Polity & Governance
- Section 29 of POCSO Act applicable only after trial begins
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Proposal for Legal Status of Elephant Reserves
- Madhuca diplostemon
- New species of pipeworts from Western Ghats
- Eco disaster unfolding on Kamchatka beach
Defence & Security Issues
- India successfully tests nuclear-capable Shaurya missile
Science & Technology
- What is polygraph test?
Key Facts for Prelims
- Sphinx and Muziris
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Section 29 of POCSO Act applicable only after trial begins
The Delhi High Court has ruled that the presumption of guilt engrafted in Section 29 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act gets triggered and applies only once trial begins, that is after charges are framed against the accused.
Section 29 of POCSO Act:
- Section 29 of the POCSO Act says that when a person is prosecuted for committing an offence of sexual assault against a minor, the special court trying the case shall presume the accused to be guilty.
What is the ruling?
- The reverse burden on the accused to prove his innocence was incorporated in the POCSO Act keeping in view the low conviction rate of sexual offences against children.
- The question of whether the presumption of guilt applies only at the stage of trial and also apply when a bail plea is being considered.
- It was ruled that if a bail plea is being considered before charges have been framed, Section 29 has no application.
- Trial commences when charges are framed against an accused and not before that.
- Only at the stage when charges are framed does the court apply its judicial mind to whether there is enough evidence on record to frame a precise allegation, which the accused must answer.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), 2012:
- In order to effectively address the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions, the Ministry of Women and Child Development championed the introduction of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
- The act was enacted by the Government of India to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
- The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is mandated to monitor the implementation of POCSO Act, 2012.
- The Act defines a child as any person below 18 years of age, and regards the best interests and well-being of the child as being of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
- The act 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.
- People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act.
- The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
Provisions related to conduct of trial of reported offences:
- Establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act, keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process.
- The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.
- The Intent to commit an offence, even when unsuccessful for whatever reason, needs to be penalized.
- To prevent misuse of the law, punishment has been provided for making false complaint or proving false information with malicious intent.
- The POCSO Act is only applicable to child survivors and adult offenders.
- In case two children have sexual relations with each other, or in case a child perpetrates a sexual offence on an adult, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, will apply.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Proposal for Legal Status of Elephant Reserves
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has proposed an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to accord legal status to elephant reserves and corridors on the lines of tiger reserves.
- Reduce conflict through mitigation measures in elephant corridors.
- Address the problem of rising human-elephant conflict.
About Project Elephant
Project Elephant (PE) was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with the following objectives:
- To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
- To address issues of man-animal conflict
- The welfare of captive elephants
- India is home to about 30,000 elephants or 60% of the global Asian elephant population.
- India’s first elephant reserve was created in Jharkhand in 2001 under Project Elephant
- According to data shared with the Lok Sabha on September 23, close to 2,300 people were killed by elephants in the past five years until 2019, which was 10 times the number killed by tigers.
- Also, 400 elephants were killed by poachers or through poisoning by residents.
For more information on Project Elephant, please visit[Ref: Hindustan Times]
Researchers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) in Kerala have rediscovered an endangered tree species 184 years after its first collection in the Western Ghats.
- A tree from the species has been identified in front of Koonayil Ayiravilli Siva temple at Paravur in Kollam district, Kerala.
- Madhuca diplostemon is a species of flowering plant from Sapotaceae family.
- It has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
- The tree is the only known individual from the species.
- It is believed that the species was a highly local endemic with a few individuals in the past, which were inadvertently removed for temple expansion in recent years.
- Since the species is represented by a single mature individual in a single locality, it is assessed here as critically endangered, as per the IUCN criteria.
- This tree is about 4-metre high; its bark fissured and leaves spirally arranged and crowded towards the branch tips.
New species of pipeworts from Western Ghats
Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, have recently found two new species of pipeworts in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
About the new species:
- The one reported from Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra was named as Eriocaulon parvicephalum (due to its minute inflorescence size).
- The other reported from Kumta, Karnataka was named as Eriocaulon karaavalense (named after Karaavali = Coastal Karnataka region).
- The plant group is known for its varied medicinal properties.
- The plant group known as pipeworts (Eriocaulon), which completes their life cycle within a small period during monsoon.
- It exhibits great diversity in the Western Ghats, having around 111 species in India.
- Most of these are reported from the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas, and around 70% of them are endemic to the country.
- Eriocaulon cinereum is well known for its anti-cancerous, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties.
- E. quinquangulare is used against liver diseases.
- E. madayiparense is an anti-bacterial from Kerala.
Eco disaster unfolding on Kamchatka beach
According to a report, an ‘ecological disaster’ of sorts is unfolding on a black volcanic beach of the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East.
What is the matter?
- Three weeks ago, surfers on the Khalaktyrsky beach outside Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the largest town in Kamchatka, had reported of burning eyes, throat ache, headache, fever and a fear of losing eyesight on emerging from the water.
- Then, sea animals begin to die in large numbers, their bodies littering the beach.
- These included octopuses, seals, sea urchins, stars, crabs and fish.
- Examination of the sea water by the administration has shown that levels of phenols and oil compounds have spiked.
- The river displayed a yellow colour.
- There is a training camp of the Russian military upstream. Another theory being speculated is that ships carrying oil in the vicinity had leaked it into the sea water.
- Kamchatka is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Temperatures in Antarctic Peninsula highest in 30 years:
- Temperatures in 2020 on the Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost tip of the Antarctic continent, have been the highest in nearly three decades, a study by researchers from the University of Santiago de Chile has found.
- Temperatures reached between two and three degrees Celsius on the peninsula between January and August, according to a report on science and environment website.
- That is “more than two degrees Celsius over typical values”, according to researchers.
- This was an alarming development since it could indicate that the ocean in the area was once again warming, according to scientists.
- The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite has photographed the enormous amount of Andes mountain sediment deposited by the Amazon river into the Atlantic Ocean.
- Most of the sediment that the Amazon carried to the Atlantic came from three rivers flowing in the western part of the basin, namely the Marañón, the Ucayali and Mamoré.
- Some 1.3 million tonnes of rock, soil and clay are deposited by the Amazon into the Atlantic every year.
- Kamchatka is 900 miles long and it is closer to Alaska than it is to Moscow.
- Kamchatka contains the highest concentration of active volcanoes in the world, as well as freezing winters that are braved by nomadic reindeer herders.
- The volcanoes have been incorporated into an extensive UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including brown bears, sea otters and sea eagles.
- This peninsula has over 150 volcanoes and 29 out of them are active.
- It has a group of 19 volcanoes known as Volcanoes of Kamchatka which is UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- It has many volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and even a lake of acid.
- The region’s extensive network of rivers and proximity to the Sea of Okhotsk and Pacific Ocean allows it to play host to the largest variety of salmonid species on earth, including the sockeye salmon.
Defence & Security Issues
India successfully tests nuclear-capable Shaurya missile
An advanced version of the `Shaurya’ surface-to-surface nuclear-capable ballistic the missile was successfully test-fired in Odisha.
- It has the capability to strike at targets which are in a range of about 800 km.
- It can carry nuclear payload.
- Shaurya is a land-based parallel of the submarine launched K-15 missile.
- These ballistic weapons belong to the K missile family — codenamed after late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam — which are launched from Arihant class of nuclear submarines.
- It is easier to use as it is lighter.
- When fired, the missile in the final phase of its course moves at hypersonic speeds before reaching a height of 40 km as it gets closer to its target.
- It is a two-stage rocket missile.
- This missile operates from solid fuel but can guide itself towards the target towards the cruise missile.
- Once inducted these missiles are expected to complement the existing class of missile systems.
- It has been tested by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- The missile is so fast that the enemy’s radar across the border will get less than 400 seconds to detect, track, and intercept it.
- It can be stored in a composite canister, which can be easily hidden.
The K Family of missiles:
- The K family of missiles are primarily Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), which have been indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and are named after Dr Kalam.
- The development of these naval platform launched missiles began in the late 1990s as a step towards completing India’s nuclear triad — the capability of launching nuclear weapons from land, sea and air based assets.
- Because these missiles are to be launched from submarines, they are lighter, smaller and stealthier than their land-based counterparts, the Agni series of missiles.
- While K family are primarily submarine-fired missiles to be fired from India’s Arihant class nuclear powered platforms, the land and air variants of some of its members have also been developed by the DRDO.
- India has also developed and successfully tested multiple times the K-4 missiles from the family which has a range of 3500 km.
The strategic importance of SLBMs:
- The capability of being able to launch nuclear weapons submarine platforms has great strategic importance in context of achieving a nuclear triad, especially in the light of ‘no first use’ policy of India.
- The sea-based underwater nuclear capable assets significantly increases the second strike capability of a country and thus boosts its nuclear deterrence.
- These submarines can not only survive a first strike by the adversary but also can launch a strike in retaliation thus achieving Credible Nuclear Deterrence.
- The 2016 commissioned nuclear powered Arihant submarine and its class members which in the pipeline, are the assets capable of launching missiles with nuclear warheads.
- The development of these capabilities is important in light of India’s relations with the two neighbours China and Pakistan. With China having deployed many of its submarines, including some which are nuclear powered and nuclear capable, this capacity building is crucial for India’s nuclear deterrence.
Science & Technology
What is Polygraph test?
A polygraph test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.
- Instruments like cardio-cuffs or sensitive electrodes are attached to the person, and variables such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, change in sweat gland activity, blood flow, etc., are measured as questions are put to them.
- A numerical value is assigned to each response to conclude whether the person is telling the truth, is deceiving, or is uncertain.
- A test such as this is said to have been first done in the 19th century by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who used a machine to measure changes in the blood pressure of criminal suspects during interrogation.
- Similar devices were subsequently created by the American psychologist William Marstron in 1914, and by the California police officer John Larson in 1921.
- Narcoanalysis involves the injection of a drug, sodium pentothal, which induces a hypnotic or sedated state in which the subject’s imagination is neutralised, and they are expected to divulge information that is true.
- The drug, referred to as “truth serum” was used in larger doses as anaesthesia during surgery, and is said to have been used during World War II for intelligence operations.
In Indian investigation:
- In Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr (2010), a Supreme Court Bench ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of consent of the accused”.
- Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.
- The subject’s consent should be recorded before a judicial magistrate.
- The results of the tests cannot be considered to be “confessions”, because those in a drugged-induced state cannot exercise a choice in answering questions that are put to them.
- However, any information or material subsequently discovered with the help of such a voluntarily-taken test can be admitted as evidence.
- No individual should be forcibly subjected to any of the techniques in question, whether in the context of investigation in criminal cases or otherwise.
Previous criminal cases in which these tests been used
- CBI has sought to conduct these tests on the driver and helper of the truck that hit the Unnao rape victim in Uttar Pradesh in July, 2019.
- In May 2017, the founder of INX Media, Indrani Mukerjea, who is facing trial for the alleged murder of her daughter Sheena Bora in 2012, had offered to undergo the lie detector test, which was refused by the CBI, stating that they had sufficient evidence against her.
- The polygraph test was also conducted on Dr Rajesh Talwar and Dr Nupur Talwar, who were accused of killing their daughter Aayushi and help Hemraj in Noida. The video of the narco analysis test on their compounder, Krishna, had been leaked.
Key Facts for Prelims
Sphinx and Muziris
A gemstone with a she-Sphinx and among other finds in Kerala provides linkage to ancient trade between India and the Roman Empire, through the port of Muzris.
- A sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human, a falcon, a cat, or a sheep and the body of a lion with the wings of an eagle.
- Muziris was a port city located on the banks of Periyar River between the 1st century BC and 4th century AD.
- It facilitated trade between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean region.
- Muziris was known as Emporia of the East and flourished after the Romans conquered Egypt.
- Commodities exported from Muziris included spices, semi-precious stones etc.
- The decline of the Roman Empire and a flood in the Periyar River in 1341 which silted the Muziris harbour are considered to be the reasons for the decline of Muziris port.