Polity & Governance
· Law Commission of India submitted report on Hate Speech
· ICHR to study if Ram Setu is man-made
· CCI imposes ₹591 crore penalty on Coal India
· India ranks 87th on energy architecture performance: World Economic Forum
Environment & Ecology
· Environment Ministry official to chair animal welfare board
Science & Technology
· ISRO sends 4 teams to 36th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica
Key Facts for Prelims
· India’s first vertical garden
· Mera iMobile app
· 5th Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav
Polity & Governance
Law Commission of India submitted report on Hate Speech
The Law Commission of India submitted its 267th Report titled Hate Speech to the Union Government for its consideration.
- In the Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan Vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Law Commission of India to examine issues related to hate speech including its definition.
- The court also directed the commission to submit its recommendations to the Parliament to strengthen the Election Commission to curb the menace of hate speeches.
- Against this backdrop, the Law Commission of India has undertaken a study of laws restricting hate speeches in India.
Highlights of the report:
- The Commission recommended that the anti-discrimination should take into account the harmful effect of speech on the rights of the vulnerable group.
- The Law Commission also advised that the several factors need to be considered before restricting a speech, like, the context of the speech, the status of the victim, the status of the maker of the speech and the potential of the speech to create discriminatory and disruptive circumstances.
- After a thorough examination of the issue and an analysis of the international legal framework, the Commission proposed amendments to the Indian Penal Code by the insertion of new sections after section 153B and 505A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- The commission also advised the government for adoption of certain other strategies to encourage harmony among different groups of the society like sensitising and educating the public on the responsible exercise of speech.
Legal provisions against hate speech:
- The commission also has drafted a new law The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017 by inserting new Sections to fortify democracy against hate speeches.
- The law defined hate speech as any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.
- Its Section 153C penalises incitement to hatred and Section 505A for the first time makes ‘causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases’ a specific criminal offence.
- Section 153C calls for punishing guilty person with two years’ imprisonment or Rs. 5,000 in fine or both. Section 505A provides a punishment of one year imprisonment or Rs. 5,000 in fine or both.
Freedom of speech vs. Hate speech:
- Freedom of Speech and Expression is one of the most significant rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
- However, this right has been subjected to reasonable restrictions enunciated under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. The reasonableness of this restriction is subject to several tests.
- Laws that seek to prevent speech that marginalise the vulnerable sections of the society strive to harmonise the freedom of expression with the right to equality.
- In order to protect the vulnerable sections from discriminatory attitudes and practices, it is necessary that forms of expression that have the potential of inciting hatred and violence are regulated.
About Law Commission of India (LCI):
- The LCI is a non-statutory and non-constitutional body constituted by the Union Government from time to time.
- The first commission was constituted in 1955 and since then various commissions were re-constituted every three years.
- It is usually headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or former Chief Justice of a high court.
ICHR to study if Ram Setu is man-made
The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is set to undertake an archaeological exploration to find out whether the Ram Setu is a natural or man-made phenomenon.
- It will undertake the exploration in October and November, before deciding whether a detailed underwater archaeological excavation is required to probe deeper.
What’s the issue?
The bridge between the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka has been at the centre of controversy since the Sethusamudram shipping canal project was planned, requiring dredging in the area.
It is a 30-km-long stretch of limestone shoals that runs from Pamban Island near Rameshwaram in South India to Mannar Island off the northern coast of Sri Lanka.
While some claim the Setu was a bridge was built by Lord Rama’s “Vanar Sena” (army of apes and monkeys) and hence cannot be touched, others insist it is a naturally formed chain of lime shoals.
The matter reached Supreme Court with petitions challenging the government’s decision to construct the Sethusamudram Canal by dredging a portion of the Ram Setu.
The project is being commissioned under the marine technology training programme of ICHR dealing with under-water archeology and research scholars will be given training for this purpose.
- Depending on the success of the project and the material gathered, a decision on further exploration will be taken by ICHR.
- A group of 15-20 research scholars will be selected across the country and will be trained to conduct the research.
- The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) is an autonomous body of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which had been established by an Administrative Order of the then Ministry of Education.
- The ICHR was formed as a literary and charitable society, a fully funded autonomous body of the Ministry of Education.
- Famous historian R.S. Sharma the then Head Department of History, Delhi University, was nominated as the first chairman of ICHR.
- ICHR disburses funds for carrying out research to Indian as well as foreign scholars on their applications for fellowships, grants, and symposia, made to the Indian Council of Historical Research or through the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
CCI imposes ₹591 crore penalty on Coal India
Fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a penalty of ₹591.01 crore upon Coal India Limited (CIL) on finding that CIL and its subsidiaries violated the Competition Act by imposing unfair and discriminatory conditions in Fuel Supply Agreements (FSAs) with power producers for supply of non-coking coal.
- Apart from ordering CIL and its subsidiaries to “cease and desist” from anti-competitive practices, the CCI also directed modification of the FSAs.
- CIL had also been directed to ensure uniformity between old and new power producers as well as between private and PSU power producers.
About the Competition Commission of India:
Competition Commission of India is a body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing The Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition in India.
- CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
- It is the duty of the Commission to:
- Eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition,
- Promote and sustain competition,
- Protect the interests of consumers and
- Ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
- The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
About the Competition Act, 2002:
- The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
- The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
India ranks 87th on energy architecture performance: World Economic Forum
India ranked 87th among the surveyed 127 countries on a Global Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI) released as part of report of Geneva- based World Economic Forum (WEF).
About the report:
- EAPI is a composite index developed by WEF in collaboration with Accenture Strategy.
- It focuses on tracking specific indicators to measure the energy system performance of the countries.
- It has 18 indicators defined across the three sides of the ‘energy triangle’- economic growth and development, energy access and security and environmental sustainability.
Highlights of 2017 EAPI:
- Switzerland topped the annual list and was followed by Norway, Sweden, Denmark and France in the top five.
- World’s biggest energy consumers struggle to take leading positions on index as they grapple with inherent challenges of their large, complex energy systems and are outperformed by nimble economies.
- Overall, some of the largest consumers of energy such as China (95th), India, Japan (45th), Russia (48th) and United States (52nd) have either slipped in the rankings or experienced only marginal gains.
India related Facts:
- India is gradually improving its performance on the index, but faces an uphill battle to increase energy access and security (95th) indicators.
- A large percentage of the population of India still lacks access to electricity (101st) and uses solid fuels for cooking (108th) indicators.
- India’s commitment to increase solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, will make it a leader in renewable capacity.
- India, just like China, boasts strong score on indicator for diversification of import counterparts (5th), but its energy system continues to face some significant challenges, particularly on environmental sustainability (109th) indicator.
- India has some of the lowest scores in CO2 emissions from electricity (117th) production and PM2.5 levels (123rd) indicators.
- Sources of pollution are diverse and intermittent (such as refuse combustion, agricultural crop burning, fireworks), but the energy sector is a large, consistent contributor to this issue.
- Many solutions have been attempted with varying degrees of impact, but the countries sorely need a comprehensive plan of action to implement an effective and sustainable answer.
Environment & Ecology
Environment Ministry official to chair animal welfare board
Government has notified that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory advisory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) will now be permanently chaired by a senior MoEF official.
- Recently, new Board of 18 members, chaired by Sharad Singh Negi, Special Secretary and Director-General (Forests), MoEF came into effect for three years term.
Previously in AWBI’s 55-year history, it was always chaired by somebody outside government, such as veterinarians, animal welfare activists or retired judges.
But in recent times due to differences between AWBI and MoEFCC, especially on the conduct of the Jallikattu, Central Government exerted its primacy in the management of the organisation.
About Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI):
- The AWBI is a statutory advisory body established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
- It frames a range of rules on how animals ought to be humanely treated everywhere.
- It has also frequently litigated to have stricter laws to ensure animals were not unduly harassed or tortured.
- Initially it was within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Later in 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the MoEFCC.
- Well-known humanitarian and former parliamentarian (late) Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
- The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years.
- Its headquaters is located at Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
- Several government organisations, along with animal rights activists and parliamentarians, are represented on the Board.
Functions of AWBI:
Recognition of Animal Welfare Organisations:
- It oversees Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs) by granting them recognition if they meet its guidelines.
- It also appoints key people to the positions of (Hon) Animal Welfare Officers, who serve as the key point of contact between the people, the government and law enforcement agencies.
- It provides financial assistance to recognised AWOs, who submit applications to the Board.
- Categories of grants include Regular Grant, Cattle Rescue Grant, Provision of Shelter House for Animals, Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme, Ambulance for animals in distress and Natural Calamity grant.
Animal welfare Laws and Rules:
- It suggests changes to laws and rules about animal welfare issues.
- It also offers guidance to organisations and officials such as police to help them interpret and apply the laws.
- It issues publications to raise awareness of various animal welfare issues.
- Its education team gives talks on animal welfare subjects, and trains members of the community to be Certified Animal Welfare Educators.
Science & Technology
ISRO sends 4 teams to 36th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has joined the 36th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (36-ISEA) organised by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR).
- The main objective of this expedition is to install stakes on ice for Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) measurements around two Indian bases Bharati and Maitri in Antartica.
- It will validate glacier surface velocity derived from satellite data to estimate thickness of snow over land and sea ice using Ground Penetrating Radars (GPR’s).
- It will also verify conditions of snow over sea and land ice. ISRO teams will also study of snow melt and freeze dynamics in Antarctica using space-based and ground-based observations.
- It will also study measurements of Atmospheric Black Carbon (BC), greenhouse gases and solar radiation fluxes at Antarctica on a long-term basis.
About Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA):
- ISEA is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program conducted every year by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences. It was started in 1981.
- It has gained global acceptance after India signed Antarctic Treaty.
- Subsequently, India had constructed Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983. It was superseded by the Maitri base from 1990.
- India’s newest base in Antarctica, Bharati, was commissioned in 2015. It is constructed out of 134 shipping containers.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first vertical garden
- India’s first vertical garden was set up at the Hosur Road Electronics City Flyover in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
- The garden is an initiative of SayTrees, NGO determined to protect nature.
- The vertical garden will help to control the pollution level of the city and also act as a sound proofing barrier.
- It covers pillar of the flyover by flaunting lovely organic and refreshing saplings.
- It also has an automatic drip irrigation system allowing the plants to get water on a daily basis.
Mera iMobile app
- India’s largest private sector lender ICICI Bank has launched the Mera iMobile app, India’s first one stop banking app for a range of digital services for rural customers.
- The multi-lingual app allows electronic transfer of funds through multiple payment mechanisms.
- It also provides weather updates, up to date prices of vegetables in mandis.
- It helps customers to manage bank accounts, track cards and loans, manage fund transfers, make payments for utility services, and find out information relevant to farmers.
5th Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav
- The 5th edition of ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) – 2017’ was held in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
- It was organized by the Union Ministry of Culture to preserve, promote and popularize the heritage and cultural diversity of Indian culture and reconnect the new generation with Indian culture.
- About 5,000 artists from North East India and 2,000 artists from across the country showcased India’s cultural heritage through their performances, arts and cuisines.
- Later it was extend to other North Eastern states including, Dimapur (Nagaland), Majuli (Assam), Aizawl (Mizoram), Imphal (Manipur), Gangtok (Sikkim), Shillong (Meghalaya).