Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Narco Test
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Sengol
Context: Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the upcoming inauguration of the new parliament building will also see Prime Minister Narendra Modi install a historic sceptre from Tamil Nadu next to the Lok Sabha Speaker’s seat.
What is Sceptre?
- The word Sengol comes from the Tamil word ‘semmai’, which means righteous, and ‘kol’ meaning a sceptre.
- A sengol is a wand-sized ornamented royal insignia carried by kings.
- As per the Chola traditions, it was handed over to the new king by the head priest to mark the coronation and transfer of power, as a guide and embodiment of justice.
- Measuring five feet in length, this gold coated silver sceptre features an intricately carved ‘nandi’ at the top, which is meant to represent the concept of justice.
- It has been preserved in a museum in Allahabad since 1947.
When was it made and by whom?
- It was made during the time of Independence in 1947, when the British handed over power to India. It was crafted by the famous jewellers, Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers in Chennai.
Who was given the sengol?
- At around 10.45 PM on August 14, 1947, late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru received this sengol from Tamil Nadu, and in the presence of several senior leaders, he accepted this as a symbol of achieving independence. It is a sign of a shift of power from Britishers to The people of this country.” A special song was composed and rendered as the sceptre was handed over.
Why was it made?
- Lord Mountbatten, the last British viceroy, wanted to mark the epoch moment of the ceremonial transfer of power from the British to the Indians. He approached Jawaharlal Nehru, who reportedly turned to Indian National Congress colleague C Rajagopalachari for his views on the matter.
- After some research, Rajagopalachari came up with the idea of the sceptre that was used in Tamil tradition. When a new king assumes power, a high priest hands over a sceptre to him. This was the tradition observed by Cholas, suggesting this same practice can be used to mark India’s freedom from the British Raj, he is said to have told Nehru.
- Tasked with the job of getting a sceptre done, Rajagopalachari reached out to Thiruvaduthurai Atheenam, a prominent religious institution in present-day Tamil Nadu. The spiritual leader of the mutt at that time assigned the work to Vummidi Bangaru, who helped in designing and procuring the sceptre.
What does the sengol stand for today?
- The sengol has since assumed importance as the sceptre of righteousness. It is a reminder of India’s diversity and the birth of a great nation.
What did the sengol embody in the past?
- Dating back to the Chola dynasty, such sceptres were used in the coronation of kings. It served as a ceremonial spear and was considered a sacred symbol of authority, representing the transfer of power from one ruler to the next. The one accorded the ‘sengol’ is expected to impart a just and impartial rule.
2 . Narco Test
Context: Protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar said they were willing to undergo a narco analysis test, provided it was monitored by the Supreme Court. The remark was made in response to Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s earlier comment that he was ready to undergo the narco test, or any other lie-detector test, on the condition that Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia take one too
What is a narco test?
- In a ‘narco’ or narco analysis test, a drug called sodium pentothal is injected into the body of the accused, which transports them to a hypnotic or sedated state in which their imagination is neutralised. In this hypnotic state, the accused is understood as being incapable of lying and is expected to divulge information that is true.
- Sodium pentothal, or sodium thiopental, is a fast-acting, short-duration anaesthetic used in larger doses to sedate patients during surgery. It belongs to the barbiturate class of drugs that act on the central nervous system as depressants.
- Because the drug is believed to weaken the subject’s resolve to lie, it is sometimes referred to as a “truth serum” and is said to have been used by intelligence operatives during World War II.
What is the difference between Narco test and Polygraph test?
- Narco tests must not be confused with polygraph tests, which, although having the same truth-decoding motive, work differently.
- A polygraph test is carried out on the assumption that physiological responses triggered when one is lying are different from what they otherwise would be. Rather than injecting drugs into the body, polygraph tests attach instruments like cardio-cuffs or sensitive electrodes to the suspect and measure variables such as blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration, change in sweat gland activity, blood flow, etc., while the suspect is being questioned.
What did the Supreme Court say?
- In the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in “Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr” (2010), a Bench of the then Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan, and Justices RV Raveendran and JM Panchal held that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of consent of the accused”.
- Those who volunteer must have access to a lawyer and have the physical, emotional, and legal implications of the test explained to them by the police and the lawyer, the Bench added.
- The court emphasised that the ‘Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused’, published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.
- Broadly, the guidelines say that such tests cannot be administered without the subject’s consent, which must be obtained before a Magistrate, and that the police cannot conduct them by themselves whenever they find it appropriate.
What was the legal position before the SC ruling?
- In 2006, the Madras High Court in Dinesh Dalmia v. State observed that since the accused did not come forward with the truth, the scientific tests resorted to by the investigating agency did not “amount to testimonial compulsion”.
- Similarly, in the 2008 Delhi High Court ruling in “Sh. Shailender Sharma vs State & Another,” the court said that considering the rising crimes against society, it is necessary to keep in mind the “need of a thorough and proper investigation as against individual rights while ensuring that constitutional rights are not infringed”.
- Adding that narco-analysis tests “do not suffer from any constitutional infirmity” and are a “step in aid of investigation”, the court allowed the administration of the test.
What is the evidentiary value of such tests?
- While the results of narco-analysis tests are not considered “confessions” since those in a drugged-induced state cannot exercise their choice in answering questions put to them, the Supreme Court, through its 2010 ruling, clarified that “any information or material that is subsequently discovered with the help of voluntary administered test results can be admitted, in accordance with Section 27 of the Evidence Act, 1872.”
- Thus, if an accused reveals the location of, say, a physical piece of evidence (something like a murder weapon) in the course of the narco test and the police later find that specific piece of evidence at that location, the statement of the accused will not be treated as evidence, but the physical evidence will be valid.
3 . GANHRI
Context: For the second time in a decade, the U.N.-recognised Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) deferred the accreditation of National Human Rights Commission, India (NHRC-India) citing objections like political interference in appointments, involving the police in probes into human rights violations, and poor cooperation with civil society.
About the News
- The United Nations’ Paris Principles, adopted in 1993 by the U.N. General Assembly, provide the international benchmarks against which National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) can be accredited.
- Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) deferred the accreditation of the National Human Rights Commission, India (NHRC-India) citing a lack of diversity in staff and leadership, and insufficient action to protect marginalized groups, political interference in appointments, involving the police in probes into human rights violations, and poor cooperation with civil society as reasons for the deferment of the accreditation.
What is GANHRI?
- At the International Conference held in Tunis in 1993, NHRIs established the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC) with the aim to coordinate the activities of the NHRI network.
- In 2016, the ICC changed its name into Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
- GANHRI is incorporated as a legal entity under the Swiss law, and has a Bureau consisting of 16 “A status” NHRIs representing the four regions of GANHRI.
- The GANHRI consists of sixteen, ‘A’ status NHRIs, four from each region, namely, the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific. ‘A’ status accreditation also grants participation in the work and decision-making of the GANHRI, as well as the work of the Human Rights Council and other U.N. mechanisms.
What are NHRIs?
- National human rights institutions are State bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights.
- Independent national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play a vital role to promote and protect the fundamental rights of all people in their countries.
Functions of NHRIs
- NHRIs monitor and report on the human right situation in their country. They assist their State to meet its international human rights obligations and provide advice so that international human rights standards are implemented at the national level.
- NHRIs investigate human rights violations and support victims to seek justice and redress. They also lead human rights education programmes to counter the attitudes and behaviours that can lead to violence and discrimination.
- To be effective and promote long-term change, NHRIs cooperate with partners at the national level and engage with the international human rights system.
- The Paris Principles set out internationally agreed minimum standards that NHRIs must meet to be considered credible.
- Developed by NHRIs in 1991 and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, the Paris Principles require NHRIs to be independent in law, membership, operations, policy and control of resources.
- The Paris Principles set out six main criteria that NHRIs are required to meet. These are: mandate and competence; autonomy from government; independence guaranteed by a statute or Constitution; pluralism; adequate resources; and adequate powers of investigation.
- NHRIs may have varying mandates and organisational structures, including:
- Human Rights Commissions
- Human Rights Ombuds Institutions
- Consultative and Advisory Bodies
- Institutes and Centres
- Hybrid Institutions
- NHRIs are accredited by GANHRI – either as ‘A status’ (full compliance) or ‘B status” (partial compliance) – based on the extent to which they meet the requirements of the Paris Principles.
Accreditation of NHRIs
- The Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has the mandate to review and analyze accreditation applications and to make recommendations to the GANHRI Bureau on the compliance of applicants with the Paris Principles.
- Deferment is an action of the SCA and not a recommendation on the accreditation status of the NHRC-India. Throughout the deferred period, the NHRC-India retains its ‘A’ Status and associated privileges, including voting and participation rights in the meetings of GANHRI and Asia Pacific Forum (APF).
- The NHRC-India has been set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act passed by Parliament in 1993. It has been accredited as an ‘A’ Status NHRI since the beginning of the accreditation process for NHRIs in 1999, which it retained in 2006, 2011, and in 2017 also after a deferment.
- The NHRC is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the act as “Rights Relating To Life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforceable by courts in India”
Functions of NHRC- India
- The Protection of Human Rights Act mandates the NHRC to perform the following:
- Proactively or reactively inquire into violations of human rights by government of India or negligence of such violation by a public servant
- The protection of human rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation
- Review the factors, including acts of terrorism that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures
- To study treaties and other international instruments on human rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation
- Undertake and promote research in the field of human rights
- To visit jails and study the condition of inmates
- Engage in human rights education among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means
- Encourage the efforts of NGOs and institutions that works in the field of human rights voluntarily.
- Considering the necessity for the protection of human rights.
- Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office
- The NHRC consists of: The chairperson and five members (excluding the ex-officio members)
- A Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court.
- One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India and one member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court.
- Three Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
- In addition, the Chairpersons of National Commissions viz., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities serve as ex officio members.
- The sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of any High Court can be appointed only after the consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
4 . Facts for Prelims
- Early Life- Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, popularly referred to as Rajaji, was born on 10 December 1878 in Thorapalli, Tamil Nadu.
- His entry into public life was marked in 1917 when he became the chairperson of the municipality of Salem in 1917.
- Role in India’s Independence Movement- Rajaji’s personal interaction with Gandhi in 1919 led him to give up his legal profession to be fully involved in the nation’s independence struggle. The relationship between them only grew stronger and Mahatma called Rajaji the ‘keeper of my conscience’.
- He participated in agitations against the Rowlett Act, the Non-Cooperation movement, the Vaikom Satyagraha, and the Civil Disobedience Movement. For these activities, between 1912 and 1941, as a result of which he was jailed five times.
- Contribution to Constitution Making- Rajaji was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Madras on a Congress party ticket. In the Assembly, he intervened on the issues of religious freedom and citizenship.
- Later Contributions– Post-independence, Rajaji served as the last Governor-General of India till 1950.
- After moving back to Madras, he briefly served as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister between 1952 and 1954. His decision to make Hindi a mandatory language in schools drew heavy criticism. In 1954 he was conferred with the Bharat Ratna for his contribution to Indian politics and literature.
- Conflicts grew deeper between Rajaji and Nehru; this led to Rajaji forming the Swatantra Party. It aimed to provide a critical response to Nehru’s policies and represent centre to right political ideologies. However, the journey of the party ended in 1974.
- A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance compared to a general-purpose computer. The Performance of a supercomputer is measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS).
- Supercomputers contain tens of thousands of processors and can perform billions and trillions of calculations or computations per second. Some supercomputers can perform up to a hundred quadrillion FLOPS. Since information moves quickly between processors in a supercomputer (compared to distributed computing systems) they are ideal for real-time applications.
- A matter to note, because of modern supercomputers’ power consumption, data centres require cooling systems and suitable facilities to house it all.
- Uses of Supercomputers- Supercomputers are used for data-intensive and computation-heavy scientific and engineering purposes such as quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, oil and gas exploration, molecular modelling, physical simulations, aerodynamics, nuclear fusion research and cryptoanalysis.
- How it is different from traditional computers? – Unlike traditional computers, supercomputers use more than one central processing unit (CPU). These CPUs are grouped into compute nodes, comprising a processor or a group of processors—symmetric multiprocessing (SMP)—and a memory block. At scale, a supercomputer can contain tens of thousands of nodes. With interconnect communication capabilities, these nodes can collaborate on solving a specific problem. Nodes also use interconnects to communicate with I/O systems, like data storage and networking.
- India’s AI Supercomputer ‘AIRAWAT’ has been ranked at No. 75 in the world at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC 2023) in Germany.