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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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Table of List 9 PM Current Affairs Articles
- The need of explicit details of the offences against the children in POCSO Act
- Issues of restricting free speech in name of fake news
- FSSAI caps Trans Fat in Food
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Synopsis: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was enacted specially to protect children from sexual assault.
- In the case of Satish Ragde v. State of Maharashtra, Bombay High Court acquitted the accused under the POCSO Act.
- The Court held that the accused groped the victim over her clothes and there was no skin to skin contact i.e. physical contact with the victim.
- The Supreme Court ordered a stay on the acquittal of the accused.
Why the legislature enacted the POCSO Act?
- First, to protect children below 18 years of age from any kind of sexual abuses.
- Second, before the enactment of this Act, there was no other Act which protect children specifically from any kind of sexual offences.
- Third, India has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. The Convention requires sexual exploitation and sexual abuse to be addressed as heinous crimes.
- Fourth, to provide for strict punishments to create a deterrence effect against the sexual offences against the children.
Thus, the need for an explicit Act was felt for the offences against children.
Why the POCSO act is more comprehensive than the IPC?
- First, in IPC the definition of assault is generic i.e. ‘assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty’. However, in POCSO the acts of sexual assault are explicitly mentioned.
- Second, IPC provides punishment for the offence against a victim, irrespective of age. However, POCSO is specifically for the protection of the children.
- Third, POCSO provides for higher punishment as compare to IPC as the victims are children.
The findings of the Courts in the cases of sexual assault-
- The Supreme Court held in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) that the offences relating to the modesty of woman cannot be treated as trivial.
- The High Court of Chhattisgarh in Pappu v. State of Chhattisgarh (2015) held the conviction of accused of sexual harassment under Section 354A which requires ‘physical contact’ and advances as a necessary element. It didn’t go into the debate of skin-to-skin contact.
- The U.K. Sexual Offences Act 2003 mentions clearly that touching with sexual intent includes touching any part of the body, with anything else or through anything.
- POCSO act must also be modified to remove such ambiguities.
- However, for the time being, any interpretation which weakens the protection of the children need to be declared ultra vires. As it can set a dangerous precedent in society.
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 3- Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges
Synopsis: MHA has recommended criminalizing the spread of misleading news about vaccines. This step would have many repercussions.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a recommendation letter to all state governments. In that, the MHA mentioned that state governments can pursue criminal action against individuals and organisations for spreading misleading rumours about the vaccine’s efficacy.
This recommendation has been issued as per the provision of the Disaster Management Act (DMA), 2005 and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
It has again raised the issue of curtailing free speech under the cover of fake news.
Restrictions on Free Speech in India
- According to the constitution, the right to free speech can only be restricted on the basis of valid grounds listed under Article 19(2). Grounds are- interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality.
- The SC has also stated that the grounds of restrictions on free speech must be inspected thoroughly. Vague and overbroad grounds are unconstitutional.
What can be the potential outcomes of the suggestion given by MHA?
The orders by MHA will give the police unrestricted freedom to detain and prosecute individuals for raising questions about government actions. For instance, some state governments used state regulations under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and DMA to criminalise fake news and unnecessary information during the lockdown.
There were many examples in the past about its potential outcomes. They are
- First, the CPA (Criminal Justice and Police Accountability) Project’s study found that many FIRs had been registered across Madhya Pradesh for spreading rumours about COVID-19. In one instance, FIR registered against an individual who declared support for Tablighi Jamaat on WhatsApp.
- Second, Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) report has documented 55 cases of targeting the journalists during the lockdown. State governments have prosecuted people for reporting on the mishandling of the pandemic, corruption, and the lack of state support for migrant workers.
What should the government have done instead?
Public trust in the government during a crisis depends upon transparency and not on criminal prosecution. So the government should avoid use of laws to suppress the critics.
- The democratic government needs to be effectively transparent and accountable.
- The government can involve in scientific responses to valid criticism and unscientific misconceptions. This will build strong public opinion and support for the government.
The government violates the principle of informed consent. There is also a failure to communicate necessary information to the public which is important for healthcare. The government needs to work on it.
Source: Click here
Syllabus: GS -3
Synopsis: FSSAI has released new directions for Trans fat elimination. What would be its possible benefits?
India is going to join a select group of countries by limiting industrial trans fat to 2% by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product in 2022. India would be achieving the WHO target a year in advance.
- The trans fat content limit was reduced to 5% from 10% in 2016. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) limited it to 3% by 2021.
- 32 countries already have some form of mandatory limits on trans fat according to a 2020 report of WHO.
- The main aim is to restrict the use of industrially produced trans-fat for increasing the shelf life of products at less cost. However, trans-fats are also present naturally in red meat and dairy products.
What is the reason behind reducing trans fat content in oils?
The government’s notification applies to edible oils and fats, that are used as ingredients. It also applies to emulsions such as margarine.
- First, Targetting these specific ingredients only will reduce the trans fat content to 2% in all food items. These are major sources of industrial trans fat.
- Second, edible oils and fats are the major sources of industrial trans fat. Repeated heating at a high temperature can increase the trans fat content even when the oil contains less than 2% trans fat.
- Third, the trans fat content in food can negatively change the lipoprotein cholesterol profile. It increases the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreases the level of HDL or good cholesterol. It results in an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The way forward
- The benefits of reducing trans fat can be seen in Denmark. It saw a reduction of about 14 deaths related to cardiovascular diseases per 1,00,000 population three years after the Trans-Fat cap.
- Large food companies are already committed to eliminate industrially-produced trans fat from all their products by 2023. For them, matching the FSSAI standard is a matter of concern. Large companies should aim to achieve this.