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Fault lines in a ‘landmark’ judgment


  1. Shyam Babu, senior fellow, centre for policy research, highlighted the critical aspect of the recently delivered verdict on the SC/STs Atrocities Act by the Supreme Court Justice.

Important facts:

  1. The SC Justice A.K. Goel defended his judgment on SCs/STs Atrocities Act delivered by him on March 20, 2018.
  2. Justice Goel gave the verdict on framing guidelines on how to deal with a person accused under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  3. Justice verdict symbolizes the collapse of the constitutional scheme to protect the weaker sections of the society.
  4. The judgment is concerned with a limited aspect of the Act- protecting innocent officers and employees in government and private sectors from misuse of the Act.
  5. The Judgment has ended up conveying a message that the Atrocities Act is “a charter for exploitation or oppression, “and “an instrument of blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance”.
  6. The court has mistaken a large number of acquittals in atrocities cases to be false cases. At the same time there is no data on the scale and extent to which the Act has been misused by the SC/ST employees.
  7. The demand for an “inbuilt provisions” to protect those falsely accused under the act was first raised by a parliamentary committee in Dec 2014.
  8. The court’s single-minded mission to end “terror in society” rendered it oblivious to the constitutional procedure to be followed in making policies that affect the SC/STs.
  9. Article 338 stipulates: The Union and every State government shall consult the Commission (National Commission for Scheduled Castes) on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Castes.
  10. Article 338A, which created the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, provides the same procedure in case of STs.
  11. Two grounds can be advance for not following Article 338:
  12. The court did was tweaking to issue guidelines and is not “major” policy matter.
  13. More substantive justification could be that since no government has cared to follow his procedure since 1950’s.
  14. The 123rd Amendment seeks to create the new National Commission for Backward Classes under a new Article 338B.
  15. The Author gave the following suggestions:
  16. Balancing the rights of innocent persons facing false accusations and the need to accord legitimacy to the Atrocities Act requires compassion, equanimity, and reverence for the Constitution.


Cryptocurrencies will boost illegal transactions: RBI to SC


  1. The RBI recently said dealing in cryptocurrency will encourage illegal transactions.

Important facts:

  1. Earlier also, the RBI has issued a circular prohibiting use of these virtual currencies.
  2. Cryptocurrencies:
  • Cryptocurrencies are “a stateless digital currency” in which encryption techniques are used for trading.
  • These currencies operate independently of a central bank like the RBI, “rendering it immune from government interference”.
  1. A committee has been set up by the Centre to deal with issues relating to cryptocurrencies.
  2. The apex court had also sought the assistance of Attorney General K.K Venugopal in the matter.
  3. The RBI, through its circular, had directed banks and financial institutions to freeze the bank accounts of those individuals and companies dealing in the illegal trade of virtual currencies.
  4. One of the Petitioners gave directions to the Centre to take steps to restrain sale and purchase of illegal cryptocurrencies like Bitcoins. These currencies were being traded openly for “illegal activities” like funding terrorism and insurgency.


‘Increased cancer risk for diabetics’


  1. The recent study by the George Institute for Global health says diabetes conferred an additional risk for women, compared to men.

Important facts:

  1. For the study the group analyzed the data from 47 studies around the world
  2. Following are the findings of the research:
  • People with diabetes are at significantly increased risk of developing cancer, and for women the risk is even higher.
  • Diabetes conferred an additional risk for women, for luckaemia and cancers of the stomach, mouth and kidney, but less risk to liver cancer.
  • The findings highlight the need for more research into the role diabetes plays in developing cancer.
  • Researchers also demonstrate the increasing of sex specific research.
  • The report said that the number of people with diabetes has doubled globally in the last three decades.
  • Reasons why women were subject to an excess risk of cancer:-

a.) Women are in a state of impaired glucose tolerance (called prediabetes) on average for two years longer compared to men.

b.) Historically, women are often undertreated when they first present with symptoms of diabetes, are less likely to receive intensive care and not taking the same levels of medications as men.


WhatsApp to cap number of forwards to five chats per user


  1. WhatsApp has put a limit on message forwarding in a bid to reduce the spread of misinformation.

Important facts:

  1. In India, WhatsApp is trying a limit of five chats, as against 20 for the rest of the world.
  2. The current limit is 250 chats.
  3. The step was taken to curb the menace of fake news and rumours being spread using its chatting platform.
  4. The issue gains prominence in the light of the string of lynchings taking place in India sparked off by fake news items regarding child kidnappings being spread on WhatsApp.
  5. The company will also experiment with removing the quick forward button next to media messages in India.
  6. The company will soon remove the quick forward button next to media messages.
  7. In India, people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world.
  8. Recently, the company also launched a test of a feature that would label forwarded messages such, thereby distinguishing them from private messages.


Counting the tiger


  1. India’ fourth national tiger census undertaken to ascertain India’s current tiger population.

Important facts:

2. The forest officials involved in the census in Dornala, Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, in March, this year.

a. Designed by scientists, at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) it involves four phases:

b. Using Global positioning systems (GPS), forest watchers, installed 170 pairs of camera trap.

3. Phase-II, involves WII’s scientists accessing remotely sensed landscape and habitat information for later use in the analysis.

4. The tiger census exercise used camera traps in huge numbers, which has turned the entire exercise into a complex process.

5. This year, around 15,000 pairs of camera traps are being placed across protected areas and reserve forests in 18 States.

6. This method, which also factors in the locations of the camera traps to estimate the population size, is known as ‘spatially explicit capture recapture’ (SECR).

7. In the early 1990s, in Karnataka’s Nagarhole National Park, tiger biologist Ullas Karanth used automated camera traps for the first time to individually identify tigers and estimate their numbers.

8. Scientists began using this method to estimate the numbers of tigers in Sumatra, jaguars in Bolivia, and leopards in Africa.

9. The first camera traps found their way into India’s tiger estimation exercise in 2006.

10. Index calibration:

  • Once camera-trapping wraps up across the country, all the terms will compile their data and send it to the WII and the NTCA for scientific data analysis.
  • Then in a process known as index calibration, the tiger numbers obtained from the more accurate camera-trapping exercises in different reserve forests will be integrated with coarser information from sign surveys.
  • This will provide an estimate for the entire country.

11. There are slight changes in survey as compared to last time in the following manner:

  • A majority of the States and reserves will use M-STrIPES, a mobile-based application, to collect data on the field. (The ATR, however, is not using it this time).
  • To obtain more precise estimates of the tiger numbers, the area in which a single pair of camera traps is deployed (called a ‘grid’, usually measuring four sq km) has been decreased to two sq km.
  • More cameras are being used this time, making the current survey more intensive.
  • With using more cameras, it would possible to obtain information about smaller fauna through the same camera traps.
  • For first time ever, India will be conducting the census along with the three other tiger-range countries — Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Representatives from these countries have completed their training in India.

12. The pugmark census

  • The first method used to count India’s tigers, the pugmark census, was already in use during the launch of Project Tiger in 1974.
  • Once every four years, forest guards and watchers would walk across tiger habitats over two weeks, identify tiger pugmarks, and take their plaster casts.
  • Based on the shape and other measurements, these pugmarks would be assigned to individual tigers to arrive at an absolute count.

13. Critical aspect:

  • The present method of analysis does not address the inherently huge variations in the relationship between the chances of capturing tigers on camera and seeing its signs on the field.

14. Tiger population:

  • According to the WII and NTCA, India’s tiger population has been observed to increase at a rate of around 5.8% per year since 2006.
  • The estimation in 2014 pegged tiger numbers at 2,226.
  • The same year, the news that global tiger numbers grew from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,890 in 2014 caused much cheer.

15. Suggestions:

  • Just as the pugmark census was replaced with a more robust camera trap system, there is an urgent need to update existing data analysis methods with new techniques to make the exercise more precise and reliable.
  • Another study published last year at the ISI developed a new model using a refined statistical technique that helps to better integrate the data obtained from the two different methods — camera-trapping and sign surveys — to count tigers on a large scale. If implemented, this could reduce the inaccuracies in India’s tiger estimates.
  • Other countries are already adopting some of these new approaches and moving away from index-based approaches.
  • For instance, the central African nation of Gabon is adopting some of the new capture-recapture methods to count its forest elephant.
  • Uganda is also encouraging new approaches for its lion census.
  • Existing methods would also need to be implemented more strictly, feel others.
  • The methods described in detail in the tiger estimation’s Phase IV protocol (which entails annual camera-trapping to ensure that important tiger populations, such as those in tiger reserves, are monitored continuously) are crucial to capture the huge natural variations in tiger population densities.
  • If implemented properly, the intensive Phase IV surveys can give a lot more information.
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