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Current Affairs – 17 June 2021

Current Affairs (17th June 2021)

Misuse of UAPA

Context:

  • Delivering a judgment defining the contours of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA) a division bench of the Delhi High Court (HC) has laid down some important principles upon the imposition of Section 15, 17 & 18 of the Act.
  • HC ruled that there is a need to redefine “terrorist activity” strictly to avoid misuse of UAPA in cases of ordinary penal offences and granted bail to student activists in a UAPA, 1967 case.

Order of Court:

  • Delhi HC held that the Court must be careful in employing the definitional words and phrases used in Section 15 in their absolute literal sense which defines “terrorist act”.
    • The UAPA is a stringent anti-terror law, and thus, its provisions must be interpreted more strictly and narrowly, as compared to other conventional penal offences.
  • While reiterating the essence of terrorism as laid down by the Supreme Court (SC) in various judgments, the court held that terrorism cannot be conflated with “law and order problems” or “violent protests”.
    • In Hitendra Vishnu Thakur case, while calling terrorism an “abnormal phenomenon”, the SC said that the extent and reach of terrorist activity must travel beyond the effect of an ordinary crime and must not arise merely by causing disturbance of law and order or even public order.
    • Every terrorist may be a criminal, but every criminal cannot be labelled terrorist.
    • In PUCL v Union of India, the apex court termed terrorism as acts that challenge the whole nation. Terrorist acts are meant to destabilise the nation by challenging its sovereignty and integrity, razing the constitutional principles, and creating a psyche of fear.
  • When the protests turn violent, it would prima facie be seen as a “law and order” issue and not as terrorism. The court expressed its concern that the State has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed ‘right to protest’ and ‘terrorist activity’.
  • The three orders by the Delhi HC are perhaps the first instance of a court calling out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
  • The bail orders also refer to how the SC itself, in the 1994 case of Kartar Singh v State of Punjab, flagged similar concerns against the misuse of another anti-terror law, the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987.

Significance of the Ruling:

  • This is the first instance of a court calling out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
  • It also points out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
  • This caution is significant given the sharp surge in the state’s use of this provision in a sweeping range of alleged offences — against tribals in Chhattisgarh, those using social media through proxy servers in Jammu and Kashmir, and journalists in Manipur among others.
  • According to data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Parliament in March, a total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.

Way Ahead:

  • strong anti-terrorism law is needed in India, but its enforcement will always result in some draconian anomalies like the arrests of activists.
  • The existing UAPA does have effective provisions to combat terrorism (cognizable offence) but there are also some defects and demerits which needs to be addressed properly to make the law effective and efficient to prevent and combat terrorism.
  • The Act needs to be amended, to ensure a constitutional functionary who is independent from the Executive, be in charge of sanctions for prosecutions and investigations under this Act. Maybe a High Court Judge could be designated for this purpose.
  • Terrorism and unlawful activities are ones that always create political issues. If the Act has to work, its application must, at all times, look apolitical.

 

World Giving Index 2021

Context:

  • The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) released the World Giving Index 2021 report. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) is a leading international charity registered in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1974.

World Giving Index (WGI)

  • The World Giving Index (WGI) is an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation and ranks over 140 countries in the world according to how charitable they are.
  • The first edition was released in September 2010.
  • The WGI is a global survey, which asks people three questions: In the last month have you…
    • Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
    • Donated money to a charity?
    • Volunteered your time to an organisation?
  • The index measures countries by proportion of population giving rather than how much they give.

Country rankings

  • The most generous country in the world is Indonesia.
  • Australia and New Zealand the only high-income countries to remain in this year’s Top 10.
  • India is 14th most charitable country.
  • Scores for India rapidly improved between 2017 and 2019, and this improvement was maintained during 2020.
  • The improvement in India is seen across all the age groups and amongst both men and women.
  • 61 per cent of Indians helped strangers; 34 per cent volunteered; and 36 per cent donated money.

 

Export of GI certified Mangoes

Context:

  • The first commercial consignment of Geographical Indications (GI) certified Jardalu mangoes from Bhagalpur, Bihar was exported to UK.

About:

  • With distinct aroma and taste, Jardalu mangoes from Bhagalpur district of Bihar received GI certification in 2018.
  • India also exported a consignment of GI certified Banganapalli and other variety Survarnarekha mangoes sourced from farmers in Krishna and Chittor districts of Andhra Pradesh to South Korea.
  • Mango in India is also referred to as ‘king of fruits’ and referred to as Kalpavriksha (wish granting tree) in ancient scriptures.
  • While most of the states in India have mango plantations, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka have a major share in total production of the fruit.
  • Mangoes are processed by the APEDA registered packhouse facilities and then exported to various regions and countries including the Middle east, European Union, USA, Japan, and South Korea.

 

New Shephard rocket system

Context:

  • Last week, Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos’s space company called Blue Origin (American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company) concluded the online auction for the first seat on New Shephard, a rocket system, meant to take tourists to space. The seat went for a winning bid of $28 million.

About:

  • Over 7,600 people registered from 159 countries to bid for this seat, which ultimately went for a winning bid of USD 28 million, with the winner’s identity yet not disclosed.
  • The winning bidder will get to fly aboard New Shephard, when it takes its first human flight on 20th July 2021, which marks the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing.
    • On the same date in 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans ever to land on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission.

New Shephard

  • New Shepard is blue origin’s reusable suborbital rocket system designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line – the internationally recognized boundary of space.

  • New Shephard has been named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shephard – the first American to go to space.
  • It completed its seventh test launch successfully in October 2020 when it took off from Texas.

Significance

    • It will provide easier and more cost-effective access to space for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures, among others.
    • It will also allow space tourists to experience microgravity by taking them 100 km above the Earth.
      • Microgravity is the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless and the effects can be seen when astronauts and objects float in space.

Space Tourism

  • The ‘fairly new’ concept seeks to give laypeople the ability to go to space for recreational, leisure or business purposes.
  • It is another niche segment of the aviation industry that makes space more accessible to those individuals who are not astronauts and want to go to space for non-scientific purposes.
  • Since space tourism is extremely expensive, it is a case of a very small segment of consumers that are able and willing to purchase a space experience.

 

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Context:

  • Indian PM delivered keynote address at the UN ‘high-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought’.
  • He spoke at the Opening Segment in his capacity as the President of the 14th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of UNCCD.

About:

  • In last 10 years, around 3 million hectares of forest cover added in India, enhancing the combined forest cover to almost one-fourth of the country’s total area.
  • India is on track to achieve its national commitment of Land degradation neutrality.
  • India is also working towards restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. This will achieve an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • He gave an example of the Banni region in Rann of Kutch in Gujarat to illustrate how restoration of land can start a virtuous cycle of good soil health, increased land productivity, food security and improved livelihoods.
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