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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 8 November 2021

Contents

  1. Where does India stand on methane emissions?
  2. A new jurisprudence for political prisoners

Where does India stand on methane emissions?

Context:

Global Methane Pledge and Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use have been two of the most prominent outcomes so far of the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (the 26th Conference of Parties-COP26) in Glasgow.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Pollution Control and Management, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, International Agreements and Conventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Global Methane pledge at the COP26
  2. India’s stance on Global Methane Pledge
  3. Impact of Methane
  4. Sources of Methane Emission and Reducing them
  5. Indian Initiatives related to Methane Emissions

Global Methane pledge at the COP26

  • The Global Methane pledge first announced in September 2021 by the US and EU is essentially an agreement to reduce global methane emissions. At least 90 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge.
  • One of the central aims of this agreement is to cut down methane emissions by up to 30% from 2020 levels by the year 2030.
  • If adopted around the world, this would reduce global heating by 0.2C by the 2040s, compared with likely temperature rises by then. The world is now about 1.2C hotter now than in pre-industrial times.

Need for the Global Methane Pledge

  • Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with Global Warming Potential (GWP) of around 20-25 (for a 100-year timeframe GWP). According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – methane accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era.
  • Methane is the second-most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, after carbon dioxide, and accounting for about 20 percent of global emissions. In the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled.
  • Notably as per a report of the IEA, more than 75 per cent of methane emissions can be mitigated with the technology that exists today, and that up to 40 per cent of this can be done at no additional costs. Thus, rapidly reducing methane emissions is regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.

India’s stance on Global Methane Pledge

Notably India has stayed away from the methane pledge.

  • India is the third largest emitter of methane, primarily because of the size of its rural economy and by virtue of having the largest cattle population. Hence, India was not sure about committing to steep methane emissions.
  • India has independent plans to reduce methane emissions. India plans to deploy technology and capture methane that can be used as a source of energy. It plans to adopt a national strategy to increase biogas production and reduce methane emissions.
  • India has been unhappy with the wording of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use that suggests not meeting the obligations under the pledge could also mean restrictions in international trade. India’s line of argument has been that trade and climate action should not be related as trade falls under the ambit of the World Trade Organization.
  • India is also considering changes to its forest conservation laws that seek to encourage commercial tree plantation as well as infrastructure development in forestland to meet its development goals. These initiatives might seem contradictory to the proposed provisions of the forest declaration at Glasgow.

Impact of Methane

  • Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon and doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down (Methane has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime (12 years as compared to centuries for CO2). This makes it a critical target for reducing global warming more quickly while simultaneously working to reduce other greenhouse gases.
  • Methane is also responsible for creating ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.
  • Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster currently than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s. Carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels. This is a cause of concern as it was responsible for about 30%of warming since pre-industrial times.

Sources of Methane Emission and Reducing them

  • Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution accounted for 23% of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector. Coal mining accounted for 12% of emissions. Fossil fuel industry had the greatest potential for low-cost methane cuts, up to 80% of measures in the oil and gas industry could be implemented at negative or low cost. About 60% of methane cuts in this sector could make money as reducing leaks would make more gas available for sale.
  • Landfills and wastewater made up about 20% of emissions in the waste sector. The waste sector could cut its methane emissions by improving the disposal of sewage around the world.
  • In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation constituted for roughly 32% and rice cultivation 8% of emissions. Three behavioural changes — reducing food waste and loss, improving livestock management and adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content) — could reduce methane emissions by 65–80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades.

Indian Initiatives related to Methane Emissions

  1. India’s Greenhouse Gas Program: The India GHG Program led by WRI India (non-profit organization), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is an industry-led voluntary framework to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions. The programme builds comprehensive measurement and management strategies to reduce emissions and drive more profitable, competitive and sustainable businesses and organisations in India.
  2. National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was launched in 2008 which aims at creating awareness among the representatives of the public, different agencies of the government, scientists, industry and the communities on the threat posed by climate change and the steps to counter it.
  3. Seaweed-Based Animal Feed: Central Salt & Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) in collaboration with the country’s three leading institutes developed a seaweed-based animal feed additive formulation that aims to reduce methane emissions from cattle and also boost immunity of cattle and poultry.
  4. ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD): Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed an anti-methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD), which can cut down cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and can also result in higher milk production.
  5. Bharat Stage-VI Norms: India shifted from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms.
  6. Global Methane Initiative (GMI): India is a partner country of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) – an international public-private partnership focused on reducing barriers to the recovery and use of methane as a clean energy source. GMI provides technical support to deploy methane-to-energy projects around the world that enable Partner Countries to launch methane recovery and use projects.

-Source: The Hindu


A new jurisprudence for political prisoners

Context:

A judgment of the Supreme Court of India in October 2021 Thwaha Fasal vs Union of India case deconstructed the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) with a great sense of legal realism and paved the way for a formidable judicial authority against blatant misuse of this law.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies and Interventions, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of policies, Important Judgements)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967
  2. Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019
  3. Provisions of the UAPA
  4. Some Concerning Points about designation of someone as terrorist
  5. Issues with UAPA
  6. How can the names be removed?
  7. Cases regarding Presumption of guilt
  8. Challenges in the interpretation of laws
  9. About the Increasing UAPA cases

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967

  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967 is an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA (which lapsed in 1995) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act – POTA (which was repealed in 2004).
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • The National Integration Council appointed a Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation to look into, the aspect of putting reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • The agenda of the NIC limited itself to communalism, casteism and regionalism and not terrorism.
  • However, the provisions of the UAPA Act contravenes the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill, 2019

  • The original Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, dealt with “unlawful” acts related to secession; anti-terror provisions were introduced in 2004.
  • It provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.

Key Provisions of the Amendment

  • The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
  • Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
    • commits or participates in acts of terrorism
    • prepares for terrorism
    • promotes terrorism
    • is otherwise involved in terrorism
  • The word “terror” or “terrorist” is not defined.
  • However, a “terrorist act” is defined as any act committed with the intent –
    • to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India
    • to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country
  • The central government may designate an individual as a terrorist through a notification in the official gazette.
  • The Bill empowers the officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  • Under the Act, an investigating officer can seize properties that may be connected with terrorism with prior approval of the Director General of Police.

Provisions of the UAPA

Section 13

  • It deals with participating in or inciting unlawful activities.
  • It is the provision about punishment for unlawful activities.

Section 38

  • Offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation.
    • A person, who associates himself, or professes to be associated, with a terrorist organisation with intention to further its activities, commits an offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation.

Section 39

  • It deals with “offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation.”

Section 43D (5)

  • It says that for many of the offences under the Act, bail should not be granted, if “on perusal of the case diary or the report (of the investigation) – there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation is prima facie true”.
  • As opposed to the general criminal law, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), grant of bail is the exception.
  • If the prosecution either through the case diary or through the chargesheet is able to show ‘reasonable grounds’ for believing that the accusation is prima facie true, then the accused “shall not be released on bail”. Thus, the Act prompts the Court to consider the version of the prosecution alone while deciding the question of bail.

Some Concerning Points about designation of someone as terrorist

  • The government is NOT required to give an individual an opportunity to be heard before such a designation.
  • At present, legally, a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
  • In this line, an individual who is convicted in a terror case is legally referred to as a ‘terrorist’.
  • And those suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are referred to as ‘terror accused’.
  • The Bill does NOT clarify the standard of proof required to establish that an individual is involved or is likely to be involved in terrorist activities.
  • The Bill also does not require the filing of cases or arresting individuals while designating them as terrorists.

Issues with UAPA

  • UAPA gives the state authority vague powers to detain and arrest individuals who it believes to be indulged in terrorist activities. Thus, the state gives itself more powers vis-a-vis individual liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • UAPA empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for a developing democratic society. The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2).
  • UAPA can also be thought of to go against the federal structure since it neglects the authority of state police in terrorism cases, given that ‘Police’ is a state subject under 7th schedule of Indian Constitution.

How can the names be removed?

  • Application – The Bill seeks to give the central government the power to remove a name from the schedule when an individual makes an application.
  • The procedure for such an application and the process of decision-making will also be decided by the central government.
  • If an application filed is rejected by the government, the Bill gives the person the right to seek a review within one month of rejection.
  • Review committee – Under the amendment Bill, the central government will set up a review committee.
  • It will consist of a chairperson (a retired or sitting judge of a High Court) and 3 other members.
  • It will be empowered to order the government to delete the name of an individual from the schedule that lists “terrorists”, if it considers the order to be flawed.
  • Apart from these two avenues, the individual can also move the courts challenging the government’s order.

Cases regarding Presumption of guilt

National Investigation Agency (NIA) vs Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali

  • In Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, the Court said that by virtue of Section 43D (5) of UAPA, the burden is on the accused to show that the prosecution case is not prima facie true.
  • Many intellectuals including Sudha Bharadwaj and Siddique Kappan were denied bail based on a narrow interpretation of the bail provision as done in Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali.

Thwaha Faisal v Union of India

  • The Court, in Thwaha Faisal, refused to construct Section 43D (5) in a narrow and restrictive sense.
  • It has to some extent, liberalised an otherwise illiberal bail clause.

Union of India vs K.A. Najeeb (2021)

  • For granting bail in Thwaha Faisal the SC relied on a decision in Union of India vs K.A. Najeeb (2021).
  • In K.A. Najeeb, the larger Bench said that even the stringent provisions under Section 43D(5) do not curtail the power of the constitutional court to grant bail on the ground of violation of fundamental rights.

Challenges in the interpretation of laws

The text of the UAPA limits judicial discretion and adjudication. This is more evident in the context of bail. As part of interpretation, the court usually has two approaches:

  1. Literal Interpretation: To read and apply the provision literally and mechanically which has the effect of curtailing the individual freedom as intended by the makers of the law.
  2. Constitutional Reading: In contrast to this approach, there could be a constitutional reading of the statute, which perceives the issues from a human rights angle and tries to mitigate the rigour of the vicious content of the law.

The former approach is reflected in Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali and the latter in Thwaha Faisal.

About the Increasing UAPA cases

  • According to data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Parliament in March, a total of 1126 cases were registered under UAPA in 2019, a sharp rise from 897 in 2015.
  • UAPA, in relaxing timelines for the state to file chargesheets and its stringent conditions for bail, gives the state more powers compared to the Indian Penal Code.
  • Union Home Ministry presented data in the Rajya Sabha, based on the 2019 Crime in India Report compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which showed that only 2.2 % of cases registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act between the years 2016-2019 ended in convictions by court.
  • As many as 1948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1226 cases registered across the country in 2019. Such cases registered in 2015-2018 stood at 897, 922, 901 and 1182 and the number of those arrested was 1128, 999, 1554 and 1421 respectively.

-Source: The Hindu

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