23rd January Current Affairs

1.PLI Scheme for Bulk Drugs

News: With an objective to attain self-reliance and reduce import dependence in these critical Bulk Drugs – Key Starting Materials (KSMs)/ Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) in the country, the Department of Pharmaceuticals had launched a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme.

  • This is done for promotion of their domestic manufacturing by setting up greenfield plants with minimum domestic value addition in four different Target Segments (In Two Fermentation based  – at least  90% and in the Two Chemical Synthesis based – at least 70% ) with a total outlay of Rs. 6,940 cr. for the period 2020-21 to 2029-30.

PLI Scheme:

  • A scheme that aims to give companies incentives on incrementalsales from products manufactured in domestic units. The scheme invites foreign companies to set units in India, however, it also aims to encourage local companies to set up or expand existing manufacturing units.
  • Recently, the scheme was extended to ten sectors.
  • The ten sectors include food processing, telecom, electronics, textiles, specialty steel, automobiles and auto components, solar photo-voltaic modules and white goods such as air conditioners and LEDs.
  • The sectors had been identified on the basis of their potential to create jobs and make India self-reliant.
  • The PLI scheme for these ten sectors will be operational forfive years with a total estimated outlay of Rs 1.45 lakh crore. The PLI scheme will be implemented by the concerned ministries/departments.
  • Savings from one PLI scheme of an approved sector can be utilized to fund another sector.
  • The scheme for these sectors will be in addition tothe PLI schemes for mobile phones and allied equipment manufacturing, pharmaceutical ingredients and medical devices.
  • Several more pharmaceutical products have been brought under the aegis of the PLI scheme,including complex generics, anti-cancer and diabetic drugs, in-vitro diagnostic devices and special empty capsules.

Benefits:

  • The PLI scheme across these 10 key specific sectors will make Indian manufacturers globally competitive,attract investment in the areas of core competency and cutting-edge technology; ensure efficiencies; create economies of scale; enhance exports and make India an integral part of the global supply chain.
  • India is expected to have a USD 1 trillion digital economyby 2025. Additionally, the Government’s push for data localization, Internet of Things, projects such as Smart City and Digital India are expected to increase the demand for electronic products.
  • The Indian pharmaceutical industry is thethird largest in the world by volume and 14th largest in terms of value. It contributes5% of the total drugs and medicines exported globally.
  • India is the world’ssecond largest steel producer in the world. It is a net exporter of finished steel. A PLI scheme in Specialty Steel will help in enhancing manufacturing capabilities for value added steel leading to increase in total exports. Specialty steel is made by adding various elements to iron, to achieve various properties, such as heat resistance, hardness, and corrosion resistance.
  • Telecom equipment forms acritical and strategic element of building a secured telecom infrastructure and India aspires to become a major original equipment manufacturer of telecom and networking products.
  • The growth of the processed food industry leads to better pricefor farmers and reduces high levels of wastage.

2.Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon

News: In yet another milestone, DRDO successfully conducted captive and release trial of indigenously developed Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) from Hawk-I of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) off the Odisha coast.

Details:

  • The smart weapon was successfully test fired from Indian Hawk-Mk132 of HAL. This was the 9th successful mission of SAAW conducted by DRDO till now.
  • It was a text book launch, which met all mission objectives. The telemetry and tracking systems installed at Interim Test Range (ITR), Balasore captured all the mission events.
  • SAAW is indigenously designed and developed by DRDO’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI) Hyderabad.
  • This is 125 Kg class smart weapon, capable of engaging ground enemy airfield assets such as radars, bunkers, taxi tracks, and runways etc. up to a range of 100 kms.
  • The high precision guided bomb is light weight as compared to weapon system of the same class. The weapon was earlier successfully test fired from Jaguar aircraft.

3.Governor’s delay on Mercy Petition

News: Tamil Nadu Governor would take a decision as per the Constitution in the next three or four days on the plea for release filed by A.G. Perarivalan, who is undergoing life imprisonment for the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Background:

  • Perarivalan had been pleading for release citing that he was 19 when he was arrested.
  • He was the only male child of his parents, there were no records of criminal antecedents and that he had excellent conduct in his entire prison life.
  • His petition also cited UG and PG degrees, and that he was the university topper, Gold medalist in diploma in DTP and that he completed more than eight diploma and certificate courses during his prison term.
  • His probation officer gave a report about lapses in recording his confession statement that handed out maximum punishment in his case.
  • The court noted in its short order that the Solicitor General submitted that the application filed by the petitioner Perarivalan under Article 161 of the Constitution.
  • The TN State Cabinet had earlier made the recommendation to remit the life sentences of seven convicts, including Perarivalan in September 2018.
  • The new turn of events when the Additional Solicitor General for the Centre, had argued recently that the pleas for pardon and release should go to the President instead of the Governor.

About the judgement and the arguments:

  • The Constitution Bench in 2015, in a majority decision, had held that the States cannot unilaterally remit the sentences of life convicts in cases investigated by a Central agency under a Central law.
  • The assassination case was probed by the CBI.
  • In compliance with the 2015 verdict, the Tamil Nadu government wrote to the Centre in 2016, proposing the grant of remission to the convicts. The State wanted the Centre to concur.
  • After a wait of over two years, the Centre rejected the State’s proposal, saying this was an unparalleled act in the annals of crimes committed in this country.
  • Perarivalan cannot be called innocent before the law as he continues to be a convicted prisoner serving imprisonment. He was accused of having bought two battery cells for Sivarasan, the LTTE man who masterminded the conspiracy. He was sentenced to death based on this crucial confession statement.

Pardoning Power

  • UnderArticle 72 of the Constitution, the President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence where the sentence is a sentence of death.
  • The Presidentcannot exercise his power of pardon independent of the government.
  • In several cases, the SC has ruled that the President has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministerswhile deciding mercy pleas. These include Maru Ram vs Union of India in 1980, and Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs State of West Bengal in 1994.
  • Although the President is bound by the Cabinet’s advice, Article74 (1) empowers him to return it for reconsideration once.If the Council of Ministers decides against any change, the President has no option but to accept it.
  • Article 161:The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
  • The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161which differs in the following two ways:
  • Court Martial:The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
  • Death sentence:The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is the sentence of death but the pardoning power of the Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

Significance of pardoning powers:

  • The pardoning power of Executive is very significant as it corrects the errors of judiciary. It eliminates the effect of conviction without addressing the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
  • Pardon may substantially help in saving an innocent person from being punished due to miscarriage of justice or in cases of doubtful conviction. The object of pardoning power is to correct possible judicial errors, for no human system of judicial administration can be free from imperfections.

4.Getting it wrong on India’s level of Agricultural Support

Background:

  • Many media reports, based on data by theOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have  stated that the support provided to Indian agriculture is extremely low or negative, and, therefore, net taxed. The OECD has estimated that Indian farmers received negative support to the extent of minus ₹2.36-lakh crore and minus ₹1.62-lakh crore in 2010 and 2019, respectively.
  • Surprisingly, the negative support of minus ₹1.62-lakh crore as estimated by the OECD was higher than the total budgetary allocation of the Ministry of Agriculture at ₹1.09-lakh crore in 2019.

Estimates and Elements:

  • Expenditure on the PM-KISAN, the National Food Security Mission, crop insurance, input subsidies such as fertilizer and electricity, are some of the measures covered under the 2019 OECD estimates.
  • However, the expenditure related to theoperation of minimum support price and general services is not covered by it. Despite the overall negative support, the expenditure of the Central and State governments on agriculture has increased substantially since 2000.
  • This support increased from ₹1.61-lakh crore to ₹3-lakh crore, between 2015 to 2019, registering 85% growth. The massive negative market price support to the producers of different products has resulted in the total negative producer support, overshadowing the increase in the budgetary support over the years.
  • The market price support of a commodity is calculated by multiplying its total production with the gap between the domestic price and international prices in a relevant year.
  • This methodology assumes that in case there is no government intervention in the agriculture market, then the domestic and international price of a product will converge, resulting in no gap in prices.
  • The OECD assumes government interventions lead to a gapbetween the international and domestic prices.
  • However, even if the government does not implement any programme, the gap can still arise due to domestic and international factors.
  • Changes in supply and demand conditions in the domestic and international market due to shocks, depressed international price due to subsidies given by other countries, among other factors, can generate a gap.

The Consequences

  • If the domestic price for a product is less than its international price, thensupport for that product would be negative. A negative market price support for a product in one year can turn into huge positive support in another year on account of the relative movement of domestic and international prices.
  • Even if in a particular year, the government does not provide any additional support compared to a previous year, the level of support calculated by the OECD can change.
  • This will arise if there is a change in either the gap between the domestic price and international price for a commodity, or its production, in the two years. Given the unpredictability in the inherent data, the total support can move from huge negative to huge positive.

Conclusion

  • For India, the negative support as a percentage of the total value of agriculture production has substantially reduced in recent years. It is possible that support to Indian farmers in the near future becomes one of the highest in the world due to pitfalls in the OECD methodology. This might set alarm bells ringing, particularly in the developed countries, which may aggressively question India’s support measures.

5.Defending liberty against political prosecution

Background:

  • Recently the case involving bail application of a T.V. anchor brought to the fore issue of selective prosecution. The illegal selection of accused based ongrounds prohibited by the Constitution is called “selective prosecution”. In case of selective prosecution, the police and enforcement agencies selectively target political and ideological opponents of the ruling dispensation to interrogate, humiliate, harass, arrest, torture and imprison. It is one of the oldest, most pernicious and widespread forms of abuse of state power.

Separating two legal issues:

Exercise of prosecutorial discretion

  • The applicable legal standard is that while the police and prosecutors in common law jurisdictions enjoy vast discretion in deciding who they may pursue and who they may spare.
  • However, the choice of accused must not be based on grounds that violate Constitutional rights, including the Article 14 right to equal protection of the law.
  • The accused should not be selected, either explicitly or covertly, on constitutionally prohibited grounds.

Merit of the case filed

  • When the choice of accused runs contrary to the Constitution, the entire criminal proceeding is vitiated, irrespective of the determination of the second issue, , whether the accused are convicted or acquitted on the charges brought against them.
  • Once the proceedings fail under the first issue, there is no legal basis to proceed to the second issue., i.e., trial on the merits of the case. The theory is that the Constitution cannot be violated to uphold the law — such an approach would spell doom for the Constitution.
  • The selective prosecution claim must be adjudicated as a threshold issue, with the prosecution being quashed at the outset of the criminal case if the claim is justified.
  • In the context of this discussion, the constitutionally prohibited ground we are confronting in India is the political or ideological affiliation of the accused.
  • It is an arbitrary ground that violates the Article 14 guarantee of equal protection of the law.

Selective Prosecution

  • Our courts have not recognised selective prosecution as an independent claim. This is because courts assume that lawfulness of prosecution can only be taken up after the trial, if the accused is acquitted.
  • The 2018 Report of the Law Commissionon ‘Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice): Legal Remedies’ discusses remedies for wrongful prosecution available only if and after the accused is acquitted.
  • Remedy after acquittal comes far too late, well after a brutal and long drawn out criminal justice process that upends the lives of the victims.
  • Also, the right against selective prosecution cannot be extinguished by conviction.
  • Separate from post-acquittal actions for wrongful prosecution (which will still be available), the claim of selective prosecution is a threshold issue that is required to be adjudicated at the outset of criminal proceedingseven during the investigation stage irrespective of the merit of the charges.

Importance of Goswami case

  • The case provides a much needed and long awaited legal opening to strengthen the recognition and use of the selective prosecution claim in Indiato counter politically coloured prosecution.
  • The judgment says, “Courts should be alive to the need of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment ”.
  • The Goswami judgment also quotes the 2018 Supreme Court holding in Romila Thapar v. Union of India that, “[T]he basic entitlement of every citizen who is faced with allegations of criminal wrongdoing is that the investigative process should be fair. This is an integral component of the guarantee against arbitrariness under Article 14and of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.”

Conclusion

  • To strengthen the protection of civil liberty, equality and democracy, it is time our courts — at all levels — recognise selective prosecution as a threshold constitutional defence against the abuse of police and prosecutorial power.