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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today
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List of 9 PM Articles
- Mandatory Minimum Sentencing under POCSO Act
- Feasibility of Remote Voting Project
- Establishing thought partnerships between the government and private entities
- Way forward for Taxing older vehicles
Source: Click here
Syllabus: GS 2- Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure.
Synopsis: Recently Bombay High Court has acquitted a man of sexual charges under POCSO act. The existence of Mandatory Minimum Sentence in the POCSO act is leading to these decisions.
A petition was filed in the Bombay High Court against the decision of the sessions court. The Session Court had convicted a person for the offense of sexual assault under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. The court sentenced him to imprisonment for three years. The person was accused of groping and trying to remove the clothes of a 12-year-old girl.
Bombay High Court in its decision acquitted the person of sexual charges under POCSO act and convicted him for a lesser offense under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). For its decision, High Court provided the following justifications:
- Firstly, the groping by the convict was not a direct contact i.e. skin to skin.
- Second, there are no specific details regarding the removal of clothes of the victim.
- Third, the offences under POCSO Act provide for stricter punishment. Thus, punishment requires allegations of a more serious nature and a higher standard of proof.
Before that in a similar case, State v Bijender (2014), Delhi Court acquitted the accused under section 7 of POCSO Act. Instead, it convicted the accused of an offense under the IPC act.
These judgments have a commong reason behind them i.e. the existence of mandatory minimum sentence in POCSO act.
What is the mandatory minimum sentence?
Section 8 prescribes the punishment for the offense of sexual assault defined in Section 7 of the Act. It provides for the mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years.
Where a law provides for mandatory minimum punishment, Courts cannot prescribe the punishment lower than that. It does not give any discretion to the court to pass any lighter sentence. Only the statute will determine the sentence.
The sentence is prescribed to act as a deterrent to crime. There are many other laws such as IPC Section 124A, where mandatory minimum punishments have been prescribed.
Case law: J&K v/s Vinay Nanda
It was held that if a person is found to be guilty under the POCSO Act, the court has to pass only such a sentence which is reasonable, but it cannot be less than the minimum prescribed by the law.
What are the criticisms of mandatory sentencing?
- Firstly, It results in more acquittals, as when judges think that punishment for the offence is high, they prefer to acquit the accused. It has been reported by the Centre for Child Law at the NLSIU, Bengaluru.
- Secondly, the discretion of punishment is not removed but shifted from the judges to the police.
Legal experts are of the opinion that mandatory sentences are not very effective to give a deterrent effect or reducing crime in society. Therefore, judicial reforms such as making the sentencing process more accountable, transparent and recording specific reasons would prove be a long lasting solution.
Source: The Hindu
Gs3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.
Synopsis: ECI is planning to implement a remote voting project. It must analyze the issues of the system before its implementation.
Remote Voting Project
- Recently, the Chief Election Commissioner (Sunil Arora) announced that it is starting trials of a “remote voting project”.
- IIT-Madras is developing the system for the “Remote Voting Project” by using Blockchain technology.
- The concept of remote voting became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic to address social distancing.
Read More – Remote Voting Project
How voting technology developed over time?
Since the beginning, EC has been facing challenges in ensuring a fair voting system for the country. Over the years, it has introduced many changes for that.
- In the initial phases, ECI used the “paper balloting” method to conduct elections in India.
- However, the “paper balloting” method was subjected to malpractices such as ballot stuffing and booth capturing.
- Due to these lacunae, ECI introduced Electronic Voting Machine in India (EVM). EVMs have passed intense scrutiny, because of their standalone single-chip device. This device is not connected to any network.
- Recently, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) have been added to the EVMs. It has enhanced the ability to verify the voting.
Now, ECI has started trials in the “Remote Voting Project” that uses blockchain technology. This system will definitely face the same level of scrutiny, that was faced by EVMs.
How blockchain-based voting system work?
- This technology has been already in use for cryptocurrencies. It is used to record a list of transactions that can be used to find out who owns which bitcoins without any centralized authority.
- The blockchain method uses an online public bulletin board that is public and available for anyone to read and verify.
- The voting authority will have to authenticate this bulletin board.
- Further, The public bulletin board allows for a linear ordering of data that ensures only a user can add data.
- This allows the users to sign in to the bulletin board using cryptographic signatures to register their votes in a ledger.
- The blockchain-based voting system with its cryptographic features, promises data security and verifiability.
What are the issues in using a blockchain-based voting system?
- The use of blockchain-based voting systems will depend upon a network. It will also face all the online vulnerabilities that other devices are facing at present.
- Also, a recent draft paper by MIT and Harvard researchers pointed to serious vulnerabilities in the designs of a remote block-chain-based voting system.
- The research paper also claims that blockchains will introduce issues related to complexity and their management.
The ECI should be cautious before deploying this method in elections.
Source – The Hindu
Synopsis: Government should put more effort into establishing more “thought partnerships” with private entities. It aims to find appropriate solutions to the policy challenges faced by the country.
- Over the last few years, cooperation between the government and private partners on complex policy issues has increased. For example,
- Induction of private individuals into the civil services through lateral entry scheme.
- Recruitment of private individuals as consultants, officers on special duty by Central government ministries and institutions such as NITI Aayog.
- Such support is critical for tackling issues like; huge vacancies in the central government and over-burdened and under-resourced civil service.
- Moreover, lack of government capacity (knowledge) is evident in suboptimal policy decisions and poor implementation of those policies.
- Hence, there is a strong case for building a “thought partnership” with private entities.
What is a “thought partnership”?
- Thought partnership is different from the recruitment of private consultants.
- Recruitment of private consultants is usually done to support government officials with additional manpower to manage routine tasks.
- In “thought partnership“, private entities will engage with the government in collaborative thinking.
- Thought partnerships are a structured mechanism for private entities. They provide strategic expertise to the government on policy design, evaluation, and implementation.
What are the advantages of building a “thought partnership”?
- First, it will help us to utilize the domain knowledge and resources of private individuals. It will ensure the government delivers on its mandate across sectors in the most effective manner.
- For example, take the case of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) 3.0.
- Through PMKVY 3.0 the government wants to focus on matching local skilling requirements with local job opportunities.
- However, any plan of this large scale cannot be successful only with the work of a few individuals, a department, or even a ministry.
- It requires co-working with different entities, including collaboration between the government and external partners.
- This is where “thought partnership” with private entities becomes helpful.
- Second, the private entities can be used to fund the thought partnership expeditiously without any conditions. For example, Already several domestic and international philanthropies are investing billions of dollars into critical sectors in developing countries including India.
Has India attempted “systemic thought partnerships” in the past?
Yes, several ministries have attempted systemic thought partnerships occasionally. However, it has not yielded the definitive way forward on government-private collaboration. Some of them are,
- One, the establishment of The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Department of Economic Affairs Research Programme.
- It was established after the 2005 Ashok Lahiri Committee report. The report stated that there was not enough knowledge about external capital flows and controls in India.
- The Programme led to the creation of world-class research on capital controls and flows in India, developed by Indian researchers.
- Two, In 2015, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs constituted a research secretariat headed by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
- It was tasked to support the Companies Law Committee to make informed decisions on the principles involved and international practices in the areas of insolvency, raising of capital, etc.
- Three, Currently the National Institute of Financial Management is working with the Department of Economic Affairs to provide legal research and technical assistance on Indian and foreign financial markets.
- Four, In 2018,the Ministry of Skill Development started engaging with multiple private firms such as Dalberg Global Development Advisors and Samagra-Transforming Governance to conceptualise and design its vision for 2025.
Policy choices made in isolation without proper debate, research, and questioning will produce suboptimal results. It is therefore in the public interest that government should build more “thought Partnership” with private entities to find optimal solutions to the pressing policy challenges faced by the country.
Source: click here
Syllabus: GS 3
Synopsis: Raising the tax on older vehicles will help in reducing pollution.
The Centre has planned a policy to raise road tax on vehicles of a certain age from April 1 next year. This has the potential to renew a big part of India’s vehicles on the road, raising fuel efficiency, and improving safety standards. The proposal is
- Commercial transport vehicles will have to pay 10%-25% extra on road tax after 8 years while renewing the fitness certificate. While for personal vehicles it will be implemented after 15 years.
- Public transports are given concessions. While hybrids, electrics, and farm vehicles have been exempted.
- Higher tax on diesel engines and in most polluted cities is also proposed.
What will be India’s approach to make this initiative a success?
India’s scheme depends on penal taxation to motivate owners to scrap their old vehicles. However, there are some prerequisites for its success;
- Firstly, the additional tax suggested should be bigger than the resale value of the polluting vehicle. It would make its disposal a more viable option, this would make the approach work.
- Disposal should be done with enough safeguards to ensure that it is really scrapped and recycled under a monitored system.
- Secondly, equity features can be built into the scheme. It can be done by offering a discount to marginal operators such as auto-rickshaw drivers. It would be similar to the 2009 incentive given under the JNNURM scheme for buses.
- Thirdly, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari planned a reduction in automobile prices of 20% to 30%. It would be done by the recovery of scrap steel, Aluminium, and plastic; and recycling it further.
- Now, capacity building in the organized sector can be improved for scrap collection and processing. It will manage the task of materials recovery, efficiently.
- Fourthly, the vehicle registration database for all States should be updated. It will show the actual numbers of old vehicles on the road. Such data will help target scrappage policy benefits better.
The way forward
- India’s policy to eliminate polluting fuel consumers took a lot of time, and States should see the value of operationalizing it as planned. New vehicles and cleaner fuels should help clear the toxic air in cities and towns and make roads safer.