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[Mission 2024] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 26 March 2024

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 3:

  1. Election Commissioner Selection: Ensuring Independence

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Archaeological Survey of India
  2. Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code
  3. COP Presidentcies’ Troika
  4. Application Programming Interface (API)
  5. AI Tool Predicts Neem Fruit Metabolite Content
  6. Statio Shiv Shakti
  7. Supreme Court Eases Ban on Power Lines in Great Indian Bustard Habitat
  8. Kerala: Man-animal conflict declared as a state-specific disaster

 

Mapping

  1. Khorasan

 


 

Election Commissioner Selection: Ensuring Independence

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Constitutional Bodies

 

Source: Th

 Context: The recent swift appointment of two new Election Commissioners  (after the resignation of resignation of Arun Goel) in India has sparked criticism due to concerns about the independence of the ECI and its selection process.

  

About ECI:

Aspect Information
Election Commission of India The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India. Established on January 25, 1950, in New Delhi.
Constitutional Provisions Part XV of the Constitution (Articles 324-329) deals with elections and establishes the commission. Articles 324-329 outline its powers, including superintendence, direction, and control of elections.
Functions Article 324 of the Constitution grants the Election Commission the authority over elections. It also says that the EC shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may fix from time to time.
The Election Commission administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
Structure of ECI Originally single-membered, now multi-membered. Consists of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners (ECs).
Present Chief Election Commissioner: Rajiv Kumar
Qualification No specific qualifications are mandated by the Constitution for Election Commissioners. Typically, senior civil servants, like Cabinet Secretaries, are appointed. This tradition ensures leaders with extensive administrative expertise and electoral process understanding lead the ECI.
Appointment & Tenure Appointed by the President under the CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023. Serve a fixed six-year term or until age 65
Removal Can resign or be removed before term expiry. CEC’s removal requires Parliament’s process akin to a Supreme Court judge. ECs can only be removed upon CEC’s recommendation.

 

For the major feature of the Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023: Click Here

 

For Issues with the New Act: Click Here

  

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has achieved significant milestones: 

  1. Conducting Free and Fair Elections: ECI ensures fair elections, overseeing over 17 national and over 370 state elections since 1947.
  2. Inclusive Participation Initiatives: E.g., ECI implemented reserved constituencies for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
  3. Introduction of Voter ID Cards: The ECI introduced the Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) in 1993, enhancing electoral integrity and reducing impersonation.
  4. Adoption of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPAT: EVMs streamline voting, ensuring accuracy and reducing fraud.
  5. Implementation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC): ECI enforces MCC, promoting fair campaigning and ethical practices.
  6. Innovative Use of Technology:g., ECI developed the cVIGIL mobile application, allowing citizens to report election code violations directly,
  7. Voter Education Programs:g., SVEEP (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation), to raise awareness about voting rights, the importance of participation, and making informed choices during elections

  

Issues Associated with the Election Commission of India:

  1. Constitutional Limitations: No prescribed qualifications or terms for members.
  2. Post-retirement favours: No prohibition on post-retirement appointments.
  3. Selection Committee Dominance: The selection committee is dominated by government members in the new act.Potential compromise of ECI independence.
  4. Security of Tenure: Election Commissioners lack guaranteed tenure.
  5. Lack of Financial Independence: Reliance on Union Government for finances. Expenses not drawn from Consolidated Fund, limiting independence.
  6. Electoral Malpractices: Irregularities in voter rolls and instances of fraud. A recent issue of electoral bond.
  7. Political Bias Allegations: Allegations of bias and favoritism.
  8. Lack of Deregistration Authority: ECI lacks the power to deregister parties for violations. Unable to enforce inner-party democracy or regulate finances.
  9. Accessibility and Inclusivity: Challenges in ensuring universal voter access.

  

Way forward:

To strengthen the Election Commission of India, several key steps are essential. Firstly, establishing an independent selection committee comprising diverse stakeholders, as highlighted in the Anoop Baranwal vs Union of India Case, 2023, is crucial for ensuring fair appointments. Secondly, enacting legislation with statutory safeguards is necessary to define conditions for the removal of Election Commissioners, incorporating stringent criteria and procedural safeguards to prevent arbitrary dismissals. Transparent funding mechanisms, implemented through parliamentary processes or independent oversight, would enhance accountability and impartiality in fund allocation. Empowering the ECI to impose proportional punishments on guilty parties, from fines to deregistration, would ensure accountability and deterrence against electoral violations.

Additionally, promoting inclusive participation by addressing voter suppression, and discrimination, and ensuring accessibility for all voters, including those with disabilities, is essential. Finally, fostering international collaboration with electoral management bodies can facilitate knowledge exchange and adoption of best practices, enhancing the ECI’s credibility and effectiveness globally.

  

Conclusion:

India’s electoral system is globally acclaimed, with independent-minded election commissioners. However, establishing robust institutional mechanisms is crucial for credibility. Democracy hinges on strong institutions, necessitating efforts to enhance independence, autonomy, and transparency.

  

Insta Links:

 

Prelims Links:

Q.1 Consider the following statements: ( UPSC 2017)

 

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only

 

Ans: D

 

Mains Links:

Q.1 In light of the recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines(EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (UPSC 2018)

Q.2 To enhance the quality of democracy in India the Election Commission of India has proposed electoral reforms in 2016. What are the suggested reforms and how far are they significant to make democracy successful? (UPSC 2017)

Archaeological Survey of India

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to delist 18 centrally protected monuments due to their assessed lack of national importance.

  • This is the first large-scale delisting exercise in decades, reducing ASI’s purview from 3,693 to 3,675 monuments.
  • These monuments, including landmarks like the medieval highway milestone Kos Minar No.13 in Haryana, Barakhamba Cemetery in Delhi, and Telia Nala Buddhist ruins in Varanasi, are considered ‘untraceable’ as their precise locations or current conditions are unknown.
  • The decision follows the criteria outlined in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958

Delisting means these monuments will no longer receive conservation, protection, or maintenance from ASI, allowing construction and urbanization in the area.

Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Live Law

 Context: The Supreme Court, in a recent judgement, clarified that to constitute an offence under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, the essential requirement is to incite enmity and disharmony among different groups or communities.

 

What is Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code? 

Section 153A of the IPC penalizes actions that promote hostility between groups based on religion, caste, race, etc. Offenders spreading hate or disharmony through words, images, or actions face imprisonment for up to three years, fines, or both. If the offence occurs in a place of worship, the punishment can increase to five years in prison.

 

The application of the law:

  1. Hate speech laws have been invoked under different regimes to crack down on criticism of public functionaries and to arrest individuals.
    1. For example, a Marathi actor was arrested (booked under Section 153A of the IPC) last year, for a Facebook post allegedly defaming an NCP leader.
  2. According to the NCRB data, the rate of conviction for Section 153A is very low. In 2020, 1,804 cases were registered (six times higher than in 2014), however, the conviction rate was 2%.
  3. Also, the registration of multiple FIRs across different states drains the resources of the accused to secure legal representation.

 

Safeguards against misuse:

  1. Section 153A requires prior sanction(before the trial begins, not at the stage of preliminary investigation) from the government for initiating prosecution.
  2. In the Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar case (2014),the SC laid down a set of guidelines. For instance, the police cannot automatically arrest a suspect before investigation for crimes that carry a punishment of less than seven years.
  3. In 2021, the SC ruled that the state will have to prove intent(to cause disorder or incite people to violence) to secure a conviction under Section 153A.

COP Presidentcies’ Troika

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Hindustan Times

 Context: The hosts of upcoming United Nations climate conferences, including the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, and Brazil also known as COP Presidentcies’ Troika, have called for nations to align their nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

 

  • They aim for these aligned NDCs to be submitted by early 2025.
  • The plan advocates for comprehensive NDCs covering all greenhouse gases, with emission reduction targets of 60% compared to 2019 levels by 2035.

 

The “COP Presidentcies’ Troika” refers to a collaborative effort among three countries that have hosted, or will host, consecutive sessions of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Troika system is designed to ensure continuity and cooperation in the leadership of these international climate conferences.

Typically, the Troika consists of the current COP host country, the country that hosted the previous COP, and the country scheduled to host the subsequent COP session.

Application Programming Interface (API)

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: HT

 Context: CERT-In and CSIRT-Fin’s whitepaper on API security is a step in the right direction.

 

What is API?

Aspect Description
Definition APIs facilitate communication between software components by providing a set of definitions and protocols. For instance, a weather app on your phone communicates with the weather bureau’s software system through APIs to display daily weather updates.
Importance Integral for innovation in the digital sphere, empowering seamless integration and interoperability.
Usage Widely used in various industries, including finance, healthcare, e-commerce, social media, and more.
Functionality Allows applications to access and interact with the features or data of other applications or platforms.
Types Includes Web APIs, RESTful APIs, SOAP APIs, GraphQL APIs, and more, catering to different use cases.
Benefits Enhances efficiency, accelerates development, fosters collaboration, and enables cross-platform integration.
Security Challenges Vulnerabilities include data breaches, unauthorized access, injection attacks, and denial-of-service attacks.
Security Measures Implementing strong authentication, encryption, rate-limiting, input validation, and regular cyber security audits.
Emerging Technologies Integration with artificial intelligence (AI) for anomaly detection, predictive analytics, and threat mitigation.
Future Trends Increasing adoption of APIs in the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, machine learning, and blockchain technologies for enhanced functionality.
Government initiatives Open Government Data platform (it has over 1 lakh APIs); API Setu
Policy on Open Application Programming (government’s approach to the use of Open APIs to promote software interoperability)
National Data Governance Policy (aims to standardize APIs for secure data management)
National Data and Analytics Platform (or NDAP) (NITI Aayog’s initiative that hosts datasets from across India)

AI Tool Predicts Neem Fruit Metabolite Content

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

  

Context: Researchers at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Biotechnology have developed an Artificial Intelligence-based tool to predict the metabolite content in neem fruits, specifically azadirachtin, which is used as a biopesticide.

  • The AI model analyses images of neem leaves and fruits to classify them as having either low or high azadirachtin content, eliminating the need for expensive and cumbersome analytical equipment like high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
  • The model, trained using deep learning frameworks and synthetic image augmentation, achieved high accuracy in classifying fruit metabolite content.

 

An Android app called Fruit-in-Sight has been developed based on the best predictive model, enabling fruit pickers to quickly assess azadirachtin content in neem fruits in the field, empowering them to select fruits with high azadirachtin content efficiently.

This innovation is expected to streamline the neem industry without additional cost, time, or effort.

 

Statio Shiv Shakti

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

  

Context: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved the name ‘Statio Shiv Shakti’ for the landing site of Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander.

  • The name ‘Statio Shiv Shakti’ reflects the duality of nature in Indian mythology, representing both masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) aspects.
  • This name aligns with IAU’s guidelines, which prohibit names with political, military, or religious significance.

The IAU, responsible for assigning names to planetary surface features, follows specific rules and conventions for naming.

 

Supreme Court Eases Ban on Power Lines in Great Indian Bustard Habitat

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Hindustan Times

 

Context: The Supreme Court has eased the ban on high-power transmission lines within the habitat of the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

  • This decision comes after the formation of an expert committee tasked with balancing conservation efforts and development goals.
  • The GIB, listed as Critically Endangered, faces threats including collision with overhead transmission lines, prompting conservation efforts amid a dwindling population.

Kerala: Man-animal conflict declared as a state-specific disaster

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

  

Context: Recently, Kerala has declared the man-animal conflict a state-specific disaster, shifting responsibility from the forest department to the state disaster management authority.

  • Previously, Uttar Pradesh became the first state in India to declare death through a man-animal conflict a state disaster and the deceased’s family were mandated to give a compensation of Rs 5 lakh by state disaster management authority.

 

Current management vs. proposed change:

Aspect Current Management Proposed Change
Responsibility Forest Department under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 State disaster management authority under the Disaster Management Act
Decision Making Authority Chief Wildlife Warden State Disaster Management Authority (Chief Minister at State Level)
District Level Authority District Collector as the executive magistrate District Collector as a Chairperson of District Disaster Management Authority
Intervention Capability Limited by the Wildlife Protection Act Enhanced powers to take decisive actions under Disaster Management Act 2005
Judicial Oversight Decisions may be questioned in court under wildlife laws Limited judicial interference due to provisions of the Disaster Management Act
Jurisdiction of Courts Courts can entertain suits under relevant wildlife laws Only the Supreme Court or High Court can entertain suits related to actions under Disaster Management Act, 2025 (Section 71)

Other State-Specific Disasters:

  • Odisha and Kerala declared snakebite a state-specific disaster in 2015.
  • Kerala declared COVID-19 as a state-specific disaster in 2020.
  • Heat waves, sunburn, Sunstroke, Soil piping, Lightning and coastal erosion were declared in state disasters

Khorasan

Mapping

 

Source: IE

 Context: The gunmen, associated with ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan), carried out a shooting spree at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, resulting in the deaths of at least 143 people and injuries to hundreds more.

ISIS-K, or Islamic State Khorasan, is a terrorist organization that emerged in eastern Afghanistan in late 2014. It is one of the most active ISIS affiliates, known for its extreme brutality.

The group’s name “Khorasan” refers to the historical region that includes parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and other Central Asian countries. The name comes from Persian and means “where the sun arrives from“.

 

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