Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court asks high courts to fast-track trial under POCSO Act
- New chairman of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI)
Government Schemes & Policies
- National Telecom Policy
- Centre promises law on DNA profiling; SC disposes of PIL
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India tops world in bad air quality: WHO database
- NDMA to conduct workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction database
Bilateral & International Relations
- 9th India-Japan Energy Dialogue held in New Delhi
Key Facts for Prelims
- Exercise Vijay Prahar
- President chairs the first meeting of the National Committee on Gandhi 150th birth Anniversary
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Polity & Governance
Supreme Court asks high courts to fast-track trial under POCSO Act
The Supreme Court has issued a slew of directions to all high courts of the country regarding trial in sexual assault cases involving children.
- All high courts must ensure that the cases of sexual assault of children are fast-tracked and decided by special courts.
- High courts should instruct the trial courts not to grant unnecessary adjournments during trial of cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
- High courts may constitute a committee of three judges to regulate and monitor the trials of sexual assault cases of children.
- The State police chiefs should constitute special task forces to investigate cases.
- Nearly 32% of cases filed under the POCSO Act, which deals with sexual abuse of minors, were pending police investigation at the end of 2016 while 89% were pending trials.
Highlights of the POCSO Act:
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
- The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography. It deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
- The Act casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process. Thus, the police personnel receiving a report of sexual abuse of a child are given the responsibility of making urgent arrangements for the care and protection of the child, such as obtaining emergency medical treatment for the child and placing the child in a shelter home, and bringing the matter in front of the CWC, should the need arise.
- The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.
- It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible. Hence, the child may have a parent or other trusted person present at the time of testifying and can call for assistance from an interpreter, special educator, or other professional while giving evidence.
- Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
- The Act also provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences. This casts a legal duty upon a person who has knowledge that a child has been sexually abused to report the offence; if he fails to do so, he may be punished with six months’ imprisonment and/ or a fine.
New chairman of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI)
The Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) has appointed former chief secretary of Karnataka, Subhash Chandra Khuntia as new chairman of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).
About the IRDAI:
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory agencytasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India.
- It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999, an act of Parliament passed by the government of India.
- The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad, Telangana, where it moved from Delhi in 2001.
- IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.
Functions of IRDA
- Protect the rights of insurance policy holders.
- Provide registration certification to life insurance companies
- Renew, modify, cancel or suspend this registration certificate as and when appropriate; promote efficiency in conduct of insurance business
- Promote and regulate professional organisations connected with insurance and reinsurance business; regulate investment of funds by insurance companies
- Adjudication of disputes between insurers and intermediaries or insurance intermediaries.
- In India insurance was mentioned in the writings of Manu (Manusmrithi), Yagnavalkya (Dharmasastra) and Kautilya (Arthashastra), which examined the pooling of resources for redistribution after fire, floods, epidemics and famine.
Government Schemes & Policies
National Telecom Policy
The draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018 has been released by the Department of Telecom (DoT).
Highlights of the draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018:
- The policy has outlined goals such as providing broadband for all, creating 4 million additional jobs in the digital communications sector, apart from enhancing the contribution of the digital communications sector to 8% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) from less than 6% in 2017.
Three major missions:
The draft policy has outlined three major missions which it aims to achieve by 2022:
- Connect India under which it aims to create robust digital communications.
- Propel India under which the government aims to harness the power of emerging digital technologies, including 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet Of Things (IoT), etc.
- Secure India which aims to safeguard the digital sovereignty of India with a focus on ensuring individual autonomy and choice, data ownership, privacy and security.
National Broadband mission:
- The policy has announced goals such as deployment of 5 million public Wi-Fi Hotspots by 2020 and 10 million by 2022 through a National Broadband Mission.
- In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytics data scandal, the government aims to now establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals and facilitates India’s participation in the global digital economy.
Fibre First Initiative:
- The policy aims to implement a ‘Fibre First Initiative’ to take fibre to the home by according telecom optic fibre cables the status of public utility.
- The government also aims to enable infrastructure convergence of IT, telecom and broadcasting sectors by amending the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and other relevant acts for the purpose of convergence in coordination with respective ministries.
- In order to attract investments of $100 billion in the digital communications sector and increase India’s contribution to global value chains, the government will review levies and fees including license fee, universal service obligation fund (USOF) levy and concept of pass through revenues in line with principles of input line credit apart from rationalising spectrum usage charges (SUCs) to reflect the costs of regulation and administration of spectrum.
Light touch licensing regime:
- The DoT will also establish light touch licensing regime for the proliferation of public data offices (PDOs) and Public Data Office Aggregators for providing internet access through Wi-Fi hotspots.
Renewable energy technologies:
- The Policy talks of incentivising the use of renewable energy technologies in the communications sector, including utilisation of small cell fuel batteries, lithium-ion batteries or other similar technologies.
Centre promises law on DNA profiling; SC disposes of PIL
The Supreme Court has considered the submission of the Centre that it would move a Bill in the upcoming Parliament session for DNA profiling to enable authorities to maintain records of unidentified and unclaimed dead bodies or missing persons.
- The government was responding to a PIL petition on the use of DNA profiling for identifying unclaimed bodies, especially to match them with old cases of missing persons.
What is DNA profiling?
- DNA fingerprinting or DNA profiling is method of isolating and identifying variable elements within the base-pair sequence of DNA.
- DNA fingerprinting technology is utilised by police all over the world for fool-proof identification of criminals who leave their traces at crime scene while committing crime.
- The technology plays a crucial role in solving crimes as it has potential to link a series of crimes by placing the suspects by linking them with the crime scene.
Significance of DNA profiling:
- DNA profiling plays a crucial role not only in solving crimes but also has a potential to link a series of crimes by placing the suspects at the scene of crime by linking the suspects with the crime scene while also helping to prove their innocence.
- It can also be used to resolve disputes of paternity and maternity.
- It can establish the identity of missing children and baby-swapping cases in hospitals.
About Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015:
The Centre’s Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015, was prepared by the Department of Biotechnology and the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA-Fingerprinting and Diagnostics. Several organisations and individuals, however, raised concerns that the bill gave sweeping powers to government to mine the database and use it for purposes beyond just solving crime.
Highlights of the Human DNA Profiling Bill:
- The bill proposes to allow collection of samples from private parts of human body for DNA profiling and data preservation with the approval of a regulatory body.
- It suggests that a National DNA Profiling Board and a National DNA Bank be set up in Hyderabad, with every state having a regional DNA data bank. The DNA Data Bank would maintain records of samples found at crime scenes, or from suspects, offenders, missing persons, volunteers, etc.
- The bill also makes it clear that no DNA Laboratory shall undertake DNA profiling without the prior approval of the DNA Board.
- If a foreign country requests DNA profiling, the DNA Bank will coordinate through CBI or a concerned department.
- The bill mandates that the DNA profiles or samples be kept confidential, and they should be used only for establishing identity of a person and nothing else.
- Government investigation agencies and judiciary, among others, can seek information from Data Banks. For unauthorized use of data, a stringent punishment is provided.
Highlights of the DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017:
DNA profiling Board:
- Constitution of a DNA Profiling Board, a statutory body to undertake functions such as laying down procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories and grant accreditation to such laboratories; and advising the concerned ministries/departments of the Central and state governments on issues relating to DNA laboratories.
Functions of the Board:
- The Board shall also be responsible for supervising, monitoring, inspecting and assessing the laboratories.
- The Board will frame guidelines for training of the police and other investigating agencies dealing with DNA-related matters. Advising on all ethical and human rights issues relating to DNA testing in consonance with international guidelines will be another function of the Board.
- It will recommend research and development activities in DNA testing and related issues, etc.
- DNA profiling would be undertaken exclusively for identification of a person and would not be used to extract any other information.
National DNA Data Bank:
- There shall be a National DNA Data Bank, and Regional DNA Data Banks for the states, to be established by the Central government.
- The data banks will be responsible for storing DNA profiles received from the accredited laboratories and maintaining certain indices for various categories of data, like crime scene index, suspects’ index, offenders’ index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index.
- With a view to assist the kith and kin of missing persons, provisions have been made for proper identification of missing persons on the basis of their bodily samples/substances.
- Last year, the Law Commission of India, in its 271st report, prepared the draft Bill named The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions.
- It however had also flagged that privacy concerns and the ethics involved in this scientific collection of data were very high. The Commission said the procedure for DNA profiling, if given statutory recognition, should be done legitimately as per constitutional provisions.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India tops world in bad air quality: WHO database
WHO recently released global air pollution database in Geneva.
- WHO monitored 4,300 world cities for their air pollution levels in terms of PM 2.5 levels in the year 2016.
- The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.
Highlights of the database:
- According to a study which drew off the most-recent data 2016 data, 9 out of 10 people are exposed to dangerously high levels of pollutants around the world which leads to the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
- Air pollution levels were the highest in the eastern Mediterranean and southeast Asia. Here, in some of the areas, the airborne toxins were five times the limits set by the WHO. These toxins affected the poor and most vulnerable.
- Air pollution is the reason behind a dozen of diseases which often prove to be lethal. Almost 7 million deaths were caused by household and outdoor pollution in the previous year.
India related facts:
- As per the database, 14 out of 15 most polluted cities in the world are from India and the top 14 cities are from India only.
- Kanpur is the most polluted city which came on top with PM 2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic metre.
- Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.
- The national Capital climbed down from the fourth spot, where it appeared in WHO 2015 data, to the sixth spot only.
Special mention of ‘Ujjwala’:
- The WHO report has made a special mention of Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Ujjwala’ scheme to provide LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households.
- The report said, “While the latest data shows ambient air pollution levels are still dangerously high in most parts of the world, countries also show some positive progress.”
NDMA to conduct workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction database
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) conducted two-day National Workshop on Data Requirements for Disaster Risk Reduction Database in New Delhi.
- The workshop was held in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).
- The workshop aimed to develop consensus on disasters, thresholds and develop standardised templates for data collection, updation and validation to ensure accuracy and quality.
Need for Disaster Risk Reduction database:
India often refers to global databases and snapshots of disaster events for reporting disaster losses. However, these databases work under various limitations and are not able to produce accurate analyses.
- In this background, India is planning to create uniform and credible national-level disaster database.
- It will consist of locally obtained and validated data which will aid scientific analyses and suitable policy interventions to reduce disaster risks.
Significance of database:
- It will help in assessing and tracking risks and progress towards disaster resilience without which India will not be able to meet its developmental goals.
- It will also be step forwards towards implementing Prime Minister’s 10-point agenda to address disaster risks, outlined during Asian Ministerial Conference on DRR (AMCDRR) in November, 2016.
Bilateral & International Relations
9th India-Japan Energy Dialogue held in New Delhi
The 9th India Japan Energy Dialogue was held in New Delhi.
- Both countries issued Joint Statement at conclusion of the meeting, agreeing to work together for energy security, energy access and climate change issues.
About the Joint Statement:
- Both India and Japan agree to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under aegis of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- They recognized importance of development and deployment of next generation technologies including hydrogen to realize de-carbonization.
- Both countries agreed to work together for energy security, energy access and climate change issues.
- They further confirmed their commitment to work together in promoting well-functioning energy markets and promote transparent and diversified Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market through relaxation of destination clause.
- They also agreed to initiate discussion on Electric Vehicles (Evs) and commit to work together in promoting well-functioning energy markets.
Key Facts for Prelims
Exercise Vijay Prahar
- South Western Command of Indian Army is conducting ‘Vijay Prahar’ exercise in Mahajan Field Firing Ranges close to Suratgarh in Rajasthan.
- The month-long exercise is essentially to practice the troops in penetrative manoeuvres across the obstacle ridden terrain under a nuclear umbrella.
- The exercise is aimed to orchestrate wide spectrum of threats which are planned to be tackled through high tempo joint air and land operation involving hundreds of aircrafts, thousands of tanks and artillery pieces supported by real time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and just in time logistic support.
South Western Command:
- The South Western Command of the Indian Army was established in April 2005 and became fully operational on 15 August 2005.
- It is headquartered at Jaipur, Rajasthan.
- The command’s operational units include I Corps, formerly under Central Command, and X Corps transferred from Western Command.
President chairs the first meeting of the National Committee on Gandhi 150th birth Anniversary
President Ram Nath Kovind chaired the first meeting of the National Committee for the Commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019.
About the committee:
- The Committee has a total of 125 members, including 116 from India and encompasses the President (as chair), the Vice-President, Prime Minister, Union Ministers, former Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, senior MPs and political leaders from across party lines.
- It also includes eminent Gandhians, social thinkers and activists representing a cross-section of Indian society and regional diversity.
- The Committee also has nine international members, including two former Secretaries General of the United Nations – Mr Kofi Annan and Mr Ban Ki-moon – and Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former US Vice-President Al Gore.
- The birth anniversary of father of the nation will be commemorated from 2nd October, 2019 to 2nd October, 2020.
- In 2018-19 budget proposals, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had earmarked Rs. 150 crore for the celebrations.