ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 10 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  • SC on Death penalty
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ)
  • Rule and Power of the Governor

GS Paper 3:

  • Crop Diversification
  • Farm Loan Waiver

GS Paper 2

SC on Death penalty:

Why in News?

     Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) commuted the death sentence of a man, convicted of the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, to life imprisonment.

  • The judgment may become a significant precedent to the anti-death penalty cause.

What was SC’s Ruling in the Current Case?

  • SC commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment, with the rider that he shall not be entitled to “premature release or remission before undergoing actual imprisonment” for a period of 30 years.
  • SC advised the trial judges that they should not be swayed in favour of death penalty merely because of the dreadful nature of the crime and its harmful impact on the society. They should equally consider the mitigating factors in favour of life imprisonment.
  • SC referred to the evolution of the principles of penology and said that penology had grown to accommodate the philosophy of “preservation of human life”.
  • Penology is a sub-component of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences.
  • SC noted that that though capital punishment serves as a deterrent and a “response to the society’s call for appropriate punishment in appropriate cases”,
  • The principles of penology have “evolved to balance the other obligations of the society, i.e., of preserving the human life, be it of accused, unless termination thereof is inevitable and is to serve the other societal causes and collective conscience of society”.

What is a Death Penalty?

  • Capital punishment, also called the death penalty, is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offence. It is the highest penalty awardable to an accused. Generally, it is awarded in extremely severe cases of murder, rapes, treason etc.
  • The death penalty is seen as the most suitable punishment and effective deterrent for the worst crimes. Those who oppose it, however, see it as inhumane. Thus, the morality of the death penalty is debatable and many criminologists and socialists all across the globe, have been long demanding abolition of the death penalty.

What are the Arguments in Favour of the Death Penalty?

  • Retribution: One of the key principles of retribution is that people should get what they deserve in proportion to the severity of their crime.
  • This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime.
  • Deterrence: Capital punishment is often justified with the argument that by executing convicted murderers, we will deter would-be murderers from killing people.
  • It is often argued that the death penalty provides closure for victims’ families.

What are the Arguments Against the Death Penalty?

  • Deterrence Ineffective: The statistical evidence doesn’t confirm that deterrence works. Some of those executed may not have been capable of being deterred because of mental illness or defect.
  • Death has been prescribed in rape cases since 2013 (Sec. 376A of IPC), still, rapes continue to happen and in fact, the brutality of rapes has increased manifold. This compels one to think of the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.
  • Execution of the Innocent: The most common argument against capital punishment is that sooner or later, innocent people may get killed, because of mistakes or flaws in the justice system.
  • According to Amnesty International: As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
  • Death has been abolished as a form of punishment in most of the developed countries.
  • No Rehabilitatiom: Capital punishment doesn’t rehabilitate the prisoner and return them to society.

What is the Status of Death Penalty in the Indian Context?

  • Prior to the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act (Cr PC) of 1955, the death penalty was the rule and life imprisonment an exception in India.
  • Further, the courts were bound to give an explanation for awarding a lighter penalty than death for capital offences.
  • After the amendment of 1955 courts were at liberty to grant either death or life imprisonment.
  • As per Section 354 (3) of the Cr PC, 1973 the courts are required to state reasons in writing for awarding the maximum penalty.
  • The situation has been reversed and a life sentence is the rule and death penalty an exception in capital offences.
  • Moreover, despite a global moratorium against the death penalty by the United Nation, India retains the death penalty.
  • India is of view that allowing criminals guilty of having committed intentional, cold-blooded, deliberate and brutal murders to escape with a lesser punishment will deprive the law of its effectiveness and result in travesty of justice.
  • In concurrence of this, a proposal for the scrapping of the death penalty was rejected by the Law Commission in its 35th report 1967.
  • In India as per official statistics, 720 executions have taken place in India after it became independent in the year 1947, which is a minuscule fraction of the people who were awarded death penalty by the trial courts.
  • In the majority of the cases, death was commuted to life imprisonment and some were acquitted by the higher courts.

What are the SC’s Previous Rulings on on the Death Penalty?

  • Jagmohan Singh v. State of UP 1973 case: SC held that according to Article 21deprivation of life is constitutionally permissible if that is done according to the procedure established by law.
  • Thus the death sentence imposed after a trial in accordance with legally established procedures under Cr.PC and the Indian Evidence Act 1872 is not unconstitutional under Article 21.
  • Rajendra Prasad v. State of UP 1979 case: SC held that, if the murderous operation of a criminal jeopardizes social security in a persistent, planned and perilous fashion then his enjoyment of fundamental rights may be rightly annihilated.
  • Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab 1980 case: SC propounded the dictum of ‘rarest of rare cases’ according to which death penalty is not to be awarded except in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.
    • Rarest of Rare Cases can be described:
      • When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, ridiculous, diabolical, revolting, or reprehensible manner so as to awaken intense and extreme indignation of the community.
      • When total depravity and cruelty are the motives behind a murder.
      • Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab 1983 case: The Supreme Court laid down certain considerations for determining whether a case falls under the category of rarest of rare cases or not.

What should be the Way Forward in Such Cases?

  • Instead of merely enhancing punishment, tackling crimes against women and children requires broader social reforms, sustained governance efforts and strengthening investigative and reporting mechanisms.

International Court of Justice (ICJ):

Context:

         Delivering its judgement, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has awarded the DRC $225 million for damage to persons, which includes loss of life, rape, recruitment of child soldiers and displacement of civilians.

  • Now, Uganda must pay the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) $325 million in reparations related to the brutal conflict between the two nations from 1998 to 2003.

 What’s the issue?

          The DRC initially filed the case with the ICJ in June 1999, citing acts of armed aggression perpetrated by Uganda on its territory “in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity.”

  • At the height of the war, more than nine African countries were drawn into the fighting.
  • The Court ruled in December 2005 that Uganda had to make reparation to the DRC, but the sides could not reach agreement. 

About ICJ:

  • ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations charter and started working in April 1946.
  • It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, situated at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
  • Unlike the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (USA).
  • It settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions in accordance with international law, on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

 Structure:

  • The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately.
  • In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies.
  • In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years and Judges are eligible for re-election.
  • ICJ is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

 The 15 judges of the Court are distributed in following regions:

  1. Three from Africa.
  2. Two from Latin America and Caribbean.
  3. Three from Asia.
  4. Five from Western Europe and other states.
  5. Two from Eastern Europe.

 Independence of judges:

       Unlike other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

Jurisdiction and Functioning:

  • ICJ acts as a world court with two fold jurisdiction i.e. legal disputes between States submitted to it by them (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies (advisory proceedings).
  • Only States which are members of the United Nations and which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions, are parties to contentious cases.
  • The judgment is final, binding on the parties to a case and without appeal (at the most it may be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision).

Rule and Power of the Governor:

  • Why in News?

       The Governor acts in ‘Dual Capacity’ as the Constitutional head of the state and as the representative of the Union government.

  • In recent years, the bitterness between states and Governors has been largely about the selection of the party to form a government, deadline for proving majority, sitting on Bills, and passing negative remarks on the state administration.
  • Due to this, Governor is referred to with negative terms like an agent of the Centre, Puppet and rubber stamps.

What are Constitutional Provisions Related to the Governor?

  • Article 153 says that there shall be a Governor for each State. One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.
  • A Governor is appointed by the President and is a nominee of the Central Government.
  • It is stated that the Governor has a dual role.
  • He is the constitutional head of the state, bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers (CoM).
  • He functions as a vital link between the Union Government and the State Government.
  • Articles 157 and 158 specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor.
  • Governor has the power to grantpardons, reprieves, etc. (Article 161).
  • There is a CoM with the CM at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except some conditions for discretion. (Article 163)
  • The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and other Ministers (Article 164).
  • Governor assents, withholds assent, or reserves the bill for the consideration of the President passed by the Legislative Assembly (Article 200).
  • Governors may promulgate the Ordinances under certain circumstances (Article 213).

What are the Friction Points in Governor-State Relations?

  • Governor is envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers. However, the Governor enjoys certain discretionary powers granted under the Constitution. For example,
  • Giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature,
  • Determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or
  • Which party must be called first to do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
  • There are no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion.
  • The Governor has a 5-year tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
  • In 2001, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, held that the Governor owes his appointment and his continuation to the Union.
  • There is the apprehension that he is likely to act in accordance with the instructions received from the Union Council of Ministers.
  • In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
  • The Governor sends a report to the centre which forms the basis of the Union cabinet’s recommendations to the President for invoking Article 356 (President’s Rule).

What Reforms have been Suggested?

  • On Appointment and Removal of Governor:
    • The “Punchhi commission – 2010” recommended that there should be a provision for the impeachment of the governor by the state legislature.
    • The state chief minister should have a say in the governor’s appointment.
  • On the Use of Article 356:
    • The “Punchhi commission – 2010” recommended that Articles 355 & 356 be amended.
    • The Sarkaria Commission (1988) recommended that Article 356 should be used in very rare cases when it becomes unavoidable to restore the breakdown of constitutional machinery in the State.
    • Recommendations have also been given by the Administrative Reforms Commission (1968), Rajamannar Committee (1971) and Justice V.Chelliah Commission (2002).
  • On Dismissal of State Government under Article 356:
    • S.R. Bommai Judgment (1994): The case put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government.
    • The verdict ruled that the floor of the Assembly is the only forum that should test the majority of the government of the day, and not the subjective opinion of the Governor.
  • On Discretionary Powers:
    • The Supreme Court in the Nabam Rebia judgment (2016) ruled that the exercise of Governor’s discretion Article 163 is limited and his choice of action should not be arbitrary or fanciful.

Way Forward

  • Strengthening of Federalism: In order to check misuse of the office of governor, there is a need to strengthen federal setup in India.
  • In this regard, the Inter-State council and the role of Rajya Sabha as the chamber of federalism must be strengthened.
  • Reform the Method of Appointment of Governor: The appointment can be made from a panel prepared by the state legislature and actual appointing authority should be the Inter-state Council, not the central government.
  • Code of Conduct for Governor: This ‘Code of Conduct’ should lay down certain ‘norms and principles’ which should guide the exercise of the governor’s ‘discretion’ and his powers which he is entitled to use and exercise on his judgement.

GS Paper 3

Crop Diversification:

Why in News?

           In the annual Economic Survey ,the Department of Economic Affairs said that there is an urgent need for Crop Diversification in view of the severe water stress in areas where paddy, wheat and sugarcane are grown as well as to increase oil seed production and reduce dependency on imports of cooking oil.

What is it?

  • Crop diversification refers to the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value-added crops with complementary marketing opportunities.
  • Cropping System: It refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years.
  • Types: Major cropping systems in India are sequential-cropping, monocropping, intercropping, relay Cropping, mixed-cropping and alley cropping.
  • Many farmers also use the mixed crop-livestock system to increase their standards of living and income.
  • Animal husbandry or Animal Agriculture is the branch of science dealing with the practice of breeding, farming and care of farm animals (livestocks) such as cattle, dogs, sheep and horses by humans for advantages.
  • It refers to livestock raising and selective breeding. It is a branch of agriculture.

What is the Need for Crop Diversification?

  • Adversities and Climatic Vagaries:
    • A farmer may confront a series of adversities and climatic vagaries during agricultural production, such as erratic rainfall, stone hail, drought, flood, and so on.
    • In addition, challenges like post-harvest losses, storage and unavailability of accessible proper marketing are further aggravating the problem.
    • Currently, the human-wildlife and / or human-crops conflict,  forest fires, organic matter deficit soil, monoculture, plant disease and infestation, migration  and the reluctance of youth towards agriculture are a new array of problems.
  • Problems in Maintaining Input Cost:
    • For more than five decades, Indian agriculture has been facing severe problems related to an increase in input cost to increase productivity.
    • However, the productivity proportional to input maintains for a certain time before plateauing and then progressively declines in many cases.
  • Following Same Pattern extract Specific Nutrients from the Soil:
    • Farmers have been using the common government-promoted Green Revolution cropping pattern — rice-wheat-rice for a longer time to enhance productivity.
    • Unilaterally, following the same cropping pattern for a longer period of time has extracted the specific nutrients from the soil, resulting in soil deficiency in those nutrients along with a declined population of microfauna in the soil.
    • The microfaunal population is responsible for the mobilisation and absorption of particular nutrients in the crop rhizosphere.
    • Reduction of the microfaunal population in the soil is a serious issue because without microfaunal activities, the soil is lost to self-perpetuate and its ecology for crop production.
    • The mono-cropping pattern also reduces resource-use efficiency.
    • Furthermore, mono-cropping patterns have more chances to be attacked by the same types of insects and pests, which in turn are controlled by pumping the insecticides and pesticides.

What is Agroforestry and its role in Sustaining Crop Diversification?

  • About:
    • It is a part of primitive and tribal agriculture nourished with indigenous technical knowledge.
    • Agroforestry is a land-use system that includes trees, crops and / or livestock in a spatial and temporal manner, balancing both ecological and economic interactions of biotic and abiotic components. It harnesses the complementarity between trees and crops for efficient utilisation of available resources.
    • Agroforestry is practiced for diversification around the world in different spheres of biological, ecological, economical and sociological considerations.
    • In North America, for instance, farmers preferred agroforestry over agriculture to improve their economic gain and natural resource conservation.
    • In Europe, agroforestry trees are dominated by oaks, pines, junipers and firs. In Australia, Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus while in the African continent, coffee, cocoa, coconut, oil palm, and rubber are common agroforestry trees on farms.
    • The home gardens of the southern part of India are a classic example of maintaining temporal and spatial arrangement for crop diversity, with trees resulting in sustainable productivity from the unit area.
  • Role in Sustaining Crop Diversification:
    • Agroforestry can generate food, feed, fruits, fibre, fuel, fodder, fish, flavour, fragrance, floss, gum and resins as well as other non-wood products for food and nutritional security. It can also support livelihoods and promote productive, resilient agricultural environments in all ecologies.
    • Agroforestry contributes to a multifunctional production system which enhances biodiversity due to the creation of diverse habitat for macro- and micro-organisms and maintaining landforms for future generations.
    • It provides opportunities to integrate traditionally grown crops, with other commercial crops such as cereals, oilseeds, pulses, vegetables, fruits in agrihorticulture, hortisilviculture, silvolericulture, silvofloriculture, silvimedicinal, agrihortisilviculture, aquaforestry, silvipasture, hortipasture.

Way Forward

  • Although there are challenges which can not be ignored, crop diversification provides an opportunity to double farmers income and create food security for the nation.
  • Therefore, the government must promote crop diversification by purchasing crops produced other than wheat and rice at Minimum Support Price. This could also help conserve the dwindling supply of underground water.
  • Agricultural emissions can also be limited through smarter livestock handling, technology-enabled monitoring of fertilizer application, simple changes in field layout and other, more efficient agricultural techniques.

Farm Loan Waiver:

Context:

       The Congress manifesto for the UP polls promises waiver of farm loans within 10 days of coming to power and a subquota for the most backward classes (MBCs) within the other backward classes (OBC) quota to ensure maximum benefits, if voted to office Uttar Pradesh.

Background:

           To help the farm sector, state governments have time and again announced loan waiver schemes. Back in 2008-09, the then UPA government at the Centre had announced a loan waiver scheme for the entire country. States like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and others have announced similar schemes in the recent past.

 Drawbacks of loan waivers:

  • Firstly, it covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. The loan waiver as a concept excludes most of the farm households in dire need of relief and includes some who do not deserve such relief on economic grounds.
  • Second, it provides only a partial relief to the indebted farmers as about half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
  • Third, in many cases, one household has multiple loanseither from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
  • Fourth, loan waiving excludes agricultural labourerswho are even weaker than cultivators in bearing the consequences of economic distress.
  • Fifth, it severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
  • Sixth, the scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.
  • Lastly, schemes have serious implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.

 What needs to be done?

       Proper identification: For providing immediate relief to the needy farmers, a more inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.

       Enhance non- farm income: The sustainable solution to indebtedness and agrarian distress is to raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income. The low scale of farms necessitates that some cultivators move from agriculture to non-farm jobs.

Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income. All these require more public funding and support.

 Observations made by RBI:

 As per RBI, loan waivers not only inhibit investment in the farm sector but put pressure on the fiscal of states which undertake farm loan waiver.

  • In every state election during the last five years, loan waiver promise made by one political party or other. Also, loan waivers, as the RBI has repeatedly argued, vitiate the credit culture, and stress the budgets of the waiving state or central government.

 Way ahead:

The magic wand of a waiver can offer temporary relief, but long-term solutions are needed to solve farmer woes. There are many dimensions of the present agrarian crisis in India. The search for a solution therefore needs to be comprehensive by taking into consideration all the factors that contribute to the crisis. Furthermore, both short- and long-term measures are required to address the numerous problems associated with the agrarian crisis.

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