Daily Current Affairs : 3rd February 2024

Topics Covered

  1. Criminal Defamation
  2. PM rooftop solar scheme
  3. Multi dimensional Poverty
  4. Maritime crime of Piracy
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Criminal Defamation

Context: Law panel suggests retaining criminal defamation provision.  

About the news

  • The 22nd Law Commission has recommended that criminal defamation should be retained within the scheme of criminal laws in India. 
  • In its report, the Law Commission argued that the right to reputation is derived from Article 21 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to life and personal liberty and that is why it has to be protected. 
  • The matter was referred to the law panel by the Ministry in 2017. Noting that it could be argued that criminal prosecution for defamatory statements stands opposed to the freedom of speech and expression, the law panel advised exercising caution. 
  • Referring to the issue of punishment, it said the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has added a provision of community service as an additional punishment. 

About Criminal Defamation

  • Criminal defamation refers to the act of making false statements about someone that harm their reputation and, at the same time, is considered a criminal offense. In some legal systems, defamation can be categorized as either a civil or criminal offense. 
  • In the context of criminal defamation, individuals can face legal consequences, including fines or imprisonment, if found guilty of intentionally spreading false information that damages the reputation of another person or entity. 
  • The objective is to protect individuals from unjust harm to their character and reputation while also deterring malicious falsehoods. 
  • In India, If freedom of speech and expression is protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the right to reputation is also considered to be an inextricable part of the right to life protected by Article 21 and balancing these two rights is a constitutional necessity. 
  • The laws of defamation aim to create this balance by punishing those who, in the garb of free speech, have hurt the reputation of another but, at the same time protecting those who are communicating the truth or saying something in good faith.  

What Constitutes an Offence of Criminal Defamation?  

  • The laws of criminal defamation have been codified under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 and to fall within the confines of this Section, a person must have made an imputation about another person with either an intention, knowledge, or reason to believe that such an imputation will harm the reputation of the person against whom such an imputation is made. 
  • This imputation could be either by words, signs or visible representations and they could either be made or published. The difference between making of an imputation and publication of an imputation is that, while in the former, the communication of the imputation is only to the person concerned, whereas in the latter, the communication of the imputation is to a third party.  
  • The laws of criminal defamation are subject to ten exceptions, the first one being truth which the public good requires to be made or published. 

Issues with Criminal Defamation

  • Restriction on Free Speech: Criminal defamation laws can be seen as imposing restrictions on free speech, potentially inhibiting the expression of opinions, criticisms, or dissenting views. 
  • Chilling Effect on Journalism: Journalists may fear legal repercussions, leading to self-censorship and a reluctance to investigate or report on matters of public interest. 
  • Misuse for Political Purposes: There is a risk that criminal defamation laws might be misused for political purposes, stifling opposition and suppressing criticism. 
  • Disproportionate Punishment: Critics argue that the punishment for criminal defamation, including imprisonment, may be disproportionate to the harm caused, especially in comparison to civil defamation remedies. 
  • Global Trends Toward Decriminalization: Many countries have moved toward decriminalizing defamation, emphasizing civil remedies as a more suitable means to address reputational harm without unduly restricting speech. 

2 . PM rooftop solar scheme

Context: Centre likely to foot bill for PM rooftop solar scheme.  

What is the Pradhan Mantri Suryodaya Yojana? 

  • it is a scheme that will involve installing solar power systems at rooftops in 1 crore houses for residential consumers. 
  • Scheme would help not only reduce electricity bills of the “poor and middle class”, but also push India’s goal of becoming self-reliant in the energy sector. 

What is India’s current solar capacity? 

  • According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s website, solar power installed capacity in India has reached around 73.31 GW as of December 2023. Meanwhile, rooftop solar installed capacity is around 11.08 GW as of December 2023. 
  • In terms of total solar capacity, Rajasthan is at the top with 18.7 GW. Gujarat is at the second position with 10.5 GW. When it comes to rooftop solar capacity, Gujarat tops the list with 2.8 GW, followed by Maharashtra by 1.7 GW. 
  • Solar power has a major share in the country’s current renewable energy capacity, which stands at around 180 GW. 

Why is an expansion of solar energy important for India? 

  • India is expected to witness the largest energy demand growth of any country or region in the world over the next 30 years, according to the latest World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency (IEA). 
  • To meet this demand, the country would need a reliable source of energy and it can’t be just coal plants. Although India has doubled down on its coal production in recent years, it also aims to reach 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. 
  • Therefore, it is essential to expand solar power capacity — the country has increased it from less than 10 MW in 2010 to 70.10 GW in 2023, as mentioned before. 

What is the Rooftop Solar Programme? 

  • Launched in 2014, the scheme aims to expand India’s rooftop solar installed capacity in the residential sector by providing Central Financial Assistance — the financial assistance to the eligible projects as per MNRE Guidelines — and incentives to DISCOMs (distribution companies). 
  • The programme’s goal is to increase rooftop solar installed capacity to 40 GM by March 2026 and it is currently in its second phase. Owing to the scheme, the country’s rooftop solar has increased from 1.8 GW as of March 2019 to 10.4 GW as of November 2023. 
  • A consumer can avail of benefits of the scheme through DISCOM tendered projects or through the National Portal. 
  • After installation and inspection of the system, the subsidy is sent directly to the bank account of the consumer. 

3 . Multi dimensional Poverty

Context: 25 cr Indians have been raised from poverty since 2013-14, says Govt.  

What is the basis for this assessment? 

  • This number appeared in a discussion paper, Multidimensional Poverty in India Since 2005-06, published by NITI Aayog on Jan 15. 
  • The paper, written by a Member of  NITI Aayog, and a Senior Adviser to NITI Aayog, with technical inputs from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Policy and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), says:” Multidimensional poverty in India was found to decline from 29.17% in 2013-14 to 11.28% in 2022-23 with about 24.82 crore people escaping poverty during this period. At the States’ level, Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 5.94 crore people escaping poverty followed by Bihar at 3.77 crore and Madhya Pradesh at 2.30 crore.” 

What is the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)? 

  • Traditionally, poverty is calculated based either on income levels or, if income data are not available, on expenditure levels. The so-called “poverty lines” are actually expenditure levels that are considered minimum enough for someone to be called poor. 
  • The MPI approaches poverty differently. Globally, the MPI uses 10 indicators covering three main areas: (i) health, (ii) education, and (iii) standard of living. These three dimensions have one-third weight each in the final index. 
  • The health dimension includes nutrition and child & adolescent mortality indicators. 
  • The education dimension includes years of schooling and school attendance indicators. 
  • The standard of living dimension includes six household-specific indicators: housing, household assets, type of cooking fuel, access to sanitation, drinking water, and electricity. 
  • The Indian MPI has two additional indicators: maternal health (under the health dimension) and bank accounts (under the standard of living dimension). This has been done, according to the NITI Aayog, to align the MPI with India’s national priorities. 

How is MPI calculated? 

  • According to the MPI method, if a person is deprived in a third or more of 10 (weighted) indicators, they are identified as “MPI poor”. 
  • However, to calculate the index value, three separate calculations are needed. 
  • The first calculation involves finding out the “incidence of multidimensional poverty” (denoted by the symbol H). The incidence essentially refers to the proportion of multidimensionally poor in the population, and it is arrived at by dividing the number of multidimensionally poor persons by total population. More simply, it answers the question: How many are poor? 
  • The second calculation involves finding out the “intensity” of poverty (it is demoted by the symbol A). This answers the question: How poor are they? 
  • More technically, this refers to the average proportion of deprivation that is experienced by multidimensionally poor individuals. To compute intensity, the weighted deprivation scores of all poor people are summed and then divided by the total number of poor people. 
  • Finally, the MPI is arrived at by multiplying the incidence of multidimensional poverty (H) and the intensity of poverty (A). 
  • The MPI value for a given population is the share of weighted deprivations faced by multidimensionally poor individuals divided by the total population.  

How were the data for 2013-14 and 2022-23 arrived at? 

  • Typically, the health metrics depend on data from the different rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The NFHS is conducted every five years; the last round refers to the 2019-21 period. 

How then were the MPI for 2012-13 and 2022-23 calculated? 

  • According to the paper, this required interpolation of estimates for the year 2013-14, and extrapolation for the year 2022-23. 
  • A better understanding of the impact of various initiatives launched during the previous decade on poverty and deprivation can be obtained by comparing the estimates of poverty and deprivation in year 2013-14 with year 2022-23 even though the actual estimates for 2015-16 and 2019-21 clearly point to acceleration in rate of reduction in MPI after 2015-16 compared to 2005-06 to 2015-16. 

4 . Maritime crime of Piracy

Context: Recently, the Indian Navy thwarted two piracy attempts off the Somali coast within a span of 36 hours.  

About Maritime Piracy

  • Maritime piracy refers to criminal acts of robbery, hijacking, or other violent activities committed at sea, typically against ships, vessels, or maritime infrastructure. These acts are carried out by individuals or groups with the intent of obtaining ransom, stealing cargo, or causing other forms of harm. 
  • It is as old as seafaring itself, and has existed for centuries in various forms. In recent years, waters off the west coast of Africa, Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa, Bangladesh, and the Strait of Malacca have seen attacks by pirates. 

Why these areas and not elsewhere? 

  • First, these sea areas are poorly policed. The coastal countries have weak maritime forces, or none at all. 
  • Second, these areas normally have concentrations of shipping traffic, being either choke points in shipping routes where ships are forced to converge or slow down by geography, or anchorages where ships remain stationary for days before entering port. 
  • Third, often poor governance or turmoil on land close to these areas leads to unemployment, poverty and consequently, crime. 
  • Fourth, these areas are mostly international waters, international straits, or archipelagic waters which are long stretches of sea that fall within the maritime jurisdiction of several countries. This leads to legal complexities and difficulties in coordination. 

What constitutes the maritime crime of piracy? 

  • The term ‘piracy’ is used to describe a range of crimes from petty theft from ships at sea or anchorage to armed robbery and hijacking of a ship for ransom. 
  • The last is reason for the greatest concern, since it causes panic in maritime business and leads to the establishment of high-risk areas, and a resultant increase in maritime insurance premiums. 
  • It also affects the safety of ships and seafarers, and disrupts global supply chains. 

How can the crime of piracy be tackled? 

  • Since piracy is a maritime manifestation of instability and misgovernance on land, the lasting solution too must be negotiated on land. 
  • While this is being done by the states concerned and through international diplomacy, the situation at sea has to be contained and stabilised by the world’s maritime forces, since the disruption of mercantile peace, or peace that is conducive to maritime commerce, affects the economies of most countries. 

What role has the Indian Navy played in tackling the problem? 

  • the Indian Navy has been among the most proactive forces deployed in the troubled area off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. Its anti-piracy patrol that started in 2008 continues to this day. The Indian Navy has never shied away from intervening in any developing situation, and has foiled several attempts by pirates at hijacking merchant ships. 
  • The boundaries of the high-risk area that covered much of the Arabian Sea during the height of Somali piracy (2009-12) were pushed back westward primarily due to the efforts of the Indian Navy. 
  • Several recent intervention and rescue operations — including the rescue of a Sri Lankan fishing trawler, Lorenzo Putha, in a coordinated action with the Sri Lankan and Seychelles navies on January 29, and the rescue of two Iranian flagged boats with Iranian and Pakistani crew by the Offshore Patrol Vessel INS Sumitra within 36 hours — are testimony to the continuing professionalism and effectiveness of the Indian Navy in these waters. 

Who are the pirates, and what is their modus operandi off Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden? 

  • These are extremely distressed people driven by their poverty to do desperate things at sea while their handlers sit ashore and rake in the spoils of the crime. 
  • The pirate mother ship is usually a large boat or a small ship that carries resupplies, ammunition, and stores, and is accompanied by several skiffs, which are small, low-freeboard (portion of the ship side above the waterline) country fishing craft fitted with powerful outboard motors that give them speeds of more than 40 knots.  
  • A typical merchant vessel steams at 12-15 knots, making it easy for the skiffs to approach them. 
  • The pirates zero in on a lone ship, preferably a slow-moving one with a low freeboard. The skiffs are small, so they do not appear on the radar of the target ship, and are visible only when they are very close. Merchant ships have small crews; a large ship may have only 15-20 personnel on board. Barely 5-6 crew members are on watch at any time, sometimes resulting in poor visual lookout, especially at night and in the stern (rear) sector. 
  • The skiffs approach the target ship at high speed and the pirates embark using grapnels and ladders. They usually carry small arms or at best a rocket launcher, which are still enough to intimidate and overpower the small, unarmed crew of a merchant ship. 
  • Merchant ship crew often have orders not to resist pirates to avoid damage to the ship and its cargo. Ship-owners prefer to pay the ransom for its release and to avoid legal complications. The crew normally lock themselves in a safe zone and send out a distress signal, which is monitored by piracy reporting centres and maritime safety agencies. 

So what do maritime forces do in their anti-piracy response? 

  • First, they maintain a visible presence that aims to deter pirates from carrying out attacks. 
  • Second, their ships and aircraft undertake surveillance of the high-risk area, identify suspect vessels, and report them for further investigation. This is supported by information fusion centres ashore. 
  • Third, they warn passing ships about suspect vessels and announce escort schedules, if any, so that merchant ships transiting the high-risk area can join convoys between designated points. 
  • Fourth, they proactively or reactively intervene to manage a developing situation, foil a piracy attempt, or rescue a hijacked vessel while trying to ensure minimum casualties and damage. 
  • Naval ships can operate as part of a US-coordinated maritime coalition of forces, led by rotation by a commander of one of the participating forces. They use a common communication protocol, maintain presence, and share information to thwart piracy attempts. Surveillance aircraft also form part of this coalition force. 
  • Some nations prefer to operate independently, coordinating loosely with other navies in the area. 
  • Whereas coalition forces prefer a method of static patrol with each ship being assigned a geographical area, some navies choose to escort columns of merchant ships. 
  • In any case, there is reasonably effective communication and coordination among all maritime forces. Communications with merchant vessels are maintained on commercial open frequencies that are known to all seafarers and commercial aircraft. The first alarm by a merchant ship usually comes over these open frequencies. 
  • A ship with an armed helicopter is the most effective in dealing with a piracy situation because of its rapid response capability in reaching the spot, directing fire, and vectoring the nearest ship that can render assistance. 
  • Marine commandos are the most effective in intervention operations. The Indian Navy has been practising Maritime Intervention Operations (MIO) for decades, and has developed extremely high expertise in this niche area of naval operations. Once the pirates have been overcome by the commandos, the crew is released from the safe zone on board. 

What happens after the pirates have been subdued? 

  • Handling captive pirates poses several legal challenges. 
  • National laws are often inadequate to deal with apprehended pirates, and there is no effective international legal mechanism for their trial and disposal.  
  • The many nationalities, countries, maritime zones, flag states, etc. involved raise complex jurisdictional issues. 
  • Hence, captured pirates are usually disarmed, and their boats are drained of fuel and set adrift so that they are unable to undertake further attacks. However, they often find their way back ashore to return to piracy another day. On occasion, they are handed over to a coastal state for legal proceedings. 
  • A long-term solution to the problem of piracy lies in rooting out misgovernance and unemployment in nations ashore, which feed maritime criminal activities. Till that happens, piracy will recur periodically and maritime forces will have to work to ensure mercantile peace. 

5 . Facts for Prelims

Bharat Mobility Summit

  • Bharat Mobility Global Expo 2024 showcases India’s capabilities across mobility and automotive value chains and will feature exhibitions, conferences, buyer-seller meets, state sessions, road safety pavilion, and public-centric attractions like go-karting. 

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