Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- UNSC Designated Terrorist
- Joint Sitting of Parliament
- Passive Euthanasia and Living Will
- Remote Electronic Voting Machine
- Facts for Prelims
1 . UNSC Designated Terrorist
Context: The ISIL and Al Qaida Sanctions Committee of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) has placed Abdul Rehman Makki, a fundraiser and key planner of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), on its sanctions list.
About the News
- The deputy head of terror organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, Abdul Rehman Makki, was blacklisted as a global terrorist by the United Nations after China withdrew its hold on a joint bid by India and the U.S. for the listing of Pakistan-based terrorists.
- The 68-year-old, who is the brother-in-law of LeT chief and Mumbai 26/11 attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, was added to the sanctions list of the UN Security Council’s ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee — more commonly known as the UNSC 1267 Committee — for his involvement in “raising funds, recruiting and radicalizing youth to violence and planning attacks in India”.
- As a result of this designation, Abdul Rehman Makki will be subjected to a travel ban, assets freeze, and an arms embargo.
Who is Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki?
- Makki served as the head of the political affairs wing and played an instrumental role in raising funds for LeT’s operations. He was a member of the Shura, or governing body of the LeT, and the head of the outfit’s foreign relations department.
- He was designated as a wanted terrorist due to his “leadership positions” when the LeT carried out the Red Fort attack in 2000 and the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
- In 2010, the US Department of the Treasury designated Makki as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”, or SDGT, a sanction limiting Makki’s ability to access American resources.
1267 Sanctions regime
- Counter-terrorism is an important objective of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.1
- The two main UNSC regimes establishing sanctions against individuals and entities suspected of terrorism are known as the 1267 regime and the 1373 regime. They impose mandatory obligations on all UN members concerning their implementation.
- The 1267 sanctions regime was initially based on three UNSC resolutions.
- First, UNSCR 1267 (1999), adopted following the Al-Qaeda attacks on United States (US) embassies in East Africa, imposed a limited air embargo and assets freeze on individuals and entities connected with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Second, UNSCR 1333 (2000), extended those sanctions to individuals and entities associated with Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. This regime evolved to include asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes against individuals and entities named on the 1267 Sanctions List, without the requirement of any territorial connection and for a potentially unlimited period of time (UNSCR 1390 (2002)). A Sanctions Committee was established to oversee the regime. In 2011, UNSCR 1988 split the regime in two: a new Taliban sanctions regime was established alongside the Al-Qaida sanctions regime.
- Finally, UNSCR 2253 (2015) extended the Al-Qaida Sanctions List to individuals and entities connected with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), changing the title of the Sanctions Committee and of the Sanctions List, now the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.
- The 1267 Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee comprises 15 members of the Security Council.
Listing Procedure & Sanctions
- Under the listing procedure, any UN member state may submit names to the Sanctions Committee to request their inclusion on the Sanctions List.
- The committee approves or rejects the listing requests, unless a UNSC member objects within a certain period. All decisions of the Committee are taken through consensus.
- Once an individual or entity is placed on the Sanctions List, all UN member states are obliged to implement the asset freeze, arms embargo and travel ban against them
Acts or activities indicating that an individual, group, undertaking or entity is associated with ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida include:
- Participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of;
- Supplying, selling or transferring arms and related materiel to;
- Recruiting for; or otherwise supporting acts or activities of, ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida or any cell, affiliate, splinter group or derivative thereof.
- The other main counter-terrorist sanctions regime was set up by the UNSC by means of Resolution 1373 (2001) in the aftermath of the attacks on 11 September, 2001.
- The resolution requires states to criminalise the support of terrorism, by freezing the funds of those suspected of making financial resources available to terrorists and by introducing domestic legislation making support for terrorist acts a serious criminal offence, sanctioned accordingly. UNSCR 1373(2001) therefore establishes a ‘parallel’ or ‘decentralised’ listing system, whereby UN member states are given discretion over decisions on whom to list.
- Under this regime, suspects or groups need not therefore necessarily be associated with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, as UNSCR 1373 allows for the listing of individuals or groups as considered necessary ‘to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts’.
- As these designations are made at national or regional level, however, individuals or groups have greater means to challenge their listing, including through judicial review. The 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) was established as a subsidiary body of the UNSC to monitor the implementation of the 1373 regime.
2 . Joint Sitting
Context: The President’s Address to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha is likely to be held in the new Parliament, while the rest of the first part of the Budget Session may continue at the old Parliament, according to sources. The Budget Session of the Parliament commences on January 31 and the first part will go on till February 10. The Parliament will reconvene on March 12 and go on till April 6.
Presidents Address – Article 86 (1) and Article 87
- Article 86(1) of the Constitution provides that the President may address either House of Parliament or both Houses assembled together, and for that purpose require the attendance of members. However, since the commencement of the Constitution, there has not been any occasion when the President has addressed either House or both Houses assembled together, under the provision of this article.
- Article 87 provides for the special address by the President.
- Clause (1) of that article provides that at the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.
- Such an Address is called ‘special address‘; and it is also an annual feature. No other business is transacted till the President has addressed both Houses of Parliament assembled together.
- This Address has to be to both Houses of Parliament assembled together. If at the time of commencement of the first session of the year, Lok Sabha is not in existence and has been dissolved, and Rajya Sabha has to meet, Rajya Sabha can have its session without the President’s Address.
- In the case of the first session after each general election to Lok Sabha, the President addresses both Houses of Parliament assembled together after the members have made and subscribed the oath or affirmation and the Speaker has been elected.
Motion of Thanks
- The address is followed by a motion of thanks moved in each House by ruling party MPs, followed by discussions that last up to three or four days and conclude with the Prime Minister replying to the points raised during the discussion.
- After the PM’s reply, MPs vote on the motion of thanks and some may move amendments to the address.
- The amendments may emphasise or add issues addressed by the President or highlight those that did not find mention.
- Changes proposed by MPs are not passed in Parliament. Since 1952, only amendments proposed by Rajya sabha MPs have been passed during the vote on the address,
What is Joint Sitting of the Parliament for passage of Bills
- A joint sitting of both Houses may be called if a Bill has been passed by one House and rejected by the other or if the two Houses have disagreed on the amendments to be made in the Bill.
- In a joint sitting, the Bill needs to be passed by a simple majority of the members of both Houses present and voting.
- However, there is no provision of joint sittings on a Money Bill or a Constitution Amendment Bill.
- Over the last 60 years, only three such joint sittings have been held. These were on the
- Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1959,
- The Banking Service Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1977, and
- The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002.
- As per Article 108 of Constitution, a Joint session of Parliament can be summoned in the following situations.
- If after a Bill has been passed by one House and submitted to the other House—
- (a) the Bill is rejected by the other House; or
- (b) the Houses have finally disagreed as to the amendments to be made in the Bill; or
- (c) more than six months elapse from the date of the reception of the Bill by the other House without the Bill being passed by it, the President may, unless the Bill has elapsed by reason of a dissolution of the House of the People, notify to the Houses by message if they are sitting or by public notification if they are not sitting, their intention to summon them to meet in a joint sitting for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the Bill.
- However, in the calculating period of six months, those days are not considered when the house is prorogued or adjourned for more than 4 consecutive days.
- If the above conditions are satisfied, the President of India may summon the joint sitting of both the houses of parliament.
About the News
- This Joint sitting will be President Droupadi Murmu’s first address to the Parliament and the very first sitting in the under-construction Parliament building.
- The Session, according to sources, will be held in the Lok Sabha chamber, where last-minute finishing touches are being given.
- The new building does not have a Central Hall, where all joint sittings are held. The Lok Sabha chamber is capacious enough to accommodate members of both Houses.
- The Lok Sabha Secretariat has started preparing new “smart identity cards” for MPs for the new Parliament.
- “The Smart Card shall be highly secure with several safety features embedded in the system,” as per the Lok Sabha bulletin issued on January 11.
- The new building will also have smart cameras with face recognition features, to allow easy access for the members.
3 . Passive Euthanasia and Additional Medical Directive
Context: More than four years after its landmark order on passive euthanasia, the Supreme Court said it is for the legislature to enact a law for terminally ill patients choosing to stop treatment but agreed to modify its 2018 guidelines on “Living Will”, an advance medical directive on end-of-life treatment.
What is Passive euthanasia?
Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don’t do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.
- switch off life-support machines
- disconnect a feeding tube
- don’t carry out a life-extending operation
- don’t give life-extending drugs
What is Active euthanasia
- Active euthanasia occurs when the medical professionals, or another person, deliberately do something that causes the patient to die.
What is Living will?
- A living will—also known as an advance directive—is a legal document that specifies the type of medical care that an individual does or does not want in the event they are unable to communicate their wishes.
- In the case of an unconscious person who suffers from a terminal illness, or a life-threatening injury, doctors, and hospitals consult the living will to determine whether or not the patient wants life-sustaining treatment, such as assisted breathing or tube feeding.
- In the absence of a living will, decisions about medical care become the responsibility of the spouse, family members, or other third parties.
- These individuals may be unaware of the patient’s desires, or they may not wish to follow the patient’s unwritten, verbal directives.
Passive Euthanasia in India
- The Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment in 2018 allowing “living will” where, an adult in his conscious mind, is permitted to refuse medical treatment or voluntarily decide not to take medical treatment to embrace death in a natural way.
- In the 538-page judgment, the court laid down a set of guidelines for “living will” and defined passive euthanasia and euthanasia as well.
- The court stated the rights of a patient would not fall out of the purview of Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Indian Constitution.
Key disputes in the controversy over euthanasia
- Killing vs. letting die: There is dispute over whether killing a patient is really any worse than letting the patient die if both result in the same outcome.
- The distinction between killing and letting die is controversial in healthcare because critics charge there is no proper moral basis for the distinction. They say that killing the above patient brings about the same end as letting the patient die. Others object to this and claim that the nature of the act of killing is different than letting die in ways that make it morally wrong.
- Ordinary vs. extraordinary treatment: Ordinary medical treatment includes stopping bleeding, administering pain killers and antibiotics, and setting fractures. But using a mechanical ventilator to keep a patient breathing is sometimes considered extraordinary treatment or care. Some ethicists believe letting a patient die by withholding or withdrawing artificial treatment or care is acceptable but withholding or withdrawing ordinary treatment or care is not. This view is controversial. Some claim the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary treatment is artificial, contrived, vague, or constantly changing as technology progresses
- Death intended vs. anticipated: Some ethicists believe that if a suffering, terminally ill patient dies because of intentionally receiving pain-relieving medications, it makes a difference whether the death itself was intended or merely anticipated. If the death was intended, it is wrong but if the death was anticipated it might be morally acceptable. This reasoning relies on the moral principle called the principle of double effect.
- The Constitution bench was considering a plea seeking modification of the guidelines for living will/advance medical directive issued by it in 2018.
- SC agreed to modify its 2018 guidelines on “living will”, an advance medical directive on end-of-life treatment.
- A five-judge Constitution bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and Justice CT Ravikumar observed that the legislature is much more endowed with “skills and sources of knowledge” to enact a relevant law for terminally ill patients choosing to stop treatment.
- The apex court was informed that the procedure under the Supreme Court guidelines had become unworkable due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the process.
4 . Remote Electronic Voting Machine
Context: The Election Commission of India (ECI) could not demonstrate a prototype of its new Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM), which would allow domestic migrants to vote in national and regional elections after the Opposition raised concerns about the logistical and administrative challenges to remote voting. The Congress had earlier urged the poll body to first “restore trust in the electoral system” and systematically address fears of the misuse of existing EVMs.
- As many as eight national and 40 regional political parties held a discussion with the Election Commission on Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM).
- Some parties wanted exact data of migrant labourers, while others feared technology would be misused; others demanded the demo be first held in states.
- Matters related to legal, administrative aspects and logistical challenges of remote voting were also discussed.
What Is Remote Electronic Voting Machine?
- The RVM is an idea that will bring approximately 30 crore electors, currently not exercising their franchise, into the election fold. The inability to vote due to internal migration is one of the prominent reasons to be addressed in order to improve voter turnout and ensure participative elections. Approximately 85 per cent of the internal migration is within the states.
- To address this problem, the commission has developed a prototype Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine which can handle multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth.
- RVM is a modified version of the time-tested model of M3 EVMs, to enable voting at remote polling stations.
- The commission has been working with the two Public Sector Units, that are manufacturing the existing EVMs – Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) to develop a robust, failproof and efficient stand-alone system for remote voting.
- The proposed RVM system would enable domestic migrants to cast votes in their home constituencies, from remote locations. These remote voting booths would also cater to voters from multiple constituencies of a state.
How To Use The RVM?
- The voter should pre-register for the remote voting facility by applying online/offline within a pre-notified time, before elections in his home constituency commence.
- Voter details will be verified at the home constituency and the voter’s request for remote voting will be approved after successful verification by marking him/her as a remote voter to participate in elections.
- Special multi-constituency remote voting polling stations will be set up in the places of the voter’s current residence.
Features Of RVM
- It is a standalone, non-networked system having the same security features as the existing Indian EVMs and provides the same voting experience to the voter as the EVM. The RVM system is essentially a modified version of the existing EVM system.
- RVM will be used in multi-constituency polling stations set up in remote locations.
- A single Ballot Unit (BU) can cater to multiple AC/ PCs at a single polling station by using a dynamic ballot display instead of the usually printed paper ballot sheet on BU.
RVM contains the following components
- RCU (Remote Control Unit, which has similar controls to the existing CU. The RCU can also store the result of the total number of votes as per candidate and the constituency).
- RBU (Remote Ballot Unit, which consists of the electronic dynamic display (BUOD) instead of a fixed ballot paper sheet in a BU, BUOD (Ballot unit overlay Display), which can dynamically display the list of candidates based on the constituency number read by the constituency card reader).
- RVVPAT (Remote Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail, which has similar functionality to existing M3 VVPAT. In addition, it can store symbols of different AC/PCs with candidate images).
- CCR (Constituency Card Reader, which is a barcode reader to read the constituency number of a particular voter. It is connected to the PDCU Unit).
- PDCU (Public Display Control Unit, which acts as an interface between CCR, Public display and RBU. It enables the list of candidates of the particular constituency to be displayed on public display and the RBU simultaneously).
- RSLU (Remote Symbol Loading unit, which is used to capture symbols of Remote AC/PCs candidates from laptops under the control of Home RO. The same symbols will then be loaded into RVVPAT under the control of Remote RO).
How do existing EVMs work?
The structure of the current electronic voting machine (EVM)
- EVMs started being used on a larger scale in 1992 and since 2000, have been used in all Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections.
- There have been three iterations of the machine with improved features, the latest one being the M3 model which was manufactured from 2013 onwards.
- Multiple political parties in 2010 approached the ECI to come up with a mechanism that could help verify that the EVM had recorded the vote correctly as intended by the voter.
- The ECI, thus, developed along with two Public Sector Undertakings (PSU), the Voter Verified Paper Trail Audit (VVPAT) machine to have a paper trail in the voting process.
- The use of VVPATs has become universal in elections since mid-2017.
- The current EVM setup has a Balloting Unit (BU) which is connected to the VVPAT printer, both of which are inside the voting compartment.
- The VVPAT is connected to the Control Unit (CU), which sits with the Presiding Officer (PO) and totals the number of votes cast, on its display board.
- The VVPAT, which is essentially a printing machine, prints a slip with the poll symbol and candidate name, once the voter presses the key on the BU.
- This slip is visible to the voter on the VVPAT’s glass screen for seven seconds after which it gets dropped off in a box inside the VVPAT.
- Once a vote is cast, the BU becomes inactive till the PO schedules the next vote by enabling it again from the CU.
What are the concerns about EVMs?
- Concerned civil society organisations, civil servants who have overseen elections, academicians, journalists, former judges, and political figures formed the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) in 2020, which conducted analysis, recorded depositions from national and international field experts and released a report in 2021 titled, ‘Is the Indian EVM and VVPAT System Fit for Democratic Elections?’.
- The report highlighted the widely recognised ‘democracy principles’ to be adhered to while conducting public elections. It stated that the election process should not only be free and fair but “also be seen to be free and fair”, meaning instead of being told to trust the process the general public should be provided with provable guarantees to facilitate this trust.
- The report points out that the details of the EVM design, prototype, software, and hardware verification are not publicly available for technical and independent review, rendering it available only for a black-box analysis, where information about its inner workings is not accessible
- However, the ECI says that unlike other countries, Indian EVMs are standalone, are not connected to the internet, and have a one-time programmable chip, making tampering through the hardware port or through a Wi-Fi connection impossible.
What are the problems with VVPAT?
- Dr. Subhashis Banerjee, the head of IIT-Delhi’s computer science department and a member of the CCE, told The Hindu that for the voting process to be verifiable and correct, it should be machine-independent, or software and hardware independent, meaning, the establishment of its veracity should not depend solely on the assumption that the EVM is correct.
- Dr. Banerjee contends that the current VVPAT system is not voter verified in its full sense, meaning, while the voter sees their vote slip behind the VVPAT’s glass for seven seconds, it does not mean they have verified it.
- Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, who has overseen both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, notes in his 2021 paper, that the “voter should have full agency to cancel a vote if not satisfied; and that the process to cancel must be simple and should not require the voter to interact with anybody”.
- Under the current system, if the voter disputes what they have seen behind the screen, they are allowed a test vote in the presence of an election officer, and if the outcome of the test vote is correct, the voter can be penalised or even prosecuted. Mr. Gopinathan and the CCE report argue that this penalisation is discouraging.
- Additionally, the assurance given by the ECI that the EVM-VVPAT system is not connected to any external device has been questioned by former civil servants and multiple studies.
- For the VVPAT to be able to generate voting slips, the symbols, names and the sequence of the candidates need to be uploaded on it which is done by connecting it to a laptop.
What are institutional safeguards?
- The ECI has said time and again that EVMs and their systems are “robust, secure, and tamper-proof”, owing to the technical and institutional safeguards in place.
- The ECI claims that the safeguards, such as the sealing of machines with signatures of polling agents, first-level checks, randomisation of machines, and a series of mock polls before the actual voting, cannot be circumvented.
- However, domain experts and former observers have shown that vulnerabilities can arise.
How will RVMs be different?
- The EC states in its concept note states that the Multi-Constituency RVM for migrant voting will have the same security system and voting experience as the EVM.
- This essentially means that the challenges mentioned above with regard to the current EVMs will persist when it comes to the RVMs.
- Besides, the Commission says the RVM can handle multiple constituencies (up to 72) from a single remote polling booth. For this, instead of a fixed ballot paper sheet, the machine has been modified to have an electronic dynamic ballot display which will present different candidate lists corresponding to the constituency number of the voter read by a constituency card reader.
- The ECI has added a digital public display unit or a monitor to act as an interface between the constituency card reader and the BU display.
- As for the commissioning process of the machine, the electronic ballot will be prepared by the Returning Officers (ROs) of home constituencies of voters and forwarded to the remote RO for uploading in the SLU.
5 . Facts for Prelims
Context: India sent financing assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday, becoming the first of Sri Lanka’s creditors to officially back the crisis-hit island nation’s debt restructuring programme.
China, Japan, and India are Sri Lanka’s three largest bilateral lenders.
With India getting on board, Sri Lanka’s chances of swiftly tapping IMF assistance now depend on similar assurances from Japan and China.
Sources familiar with Sri Lanka’s ongoing negotiations with creditors said that the Paris Club, of which Japan is a member, is likely to send its financing assurances “soon”.
What is Paris Club?
- This refers to an informal group of creditor nations focussed on dealing with borrower nations that face difficulty in paying back their loans.
- The origin of the club is traced to a meeting that happened in Paris between officials from Argentina, which had trouble paying back its debt, with a group of lenders in 1956.
- It is similar to the London club, which is a group of commercial bankers formed in 1976 to deal with the financial problems of Zaire and is focussed on providing various forms of debt relief to countries that face financial distress due to their heavy debt load.
- The Paris Club has 22 permanent members, including most of the western European and Scandinavian nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
- The Paris Club stresses the informal nature of its existence.
- As an informal group, it has no official statutes and no formal inception date, although its first meeting with a debtor nation was in 1956, with Argentina.
- The objective of the Paris Club, an informal group of creditor nations that meets each month in the French capital, is to find workable solutions to payment problems faced by debtor nations.
- The group is organized around the principles that each debtor nation be treated case by case, with consensus, conditionality, solidarity, and comparability of treatment.
- In addition to the Paris Club’s 22 member nations, there are observers—often international NGOs—who attend but cannot participate in the meetings.
AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles
- The joint venture between India and Russia, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), has started producing AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifles at Korwa in Uttar Pradesh, according to Alexander Mikheev, Director General of Rosoboronexport of Russia. Last week, Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande said that the first batch of 5,000 rifles would be delivered to the Army by March.
- The long-pending project to manufacture over six lakh AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles at the Korwa ordnance factory in Amethi district of UP has kicked off after being stuck over costing, technology transfer and indigenous level.
About the AK-203 Rifles
- The AK-203 are highly adaptable 7.62 mm assault rifles that are being indigenously developed in India staying true to the Make-in-India resolve.
- Claiming that the weapon is one of the best assault rifles in the world, General Director of Rostec Sergey Chemezov said that the model combines excellent ergonomics, adaptability to different shooters and high-performance characteristics.
- While being reliable, durable and easy to maintain, the AK-200 rifles series also meet the latest requirements for firearms in the world in terms of ergonomics and the ability to mount high-tech additional equipment.
- Owing to its high adaptability, the AK-203 Assault Rifles is also suitable for various other operators.
Localisation of AK-203
- IRRPL, the joint venture, intends to completely localise the production of AK-203 rifles in India.
- The joint venture will be able to export its products to third countries in the future due to the factory’s capacity.
- In addition, the company may increase output and upgrade its manufacturing facilities to produce advanced rifles based on the Kalashnikov assault rifle platform.
- In December 2021, a contract for the procurement of 6,01,427 AK-203 Assault Rifles was signed between the Ministry of Defence and IRRPL.
- The joint venture established between India and Russia is represented by the Defence PSUs-Advanced Weapons & Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) & Munitions India Limited (MIL) and from Russia, by Rosoboronexport (RoE) & Concern Kalashnikov (CK).