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18th November Current Affairs

New Pak. law allows Jadhav to file appeal

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

Pakistan’s Parliament has enacted a law to give Indian death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav the right to file a review appeal against his conviction by a military court.

Background:

Mr. Jadhav, a 51-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

Developments so far:

India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access (Vienna Convention) to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence. After hearing both sides, The Hague-based ICJ issued a verdict in July 2019, asking Pakistan to give India consular access to Mr. Jadhav and also ensure review of his conviction.

It also ruled that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav.

Implications of ‘Effective Review and Reconsideration’ for India:

Effective review and reconsideration is a phrase which is different from ‘review’ as one understands in a domestic course.

It includes giving consular access and helping Jadav in preparing his defence.

It means that Pakistan has to disclose the charges and also the evidence which it has been absolutely opaque about uptill now.

Pakistan would also have to disclose the circumstances in which Jadhav’s confession was extracted by the military.

It implies that Jadhav will have a right to defend whichever forum or court hears his case.

Vienna Convention:

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations is an international treaty that defines consular relations between independent states.

Article 36 of the Vienna Convention states that foreign nationals who are arrested or detained in the host country must be given notice without delay of their right to have their embassy or consulate notified of that arrest.

If the detained foreign national so requests, the police must fax that notice to the embassy or consulate, which can then verify the detained person.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

(GS-III: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security)

In News:

A Special Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, recently protected two lawyers and a journalist booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) from any “coercive action” by the Tripura police.

What’s the issue?

The lawyers had led a fact-finding mission and released a report on the “targeted political violence against Muslim minorities in the State” in October and the journalist had tweeted “Tripura is burning”. Following this a FIR was lodged against them.

What’s the concern now?

The ppetitioners have argued that the State of Tripura was “monopolising the flow of information and facts emanating from the affected areas by invoking the UAPA against members of civil society, including advocates and journalists, who have made the effort to bring facts in relation to the targeted violence in the public domain”.

Need of the hour:

The petitioners have asked the court to restrict the vague and wide definition given to what amounts to “unlawful activity” under the UAPA. The definition gave a free hand to the State to crush dissent and free speech with the threat of UAPA, it argued.

Also, Anticipatory bail was barred under the UAPA and the possibility of bail was remote.

About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act:

Passed in 1967, the law aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.

The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.

It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.

Key points:

Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged.

It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India.

Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.

As per amendments of 2019:

The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.

The Act empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.

It also included the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist.

Issues associated:

UAPA is criticized by the civil society as antithetical to constitutional freedom to dissent, rule of law and fair trial.

Associated Issues:

  • Vague Definition of Terrorist Act.
  • Denial of Bail.
  • Pendency of Trails.
  • State Overreach.
  • Undermines federalism.

Delhi High Court defines the contours of UAPA:

In June 2021, delivering a judgment defining the contours of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA), the Delhi High Court laid down some important principles upon the imposition of Section 15, 17 & 18 of the Act.

Sections 15, 17 and 18 of UAPA:

  1. 15 engrafts the offence of ‘terrorist act’.
  2. 17 lays-down the punishment for raising funds for committing a terrorist act.
  3. 18 engrafts the offence of ‘punishment for conspiracy etc. to commit a terrorist act or any act preparatory to commit a terrorist act’.

Key observations made by the court:

“Terrorist Act” Should not be used lightly so as to trivialise them.

Terrorist activity is that which travels beyond the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with under ordinary penal law (Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Hitendra Vishnu Thakur).

Privilege motion against CBI, ED in WB

(GS-II: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these)

In News:

The Trinamool Congress has moved a breach of privilege motion in the West Bengal Assembly against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

What’s the issue?

It was moved for not taking the sanction of the Speaker before filing the chargesheet in the Narada case.

The Central investigating agencies had filed the chargesheet against three members of the Assembly.

Need for Consent from the Speaker:

The matter was listed before the Calcutta High Court. The Calcutta High Court then gave a clear instruction to the CBI to take the consent from the speaker. However, the CBI went directly to the governor for his consent.

What are Privileges?

Privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament/MLAs individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.

Article 105 (Article 194 for State Assemblies) of the Constitution expressly mentions two privileges, that is, freedom of speech in Parliament and right of publication of its proceedings.

Apart from the privileges as specified in the Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides for freedom from arrest and detention of members under civil process during the continuance of the meeting of the House or of a committee thereof and forty days before its commencement and forty days after its conclusion.

Motion against breaches:

When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.

A notice is moved in the form of a motion by any member of either House against those being held guilty of breach of privilege.

Role of the Speaker/Rajya Sabha (RS) Chairperson:

The Speaker/RS chairperson is the first level of scrutiny of a privilege motion.

The Speaker/Chair can decide on the privilege motion himself or herself or refer it to the privileges committee of Parliament.

If the Speaker/Chair gives consent under relevant rules, the member concerned is given an opportunity to make a short statement.

Applicability:

The Constitution also extends the parliamentary privileges to those persons who are entitled to speak and take part in the proceedings of a House of Parliament or any of its committees. These include the Attorney General of India.

The parliamentary privileges do not extend to the President who is also an integral part of the Parliament. Article 361 of the Constitution provides for privileges for the President.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)

(GS-III: Infrastructure- roadways)

In News:

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)-I and II up to September, 2022, and Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas up to March, 2023.

The timeline has been extended to ensure works envisaged under the three schemes are completed.

Need for:

Majority of pending works under PMGSY-I and II are in the North-East and Hill States due to factors such as COVID lockdown, extended rains, winters, forest issues.

Also, the States have been requesting the Central Government for extension of time to complete these crucial works related to rural economy.

About PMGSY:

Launched on: 25th December, 2000

Objective: To provide connectivity, by way of an all-weather road to unconnected habitations.

Eligibility: Unconnected habitations of designated population size (500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-Eastern States, Himalayan States, Deserts and Tribal Areas as per 2001 census) in the core network for uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural population.

Funding: The Union Government bears 90% of the project cost in respect of projects sanctioned under the scheme in North-Eastern and Himalayan States, whereas for other states the Union Government bears 60% of the cost.

PMGSY – Phase I:

PMGSY – Phase I was launched in December, 2000 as a 100 % centrally sponsored scheme.

Under the scheme, 1,35,436 habitations were targeted for providing road connectivity and 3.68 lakh km. for upgradation of existing rural roads in order to ensure full farm to market connectivity.

PMGSY – Phase II:

The Government of India subsequently launched PMGSY-II in 2013 for upgradation of 50,000 Kms of existing rural road network to improve its overall efficiency.

While the ongoing PMGSY – I continued, under PMGSY phase II, the roads already built for village connectivity was to be upgraded to enhance rural infrastructure.

Challenges:

  • Lack of dedicated funds.
  • Limited involvement of the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  • Inadequate execution and contracting capacity.
  • Less working season and difficult terrain particularly in Hill States.
  • Scarcity of the construction materials.
  • Security concerns particularly in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas.

About the Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas:

Started in 2016, it is envisaged in LWE States including the 44 LWE affected districts in 9 States.

The roads taken up under the scheme would include Other District Roads (ODRs), Village Roads (VRs) and upgradation of the existing Major District Roads (MDRs) that are critical from the security point of view.

Bridges up to a span of 100 meters, critical from security angle would also be funded on these roads.