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Daily UPSC Current Affairs and Latest Daily News on IAS Prelims Bits

G.S II - Bodies - Constitutional, Statutory & Regulatory

GANHRI’s ratings for India


Why in news?

Recently the UN recognised Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has deferred National Human Rights Commission’s accreditation for the second time in the row.

What is Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions?

  • Launch year- In 1993 at Tunis, Tunisia as the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, it later got changed to GANHRI in 2016.
  • Headquarters- Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Vision- A world where everyone and everywhere fully enjoy their human rights.
  • Tripartite partnership- GANHRI-UNDP-OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) aims to strengthen NHRIs in their capacity to promote and protect human rights, individually and through their regional and global networks resulting in increased fulfilment of human rights for all people.
  • Members- 115 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from all regions of the globe and provides leadership and support in the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • Uniqueness- It is the only non-UN body whose internal accreditation system is based on compliance with the 1993 Paris Principles that grants access to UN committees.
  • Paris Principles, 1993- It is the set of international standards which frame and guide the work of NHRIs, it was adopted by UN General Assembly (UNGA).
  • Rating- The rating is based on the subcommittee consisting of one A status NHRI representative from each of the regional networks.
  • Sub-Committee on Accreditation- It is a peer review process for initial accreditation, and re-accreditation every five years is managed by the subcommittee.

Status

About

A status

  • It is granted to NHRIs that are in full compliance with the Paris Principles
  • They are entitled to vote or hold office in the GANHRI or its regional groups

B status

  • It is given to NHRIs that partially comply with the Paris Principles.
  • Institutions with B status can participate in GANHRI meetings but are unable to vote or hold governance positions
  • India’s status- GANHRI has deferred National Human Rights Commission’s reaccreditation due to concerns regarding its compliance with the Paris Principles.

India being accredited in 1999 had retained its A ranking in 2006 and 2011, while its status was deferred in 2016 and restored after a year

What are the concerns raised by GANHRI?

  • Lack of diversity- There is a lack of representation from marginalized groups, and the selection process does not maximize the inclusion of candidates from various backgrounds.
  • Gender disparity- Despite recommendations to ensure at least 1 woman in its leadership, the NHRC has historically failed to achieve significant gender representation.
  • Opaque appointment process- The process for appointing members to the NHRC is not transparent, raising questions about the fairness and integrity of the selections.
  • Limited cooperation-  The commission has been criticized for not engaging constructively with NGOs and Human Rights Defenders (HFDs) which is essential for effective human rights advocacy
  • Conflict of interest- The involvement of police personnel in investigations may lead to biases and conflicts of interest.
  • Inadequate response- NHRC is perceived as being ineffective in addressing and responding to increasing human rights violations.

Consequences of losing ‘A’ rating

  • Lose voting rights- The NHRC would no longer have voting rights within GANHRI.
  • Loss of representative role- It would also lose its role as a representative at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • Diminish influence- It would reduce India’s influence in international human rights forums.
  • Impact on credibility- The credibility and effectiveness of human rights protections within India could be undermined.

What lies ahead?

  • The need of the hour is to address the key concerns raised by GANHRI as it is crucial for India to maintain its 'A' rating and ensure robust protection and promotion of human rights.
  • Substantial reforms in the appointment process, greater independence from government influence, enhanced engagement with civil society and improved diversity are the essential steps towards restoring the credibility and functionality of the NHRC.

Quick facts

National Human Rights Commission

  • Established year- 1993
  • Governed by- The statute under which it is established is the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 as amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  • Paris Principles- It is in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted as the 1st international workshop on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights held in Paris in 1991, and endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
  • Section 2(1)(d)- PHRA defines human rights as rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individuals guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by the courts in India.
  • HRCNet portal- It is developed by NHRC with technical assistance from National Informatics Centre, it can be used by all Human Rights Commissions in the country for online complaints lodging/tracking systems and handling of complaints received offline( by hand, by post etc.,)

 

References

  1. The Hindu- NHRC is under review
  2. NHRC- About NHRC

G.S III - S & T

India’s Arctic imperative


Why in news?

India’s first winter experience at the Arctic came to a successful end recently.

What is the history of India’s involvement in the Arctic?

Arctic region is the region, which is above the Arctic Circle and includes the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre.

  • Svalbard Treaty, Paris- India is a signatory to this treaty which recognizes the sovereignty of Norway over the archipelago of Svalbard and grants equal rights to all parties to engage in economic activities, such as mining and fishing in the region and its territorial waters.
  • Research mission- In 2007, India undertook its first research mission to investigate Arctic microbiology, atmospheric sciences, and geology.
  • Himadri research station- India’s permanent Arctic research station is inaugurated in 2008 which located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard  in Norway.

India is the only developing country aside from China to have research base in Arctic which is located at International Arctic Research base, Ny-Alesund.

  • 1st winter expedition- Himadri research station had hosted missions only in summer, this winter expedition will give a major boost to the country’s research around global climate, sea levels and biodiversity.
  • Observer status- India has granted ‘observer’ status by the Arctic Council in 2013.
  • Infrastructural base-India has since set up a multi-sensor moored observatory (2014) and an atmospheric laboratory (2016) in Svalbard, focusing on Arctic ice systems, glaciers, and their impact on the Himalayas and the Indian monsoon.
  • Arctic Policy of 2022- It mentions that the country’s approach to economic development of the region is guided by UN Sustainable Development Goals

Pillars of India's Arctic Policy

  • Science and Research
  • Climate and Environmental Protection
  • Economic and Human Development
  • Transportation and Connectivity
  • Governance and International Cooperation
  • National Capacity Building

Why the winter arctic expedition is significant for India?

  • China’s involvement - China’s growing investments in the Arctic have raised India’s strategic interests in the region.
  • Russia-Ukraine war-Russia’s decision to grant China expanded access to the Northern Sea Route has intensified concerns, especially amid rising geopolitical tensions following the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • Economic route- The opening of Arctic sea routes, such as the Northern Sea Route, presents potential economic benefits for India such as reduction in shipping costs, transit time, fuel consumption, and enhance security for Indian trade.

Arctic region

  • Scientific imperatives-The accelerated warming of the Arctic has profound implications for global and regional climates. India’s research in the Arctic aims to understand these changes and their effects on Indian weather patterns, particularly the monsoon.
  • Polar studies- The polar regions, Arctic and Antarctica, offer pristine environments for scientists to study a range of natural phenomena for atmospheric, oceanic, biological, geological, glaciological and earth sciences research.
  • Economic value- The Arctic has many natural resources such as crude oil, gold and industrial metals, and diamonds which are presently being extracted now, still much of the Arctic's potential for natural resources is unknown
  • Study cosmic dawn- For the first time researchers will undertake the characterization of the radio frequency environment in the Svalbard region of the Arctic, it will help astronomers assess the suitability of this uniquely located region.
  • Unique study- It will allow researchers to conduct unique scientific observations during polar nights, where there is no sunlight for nearly 24 hours and sub-zero temperatures (as low as -15°C).

What are the challenges?

  • Radio silence - The Arctic station is located in a “radio silent” zone, meaning the use of all wireless devices, including mobile phones, WiFi and Bluetooth, is prohibited.
  • Extreme cold- Temperatures in the Arctic can drop below -40 degrees Celsius in winter, posing significant risks to human health and equipment functionality.
  • Extreme weather condition- The absence of sunlight for weeks in winter (polar night) and continuous daylight in summer can disrupt circadian rhythms and complicate scheduling and operations.
  • Remote locations The Arctic is one of the most remote regions on Earth, making transportation and supply delivery expensive and time-consuming.
  • Limited resources - The remote locations of some Arctic research stations are difficult to access essential supplies and resources.
  • Climate change- Rapid changes due to global warming are altering the Arctic environment, complicating long-term studies and necessitating continuous adaptation of research methods.
  • Health risks- Researchers face risks from hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related health issues, as well as potential encounters with dangerous wildlife like polar bears.

What lies ahead?

  • The 1st winter expedition realizes the India’s vision of making it a developed nation by 2047, as it is committed to expanding scientific activities and international cooperation and collaboration.
  • As global geopolitical tensions are also mounting in the Arctic, finding constructive and non-sensitive ways to alleviate pressure will be in the interest of both India and Norway.

 

Reference

The Hindu | India’s Arctic imperative

G.S III - Internal Security

India extends ban on LTTE


Why in news?

The Indian government has extended the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for another 5 years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

What is LTTE?

  • Established year-In 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran.
  • Goal- To create an independent Tamil Eelam out of Sri Lanka.
  • India and LTTE- India has initially supported the guerrillas, the relationship significantly detoriated after India deployed the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka.
  • High profile assassination- Former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi has been assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber in 1991, Sri Lankan President has also been assassinated in 1993.
  • Territory control- It controlled significant territories in Sri Lanka utilizing women and children in combat before being defeated in 2009.
  •  Terrorist designation- LTTE was designated as a terrorist organization by 32 countries.

US designated the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 1997

  • India’s ban on LTTE- India first banned the LTTE after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the ban was last extended for five years in 2019.

What does a ‘ban’ on an organisation mean?

  • Declaration of an organisation- The UAPA gives powers to the government to declare an organisation an “unlawful association” or a “terrorist organisation”.

Section 3 of the UAPA deals with the declaration of an association as unlawful.

  • Terrorist organisation- The UAPA defines “terrorist organisation” as an organisation listed in the Schedule to the UAPA, or an organisation operating under the same name as an organisation so listed in the Schedule.
  • Schedule 1- It currently lists 42 organisations as terrorist organisations.
  • Criteria- The law states that an organisation shall be deemed to be involved in terrorism, if it,
    • Commits or participates in acts of terrorism, or
    • Prepares for terrorism, or
    • Promotes or encourages terrorism, or
    • Otherwise involved in terrorism
  • Removal of an organisation from the Schedule- An application can be made to the central government by the organisation itself or any person affected by inclusion of the organisation in the Schedule.
  • Review committee- It is headed by a sitting or former judge of a High Court is appointed to judicially review the application.

What is a UAPA tribunal?

  • Procedure- After the Centre’s declaration of an organisation as unlawful, its notification must reach the tribunal within 30 days to adjudicate whether or not there is sufficient cause for the move.
  • Give notice-The tribunal then calls upon the association, by notice in writing, to show cause within 30 days why it should not be declared unlawful.
  • Inquiry-It then holds an inquiry and decides the matter within 6 months.
  • Constitution- The tribunal consists of only on person who has to be a High Court judge.
  • Staff requirements- The Centre will provide the necessary staff to the tribunal for the discharge of its functions.
  • Fund- All expenses incurred for the tribunal are borne out of Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Power of tribunal- The tribunal has power to regulate its own procedure, including the place at which it holds its sittings.

The tribunal has the same powers as vested in civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in certain matters as specified

What are the consequences of such declaration?

  • Association of individuals - The association of individuals with a terrorist organisation is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

Membership, support, or association with these organizations is prohibited.

  • Exemption- If the individuals have been members before declaring it as terrorist organisation and did not take part in any activities of the organisation at any time during its inclusion in the Schedule.
  • Punishment- UAPA prescribes punishment for
    • Being member of terrorist gang or organisation
    • Holding proceeds of terrorism.
  • Funding - Funding a terrorist organisation is also criminalized under the UAPA Act.

 

Quick facts

Key provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

  • Aim- To prevent unlawful activities associations in the country.
  • Objective- To provide the necessary legal framework for dealing with activities that are considered threats to the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • Definition of unlawful activities- Actions intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.
  • Definition of terrorist acts- Actions that threaten the unity, integrity, security, or sovereignty of India or cause terror among the people or a section of people.
  • Unlawful associations- Any organization could now be termed as ‘unlawful’ by the government subject to judicial review.
  •  Terrorist organizations- The government can designate organizations as terrorist organizations and list them in the First Schedule of the Act.
  • Penalty- The Act prescribes severe penalties for various offenses, including membership in terrorist organizations, funding terrorism, and committing terrorist acts.
  • Investigation - Law enforcement agencies have enhanced powers to investigate and arrest individuals suspected of involvement in unlawful activities or terrorism.
  • Detention- The Act allows for the detention of suspects for up to 180 days without charge, with court permission.
  • Forfeiture of property- Property used for or derived from terrorist activities can be forfeited under the Act.
  • Admissibility of evidence-The Act allows for the admissibility of electronic evidence and intercepted communications in court.
  • Special courts- The Act provides for the establishment of special courts to conduct trials for offenses under the UAPA.
  • Bail provisions- The UAPA has stringent bail provisions, making it difficult for individuals accused of terrorism-related offenses to secure bail.
  • International Cooperation- The Act facilitates cooperation with foreign countries and international organizations in matters related to terrorism, including extradition and mutual legal assistance.

 

References

  1. Indian Express- India extends ban on LTTE
  2. The Hindu- Government extends ban on LTTE

Prelim Bits

Prelim Bits 18-05-2024 | UPSC Daily Current Affairs


Recognition and De-recognition of Political Parties

The Election Commission of India (ECI) in its report on enforcement of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has stated that it expects star campaigners to lead by example and not vitiate the fabric of society.

  • Political parties – They are voluntary associations of individuals sharing similar political views and seeking power through constitutional means to advance national interests.

Registered Political Parties

  • Legality – Parties are registered with the ECI under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act).
  • Requirements – To submit a copy of its constitution and shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India.
  • To show allegiance to the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, & uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
  • Legal benefits
    • Tax exemption for donations received
    • Common symbol for contesting general elections
    • 20 ‘star campaigners’ are allowed
  • A registered party is referred to as a Registered Unrecognised Political Party (RUPP).
  • Recognition of parties – As a national’ or ‘State’ party.
  • Rules – Under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (Symbols Order) by the ECI.
  • Criteria – To win a requisite number of seats and/or obtaining required % of votes in an election to Lok Sabha or State Assembly.
  • Benefits – A reserved symbol during elections and 40 ‘star campaigners’.

As per the ECI, there are 2,790 active registered political parties in India. At present, there are 6 ‘national’ parties, and 61 ‘State’ parties that have been recognised.

  • Concerns – The RUPPs that don’t contest elections raise concerns over the possible misuse of income tax exemption.
  • Recognised political parties are guilty of violating the Model code of conduct on various occasions.

The MCC prohibits using caste and communal feelings to secure votes, and bribing or intimidation of voters.

  • De-registering a political party – ECI can de-register a party only if
    • Its registration being obtained by fraud or
    • It is ceasing to have allegiance to the Constitution or
    • It is declared unlawful by the Government
  • Under Symbols order, ECI has the power to suspend or withdraw recognition for its failure to observe MCC.
  • Under RP Act, ECI does not have confer explicit powers to de-register any political party for failing to contest elections, conduct inner-party elections or lodge requisite returns.

In Indian National Congress versus Institute of Social Welfare & Ors (2002), the Supreme Court had held that the ECI does not have power to de-register any political party under the RP Act.

Reference

The Hindu| Recognition & De-recognition of Political Parties

 

Baobabs

A new study has uncovered the origins of baobabs, the tall deciduous trees which are famously spotted on the island of Madagascar.

  • They are known as mother of the forest”.
  • They are also called ‘upside down’ trees because of their tops resembling an uprooted plant turned upside down.
  • Taxonomy – It belong to genus Adansonia, with 8 distinct species.
    • Adansonia digitata found in continental Africa
    • Adansonia gregorii in Northwestern Australia
    • 6 other species endemic to Madagascar, home of the world’s rarest baobab, Adansonia perrieri.
  • Nativity – It is endemic to Madagascar, Africa and Australia.

According to DNA studies, the iconic trees 1st arose in Madagascar 21 million years ago. Their seeds were later carried on ocean currents to Australia and also to mainland Africa, evolving into distinct species.

  • Uniqueness – Wide trunks and spindly branches.
  • Characteristics – Some trees extends up to 50 metres high, and have exceptionally long lifespans going upto 2,000 years.
  • One hectare of land can support 8 fully grown baobab trees.
  • Uses – The fruits and seeds being edible, the seed oil used for cooking and the bark fibre for clothing.

                                                          Baobab

  • A keystone species – They provide essential resources like food or shelter to animals whose absence can have destabilising effects on entire ecosystems, given their centrality to them.
    • For example, it helps in the conservation of ecosystems having lemurs, sunbirds and hawk moths.
  • Threats
    • Deforestation – Driven by slash-and-burn agriculture.
    • Species extinction – Giant lemurs or giant tortoises involves in the spreading the seeds of baobab trees.
    • Climate change – Increased dryness and irregular weather patterns negatively affect the growth and survival.
    • Higher inbreeding – It can also lead to reduced resilience to ecological perturbations and habitat fragmentation.
  • Protection status
    • IUCN – 3 Madagascar species are in ‘extinction’ category and other 3 species are in ‘Least concern’ category.

ARO Baobab Project, funded by the PEER USAID programme aimed to restore and conserve baobab forests through a combination of scientific research and community engagement.

  • In India – A few trees exist, including one near the Golconda Fort in Andhra Pradesh that is believed to be more than 400 years old.

References

  1. The Indian Express| Origin of Baobabs
  2. The Hindu| Threats and conservation of Baobabs

 

Operation smiling Buddha

On May 18, 1974, India conducted its 1st nuclear test in Pokhran, code-named Operation Smiling Buddha.

  • The year 2024 marks 50 years of India’s 1st nuclear test.
  • Operation – It is an underground test with plutonium device in 10-15 kiloton range.
  • Location – Pokhran in Rajasthan, thus known as Pokhran-I.
  • Aim – To develop its own technology for peaceful use of nuclear energy and it had no intention of going in for nuclear weapons.
  • Background – The groundwork for testing nuclear energy was laid down by Homi J Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai.
  • In 1954, the Department of Atomic Energy was founded, with Bhabha as director.
  • Course of action – On 11th May in 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear tests in Pokhran, code-named Operation Shakti, also known as Pokhran-II
  • With this test, India declared itself a full-fledged nuclear state.

May 11 is celebrated as National Technology Day in India.

  • Nuclear-weapon StatesThey are defined under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices before January 1, 1967, effectively meaning the P-5 countries.
  • After India’s nuclear test in 1974, it became the first nation to conduct a nuclear test apart from the P-5 countries.

References

  1. The Hindu| 50 years of Operation Smiling Buddha
  2. The Indian Express| India’s nuclear test

 

Lawyers’ Service

Supreme Court ruled that a lawyer cannot be sued for providing faulty ‘service’.

  • Case law – Bar of Indian Lawyers v. DK Gandhi PS National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Anr
  • Issue – In 2007, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) held that lawyers' services fall under Section 2(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (CPA).
  • Supreme Court’s ruling – It overruled the NCDRC’s decision and held that lawyer services cannot be challenged under the CPA.
  • The purpose of the CPA was to protect consumers from “unfair trade practices and unethical business practices only” and never “intended to include the Professions/ Professionals within it”.
  • A lawyer’s services must be treated differently from any other business or trade.

Business or Trade

Profession

  • There is a commercial interest.
  • Success depends on person’s capacity or talent or strategy.
  • It fall under Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
  • It is not commercial in nature.
  • Success depend on factors beyond a man’s control.
  • It does not fall under CPA.

There are existing remedies for professional misconduct in the Advocates Act, 1961. The Bar Councils (both at the state and national level) are given disciplinary powers by the Advocates Act in such cases.

  • The advocate and client enter into a contract of personal service, which cannot be a source of challenge under the CPA.
  • It also stated to revisit the SC’s decision by a larger bench in Indian Medical Association v V.P. Shantha (1995) where the court held that services by medical practitioners would fall under the CPA.

In Indian Medical Association vs V P Shantha (1995), the SC acknowledged that professional occupations are often “skilled” work that require “mental rather than manual” effort, and differ from other occupations as success often depends on factors “beyond the professional man’s control”.

Services under Consumer Protection Act

  • The definition of service in the CPA (both the 1986 and 2019 iterations) is expansive.
  • Excludes 2 types of services
    • Services, which are free of charge
    • Services, which are under a “contract of personal service”
  • In medical profession – The court in 1995 carved out 3 types of services
  • Services given free of charge to everybody – Excluded from CPA
  • Services where everybody pays – Included in CPA
  • Services which exempt certain categories of people, who cannot afford them, from paying – Excluded from CPA

References

  1. The Indian Express| SC ruling on Lawyers’ Services
  2. The Indian Express| Services of a Medical Profession

 

Right to Property

Supreme Court ruled that the State cannot acquire property without proper procedure.

  • SC RulingsCompulsory acquisition will still be unconstitutional if proper procedure is not established and followed before depriving a person of his/her right to property.
  • It upheld a Calcutta High Court order rejecting an appeal filed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation defending its acquisition of a private land and ordered the corporation to pay ₹5 lakh as costs within 60 days.
  • Right to Property is protected as a constitutional right and has even been interpreted to be a human right.

The 44th Constitutional Amendment omitted the right to property as a fundamental right (Art 19 (1) (f)), and inserted Article 300A that provided that “no person shall be deprived of his property, save by authority of law”.

  • Interpretation of Article 300A – The requirement of a ‘law’ in does not end with the mere presence of a legislation which empowers the state to deprive a person of his property.
  • Procedure is an integral part of the ‘authority of law’ and the phrase ‘authority of law’ should not be understood as merely the power of eminent domain vested in the state.
  • Process of acquisition – The court also notes that if possession is not taken, acquisition is not complete
    • The culmination of an acquisition process is not in the payment of compensation.
  • It laid down 7 basic procedural rights of private citizens that constitute the “real content of the right to property under Article 300A”.

7 basic procedural rights regarding Right to Property

  • Right to notice or the duty of the state to inform the person that it intends to acquire his property.
  • Right of the citizen to be heard or the duty of the state to hear the objections to the acquisition.
  • Right of the citizen to a reasoned decision or the duty of the state to inform the person of its decision to acquire property.
  • The duty of the state to demonstrate that the acquisition is exclusively for public purpose
  • Right to fair compensation of the citizen.
  • The duty of the state to conduct the process of acquisition efficiently and within prescribed timelines.
  • The conclusion of the proceedings leading to vesting or the right of conclusion

Bhoomi Rashi Portal is a single point platform for online processing of land acquisition notifications to accelerate highway infrastructure development projects in India.

Reference

The Hindu| SC’s ruling on land acquisition procedures

 

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