Will close marines’ case only after ‘hefty’ compensation: SC
Why in News:
The Supreme Court of India has appreciated the efforts put in by the Republic of Italy to prosecute its marines accused of killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012, it has insisted that it will close their criminal trial in India only after the victims’ families are heard and paid a hefty and adequate compensation.
- “the Enrica Lexie incident”, it took place in 2012, when the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie, traveling off the coast of Kerala was approached by an Indian fishing vessel.
- Two Italian marines onboard fired what Italy contends were warning shots at the ship. Two Indian fishermen, from Kerala, were killed.
- India says the vessel was fired at without notice.
- Italy had approached the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, an arbitral tribunal under the International Court of Justice in 2015, and the matter was heard by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2019.
Major bone of contention between India and Italy
- India argued that it had jurisdiction over the case as the fishermen killed were Indian, and hence the case must be tried as per Indian laws.
- Italy had argued that the shooting took place outside Indian territorial waters (a claim challenged by India) and its marines were on-board a ship with an Italian flag. Hence, Italy argued, it enjoys the jurisdiction.
- The Italian contention was also that they were in international waters and acted to protect an Italian oil tanker as part of an anti-piracy mission.
Role of NIA
The National Investigating Agency (NIA) had invoked the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002 to assume jurisdiction over the case after the Home Ministry asked it to prosecute the marines.
- The Suppression of Unlawful Act carries the maximum punishment of death penalty.
- However, the Italian Government had objected to the Home Ministry’s sanction to the NIA to prosecute the marines along with other counts under the IPC.
Impact on Italy-India relations
The marines spent years in detainment in India on charges of murder before being allowed to go back to Italy.
- One marine returned to Italy for medical reasons in 2014 while the second went back in 2016, also for medical reasons.
- The case had strained relations between India and Italy to the extent that Rome had threatened to withdraw its ambassador from New Delhi.
- It also caused a diplomatic furor as the Suppression Act provided for the death penalty. The EU threatened to impose trade sanctions. Ultimately, it took time for these charges to be dropped.
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague admitted that both India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction in the matter but concluded that the marines’ immunity precluded India’s jurisdiction.
- PCA rejected a key argument by Italy that India, by leading the Italian vessel into its territory and arresting the marines, violated its obligation to cooperate with measures to suppress piracy under Article 100 of UNCLOS.
- Acknowledging the breach of freedom of navigation, it said, “As a result of the breach, India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of the Indian fishing boat St. Anthony.”
- The Arbitral Tribunal has agreed on the Italian position that the marines, being members of the Italian armed forces in the official exercise of their duties, cannot be tried by Indian courts.
- The tribunal ruled that the Italian marines enjoyed diplomatic immunity as Italian state officials under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.
- Taking note of the “commitment expressed by Italy” to resume its criminal investigation into the incident, the tribunal said India must cease to exercise its jurisdiction.
- The PCA has ruled that Italy would have jurisdiction to decide on the question of immunity for the marines. Thus, India is precluded from exercising its jurisdiction. The PCA also ruled that while India’s conduct has not been in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Italy breached provisions of the Convention by intercepting the navigation of India’s vessel.
- Italy is, as a result, liable to pay compensation to India. And both the nations are required to hold consultations in order to arrive at the amount of compensation to be paid to India.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):
UNCLOS, also known as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty, defines the rights and responsibilities of the nation towards the use of the world’s oceans.
- The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources.
- It enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole.
Tie-up promises vaccine for India
Why in News:
Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced that it has entered into a new partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for India and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
- The collaboration would provide upfront capital to SII to help them increase the manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine gains regulatory approval and World Health Organisation (WHO) pre-qualification, doses could be produced at scale for distribution to India and LMICs.
- The current deal builds on an MoU between AstraZeneca and Gavi, which will guarantee 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine to the wider COVAX facility, to be supplied upon licensure or prequalification.
- These two deals can help guarantee access to early doses for the most vulnerable on a global scale.
- ACT Accelerator is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
- It is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
- COVAX aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
- COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO.
- The goal of COVAX is by the end of 2021 to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification. These vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations.
RBI sets up panel for stressed loans resolution norms
Why in News:
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted the proposed expert committee under the chairmanship of K.V. Kamath to make recommendations on norms for the resolution of COVID-19 related stressed loans.
- As part of the recently released Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies along with the Monetary Policy Statement, the RBI has announced a ‘Resolution Framework for COVID-19-related Stress’.
- It would be a special window under the Prudential Framework on Resolution of Stressed Assets issued in June 2019.
- The resolution framework envisages the constitution of an expert committee by the RBI to make recommendations on the required financial parameters to be factored into the resolution plans, with sector-specific benchmark ranges for such parameters.
- The committee will submit its recommendations on the financial parameters to the RBI.
- The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) will function as the secretariat to the committee.
- The expert committee will also undertake the process validation for the resolution plans to be implemented under this framework, without going into the commercial aspects, in respect of all accounts with aggregate exposure of Rs 1,500 crore and above at the time of invocation.
18 killed as landslip buries tea workers’ quarters in Idukki
Why in News:
A series of landslips occurred at the Nayamakkad tea estate in the Idukki district.
- A landslide is defined as the movement of a mass of rock, debris, or earth down a slope.
- Landslides are a type of mass wasting (a geomorphic process), which denotes any down-slope movement of soil and rock under the direct influence of gravity.
- Landslides can be triggered by many factors such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, soil erosion and slow weathering of rocks.
- Landslides are a natural disaster that result in loss of lives and property. South Asian countries and India particularly, are seriously affected by landslides every year.
- They are a major hydrogeological hazard that affect large parts of India including the Himalayas, the north-eastern hill ranges, the Eastern and Western Ghats, the Nilgiris, and the Vindhyas.
- Major types of landslides:
- Falls: It happens due to the abrupt movements of masses of geologic materials, such as rocks and boulders that become detached from steep slopes or cliffs.
- Spread: It generally happens on very gentle slopes or flat terrain.
- Topples: It happens due to the forward rotation of a unit or units about some pivotal point, below or low in the unit, under the actions of gravity and forces exerted by adjacent units or by fluids in cracks.
- Slides: Here, rocks, debris or soil slide through slope forming material.
- Restriction or removal of population from landslide-prone areas.
- Restriction of certain types of land use where slopes are vulnerable.
- Installing early warning systems based on the monitoring of ground conditions like slope displacement, strain in soil and rocks, groundwater levels.
Leopard poaching highest in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra
Why in News:
- A study has been published by TRAFFIC India on the seizure and mortality of common leopards (Panthera pardus fusca).
- It is titled: ‘SPOTTED’ in Illegal Wildlife Trade: A Peek into Ongoing Poaching and Illegal Trade of Leopards in India.
- TRAFFIC is a leading wildlife trade monitoring network across the world.
- It is a non-governmental organisation working on wildlife trade in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
- It is a joint program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- The study revealed that, of the total of 747 leopard deaths between 2015-2019 in India, 596 were linked to illegal wildlife trade and activities related to poaching.
- The highest numbers of poaching incidents were reported from the States of Uttarakhand and Maharashtra.
- Among all the derivatives found in illegal wildlife trade, skin remained the most in-demand product, accounting for 69% of all seizures, while derivatives like claws, teeth and bones were also traded.
- Bones of the leopard have a larger international demand for traditional medicines.
Govt. launches Electric Vehicle Policy to boost economy, reduce pollution
Why in News:
The Delhi government has launched its Electric Vehicle Policy.
- The Electric Vehicle Policy aims to boost the city’s economy, reduce pollution levels and generate employment in the transport sector.
- The aim of the Delhi government is to ensure that 25% of the newly registered vehicles across the city by the year 2024 are electric vehicles. Today, the percentage is only 0.2%.
- It includes incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.
- A subsidy of up to ₹30,000 on the purchase of two-wheelers, autorickshaws, e-rickshaws, freight vehicles, each, and of ₹1.5 lakh on cars will be provided.
- These would be in addition to the incentives under the Central government’s ‘FAME India’ Phase 2.
- The government would also offer low-interest rates for the purchase of electric commercial vehicles, waive off registration fees and road tax on newly registered electric vehicles and aim to create a network of charging stations in the city.
- It would also provide scrapping incentives, first across the country.
- The policy is designed for three years, after which it will be reviewed.
FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacture of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles) was launched by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in 2015 to incentivize the production and promotion of eco-friendly vehicles including electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles
Two phases of the scheme
- Phase I: started in 2015 and was completed on March 31st, 2019
- Phase II: started from April 1st, 2019, will be completed by March 31st, 2022
Salient features of the scheme
- The scheme provides the incentive in the form of subsidies to manufacturers of electric vehicles and infrastructure providers of electric vehicles.
- It is a part of the National Electric Mobility Plan
- Encouraging electric vehicles by providing subsidies is the main thrust of the scheme.
- The vehicles such as two wheelers, three wheelers, electric and hybrid cars and electric buses obtained the subsidy benefit of the scheme. It also covers electric and Hybrid technologies like Mild Hybrid, Strong Hybrid, Plug in Hybrid & Battery Electric Vehicles
- The focus areas under the FAME
- Technology development
- Demand creation
- Pilot projects
- Charging infrastructure
- Implementing agency: Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises
This second phase of FAME is an expanded version of the first phase
- The Phase-II of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME-India) Scheme proposes to give a push to electric vehicles (EVs) in public transport and seeks to encourage adoption of EVs by way of market creation and demand aggregation.
- The scheme envisages the holistic growth of EV industry, including providing for charging infrastructure, research and development of EV technologies and push towards greater indigenization.
- The outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years till 2022 for FAME 2 scheme. There is also provision for setting up of charging stations for electric vehicles in India.
- Under the scheme the government will offer incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
- It is mentioned that the plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.
- FAME 2 will offer incentives to manufacturers, who invest in developing electric vehicles and its components, including lithium-ion batteries and electric motors.
- The centre has asked states to frame their EV policyand provide additional fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to manufacturers and buyers
Eligibility to get incentive: Only buses priced up to ₹2 crore, strong and plug-in hybrids under₹15 lakh, three-wheelers under ₹5 lakh and two-wheelers under ₹1.5 lakh will be eligible for incentives.
- Incentive and a committee to review the incentives:
- The centre plans to roll out an incentive of ₹10,000 per kilowatt (kW) for two-, three- and four-wheelers, based on the size of their batteries.
- To encourage state transport units (STUs)to buy more electric buses, ₹20,000 per kW will be offered as an incentive.
- The incentives may further be subject to bidding by original equipment manufacturers.
- A committee will reviewthe incentives after a certain period.
- Electric buses will be offeredincentives on the basis of the operational expenditure model adopted by STUs