Daily Current Affairs for 13nd Feb 2024

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Jail and Bail under UAPA

Why in the news?

The UAPA law

  • https://tse3.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.CSvmRy8PTDICPj9HNWGrAwHaCg&pid=Api&P=0&h=220 Section 43D (5) reads: Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, no person accused of an offence punishable under Chapters IV and VI of this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release.
  • Provided that such accused person shall not be released on bail or on his own bond if the Court, on a perusal of the case diary or the report made under section 173 of the Code is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true.
  • The law essentially says that while relying only on the police version — the case diary and the police report — the accused must show to the court that it is unreasonable to believe the accusations are prima facie (Latin for “at first sight”) true.
  • In shifting the onus on the accused, the cardinal principle of criminal law that a person is innocent till proven guilty is upended in the alternate framework of the UAPA.

Narrowing the room for bail

  • In 2019, the Supreme Court in a two-judge bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar ruled in Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali v NIA, that for granting bail under UAPA, courts must not examine the evidence but only accept it at face value.
  • The SC in this case was hearing an appeal against a Delhi HC ruling by a bench headed by Justice S Muralidhar granting bail to a Kashmiri businessman.
  • The Court is merely expected to record a finding on the basis of broad probabilities regarding the involvement of the accused in the commission of the stated offence or otherwise.
  • Once charges are framed in the case an accused may have to undertake an arduous task to satisfy the court that despite the framing of charge, the materials presented along with the charge­sheet (report under Section 173 of Cr.P.C.), do not make out reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against him is prima facie true in order for the court to grant bail.

Post-Watali ruling

  • The Watali judgement effectively closed the window, especially for trial courts, to look at the prosecution’s case critically while granting bail. If the prosecution’s case is flimsy, courts cannot question it, raising concerns about the liberty of an individual.
  • Courts have, however, granted bail in several cases, including in some high-profile cases.
  • The Delhi High Court in 2021 granted bail to three student activists- Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal in the anti-CAA protests in North East Delhi.
  • The HC applied the Watali precedent but placed the burden of making out a prima facie case on the police instead of the court itself having to make out a case. The court said that specific, individual charges must be made out by the prosecution and not broad speculations and inferences.
  • The Court said it did not locate a “specific factual allegation” and said that it was of the view that the mere use of alarming and hyperbolic verbiage in the subject charge-sheet will not convince us (the Court) otherwise.

SC stayed this ruling

  • Even the Bombay High Court in granting bail to Dalit rights activist Anand Teltumbde, the Bombay HC simply referred to the material before the court and found no specific link to an overt act by Teltumbde. “…prosecution needs to show the nexus and link of Appellant with the present crime or any specific overt act,” the court said. The SC dismissed the state’s appeal against this ruling.
  • In February 2021, in Union of India vs KA Najeeb, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by then CJI N V Ramana allowed bail under UAPA when the accused had undergone incarceration for a significant period. This, however, was carved out while acknowledging that bail under UAPA is an exception but it needs to be balanced with the right to a speedy trial.

Vernon Gonsalves v State of Maharashtra

  • The Supreme Court in Vernon Gonsalves v State of Maharashtra, in July 2023 differed with the Watali ruling on how the “prima facie true” test would apply. According to court opinion, however, it would not satisfy the prima facie “test” unless there is at least surface-analysis of probative value of the evidence, at the stage of examining the question of granting bail and the quality or probative value satisfies the Court of its worth.
  • However, since both the Watali and the Gonsalves ruling are by benches of the same strength, it will have to be seen how future benches apply the test. If there is substantial disagreement between different two-judge benches, then a larger bench will have to settle the law.
  • In the Gurwinder Singh case, the two-judge bench headed by Justice M M Sundaresh relied on the Watali ruling entirely without considering the Gonsalves ruling.



Farmers Protest 2.0

Why in the news?

  • After more than two years, farmers are once again on the road to the capital, calling for massive protests at the doorstep of Delhi.
  • The protest of 2024 is very different from the yearlong agitation of 2020-21, during which the farmers succeeded in their main goal of forcing the central government to roll back its agricultural reforms agenda.

About ongoing Protest

  • https://images.hindustantimes.com/rf/image_size_960x540/HT/p2/2020/12/12/Pictures/farmers-sitting-against-singhu-border-during-protest_b0c7f238-3c6a-11eb-b180-736642f23257.jpg More than 250 farmers’ unions under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha ( KMM), which claims to have the allegiance of about 100 unions, and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political), a platform of another 150 unions, have called the protest that is being coordinated from Punjab.
  • The two forums gave a call of “Delhi Chalo” at the end of December 2023 to remind Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the promises to farmers two years previously.
  • The farmers are scheduled to march on Delhi. Tractor trollies have been on the move, and barricades, nails and heavy equipment have been deployed to thwart them — even as talks have been ongoing, with the Centre claiming an “open mind” on their demands.

Demands of the farmers

  • The headline demand in the farmers’ 12-point agenda is for a law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP) for all crops, and the determination of crop prices in accordance with the Dr M S Swaminathan Commission’s report. The other demands are:
  • Full debt waiver for farmers and labourers;
  • Implementation of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, with provisions for written consent from farmers before acquisition, and compensation at four times the collector rate;
  • Punishment for the perpetrators of the October 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri killings;
  • India should withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and freeze all free trade agreements;
  • Pensions for farmers and farm labourers;
  • Compensation for farmers who died during the Delhi protest, including a job for one family member;
  • Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 should be scrapped;
  • 200 (instead of 100) days’ employment under MGNREGA per year, daily wage of Rs 700, and scheme should be linked with farming;
  • Strict penalties and fines on companies producing fake seeds, pesticides, fertilisers; improvements in seed quality;
  • National commission for spices such as chili and turmeric;
  • Ensure rights of indigenous peoples over water, forests, and land.



Release of 8 ex-Indian Navy

Why in news?

  • Recently a Qatari court has released eight former Indian naval officers previously on death row for unspecified charges.


  • Arrest of eight navy personnel:
  • On August 30, 2022, eight former Indian Navy personnel, along with two others, were arrested on undeclared charges.They were put in solitary confinement.
  • These personnel were working at Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a defence services provider company.
  • As per different sources, the Indians had been working in their private capacity with the company to oversee the induction of Italian small stealth submarines U2I2.
  • The company’s old website, which no longer exists, said it provided training, logistics and maintenance services to the Qatari Emiri Naval Force (QENF).

Charges against the officers

  • The officers were jailed on charges that have not been made public.
  • However, as per the media reports, the eight Indians had been charged with spying for Israel.

Death penalty

  • In March 2023, the last of multiple bail pleas filed for the veterans was rejected.
  • The trial began later that month and on October 26, 2023, the death sentence was handed to all eight men.

Appeal filed by India

  • In November 2023, the MEA announced it had filed an appeal and that its legal team had details of the charges.

Death sentence commuted

  • In December 2023, the Court of Appeal of Qatar commuted the death sentence of eight former Indian Navy personnel.



Maintenance for Muslim woman under personal law or CrPC

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court will deal with the question after an amicus curiae appointed by it gives his views on maintenance right for mulsim woman under personal law or CrPC.
  • For this purpose a bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih appointed senior advocate Gaurav Agarwal as the amicus curiae for the matter.

Muslim Personal law and CrPC

  • The order pointed out that “in this petition, the challenge is the filing of a petition under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) by the respondent divorced Muslim woman.
  • Senior counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that in view of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, a divorced Muslim woman is not entitled to maintain a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC and has to proceed under the provisions of the aforesaid 1986 Act. It is also submitted that the 1986 Act is more beneficial to the Muslim woman as compared to Section 125 of the CrPC
  • The court was dealing with an appeal by a man, Mohd. Abdul Samad, who had been ordered to pay Rs 20,000 monthly maintenance to his ex-wife by a family court in Telangana.
  • The woman had moved the family court under Section 125 of the CrPC stating that Samad had given her triple talaq.
  • He appealed to the High Court, which while disposing the plea on December 13, 2023, said that “several questions are raised which need to be adjudicated” but “directed the petitioner to pay 10,000 as interim maintenance”.
  • Challenging this, Samad told the SC that the HC had failed to appreciate that the provisions of the 1986 Act, a special Act, will prevail over the provisions of Section 125 of CrPC, which is a general Act.
  • He contended that “the provisions of Section 3 and 4” of the 1986 Act “which starts with non-obstante clause, will prevail over the provisions of Section 125 CrPC, which has no non-obstante clause and as such the application for grant of maintenance by Muslim divorced women under Section 125 of CrPC would not be maintainable before the family court when the Special Act gives jurisdiction to First-Class Magistrate to decide the issue of Mahr and payment of other subsistence allowance under Section 3 and 4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986”.
  • Section 125 of the CrPC says that (1) If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain —

(a) His wife, unable to maintain herself, or

(b) His legitimate or illegitimate minor child, whether married or not, unable to maintain itself, or

(c) His legitimate or illegitimate child (not being a married daughter) who has attained majority, where such child is, by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury unable to maintain itself, or

(d) his father or mother, unable to maintain himself or herself — a magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife or such child, father or mother, at such monthly rate as such Magistrate thinks fit and to pay the same to such person as the Magistrate may from time to time direct”.

  • The SC has not issued any notice on Samad’s appeal.
  • An SC Constitution bench had in its September 2001 in the case Danial Latifi & Another vs Union Of India, upheld the constitutional validity of the 1986 Act and said that its provisions do not offend Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.



Paytm Payments Bank

Why in news?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said there would be no review of action taken against Paytm Payments Bank.
  • He also said that a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) dealing with consumer interest issue need clarification.

What is FAQ?

  • FAQ will have a set of clarifications related to customers of PPBL, as priority is that the customers should not be inconvenienced.
  • Customer interest and depositor interest is uppermost for the government.

What was the action taken against the Paytm?

  • In a major action against Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL), RBI had, on January 31, directed it to stop accepting deposits or top-ups in any customer accounts, wallets, FASTags, and other instruments after February 29.
  • However, the central bank has allowed credit of interest, cashbacks, or refunds even beyond February 29. Further, withdrawal or utilisation of balances by PPBL customers from their accounts, including savings bank accounts, current accounts, prepaid instruments, FASTags, and National Common Mobility Cards, are permitted without any restrictions, up to their available balance.
  • RBI also directed termination of the ‘nodal accounts’ of One97 Communications Ltd. One97 Communications, which owns the Paytm brand, holds a 49 per cent stake in Paytm Payments Bank Ltd but classifies it as an associate of the company and not as a subsidiary.
  • Earlier on March 11, 2022, the RBI barred PPBL from onboarding new customers with immediate effect. In its latest action, RBI has asked the Paytm Payments Bank not to take deposits, credit transactions, or top-ups in any customer accounts, prepaid instruments, wallets, FASTags, and NCMC cards, among others, after February 29, 2024.

Governor’s view about action taken:

  • When a decision is taken, it is taken after much consideration and deliberation. Decisions are not taken in a casual manner. They are taken in a serious manner, Das further added.
  • Asked if the deadline of February 29 would be extended, Das replied, “Wait for the FAQ.”
  • Speaking broadly about fintech’s, the governor said the RBI has always been supportive of the sector and wants it to grow as much as possible.
  • RBI promotes and will continue to promote fintech. But customer interest and financial stability are of prime importance,” he said.
  • While announcing the action against PPBL, the RBI said the direction follows persistent non-compliances and continued material supervisory concerns



Human-wildlife conflict

Why in news?

Rising conflict in Kerala:

  • The tragedy brings to attention escalating human-animal conflict in the state.
  • Increased incidence of wild animals, mainly elephants, tigers, bison, and wild boars, attacking human beings have been reported from across the state.
  • The districts of Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad and Idukki are the worst-hit.
  • Government data for 2022-23 recorded 8,873 wild animal attacks, of which, 4193 were by wild elephants, 1524 by wild boars, 193 by tigers, 244 by leopards, and 32 by bison. Of 98 reported deaths, 27 were due to elephant attacks.
  • Beyond posing risk to humans, these attacks also devastated Kerala’s agriculture sector. From 2017 to 2023, there were 20,957 incidents of crop loss due to wild animal raids which also killed 1,559 domestic animals, mainly cattle.

Why Wayanad is worst affected?

  • The district’s forests are a part of a greater forested area comprising Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Bandipur National Park, and BR Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, and Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Sathyamangalam Forest in Tamil Nadu. Wild animals, especially elephants and tigers, traverse state borders in search for food.
  • It has forest cover of 36.48 per cent, has lost 41 lives to elephant attacks and seven to tiger attacks over the last decade. Its geographical location plays a role in this.

Why there is increase in conflict?

  • A 2018 study by Dehradun’s Wildlife Institute of India and the Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation in Keralahas found two major drivers of human-animal conflict in the state.
  • First is the decline in the quality of forest habitats, largely due to the cultivation of alien plants — mainly acacia, mangium and eucalyptus — in forest tracts for commercial purposes. With 30,000 hectares of forest land in Kerala being used for cultivation of these species, animals are deprived of their natural habitat and food sources. 
  • The study also found that changing Agri-practices were also responsible for drawing animals, which do not find enough fodder in their habitats, out of forests. In recent years, owing to poor returns and high wage costs, more and more farmland is being left unattended. This makes them ideal targets for wildlife looking to snack on bananas and pineapples, among the most cultivated crops in the region. 

Steps taken by Kerala Government?

  • Schemes for the construction of elephant-proof trenches, elephant-proof stone walls, and solar powered electric fencing.
  • In 2022-23, the state conducted maintenance of 158.4 km of elephant-proof trenches, and constructed 42.6 km of solar fencing and 237 m of compound walls; but these measures are far away from addressing the crisis.
  • To keep animals in forests, Kerala has also undertaken eco-restoration programmes.
  • The state is also running a scheme to acquire land from farmers, to be then converted into forestland. Thus far only 782 families have been relocated paying a compensation of Rs 95 crore to convert their farms into forest land



Punishment under Epidemic Act

Why in news?

  • The 286th Law Commission Report recommended creation of an Epidemic Plan and Standard Operation Procedure to address future epidemics, underlining there is no clear demarcation between the powers of the Centre, state, and local authorities during an epidemic, which leads to uncoordinated responses.

What is the recommendation?

  • The Law Commission has recommended for changes to the 127-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, a law that is invoked for disease outbreaks and had been the basis of the government’s legal powers during the pandemic, calling for tougher punishment for people who act responsibly and a better balance between the Centre and the states.
  • The colonial-era law concerns infectious disease outbreaks but is seen by experts as having been outdated.
  • In the days after the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, the government made some amendments – first by an ordinance in April that year before the parliament approved a bill later that year – to mainly enhance punishment for those who attack health care workers, and expanded the powers of the central government to stop or check any person.
  • The commission has now said that the provisions of the main law are “not stringent enough to act as an effective deterrent”, calling for stricter punishment for disobedience of guidelines and regulations made by the government during any health emergency.
  • While noting that with the enactment of the three new criminal codes, the punishment for negligence and disobedience during health emergencies had been enhanced, the panel said such punishment should be laid down within the Epidemic Diseases Act itself.
  • Moreover, the commission deems it fit that for subsequent or repeat contraventions, the punishments should be enhanced. For accelerating enforcement… commission proposes to make such offenses cognisable and nonbailable, whose investigation and trial should be completed expeditiously.

Provision under BNS?

  • The report noted that the punitive provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act — for disobeying orders under the law and attacks on health care workers — are governed by sections of the criminal code Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (or the erstwhile Indian Penal Code).
  • Under the BNS, while the punishment has been enhanced to a jail term that may extend to one year or a fine of Rs.5,000 (up from IPC Section 188’s jail term of up to six months and a fine of Rs.1,000), it may not be enough of a deterrent.

View regarding avoiding the conflict between centre and state?

  • The panel recommended that to avoid conflict between the Centre and state, the amended Act should appropriately decentralise and demarcate power between the two, and local authorities and state governments be given the primary task of implementing prevention and management provisions to contain an epidemic.
  • In an event where the government thinks that the outbreak of any infectious or contagious disease has transformed or is likely to convert into an epidemic or any pandemic, and a state government is not able to contain the spread of the infection, the Centre should have the power to take measures.
  • The commission is also of the view that the central government should develop a “flexible” epidemic plan in consultation with the state government, health ministry, and the Ayush ministry to allow actions that may be warranted on the basis of the gravity of the situation and nature of the exigency.

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