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23rd July Current Affairs

Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill

(GS-III: Internal Security)

In News:

Government has come up with Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill 2019 will bring the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea into domestic law and enable Indian authorities to take action against piracy on the high seas.

Details:

A pirate is a seaman, or robber who attacks, seizes or destroys any ship on the high seas and sometimes even harbours at the shore.

Status:

India currently does not have legislation on matters of piracy on the high seas.

India ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1995 but was yet to enact it through the bill.

Need for the bill:

IPC is not valid for foreigners in international waters: Previously, pirates were prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). However, India’s sovereignty is delimited by the outer boundary of its territorial waters— 12 nautical miles from the coast. Acts of piracy committed by a foreigner outside India’s territorial waters cannot be an offence under the IPC, and those accused in piracy cases have been acquitted due to the lack of jurisdiction.

Incidence of Piracy: the Gulf of Aden has been one of the deadliest areas in the oceans due to a large number of piracy incidents. Due to an increased naval presence in the Gulf of Aden, it has been observed that piracy operations are shifting towards the east and south, which increases their proximity to India’s west coast.

18 Indians aboard a crude oil carrier were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria last year.

Provisions in the Bill:

Definition: Piracy is defined as an act of violence or detention by the crew or passengers of a private vessel or private aircraft on high seas, directed against another vessel or aircraft and/or people or property on board.

Extra-territorial Jurisdictions: The Bill will apply to the sea beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), that is, beyond 200 nautical miles from India’s coastline.

However, it is unclear if it will apply to the EEZ that extends between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the coast of India.

Punishment: For committing acts of piracy, the convicts shall be punished with imprisonment for life or death in case the act of piracy itself causes the death or attempts to cause the death of another person.

Participating in or assisting acts of piracy will be punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment and a fine.

Extraditable offences: This means that the accused can be transferred to any country for prosecution with which India has signed an extradition treaty.

Designated Court: The central government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court, may notify the Sessions Courts to be the Designated Courts under this Bill.

Presumption of guilt: The presumption of guilt will be on the accused if: (i) the accused is in possession of arms, explosives and other equipment which were used or intended for use in committing the offence, (ii) there is evidence of use of force against the ship’s crew or passengers, and (iii) there is evidence of the intended use of bombs and arms against the crew, passengers or cargo of a ship.

Issues with the Bill:

It is unclear how the overlap of the 14-year term and the life term will be determined since committing an act of piracy will necessarily include participation as well.

Issue with the death penalty: Supreme Court of India has advocated for the use of extreme punishment in the “rarest of rare” According to the top court, the death penalty violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982):

It is an international agreement that establishes the legal framework for marine and maritime activities.

It divides marine areas into five main zones namely– Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the High Seas.

It is a set of rules to govern the oceans and the use of their resources. It is based on the idea that all problems related to oceans are interrelated and need to be addressed by the global community as a whole.

UNCLOS governs all aspects of ocean space, including delimitation, environmental control, marine scientific research, economic and commercial activities, transfer of technology and the settlement of ocean-related disputes.

Strengthening Pharmaceuticals Industry’ (SPI)

In News:

Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers unveiled three schemes in order to strengthen Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the pharmaceutical sector.

Three schemes are:

  1. Pharmaceutical Technology Upgradation Assistance Scheme (PTUAS)– PTUAS would provide pharmaceutical MSMEs with a proven track record, in a bid to upgrade their technology. It will provide a capital subsidy of 10% on loans up to Rs 10 crore. The minimum repayment period has been fixed at three months.
  2. Assistance to Pharma Industries for Common Facilities Scheme (API-CF)-API-CF will help in strengthening existing pharmaceutical clusters’ capacity to attain sustained growth. Under it, the assistance of up to 70 per cent of the project cost of Rs 20 crore (Whichever is less) will be provided.
  3. Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Promotion and Development Scheme (PMPDS)-. It aims to create a database of pharma and medical device sectors.

These schemes anticipate technology up-gradation, liquid waste treatment plants in clusters and the setting up of common research centres for pharma MSMEs.

Schemes would help the small companies in upgrading their facilities to international manufacturing standards.

EU’s palm oil row with Malaysia and Indonesia

In News:

European Union previously decided to phase out the import of unsustainable palm oil by 2030. Indonesia and Malaysia say the EU’s palm oil restrictions are unfair, “discriminatory”, and “crop apartheid” and challenged the EU in the WTO.

Details:

Indonesia and Malaysia, are the world’s two largest palm oil producers, accounting for 90% of the global production. However, most of it is produced on the plantation by clearing rainforests.

ReFuelEU initiative: EU lawmakers adopted draft rules for the ReFuelEU initiative, which would mean 85% of all used aviation fuel would have to be “sustainable” by 2050.

About Palm Oil:

It is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms.

Uses: As a cooking oil, in cosmetics, processed foods, cakes, chocolates, soaps, spreads, shampoo, and biofuel ( the use of crude palm oil in making biodiesel is being branded as ‘green diesel’)

It is inexpensive and produces more oil per hectare as compared to other alternatives such as soybean.

India is the biggest importer of palm oil (almost 40% of its need)

Government initiatives: National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm(to boost India’s domestic palm oil production by 3 times ( till 2025-26));  Kharif Strategy 2021 for oilseeds; yellow revolution.

Issue of simultaneous polls with law panel

(GS-II: Polity-Elections)

In News:

The issue of holding simultaneous parliamentary and Assembly polls has been referred to the Law Commission so that a practicable roadmap and framework can be worked out.

Details:

In its draft report, the 21st Law Commission had said it was convinced that “there exists a viable environment, necessitating the holding of simultaneous elections to the House of the People and the State Legislatures. Simultaneous elections can be seen as a solution to prevent the country from being in constant election mode.

About Simultaneous Elections:

Simultaneous Election (SE) is an exercise of the democratic process wherein the elections to the various house (Lok Sabha and state assemblies) and bodies are synchronized together to have more efficiency and save expenditure.

In India, SE was the norm till 1967, however, more recently Niti Aayog, Law Commission Report, and our Prime minister have pushed for SE to make the election in India a meaningful democratic exercise.

Benefits of having SE:

Reduce Policy paralysis: Imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) over the state for a longer period of time leads to stoppage of developmental programs.

Reduce huge expenditures on elections: Around Rs 55,000crore ($8 billion), was spent during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections (as per the report by the Centre for Media Studies)

SE can help reduce it by conducting the synchronized election for states and the Centre at the same time

Reduce the disruption of public life: Regular elections impact the functioning of essential services such as regular transport, prices of essentials, etc.

Reduce the impact on social fabric: Elections are known to perpetuate religion, caste, corruption, and communal tensions.

Reduce the impact of populist measures: Populist measures are often not in sync with the economic principles and have a narrow vision of immediate electoral gains.

Increase voter turnout: Frequent election leads to voters’ exhaustion and reduces their participation in the democratic process.

Limitations to SE:

Limitation of democratic principles: Curtailing the terms of the existing legislature to synchronize the election will undermine democracy and federalism.

Limitation of Voter Behaviour:Some political scientists’ say voters may be influenced to vote on national issues (thus benefiting national parties) even for State elections, thereby diluting electoral neutrality

Limitation of Accountability:Frequent election ensures political and developmental accountability of parties in power. But SE might dilute that.

Constitutional limitation: SE would require amendment in the provisions of the constitution, RPA 1951, and ratification by states. It may be hard to get in a multiparty and diverse country like India.

Some countries where Simultaneous Elections are successfully implemented:

SE are successfully held in South Africa (national and provincial), and Sweden (including local election as well on the same day).