Current Affairs (22nd March 2021)
Right to counsel
- Recently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told a special court in Mumbai that the arrested assistant police inspector Sachin Waze, now suspended from Mumbai Police, was not cooperating in the probe against him and was insisting on his lawyer being present during interrogation.
- Separately, Waze filed an application seeking to be allowed to meet his lawyer in privacy while he is in police custody.
Is access to a lawyer the right of an accused?
- Across the world, various rights are available to a person while in custody of an investigating agency to prevent him or her from being forced into giving self-incriminating statements through means including torture.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirms the right of an accused to be informed of the reasons for an arrest, the charges against him and the right to be provided legal assistance.
- The “Miranda rights” or “Miranda warning”, as they are referred to in the US, require a police officer to inform a suspect being arrested that he has the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before being questioned and the right to have a lawyer with him during questioning.
- In India, the safeguards available to a person in such circumstances are enshrined in the Constitution.
- Article 20 (3) states: “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.
- Article 22 states that a person cannot be denied the right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
- This includes provisions that grant an accused the “right to consult” a lawyer. Section 41D of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) states that an accused is entitled to “meet an advocate of his choice during interrogation, though not throughout interrogation”.
Lawyers present during interrogation of an accused in custody:
- Unlike in some countries, lawyers in India are not allowed to be with an accused throughout their investigation.
- Apart from the provisions of Section 41D of the CrPC, courts also rely on the Supreme Court judgment in the D K Basu case of 1997, considered the guiding principles to be followed by investigating agencies in cases of arrest or detention.
- The judgment states that “an arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation”.
- The Supreme Court stressed the safeguards for accused, but also spoke of “difficulties in detection of crimes”, especially in cases of “hardcore criminals”, and ruled that a lawyer cannot be permitted to remain present throughout the interrogation.
International Day of Forests
- The United Nations observes March 21 as the International Day of Forests, commemorating the green cover around the world and reiterating its importance.
- The theme of the International Day of Forests for 2021 is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”.
Why is the International Day of Forests celebrated?
- The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012.
- The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. On this day, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree-planting campaigns.
- The Day is celebrated by the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and other relevant organisations in the field.
- The theme for each year is chosen by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.
- This year’s theme aims to emphasise how restoration and sustainable management of forests can help address climate change and biodiversity crisis.
- It can also help produce goods and services for sustainable development, fostering an economic activity that creates jobs and improves lives.
- Themes of the International Day of Forests are aimed to fit into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), which calls for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world.
Forest cover in India
- Since Independence, a fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests, despite the population increasing more than three times.
- As per the biennial State of Forest Report, 2019, India’s forest cover has increased by 3,976 sq km or 0.56% since 2017.
- For the second consecutive time since 2007, the report recorded a gain — an impressive 1,275 sq km — in dense forest (including very dense forest with a canopy density of over 70%, and moderately dense forest with a canopy density of 40-70%).
- The government has recently formed a Maharaja Anangpal II Memorial Committee to popularise the legacy of 11th-century Tomar king, Anangpal II.
- Crediting him with giving Delhi its present name and also repopulating it, the National Monument Authority — which functions under the Ministry of Culture — has embarked on a mission to present “correct history” to the people through the works of historians, academics and archaeologists.
Who was Anangpal II/Anangpal Tomar?
- He belonged to the Tomar dynasty that ruled parts of present-day Delhi and Haryana between the 8th and 12th centuries.
- The capital of Tomars changed many times from being initially at Anangpur (near Faridabad) during the reign of Anangpal I (who founded the Tomar dynasty in the 8th century), to Dhillikapuri (Delhi) during the reign of Anangpal II.
- The Tomar rule over the region is attested by multiple inscriptions and coins, and their ancestry can be traced to the Pandavas (of the Mahabharata).
- Anangpal Tomar II was succeeded by his grandson Prithviraj Chauhan, who was defeated by the Ghurid forces in the Battle of Tarain (present-day Haryana) after which the Delhi Sultanate was established in 1192.
His connection with Delhi
- Anangpal II is credited to have established and populated Delhi during his reign in the 11th century.
- He was instrumental in populating Indraprastha and giving it its present name, Delhi.
- The region was in ruins when he ascended the throne in the 11th century, it was he who built LalKot fort and Anangtal Baoli.
- He was the founder of Dhillikapuri, which eventually became Delhi.”
- Tomars and their Delhi link find mention in some modern-day literature as well.
- KA Nizami’s Urdu book, Ehd-e-Wustaki Dilli, translated in English as Delhi in Historical Perspectives, looks at Delhi across six centuries (from 1300 to 1800).
- Tracing the antecedents of Delhi, Nizami refers to Persian annals that describe it as “Inderpat”. And yet, according to his book, Delhi formally emerged as a city only in the 11th century when Tomar Rajputs took over the mountainous Aravalli region.
Myanmar border shut
- Mizoram Chief Minister held a virtual meeting with Foreign Minister of Myanmar amid the ongoing military crackdown following the February coup, even as India sealed all entry points along the border with the southeast Asian neighbour and is closely monitoring them to prevent any Myanmar national from entering the country.
- The tussle between the Centre and the State on the issue has created a tough time for New Delhi and security agencies in handling the situation on the ground.
- People residing on both sides have close linkages. “India cannot turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis.”
- The whole of Myanmar is in turmoil and “innocent hapless citizens are being persecuted” by the military regime, who are supposed to be their guardians and protectors.
- Following the February 1 coup when the Myanmar military overthrew the democratically elected government, around 300 Myanmarese nationals, including many policemen, have crossed into India and sought refuge.
- There is considerable support and sympathy among the people of Mizoram over the situation in Myanmar as many have relations across the border.
- India and Myanmar have an arrangement called Free Movement Regime (FMR), which allows locals on both sides to go upto 16 km across the other side and stay up to 14 days.
New Nagar Van Scheme
- According to the Union Environment and Information &Broadcasting, the new Nagar Van Scheme will help in creation of Urban forests in the cities.
- The scheme will fill the gap between the cities and villages in terms of having their own forest cover.
- Under the Nagar Van Scheme, Urban forests will be developed in 200 cities in its first phase.
- There is a need to create a mass movement towards conservation of forest and revival of rivers by people and organizations.
- To reduce animal human conflicts, water and fodder in forest programme has been initiated.
- One forest in every state will be selected under this programme and with the help of drone mapping water conservation and tree plantation will be taken up.
80 plus medicines under Price Regulation
- National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, NPPA has brought 80 plus medicines under Price Regulation.
- NPPA has fixed the price of 81 medicines including off-patent anti-diabetic drugs allowing due benefits of patent expiry to the patients.
- With this price regulation, NPPA has re-assured availability of medicines at fair prices to public at large.
- NPPA had granted price exemption under Para 32 of the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO), 2013 for a period of five years due to new drug delivery system developed through indigenous Research and Development.
- Price regulation was not applicable during the exemption period.
- NPPA decided to regulate the price of these formulations as per provisions of DPCO, 2013 as the exemption period has been over.
- Now, these medicines have become more affordable to the public. NPPA also fixed retail price of 76 new drugs including off-patent Anti-diabetic drugs allowing due benefit of patent expiry to the patients.
- Revision in existing ceiling prices of scheduled formulations based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) was also approved by the Authority. The revised prices will be effective from next month.