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Current Affairs 10 January 2024

  1. Bilkis Bano case
  2. Over-The-Top (OTT)
  3. NSIL to Launch GSAT-20 Aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in 2024
  4. Chandubi Festival
  5. Camptothecin
  6. Sisal Plant
  7. Peregrine Mission One


Context:

The Supreme Court has struck down the remission granted by the Gujarat government to 11 convicts, who are out of jail, in the Bilkis Bano case. The apex court directed these convicts to report to jail authorities within two weeks.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Supreme Court Verdict on Bilkis Bano Case Convicts’ Release
  2. Remission: A Legal Overview
  3. Bilkis Bano Case Overview and Controversial Release of Convicts

Supreme Court Verdict on Bilkis Bano Case Convicts’ Release

Background:

  • In the case of 11 convicts involved in raping Bilkis Bano and killing her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Gujarat government’s decision to release them faced Supreme Court scrutiny.
Key Highlights of the Judgment:
  • The Gujarat government lacked authority to pass the remission order as the trial took place in Maharashtra, rendering the exemption order incompetent.
  • Criminals can only be released by the state where they are tried, making the Gujarat government’s action inappropriate.
  • The bench ruled that the SC order of May 13, 2022, allowing remission, was obtained through fraud and suppression of facts.
  • The Gujarat government should have filed a plea for a review of the 2022 order, acknowledging their lack of competence.
  • The Supreme Court criticized its own May 2022 judgment, stating there cannot be concurrent jurisdiction of two State governments on remission.
  • Premature release of convicts should align with the policy of the State where the crime occurred, leading to the application of Gujarat’s remission policy in this case.
  • Emphasizing the preservation of the rule of law despite potential consequences, the verdict underscores the need for legal integrity.

Remission: A Legal Overview

About Remission

  • Complete ending of a sentence at a reduced point.
  • Different from furlough and parole, involving a reduction in the sentence, not a break from prison life.
Constitutional Provisions
  • Both the President and the Governor have been vested with sovereign power of pardon by the Constitution.
  • Under Article 72, the President can grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence
    • in all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court Martial;
    • in all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
    • in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death
  • Under Article 161, a Governor can grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment, or suspend, remit or commute the sentence.
Statutory Power of Remission
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) governs remission due to the State Subject nature of prisons.
  • Upcoming Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita aims to replace CrPC.
  • Section 432 enables the ‘appropriate government’ to suspend or remit a sentence, wholly or partly, with or without conditions.
  • Section 433 permits the commutation of any sentence by the appropriate government, providing the authority to release prisoners before completing their terms.
Guidelines for Remission
  • Supreme Court’s ‘Laxman Naskar v. Union of India’ (2000) case established five grounds for considering remission:
    • Nature of the offence as an individual crime.
    • Likelihood of the crime being repeated.
    • Loss of potentiality for future criminal acts by the convict.
    • Purpose served by keeping the convict in prison.
    • Socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family.
  • Life sentence convicts can seek remission after serving a minimum of 14 years.

Bilkis Bano Case Overview and Controversial Release of Convicts

Background:

  • In the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat, Bilkis Bano and her family faced a brutal attack, with Bilkis being gang-raped and seven family members murdered.
  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court intervened, leading to a CBI investigation. Due to threats, the trial was shifted to Mumbai.

Legal Proceedings:

  • In January 2008, a Mumbai CBI court sentenced 11 accused to life imprisonment for the heinous crimes.

Release of Convicts:

  • In 2022, convict Radheshyam Shah moved the SC for early release after serving 15 years and four months. The SC delegated the case to the Gujarat government.
  • Gujarat, following its 1992 remission policy, released all 11 convicts on August 15, 2022.
  • The release triggered public outrage and opposition petitions, questioning the decision.

Review Petition by Bilkis Bano:

  • Bilkis Bano filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the Gujarat government’s decision to release the 11 gangrape convicts.
  • The recent judgment, responding to Bano’s appeal, addresses the controversy surrounding the convicts’ premature release.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The OTT market in India is currently battling the dilemma between growth and profitability in a price-sensitive market. In 2023, the Over-The-Top (OTT) Market in India experienced significant disruptions and challenges that shaped its trajectory.

Relevance:

GS-II Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Over-the-Top (OTT) Media Service?
  2. Rules governing OTT Platforms
  3. Need for Transparency
  4. Regulation of broadcast content
  5. Way Forward

What is Over-the-Top (OTT) Media Service?

  • An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet.
  • OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the companies that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.
  • The term is most synonymous with subscription-based video-on-demand (SVoD) services that offer access to film and television content.

Rules governing OTT Platforms:

  • Through the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules issued by the government, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) was given the task of regulating content on OTT and online platforms.
  • In India, there is ‘self-regulation’ at the industry level and final ‘oversight mechanism’ at the Ministry level.
  • The Rules provide for a grievance redressal mechanism and a code of ethics. They mandate access control mechanisms, including parental locks, for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher and a reliable age verification mechanism for programmes classified as ‘A’ (18+).
  • A survey of OTT regulation in different countries also suggests that most of them are yet to come up with a clear statute-backed framework.
Low Compliance and need for media literacy:
  • The Rules mandate the display of contact details relating to grievance redressal mechanisms and grievance officers on OTT websites/interface.
  • However, compliance is very low.
  • In many cases, either the complaint redressal information is not published or published in a manner that makes it difficult for a user to notice easily.
  • In some cases, the details are not included as part of the OTT app interface.
  • Hence there is a need for ensuring uniformity in the way OTT publishers display key information relating to their obligations, timelines for complaint redressal, contact details of grievance officers, etc.
  • The manner, text, language and frequency for display of vital information could be enshrined in the Rules.
  • Further, age ratings and content descriptors could be shown prominently in full-screen mode for a mandatory minimum duration instead of a few seconds on screen. Such a rule exists for films under the Cinematograph Act.

Need for Transparency:

  • An independent body can be given the task of periodic audit of the actual existence and efficacy of access controls and age verification mechanisms and the display of grievance redressal details by each OTT platform.
  • There is a need to publish full description of complaints received by OTT providers and self-regulatory bodies and decisions given thereon in the public domain.
  • Currently, though the Rules require disclosure of grievance details by publishers and self-regulating bodies, the reporting formats only capture the number of complaints received and decided.
  • A dedicated umbrella website by the ministry can be created to view the published details of applicable Rules, content codes, advisories, contact details for complaints/appeals, etc.
  • The above details will be viewed by the public and the government authorities and thus enhancing transparency.

Regulation of broadcast content:

  • As per the current rules, the Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) recommends the course of action on OTT content violations, the Secretary of the Ministry is competent to take the final decision.
  • The Supreme Court and High Courts have underlined the need for establishing a statutory body for regulating broadcast content.

Way Forward:

  • Periodic campaigns in print and electronic media about the grievance redressal mechanism can be run by the OTT industry associations.
  • The rules must include the provision for the disclosure or publication of an apology/warning/censure on the platform or website.
  • Financial penalties on erring entities may also be provided.
  • Hence there is a need to evolve a common set of guidelines for content, classification, age ratings, violations, etc. to ensure uniform governance of the contents across the platforms.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is gearing up to launch GSAT-20 (GSAT-N2) using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in 2024. Falcon 9, designed and built by SpaceX, is the world’s premier orbital class reusable two-stage rocket, ensuring secure and efficient transportation of payloads and individuals into Earth’s orbit and beyond.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is GSAT-20?
  2. What are the launch vehicles used by ISRO?
  3. NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)

What is GSAT-20?

  • High Throughput Satellite (HTS): GSAT-20 operates in the Ka-band and serves as a high throughput satellite.
    • The Ka-band refers to radio frequencies ranging from 27 to 40 GHz. It allows high-speed satellite data transfers with wide coverage through focused spot beams.
  • Connectivity Focus: Launched to address India’s growing broadband communication needs, including providing internet connectivity, digital video transmission, and audio transmission.
  • Comprehensive Coverage: Designed to offer comprehensive coverage across India, reaching remote regions such as Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands.
  • Impressive Capacity: Boasts an HTS capacity of nearly 48Gbps, utilizing 32 beams tailored to meet the service demands of underserved areas and bridge connectivity gaps.

What are the launch vehicles used by ISRO?

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV):Since its initial launch in 1994, PSLV has served as ISRO’s primary rocket. However, compared to those deployed in the 1990s, today’s PSLV is significantly more advanced and powerful. The PSLV is the most dependable rocket that ISRO has employed to date, with 52 of its 54 flights being successful. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be fitted with liquid stages.  It successfully launched two spacecraft that later travelled to the Moon and Mars, namely Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013. There are numerous variations of the two launch vehicles that ISRO currently utilises, the PSLV and GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle).  
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV):The considerably more potent GSLV rocket is designed to lift heavier satellites farther into space. 18 missions have been completed by GSLV rockets to this point, four of them were unsuccessful. Lowering earth orbits may require satellites weighing 10,000 kg. The third stage of the GSLV Mk II is the indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), and the Mk-III variants have rendered ISRO completely self-sufficient for launching its satellites. The European Arianne launch vehicle was previously utilised to carry its heavier satellites into orbit.  
Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV):SSLV is designed to provide affordable launch services for satellites up to 500 kg in response to the growing demand for small and micro-satellites around the world. It is intended to launch the indigenous EOS-03 earth observation satellite into orbit.

NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)

  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) is a Central Public Sector Enterprise that was established in 2019 by the Department of Space (DoS) in India. Here are some key points about NSIL:
  • It is the second commercial entity of the DoS after Antrix Corporation Limited, which was set up in 1992 to market the products and services of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • The mandate of NSIL is to transfer technology to the industry for producing commercially successful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) spacecraft launchers.
  • NSIL also outsources assembly of small satellites and the upcoming Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).
  • The objective of NSIL is to commercially exploit the research and development work done by ISRO centres and DoS constituents.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the Chandubi Festival was celebrated along the Chandubi Lake in the state of Assam.

Relevance:

GS I: Festivals

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Chandubi Festival
  2. Key Points about Chandubi Lake

About Chandubi Festival:

  • Duration: The Chandubi Festival is an annual event spanning five days, commencing on the first day of the New Year.
  • Location: Situated in the state of Assam, the festival unfolds along the scenic Chandubi lake.
  • Attractions: The festival showcases local folk culture, ethnic cuisine, traditional handloom, dresses, and offers activities such as boating, presenting a vibrant cultural experience.
  • Objective: A key goal of the Chandubi Festival is to promote eco-tourism in this biodiversity hotspot of Assam, emphasizing the importance of preserving the Chandubi lake.
  • Environmental Focus: The festival serves as a platform to address the declining water levels of the lake, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts.

Key Points about Chandubi Lake:

  • Origin: Created during a significant earthquake in 1897, Chandubi Lake has evolved into a crucial water body in the region.
  • Etymology: The name “Chandubi” originates from “Chand” meaning five and “Dubi” meaning sinking in the Khasi language.
  • Transformation: Originally formed as a result of a natural disaster, the freshwater lake has been transformed into an economically viable water body supporting local communities.
  • Biodiversity: Chandubi Lake is a prosperous wetland, home to diverse species of aquatic flora and fauna, contributing to the region’s ecological richness.

-Source: Hindustan Times



Context:

Researchers from the Indian Institutes of Technology Madras and Mandi have successfully applied metabolic engineering techniques to boost the production of the anti-cancer drug camptothecin (CPT) in cells of the Nothapodytes nimmoniana plant.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Camptothecin
  2. Key Facts about Nothapodytes nimmoniana

About Camptothecin:

  • Role in Anti-Cancer Drugs: Camptothecin (CPT) serves as a crucial anti-cancer drug lead molecule, forming the basis for high-value medications like Topotecan and Irinotecan.
  • Source: Extracted primarily from Camptotheca acuminata (native to Eastern Asia) and Nothapodytes nimmoniana (native to India), it is a potent topoisomerase I inhibitor.
  • Production Hub: Predominantly produced in the Southeast Asian region, the plant sources, particularly in China and India, contribute significantly to its production.
  • Endangered Status: Climate change and extensive deforestation, primarily for CPT extraction, have led to the endangered classification of the source plants, emphasizing conservation concerns.

Key Facts about Nothapodytes nimmoniana:

  • Geographical Distribution: Nothapodytes nimmoniana is an endangered forest plant found in Sri Lanka, China, South East Asia, Taiwan, North Sumatra, Luzon Philippines, and India.
  • Indian Presence: Prevalent in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, and Jammu and Kashmir, it is native to India.
  • Medicinal Allopathic Use: The plant is a source of allopathic medicine production, specifically utilizing camptothecin (CPT), a renowned anticancer drug.
  • Abundance in N. nimmoniana: While CPT is found in various plant species, N. nimmoniana stands out for containing the highest reported amount of CPT.
  • Extraction Challenge: Extracting 1 tonne of CPT requires nearly 1,000 tonnes of plant material, emphasizing the resource-intensive nature of the extraction process.
  • Conservation Status: The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the plant as endangered, highlighting a 20% decline in its population over the past decade.
  • Exploration Areas: Beyond its medicinal value, the plant has been explored for its Phytochemical, Biotechnological, and Pharmacological aspects.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A research team at Stanford University has found the absorption capacity of a sisal-based material to be higher than those in commercial menstrual pads.

Relevance:

GS III: Species in News

About Sisal Plant:

  • Botanical Characteristics: Sisal is a xerophytic, monocarp, semi-perennial leaf fibre-producing plant known for its thick, fleshy leaves often coated with a waxy layer, typical of xerophytic plants.
  • Leaf Properties: The leaves of the sisal plant can reach up to 2 meters in length, and its lifecycle spans approximately 7-10 years, yielding 200-250 usable leaves during this period.
  • Fiber Yield: Each leaf boasts around a thousand fibers, highly valued for manufacturing ropes, paper, cloth, and even absorbent materials.

Soil Preferences: Sisal plants prefer dry, permeable, sandy-loam soils enriched with liming materials (Ca and Mg). However, they can also thrive in various soil types.

  • Indian Growth Regions: In India, sisal cultivation is prominent in Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, parts of Bihar, the western region of West Bengal, and several southern states.
  • Propagation Methods: Sisal propagation primarily relies on vegetative means such as ‘bulbils’ and ‘suckers,’ contributing to its widespread cultivation and adaptability.
Climatic Adaptation:
  • Adaptation to Arid Environments: Well-suited for arid conditions, the sisal species displays xerophytic traits, making it resilient to water-scarce environments.
  • Temperature and Rainfall Tolerance: It thrives in temperatures up to 40-45°C and requires evenly distributed rainfall ranging from 60-125 cm for optimal growth.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The United States initiated the Peregrine Mission One, its initial Moon landing endeavor in over five decades. However, the mission encountered a significant setback as the spacecraft developed a critical fuel leak shortly after launch. Led by private space entities Astrobotic Technology and United Launch Alliance, this collaborative mission reflects a growing reliance on private sector capabilities for space exploration.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Key Highlights of Peregrine Mission One:

  • Lunar Landing: The Peregrine Lander, also known as Peregrine Mission One, is anticipated to be among the first American spacecraft to land on the Moon post the Apollo program.
  • Astrobotic Technology: Built by Astrobotic Technology, the Peregrine Lunar Lander is a significant component of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
  • NASA Collaboration: As part of NASA’s CLPS initiative, the mission collaborates with various American companies to transport science and technology payloads to the lunar surface, fostering a broader lunar economy.
  • Mission Objective: The mission aims to land on the Moon in the Sinus Viscositatis region, contributing to lunar exploration, experimentation, and technology demonstrations in preparation for upcoming human missions.
  • Artemis Preparation: Peregrine Mission One plays a role in preparing for NASA’s Artemis program, which strives to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024 and subsequently conduct missions to Mars.
  • Artemis Vision: The Artemis program includes plans for an Artemis Base Camp on the lunar surface and a strategic Gateway in lunar orbit, with the ultimate goal of advancing human space exploration.

-Source: The Hindu


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