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Insights Daily Current Events, 25 march 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 25 march 2015

SC strikes down ‘draconian’ Section 66A

The Supreme Court has struck down a draconian provision that had led to the arrests of many people for posting content deemed to be “allegedly objectionable” on the Internet. The apex court has ruled that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is unconstitutional in its entirety.


  • The SC said it is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech, under article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right and the definition of offences under the provision was open-ended and undefined.
  • The court also said that the provision, introduced in 2009 to the original Act of 2000, used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning. “What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another. Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.

Sections 69A and 79 of the Act:

The Bench turned down a plea to strike down sections 69A and 79 of the Act, which deal with the procedure and safeguards for blocking certain websites and exemption from liability of intermediaries in certain cases, respectively.

Controversy surrounding section 66A:

In the past few years, the provision has been invoked to make several arrests. On behalf of the victims, several petitions were moved in the Supreme Court, and these were heard at length by the court. The law came in for criticism after several arrests by police over Facebook and other social media postings.

  • Two young women were arrested in Mumbai over a posting which the Shiv Sena found offensive.
  • A lecturer was arrested in Kolkata for forwarding cartoons of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
  • A writer was arrested in UP for criticising the suspension of IAS officer DS Nagpal.
  • Ravi Srinivasan was arrested for sending a tweet on then finance minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti.
  • Arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for displaying cartoons that mocked Parliament
  • 4- Two Air India cabin crew members arrested for allegedly posting indecent jokes about the Prime Minister and for insulting the national flag.
  • Youth arrested for posting against Azam Khan in Rampur, March 2015

What was the Government’s stand?

The government had held out the promise that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act would not be used to stifle political dissent, humour that wasn’t vulgar and contrarian views, before a Supreme Court bench that was re-hearing a batch of petitions challenging the legality of the law.

Arguments against the Law:

  • The opponents argue the I-T Act cannot prescribe restrictions on a citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression that were wider than warranted under Article 19(2), which allows the state to curtail them only on the grounds of public order, security of state etc. Any other restriction on free speech on social media would be an unreasonable restriction under the Constitution.

Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.

Will the Supreme Court striking down Section 66 A of the Information Technology Act weaken the case against pro-IS tweeter Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who was arrested by the city police last year?

  • Mehdi has been booked under Section 66 F of the IT Act, 2000, for cyber terrorism and Section 66 A of the IT Act, 2000, for posting offensive messages, apart from a host of other sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2012.
  • Cyber experts have said that the challenge that the investigators in the case face was to prove criminal intent of striking terror in the minds of the people. If the investigators fail to prove the criminal intent, the only section under which he could be convicted is under Section 66 A of the IT Act, which has now been struck down by the Supreme Court.
  • However, the investigators in the case are confident of securing a conviction in the case under Section 66 F for cyber terrorism.


Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS.


Akhil Sharma wins Folio Prize

Novelist Akhil Sharma’s 2014 novel Family Life has won the Folio Prize 2015.

About the Prize:

  • The Folio Prize is a literary award sponsored by the London-based publisher The Folio Society.
  • It is given to an English-language book of fiction published in the UK by an author from any country.
  • It is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from all over the world.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.


Utah becomes first U.S. State to reinstate execution by firing squad

Utah became the first U.S. State to reinstate execution by firing squad amidst a spiralling crisis due to lethal drug shortages faced by U.S. prisons, even as the State’s Governor was on the record describing the procedure as “a little bit gruesome.”

  • The death penalty would be administered in such manner when no lethal injection drug was available and the latter would remain the “primary method” of executing inmates.
  • Under the law in Utah, inmates would be killed by a firing squad only if the State cannot acquire lethal injection drugs 30 days prior to the scheduled execution date.

Shortage of Letha Drug in US:

  • Since 2010, U.S. correctional facilities have struggled to procure a key drug in the three-drug lethal cocktail administered to death row inmates, sedative sodium thiopental, after its sole U.S. producer, Hospira, took its production plants offline in the face of anti-death penalty campaigns and other obstacles.
  • In a scramble to procure an alternative, numerous U.S. prisons had also turned towards foreign suppliers, including from Europe and India.
  • After hitting a dead end, U.S. prisons entered a phase of experimenting with different drug protocols, including in States such as Georgia and Missouri, which relied on the use of a massive overdose of animal euthanasia drug pentobarbital. Such manipulations of the drug protocol yielded mixed results, culminating in the botched execution on April 29 last year of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma.

Sources: The Hindu.


Railways launches RuPay pre-paid debit card

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) recently, launched the RuPay debit card service.

  • The service was launched by the IRCTC in collaboration with Union Bank of India and the National Payment Corporation of India.
  • It is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s financial inclusive programme as one does not need to have a bank account in UBI to have the card and you can avail it online also.

About RuPay card:

RuPay is India’s own card payment gateway network like Visa and Master Card, and provides an alternative system for banks to provide a debit card service.

  • It is a first-of-its-kind in the market as both virtual as well as physical cards are being issued to customers in two variants.


  • The card holder will get free Rs.1 lakh accident insurance coverage as part of the benefits to customers.
  • Railway passengers can now book their tickets, do shopping and pay service bills using RuPay pre-paid cards.

Limits imposed:

  • One can have the card with a loading limit of Rs.10,000 with partial KYC detail or Rs.50,000 loading limit with full KYC.
  • The first five transactions per card every month done on IRCTC for purchase of train tickets would be free and no transaction charges would be levied to customers for six months only. For every subsequent transaction post the free usage, customer would be charged Rs.10 per transaction.

Sources: The Hindu.



ADB too says India will overtake China in growth

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has projected that India would grow at 7.8 per cent in 2015-16 and 8.2 per cent the next fiscal, overtaking China.

  • The International Monetary Fund too had made a similar forecast of India’s growth overtaking China’s in 2016.

Important observations made by the ADB:

  • The expected monetary-policy easing and higher capital expenditure on infrastructure projects would lift India’s growth from 7.4 per cent in 2014-15.
  • China’s growth would slow down to 7.2 per cent this year and to 7 per cent in 2016, against an average of 8.5 per cent in the period since the global financial crisis. China has lowered its official economic growth forecast to about 7 per cent for 2015.
  • Developing Asia will see slower growth this year and in 2016. A pick-up in India, cheaper commodity prices and reviving demand in the West will help support the region.
  • As in 2014, this year and the next, the region will continue to grow at an average of 6.3 per cent but slower than the average 6.7 per cent between 2009 and 2013. Lower oil prices will reduce inflation in developing Asia to 2.6 per cent from 3.1 per cent last year.

About ADB:

It is a regional development bank established on 22 August 1966 and is headquartered in Philippines.

Aim: to facilitate economic development of countries in Asia. It also aims for an Asia and Pacific free from poverty.


  • The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly known as the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) and non-regional developed countries.
  • Currently, it has 67 members – of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.

ADB was modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with member’s capital subscriptions.


  • ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
  • ADB also rely on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.

Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%. The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.

Board of Governors:

  • It is the highest policy-making body of the bank.
  • It is composed of one representative from each member state.
  • The Board of Governors also elect the bank’s President who is the chairperson of the Board of Directors and manages ADB.

The Alternate Board of Governors are nominated by Board of Governors of ADB’s 67 to represent them at the Annual Meeting that meets formally once year to be held in a member country.


  • It offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans.
  • The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.

ADB focuses on five core areas of operations: infrastructure; the environment, including climate change; regional cooperation and integration; finance sector development; and education.

The Asian Development Fund (ADF) bridges the development gap in Asia and the Pacific, home to both the world’s fast-rising and most vulnerable economies. ADF is a major instrument of concessional financing that has supported equitable and sustainable development in the region since 1973. Funded by ADB’s member countries, it offers loans at very low interest rates as well as grants to help reduce poverty in ADB’s poorest member countries.

Sources: The Hindu, ADB, Wiki.

Insights Secure Prelims 2015

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