The HINDU Notes – 05th August 2019 - VISION

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Monday, August 05, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 05th August 2019

πŸ“° Freeing Kulbhushan: On consular access

Pakistan’s delay in giving full consular access reveals a non-serious attitude to ICJ order

•Two weeks after the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in favour of India in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, Pakistan has yet to take the first step towards implementing the order: providing him “consular access”. In its verdict on July 17, the ICJ had decided near-unanimously that by not informing India immediately of Mr. Jadhav’s arrest in 2017, by not informing him of his rights, and not allowing the Indian High Commission to meet with him and arrange for his legal representation, Pakistan was in violation of the Vienna convention on consular relations. Although Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry had offered a meeting between Mr. Jadhav and the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on Friday afternoon, the offer came with conditions, including CCTV cameras on proceedings, and a Pakistani official being in the room during the meeting. This was a violation of the unimpeded consular access that the ICJ had ordered, and India decided to reject the offer until Pakistan reconsiders its conditions. India’s concerns are three-fold. First, Pakistan’s delay in granting full consular access displays a non-serious attitude to implementing a clear-cut order from the UN’s highest judicial body. This augurs badly for Pakistan’s application of the rest of the ICJ order that calls for a full review of Mr. Jadhav’s trial conviction and death sentence for terrorism and espionage charges. Most importantly, the nature of the conditions indicates Pakistan wants to monitor what Mr. Jadhav tells Indian officials closely, as much of their original case, as presented to the public, rested on his purported confession. If he shares adverse details of coercion, the court may well go beyond its current order in the case, and India may have a stronger chance of trying to have the trial overturned.

•Islamabad must stop dragging its feet and creating unnecessary hurdles in providing what is a basic human right for Mr. Jadhav, and New Delhi needs to keep its rhetoric low, while pressing its case for access to the former naval officer, consistently and firmly. This will not be easy, as after some relative calm, shelling at the Line of Control has opened up with a new fury in the last few days. The allegations by Pakistan that the Indian Army is deploying cluster-munitions on civilian areas (firmly denied by the government), and the Army’s claim that several Pakistani regulars and terrorists were killed in an infiltration attempt by a “Border Action Team” (BAT) have ratcheted up tensions further. The government’s ham-handed reaction to the threats, of cancelling the Amarnath Yatra, pulling out tourists and pilgrims and raising security levels in the valley further, have only added to the narrative. It would indeed be a tragedy if the situation overshadows the fate of Mr. Jadhav, just when hopes had been raised by the international court verdict to help secure his freedom.

πŸ“° Bigger and better: On number of Supreme Court judges

More judges are welcome, but SC must focus on its role as interpreter of the Constitution

•Any move to increase the strength of the judiciary ought to be welcomed, given the perennial complaint that availability of judges is not increasing in proportion to the institution of cases. In this perspective, the Union Cabinet’s decision to raise the strength of the Supreme Court from 31 to 34, including the Chief Justice of India, will help in dealing with the large pendency — 59,331 cases on July 11. The law that fixes the number of judges in the highest court was last amended in 2009 to raise the figure from 26 to 31. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had written to the Prime Minister recently, highlighting the problem of paucity of judges, due to which he was unable to constitute enough Constitution Benches to decide important questions of law. However, a moot question is whether the highest court should go into the correctness of every decision of every high court. Are the judicial resources available being used optimally? Is valuable time being taken up by mundane matters that do not impinge on larger questions that involve interpretation of laws and constitutional provisions? For instance, routine bail matters land up in the Supreme Court within days of persons being arrested. Every major crime or disaster seems to invite a litigant, ostensibly in public interest, who mentions the matter before the Chief Justice for urgent hearing. The court is being invited to even oversee flood relief work.

•A mere increase in the court’s strength may not be enough to liquidate the burgeoning docket. Another set of measures that would save the court’s time, including a reasonable restraint on the duration of oral arguments and a disciplined adherence to a schedule of hearings may be needed. In this case, one of the principal objectives should be to preserve the apex court’s primary role as the ultimate arbiter of constitutional questions and statutory interpretation. All other questions involving a final decision on routine matters, especially civil cases that involve nothing more than the interests of the parties before it, ought to be considered by a mechanism that will not detract from the court’s primary role. Some countries have brought in a clear division at the level of the apex judiciary by having separate constitutional courts, which limit themselves to deciding questions of constitutional importance. It may be worthwhile considering the 229th Report of the Law Commission, suggesting a new system under which there will be one Constitution Bench in Delhi, and four ‘Cassation Benches’ for different regions of the country. These will be final appellate courts for routine litigation. This arrangement may also increase access to justice to those living in far-flung areas of the country and who may otherwise have to come to Delhi and spend more time and money in pursuing appeals. It may also cut down on the time taken for disposal of cases.

πŸ“° Rajasthan’s effort to criminalise mob lynching is a good start

The Bill goes beyond just codifying Supreme Court directives.

•In furtherance of the recommendations made by the apex court in Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India, the Rajasthan government has introduced the Rajasthan Protection From Lynching Bill, 2019. If it gets passed, Rajasthan will be the second State after Manipur to have a dedicated law criminalising mob lynching as a special offence, in addition to other offences under the Indian Penal Code.

•The Bill follows the Supreme Court’s recommendations in authorising the setting up of special courts, appointment of a dedicated nodal officer, and stipulating enhanced punishments. However, its scope is more comprehensive as it not only criminalises acts of lynching, dissemination of ‘offensive material’ and fostering of a ‘hostile environment’, but also provides for relief, legal aid, compensation and rehabilitation.

Broad definition

•The Bill defines lynching as an act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob (two or more persons) on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation and ethnicity. Though wide-ranging in content, the document does not cover cases of solitary offences. Noticeably, the Bill says that police officers and district magistrates have to take measures to prevent lynching and related offences. However, unlike the law on mob lynching in Manipur, it does not prescribe any punishment for dereliction of duty.

•Further, some of the Bill’s provisions might attract legal scrutiny. Section 8(c) of the Bill says that whoever commits an act of lynching, where the act leads to the death of the victim, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and a fine not be less than ₹1,00,000 and which may extend to ₹5,00,000. As regards sentencing, this provision completely deprives the judiciary of any amount of discretion.

Taking away judicial discretion

•It needs to be stated that a court needs to consider all the facts and circumstances, different for each crime, while making a decision on punishment. The Supreme Court, while declaring Section 303 of the IPC unconstitutional in Mithu Singh v. State of Punjab, held that “the exercise of judicial discretion on well-recognised principles is, in the final analysis, the safest possible safeguard for the accused. The legislature cannot make relevant circumstances irrelevant, deprive the courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise their discretion”.

•Section 9 of the Rajasthan Bill stipulates, inter alia, the same punishment for lynching and “attempting” an act of lynching. In the context of criminal law and sentencing, the principle of proportionality mandates an adequate balance of the gravity of the crime, the interests of the victim and of society, and the purposes of criminal law. The constitutional courts have time and again applied the principle of proportionality and have struck down laws that are excessively harsh or disproportionate.

•Lynching is an egregious manifestation of prejudice, intolerance, and contempt towards the rule of law. With all its limitations, the Rajasthan Bill is evidence of political will by the State government. It is expected that deliberations help in the enactment of a more constitutionally robust Bill. However, legislation cannot act as a panacea; what is required is political commitment. It is high time that the other States and the Centre show some urgency so that creeping threats are prevented from metastasising into an out-of-control monster.

πŸ“° Statue of Unity shortlisted for UK-based structural award

Winner to be announced on November 15

•The Statue of Unity, a memorial to Sardar Patel, in Gujarat’s Kevadia town has been shortlisted for ‘The Structural Awards 2019’ of the UK-based Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).

•The 182-m-tall statue was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31 last year.

•It is among the 49 structures that will vie for the prestigious award, according to the institution’s website. The awards will be announced at a function in London on November 15.

•Other structures shortlisted for the award include a sports stadium with a roof made of rotating petals at Hangzhou in China, a 22-m-deep basement beneath a five-star hotel in London and buildings showcasing the world’s best seismic performance in San Francisco, according to the website.

‘Extraordinary innovation’

•“Our profession has once again demonstrated extraordinary innovation over the past year. The 2019 shortlist offers many great examples of the ingenuity, creativity and skill of structural engineers worldwide,” professor Tim Ibell, head of the judging panel, said.

•“One of the aims of this awards programme is to increase awareness of the important work that structural engineers do,” Martin Powell, chief executive of the institution, said.

•Commenting on the Statue of Unity, the judging panel said, “This is an impressive sculpture by virtue of its scale and location. It put great demands on the engineers to conquer the challenges — defining the design loads, selecting the right materials for the right purposes, and handling the uncertainties of geology. ”

•The statue, designed by architect Ram Suthar and built by Larsen and Toubro, has a viewing gallery at a height of 150 m which provides visitors a spectacular view of the Sardar Sarovar dam and its vicinity.

•Past winners of this award include iconic structures such as Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Severn Bridge in England.

•The institute has been bestowing this award for best structural designs for the last 52 years.

πŸ“° India test-fires Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile

The system is being developed for the Army with search and track on move capability with very short reaction time.

•The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) on Sunday successfully test-fired the indigenously developed Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM) from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur.

•“Two missiles have been tested against two live targets meeting complete mission objectives of engaging the targets. The systems have been tested in final configuration with radar mounted on a vehicle and missiles on the launcher,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. 

Multiple capabilities

•The missiles with many state-of-the-art technologies engaged the targets at different ranges and altitudes, the Ministry stated.

•The system is being developed for the Army with search and track on move capability with very short reaction time. The systems are equipped with indigenously developed phased array radar, inertial navigation system, data link and radio frequency seeker. The entire mission was captured by various electro-optical tracking systems, radar systems and telemetry systems at ITR Chandipur, the statement added.

πŸ“° Biotechnology Department will scan 20,000 Indian genomes

Data sets compared by machine learning techniques can predict risk of cancer and other diseases

•The Department of Biotechology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer.

•The first phase involves sequencing the complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from all corners of the country and capture the biological diversity of India, Renu Swarup, Secretary-DBT told The Hindu.

Vast troves

•In the next phase, about 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced. These vast troves of data sets would be compared using machine learning techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer risk, as well as other diseases that could be significantly influenced by genetic anomalies.

•While 22 institutions, including those from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the DBT would be involved in the exercise, the data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis. This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’, which is still in early stages of discussion.

‘Major thrust area’

•“Genomics research is a major thrust area for the Department. What is unique about this programme, called the Genome India Initiative, is its scale. The deliverables are genomic-based diagnostics that can be affordably made available through a lab,” Dr. Swarup added.

•The programme is expected to formally launch in October, with an estimated budget of ₹250-350 crore for the Phase-1, she added.

•Along with genome samples, the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences — also involved in the project — will also collect samples of the microbiome from the human gut. The diversity of the bacterial samples is at the frontier of global research, and scientists have said there is an intimate connection between the genome, the gut microbiome and disease.

Declining costs

•There is interest among private and public companies in sequencing genomes thanks to the declining costs for the process. From China to the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, several countries have announced plans to sequence their population. Currently, genomic data sets under-represent Asia, particularly India, whose population and diverse ethnicity make it an attractive prospect for genome-mining efforts. The CSIR already has an effort underway to scan 1,000 genomes from healthy Indians.