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25 July Current Affairs

Plea Bargaining

In News:

Many members of the Tablighi Jamaat belonging to different countries have obtained release from court cases in recent days by means of plea bargaining.

Details:

It refers to a person charged with a criminal offence negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser punishment than what is provided in law by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.

It primarily involves pre-trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecutor. It may involve bargaining on the charge or in the quantum of sentence.

When was it introduced in India?

Plea bargaining was introduced in 2006 as part of a set of amendments to the CrPC as Chapter XXI-A, containing Sections 265A to 265L.

In what circumstances is it allowed? How does it work?

In India, a plea bargaining process can be initiated only by the accused;

The accused will have to apply to the court for invoking the benefit of bargaining.

The applicant should state that it is a voluntary preference and that he has understood the nature and extent of punishment provided in law for the offence.

The court would then issue notice to the prosecutor and the complainant or victim, if any, for a hearing.

The voluntary nature of the application must be ascertained by the judge in an in-camera hearing at which the other side should not be present.

Thereafter, the court may permit the prosecutor, the investigating officer and the victim to hold a meeting for a “satisfactory disposition of the case”.

The outcome may involve payment of compensation and other expenses to the victim by the accused.

Once mutual satisfaction is reached, the court shall formalise the arrangement by way of a report signed by all the parties and the presiding officer.

The accused may be sentenced to a prison term that is half the minimum period fixed for the offence. If there is no minimum term prescribed, the sentence should run up to one-fourth of the maximum sentence stipulated in law.

Cases for which the practice is allowed are limited:

Only someone who has been charge sheeted for an offence that does not attract the death sentence, life sentence or a prison term above seven years can make use of the scheme under Chapter XXI-A.

It is also applicable to private complaints of which a criminal court has taken cognisance.

It is not available for those that involve offences affecting the “socio-economic conditions” of the country, or committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14.

What is the rationale for the scheme?

The Justice Malimath Committee on reforms of the criminal justice system endorsed the various recommendations of the Law Commission with regard to plea bargaining.

Advantages:

  • Ensure speedy trial.
  • end uncertainty over the outcome of criminal cases.
  • save litigation costs and relieve the parties of anxiety.
  • Impact on conviction rates.
  • Help offenders make a fresh start in life.

National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA)

In News:

The audit regulator, National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), has constituted a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) under the Chairmanship of R Narayanaswamy, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru.

Composition:

Seven members, including the Chairman.

Functions:

Aid and advise the Executive Body of the NFRA on issues related to the drafts of accounting standards and auditing standards.

Provide inputs from the perspectives of users, preparers and auditors of financial statements.

About NFRA:

National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) was constituted on 1st October, 2018 under section 132 (1) of the Companies Act, 2013.

Why was it needed?

In the wake of accounting scams, a need was felt to establish an independent regulator for enforcement of auditing standards and ensuring the quality of audits so as to enhance investor and public confidence in financial disclosures of companies.

Composition:

The Companies Act requires the NFRA to have a chairperson who will be appointed by the Central Government and a maximum of 15 members.

Functions and Duties:

Recommend accounting and auditing policies and standards to be adopted by companies for approval by the Central Government;

Monitor and enforce compliance with accounting standards and auditing standards;

Oversee the quality of service of the professions associated with ensuring compliance with such standards and suggest measures for improvement in the quality of service;

Perform such other functions and duties as may be necessary or incidental to the aforesaid functions and duties.

Powers:

It can probe listed companies and those unlisted public companies having paid-up capital of no less than Rs 500 crore or annual turnover of no less than Rs 1,000 crore.

It can investigate professional misconduct committed by members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) for prescribed class of body corporate or persons.

Oxford university’s ChAdOx1 Covid-19 vaccine

In News:

ChAdOx1 COVID-9 was jointly developed by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Details:

It has been found to be safe and induced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials.

About the Vaccine and how was it developed?

The vaccine belongs to a category called non-replicating viral vector vaccines.

This vaccine is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees.

Scientists did this by transferring the genetic instructions of the coronavirus’ “spike protein” – the crucial tool it uses to invade human cells – to the vaccine. This was done so that the vaccine resembles the coronavirus and the immune system can learn how to attack it.

How it works?

The adenovirus, genetically modified so that it cannot replicate in humans, will enter the cell and release the code to make only the spike protein.

The body’s immune system is expected to recognise the spike protein as a potentially harmful foreign substance, and starts building antibodies against it.

Once immunity is built, the antibodies will attack the real virus if it tries to infect the body.

Insta Concepts:

When someone is infected with the Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2), the reason it spreads in the body easily is because of the spikes on its surface. These spikes, known as the ‘spike protein’, allow the virus to penetrate cells and, thereafter, multiply.

What happens next?

Globally, Oxford and AstraZeneca have already begun phase III trials in Brazil, targeting 5,000 volunteers. A similar trial in South Africa is also expected to be underway.

Type 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.

Previously unknown faults at the foot of the Himalaya discovered

In News:

An oil and gas exploration company has helped geologists discover a series of faults at the foot of the Himalaya.

Details:

This fault system lies in the southeastern region of Nepal and has the potential to cause earthquakes in the densely populated country.

Significance of these findings:

This network of faults show that the Himalayan deformation reaches further [about 40 kilometres further south] than we previously thought.

It highlights the need to look below the surface, and further afield, to fully understand earthquakes and structures within the Himalaya.

Will this fault system affect India?

The newly discovered system doesn’t appear to extend into India, but seismic waves from an earthquake occurring on them might affect regions of India near the border.

However, other similar faults might be present elsewhere along the southern edge of the Himalaya and might extend beneath northern India.

What is a fault?

A fault is a fracture or zone of fractures between two blocks of rock.

Faults allow the blocks to move relative to each other.

This movement may occur rapidly, in the form of an earthquake – or may occur slowly, in the form of creep.

Previously unknown faults at the foot of the Himalaya discovered.

Faults are related to the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates. The biggest faults mark the boundary between two plates.

There are three kinds of faults:

Strike-slip: indicate rocks are sliding past each other horizontally, with little to no vertical movement. Both the San Andreas and Anatolian Faults are strike-slip.

Normal fault: create space. Two blocks of crust pull apart, stretching the crust into a valley. The Basin and Range Province in North America and the East African Rift Zone are two well-known regions where normal faults are spreading apart Earth’s crust.

Thrust (reverse) faults: slide one block of crust on top of another. These faults are commonly found in collisions zones, where tectonic plates push up mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the Rocky Mountains.

Strike-slip faults are usually vertical, while normal and reverse faults are often at an angle to the surface of the Earth.