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18th July Current Affairs

Hasty arrests, near-impossible bail show need for overhaul

(GS-II: Structure, organization and functioning of executive and judiciary, CJI etc)

In News:

Chief Justice of India said aimless and hasty arrests, locking up undertrial prisoners in jail for long spells and making it almost impossible for them to get bail is proof that the system is in dire need of an overhaul.

Details:

The CJI said it is a “grave issue” that 80% of the 6.10 lakh prisoners across the country are undertrials.

He was speaking later at the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly on the 75 years of parliamentary democracy.

He said, the “space for Opposition is diminishing” in the country, the quality of legislative performance is in decline, Intended benefits of laws do not reach the people.

The Supreme Court judges have raised the alarm about indiscriminate arrests and the near-impossible chances of getting bail for undertrial prisoners on two separate fronts in a matter of a week.

Article Highlights:

More than Two-third of jail inmates constitute undertrial prisoners: The statistics placed before the court indicate that more than two-thirds of the inmates of the prisons constitute undertrial prisoners. Of this category of prisoners, the majority may not even be required to be arrested…” Justice Sundresh observed.

A police state cannot exist within a democracy: The judgment underscored that a police state cannot exist within a democracy.

In a democracy, there can never be an impression that it is a police state. Both are conceptually opposite to each other,” the top court observed.

How has the Supreme Court ruled on Reforms?

Separate Law for Bail: The court underlined that the CrPC, despite amendments since Independence, largely retains its original structure as drafted by a colonial power over its subjects.

Uniformity and certainty in the decisions: courts are the foundations of judicial dispensation, persons accused of the same offence shall never be treated differently by the same court.

Indiscriminate Arrests: The court noted that the culture of too many arrests, especially for non-cognisable offences, is unwarranted.

It emphasized that even for cognisable offences, the arrest is not mandatory and must be “necessitated”.

Bail Application: There need not be any insistence on a bail application while considering the application under Sections 88, 170, 204 and 209 of the Code.

These sections relate to various stages of a trial where a magistrate can decide on the release of an accused.

Direction to States: The SC also directed all state governments and Union Territories to facilitate standing orders to comply with the orders and avoid indiscriminate arrests.

What is India’s Law on Bail?

The CrPC does not define the word bail but only categories offences under the Indian Penal Code as ‘bailable’ and ‘non-bailable’.

The CrPC empowers magistrates to grant bail for bailable offences as a matter of right.

This would involve release on furnishing a bail bond, without or without security.

In the case of Non-bailable offences, a magistrate would determine if the accused is fit to be released on bail.

Non-bailable offences are cognisable, which enables the police officer to arrest without a warrant.

Section 436 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, lays down that a person accused of a bailable offence under I.P.C. can be granted bail.

Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 lays down that the accused does not have the right to bail in non-bailable offences.

It is the discretion of the court to grant bail in case of non-bailable offences.

How the Vice President of India is elected, what the Constitution says about the post

(GS-II: Parliament-Structure, functioning and conduct of businesses, the role of vice-President, powers and privileges etc)

In News:

The opposition on Sunday named former Governor and former union minister Margaret Alva as its candidate for Vice President.

Details:

The ruling NDA has announced West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar will be its candidate for the post.

The term of office of Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice-President of India, is ending on 10 August 2022.

As per Article 68 of the Constitution of India, an election to fill the vacancy caused by the expiration of the term of office of the outgoing Vice-President is required to be completed before the expiration of the term.

Office of the Vice President:

Article 63: It states that “there shall be a Vice-President of India”.

Article 64: The Vice-President “shall be ex officio Chairman of the Council of the States” (Rajya Sabha).

Article 65: It says that “in the event of the occurrence of any vacancy in the office of the President by reason of his death, resignation or removal, or otherwise, the Vice-President shall act as President until the date on which a new President…enters upon his office”.

The Vice-President shall also discharge the functions of the President when the latter is unable to do so “owing to absence, illness or any other cause.

Election of Vice-President:

Article 324 of the Constitution read with the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 and the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules, 1974, vests the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of election to the office of the Vice-President of India in the Election Commission of India.

The notification for election shall be issued on or after the sixtieth day before the expiration of term of office of the outgoing Vice-President.

As per Article 66 of the Constitution of India, the Vice-President is elected by the members of the Electoral College.

Electoral College consists of:

  • Elected members of Rajya Sabha.
  • Nominated members of Rajya Sabha.
  • Elected members of Lok Sabha.

Since, all the electors are members of both Houses of Parliament, the value of the vote of each Member of Parliament would be the same i.e.1 (one).

The Election Commission, in consultation with the Central Government, appoints the Secretary General of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by rotation, as the Returning Officer.

Accordingly, the Secretary-General, Lok Sabha will be appointed as the Returning Officer for the present election to the Office of the Vice-President of India.

The Commission has also decided to appoint Assistant Returning Officers in Parliament House (Lok Sabha) to assist Returning Officers.

As per Rule 8 of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules, 1974, polls for the election will be taken in the Parliament House.

Eligibility and term of office:

Article 66(3): It says “No person shall be eligible for election as Vice-President unless he:

  • Is a citizen of India
  • Has completed the age of thirty-five years
  • Is qualified for election as a member of the Council of States”.

Article 66(4): “A person shall not be eligible for election as Vice-President if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State or under any local or other authority subject to the control of any of the said Governments.”

Article 67: It lays down that the “Vice-President shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office”.

However, the Vice-President “shall, notwithstanding the expiration of his term, continue to hold office until his successor enters upon his office”.

The Vice-President may leave office before the end of his term by resigning to the President, or he “may be removed…by a resolution of the Council of States passed by a majority of all the then members of the Council and agreed to by the House of the People”.

What if the election is disputed?

Article 71: It says that “all doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with the election of a President or Vice-President shall be inquired into and decided by the Supreme Court whose decision shall be final”.

Parliament may by law regulate any matter relating to or connected with the election of a President or Vice-President”.

Forest fires

(GS-I: Geography)

In News:

In France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, wildfire destroys thousands of hectares of land, forces thousands from their homes and kills several emergency personnel.

Details:

A wildfire is a major fire that breaks out unpredictably in combustible environments such as dry forests or bush and often burns uncontrollably over a large area and length of time. A forest fire can be triggered by natural factors such as prolonged hot, dry weather or lightning strikes, or human carelessness.

Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and last longer because of human-induced climate change. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to carbon emissions.

Status: As per the Global Forest Watch, forest fires in India have increased by 125% (between 2015 and 2017). At a global level as well, the world is undergoing through wildfire crisis, with reports of wildfires in Siberia, the Amazon basin, Pantanal wetland (South America), Australia, and the rainforest of Indonesia.

The reason behind the global wildfires:

Natural Causes: Environmental causes are largely related to climatic conditions such as

Extreme climatic conditions: g. high wind speed and direction, temperature, low level of moisture in soil and atmosphere, and duration of dry spells.

Lightning strike:g. in Australia, most bushfires are caused by lightning

The friction of bamboos swaying due to high wind velocity: e.g. in deciduous forests of northeast India Rolling stones that result in sparks: In the mountainous forested e.g. Uttrakhand

Role of El Nino and La Nina:g. Indonesian in 2019 experienced high forest fire incidents due to el Nino’s impact

Role of sudden stratospheric warming in Antarctica: 2020 bush fires in Australia was further strengthened

Human related causes:

Intentional fires:

Economical reasons: e.g. Human-caused fires are also a major issue in Indonesia, where large areas of peatland were burned during last year’s fires to be converted into tree plantations.

In Pantanal (South America): Soy and cattle farmers set fires on their land during the summer, but drought and strong winds caused these fires to rage out of control and surpass traditional barriers such as roads and streams.

Graziers and gatherers start small fires to get good grazing grass for their cattle and to gathering minor forest produce such as Madhuca Indica flowers and leaves of Diospyros elanoxylon.

Shifting cultivation practice: North-Eastern region of India and in parts of the States of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh).

Forest fires by villagers to ward off wild animals.

Unintentional fires: logging activity-related fires, campfires in forests for recreation, E.g. through discards cigarette butts

Climate change: It is increasing the fire season and the size of areas affected by the fire. Droughts, which might be exacerbated by climate change, also make wildfires more likely.

  1. Australia has been experiencing such a drought over the past few years, which contributed to the widespread of wildfires in 2020.

Climate change is changing the nature and intensity of the fires: There are more pyro-cumulonimbus clouds – clouds formed on top of heat sources – that can bring lightning-intensive storms and increase the spread of fire.

In Siberia and Russia, climate change is causing winters to become shorter and weather to become drier and windier, leading to more intense fires occurring across larger areas.

Measures to control:

Policy measures:

  • National Policy on Forest Fire: finalized by the government
  • National Plan for forest fire management: National Forest Fire Danger Rating System, Fire fighting tools and machinery (e.g. Fire Beaters, Pulaskis Tools, Forest Fire Showel, etc.)
  • Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPMS, 2017): a revised version of the Forest Management Scheme

Community participation: by the involvement of NGOs, Voluntary Organisations, Village Forest Committees (VFCs), etc.

  • Institutionalize the partnership with forest fringe communities
  • Devise a forest fire forecasting system at the local level

Forest Fire Monitoring: FSI uses NASA’s  MODIS  (Moderate Resolution  Imaging  Spectro-radiometer)  and  VIIRS (Visible  Infrared  Imaging  Radiometer  Suite)  satellites for its Forest fires alert system 2.0

Use of technology (such as Remote Sensing, GPS, and GIS) in planning, developing and operationalizing Fire management systems.