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Current Affairs 07 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Nagaland probe on AFSPA and 1997 SC judgment
  2. India-Russia partnership and pact for military cooperation
  3. Bill to correct drafting error in NDPS Act introduced
  4. SC stays OBC quota in local body polls in Maharashtra
  5. Afforestation funds released to states

Nagaland probe on AFSPA and 1997 SC judgment

Context:

  • The killing of civilians in a botched ambush by the armed forces in Nagaland’s Mon district and its violent fallout have put the spotlight on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA] of 1958.
  • The death of 15 people — six of them coal miners “mistaken” as extremists — and a soldier over 24 hours of madness also threatens to cast a shadow on the 24-year-old Naga peace process besides undoing the military-civilian ties built over the last two decades.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution, GS-II: Governance, GS-III: Internal Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
  2. AFSPA Acts in force
  3. Powers Given to an officer of the Armed Forces in a “disturbed” area under AFSPA
  4. Arguments Against AFSPA
  5. Important Criticisms of AFSPA and commissions regarding AFSPA
  6. Constitutionality of AFSPA
  7. Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA
  8. Reactions to the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland
  9. Who are the Nagas?
  10. What is the Naga Issue?
  11. Peace Initiatives with the Naga
  12. No clarity on peace process

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
  • AFSPA is invoked when a case of militancy or insurgency takes place and the territorial integrity of India is at risk.
  • Security forces can “arrest a person without warrant”, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence” even based on “reasonable suspicion”.
  • It also provides security forces with legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.
  • While the armed forces and the government justify its need in order to combat militancy and insurgency, critics have pointed out cases of possible human rights violations linked to the act.
  • According to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once declared ‘disturbed’, the area has to maintain status quo for a minimum of 3 months.
  • The Acts have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement alleged to have happened.

AFSPA Acts in force

It is effective in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

History of AFSPA Acts

  • An AFSPA Act passed in 1958 was applicable to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam.
  • In the following decades it spread, one by one, to the other Seven Sister States in India’s northeast (at present, it is in force in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam).
  • Another one passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force.
  • An Act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.

Powers Given to an officer of the Armed Forces in a “disturbed” area under AFSPA

  1. After giving such due warning, Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order,
  2. Destroy any arms dump, hide-outs, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by the armed volunteers or armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence.
  3. To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.
  4. To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.
  5. Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
  6. Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made present over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.
  7. Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
  8. Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act from prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings, except with the sanction of the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.

Arguments Against AFSPA

  • Symbol of Hatred: The Jeevan Reddy Committee, which was founded in 2004, criticised AFSPA as a symbol of hatred, persecution, and a tool of oppression.
  • Immunity to Security Forces: AFSPA has been dubbed a “draconian Act” for the unrestricted authority it grants the military forces and the impunity that security officers have for their acts performed under the law. Under AFSPA, the “armed forces” have the authority to shoot to kill or demolish a structure based solely on suspicion.
  • Human Rights Issue: The AFSPA’s activities have been criticised because people have died as a result of them. It’s been a contentious issue, with human rights organisations condemning it as being too forceful.
  • Prolonged continuation: Despite a nearly 25-year ceasefire accord, the Union Government has been chastised for renewing the “disturbed region” tag on Nagaland every year to keep the AFSPA alive.
  • Concerns of AFSPA in Manipur: Many protests over suspected extrajudicial executions by the security forces have taken place in Manipur throughout the years. The bullet-riddled body of Thangjam Manorama, who was reportedly raped and killed by a group of Assam Rifles troops in 2004 sparked outrage across the state. Irom Sharmila, often known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, is a towering figure who is well-known for her 16-year hunger strike in protest of AFSPA atrocities.

Arguments in Favour of AFSPA

  • The AFSPA is described as a law that takes a straightforward approach to control criminal activity in disturbed areas.
  • Fascist techniques and all groups, private and public, that engage in violence and attempt to pressure the government by organised violence must be controlled. As a result, the AFSPA is vital.

Important Criticisms of AFSPA and commissions regarding AFSPA

  • When India presented its second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1991, members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA.
  • They questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR.
  • In 2012, the UN asked India to revoke AFSPA saying it had no place in Indian democracy.
  • The Act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”.

Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission

  • The commission recommended to repeal AFSPA as “the Act is a symbol of hate, oppression and instrument of high handedness”.

Second Administrative Reforms Commission

  • The second Administratively Reforms Commission (ARC) in its fifth report on “Public Order,” recommended to repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
  • It commented that its scrapping would remove sentiments of discrimination and alienation among the people of the North East India.
  • The commission recommended to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 inserting a new chapter to deploy the armed forces of the Union in the North eastern States.
  • It supported a new doctrine of policing and criminal justice inherent in an inclusive approach to governance.

Supreme Court of India

  • Supreme Court said that any encounter carried out by armed forces in the garb of AFSPA should be subjected to thorough inquiry.
  • According to the Supreme Court – it does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both.

Constitutionality of AFSPA

  • The Act’s constitutionality has been challenged on the grounds that it violates the right to equality and the federal framework of the Constitution because law and order is a state responsibility.
  • The Supreme Court affirmed the validity of AFSPA in Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v Union of India in a majority ruling in 1998, finding that the Act does not provide arbitrary powers to label a region a “disturbed area.”
  • The Court concluded that, while the Constitution permitted the deployment of military troops to assist civil authorities, such deployment could only be temporary until normalcy was restored.
  • It further said that the Central government should contact state governments before declaring an area a “disturbed area,” and that the authorised official should use the least amount of force necessary for successful action.

Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA

1997 judgment on AFSPA

  • In Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights vs Union of India 1997, a Constitution Bench ruled that the ability to use deadly force under Section 4(a) of the AFSPA should only be used in “certain circumstances.”
  • A 1997 Supreme Court judgment advocated “caution and use of minimum force against our own people” in AFSPA regions.

Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) case 2017

  • The Supreme Court addressed the extrajudicial executions in 2016, clarifying that the bar under Section 6 of the AFSPA does not offer officers “complete immunity” from any investigation into their alleged misconduct.
  • The government received severe criticism from the Supreme Court in 2016 for the continuance of AFSPA.

 

Reactions to the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland

  • Lok Sabha members condemned the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland with some Opposition MPs calling for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) as well.
  • Nagaland Chief Minister has also called for scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
  • Human rights bodies in India and beyond are debating the contentious AFSPA that gives unbridled powers to the security forces.
  • Nagaland Chief Minister also criticised the Centre for extending the “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland every year to prolong the AFSPA despite a ceasefire agreement for almost 25 years.
  • In the northeast, the AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of the State bordering Assam.
  • For Jammu and Kashmir, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, is in force.

Who are the Nagas?

  • The Nagas are not a single tribe, but an ethnic community, belonging to Indo-Mongoloid Family, that comprises several tribes who live in the state of Nagaland and its neighbourhood.
  • There are nineteen major Naga tribes, namely, Aos, Angamis, Changs, Chakesang, Kabuis, Kacharis, Khain-Mangas, Konyaks, Kukis, Lothas (Lothas), Maos, Mikirs, Phoms, Rengmas, Sangtams, Semas, Tankhuls, Yamchumgar and Zeeliang.

What is the Naga Issue?

  • After India became independent in 1947, the Naga territory initially remained a part of Assam.
  • In 1957, after an agreement was reached between Naga leaders and the Indian government, the Naga Hills region of Assam and the Tuensang frontier division to the northeast were brought together under a single unit directly administered by the Indian government.
  • Nagaland achieved statehood in 1963, however, rebel activity continued.
  • The key demand of Naga groups has been a Greater Nagalim (sovereign statehood) i.e., redrawing of boundaries to bring all Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast under one administrative umbrella.
  • The Naga inhabited areas include various parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Myanmar.
  • The demand also includes the separate Naga Yezabo (Constitution) and Naga national flag.

Peace Initiatives with the Naga

  • Shillong Accord (1975): A peace accord was signed in Shillong in which the NNC leadership agreed to give up arms. However, several leaders refused to accept the agreement, which led to the split of NNC.
  • Ceasefire Agreement (1997): The NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement with the government to stop attacks on Indian armed forces. In return, the government would stop all counter-insurgency offensive operations.
  • Framework Agreement (2015): In this agreement, the Government of India recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN also appreciated the Indian political system and governance. However, the details of the agreement are yet to be released by the government.
  • Recently, the State government decided to prepare the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland but later due to pressure from various fractions, the decision was put on hold.

Issues:

  • The 2015 agreement apparently made the peace process inclusive but it created suspicion about the central government exploiting divisions within the Nagas on tribal and geopolitical lines.
  • The issue of integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in view of the demand for territorial unification of ‘Greater Nagalim’ will trigger violent clashes in the different affected states.
  • Another major hindrance to the peace process in Nagaland is the existence of more than one organisation, each claiming to be representative of the Nagas.

No clarity on peace process

  • Several factions of the NSCN (K) joined the peace process between 2001 and 2021.
  • There is no clarity on the peace process that culminated in the Framework Agreement the Centre had signed with the NSCN (I-M) in 2015 and the Agreed Position signed with the rival Naga National Political Groups in 2017.
  • After the death of its chief the NSCN (K) became the NSCN (K-Yung Aung) and it has along with allies such as the United National Front of Asom (Independent) had several run-ins with the armed forces since 2015.
  • The Army and the paramilitary Assam Rifles have been conducting operations in Nagaland primarily against the NSCN (K-YA) in Mon and southern Arunachal Pradesh bordering Myanmar where the outfit is based.

-Source: The Hindu


India-Russia partnership and pact for military cooperation

Context:

21st annual India-Russia summit meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and Russian President is a strong step towards expanding India’s engagement envelope with Russia.

Russian and Indian Foreign and Defence Ministers also took part in the first “2+2” ministerial meeting between India and Russia held ahead of the annual summit.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the 21st annual India-Russia summit
  2. RELOS Pact between India and Russia
    1. Why is the RELOS pact being pursued?
    2. What is entailed as part of a RELOS agreement?
    3. What is the strategic significance of a RELOS agreement?
  3. Highlights of the “2+2” ministerial meeting between India and Russia
  4. India–Russia relations

Highlights of the 21st annual India-Russia summit

  • The Indian Prime Minister noted how despite the several geopolitical changes having taken place in the world, the India-Russia friendship had remained unchanged and had stood the test of time.
  • The two countries despite having built robust relationships with other countries (often at differences with the other) have continued to not only cooperate with each other but have also paid the necessary attention to each other’s sensitivities.
  • The Russian President referred to the common fight against organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.
  • The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the sustained progress in the ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between both countries.
  • The leaders underscored the need for greater economic cooperation and called for long term predictable and sustained economic cooperation.
  • The two leaders emphasized the importance of connectivity projects like the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the proposed Chennai – Vladivostok Eastern Maritime Corridor.
  • The two leaders have called for greater inter-regional cooperation between various regions of Russia, in particular with the Russian Far East, with the States of India.
  • Important Government-to-Government Agreements and MoUs, as well as those between commercial and other organizations of both countries, were signed in different sectors such as trade, energy, science & technology, intellectual property, outer space, geological exploration, cultural exchange, education, etc. Both sides concluded around 28 agreements with most of them in the defence and energy domains.
  • India and Russia have renewed the military-technical cooperation agreement until 2031 and also signed the deal for the manufacture of AK-203 assault rifles in India.
  • A bilateral logistics support deal, Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), as well as a Navy-to-Navy cooperation MoU were also on the agenda.
  • The Joint Statement titled India-Russia: Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity was released.

RELOS Pact between India and Russia

Why is the RELOS pact being pursued?

  • Despite growing engagement with the US on military hardware and tech, Russia remains a partner with whom India has shared traditionally deep defence ties.
  • Russia’s growing proximity to China and Pakistan has of late been seen as casting a shadow on the Moscow-New Delhi engagement, but Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2021 visit is said by experts to be part of a push to augment cooperation between the two countries.
  • To that extent, RELOS will be an important step forward in the military sphere as it aims at fostering interoperability and sharing of logistics. The “long overdue” agreement was to have come up for signing in 2019 but that was put off pending finalisation of its terms.
  • The agreement has been described as being part of a broader arrangement that will allow the two countries to scale up their military-to-military cooperation. A report by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) says that “these agreements go a long way in expanding India’s military reach, especially maritime outreach and influence in various regions that are strategically important to India”.

What is entailed as part of a RELOS agreement?

  • Logistical exchange agreements are designed to lay down the administrative framework through which partnering countries can enjoy ease of access to use each other’s military facilities like ports, bases, and military installations.
  • As ORF notes, such agreements save “enormous time” and also frees up the need for constant paperwork when one military obtains assistance on matters like refuelling, berthing, use of aviation infrastructure, etc., allowing for a rolling settlement of costs and fees.
  • “Military logistics… facilitate replenishment of fuel, rations, and spare parts, as well as berthing and maintenance for each other’s warships, military aircraft, and troops during port visits and joint exercises, on a reciprocal basis,” ORF points out.

What is the strategic significance of a RELOS agreement?

  • Experts note that it is usually the Indian Navy, “the most outgoing force of the three services”, that stands to benefit the most from an logistical exchange agreement as these impart “enhanced operational turnaround and strengthened interoperability… on the high seas” by relying on the infrastructure and assistance of partner countries.
  • Given the close Indo-Russian military ties and “the percentage of Russian military hardware in the Indian armed forces” means that the two sides can take advantage, through RELOS, of increased interoperability “in any hostile situation in the future”.
  • India has acquired advance defence systems from Russia, including fighter jets, and is looking to again obtain a nuclear-powered attack submarine on a long-term lease from Moscow.
  • The reciprocal arrangement means that Russian naval ships and aircraft will be also to access Indian ports and bases.

Highlights of the “2+2” ministerial meeting between India and Russia

  • During the 2+2 ministerial meeting, the Indian defence minister highlighted the emerging security challenges confronting India like “unprovoked aggression” on its northern borders from China along with the increasing militarisation and expansion of armament in the region. In this regard, the Indian Defence Minister called for closer military-to-military technical collaboration with Russia.
  • The Indian Defence Minister sought greater engagement between the two countries in Central Asia and the Indian Ocean Region.
  • The Russian counterpart stated that security agencies from both countries would collaborate with each other to increase “regional trust and global security”.
  • The Indian Foreign Minister, noting the time tested nature of the India – Russia bilateral relationship, called for deepening of this relationship amid the turmoil in the geopolitical environment, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indian Foreign Minister called for multipolarity in world affairs.
  • The Russian Foreign Minister pointed out the commonalities between Indian and Russian positions on international issues.

India–Russia relations

  • During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) had a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship and after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited its close relationship with India.
  • Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space – and in recent years a sixth, economic component has grown in importance, with both countries setting a target of reaching US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025.
  • Both countries are members of many international bodies like UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO where they collaborate closely on matters of shared national interest.
  • Russia has stated publicly that it supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
  • India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry and Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment for India (Russia almost 70%, USA around 15% and Israel around 8% as of 2016).
  • India and Russia have deepened their Make in India defence manufacturing cooperation by signing agreements for the construction (including Joint Ventures) of naval frigates, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters, Brahmos cruise missile.
  • The defence co-operation is not limited to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training, service to service contacts, including joint exercises
  • Both India and Russia have jointly developed an economic strategy that involves using a number of economic components to increase future bilateral trade – which include:
    • development of an FTA between India & the EEU,
    • a bilateral treaty on the promotion and protection of investments,
    • a new economic planning mechanism built into IRIGC,
    • simplification of customs procedures,
    • new long-term agreements in the expansion of energy trade including nuclear, oil and gas
    • long term supplier contracts in key sectors such as oil, gas and rough diamonds etc.
  • Major commodities exported from Russia to India are: Gems & precious metals, Machines & engines, Electronic equipment, Fertilizers, Medical & technical equipment, Oil etc.
  • Major commodities exported from India to Russia are: Pharmaceuticals, Electronic equipment, Iron and steel, Clothing, Coffee, tea and spices, Tobacco etc.
  • Historically, there has been a long history of cooperation between the Soviet Union and India in space. Examples include Aryabhata (India’s first satellite), Rakesh Sharma (First Indian to visit space) as a part of Interkosmos space program.
  • Energy sector is an important area in Indo-Russian bilateral relations.

-Source: The Hindu


Bill to correct drafting error in NDPS Act introduced

Context:

A Bill to replace an ordinance amending the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, with some MPs opposing it on technical grounds.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues Arising Out of the Design and Implementation of Policies), GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Organized Crime and Terrorism)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985
  2. Key provisions and other Highlights of the NDPS act
  3. Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)
  4. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 prohibits a person the production/manufacturing/cultivation, possession, sale, purchasing, transport, storage, and/or consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. (India had no legislation regarding narcotics until 1985.)
  • The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.
  • The Act is designed to fulfill India’s treaty obligations – India is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
  • The Narcotics Control Bureau was set up under the act with effect from 1986.
  • The Act is in line with the DPSP is Article 47 of the Constitution: Article 47 of The Constitution of India is one of the Directive Principles which directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health

Key provisions and other Highlights of the NDPS act

  • The Act provides stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • It also provides for forfeiture of property derived from, or used in, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
  • It also provides for death penalty in some cases where a person is a repeat offender.
  • Penalties depend on the quantity of drugs involved. The Centre has notified the small and commercial quantities for each drug.
  • Addicts volunteering for treatment enjoy immunity from prosecution.
  • According to the act: Narcotic drugs include coca leaf, cannabis, opium and poppy straw while the psychotropic substances refer to any natural or synthetic material or any salt or preparation that is protected by the Psychotropic Substances Convention of 1971.
  • All the offences under the Act are non-bailable and the property acquired from a person from drug-related offences can be seized, frozen and forfeited by the government, provided that the offender has been convicted under the Act.

Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)

  • The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is a statutory body, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, established under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
  • NCB is tasked with combating drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
  • The NCB is responsible for coordination with the Indian state governments and other central departments, implementation of India’s international obligations with regard to drug trafficking, and assisting international and foreign drug law enforcement agencies.

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021

About the need for the NDPS Amendment Bill 2021

  • The NDPS (Amendment) Bill, 2021 would replace an ordinance promulgated earlier in September 2021 to correct a drafting error in a 2014 amendment to the Act.
  • The primary aim of the 2021 bill is to rectify an error that made provisions in Section 27 of the Act — providing for punishment of those financing illicit trafficking — inoperable.
  • When the Act was amended in 2014 to ease access of narcotic drugs for medical necessities – the penal provision was not amended accordingly.
  • The drafting error was highlighted when an accused moved a special court in Tripura contending that he could not be charged for the offence as Section 27 A is referred to a blank list. The Tripura High Court subsequently asked the Centre to amend the law.
  • The anomaly crept in when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was amended in 2014 to allow better medical access to narcotic drugs, removing state barriers in transporting and licensing of “essential narcotic drugs”.
  • Prior to the 2014 amendment, clause (viiia) of Section 2 of the Act, contained sub-clauses (i) to (v), wherein the term ‘illicit traffic’ had been defined.
  • This clause was re-lettered as clause (viiib) by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Act, 2014, as a new clause (viiia) in section 2 defining ‘essential narcotic drugs’ was inserted. However, inadvertently consequential change was not carried out in section 27A of the NDPS Act.

Criticisms surrounding the Bill

  • Few experts have observed that the Bill violated the fundamental rights of a citizen as it provides retrospective effect to offences starting 2014.
  • It also violates the fundamental rights in Article 21 because you can be punished for an offence for which there is a law in existence at the time of commission of the offence.

-Source: The Hindu


SC stays OBC quota in local body polls in Maharashtra

Context:

The Supreme Court stayed the local body election in seats reserved for Other Backward Class (OBC) in Maharashtra.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Historical Underpinnings of the Indian Constitution, Constitutional Provisions and Features), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About OBC reservation in local bodies
  2. What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?
  3. What do OBC leaders say now?
  4. About the SC Judgement on reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

About OBC reservation in local bodies

  • The Maharashtra government set up a 27 percent quota in local bodies for OBCs in 1994.
  • The 27 percent reservation was applicable to all urban (Municipal Corporations, Councils and Nagar Panchayat) and rural bodies (Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat) across the state.
  • In Maharashtra, the OBCs include the Denotified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category.
  • This quota for OBCs increased their representation in rural and urban local bodies.

What is the history of the demand for an OBC census in Maharashtra?

  • As per the Mandal Commission report, the last caste-wise census was conducted in 1931 and it was later discontinued.
  • Based on the data from the 1931 census, the Mandal commission worked out the OBC population to be 52 per cent and recommended a 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in view of the SC judgment limiting reservation up to 50 per cent.
  • There was already a 22.5 per cent reservation for SC and ST categories.
  • The Mandal Commission report recommended 27 per cent reservation in government jobs and promotions along with others.
  • The report gave momentum to OBC leaders and the community’s demand for a caste-wise census of OBC.

What do OBC leaders say now?

  • There has been a mixed response from the OBC leaders to the SC verdict, with some welcoming it while others lamenting on losing reservation.
  • Some say it will pave the way for conducting the OBC census in the state.
  • So far, there was no data about the OBC population and our demand for the OBC census for the last 30 years have fallen on deaf ears.
  • With this SC order, the state has to conduct the census now.
  • Else, there will be no OBC reservation in the local bodies polls and the ruling parties will have to pay a huge price for it.

About the SC Judgement on reservation in local bodies in Maharashtra

  • The SC said that even in other future elections to Maharashtra’s local bodies, be it mid-term or general elections, the State Election Commission has to “desist from notifying reserved seats for OBC category” until further orders of the Supreme Court.
  • The seemingly indefinite stay was ordered after the court came to know that the 27% reservation was introduced through the ordinance without any empirical data to substantiate the claim for or extent of reservation.
  • The court said a “triple test” has to be followed before deciding on the extent of quota to a category:
    1. Firstly, a dedicated Commission needs to be set up to conduct contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness as regards local bodies within the State;
    2. Secondly, there is a need to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the Commission, so as not to fall foul of overbreadth; and
    3. Thirdly, reservation should not exceed aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.
  • Though Maharashtra had set up a Commission in June 2021 to collect empirical data, the court noticed that the State did not wait for the panel to come up with a report.
  • The court noted in its order that setting up the Commission and collating contemporaneous empirical data to ascertain the extent of reservation required to be provided local body-wise were both mandatory.

-Source: The Hindu


Afforestation funds released to states

Context:

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) has so far disbursed ₹48,606 crore to 32 States, according to a response by the Environment Ministry in the Lok Sabha.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology), GS-II: Governance (Governmental Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Compensatory Afforestation
  2. About the CAF and CAMPA
  3. Issues with CAMPA
  4. Definition of Land as Forest
  5. Monitoring mechanism

Understanding Compensatory Afforestation

  • According to Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) rules, for every hectare of forest land diverted, double the area of ‘degraded’ lands are used as sites for ‘compensatory afforestation’.
  • Every time forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes such as mining or industry, the user agency pays for planting forests over an equal area of non-forest land, or when such land is not available, twice the area of degraded forest land.
  • As per the rules, 90% of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) money is to be given to the states while 10% is to be retained by the Centre.
  • The funds are used for CAT, assisted natural generation, forest management, wildlife protection and management, relocation of villages from protected areas, managing human-wildlife conflicts, training and awareness generation, supply of wood saving devices and allied activities.

About the CAF and CAMPA

  • The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act was passed by the centre in 2016 and the related rules were notified in 2018.
  • The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority works as a national advisory council under the chairmanship of the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for monitoring, technical assistance and evaluation of compensatory afforestation activities.
  • The primary objective of CAMPA is to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.

Issues with CAMPA

  • In 2002, the Supreme Court had observed that collected funds for afforestation were under-utilised by the states and it ordered for centrally pooling of funds under ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
  • The law says that land selected for afforestation should preferably be contiguous to the forest being diverted so that it is easier for forest officials to manage it. But if no suitable non-forest land is found, degraded forests can be chosen for afforestation. In several states like Chattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand where the intensity of mining is very high, to find the non-forest land for afforestation to compensate the loss of forest is a big task.
  • Utilisation of CAMPA fund: Several state governments are not utilising it properly. An amount of Rs 86 lakh from CAMPA funds meant for afforestation was reportedly spent on litigation work in Punjab.
  • Moreover, at several places, the loss of natural species is compensated with plantation of non-native species in the name of the artificial plantation. It serves as a threat to even the existing ecosystem.  

Definition of Land as Forest

  • The conundrum of defining forest has been around since the 1980s.
  • In 1996, the Supreme Court in its Godavarman Judgement expanded the definition of Forest that includes lands,
    1. That was already notified by the Centre as forests,
    2. That appears in government records as forests
    3. That fell in the “dictionary definition” of forest.
  • Under the third category, it is the prerogative of the States to define their own criteria and define tracts of land as a forest which is known as ‘deemed forests’.
  • This is because, a tract of grassland in one State might qualify in one region as forest, but not in another.
  • However, not all States have submitted such criteria and once a State applied criteria, it couldn’t be reversed.
  • Forests defined under these criteria constituted about 1% of the country’s forests.
  • The discussion on these deemed forests came up because the Uttarakhand government had put forth a set of criteria defining forest land and asked the Environment ministry for it’s opinion.
  • The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) have clarified that the States need not take the Centre’s approval to define what constitutes unclassified land as forest.

Monitoring mechanism

  • States have their own established monitoring mechanism to check if the funds are being used for their intended purpose.
  • The Centre also has its own monitoring scheme and approves funds for use by States. “Independent concurrent monitoring and evaluation and third-party monitoring of works undertaken from State Fund is included in the Annual Plan of Operations of the respective State CAMPA and States are required to carry out internal and third-party monitoring of the Compensatory Afforestation (CA) and other activities,” the Environment Ministry said in its reply.
  • In addition, “measurable output” of all physical activities and targets of each permissible activity along with checking if deadlines are met is monitored by the State Executive Committee and State Steering Committee of the respective State CAMPA.
  • Chhattisgarh and Odisha have had the maximum amount transferred to them, or close to ₹5,700 crore each followed by Jharkhand and Maharashtra at around ₹3,000 crore.

-Source: The Hindu

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