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Current Affairs 22 June 2024

  1. Mercy Petition
  2. Opposition Criticizes Great Nicobar Island Infrastructure Project
  3. SIPRI Report Highlights Global Nuclear Arsenal Risks
  4. Discovery of Striped Caecilian in Kaziranga National Park
  5. Recall of South Korean Spicy Instant Noodles in Denmark
  6. Human African Trypanosomiasis
  7. Summer Solstice


In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) has declined to direct the government to commute the death penalty of Balwant Singh Rajoana, instead, it has allowed the government to decide on the Mercy Petition when necessary.

  • Balwant Singh Rajoana was convicted for the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Mercy Petition
  2. Making a Mercy Petition in India
  3. Constitutional Framework
  4. Important Judgments Related to Mercy Petition

About Mercy Petition

  • A mercy petition is a formal request made by someone who has been sentenced to death or imprisonment, seeking mercy from the President or Governor.
  • Everyone has the fundamental right to live, as mentioned under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Mercy petitions are followed in many countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, and India.

Making a Mercy Petition in India

The process of making a Mercy Petition in India involves the following steps:

  • No statutory written procedure for dealing with mercy petitions exists.
  • After exhausting all reliefs in the court of law, either the convict or his relative may submit a written petition to the President.
  • The President’s secretariat receives the petitions on behalf of the President.
  • The petitions are then forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs for their comments and recommendations.
Grounds for Filing a Mercy Petition

The act of mercy is not the right of the prisoner, but a clemency granted by the President or Governor. The grounds for filing a Mercy Petition include:

  • Health, physical, or mental fitness of the prisoner.
  • The financial conditions of the prisoner’s family, including whether the prisoner is the sole earner.

Constitutional Framework:

  • In India, mercy petition to the President is the last constitutional resort a convict can take when sentenced by a court of law.
  • A convict can present a mercy petition to the President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution of India.
  • Power to grant pardon is conferred upon the Governors of States under Article 161 of the Constitution of India.
Article 72:
  • The President has the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites, or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offense.
  • This applies in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial, for an offense against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends, and in cases where the sentence is a sentence of death.
Article 161:
  • It provides that the Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offense against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
  • Recent Development:
  • The Supreme Court of India held in 2021 that the Governor of a State can pardon prisoners, including death row ones, even before they have served a minimum of 14 years of prison sentence.

Important Judgments Related to Mercy Petition

Maru Ram v. Union of India (1981):

  • The Supreme Court held that the power to grant pardon under Article 72 is to be exercised on the advice of the Council of ministers.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee State of West Bengal (1994):

  • The Supreme Court said that the power under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution can be exercised by the Central and State Governments, not by the President or Governor on their own.

Kehar Singh v. Union of India (1989):

  • The Supreme Court had examined the scope of the President’s pardoning power under Article 72 in detail.
  • The Court held that the exercise of the pardoning power vested in him under Article 72, could scrutinize the evidence on the record of the criminal case and come to a different conclusion from that recorded by the Court in regard to guilt of and sentence imposed on the accused.

-Source: The Hindu


The opposition party has recently described the proposed Rs 72,000-crore infrastructure upgrade at Great Nicobar Island as a “grave threat” to the island’s indigenous inhabitants and fragile ecosystem. They have demanded the immediate suspension of all clearances and called for a thorough, impartial review of the proposed project, including an assessment by the concerned Parliamentary committees.


GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Great Nicobar Island
  2. The Great Nicobar Island Project
  3. Concerns and Challenges
  4. Way Forward

Great Nicobar Island

  • Location and Features:
    • The southernmost and largest of the Nicobar Islands.
    • Area: 910 sq km of tropical rainforest.
    • Home to India’s southernmost point, Indira Point, located 90 nautical miles from Sumatra.
    • Part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which include 836 islands divided into two groups separated by the 10° Channel.
    • Hosts two national parks, a biosphere reserve, and small populations of Shompen, Onge, Andamanese, Nicobarese tribal peoples, and a few thousand non-tribal settlers.

The Great Nicobar Island Project

  • Project Overview:
    • Launched in 2021.
    • Aimed at developing the southern end of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
    • Includes a trans-shipment port, international airport, township development, and a 450 MVA gas and solar-based power plant.
  • Implementation and Goals:
    • Based on a NITI Aayog report highlighting the island’s strategic position.
    • Implemented by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO).
    • Includes an International Container Trans-shipment Terminal (ICTT) and a greenfield international airport.
    • Located near the Malacca Strait, facilitating regional and global maritime trade.
  • Strategic and Security Importance:
    • The ICTT and power plant site is in Galathea Bay, where there is no human habitation.
    • Enhances deployment of additional military forces, larger warships, aircraft, missile batteries, and troops.
    • Essential for close surveillance and building a strong military deterrence.
    • Critical for India’s national security due to proximity to key waterways and strategic choke points like the Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok Straits.
    • Counteracts China’s military presence and expansion efforts in the region, particularly on the Coco Islands.

Concerns and Challenges

  • Impact on Tribal Communities:
    • Potentially devastating impact on the Shompen and Nicobarese tribes, classified as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG).
    • Risks to their traditional way of life and the island’s natural environment.
  • Environmental Impact:
    • Destruction of coral reefs and threats to local species like the Nicobar Megapode bird and leatherback turtles.
    • Large-scale deforestation, with the felling of nearly a million trees.
    • High seismic activity zone raising safety concerns for large infrastructure projects.
  • Administrative Issues:
    • Accusations of inadequate consultation with the Tribal Council.
    • National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the establishment of a high-power committee to review environmental and forest clearances.

Way Forward

  • Inclusion of Tribal Councils:
    • Ensure the involvement of Tribal Councils in decision-making processes.
    • Respect traditional knowledge and legal rights under the Forest Rights Act (2006).
  • Oversight and Monitoring:
    • Establish a high-power committee to oversee environmental and forest clearances.
    • Include representatives from environmental groups, tribal councils, and independent experts.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) was released, emphasizing the heightened risk and instability linked to the ongoing modernization and expansion of nuclear arsenals globally.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. SIPRI
  2. Key Highlights of the Report
  3. Challenges and Way Forward for India’s Nuclear Program


  • About SIPRI:
    • SIPRI is an independent international institute focused on research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament.
    • It was established in 1966 in Stockholm, Sweden.
    • SIPRI provides data, analysis, and recommendations based on open sources to policymakers, researchers, media, and the public.

Key Highlights of the Report

  • Global Nuclear Arsenal Modernisation:
    • All nine nuclear-armed nations (USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel) are continuing to update their nuclear arsenals.
    • As of January 2024, the total global inventory of nuclear warheads is approximately 12,121, with around 9,585 in active military stockpiles.
    • Approximately 2,100 warheads are on high operational alert, primarily held by Russia and the USA. For the first time, China may also have some warheads on high alert.
  • Major Nuclear Powers:
    • Russia and USA: Together they possess nearly 90% of all nuclear weapons.
    • China: Has significantly increased its nuclear arsenal from 410 to 500 by January 2024, expanding faster than any other country.
    • North Korea: Possesses around 50 warheads and materials for up to 90.
    • Israel: Is enhancing its arsenal and plutonium production capabilities, though this is not officially acknowledged.
  • India and Pakistan:
    • India holds 172 nuclear warheads as of January 2024, placing it 6th globally, ahead of Pakistan, which has 170. India is focusing on longer-range weapons aimed at China.
  • Nuclear Diplomacy Challenges:
    • Efforts in nuclear arms control and disarmament have faced setbacks, particularly due to the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.
    • Diplomatic tensions between Iran and the USA, along with the Israel-Hamas war, complicate the situation.
    • Major setbacks include Russia’s suspension from the New START treaty and its withdrawal from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratification.
  • Global Security Concerns:
    • The report also addresses issues like military expenditure, arms transfers, and the role of private military companies in conflicts.
    • Additional risks include those related to artificial intelligence, outer space, cyberspace, and the protection of civilians in war zones.

Challenges and Way Forward for India’s Nuclear Program

  • Challenges:
    • India faces nuclear threats primarily from Pakistan and China due to border tensions and terrorism.
    • The increasing threat of cyberattacks makes it crucial to ensure the safety and security of nuclear systems.
    • The rapid development of hypersonic missiles, autonomous weapons, and AI presents new challenges for nuclear deterrence strategies.
    • India’s nuclear energy program also faces challenges such as the risks of radioactive contamination, environmental impacts, and health concerns.
  • Way Forward:
    • India should maintain credible minimum deterrence while responsibly modernising its nuclear arsenal with advanced delivery systems and investing in technologies like thorium-based reactors.
    • India should participate in global nuclear governance initiatives such as the Nuclear Security Summits and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and work on reducing nuclear risks with Pakistan and China through confidence-building measures.

-Source: The Hindu


Assam’s wildlife officials have announced that a team of herpetologists recorded the striped caecilian (Ichthyophis spp) in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve for the first time. This discovery was made during a recent rapid herpetofauna survey.


GS III: Species in News

About Caecilians

  • General Characteristics:
    • Caecilians are elongated, segmented, limbless amphibians.
    • They belong to the order Gymnophiona or Apoda, meaning “without legs.”
    • These creatures are related to frogs and salamanders.
    • They resemble earthworms or snakes due to their lack of limbs.
    • The name “Caecilian” means “blind,” with some species having no eyes and others possessing small eyes beneath their skin.
    • Approximately 200 species of caecilians are known.
  • Habitat:
    • Caecilians primarily inhabit moist tropical and subtropical regions in South and Central America, South and Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • Nearly all caecilians are terrestrial but are elusive as they spend most of their lives underground.
    • They primarily burrow in forests but can also be found in grasslands, savannas, shrublands, and wetlands
  • Distinct Features:
    • The smallest species are under three inches long, while the largest species (Caecilia thompsoni from Colombia) can grow up to nearly five feet.
    • They possess a hard, thick skull with a pointy snout, aiding in movement through soil or mud.
    • Their skin is shiny and ringed with folds called annuli.
    • Caecilians typically appear in shades of gray, brown, black, orange, or yellow.
    • Some species have tiny, fishlike scales within their rings.
    • They feature short, sensory tentacles between their eyes and nostrils, which help them navigate their environment and locate prey.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, food safety authorities in Denmark have recalled three types of South Korean spicy instant noodles due to possible risks of “acute poisoning” caused by high Capsaicin levels.


Facts for Prelims

About Capsaicin

  • General Information:
    • Capsaicin is a naturally occurring botanical irritant found in chili peppers and is synthetically produced for use in pharmaceutical formulations.
    • It is most concentrated in the “placenta” (the white membrane attaching seeds) of some chili peppers, which are fruits of the Capsicum genus.
  • How It Works in Humans:
    • Capsaicin binds to TRPV1 receptors located in the nose, mouth, skin, and internal tissues. These receptors detect heat and pain and are usually activated by an increase in temperature.
    • Capsaicin deceives these receptors, causing them to react as if there is a temperature rise, leading the brain to believe the body is experiencing intense heat, resulting in the burning sensation often felt when eating chilis.
    • The body attempts to cool down by dilating capillaries (leading to redness), increasing sweating, and causing symptoms such as a runny nose, teary eyes, gut cramps, and diarrhea as it tries to expel the perceived heat.
  • Uses:
    • Capsaicin is commonly used as a topical analgesic in various forms such as creams, liquids, and patches, available in different strengths for pain relief.

-Source: The Hindu


In a landmark achievement, Chad has become the first country in 2024 and the 51st globally to eliminate a neglected tropical disease (NTD) — the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT).


Facts for Prelims

About Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT)

  • General Information:
    • Also known as sleeping sickness.
    • Caused by protozoan parasites transmitted by infected tsetse flies, prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Forms of the Disease:
    • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense:
      • Found in 24 countries in West and Central Africa.
      • Accounts for 92% of reported cases.
      • Causes a chronic illness, with possible infection lasting months or years without major symptoms.
      • By the time symptoms appear, the disease often affects the central nervous system.
    • Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense:
      • Found in 13 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
      • Accounts for 8% of reported cases.
      • Causes an acute disease, with symptoms appearing within weeks or months after infection.
      • The disease progresses rapidly, affecting multiple organs including the brain.
  • Transmission:
    • Tsetse flies, which inhabit sub-Saharan Africa, are the vectors.
    • Only specific species of tsetse flies transmit the disease.
    • Rural populations involved in agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry, or hunting are at higher risk.
  • Elimination Efforts:
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated the elimination of the gambiense form of HAT in seven countries:
      • Togo (2020)
      • Benin (2021)
      • Ivory Coast (2021)
      • Uganda (2022)
      • Equatorial Guinea (2022)
      • Ghana (2023)
      • Chad (2024)

-Source: Down To Earth


21st June is the day of the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere.


GS I- Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Summer Solstice
  2. Why do we have summer solstice?

About Summer Solstice

  • In Latin, solstice means “the sun stands motionless”
  • For those residing north of the Equator, June 21 will be the longest day of the year in 2021.
  • This day is distinguished by a higher amount of solar energy received.
  • This day is known as the summer solstice in technical terms, as it is the longest day of the summer season. It happens when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer, or more precisely, when the sun is directly overhead 23.5 degrees north latitude.
  • The Southern Hemisphere receives most sunlight on December 21, 22 or 23 when the northern hemisphere has its longest nights– or the winter solstice.

Why do we have summer solstice?

  • Since Earth rotates on its axis, the Northern Hemisphere gets more direct sunlight between March and September over the course of a day.
  • This also means people living in the Northern Hemisphere experience summer during this time.
  • The rest of the year, the Southern Hemisphere gets more sunlight.
  • During the solstice, the Earth’s axis — around which the planet spins, completing one turn each day — is tilted in a way that the North Pole is tipped towards the sun and the South Pole is away from it.

Source: Indian Express

July 2024