Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Capital Punishment
- Inclusion and Exclusion in ST List
- Direct Tax
- Stubble Burning
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Capital Punishment
Context: The Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench the question of how to provide accused in death penalty cases a “meaningful, real and effective” hearing of their mitigating circumstances before a trial judge.
- A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India said the presentation of mitigating factors by an accused to avoid the “extreme penalty of death” was a “valuable right”.
- In many cases, an accused is condemned by the trial judge after a rather “formal” if not cosmetic sentence hearing. In some cases, the sentence hearing happens on the same day as the order of conviction.
- While the state is given a chance to present aggravating circumstances against the accused throughout the duration of a trial, the accused is given a chance to show mitigating circumstances only after conviction.
- This court opined that it is necessary to have clarity in the matter to ensure a uniform approach on the question of granting real and meaningful opportunity, as opposed to a formal hearing, to the accused/convict, on the issue of sentence.
- The three-judge Bench said a uniform approach must be moulded to afford the accused a fair opportunity to present mitigating circumstances at the trial stage before their crime is declared “rarest of rare” and they are sentenced to death.
- The reference to a larger Bench to examine an issue which has affected the fundamental rights of accused in death penalty cases may signal a move from the top court to veer criminal justice system away from death penalty itself.
- The judgment is significant as it identifies and seeks to resolve a debate on whether the death penalty, though considered a rarest of rare punishment, is being administered casually by the trial courts.
Capital punishment in India
- It is a legal penalty for some crimes under the country’s main substantive penal legislation, the Indian Penal Code, as well as other laws. Executions are carried out by hanging.
- History: In the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1898 death was the default punishment for murder and required the concerned judges to give reasons in their judgment if they wanted to give life imprisonment instead.
- By an amendment to the CrPC in 1955, the requirement of written reasons for not imposing the death penalty was removed, reflecting no legislative preference between the two punishments.
- In 1973, when the CrPC was amended further, life imprisonment became the norm and death penalty was to be imposed only in exceptional cases and required ‘special reasons.
- This significant change indicated a desire to limit the imposition of the death penalty in India.
- The CrPC, 1973 also bifurcated a criminal trial into two stages with separate hearings, one for conviction and another for sentencing.
Is the death penalty legal in India?
- The death penalty and capital punishment are legal in India and are given to convicts for very rare crimes.
- The death sentences in India are given for “rarest of the rare” crimes under the country’s main substantive penal legislation, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and executions are done by hanging.
- Though the death sentence is awarded to several prisoners in India, the process leading up to the execution is tedious.
- Currently, there are 488 convicts in India that are on death row, with the most recent executions in the country taking place in 2020, of the four convicts of the 2021 Delhi gang rape and murder case.
What is the capital punishment law in India?
- According to the current laws in India, the death penalty is awarded in very rare and exceptional cases, where the crime is particularly heinous.
- According to Section 354(5) of the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, the method of execution is hanging by the neck until death.
- Some of the crimes for which the death sentence can be awarded in India are treason, murder, abetment to suicide of a child, rape or injury which causes death or leaves women in a persistent vegetative state, and dacoity with murder, among other offences.
Constitutionality of the death penalty
- Prior to the examination of Supreme Court of India, the abolition of the death sentence in India was examined by the 35th Law Commission report in response to a resolution moved by Raghunath Singh, Member of Lok Sabha.
- The Law Commission of India stressed on the reasoning that the condition in India demands the contrary position to the proposition of ‘abolition of death penalty’ and concluded the death penalty should be retained.
- It said that the variety of upbringing, the diversity of the population, the disparity in the levels of education and morality and the paramount need for maintaining law and order were fundamental factors and issues that impede India from taking a favourable position to abolish the capital punishment.
- However, the jurisprudence regarding the capital sentence inordinately changed throughout various landmark judgments pronounced by the Supreme Court of India.
Supreme Court of India on the constitutional validity of the death penalty
- The first challenge to the capital punishment in India came during the 1973 case of Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P, October 1972.
- The judgment came before the CrPC was re-enacted in 1973, whereby the death sentence constituted an exceptional sentence.
- It was argued that the death penalty violates the right to life and equality and guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
- However, the Supreme Court of India refused to accept the argument and held that the death sentence is pronounced after detailed recording and evaluation of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, thus such procedure justifies the imposition of capital punishment and does not violate Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Landmark cases on constitutionality of the death penalty
- The true departure from death sentence as a norm to an exception came after the introduction of Code of Criminal Procedure re-enacted in 1973.
- The CrPC 1973 introduced Section 354(3), the section mandated that judge must provide ‘special reasons’ for inflicting or imposing the death sentence.
- Also, the CrPC 1973 introduced the Section 235(2), which allowed the post-conviction hearing on sentencing which drastically changed the jurisprudence allowing a careful evaluation and analysis of circumstances revolving around the jurisprudence of death sentence.
- Rajendra Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh, February 1979
- The Court departed from retributive theory and emphasized on the deterrence and reformative theory as social goals.
- Furthermore, the Court held that the ‘special reasons’ required to impose capital punishment must not relate to the crime, but focus must be on the criminal.
- Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, May 1980
- Supreme Court propounded the doctrine of ‘rarest of rare’ as that the death sentence can only be imposed ‘in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.”
- It ascertained that the “special reasons” in the context of inflicting death sentence must pay due regard to both the crime and criminal and the relative weight must be given both aggravating and mitigating circumstance prior to the stating of special reasons for inflicting the death sentence.
- The Supreme Court recognized that the mitigating factors includes the mental condition, the age of the accused, the possibility of reforming or that the person committed the crime under the superior orders.
- The apex Court recognized and emphasized on the individual yet principled sentencing of the death sentence, the court refused to create categories, instead provided discretion to the judges to apply the principled reasoning of inflicting death sentence in each individual case on the basis of aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
2 . Inclusion and Exclusion in ST List
Context : Union Cabinet approved a proposal to add several tribes to the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) in States such as Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, so that they can avail of benefits meant for STs, including reservation. The announcement by Minister of Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda came even as six tribal communities of Assam — Adivasi, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi, Matak, Moran and Tai-Ahom — threatened to launch protests over an “inordinate delay” in their inclusion in the ST list.
Which communities have been added to the ST list?
- The communities approved for inclusion in the ST list are the Hatti tribe in the Trans-Giri area of Sirmour district in Himachal Pradesh, the hill tribes of Narikoravan and Kurivikkaran of Tamil Nadu, the Binjhia community in Chhattisgarh and the Gond community in certain districts of Uttar Pradesh. The Cabinet has approved the addition of several alternative names for already existing Scheduled Tribes in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka so that the difference in spellings and pronunciations do not result in members of these communities being left out of the benefits meant for them.
- Significantly, even as the Union Cabinet has decided to include these communities under the ST list, this is not the first time they have been categorised for benefits of reservation. Most of these communities had been either included in the list of Scheduled Castes (SC) or Most Backward Classes till now.
How is a community added or removed from SC, ST lists?
- The process begins at the level of a State or Union Territory, with the concerned government or administration seeking the addition or exclusion of a particular community from the SC or ST list.
- The final decision rests with the President’s office issuing a notification specifying the changes under powers vested in it from Articles 341 and 342.
- The inclusion or exclusion of any community in the Scheduled Tribes or Scheduled Castes list come into effect only after the President assents to a Bill that amends the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, as is appropriate, after it is passed by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
- A State government may choose to recommend certain communities for addition or subtraction from the list of SCs/STs based on its discretion. This recommendation may come from studies it commissions like in the case of classifying the Hatti community in Himachal Pradesh. Following this, the proposal to include or remove any community from the Scheduled List is sent to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs from the concerned State government. After this, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, through its own deliberations, examines the proposal, and sends it to the Registrar General of India (RGI).
- Once approved by the RGI, the proposal is sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes or National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, following which the proposal is sent back to the Union government, which after inter-ministerial deliberations, introduces it in the Cabinet for final approval.
What is the criteria to begin the process?
- To establish whether a community is a Scheduled Tribe, the government looks at several criteria, including its ethnological traits, traditional characteristics, distinctive culture, geographical isolation and backwardness. However, in March this year the Supreme Court said it wanted to fix fool-proof parameters to determine if a person belongs to a Scheduled Tribe and is entitled to the benefits due to the community. It said the judiciary was no longer sure about an “affinity test” used to sift through distinct traits to link a person to a tribe. There is the likelihood, it said, that contact with other cultures, migration and modernisation would have erased the traditional characteristics of a tribe.
- An apex court Bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian referred the question of fixing the parameters to a larger Bench, pointing out that the issue was a “matter of importance” when it came to issuing caste certificates.
How many Scheduled Tribes are there officially?
- According to the Scheduled Tribes in India as revealed in Census 2011, there are said to be 705 ethnic groups listed as Scheduled Tribes under Article 342. Over 10 crore Indians are notified as STs, of which 1.04 crore live in urban areas. The STs constitute 8.6% of the population and 11.3% of the rural population.
3 . Direct Tax
Context: India’s net direct tax collections have crossed ₹7 lakh crore so far this year, 23.33% more than the corresponding period last year, signalling a post-pandemic rebound in the economy.
- Net direct tax collections stood at ₹7,00,669 crore, compared with ₹5,68,147 crore as of September 17, 2021, with corporate taxes constituting little over a half of the kitty at ₹3,68,484 crore.
- The personal income tax and the securities transaction tax (STT) have yielded ₹3.3 lakh crore.
- Direct tax collections grew at a robust pace, which is a clear indicator of the revival of economic activity post-pandemic, as also the result of the stable policies of the government, focusing on simplification and streamlining of processes and plugging of tax leakage through effective use of technology.
- Gross direct tax revenues were 30.2% higher than in the corresponding period of 2021-22, at ₹8,36,225 crore.
- This included corporation tax of ₹4.36 lakh crore and personal income tax, including STT, of ₹3,98,440 crore.
- The tax deducted at source accounted for over ₹4.34 lakh crore of the gross tax kitty, while self-assessment tax was ₹77,164 crore.
- Advance tax collections stood at ₹2,95,308 crore, 17% higher than the corresponding period of 2021-22, with corporate tax contributing a little over ₹2.29 lakh crore and personal income tax bringing in the rest of the ₹66,176 crore.
- There has been a remarkable increase in the speed of processing of income tax returns filed during the current financial year.
- This has resulted in faster issue of refunds with almost a 468% increase in the number of refunds issued in the current financial year.
- A direct tax is a tax that a person or organization pays directly to the entity that imposed it. Eg: income tax, real property tax, personal property tax, and taxes on assets, all of which are paid by an individual taxpayer directly to the government.
- It is a type of tax where the impact and the incidence fall under the same category can be defined as a Direct Tax. Types of Direct Taxes
Types of direct tax in India
- Income Tax: Depending on an individual’s age and earnings, income tax must be paid. Various tax slabs are determined by the Government of India which determines the amount of Income Tax that must be paid.
- Wealth Tax: The tax must be paid on a yearly basis and depends on the ownership of properties and the market value of the property. Payment of wealth tax is exempt for assets like gold deposit bonds, stock holdings, house property, commercial property that have been rented for more than 300 days, and if the house property is owned for business and professional use.
- Estate Tax: It is also called as Inheritance Tax and is paid based on the value of the estate or the money that an individual has left after his/her death.
- Corporate Tax: Domestic companies, apart from shareholders, will have to pay corporate tax. Foreign corporations who make an income in India will also have to pay corporate tax. Income earned via selling assets, technical service fees, dividends, royalties, or interest that is based in India are taxable. The below-mentioned taxes are also included under Corporate Tax:
- Securities Transaction Tax (STT): The tax must be paid for any income that is earned via security transactions that are taxable.
- Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT): In case any domestic companies declare, distribute, or are paid any amounts as dividends by shareholders, DDT is levied on them. However, DDT is not levied on foreign companies.
- Fringe Benefits Tax: Companies that provide fringe benefits for maids, drivers, etc., Fringe Benefits Tax is levied on them.
- Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT): For zero tax companies that have accounts prepared according to the Companies Act, MAT is levied on them.
- Capital Gains Tax: It is a form of direct tax that is paid due to the income that is earned from the sale of assets or investments. Investments in farms, bonds, shares, businesses, art, and home come under capital assets. Based on its holding period, tax can be classified into long-term and short-term.
- Any assets, apart from securities, that are sold within 36 months of the time they were acquired come under short-term gains.
- Long-term assets are levied if any income is generated from the sale of properties that have been held for a duration of more than 36 months.
Advantages of Direct Taxes
- Economic and Social balance: The Government of India has launched well-balanced tax slabs depending on an individual’s earnings and age. The tax slabs are also determined based on the economic situation of the country. Exemptions are also put in place so that all income inequalities are balanced out.
- Productivity: As there is a growth in the number of people who work and community, the return from direct taxes also increases. Therefore, direct taxes are very productive.
- Inflation is curbed: Tax is increased by the government during inflation. The increase in taxes reduces the necessity for goods and services, which leads to compress inflation.
- Certainty: Due to the presence of direct taxes, there is a sense of certainty from the government and the taxpayer. The amount that must be paid and the amount that must be collected are known by the taxpayer and the government, respectively.
- Distribution of wealth is equal: Higher taxes are charged by the government to the individuals or organisations that can afford them. This extra money is used to help the poor and lower societies in India.
4 . Stubble Burning
Context: As the harvesting of paddy has started in parts of Punjab, the state government is set to face the challenge of dealing the issue of stubble burning, with farmers indicating that they will continue to burn paddy stubble unless the government suitably compensates them for the expenses incurred on alternative methods of disposing of crop residue.
- Close to the autumn season every year, stubble burning remains a contributing factor to pollution in the air, especially across the country’s northern region, and Delhi government has over the years blamed Punjab for its air pollution during the month.
- This year, so far 14 stubble-burning incidents have been reported.
- Several farmer unions are up in arms against the government, demanding suitable monetary compensation for the expenses incurred on alternative methods of disposing crop residue.
- Farmers are not in favour of stubble burning but then there should be a viable option. It’s not out of choice, but out of compulsion that farmers have to burn the stubble.
- Stubble burning, also known as Parali in local language, is a practice of intentionally setting fire to the crop residue that includes stems (stubble), leaves, stalks, and seed pods of the yielded crops such as paddy.
- It is usually being done in the areas where combined harvesting methods are used. This technique is still being practiced on a large scale in India.
Effects of Stubble Burning
- It causes severe deterioration of the air quality Index along with vehicular emissions.
- The stubble burning being practiced in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab contributes majorly to the life-threatening high AQI of the National Capital, Delhi.
- The smoke from stubble burning in these regions travels about 250 Km and reaches Delhi.
- It’s just not Delhi that suffers from it, the smoke also reaches various regions of northern India endangering the lives of hundreds of millions of people. The farmers of these regions burn up to 35 million tons of crop residue from April to November.
- The smoke coming from these regions contains toxic contaminants such as Carbon Monoxide (CO), Methane (CH4), Nitrogen oxides, Sulphur dioxide (SO2), but the most harmful substances it contains are particulate matter (pm) and ground-level ozone (O3).
- Every year all these pollutants combined create a heavy thick layer over Delhi which is also referred to as Toxic cloud or Smog.
- Other than air pollution it also causes other problems such as soil erosion.
- The heat generated from stubble burning penetrates the heat making the soil lose its moisture and useful microbes which leads to soil erosion.
- It also makes the soil lose its fertility by destroying the nutrients in it.
- Burning of crop residue causes damage to other micro-organisms present in the upper layer of the soil as well as its organic quality. Due to the loss of ‘friendly’ pests, the wrath of ‘enemy’ pests has increased and as a result, crops are more prone to disease. The solubility capacity of the upper layers of soil have also been reduced.
- It severely affects the health of human beings, especially children and senior citizens.
Why is it still being Practiced?
- Farmers have been practising stubble burning for decades now and multiple factors lead to it, some of them being a cheap, quick, and efficient way to get rid of crop debris.
- Other factors include mechanized harvesting, which leaves 1-2ft tall stubble which takes about 1 to 1 and a half months to decompose on its own, however, farmers do not have sufficient time as they need the soil prepared for the next crop, which is wheat, so instead for waiting for the residue to decompose they burn it.
- The paddy residues left behind also are harder to chew and have high silica content which makes them unfit to be used as animal fodder.
What is the government doing regarding this issue?
- In the past several years central and state governments have taken several measures to cast down the number of stubbles burning happening every year.
- The government banned the burning of the fields, fined farmers who were still practicing it, even put some of them in jail for it, though none of the measures were effective enough to stop the farmers from burning fields.
- To control the issue, concrete steps such as providing agriculture implements on subsidies to farmers, running awareness campaigns and some new scientific methods such as PUSA decomposer spray are being adopted to stop the practice in the State.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- Ethereum is a decentralized, open source blockchain with smart contract functionality. Ether is the native cryptocurrency of the platform. Among cryptocurrencies, ether is second only to bitcoin in market capitalization.
- Ethereum was conceived in 2013 by programmer Vitalik Buterin.
- Additional founders of Ethereum included Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, Anthony Di Iorio and Joseph Lubin.
- Ethereum allows anyone to deploy permanent and immutable decentralized applications onto it, with which users can interact.
- Decentralized finance (DeFi) applications provide a broad array of financial services without the need for typical financial intermediaries like brokerages, exchanges, or banks, such as allowing cryptocurrency users to borrow against their holdings or lend them out for interest.
- Ethereum also allows users to create and exchange NFTs, which are unique tokens representing ownership of an associated asset or privilege, as recognized by any number of institutions.
- A windfall tax is a tax levied by governments against certain industries when economic conditions allow those industries to experience above-average profits.
- Windfall taxes are primarily levied on companies in the targeted industry that have benefited the most from the economic windfall, most often commodity-based businesses.
- The idea is to target firms that were lucky enough to benefit from something they were not responsible for – in other words, a windfall.
- Broken rice is fragments of rice grains, broken in the field, during drying, during transport, or during milling.
- Mechanical separators are used to separate the broken grains from the whole grains and sort them by size.
- Broken rice is fragmented, not defective; so, there is nothing wrong with it.
- It is as nutritious as the equivalent quantity of unbroken rice (i.e., if all the germ and bran remain, it is as nutritious as brown rice; if none remains, it is only as nutritious as white rice).
- Broken rice has a long history; Ibn Baṭṭūṭa mentions rice couscous in the area of Mali in 1350, presumably made of African rice.
- Due to the different size and shape of the grains, broken rice has a different, softer texture from “unbroken” rice and absorbs flavours more easily.
- It cooks faster, using less fuel, and can be used to make rice porridges and congees, which need long cooking times.
- The broken varieties are often less expensive and so are preferred by poorer consumers, but they are also eaten by choice, with some cookbooks describing how to break unbroken rice to produce the desired texture or speed cooking.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
- In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
- They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more people in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
- If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search a premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
- Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.
- Disturbed area: A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
- An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
- The procedure: The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
- A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette.
- As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act where necessary, but there have been exceptions where the Centre decided to forego its power and leave the decision to the State governments.
- Origin: The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament, and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958. It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
- Effective in some States: It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Centre revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018.
- Earlier, the AFSPA was effective in a 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border.
- In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.
- Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015. Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Act.
- The ‘Kinnow’ is a high yield mandarin hybrid cultivated extensively in the wider Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
- It is a hybrid of two citrus cultivars — ‘King’ (Citrus nobilis) × ‘Willow Leaf’ (Citrus × deliciosa) — first developed by Howard B. Frost.
- After evaluation, the ‘Kinnow’ was released as a new citrus hybrid for commercial cultivation in 1935.
- In a hot climate, plants can grow up to 35 feet high.
- ‘Kinnow’ trees are highly productive; it is not uncommon to find 1,000 fruits per tree.
- The fruit matures in January or February. It peels easily and has a high juice content.