ref: The Hindu]

SC refers to larger bench issue of grant of remission to convicts by state

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court asked Chief Justice to refer the question “Can convicts serving 14-year jail sentences be released prematurely on the basis of a common policy framed by a state and without facts being placed before the Governor, who has the power to pardon” to a larger bench.

Background

  • The legal question had arisen in the context of the bail plea of a murder case convict, one Pyare Lal.
  • He had been released from jail after being granted the benefit of remission by the Haryana Governor as per a policy of the state government.

According to the Haryana government policy, instituted in 2019,

  • Male prisoners, convicted for life in a murder case, would get remission if they are above 75 years and had completed 8 years of the sentence.
  • Female convicts who have been sentenced for life in a murder case and are 65 years of age and completed six years of sentence can get remission.

Above condition apply only if the conduct of the convict in jail was satisfactory, in that the convict had not committed any major jail offence in the last two years.

Details

  • The larger bench will examine if states can use such pardoning powers without placing facts and materials of each case before the Governor.
  • The Supreme Court noted that in the case of Pyare Lal, the Haryana government accepted that no individual facts pertaining to any of the cases were placed before the Governor.
  • The Governor, thus, did not have the occasion to look into the issues such as severity of the crime in which the crime was committed or the impact of the crime on the Society.
  • The larger bench will also look into whether the exercise “can override the requirements under Section 433-A” of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which says that a person, serving life term, cannot be granted remission benefit without serving 14 years in prison.

Maru Ram vs Union of India 1980

  • Maru Ram ruling says that “no separate order for each individual case would be necessary but a general order must be clear enough to identify the group of cases and indicate the application of mind to the whole group”.
  • However, the court said that “decisions of this Court rendered since Maru Ram case, do show that the relevant material must be placed before the Governor in order to enable him to exercise the power under Article 161and failure on that count could result in quashing of the concerned orders of remission.”

Pardoning power under the law

The law governing grant of pardon is contained in Articles 72 and 161 of the Indian Constitution. The executive also has additional power under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Section 432, 433, and 433-A) in which Government at any time can suspend, remit, commute the sentence as a whole or any part of the punishment.

Article 72

  • Article 72 empowers the President to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence:

(a) in all cases where the punishment is by a Court Martial;

(b) in all cases where the punishment is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;

(c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.

Article 161

  • It is related to the Power of Governor to grant pardons, reprieves, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.

Pardoning powers of President Vs. Governors:

The pardoning power of President is wider than the governor and it differs in the following two ways:

  • The President can grant pardon s in cases where the punishment is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
  • The President can grant pardon in sentence of death but pardoning power of Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

Landmark cases related to pardoning powers

  • In Maru Ram v Union of India, the Supreme Court 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.
  • In Dhananjoy Chatterjee alias Dhana v State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court reiterated its earlier stand in Maru Ram’s case.
  • Supreme Court in Kehar Singh v Union of India held that the grant of pardon by the President is an act of grace and, therefore, cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
  • In a landmark judgment Epuru Sudhakar vs Govt Andhra Pradesh, it was held by the Supreme Court that Supreme Court and High Courts has a limited judicial review of exercise of mercy powers of president and governor.

Type of pardon:

  • Pardon: The president can totally absolve/acquit the person for the offence and let him go free like a normal citizen.
  • Commute: To reduce the type of punishment into a less harsh one. For example Rigorous imprisonment to simple imprisonment.
  • Remission: To reduce the punishment without changing the nature of the punishment. For example 20 years rigorous imprisonment to 10 years rigorous imprisonment.
  • Reprieve: A delay is allowed in the execution of a sentence, usually a death sentence for a guilty person to prove his innocence.
  • Respite: Reduce the degree of punishment looking at specific grounds like pregnancy, old age etc.

A Court-martial is a trial in a military court of a member of the armed forces who are charged with breaking military law.

Process of granting pardon in India:

  • The process starts with filing a mercy petition with the President under Article 72 of the Constitution.
  • Such petition is then sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration.
  • The above mentioned petition is discussed by the Home Ministry in consultation with the concerned State Government. After the consultation, recommendations are made by the Home Minister and then, the petition is sent back to the President.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Economy

Global Multidimensional Poverty Index

India lifted as many as 270 million people out of multidimensional poverty between 2005-6 and 2015-16.

About the index:

  • The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) identifies multiple deprivations at the household and individual level in health, education and standard of living.
  • MPI was developed by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme.
  • The 2020 release of the MPI presents estimates for 107 developing countries with a combined population of 5.9 billion (77% of the world total). About 1.3 billion people in the countries covered lived in multidimensional poverty between 2008 and 2019.
  • The report shows that 65 out of 75 countries studied significantly reduced their multidimensional poverty levels between 2000 and 2019.

Dimensions:

  • Health dimension: Nutrition and Child mortality (total weightage: 2/6)
  • Education dimension: School attainment and School attendance (total weightage: 2/6)
  • Standard of living: Housing, Assets ownership, Electricity, improved sanitation, improved drinking water and cooking fuel remain the same. (each:1/18, total weightage: 2/6)
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Floods are essential for the survival of Kaziranga National Park

As a fresh wave of floods ravages Assam, killing 73 and affecting nearly 40 lakh people across the state, 85 % of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) remains submerged. 

About Kaziranga national park

  • It is located between the Brahmaputra River and the Karbi Anglong Hills in Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam.
  • Located on the edge of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot.
  • Circumscribed by the Brahmaputra River, which forms the northern and eastern boundaries, and the Mora Diphlu, which forms the southern boundary. Other notable rivers within the park are the Diphlu and Mora Dhansiri.
  • Declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
  • Is home to world’s largest population of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, wild Asiatic water buffalo and eastern swamp deer. Two-thirds of the world’s population of one-horned rhinos live in this park. The 2018 census had yielded 2,413 rhinos and approximately 1,100 elephants.
  • In 2006, it was declared a tiger reserve as at that time it has highest density of tigers in all global protected areas of tigers.
  • Recognized as an important bird area by Birdlife International for the conservation of wildlife species.

What is the role of floods in Kaziranga’s ecosystem?

It is a riverine ecosystem which won’t survive without water. The entire area of Kaziranga is formed by alluvial deposits from the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.

  • The regenerative nature of floods helps replenish Kaziranga’s water bodies and maintain its landscape, a mix of wetlands, grasslands and semi-evergreen deciduous forests.
  • The floodwaters also function as a breeding ground for fish. The same fish (with increased number of fishes after breeding) are carried away by the receding waters into the Brahmaputra.
  • In herbivore-dominated area like Kaziranga, it is important to maintain its grassland status. The waters help get rid of unwanted plants such as water hyacinth which collect in huge masses in the landscape. Without annual floods, the area would become a woodland.

Impacts of floods on animals

  • Animals adapt naturally to floods but when the waters hit a certain level, they gravitate towards safer, higher ground in the Karbi Anglong hills.
  • While in the past, Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong were part of the same landscape, the animals now have to cross National Highway 37. As a result, die either under the wheels of speeding vehicles, or are killed by poachers who take advantage of their vulnerability.
  • Running away from floodwaters, animals crossed the boundary of the park, resulting in increased interaction between humans and wildlife, at times leading to conflict.

What measures are taken to prepare for the flood?

  • The authorities keep a track of updates from the Central Water Commission, and monitor water levels of the Brahmaputra tributaries upstream in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • To avoid disease outbreaks, a door-to-door vaccination is organised every year pre-floods.
  • When the floods hit, Section 144 is imposed along NH-37, speed limits are enforced and fines levied.
  • Another mitigation measure has been artificial highlands built inside the park for wild animals to take refuge in during the flood. However, it is not permeant solution.

Suggestions

  • Emphasis needs to be put on securing animal corridors and ensuring a safe passage to the Karbi hills.
    • To that end, a 35-km-long flyover constructed over NH-37 was proposed by the Centre in September 2019. However, it might take time to build so the focus should be on doing it quickly with minimal disturbance to the animals during construction.
  • There is need for a landscape-scale conservation approach that recognises the value of the Karbi Anglong hills to the south.
    • Kaziranga has a primary role to play in supporting these wildlife populations, but the highlands of Karbi Anglong, where these animals take refuge, are the lifeline of the park during the floods.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Bathynomus raksasa

A team of researchers from Singapore confirmed the discovery of a new species called ‘Bathynomus raksasa’.

  • It was discovered in the eastern Indian Ocean in Bantan, off the southern coast of West Java in Indonesia in 2018.
  • It is a giant isopod in the genus Bathynomus. The giant isopods are distantly related to crabs, lobsters, and shrimps (which belong to the order of decapods) and are found in the cold depths of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
  • It measures around 50 centimetres (1.6 feet) in length. It has 14 legs but uses these only to crawl along the bed of oceans in search of food.
  • It is the sixth supergiant species from the Indo-West Pacific and is one of the largest known members of the genus. The discovery takes the number of known giant isopods to 20.
  • It is a scavenger and can for long periods without food.
  • The discovery will contribute towards increasing knowledge about the deep.
[Ref: Indian Express]

National Disaster Response Fund

Centre has applied a provision in the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to allow any person or institution to contribute to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for disaster management.

About NDRF:

  • The NDRF before enactment Disaster Management Act in 2005, was known as the National Calamity Contingent Fund.
  • The NDRF is constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.
  • It is located in the Public Accounts of India.

State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF):

  • The SDRF is the primary fund available with State governments to meet the expenses of relief operations of an immediate nature, for a range of specified disasters.
  • The Centre contributes 75% of the SDRF allocation for general category States and Union Territories, and 90% for special category States (northeast States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir).
  • As per Section 46 of the DM Act, the NDRF supplements the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in the SDRF.
  • The pandemic was notified as a disaster, paving the way for the States to utilise the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for treatment of patients and other logistics such as quarantine centres, setting up laboratories among other things.
  • The other notified disasters are cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

U.S.-India Strategy Energy Partnership

Recently, the 2nd Indo-US Strategic Energy Partnership meeting was held. 

  • It was established in April 2018. It aims for a longstanding energy partnership through government-to-government cooperation and industry engagement.
  • The next Ministerial meeting will be held in 2021.
  • The SEP is organized across four primary pillars of cooperation: (1) Power and Energy Efficiency; (2) Oil and Gas; (3) Renewable Energy; and (4) Sustainable Growth.

Outcomes:

  • MOU between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas concerning cooperation on Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
  • The sides launched a public-private Hydrogen Task Force to help scale up technologies to produce hydrogen from renewable energy and fossil fuel sources and to bring down the cost of deployment for enhanced energy security and resiliency.
  • Signed an MOU to collaborate on India’s first-ever Solar Decathlon® India in 2021, establishing a collegiate competition to prepare the next generation of building professionals to design and build high-efficiency buildings powered by renewables.
  • The sides agreed to collaborate on advanced high-efficiency coal technologies with low-to-zero emissions through carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), focusing on USDOE’s Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, Transformative) initiative to develop 21st Century coal energy systems.
  • The sides also agreed to explore possible cooperation through joint activities and information exchange on sustainable biofuel production and use.
  • USAID and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation are developing a concept to establish a new $25-million credit guarantee for the Small and Medium Enterprise sector to deploy rooftop solar.
  • The USAID and Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) jointly initiated a new activity, Retrofit of Air Conditioning to Improve Air Quality for Safety and Efficiency (RAISE) for healthy and energy-efficient buildings. The initiative will be scaled in public sector buildings.
  • USAID and NITI Aayog jointly launched the India Energy Modeling Forum to build a network of modelling community and its linkage with the Government for analytical work and policy-making exercise.
  • USAID launched the South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) platform focused on the power sector and the sides are working to incorporate gender-focused activities across the technical pillars.

Additional Information:

  • MOU between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with Indian Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioners (ISHRAE) for professional skill development for practitioners on the energy-efficient design of air conditioning systems.
  • USAID announced a partnership with Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO) to develop India’s National Open Access Registry (NOAR).
  • Statement of Intent between the U.S. Department of State and India’s Ministry of Power under the Flexible Resources Initiative of the U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force to enhance the flexibility and robustness of India’s grid to support the country’s energy transition and mobilize the private investment to deliver reliable, low-cost power for the people of India.     
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (USA) and the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission in India are working to agree to share best practices for regulating electricity and developing electricity markets.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce launched an Energy Industry Working Group for India under the Asia EDGE initiative to facilitate private sector connections and ideas for U.S.-India energy cooperation, including on innovative and disruptive technologies.
  • USTDA is supporting energy access and efficiency in India through recently funded projects to implement virtual pipeline infrastructure with Arush Gas Technology Services (AGTS) and carbon capture and utilization technologies in refineries with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL).
  • Release of a Strategic Roadmap of Smart Grid Knowledge Centre to become a Global Centre of Excellence in Smart Grids at an industry round table held on the sidelines of the Power and Energy Efficiency pillar meeting, sponsored by the Ministry of Power of India and USAID.
  • MOU between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Petroleum Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) on information exchange in oil & gas regulatory frameworks.
  • Letter of Cooperation among ExxonMobil, Chart Industries IOCL on stimulating LNG demand through a virtual pipeline network and manufacturing and use of ISO containers in India.
  • MOU between Agility Fuel Solutions LLC and Indrapastha Gas Limited (IGL) to explore the viability, usefulness, and feasibility of advanced clean fuel systems including Type IV cylinders in India.
  • MOU between Gasway USA, Inc. and Indrapastha Gas Limited (IGL) to explore the feasibility of a pilot virtual gas pipeline project.
  • ExxonMobil and GAIL have made significant progress on the MOU they signed in 2019 to enhance India’s natural gas access and are engaged in a commercial dialogue to advance LNG as fuel in heavy commercial vehicles.
[Ref: PIB]

Science & Technology

IntelliMAST and TouF

CSIR-CMERI, Durgapur, unveiled the COVID Protection System (COPS) for Workplace containing products like IntelliMAST and Touchless Faucet.

Solar Based Intelligent Mask Automated Dispensing Unit cum Thermal Scanner (IntelliMAST):

  • The Solar Based IntelliMAST is an Intelligent surveillance kiosk which identifies the body temperature and whether an individual is wearing Face Mask or not through customised Software solutions.
  • The in-built Thermal Scanner detects the probable rise in Body Temperature through forehead scanning and audio-visual alert the Security Guards.
  • This system uses Artificial Intelligence and Information Technology to give real-time results and can be synchronised with the Human Resource Data of any organisation for any real-time data response and dissemination of information.
  • The IntelliMAST system is backed up by Solar Power for uninterrupted Power Supply during blackouts. The power supply requirement of the IntelliMAST is 40-50 Watts sourced through a Hybrid combination of Solar Power & Electricity.
  • In this regard, the system harnesses Internet-of-Things.
  • The IntelliMAST will also facilitate Identity Card-based Mask Dispensing & Attendance System. Facial Recognition based &ID Card based Attendance System will be incorporated into the system.

Expected Benefits:

  • Help ensure the safety of supervising staff and implementation of the precautionary measure in any large organization.

Touchless Faucet (TouF)

  • The Touchless Faucet is being launched for households and Office Spaces.
  • The system dispenses Liquid Soap and Water from the same Faucet with a time-gap of 30 seconds, which is as per the latest Government guidelines.
  • The Faucet can be very easily mounted on top of any Washbasin and will be available in Plug and Play mode for very easy installation.
  • The technology has a power supply requirement of 10 Watts.

Benefits:

  • Help in arresting contamination.
  • Containing the spread of infection among the family members or office members.
[Ref: PIB]
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