Daily Current Affairs : 30th September 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. POCSO
  2. Electoral Bonds
  3. Facts for Prelims


Context: The government should not tinker with the age of consent — currently 18 years — under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the Law Commission said in a report made public on Friday. Instead, it advised the introduction of “guided judicial discretion” while sentencing in cases that involve the tacit approval of children in the 16 to 18 years age bracket. 

About the POCSO Act

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is a crucial piece of legislation in India aimed at safeguarding children from sexual abuse and exploitation. 

Provisions of the Act:  

  • Definition of Offenses: The POCSO Act defines various sexual offenses against children, including but not limited to, sexual assault, sexual harassment, using a child for pornographic purposes, and penetrative sexual assault. These offenses are categorized based on the severity of the crime. 
  • Age of Consent: The POCSO Act sets the age of consent at 18 years, which means that any sexual activity with a child below this age is considered an offense, regardless of the child’s consent. 
  • Gender-Neutral: The Act is gender-neutral, recognizing that both boys and girls can be victims of sexual offenses. It also acknowledges that both males and females can be perpetrators. 
  • Special Courts: The Act mandates the establishment of special courts for the speedy trial of cases under POCSO. These courts are designed to be child-friendly, ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for child victims to testify. 
  • Recording of the Child’s Statement: The Act provides for the video recording of the child’s statement during the legal proceedings to prevent further trauma. It aims to minimize the need for the child’s repeated testimony. 
  • Presumption of Guilt: In cases of penetrative sexual assault or using a child for pornographic purposes, there is a presumption of guilt on the accused. The burden of proof lies with the accused to prove their innocence. 
  • Stringent Penalties: The POCSO Act prescribes stringent penalties for offenders, including imprisonment, with provisions for enhanced punishment for repeat offenders. 
  • Mandatory Reporting: The Act makes it mandatory for individuals, such as medical practitioners, teachers, and parents, to report instances of child sexual abuse to the authorities. Failure to report can result in legal action. 

Key Recommendation of the Law commission

  • The Law Commission Report noted that certain amendments would be required in the POCSO Act, 2012 to remedy the situation in cases involving tacit approval, though not consent under law, on the part of children aged between 16 and 18 years. 
  • It further stated that reducing the age of consent would have a direct and negative bearing on the fight against child marriage and child trafficking; 
  •  It also advised the courts to tread with caution even in cases related to “adolescent love”, where criminal intention may be missing. 
  • In arguing against the automatic decriminalisation of consensual sexual acts by persons above 16 years, the commission said that consent can always be manufactured. It also said that if the police or investigating agencies are to determine whether there was consent or not, a lot of genuine cases under POCSO may not see trial on account of the agencies declaring them to be cases of consensual romantic sexual relationship
  • Commission has recommended that judicial discretion in reducing the minimum sentencing under the POCSO Act can be introduced if the age difference between the victim child and the accused is less than three years and when tacit approval is established. 
  • It has also recommended that discretion be used if the accused has no criminal antecedents, bears good conduct after the offence, there is no element of undue force, coercion, or any element indicating child trafficking; and the child was not used for any pornographic purposes, among others.

Issues with the POCSO Act

  • Lack of Awareness: Despite efforts to raise awareness, many people, especially in rural areas, may not be fully aware of the provisions of the POCSO Act and the importance of reporting child sexual abuse. This lack of awareness can lead to underreporting of cases. 
  • Resource Constraints: Some regions in India lack the necessary resources, including child-friendly courts and trained professionals, to effectively implement the Act. This can hinder the proper handling of cases. 
  • Sensitivity of Legal Procedures: Child victims may find the legal procedures and court environment intimidating and traumatic. Specialized child-friendly courts and procedures are essential but may not be available in all areas. 
  • Witness Protection: Ensuring the safety and protection of child witnesses is a significant challenge. Witnesses may be threatened or pressured to change their testimony, making it difficult to secure convictions. 
  • Need for Specialized Training: Law enforcement agencies, judges, lawyers, and healthcare professionals require specialized training to handle cases under the POCSO Act sensitively and effectively. 

2 . Electoral Bonds

Context: The government on Friday announced the sale of the 28th tranche of electoral bonds from October 4 to 13 at all authorised branches of the State Bank of India. 

What is electoral bond scheme?

  • Electoral bonds are money instruments like promissory notes that can be bought by companies and individuals in India from the State Bank of India (SBI)
  • Such bonds, which are sold in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore, can be bought from authorised branches of the State Bank of India.
  • As such, a donor is required to pay the amount — say Rs 10 lakh — via a cheque or a digital mechanism (cash is not allowed) to the authorised SBI branch.
  • There is no limit on the number of electoral bonds that a person or company can purchase.
  • The donor can then give this bond (just one, if the denomination chosen is Rs 10 lakh, or 10, if the denomination is Rs 1 lakh) to the party or parties of their choice.
  • The political parties can choose to encash such bonds within 15 days of receiving them and fund their electoral expenses. On the face of it, the process ensures that the name of the donor remains anonymous.
  • Every party registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and having secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election has been allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India.
  • The bonds go for sale in 10-day windows in the beginning of every quarter, i.e. in January, April, July and October, besides an additional 30-day period specified by the Central Government during Lok Sabha election years.
  • The central idea behind the electoral bonds scheme was to bring about transparency in electoral funding in India.

When were electoral bonds introduced and why? 

  • It was introduced in the Union Budget of 2017 by then Finiance Minister Arun Jaitley. 
  • Formally, these bonds were introduced in 2018. 
  • The central idea behind the electoral bonds scheme was to bring about transparency in electoral funding in India.  

What is the Purpose of the electoral Bond?

  • It was introduced to” cleanse the system of political funding in the country” by eradicating the “menace of unaccounted money coming into the country’s economy through political funding”.
  • It would make political donations transparent while also protecting the identity of the donor.
  • Under the scheme, bonds are available for purchase at any SBI branch in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and can be bought through a KYC-compliant account. There is no limit on the number of electoral bonds that a person or company can purchase.
  • Every party registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and having secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election has been allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. The donor can donate the bond to a party of their choice, which can cash it within 15 days, only through the allotted account.

Will it be tax deductible?

  • A donor will get a deduction and the recipient, or the political party, will get tax exemption, provided returns are filed by the political party

 Why have electoral bonds attracted criticism?

  • The central criticism of the electoral bonds scheme is that it does the exact opposite of what it was meant to do: bring transparency to election funding.
  • Critics argue that the anonymity of electoral bonds is only for the broader public and opposition parties.
  • The fact that such bonds are sold via a government-owned bank (SBI) leaves the door open for the government to know exactly who is funding its opponents.
  • This, in turn, allows the possibility for the government of the day to either extort money, especially from the big companies, or victimise them for not funding the ruling party — either way providing an unfair advantage to the party in power.
  • Critics have noted that more than 75 per cent of all electoral bonds have goes to the ruling party in the centre.
  • Further, one of the arguments for introducing electoral bonds was to allow common people to easily fund political parties of their choice but more than 90% of the bonds have been of the highest denomination (Rs 1 crore).
  • Moreover, before the electoral bonds scheme was announced, there was a cap on how much a company could donate to a political party: 7.5 per cent of the average net profits of a company in the preceding three years. However, the government amended the Companies Act to remove this limit, opening the doors to unlimited funding by corporate India, critics argue.

3 . Facts for Prelims

Sastra Ramanujan Prize 

  • The award, instituted by the Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology & Research Academy (SASTRA) in 2005 with a cash prize of $10,000, is presented annually to individuals aged 32 and below, who made outstanding contributions in the field of mathematics, influenced by Srinivasa Ramanjuan in a broad sense.
  • The age limit for the prize has been set at 32 (the age at which Ramanujan died)
  • Mathematician Ruixiang Zhang, an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, has been selected as the recipient of the prestigious 2023 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize.

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