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16th July Current Affairs

Drop cases filed under Section 66A: Centre

In News:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the States and Union Territories to immediately withdraw the cases registered under the repealed-Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

Details:

This comes after the Supreme Court recently expressed shock that it was being invoked even six years after the apex court had struck it down.

What’s the issue?

Even after 7 years of the law being struck down, as of March 2021, a total of 745 cases are still pending and active before the district courts in 11 states, wherein the accused persons are being prosecuted for offences under Section 66A of the IT Act.

Background:

Section 66A had been dubbed as “draconian” for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping. This had led to the Supreme Court striking it down as unconstitutional in March, 2015 in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.

Why SC struck down section 66A?

The SC had noted that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech, under article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right and the definition of offences under the provision was open-ended and undefined.

The court also said that the provision used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning.

What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another.

What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another.

Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.

What is Section 66A all about?

Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.

Special Livestock Sector Package

In News:

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved implementation of a special livestock sector package (Rs. 9,800 crore).

Aim:

The aim is to boost growth in the livestock sector and thereby make animal husbandry more remunerative to farmers engaged in Animal Husbandry Sector.

It includes the share of investments by State Governments, State Cooperatives, Financial institutions, External funding agencies and other stakeholders.

Details:

The package has been designed by revising and realigning various components of the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying’ Schemes for the next five years, starting 2021-22.

All the schemes of the Department will be merged into three broad categories as:

Development Programmes: It includes Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD), National Livestock Mission (NLM) and Livestock Census and Integrated Sample Survey (LC & ISS) as sub-schemes.

Disease Control Programme: It is renamed as Livestock Health and Disease Control (LH & DC) which includes the present Livestock Health and Disease Control (LH & DC) scheme and National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP).

Infrastructure Development Fund: The Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development fund (AHIDF) and the Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) are merged and the present scheme for support to Dairy Cooperatives and Farmer Producer Organizations engaged in Dairy activities is also included in this third category.

Significance of the Sector:

A large number of farmers depend upon animal husbandry for their livelihood. It supports the livelihood of almost 55% of the rural population.

Also, India is the highest livestock owner of the world.

As per the 20th Livestock Census, the total Livestock population is 535.78 million in the country showing an increase of 4.6% over Livestock Census-2012.

Aviation ministry releases draft of ‘Drone Rules 2021’

In News:

Built on a premise of trust, self-certification, and non-intrusive monitoring, “The Drone Rules, 2021” will replace the UAS Rules 2021 (released on 12 March 2021).

Key changes:

  1. Digital sky platform shall be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system.
  2. No flight permission required upto 400 feet in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
  3. No pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drone and for R&D organisations.
  4. No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
  5. Import of drones and drone components to be regulated by DGFT.
  6. No security clearance required before any registration or licence issuance.
  7. No requirement of certificate of airworthiness, unique identification number, prior permission and remote pilot licence for R&D entities.
  8. Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
  9. Issuance of Certificate of Airworthiness delegated to Quality Council of India and certification entities authorised by it.
  10. Manufacturer may generate their drone’s unique identification number on the digital sky platform through the self-certification route.
  11. Maximum penalty under Drone Rules, 2021 reduced to INR 1 lakh. This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws.
  12. Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
  13. Drone promotion council to be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.

Need for stricter rules and regulations:

Recently, Drones were used for the first time to drop explosive devices, triggering blasts inside the Air Force Station’s technical area in Jammu.

Over the past two years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan-based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory.

According to government figures, 167 drone sightings were recorded along the border with Pakistan in 2019, and in 2020, there were 77 such sightings.

With the rapid proliferation of drone technology and exponential growth of its global market in recent years, the possibility of a drone attack cannot be ruled out even in the safest cities in the world.

Drones are becoming security threats particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the technology.

Anti-defection law

In News:

Lok Sabha Secretariat has issued notices to three MPs, after their parties petitioned Speaker Om Birla, seeking their disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law.

They have been asked to give their comments within 15 days of receipt of letters.

Anti-defection law:

In 1985 the Tenth Schedule, popularly known as the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act.

The purpose of the Amendment was to bring stability to governments by deterring MPs and MLAs from changing their political parties on whose ticket they were elected.

The penalty for shifting political loyalties is the loss of parliamentary membership and a bar on becoming a minister.

When can a member be disqualified?

If a member of a house belonging to a political party:

Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or

Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party. However, if the member has taken prior permission, or is condoned by the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.

If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.

If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.

However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. Exceptions:

The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.

On being elected as the presiding officer of the House, if a member, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office, he won’t be disqualified.

Decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review:

The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court later, thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court.

However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order.

Is there a time limit within which the Presiding Officer should decide?

There is no time limit as per the law within which the Presiding Officers should decide on a plea for disqualification.