CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/03/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 07/03/2024


Source : The Indian Express

On March 4, MethaneSAT, a revolutionary satellite designed to track and measure global methane emissions, was successfully launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket from California.

  • Unlike its predecessors, this washing-machine-sized satellite promises enhanced capabilities, providing more detailed and extensive data on methane emissions.

Key Highlights

  • Significance of Tracking Methane Emissions:
    • Methane, though invisible, is a potent greenhouse gas, ranking as the second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.
    • It accounts for 30% of global heating since the Industrial Revolution.
    • Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, making it a crucial focus for environmental efforts.
    • Additionally, methane contributes to ground-level ozone formation, a hazardous gas linked to an estimated one million premature deaths annually.
  • Crucial Role in Reducing Methane Emissions:
    • Recognizing the severity of methane’s impact, the United Nations Environment Programme stresses the importance of reducing methane emissions.
    • Fossil fuel operations are identified as the primary culprit, responsible for approximately 40% of human-caused methane emissions.
    • The launch of MethaneSAT aligns with the objective of curbing these emissions and addressing their environmental consequences.
  • About MethaneSAT and Its Collaborators:
    • MethaneSAT is an initiative spearheaded by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a US-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group.
    • Collaborating with prominent entities like Harvard University, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the New Zealand Space Agency, EDF aims to leverage satellite technology for environmental monitoring.
    • Orbiting the Earth 15 times a day, MethaneSAT will focus on monitoring the oil and gas sector, gathering crucial data.
    • This includes identifying methane sources, determining responsible entities, and tracking emission trends over time.
    • The satellite’s role is to provide comprehensive insights into the origins and dynamics of methane emissions globally.
  • Data Accessibility and Transparency:
  • MethaneSAT’s data, rich in detail and scope, will be made publicly available in near real-time.
  • This transparency aims to empower stakeholders, regulators, and the public, enabling informed decision-making and timely interventions to mitigate methane emissions.
  • The open-access nature of the collected information aligns with the broader goal of fostering a collaborative and responsive approach to environmental concerns.
  • Challenges in Methane Emission Tracking:
    • Historically, tracing methane emissions and accurately measuring them has posed significant challenges.
    • While some satellites excel in providing high-resolution data, they are limited to specific, pre-targeted sites.
    • Others, capable of examining larger areas and detecting significant emitting events, struggle to capture smaller sources that often contribute substantially to emissions.
    • This disparity has led to a substantial underreporting of global methane emissions, estimated to be approximately 70% higher than levels reported by national governments, as highlighted in an International Energy Agency (IEA) report.
  • MethaneSAT’s Advanced Features:
    • MethaneSAT addresses these challenges with its advanced features.
    • Equipped with a high-resolution infrared sensor and a spectrometer, the satellite is designed to fill critical data gaps.
    • It can discern differences in methane concentrations as small as three parts per billion, enabling the identification of smaller emission sources that eluded previous satellites.
    • Moreover, MethaneSAT boasts a wide-camera view, covering approximately 200 km by 200 km, facilitating the identification of larger emitters, commonly referred to as “super emitters.”
  • Technological Collaboration with Google:
    • MethaneSAT leverages cutting-edge technology through a collaboration with Google, a mission partner in the project.
    • The data collected by the satellite will be analyzed using cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies developed by Google.
    • The New York Times report states that the results will be made publicly accessible through Google’s Earth Engine platform, ensuring global access to the comprehensive methane emission data.
  • Significance of MethaneSAT Launch:
    • The launch of MethaneSAT is particularly significant against the backdrop of increasing global efforts to implement stringent methane management policies.
    • More than 150 countries committed to the Global Methane Pledge in 2021, aiming to collectively reduce methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.
    • Additionally, over 50 companies, as part of COP (Conference of the Parties), pledged to virtually eliminate methane emissions and routine flaring.
    • MethaneSAT emerges as a valuable tool to help nations and corporations meet these ambitious targets.
  • Transparency and Accountability:
    • MethaneSAT’s impact extends beyond data collection; it symbolizes a new era of transparency.
    • The publicly available data, accessible worldwide, will serve as a monitoring tool for holding governments and corporations accountable for their methane reduction commitments.

About Methane

  • Methane (CH4) is a hydrocarbon compound consisting of one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogen atoms.
  • It is a colorless, odorless gas in its pure form.
  • Physical Properties:
    • Methane is a light, gaseous substance at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.
    • It is odorless and colorless in its pure form, making it difficult to detect without specialized equipment.
  • Occurrence:
    • Methane is found both naturally and through human activities.
      • Natural Sources: It is generated in various natural processes, including anaerobic decay of organic matter in wetlands, the digestive processes of certain microorganisms (e.g., in the stomachs of ruminant animals), and geological processes like seafloor sediment decomposition.
      • Anthropogenic Sources: Human activities contribute significantly to methane emissions, such as the extraction and use of fossil fuels, livestock digestion, rice cultivation, landfills, and biomass burning.
    • Flammability:
      • Methane is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air in certain concentrations (5-15% by volume).
      • The flammable nature of methane makes it a valuable energy source when captured and used as natural gas.
    • Greenhouse Gas:
      • It has a higher global warming potential (GWP) compared to carbon dioxide over a short time frame, making it a significant focus in climate change discussions.
      • Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, with an atmospheric lifetime of approximately 12 years.
      • However, its higher initial warming potential contributes significantly to climate change, particularly in the short term.
    • Uses:
      • Methane has various practical applications, primarily as a fuel.
      • It is the main component of natural gas, which is used for heating, cooking, and electricity generation.
      • Methane is also used as a feedstock in the production of certain chemicals, such as methanol.
    • Methane Hydrates:
      • Methane hydrates are ice-like structures in which methane molecules are trapped within water molecules. They are found in permafrost regions and beneath the ocean floor.
      • These hydrates are considered a potential future energy resource, but their extraction and utilization pose technical and environmental challenges.

Why Lakshadweep base INS Jatayu matters?

Source The Indian Express

On March 6, the Naval Detachment Minicoy is set to be commissioned as INS Jatayu, marking a crucial development in India’s efforts to enhance security infrastructure in the strategically vital Lakshadweep Islands.

  • The upgraded naval base reflects the Indian Navy’s commitment to incrementally bolstering its presence in the region.

Key Highlights

  • Historical Naval Presence in Lakshadweep:
    • India has maintained a naval detachment in Minicoy, the southernmost atoll in the Lakshadweep archipelago, since the 1980s.
    • INS Jatayu, now the second naval base in Lakshadweep, follows the commissioning of the first base, INS Dweeprakshak in Kavaratti, in 2012.
  • Strategic Significance of Lakshadweep Islands:
    • Lakshadweep, translating to ‘a hundred thousand islands’ in Sanskrit and Malayalam, is an archipelago comprising 36 islands located between 220 km and 440 km from Kochi.
    • Despite its relatively small total area of 32 sq km and only 11 inhabited islands, Lakshadweep holds immense strategic importance for India.
    • Positioned within the Indian Ocean, Lakshadweep forms part of a chain of coralline islands, with the Maldives to the south and the Chagos archipelago further south of the equator.
    • The archipelago’s location makes it strategically vital for India.
    • Minicoy, where INS Jatayu is based, is particularly significant as it straddles crucial Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs), the main maritime highways globally.
    • These include the Eight Degree Channel, located between Minicoy and the Maldives, and the Nine Degree Channel, situated between Minicoy and the primary cluster of Lakshadweep islands.
    • Given its strategic positioning, the Lakshadweep Islands are vulnerable to potential threats, including marine pollution.
    • The presence of INS Jatayu and the enhanced security infrastructure underscores India’s commitment to safeguarding its maritime interests in the region.
  • Upgrading Facilities at INS Jatayu:
    • INS Jatayu, initially a naval detachment, will undergo enhancements, including administrative, logistics, and medical facilities.
    • The transformation into a naval base will include the addition of critical infrastructure such as an airfield, housing facilities, and personnel accommodations.
    • However, potential challenges related to the fragile ecology of the island may affect the construction of a jetty, prompting considerations for a new airfield that can accommodate both military and civilian aircraft.
    • The establishment of INS Jatayu as an independent naval unit with comprehensive infrastructure will significantly boost the overall operational capability of the Indian Navy in the Lakshadweep Islands.
  • Enhanced Naval Reach and Operational Capabilities:
    • The Navy anticipates that the newly commissioned base will extend its operational reach, particularly in the western Arabian Sea.
    • It is expected to play a crucial role in anti-piracy and anti-narcotics operations in the region, positioning itself as a key first responder.
    • The move is in line with the government’s broader focus on bolstering India’s maritime capabilities and security.
  • Impact on India-Maldives Relations:
    • The development holds particular significance as India’s relations with the Maldives face strain following the election of President Mohamed Muizzu, who is perceived as pro-China.
    • The strengthening of India’s naval presence in the region, especially in response to geopolitical shifts, underscores the country’s commitment to safeguarding its strategic interests.

About the Lakshadweep Islands

  • Lakshadweep is a group of islands located in the Arabian Sea, off the southwestern coast of India.
  • It is the smallest union territory of India, both in terms of area and population.
  • Geography:
    • Lakshadweep is situated about 200 to 400 kilometers off the southwestern coast of India.
    • It is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands and islets.
    • Only 10 of these islands are inhabited, with popular destinations including Minicoy Island, Kalpeni Islands, Kadmat Islands, Bangaram Island, and Thinnakara Island.
    • The region is known for its coral atolls and extensive coral reefs, making it a haven for marine biodiversity.
  • Capital: Kavaratti is the capital and the largest town of Lakshadweep.
  • Culture and Population:
    • The islands have a relatively small population, predominantly consisting of the local Malayali Muslims.
    • The culture of Lakshadweep is influenced by the Arab traditions, and the people primarily speak Malayalam.
  • Economy:
    • Fisheries: Fishing is a major economic activity for the residents of Lakshadweep. Tuna and other varieties of fish are abundant in the surrounding waters.
    • Coconut Products: Coconut cultivation and the production of coconut-based products contribute to the local economy.
  • Tourism:
    • Scenic Beauty: Lakshadweep is known for its pristine white-sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs, making it a popular tourist destination.
    • Water Sports: The islands offer opportunities for various water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and sailing.
    • Biodiversity: The marine biodiversity, including colorful coral reefs and diverse marine life, attracts nature lovers and scuba diving enthusiasts.
  • Entry Permits:
    • Access to Lakshadweep requires a permit issued by the Lakshadweep Administration based in Kochi.
    • Travelers can reach Lakshadweep via flights or ships from Kochi, Kerala

What is Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs)?

  • Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) refer to the primary maritime routes between ports used for trade, logistics, and naval operations.
  • These routes are crucial for ensuring the flow of goods, resources, and military forces.
  • Throughout history, control over SLOCs has played a pivotal role in conflicts and wars, such as during the American Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars where British control over SLOCs was decisive.

Trees in Corbett fell prey to greedy nexus, says SC

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Hindu

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, strongly criticized the unlawful felling of more than 6,000 trees for constructing buildings in Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand.

  • The court identified this as a “classic case” illustrating the collaboration between politicians and officials exploiting the environment for short-term commercial gains.

Key Highlights

  • The Supreme Court directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to establish a specialized committee.
  • This committee is tasked with studying and recommending whether tiger safaris should be permitted in the buffer or fringe areas of a tiger reserve.
    • The proposed specialized committee from the Ministry will include representatives from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Wildlife Institute of India, Central Empowered Committee, and a Joint Secretary from the Ministry.
  • Responsibility of Uttarakhand:
    • The court also emphasized that Uttarakhand cannot evade responsibility and must take steps to restore the forest to its original state.
    • Justice Gavai highlighted the interconnectedness of tigers and the ecosystem, stressing that protecting tigers is essential for safeguarding the entire ecosystem.
    • Tigers are not only indicators of a healthy ecosystem, but the well-being of the entire ecosystem depends on their protection.
  • Formation of Panel:
    • The Supreme Court has also mandated the creation of a panel to assess the damage inflicted on the green cover of the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
    • The panel’s responsibilities include evaluating the extent of damage, quantifying restoration costs, and identifying individuals and officials accountable for the environmental harm.
    • The court has declared that the financial burden for restoration will be borne by the identified responsible parties.
    • The recovered funds are designated exclusively for forest restoration efforts.
  • Eco-centric Approach:
    • The court emphasized the need for an eco-centric approach in conducting tiger safaris.
    • It rejected the 2019 National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines that allowed tigers exhibited in zoos to be part of these safaris.
    • Instead, the court referred to the 2016 NTCA guidelines, stating that only injured tigers, conflict tigers, or orphaned cubs unfit for re-wilding should be considered.
    • Tigers for safaris should be sourced from the same landscape where the safari is established.
    • The judgment stressed the application of the precautionary principle to minimize environmental damage.
    • Animals for safaris should not be sourced from outside the tiger reserve, and the court disapproved of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) approving the selection of animals for safaris.
  • Existing Safaris and Animal Rescue Center:
    • Safaris already in operation, like the one in Pakhro zone at Corbett, are not to be disturbed.
    • However, the Uttarakhand government is directed to establish an animal rescue center in the vicinity of the existing safari.

About the Jim Corbett National Park

  • Jim Corbett National Park is a renowned wildlife sanctuary and national park located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand, India.
  • Established in 1936, it holds the distinction of being the first national park in India.
  • Initially named Hailey National Park, it was later renamed Ramganga before finally being called Corbett in memory of Jim Corbett, a British sportsman and writer.
    • Jim Corbett was known for his efforts in wildlife conservation and played a crucial role in establishing the park to protect the Bengal tiger, which was facing the threat of extinction.
  • The National Park spanning 520.8 km², is characterized by diverse topography, including hills, riverine belts, marshy depressions, and grasslands.
  • Situated at an elevation of 1,300 to 4,000 ft, the park experiences cold winter nights and bright, sunny days.
  • Rainfall occurs from July to September.
  • With sub-Himalayan geographical features, the park boasts a dense moist deciduous forest, primarily composed of sal trees, haldu, peepal, rohini, and mango trees.
  • Forests cover 73% of the area, while 10% consists of grasslands.
  • The park encompasses the Patli Dun valley formed by the Ramganga River, protecting parts of the Upper Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests and Himalayan subtropical pine forests ecoregions.
  • The climate is humid subtropical and highland.

About the Central Zoo Authority (CZA)

  • The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change in India, established in 1992 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.
  • Chaired by the Environment Minister, it comprises ten members and a member-secretary, aiming to enhance national efforts in conserving biodiversity and regulating zoos across the country.
  • The CZA ensures that Indian zoos meet international standards by enforcing minimum norms for animal care and overseeing zoo operations.
  • Every zoo in India must obtain authorization from the CZA to operate, with the Authority evaluating zoos based on specified parameters before granting recognition.
  • The primary objectives of the Central Zoo Authority include:
    • Complementing and strengthening national conservation efforts, particularly for fauna, as per the National Zoo Policy of 1998.
    • Enforcing minimum standards and norms for animal upkeep and healthcare in Indian zoos.
    • Regulating the establishment of zoos to prevent the proliferation of unplanned and poorly managed facilities.
    • The CZA is responsible for recognizing and regulating zoos in India.

The tale of ‘have money, buy miracle drug

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Hindu

Numerous articles have been consistently published in newspapers over the past few months, highlighting the use of ‘magic injections’ for guaranteed weight loss.

  • These injections contain Semaglutide, a drug originally intended for treating Type 2 diabetes mellitus but known for its weight loss effects.

Key Highlights

  • Unapproved Usage in India:
    • Despite not receiving approval for sale in India, doctors are administering Semaglutide injections to patients, predominantly from affluent backgrounds.
    • The media coverage of these injections often neglects to mention the absence of approval for their use in the country.
    • Press releases from global pharmaceutical companies cautioning against the use of this product in India do not receive significant publicity in the media.
    • This oversight raises concerns about the dissemination of critical information to the public.
  • Omission of Side-Effect Reporting:
    • Media outlets are in question here for not adequately reporting on the notable side effects associated with these weight loss drugs.
    • This lack of comprehensive information may contribute to uninformed decisions by patients and raises ethical questions about the responsible communication of potential risks.
    • Weight loss drugs, while a concern, are highlighted as just one facet of the larger problem of unauthorized drugs circulating in the market.
    • The unauthorized usage of medications poses significant risks to public health and underscores the need for robust regulatory oversight.
  • Approval Process for Drugs in India:
    • In India, drugs typically receive approval for sale after the local subsidiary or licensee of global brand owners conducts clinical trials.
    • Post-approval, regulatory monitoring mandates the reporting of adverse events for two years.
    • However, global pharma companies sometimes choose not to launch drugs in India, allowing patients to import them for personal use under specific circumstances.
  • Lack of Clinical Trials and Regulatory Oversight:
    • For unapproved “miracle drugs,” there have been no clinical trials conducted in India.
    • This absence poses significant challenges as the reaction of Indian patients to these drugs is unknown.
    • The risk increases, especially for patients concurrently taking medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension, which may differ from those prescribed in developed countries.
  • Questions for Doctors:
    • This also raises critical questions for doctors regarding the prescription and recommendation of unapproved drugs.
    • It questions whether doctors are prescribing these drugs without Indian approval, if patients are demanding them based on media reports, and what the ethical duties of doctors are in such situations.
    • The ethical responsibilities of doctors are under scrutiny, questioning whether they should prescribe drugs not yet approved in India and if they are adequately informed about the full effects and potential adverse events.
    • An important aspect discussed is whether doctors administering these injections have received adequate training to identify and treat adverse events.
  • Scandal Involving Spurious Imported Drugs:
    • Recent revelations about spurious imported drugs, including Adcetris used to treat a type of blood cancer, have sparked a scandal, highlighting the potential dangers associated with such medications.
    • The drug regulator’s delayed alert, issued two years after the World Health Organization’s warning in September 2023, raises serious questions about the oversight of imported drugs.
    • This questions the assurance doctors have regarding the authenticity of unapproved imported drugs, emphasizing the need for doctors to verify the provenance of these medications before administering them.
    • The issuance of alerts by pharmaceutical companies manufacturing these drugs further raises concerns and prompts speculation about potential complicity.
  • Queries for Government and Regulators:
    • Government and drug regulators face scrutiny regarding their efforts to control the import of these drugs.
    • It is suggested for a stronger deterrent, such as arresting and imprisoning doctors involved in administering spurious drugs, could be a more effective way to address the issue and prevent future occurrences.

Are legislators immune to bribery charges?

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu

The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, has ruled that Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) cannot claim immunity from prosecution for accepting bribes related to voting or making speeches in the House.

  • The decision overrules the 1998 judgment in P.V. Narasimha Rao v. State and opens the possibility for law enforcement agencies to initiate prosecution against legislators under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Key Highlights

  • Constitutional Immunity Under Question:
    • The ruling challenges the constitutional immunity granted to MPs under Article 105(2) and to MLAs under Article 194(2) of the Indian Constitution, which protect them from prosecution for anything said or any vote given in Parliament or on any parliamentary committee.
  • Case Background – Sita Soren:
    • The case leading to this judgment involves Sita Soren, a member of the Jharkhand MuktiMorcha (JMM).
    • She was accused of accepting a bribe to cast her vote in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections.
    • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a chargesheet against her, and her plea seeking quashing of criminal proceedings based on legal immunity under Article 194(2) was dismissed by the Jharkhand High Court.
  • Legal Proceedings and Referral to Larger Benches:
    • The case underwent several legal proceedings, with a two-judge Bench referring it to a three-judge Bench in 2014.
    • In March 2019, the three-judge Bench, led by then CJI RanjanGogoi, noted the direct relevance of the P.V. Narasimha Rao decision and referred it to a larger bench due to the narrow margin (3:2 split) in the previous judgment.
    • Eventually, on September 20, 2023, a five-judge Bench, led by CJI Chandrachud, doubted the correctness of the majority view in P.V. Narasimha Rao and referred the matter to a seven-judge Bench.
    • Bench’s Perspective on Parliamentary Privileges:
      • The seven-judge Bench emphasized that parliamentary privileges are not meant to elevate legislators to a status of higher privileges or immunity from the general criminal laws of the land.
      • The ruling acknowledges the substantial and general public importance of the issue, underscoring the need to address concerns related to the political landscape.
    • Reconsideration of the 1998 P.V. Narasimha Rao Ruling
      • The reconsideration involves the 1993 JMM bribery case against JMM chief Shibu Soren and party members, accused of accepting bribes to vote against a no-confidence motion targeting the P.V. Narasimha Rao government.
      • The 1998 P.V. Narasimha Rao ruling emerged from this case.
      • In the 1998 ruling, two judges on the Constitution Bench expressed the opinion that immunity under Articles 105(2) or 194(2) did not extend to bribery allegations related to parliamentary activities.
      • However, the majority of judges, while acknowledging the gravity of the offense, opted for a broader interpretation to preserve parliamentary participation and debate.
    • Key Takeaways from the Recent Verdict:
      • No Violation of Stare Decisis:
        • The petitioners raised an objection based on the doctrine of stare decisis, arguing against overruling the established law in P.V. Narasimha Rao.
        • The court dismissed this objection, emphasizing that the doctrine is not inflexible and that a larger bench has the authority to reconsider a prior decision in cases of public interest and parliamentary democracy.
      • Grave Consequences of the Previous Decision:
        • The court highlighted the far-reaching implications of the P.V. Narasimha Rao decision, stating that the grant of immunity from prosecution for bribery in parliamentary activities poses a grave danger to public interest and probity in public life.
        • Reconsideration was deemed necessary to rectify this potential error.
      • The verdict, authored by CJI Chandrachud, underlines the responsibility of a larger bench to rectify errors in the interest of justice, especially when the prior decision may perpetuate an incorrect legal stance.
        • The Supreme Court emphasized that parliamentary privileges in India do not stem from ‘ancient and undoubted’ rights, as seen in the UK’s House of Commons.
        • Instead, India’s privileges have always been statutory, transitioning to constitutional privileges after independence.
        • The Court asserted that claims to privilege in India are subject to judicial review to ensure alignment with constitutional parameters.
      • Constitutional Immunity and the Two-fold Test:
        • The Chief Justice elucidated the purpose of Articles 105 and 194, stating that these constitutional privileges aim to foster an environment conducive to debate and deliberation within the legislature.
        • However, this purpose is compromised when a legislator is influenced by bribery to vote or speak in a specific manner.
        • The Court introduced a two-fold test for privileges:
          • firstly, the claimed privilege must be linked to the collective functioning of the House, and secondly, it must be necessary for the legislator’s essential duties.
          • The Court held that constitutional immunity from bribery charges related to votes or speeches fails to satisfy this test.
        • Rejection of Constitutional Immunity for Bribery Charges:
          • In the context of the two-fold test, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that constitutional immunity shields legislators from bribery charges.
          • It highlighted that such immunity, when tied to actions influenced by bribery, undermines the collective functioning of the House and does not serve the essential duties of a legislator.
        • Importance of Judicial Review:
          • The ruling underscores the importance of judicial review in determining the conformity of claims to privilege with constitutional principles.
          • It establishes that legislative privileges in India are not absolute and can be subject to scrutiny to ensure they align with the constitutional framework.
        • By rejecting immunity in bribery cases, the judgment seeks to uphold the fundamental purpose of parliamentary privileges in fostering genuine debate and deliberation.
      • Interpretation of Article 105(2) and 194(2):
        • The Supreme Court revisited the interpretation of Article 105(2) and 194(2), highlighting the two limbs of Clause 2.
        • The first limb protects MPs from liability in court for anything said or any vote given in Parliament.
        • The second limb extends this protection to the publication of reports, papers, votes, or proceedings authorized by either House of Parliament.
        • The Court rejects the broad interpretation of protecting MPs from any proceedings related to their parliamentary actions and concludes that bribery is not automatically immune under Article 105(2) and its corresponding provision in Article 194(2).
      • Bribery Not Essential to Voting or Speech:
        • The Chief Justice reasoned that bribery is not automatically immune simply because it is not deemed essential to the process of casting a vote or delivering a speech in Parliament.
        • The expressions “anything” and “any” in the context of Articles 105(2) and 194(2) must be read to mean matters bearing a clear relation to or arising out of parliamentary actions.
        • The Court emphasized that the offence of bribery is complete the moment an illegal gratification is accepted, regardless of subsequent actions such as voting or making a speech.
        • The physical location where the bribe was offered or received is deemed irrelevant to the completion of the offence.
      • Paradoxical Outcome and Strengthening Legal Interpretation:
        • The judgment highlighted a paradox in the previous interpretation, wherein a legislator would be immune if they accepted a bribe and followed through with the agreed voting direction.
        • However, if the legislator agreed to accept a bribe but ultimately voted independently, they could face prosecution.
        • The verdict emphasizes that the interpretation aligns with the first explanation to Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, reinforcing that obtaining, accepting, or attempting to obtain undue advantage constitutes an offence, even if the subsequent performance of public duty is not improper.
      • Dismissal of Jurisdictional Argument:
        • The Supreme Court rejected the argument that its jurisdiction to prosecute a parliamentarian for corruption charges is unwarranted, as such charges are treated as a breach of privilege by the House, resulting in expulsion or punishment.
        • The verdict asserted that the Court’s jurisdiction to prosecute criminal offenses and the House’s authority to address breaches of discipline operate in distinct spheres, and one cannot exclude judicial proceedings based on potential parallel actions by the House.
        • The judgment emphasized the distinction between judicial proceedings and House actions.
        • While House proceedings aim to restore its dignity, a criminal trial originates from the state’s power to prosecute offenders violating the law, governed by procedural safeguards, rules of evidence, and principles of natural justice.
      • Corruption’s Impact on Democracy:
        • The verdict highlighted the severe impact of corruption by legislators on the foundation of Indian parliamentary democracy.
        • When a legislator is influenced by monetary endorsements to vote in a specific way, it undermines probity in public life and erodes the aspirational and deliberative ideals of the Constitution.
        • The Chief Justice emphasized that corruption creates a polity that deprives citizens of a responsible, responsive, and representative democracy.
      • Applicability to Rajya Sabha Elections:
        • The Supreme Court clarified that the principles outlined in the verdict regarding legislative privileges are equally applicable to elections for the Rajya Sabha, as well as the appointment of the President and Vice-President of the country.
        • This clarification overturns previous observations in the KuldipNayar v. Union of India (2006) case, which held that Rajya Sabha elections do not fall under parliamentary privileges but are merely an exercise of franchise.
        • It clarified that voting in Rajya Sabha elections falls within the ambit of Article 194(2), aligning with the broader interpretation of parliamentary privileges.

The Italian top court’s ruling on sea migrants from Libya

(General Studies- Paper II0

Source : The Hindu

Italy’s highest court issued a landmark ruling in February, asserting that Libya is not a safe harbor, and it is unlawful to force migrants rescued from the sea to return to a territory where their fundamental rights are at risk.

  • The verdict challenges the practice of ‘pushing back’ migrants, diverging from the stance of Italy and other European countries where right-wing parties capitalize on anti-immigration pledges.

Key Highlights

  • Human Rights Abuses in Libyan Territory:
    • The court’s decision aligns with concerns raised by rights agencies about human rights abuses in Libyan territory, particularly in coastal prisons run by coastguards and armed militias.
    • Reports highlight violence, torture, and inhumane conditions faced by unprotected refugees and asylum seekers, making Libya an unsafe country.
    • The ruling confirms the stance that Libya is not a safe port of arrival per international law.
  • 2018 Incident and Legal Proceedings:
    • The case involves a 2018 incident where the ship Asso 28 picked up 101 migrants from a dinghy off the coast of Libya and returned them to the Libyan coastguard at the Tripoli port.
    • The captain was prosecuted in 2021 for violating international humanitarian and refugee laws.
    • The court upheld the conviction, sentencing the captain to one year’s imprisonment for abandoning migrants in a state of danger and arbitrary disembarkation, emphasizing the violation of international directives.
    • The court reiterated the principle of non-refoulement, forbidding the forced return of people to countries where their lives or rights are at risk.
    • The captain’s actions were deemed a “collective refoulement” to Libya, exposing migrants to a high risk of inhuman and degrading treatment in detention centers on Libyan territory, where their fundamental rights would be unprotected.
    • Historical Context:
      • The ruling reflects historical condemnations of Italy’s push-back policies, as seen in a 2009 decision by the European Court of Human Rights.
      • Italy was criticized for intercepting asylum seekers at sea and returning them to Libya, violating the principle of non-refoulement and multiple articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
    • Legal Obligations in Handling Rescues at Sea
      • The Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Italy is a perilous route for migrants, known for human smuggling operations where overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels are used.
      • Smugglers often overload boats and assure migrants of prompt rescue, leading to numerous fatalities during the crossing.
      • In 2023, over 2,500 people died or went missing, representing a significant increase from the previous year.
      • Under Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, shipmasters are legally obligated to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost.
      • International maritime law mandates coastal states to conduct search and rescue services, collaborating with other nations if necessary during these operations.
    • Refusal and Delay by Coastal States:
      • Despite legal obligations, countries like Italy and Malta have been criticized for refusing to open their ports, delaying ship arrivals, or disregarding requests for disembarkation.
      • In 2022, more than 24,000 people were intercepted and forced to return to Libya, highlighting challenges in ensuring compliance with international maritime law.
    • UNHCR Data:
      • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data reveals the alarming increase in migrant deaths and disappearances, with more than 2,500 incidents reported between January and September 2023.
      • The dangerous conditions in the Mediterranean highlight the need for coordinated international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.
    • Human Rights Violations in Libya: A Dire Situation
      • A UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission reported reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, including torture and sexual slavery, have been committed against Libyans and migrants across Libya.
      • Detention centers, including those under the control of Libyan coastguards, are implicated in severe human rights abuses.
      • War-torn Libya, under militia rule since 2011, has become a breeding ground for human trafficking, particularly in detention centers.
      • It is estimated that over 35,000 refugees are held in official centers, with additional detainees in unrecorded camps.
      • The power vacuum has allowed commanders to exploit migrants, running militias and profiteering from their detainment.
      • EU and Italy’s Involvement:
        • Libyan authorities, responsible for human rights abuses, have received support from Italy and the EU, raising concerns about their complicity in the situation.
        • Italy and Libya signed agreements, renewed in 2023, involving the gifting of vessels, training crews, and investing in maritime infrastructure.
        • The EU also sent search and rescue vessels to Libya as part of efforts to curb migration.
      • Cycles of Abuse and Exploitation:
        • A troubling cycle of abuse has emerged, involving intercepted migrants subjected to torture, violence, and exploitation in detention centers.
        • Desperate families pay guards for the release of their kin, only for them to attempt the perilous sea crossing again.
        • The EU and Italy’s indirect support allows Libyan authorities to carry out actions leading to human rights violations.
      • Significance of the Ruling
        • The ruling challenges the notion of Libya being considered a “place of safety” for migrants rescued at sea.
        • Recognizing the well-documented human rights abuses in Libyan detention centers, the Court of Cassation emphasizes that forcing migrants to return to such territories is unlawful.
        • Legal Relevance Amid Disputes:
          • The verdict gains legal relevance in the context of ongoing disputes between human rights organizations and European governments over ‘push-and-pull-back’ operations.
          • It echoes concerns raised by entities like the Global Legal Action Network, which accused Italy of complicity in human rights crimes by supporting Libyan authorities.
        • Implications for Anti-Immigration Policies:
          • With Italy’s far-right government under GiorgiaMeloni, the ruling may impact the stance on anti-immigration policies.
          • There are concerns that the government could intensify efforts to obstruct the work of search and rescue NGOs, potentially leading to increased risks of death, disappearances, and detentions for migrants.