Current Affair – June 23, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

World’s first GM rubber sapling planted in Assam

  • About the GM PlantRubber Board research farm on the outskirts of Guwahati now sports the world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant tailored for the climatic conditions in the Northeast.
  • The plant was developed at the Kerala based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII). RRII had earlier developed two high yielding hybrid clones of rubber adapted to the climatic conditions of the Northeast.

About the GM Plant

The GM rubber has additional copies of the gene MnSOD, or manganese containing superoxide dismutase, inserted in the plant, which is expected to tide over the severe cold conditions during winter — a major factor affecting the growth of young rubber plants in the region.

Significance

  • This is the first time any GM crop has been developed exclusively for this region.
  • Natural rubber is a native of warm humid Amazon forests and is not naturally suited for the colder conditions in the Northeast, which is one of the largest producers of rubber in India. Laboratory studies conducted at the RRII showed the GM rubber plants over-expressed the MnSOD gene as expected.
Source: The Hindu

Recusal of judges recuse from cases

  • Two Supreme Court judges — Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Aniruddha Bose — have recused themselves from hearing cases relating to West Bengal.
  • On June 21, Delhi High Court judge Anup Bhambhani recused himself from hearing a plea by digital media houses challenging the validity of the IT rules regulating intermediaries.

Why does a judge recuse?

  • When there is a conflict of interest, a judge can withdraw from hearing a case to prevent creating a perception that she carried a bias while deciding the case.
The conflict of interest can be in many ways — holding shares in a company that is a litigant to having a prior or personal association with a party involved in the case.  

The practice stems from the cardinal principle of due process of law that nobody can be a judge in her own case.

  • Any interest or conflict of interest would be a ground to withdraw from a case since a judge has a duty to act fair.
  • Another instance for recusal is when an appeal is filed in the Supreme Court against a judgement of a High Court that may have been delivered by the SC judge when she was in the HC.

Process for recusal

  • The decision to recuse generally comes from the judge herself as it rests on the conscience and discretion of the judge to disclose any potential conflict of interest.
  • In some circumstances, lawyers or parties in the case bring it up before the judge. If a judge recuses, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to a fresh Bench.
  • There are no formal rules governing recusals.

Supreme Court judgments

  • In Ranjit Thakur v Union of India (1987), the Supreme Court held that the tests of the likelihood of bias is the reasonableness of the apprehension in the mind of the party.
  • “The proper approach for the Judge is not to look at his own mind and ask himself, however honestly, “Am I biased?” but to look at the mind of the party before him,” the court had held. “A Judge shall not hear and decide a matter in a company in which he holds shares… unless he has disclosed his interest and no objection to his hearing and deciding the matter is raised,” states the 1999 charter ‘Restatement of Values in Judicial Life’, a code of ethics adopted by the Supreme Court.

In a landmark verdict in 2015 holding that the National Judicial Appointments Commission as unconstitutional, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Madan Lokur had referred to the need for judges to give reasons for recusal to build transparency and help frame rules to govern the process.

Can a judge refuse to recuse?

  • Once a request is made for recusal, the decision to recuse or not rests with the judge. While there are some instances where judges have recused even if they do not see a conflict but only because such an apprehension was cast, there have also been several cases where judges have refused to withdraw from a case.
  • For instance, in 2019, Justice Arun Mishra had refused to recuse himself from a Constitution Bench set up to re-examine a judgement he had delivered previously, despite several requests from the parties. Justice Mishra had reasoned that the request for recusal was really an excuse for “forum shopping” and agreeing could compromise the independence of the judiciary.

· In the Ayodhya-Ram janmabhoomi case, Justice U U Lalit recused himself from the Constitution Bench after parties brought to his attention that he had appeared as a lawyer in a criminal case relating to the case.

Source: Indian Express

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code

  • Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code dictates the penal provision for at tempting suicide.
  • India has the highest suicide rate in the Southeast Asian region, according to the World Health Organization. A total of 1,34,516 cases of suicide were reported in 2018 in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau
  • Depression, chronic ill health, guilt, trauma, substance abuse, failure in exams, and loss of loved ones are some of the reasons which influence a person’s decision to take his or her life.
  • In 2017, Parliament passed the Mental Healthcare Act. Section 115 (1) of the Act provides, “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved other wise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.” However, this law applies only to those suffering from mental illness.

Arguments for criminalisation of suicide

  • Gian Kaur V. State of Punjab (1996) : The court held that the “right to life is a natural right embodied in Article 21” of the Constitution but “suicide is an unnatural termination or extinction of life and, therefore, incompatible and inconsistent with the concept of right to life”.
  • In Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011), the Supreme Court endorsed the earlier judgment.

Against criminalisation of suicide

  • Maruti Shripati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra (1986) Bombay High Court declared Section 309 unconstitutional. It said:
    • “For example, the freedom of speech and expression includes freedom not to speak and to remain silent. The freedom of association and movement likewise includes the freedom not to join any association or to move anywhere… If this is so, logically it must follow that right to live… will include also a right not to live or not to be forced to live.”
    • “If the purpose of the prescribed punishment is to prevent the prospective suicides by deterrence, it is difficult to understand how the same can be achieved by punishing those who have made the attempts… Those who make the suicide attempt on account of the mental disorders require psychiatric treatment and not confinement in prison cells.”
  • This idea was recorded in Chenna Jagadeeswar v. State of Andhra Pradesh and P. Rathinam v. Union of India (1994) where the court held that Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code is a violation of Articles 14 and 21 and is void and unconstitutional.

Way forward

  • Though the amendment has been made in 2017 but it applies only to those suffering from mental illness. But what if severe stress is not proved?
  • There is need to shift from penalising attempts to suicide to making such cases medico legal ones and provide psychological or mental treatment and support to the persons affected.
  • As the issue demands a reformative stance, there is need a permanent solution like repealing Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code or striking it down.
Source: The Hindu

Study on Retreating Monsoon

  • A recent study by the University of Sydney has given significant finding about the Retreating monsoons
In India, retreating monsoon is the withdrawal of south-west monsoon winds from North India.  

The Global Coherent Pattern of Autumn Monsoon Precipitation by Nandini Ramesh, Quentin Nicolas and William R Boos identified regions in the northern hemisphere that receive the bulk of the rainfall during September, October and November and southern hemisphere that receive most of the rainfall from March to August.

Findings of the study

  • Rainfall during retreating monsoon, which parts of South India experiences every year, is not a local anomaly and is global in nature and scale.
India’s east coastal region receives the biggest share of its annual rainfall not during the monsoon season but right after in the months of September, October and November.  

The eight global regions identified by the study that receive most of their rainfall after summer, have several things in common: They lie on the eastern fringes of landmasses and are in close proximity to mountain ranges with modest heights.

  • Two predominant factors cause the phenomenon.
    • Low mountain range in each region runs from north to south, shielding it from west-bound winds that trigger summer monsoon. After summer, the range aids in the ‘orographic lift’

or rising of east-bound air mass from a lower to higher elevation, forming clouds and resulting in rain.

  • Atmospheric convection or vertical movement of air. As the earth is heated by the sun, different surfaces absorb different amounts of energy and convection may occur where the surface heats up very rapidly. As the surface warms, it heats the overlying air, which gradually becomes less dense than the surrounding air and begins to rise. This condition is more favourable from September to February because of the role played by sea surface temperature or water temperature.

Significance of the study

  • The discovery that these are part of a global pattern and not one-off occurrences means they can be systematically studied. This will help in understanding how these communities could be affected by climate change
  • The discovery will allow study into how global factors like climate change might affect them. To predict what could happen to these areas during climate change, there is need to understand the fundamental processes that give rise to the autumn monsoons.
Source: Down-to-earth

China Targeting Cryptocurrency

  • The price of the world’s most prominent cryptocurrency Bitcoin has more than halved in the last two months after hitting a peak in midApril.
  • The second most valuable cryptocurrency, Ether, has seen a similar fall from its peak last month.
  • China’s crackdown against cryptocurrencies, which are those that aren’t sanctioned by a centralised authority and are secured by cryptography, is said to have a lot to do with the crashing of the value of cryptocurrencies.

Crypto Mining in China

  • In recent weeks, China has reportedly cracked down on crypto mining operations. The country has over the years accounted for a large percentage of the total crypto mining activity that takes place.
  • In purpose, Bitcoin miners play a similar role to gold miners — they bring new Bitcoins into circulation. They get these as a reward for validating transactions, which require the successful computation of a mathematical puzzle.
  • The computations have become ever increasingly complex, and therefore energy intensive in recent years. Huge mining operations are now inevitable if one is to mine Bitcoins.

· According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, China accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total computational power last year. Xinjiang and Sichuan provinces accounted for nearly half of this. Now, provincial governments one by one have acted against these mining operations. The latest to do so is Sichuan, which was a hydroelectric based crypto mining hub.   Access to cheap electricity has made mining lucrative in China.

China Policy

  • A few days back, the People’s Bank of China directed banks and payment firms to pull the plug on cryptocurrency trading.
  • Actually, there is little change in the policy as far as China is concerned.
    • It first imposed restrictions on cryptocurrencies way back in 2013.
    • It then barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin.
    • Four years later, it barred what are called initial coin offerings, under which firms raise money by selling their own new cryp- tocurrencies. This is largely an unregulated market.

What China wants?

  • An inter ministerial committee report in India two years ago noted that in 2017, the government of China also banned trading between RMB (China’s currency renminbi) and cryptocurrencies.
  • The report also noted that China had decided to prohibit mining within its jurisdiction. While the miners had stopped their activities for some time, the steep increase in the price of Bitcoin had brought many back into action.
  • The fact that cryptocurrencies bypass official institutions has been a reason for unease in many governments.

·  Anonymity aids in the flourishing of dark trades online.

China launched tests for a digital yuan in March. Its aim is to allow Beijing to conduct transactions in its own currency around the world, reducing dependency on the dollar which remains dominant internationally

Source: The Hindu

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