The anti-atrocities law, which protects Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes from casteist slurs and discrimination, has become an instrument to
“blackmail” innocent citizens and public servants, the Supreme Court
observed in a judgment.
The past three decades have seen complainants — who belong to the
marginalised sections of society — use the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 to exact “vengeance” and
satisfy vested interests, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and
U.U. Lalit said in their 89-page judgment.
“Innocent citizens are termed accused, which is not intended by the
legislature. The legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an
instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance,” the Supreme Court
Instead of blurring caste lines, the Act has been misused to file false
complaints to promote caste hatred, the apex court said.
The current working of Atrocities Act may even “perpetuate casteism” if
it is not brought in line and the court needs to intervene to check the
“false implication of innocent citizens on caste lines.”
The 1989 Act penalises casteist insults and even denies anticipatory
bail to the suspected offenders.
The law is therefore used to rob a person of his personal liberty merely
on the unilateral word of the complainant, the court said.
Justice Goel wrote that anticipatory bail should be allowed if the
accused is able toprima facie prove that the complaint against him is
The court referred to how public administration has been threatened by
the abuse of this Act. Public servants find it difficult to give adverse
remarks against employees for fear that they may be charged under the Act.
Issuing a slew of guidelines to protect public servants and private
employees from arbitrary arrests under the Atrocities Act, the Supreme Court
directed that public servants can only be arrested with the written
permission of their appointing authority.
In the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police
concerned should allow it.
Besides this precaution, a preliminary inquiry should be conducted
before the FIR is registered to check whether the case falls within the
parameters of the Atrocities Act and if it is frivolous or motivated.
Copernicus satellite, India joins Europe on data sharing pool
India has joined Europe’s mega global arrangement of sharing data from
earth observation satellites, called Copernicus.
Data from a band of Indian remote sensing satellites will be available
to the European Copernicus programme, while designated Indian institutional
users will in return get to access free data from Europe’s six Sentinel
satellites and those of other space agencies that are part of the programme,
at their cost.
The space-based information will be used for forecasting disasters,
providing emergency response and rescue of people during disasters; to glean
land, ocean data.
For issues of security, agriculture, climate change and atmosphere,
according to a statement issued by the European Commission here.
The agreement was signed in Bengaluru by Philippe Brunet, Director for
Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence, on behalf of the EC and by P.G.
Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, Indian Space Research Organisation.
The multi-billion-euro Copernicus is Europe’s system for monitoring the
earth using satellite data. It is coordinated and managed by the EC.
The free and open data policy is said to have a wide range of
applications that can attract users in Europe and outside.
The Copernicus emergency response mapping system was activated on at
least two Indian occasions — during the 2014 floods in Andhra Pradesh in
October 2014 and after the 2013 storm in Odisha.
The arrangement includes technical assistance for setting up high
bandwidth connections with ISRO sites, mirror servers, data storage and
2014 IS abducted Indians are dead: Sushma
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Rajya Sabha that
the 39 Indians, who had been abducted in Iraq in 2014, are dead.
In her suomotu statement in Parliament, Ms. Swaraj said that while it
was not immediately known when the Indians were killed, their bodies had
been recovered from a mound in Badush, around 30 km from Mosul.
The identities of the deceased were established after the bodies were
exhumed from a mass grave and matched with DNA samples collected from family
members in September last year.
Strands of long hair, a kada (metal bangle worn by Sikhs), a few ID
cards and shoes, which were not of Iraqi brands, were also recovered from
the mound after the bodies were exhumed, the Minister said.
The help of the Martyr’s Foundation, an Iraqi government-run agency, was
sought to establish the identity of the deceased, she said.
Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh would travel to Iraq
to bring back the mortal remains of the Indians, she said.
The group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, and some
Bangladeshis were taken hostage by fighters of the Islamic State (IS) when
the outfit captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014.
A member of the group, Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur, managed to escape to
Erbil and contacted Indian authorities. He later claimed that the other
hostages were taken to a jungle, lined up and shot dead. The government had
then rejected his claims.
Need operationally effective and humane AFSPA: Centre
In a first admission that Centre was keen to water down the Armed Forces
(Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj
Gangaram Ahir informed the Lok Sabha that it was considering a proposal to
make the Act more “operationally effective and humane.”
The AFSPA is in force in several northeastern States.
The decision came after the Home Ministry decided to reduce the number
of Central Armed Police Force personnel deployed in the northeastern States.
The Army had opposed any such move and several rounds of meetings had
taken place with the Home Ministry.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh had suggested that certain “tweaking” was
required as far as deployment of Central forces was concerned.
An official said the insurgency-related incidents in Northeast had come
down to 308 in 2017, the lowest since 1997.
Another official said there was no final decision to repeal the AFSPA as
of now, but the Jeevan Reddy Committee report, which recommended so, was
taken into account.
The Centre appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B.P.
Jeevan Reddy in November 2004 to review the AFSPA.
The committee recommended that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,
1967, should be modified to specify the powers of the armed forces and the
The Home Ministry was of the view that additional Central forces would
be sent to the northeastern States and the respective State governments
would deploy the State police for regular law and order and patrolling
In 2017, no insurgency-related incidents were reported in Tripura and
Mizoram and no security forces were killed in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya
Venezuela sanctions broadened, ban on e-currency: U.S
The Donald Trump administration announced that it was broadening
sanctions against Venezuela, blacklisting four government officials and
banning a digital currency President Nicolás Maduro created last month to
circumvent financial sanctions on his economically strapped nation.
The White House said the new measures were intended to send a message to
Mr. Maduro’s government, which it has accused of corruption and repression.
The nation is in the throes of food and medicine shortages and a
collapse of the health system as well as other government services,
circumstances that have prompted hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to
The intensification of sanctions comes as Mr. Trump prepares to attend
the Summit of the Americas next month in Lima, Peru, where the crisis in
Venezuela will be a central issue.
The sanctions also come just two months before Mr. Maduro is to stand
for re-election in a race he is expected to win given his control of
Venezuela’s political and judicial machinery.
The United States is among the countries that have declared they will
not recognise the results.
The sanctions brought an angry response from Mr. Maduro, who issued a
statement that the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington “rejects and strongly
condemns the alleged and unilateral new sanctions of the Donald Trump regime
against the Venezuelan people and our financial and economic system”.
The administration’s announcement came a few hours after Mr. Trump
signed an executive order barring the use of any digital currency issued by
the Maduro government since January 9.
Mr. Maduro announced last month that his country had begun a pre-sale of
the Petro, backed by the nation’s vast petroleum reserves.
Xi’s 2nd term in office
President Xi Jinping has set the tone for his second term in office with
a rousing speech where he warned his countrymen of the difficulties that
they may have to endure to ensure China’s peaceful rise.
In an address which was intended to rally the Communist Party of China
to counter expected headwinds ahead, Mr. Xi evoked Chinese nationalism,
including an oblique take from Mao Zedong’s famous quote —“The east wind
will prevail over the west wind.”
But Mr. Xi reassured those who may be intimidated by China’s rise that
his country was not pursing “hegemony”.
Mr. Xi’s comment could be directed at many, including those seeking
independence of Taiwan or “self-determination” in Hong Kong, Xinjiang or
countries such as India, Japan or in Southeast Asia, which have territorial
disputes with China.
China’s tough position on its boundaries could also be a message to the
U.S., after President Donald Trump signed a legislation, which encourages
frequent exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese officials.
Mr. Xi said that the people of China must be ready to contend with
forces that were likely to hinder their country’s growth spiral.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Mr. Xi on his re-election as
President. The two leaders, in a telephonic conversation, agreed to continue
their close consultations on issues of mutual interest.
U.S tariffs will be taken bilaterally
India will take up the issue of the U.S. imposing tariffs on steel and
aluminium imports on a bilateral level, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu.
“We are obviously not the largest exporter of steel or aluminium to the
U.S.,” Mr. Prabhu said at a press conference following the conclusion of an
informal mini-ministerial meeting of the WTO, which was attended by 53
“But still, as far as we are affected, we will definitely take it up
with the U.S. with whom we have a huge trade surplus and we have a very good
political relationship. We will take up this matter with them bilaterally.”
U.S. President Donald Trump recently announced a 25% import tariff on
steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium.
WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo also expressed his concerns about
the actions taken by the US, warning that this could lead to escalation and
retaliatory tariffs being imposed by other countries.
“The WTO does not as an institution take a stance, but I have said
publicly that I am very concerned [about the U.S.’ decision],” Mr. Azevedo
“Members committed to continuing negotiations on various issues
including on the ones where we made no progress under the Doha round,” Mr.
“But... just pledging support for the system is not enough. We need to
match words with deeds.”
Move out, Move Up approach could ease agrarian crisis: IFPRI
Indian must adopt policies that facilitate sections of farmers to ‘move
out’ of rural areas to urban areas and the remaining ones to ‘move up’ in
the farming sector to tackle the current agrarian crisis, the head of the
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said.
“India needs a ‘move out, move up’ approach to deal with the agriculture
crisis,” Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI.
Non-farm opportunities in rural areas must also increase if farmers have
to come out of poverty.
food processing, input supplies, trade and marketing, making
construction materials for urban centres etc. as such non-farm opportunities
that are possible in rural areas, where farmers could work part-time or
Policy makers in India do not appreciate this much, it appears to me.
They want to keep people in rural areas. This is not fair to them as they
would continue to struggle. The policies should facilitate move out and move
Talking about the future of agriculture, he said as urban people get
prosperous they will demand better, more nutritious food in the future.
This would encourage agriculture that is now grain focused, to shift to
vegetables, fruits, good dairy products and meat.
Pointing out that the ownership of future agriculture technologies will
have implications for the future of farmers, Mr. Fan said India must
increase its investment in research.
According to Mr. Fan, the spread of the Internet has led to a “lot of
misinformation on GMOs” in countries liked India and China, and the
“governments and the researchers have the responsibility to spread accurate
information” to help farmers.
Mr. Fan said anti-globalism could be detrimental to food security and
countries such as India and China must continue to argue for “free and fair
trade” and the free movement of people around the world.
NTP almost ready: Sinha
Union Minister Manoj Sinha said that the new telecom policy (NTP) was
almost ready and would be brought in the next session of Parliament after
“The new telecom policy is almost ready, and, this month, we will place
it on the Department’s website for public comments. We will bring it in the
next session of Parliament,” the telecom minister said on the sidelines of
‘Deen Dayal SPARSH Yojana’ award ceremony.
The NTP 2018, being crafted by the Department of Telecom, is expected to
present a growth roadmap for the Indian telecom sector, which has been
reeling under severe financial stress.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had earlier suggested that the
sector should be able to address global requirements and attract investments
of about $100 billion by 2022 under the new policy.
The regulator had also recommended that NTP 2018 should facilitate ease
of doing business through simplification of licensing and regulatory
frameworks, rationalisation of taxes, levies and related compliances and
facilitating availability of resources, including spectrum.