Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court urged to withdraw contempt action
Government Schemes & Policies
- Initiatives of Ministry of Earth Sciences
- Dare to Dream 2.0
Issues related to Health & Education
- High throughput COVID testing facilities
- India likely to miss the target of eradicating AIDS by 2030
- Protest against Centre’s ordinances
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Nag River
Bilateral & International Relations
- Russia`s Anti-Satellite Weapon
Defence & Security Issues
- Five Rafale jets take off from France to India
- 82nd Raising Day of the Central Armed Police Force
Science & Technology
- Spyware, stalkerware during the pandemic
- Mars landing missions run risk of interplanetary contamination
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Polity & Governance
Supreme Court urged to withdraw contempt action
A group of prominent citizens has urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against lawyer Prashant Bhushan and to withdraw it at the earliest.
- Supreme Court initiated contempt of court proceedings against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his tweets allegedly scandalising the judiciary, including condemning the current Chief Justice of India and the role of some Chief Justices of India in the last six years.
Contempt of Courts
- According to the Contempt of Courts, 1971 Act, Contempt is the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court.
- However, as per Section 5 of the law, publishing fair criticism of a judicial act is not contempt, provided judgments are criticized without casting aspersions on the judges.
The 1971 Act bifurcates the contempt into Civil contempt and Criminal Contempt.
Civil Contempt: Willful disobedience of an order, writ or other processes of a Court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court’.
- Purpose of civil contempt: To make the contemner right the wrong done to a party by imposing sanctions
Criminal contempt: Any act or publication which
- Scandalises any court,
- Prejudices the due course of any judicial proceeding and
- Interferes/obstructs the administration of justice in any other manner.
Purpose of criminal contempt: to punish the contemner who has dishonored the court.
Difference between civil and criminal contempt
- The Calcutta High Court in Motilal Ghose case and the Allahabad High Court in Vijay Pratap Singh v. Ajit Prasad have both outlined the difference between the two civil and criminal contempt.
Punishment for Contempt of Court:
- The Supreme Court and High Courts can punish for simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to Rs. 2,000 or with both.
- Supreme Court in 1991 stated that it has the power to punish for contempt for itself as well as of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals of India.
- Under Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, High Courts has special powers to punish contempt of subordinate courts.
- The Contempt of Courts Act, 1926 was the first statutory legislation that granted powers to High Courts of Judicature to punish contempt of subordinate courts. The Act, however, failed to provide for contempt of courts subordinate to Chief Courts and Judicial Commissioner’s Court, and was therefore repealed by The Contempt of Courts Act, 1952.
- The Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 did not confer any new powers on the courts but redefined ‘High Court’ to include the Courts of Judicial Commissioner and provided for the aforesaid to try for contempts subordinate to them as well.
- After the recommendations of a committee under the chairmanship of N. Sanyal (1961), Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 was devised.
- The Law Commission of India (Chair by Justice B.S. Chauhan) submitted its report on the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The report examined whether the definition of contempt in the Act should be restricted to civil contempt. The Commission concluded that there was no requirement to amend the Act.
- The statute of 1971 has been amended by the
Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006 to include the defence of truth
under Section 13 of the original legislation.
- Section 13 that already served to restrict the powers of the court in that they were not to hold anyone in contempt unless it would substantially interfere with the due process of justice, the amendment further states that the court must permit ‘justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.’
- Contempt of court has been used previously to provide restriction to the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (right to freedom of opinion and expression).
- The law provides sweeping discretionary powers
to the judges to rule on what they perceive as contempt against themselves. On
a specific action, two judges might have different viewpoint on whether this
action can be considered as contempt of court or not.
- As per Section 9 of Contempt of Courts, 1971 Act, the scope of what is to be treated as contempt cannot be expanded beyond what is provided for in the Act. However, when contempt itself is held to mean anything that “scandalises the courts”, that is so open-ended, it makes invoking the contempt law quite easy.
- Article 129: Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Article 142(2): Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
- Article 215: Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Government Schemes & Policies
Initiatives of Ministry of Earth Sciences
On the Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences launched the MoES-Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet) and MAUSAM mobile App.
About MoES-Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet)
- Aims to develop a World-Class Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet).
- A pilot project has been developed at MoES headquarters which will be integrated with other MoES institutes.
- Establish a Total Quality Management (TQM) system by securing ISO certification for documenting MoES knowledge resources, its maintenance, easy retrieval and dissemination.
- Collect, collate, analyze, index, store and disseminate the intellectual resources, products and project outputs available in MoES headquarter and its institutes.
- Develop and maintain an up-to-date meta-data of the print & digital resources available in MoES headquarter and MoES institutes, including MoES services.
- Provide 24X7 access to the subscribed knowledge contents through the KRCNet portal.
- Application of information-analytical tools & techniques like bibliometrics, scientometrics, big-data analytics, social media analytics etc., for policy formulation, report preparation and information dissemination.
- Periodically organize training workshops to popularize the usage of electronic journals, databases, digital products, data analytics etc.
About MAUSAM mobile App
- The mobile app has been designed and developed jointly by ICRISAT’s Digital Agriculture & Youth (DAY) team, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and India Meteorological Department.
- This mobile app is available both on Playstore and Appstore.
Services provided by the App:
- Current Weather -Current temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction for 200 cities updated 8 times a day. Information on Sunrise/ sunset and moonrise/ moonset are also given.
- Nowcast– Three hourly warnings of localized weather phenomena and their intensity issued for about 800 stations, and districts of India by State Meteorological Centres of IMD.
- City Forecast – Past 24 hours and a 7-day forecast of weather conditions around 450 cities in India.
- Warnings– Alerts issued twice a day for all districts for the next five days in colour code (Red, Orange and Yellow) to warn citizens of approaching dangerous weather. The colour code Red is the most severe category urging authorities to take action, Orange code prompts authorities and public to be alert and Yellow code prompts authorities and public to keep themselves updated.
- Radar products: Latest Station wise radar products updated every 10 minutes
- Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution launched the Bureau of Indian Standard’s Mobile App BIS-Care.
- The mobile app BIS-Care can be operated on any Android phone.
- This app is operational in Hindi and English language.
- Consumers can check the authenticity of the ISI-marked and hallmarked products and lodge complaints using this app.
Dare to Dream 2.0
Recently, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) launched the Dare to Dream 2.0 contest for innovators and startups on 5th death anniversary of former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam
About Dare to Dream 2.0:
- The ‘Dare to Dream 2.0’ is an open challenge.
- Seeks to promote the innovators and startups of the country in defence and aerospace technologies.
- An expert committee will decide the winners.
- Award money up to Rs 10 lakh for startup and Rs five lakh to the individual category, will be given to the winners.
Issues related to Health & Education
High Throughput COVID testing facilities
Recently, the Prime Minister launched three high throughput COVID-19 testing facilities via video conferencing.
About High-Throughput Testing Facilities:
- Set up at ICMR-National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, Noida; ICMR-National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai; and ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata.
- Will be able to test over 10,000 samples in a day.
- Also, reduce turn-around-time and exposure of lab personnel to infectious clinical materials.
- The labs can test diseases like COVID, Hepatitis B and C, HIV, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Dengue, etc.
- India has more than 11,000 COVID facilities and more than 11 lakh isolation beds.
- More than 5 lakh tests are being conducted in the country daily, and efforts are underway to increase this capacity to 10 lakh.
- India has become the second-largest PPE kit manufacturer.
- More than 3 lakh N-95 masks are being produced in the country daily.
- The annual production capacity of ventilators has become 3 lakh
- There has also been a significant increase in the production of medical oxygen cylinders.
India likely to miss the target of eradicating AIDS by 2030
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has warned that India may miss the national target to end AIDS by 2030.
- ICMR-National Institute of Medical Statistics, Division of Strategic information – Surveillance and Epidemiology, and the National AIDS Control Organization under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare conducted a study which was published in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research.
- The national adult prevalence of HIV was estimated to be 0.22% in 2017. However, the states of Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland had the highest prevalence of over 1%.
- India is estimated to have 2.1 million people were living with the AIDS virus, in 2017. 15 states accounted for 87% of the total population of HIV-infected persons in 2017.
- The states with the highest number of people living with HIV in 2017 were Maharashtra (0.33 million), Andhra Pradesh (0.27 million) and Karnataka (0.24 million). Telangana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had between 0.2 and 0.1 million such patients.
- The decline in annual new HIV infections was only 27% from 2010 to 2017 against a national target of a 75% decline by 2020.
- Of the 88,000 annual new HIV infections nationally in 2017, Telangana accounted for the largest share.
- There were signs of rising new HIV infections in the low-burden states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Uttarakhand in 2017 compared with 2010.
- Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is another critical target to be achieved by 2020. Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana had relatively higher PMTCT need.
- Reinforcement of HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment efforts by geographical regions and population groups.
Protest against Centre’s ordinances
Farmers of Punjab and Haryana held protests against three ordinances of the Centre. The main apprehension was the dismantling of the minimum support price system for foodgrain procurement.
The Centre has introduced three ordinances —
- Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance.
Minimum Support Price
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
- MSP is announced by the Government of India based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution.
- In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
Factors for determining MSP
- Cost of production
- Changes in input prices
- Input-output price parity
- Trends in market prices
- Demand and supply
- Inter-crop price parity
- Effect on industrial cost structure
- Effect on the cost of living
- Effect on the general price level
- International price situation
- Parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers.
- Effect on issue prices and implications for subsidy
Government announces minimum support prices (MSPs) for 22 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.
The list of crops are:
- Cereals (7) – paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi
- Pulses (5) – gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil
- Oilseeds (8) – groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and nigerseed.
- Raw cotton
- Raw jute
- Copra, De-husked coconut
- Sugarcane (Fair and remunerative price)
- Virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court directed the civic authorities to submit a comprehensive plan to revive river Nag.
About Nag River:
- The Nag River is a river that flows through the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra, India.
- It originates from a lake called Ambazari, near Lava Hills which is located to the west of Nagpur City.
- River Pili is one of the tributaries of River Nag.
- The River is part of the Godavari River Basin.
- The city of Nagpur derives its name from this river.
Sources of Pollution:
- Industrial effluents, sewage water originating from slums, Dumping of garbage directly into the river, encroachments into catchment areas, and among other point and non-point sources.
- Rapid urbanization.
- Discharge of untreated wastewater.
- Affected the water quality at Gosikhurd Dam constructed on Wainganga River.
- Deteriorating local ecology
Special Window for Affordable and Mid Income Housing (SWAMIH)
- Recently, 81 stressed housing projects approved under the Special Window for Affordable and Mid Income Housing (SWAMIH).
- The approval, under the SWAMIH Investment Fund I, will enable the completion of nearly 60,000 homes across India.
- These projects are spread across both large cities as well as Tier 2 locations.
- Announced by the Finance Minister.
- SWAMIH Investment Fund I have been formed to complete construction of stalled, brownfield, RERA registered residential developments that are in the affordable housing / mid-income category, are networth positive and requires last-mile funding to complete construction.
- The total corpus of INR 25000 Cr.
- The Sponsor of the Fund is the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India on behalf of the Government of India.
- Increased unsold inventory.
- Shifting of consumer preference towards completed projects rather than under-construction projects.
Bilateral & International Relations
Russia`s Anti-Satellite Weapon
- The United States of America and the United Kingdom accused Russia of conducting a non-destructive test of an anti-satellite weapon.
- According to U.S. Space Command, the test consisted of Russia’s satellite called Cosmos 2543 injecting an object into orbit.
- A military satellite launched by Russia.
- Used a Soyuz-2-1v/Volga rocket.
- Launched from Titov Main Test and Space Systems Control Centre.
Defence & Security Issues
Five Rafale jets take off from France to India
Five Rafale fighter jets took off from France for induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Ambala (Haryana), from which Indo-Pak border is 220 km.
- The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal, located strategically near the Indo-Bhutan border.
- The immediate focus post arrival is on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest amid ongoing tensions with China in Eastern Ladakh.
What is Rafale?
- Rafale is a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft
(MMRCA), with the range 3,700 km.
- The MMRCA competition (tender) of India was a competition to supply 126 multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which was touted to be the largest-ever defence procurement deal of India. The deal was scrapped in 2015. (The contract of 36 Rafale was given separately to France.)
- In 2018, Government announced for the procurement of 114 multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force under MMRCA 2.0.
- In 2016, India decided to buy 36 Rafales from
France at a cost of Rs. 59,000 crores.
- This triggered a political storm with the opposition party accusing the government of striking the deal at an inflated price. Supreme court in 2019 upheld the Rafale deal, stating that no corruption has been found.
- Delivery of all 36 Raphael aircraft (30 fighter jets + 6 trainer jets) would be completed as per schedule by end 2021.
Along with fighter jets, India will also get 3 Missiles from France to be integrated in Raphael aircrafts:
- A Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile
- BVRAAM = Even if the pilot cannot locate enemy aircraft with his eyes, he can aim and fire the missile which will hit the enemy aircraft.
- Range: Over 150 km, with 60 km of No Escape Zone (no fighter jet can be missed within 60km of this missile).
- Powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile.
- Have a no-escape zone many times greater
than any other air-to-air missile.
- Every missile has a ‘no escape zone’, if a target aircraft is within this zone, it is hard for it to evade the missile and save itself. Greater the ‘no escape zone’, better is the missile.
- A deep-strike stand-off attack air-to-ground cruise missile
- Also known as Storm Shadow.
- Range: over 300 km (i.e., Indian jets would not need to cross LoC for conducting Balakot-type operation).
- Known for pinpoint terminal accuracy to hit fixed and stationary targets in land or in waters.
- It is a stealth weapon. i.e, it cannot be easily tracked by enemy.
- A multi-mission air-to-air missiles.
- Its active RADAR and imaging infrared makes it deadly in a close-quarter dogfight and also in long ‘beyond-visual’ range.
- Have a nickname ‘silent killer’ as the target has little time to react before it is destroyed completely.
HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range)
- A Medium-range air-to-ground missile system.
- Range: 60-70 Km
- Has Capability to take out any bunkers or hardened shelters in any type of terrain including the mountainous locations such as Eastern Ladakh.
- However, in view of the border row with China,
HAMMER deal was signed recently using the emergency financial powers
provided by the government to the armed forces.
- Schedule 23 of Army Schedule of Powers (ASP) in Delegation of Financial Powers to Defence Services (DFPDS-2016) deals with emergency financial powers for procurement of stores, equipment, machinery or other expenditure connected with exercises or operations.
- These powers are applicable in cases of urgent or immediate military necessities relating to military preparedness to meet eventualities such as a war-like situation, natural calamities, etc.
India Specific Modification
- Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets come with 13 India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
- It’s payload fraction (ratio of maximum take-off weight (25 tons) to its overall empty weight (10 tons) is unmatched in aircraft of the same class. This means Rafale can carry a lot of weapons.
- The Rafale has earlier been used for air strikes in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. So it is combat proven aircraft.
- Capable of carrying out a variety of missions — ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike attack.
- Can carry almost 10 tonnes of weapons and 5 tonnes of fuel.
- Can easily switch from one role to another without compromising performance.
- Has active Electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system (Resistance to Electronic Jamming and low probability of intercept by an enemy radar).
Regional Counter attack
- For each Pakistan F16 jet in the air, two Su30MKI jets of India have to be scrambled because of superior radar & missiles of F16. Combined with the upcoming deliveries of the S400 air defence system next year, the Rafale will greatly enhance Indian air superiority in the region.
- The Rafales’ main contender in China would be
the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 aircraft, both are pitched as
fifth-generation stealth fighters against the Rafales’ 4.5 generation
lineage. However, Shenyang J-31 is under development. India can take
advantage of this to pressurize China amid current India-China conflict.
- The United States defines 4.5-generation fighter aircraft as fourth-generation jet fighters that have been upgraded.
- Powerful symbol of the strategic partnership between India and France.
- The Rafale jet has to be integrated into the IAF’s war fighting architecture, a task that will require a finite time.
- The Hammer system was brought using the emergency financial powers. This shows the abysmal performance of India’s defence acquisition system. (Earlier, it was decided that Israeli SPICE Bomb system would be use instead of HAMMER in Rafale due to low cost).
- The timing and scale of this emergency buys, projected to cross a billion dollars, is in opposition to the idea of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ as far as defence industry is concerned.
- There is little incentive for the private
sector to enter defence space. Indian defence procurements are generally not
the high-value, multi-year contracts that can provide long term
visibility to private sector defence enterprise. Economies of scale can
only be achieved through standardization and large orders.
- However, the government has recently announced 74% FDI in defence manufacturing under automatic route (i.e., foreign investor/Indian company does not require any approval from Government of India for the investment).
India-France Defence Cooperation
- India and France have Strategic Partnership since 1998.
- The areas of defence cooperation, space cooperation and civil nuclear cooperation constitute the three principal pillars of Strategic Partnership between India and France.
- In 2018, both countries decided to create an annual defence dialogue at the Ministerial level.
- Both sides also have a High Committee on Defence Cooperation (HCDC) which meets annually.
- The three services also have regular defence exercises; viz. Exercise Shakti (Army), Exercise Varuna (Navy), Exercise Garuda (Air Force).
Ongoing Project between India and France (apart from Rafael deal)
- P-75 Scorpene Project: The contract for six Scorpene submarines was signed in 2006. All six vessels are to be built under technology transfer at the Mazagaon Docks Ltd. The first submarine INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017.
[Ref: The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Indian Express]
82nd Raising Day of the Central Armed Police Force
The Prime Minister and other dignitaries greeted the Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) personnel on its 82nd Raising Day.
- India`s largest Central Armed Police Force. Has a sanctioned strength of more than 300,000 personnel.
- Functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The CRPF came into existence as Crown Representative’s Police on July 27, 1939.
- It became the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the enactment of the CRPF Act on December 28, 1949.
- To enable the government to maintain the rule of law, public order and internal security effectively and efficiently.
- To preserve national integrity and promote social harmony and development by upholding the supremacy of the Constitution.
- The CRPF’s primary role lies in assisting the State/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and counter-insurgency.
- Apart from anti-Naxal operations, CRPF personnel also carries out several operations in situations of crisis like terrorist attacks, counter-terrorism operations, rescuing citizens during terrorist attacks and among others.
- Provide security services during elections.
- Some CRPF contingents were part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force
Science & Technology
Spyware, stalkerware during the pandemic
Global cyber-security firm Avast warned that there was a 51 % increase in the use of spyware and stalkerware during the lockdown period from March to June, in the backdrop of heightened domestic violence case.
What are spy and stalkerware apps?
- Spy and stalkerware apps, like viruses and other malware, infect devices that are connected to the internet.
- While viruses and malware can be detected by anti-virus software, spyware and stalkerware apps disguise themselves as useful and send out stolen data to central servers without the knowledge of the users.
- A spyware app, which can also be installed remotely, accesses the data usage pattern of the device, gains access to photos and videos as well as other personal information of the user, and then passes it off to a central server.
- For spyware apps, the easiest method to install is
to disguise the spying code inside the unauthorised versions of premium apps.
- For example, someone can claim to have a cracked version of a premium app such as Spotify. Now, whoever installs such apps can be remotely tracked easily. Since the code of the application (inside which the spyware codes are hidden) do not spy on the users, such codes pass the scrutiny of anti-virus programmes.
- A stalkerware app can be installed only when someone has physical access to the digitally connected device. Though the app works in a manner similar to spyware apps, it also gives out the location of the device to a master device which controls the stalkerware app.
- Most stalkerware apps work in stealth mode with no trace of the app having ever been installed.
- Stalkerware apps seek explicit permissions (i.e, when people installed some apps on their partners’ or their kids’ phones to check activities) at the time of their installation.
- Once installed, such apps can allow the master device to control and even change emails and text messages. Such app is hidden from the apps menu into the background, from where they continue functioning.
Why has the usage of such apps increased during lockdown?
- Increased usage of internet by everyone due to various lockdown measures in place.
- Concern over Security, health, and money which was further accentuated by cramped living spaces.
Mars landing missions run risk of interplanetary contamination
As ambitious space missions are proliferating, along with advances in commercial space flight, astrobiologists have expressed concerns about possible ‘interplanetary contamination’.
Recent Mars Missions
- China’s Tianwen-1: Launched in July 2020. Aim: To land on the Martian surface
- UAE’s Al Amal (Hope Mission): An orbital mission (does not involve a landing) that will study the Martian atmosphere.
- Perseverance mission: InvolvesPerseverance Mars rover and the Ingenuity helicopter drone of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
What are interplanetary contamination?
- Interplanetary contamination refers to biological contamination of a planetary body by a space probe or spacecraft, either deliberate or unintentional.
- In other words, it is the risk that a space mission will result in the transfer of life between Earth and an extraterrestrial body.
- Forward contamination: transport of Earth-based microbes to other celestial bodies;
- Back contamination: transfer of extraterrestrial organisms (if they exist) into the Earth’s biosphere.
Forward contaminating Mars
- In the past, space missions have established physical contact with astronomical bodies such as comets and asteroids, and crewed missions have landed on the Moon. However, since these bodies are known to be hostile to life, the possibility of their forward contamination has not been as a pressing issue.
- However, in the case of Mars, space missions
have discovered the possible presence of liquid water on mars and are now actively
looking for signs of life.
- If there is a chance that Mars has life, there is an ethical obligation on humanity to ensure that microbes from Earth do not disturb a possible Martian biosphere.
- Also, experts worry that Earth-based organisms could spoil the integrity of Mar’s samples that rovers want to study. This is highly disruptive for scientists who are looking for signs of native Martian life.
- NASA also plans for a Mars sample-return mission, which would bring samples of Mars back to Earth, possibly by 2031.
- However, the probability that Martian microbes would infect human beings–causing a catastrophe like the current pandemic– is nil, given the fact that their biochemistry would be markedly different from that on Earth.
- The United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967 also state that countries have to avoid contaminating and harming space or celestial bodies.
- To ensure compliance with the Treaty, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) lays down a ‘planetary protection policy’ that aims to limit the number of microbes sent to other planets, as well as ensuring that alien life does not cause havoc on Earth.
- These guidelines have had far-reaching implications on human spacecraft design, operational procedures, and overall mission structure. Both NASA and the ESA have also appointed Planetary Protection Officers.
Sterilization of spacecraft
- To prevent forward contamination, space missions take care to ensure that spacecraft are sterilised. Previous Mars missions, such as NASA’s Viking landers of the 1970s, were all sterilised before being launched into space.
- Recently, NASA’s Perseverance mission was postponed for a second time to resolve a potential contamination issue.
Outer Space Treaty
- The “Outer Space Treaty” or the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law.
- The treaty entered into force on 10 October 1967.
- As of June 2020, 110 countries are parties to the treaty including the US, Russia, China, and India. India signed it in 1967.
- Prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space,
- Limits the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes only,
- Establishes that space shall be free for exploration and use by all nations, but that no nation may claim sovereignty of outer space or any celestial body.
Exclusion: It does not ban military activities within space, military space forces, or the weaponization of space, with the exception of the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space.
- It is mostly a non-armament treaty and offers insufficient regulations to newer space activities such as lunar and asteroid mining.
International principles and declarations
The United Nations General Assembly adopted five declarations and legal principles.
- The Outer Space Treaty (1967): Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies
- The Rescue Agreement (1968): Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space
- The Liability Convention (1972): Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects
- The Registration Convention (1976): Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space
- The Moon Agreement (1984): Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies
- The Declaration of Legal Principles (1963): Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space
- The Broadcasting Principles (1982): The Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting
- The Remote Sensing Principles (1986): The Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space
- The Nuclear Power Sources Principles (1992): The Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space
- The Benefits Declaration (1996): The Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries
[Ref: Indian Express]