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13 January Current Affairs

‘TiHAN-IIT Hyderabad’

In News:

Inaugurated recently.

Details:

It is India’s first Test bed for Autonomous Navigation Systems (Terrestrial and Aerial).

Special Features of this Facility include Test Tracks, Emulation of Real-World Scenarios, State of the Art Simulation Technologies, Road Infrastructure, V2X Communication, Drone Runways and Landing Area and many more.

Background:

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, has sanctioned Rs. 135 crores to IIT Hyderabad under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) to set up a Technology Innovation Hub on Autonomous Navigation and Data Acquisition Systems (UAVs, RoVs, etc.).

What are Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)?

They are a new class of engineered systems that integrate computation and physical processes in a dynamic environment. CPS encompasses technology areas of Cybernetics, Mechatronics, Design and Embedded systems, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) among others.

About National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS):

To harness the potential of this new wave of technology and make India a leading player in CPS, the Union Cabinet approved NM-ICPS in 2018.

It had a total outlay of INR 3,660 crores for a period of five years.

The mission implementation would develop and bring:

  • Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and associated technologies within reach in the country,
  • adoption of CPS technologies to address India specific National / Regional issues,
  • produce Next Generation skilled manpower in CPS,
  • catalyze Translational Research,
  • accelerate entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development in CPS,
  • give impetus to advanced research in CPS, Technology development and higher education in Science, Technology and Engineering disciplines, and
  • place India at par with other advanced countries and derive several direct and indirect benefits.

Implementation:

The Mission aims at establishment of 15 numbers of Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), six numbers of Application Innovation Hubs (AIH) and four numbers of Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).

These Hubs & TTRPs will connect to Academics, Industry, Central Ministries and State Government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organizations across the country in a hub and spoke model.

Recusal of Judges

In News:

Andhra High Court rejects plea for recusal of judge from hearing petitions filed against the proposed sale of government land in Guntur and Visakhapatnam districts under “Mission Build A.P.”

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

Judicial disqualification, referred to as recusal, is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.

Grounds for Recusal:

The judge is biased in favour of one party, or against another, or that a reasonable objective observer would think he might be.

  • Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.
  • Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.
  • Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.
  • Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
  • Rulings, comments or conduct.

Are there any laws in this regard?

There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.

However, In taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

What has the Supreme Court said on this?

Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”.

UK vaccine is a global game changer

In News:

The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK this week will make a significant impact on the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus as it is the most accessible shot approved so far and is likely to remain that way.

This is significant for India, as the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has tied up with AstraZeneca to deploy the vaccine in the country.

How this vaccine works?

This new vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, which works in a different way than the mRNA vaccines that have already been approved.

A viral vector vaccine uses another non-replicating virus to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genes, in the form of DNA, into human cells, where viral proteins are produced to induce protective immune responses.

Types of vaccines:

Inactivated: These are vaccines made by using particles of the Covid-19 virus that were killed, making them unable to infect or replicate. Injecting particular doses of these particles serves to build immunity by helping the body create antibodies against the dead virus.

Non-replicating viral vector: It uses a weakened, genetically modified version of a different virus to carry the Covid-19 spike protein.

Protein subunit: This vaccine uses a part of the virus to build an immune response in a targeted fashion. In this case, the part of the virus being targeted would be the spike protein.

RNA: Such vaccines use the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that tell cells what proteins to build. The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein. Once it is injected, the cells will use the mRNA’s instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which in turn is expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.

DNA: These vaccines use genetically engineered DNA molecules that, again, are coded with the antigen against which the immune response is to be built.

Facial recognition technology

In News:

While the facial recognition tracking (FRT) system has seen rapid deployment by multiple government departments in recent times, there are no specific laws or guidelines to regulate the use of this potentially invasive technology.

Background:

There are currently 16 different FRT systems in active utilisation by various Central and State governments across India for surveillance, security or authentication of identity.

Another 17 are in the process of being installed by different government departments.

What are the Concerns?

Absence of specific laws or guidelines poses a huge threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression because it does not satisfy the threshold the Supreme Court had set in its landmark privacy judgment in the ‘Justice K.S. Puttaswamy Vs Union of India’ case.

Many institutions have not conducted “privacy impact assessment” prior to deployment of the facial recognition system (FRS).

Function creep: A function creep happens when someone uses information for a purpose that is not the original specified purpose (Police got permission to use the FRS by an order of the Delhi High Court for tracking missing children. Now they are using it for wider security and surveillance and investigation purpose, which is a function creep).

This might lead to an over-policing problem or problems where certain minorities are targeted without any legal backing or any oversight as to what is happening. Another problem that may arise is of mass surveillance, wherein the police are using the FRT system during protest.

Mass surveillance: If someone goes to a protest against the government, and the police are able to identify the person, then there might be repercussions.

The basis of the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) is a Cabinet note of 2009. But the Cabinet note is not a legal substance, it’s a procedural note at best. So it does not form a valid legal system based on which the AFRS can be built.

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features on the face to identify and distinguish an individual.

AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces. Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person.

The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.

Benefits of facial recognition:

  • Improves outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification.
  • Easy identification amongst crowds.
  • Boosts the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • Helps civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.

Need of the hour:

The Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy judgment ruled that privacy is a fundamental right even in public spaces. And if these rights needs to be infringed, then the government has to show that such action is sanctioned by law, proportionate to the need for such interference, necessary and in pursuit of a legitimate aim.