Daily Current Affairs – 25-05-2023

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    Global Agency Affiliated to UN Rights Body Defers NHRC Accreditation

    Syllabus: GS2/ Statutory, Regulatory & Various Quasi-Judicial Bodies

    In News

    • 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).
      • In 2017, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights granted accreditation to the National Human Rights Commission after a year-long deferment; it had raised concerns about the functioning of India’s statutory human rights body.

    What are the reasons for Deferment?

    • Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) deferred citing objections like
      • Political interference in appointments, involving the police in probes into human rights violations, 
      • Lack of diversity in staff and leadership, 
      • Insufficient action to protect marginalised groups
      • Poor cooperation with civil society.

    Why is accreditation important?

    • The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions represents 110 human rights bodies across the world. The accreditation status it gives is based on the United Nations’ Paris Principles, which was adopted in 1993.
    • The Paris Principles lists six criteria that human rights bodies must adhere to – mandate and competence, autonomy from government, independence guaranteed by a statute or Constitution, pluralism, adequate resources and adequate powers of investigation.
    • Human rights bodies that are fully compliant with these principles are given the “A” status. In case they are partially compliant, a “B” status is given. The global alliance reviews the accreditation every five years. 
    • Without the accreditation, the National Human Rights Commission will not be eligible to represent India at the UN Human Rights Council

    GANHRI (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions)

    • It was formerly known as the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), GAHNRI is a global network of NHRIs.
    • It is constituted as a non-profit entity (under Swiss law) and Secretariat support is provided by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
    • 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.
    • It coordinates the relationship between NHRIs and the UN human rights system.

    National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)-India

    • About:
      • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India was established on 12 October 1993.
      • The statute under which it is established is the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 as amended by the 2006 Amendment Act.
        • Hence, it is a Statutory Body.
      • It was set up in conformity with the Paris Principles.
      • NHRC has retained its ‘A’ status of accreditation with the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) for the 4th consecutive term of 5 years.
        • The NHRC, India got ‘A’ status of accreditation for the first time in 1999 which was retained in 2006, 2011 and 2017 reviews.
      • The NHRC is an embodiment of India’s concern for the promotion and protection of human rights.
      • The world looks at the NHRC of India as a role model in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of promotion and protection of human rights.
    • Functions of NHRC:
      • The functions of the Commission as stated in Section 12 of the Act include.
        • Inquiry into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant
        • Study of treaties and international instruments on human rights
        • Make recommendations for their effective implementation to the Government.
        • Run Awareness drives for masses on the subject of human rights.
        • Encourage the efforts of all stakeholders in the field of human rights literacy not only at the national level but at the international level too.
        • Play an active role in coordinating with other NHRIs of the world to enhance awareness from the perspective of human rights.
        • host delegations from 
          • UN Bodies and other National Human Rights Commissions,
          • members of civil society, lawyers and political and social activists from different countries.
    • Composition:
      • Chairperson, who has been a Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the SC.
      • 1 member, who is, or has been, a Judge of the SC.
      • 2 members, who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of an HC.
      • 3 Members, out of which at least one shall be a woman to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge or practical experience in matters relating to human rights.
      • 7 ex officio members – NCSC, NCST, NCBC, NCW, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.
      • The President appoints the Chairman and members of NHRC on the recommendation of a high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister.

    What are the challenges that NHRC has?

    • No Mechanism to Investigate:
      • In most cases, NHRC asks the concerned Central and State Governments to investigate the cases of the violation of Human Rights.
      • It has been termed as ‘India’s teasing illusion’ by Soli Sorabjee (former Attorney-General of India) 
        • due to its incapacity to render any practical relief to the aggrieved party.
    • Can not investigate case registered after 1 year:
      • A large number of grievances go unaddressed because NHRC cannot investigate the complaint registered after one year of the incident.
    • Inadequacy of Funds:
      • Inadequacy of funds also hampers the working of NHRC.
    • Only recommendatory in Nature:
      • NHRC can only make recommendations, without the power to enforce decisions.
      • The government often rejects recommendations of NHRC or there is partial compliance to these recommendations.
    • Highly restricted powers in case of Armed forces:
      • NHRC has very few powers related to violations of human rights by the armed forces.
    • Post Retirement Destinations:
      • Many times NHRC is viewed as post-retirement destinations for judges and bureaucrats with political affiliation.

    Way Ahead

    • Independent Investigation Staff with appropriate Experience:
      • It will give it real teeth to prosecute and check for any violation of human rights.
    • Involvement of Civil Societies and other stakeholders:
      • There is a need to change the composition of the commission by including members from civil society and activists.
    • Adequate Funds and Mandatory implementation of recommendations:
      • The institute should be given more independence and autonomy by providing adequate funds.
      • Further, the recommendations must be mandatory to implement with very few exceptions and procedures.

    Source: TH

    Period Poverty/ Tampon Tax

    Syllabus: GS3/ Indian Economy

    News

    • Concern about “period poverty” has fuelled campaigns globally calling for the end of the so-called tampon tax.

    Menstrual products

    • Menstrual products are also called ‘feminine hygiene’ products.
    • These are made to absorb or catch menstrual blood. 
    • A number of different products are available – some are disposable, some are reusable.
    • Disposable products include: Sanitary napkins (also called sanitary towels or pads); Tampons and Disposable menstrual cups made of soft plastic.
    • Reusable products include: Menstrual cups made of silicone and can last 5 years or longer; Reusable cloth pads; Padded or period-proof underwear; underwear with extra absorbent layers sewn in to absorb flow and Sponges worn internally like a tampon

    Period poverty

    • Period poverty describes the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products. 
    • It also refers to the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due the financial burden posed by menstrual supplies. 

    Impact of Period poverty

    • Period poverty does not only affect women and girls in developing countries; it also affects women in wealthy, industrialized countries. 
    • It causes girls to stay home from school and work; Use unhygienic products; and Pushes girls closer toward dangerous coping mechanisms. E.g. in Kenya, some schoolgirls have engaged in transactional sex to pay for menstrual products.

    List of human rights undermined by women’s treatment during menstruation:

    • Right to health: Menstruation stigma prevents women from seeking treatment for menstruation-related disorders or pain
    • Right to education: due to school absenteeism and poor educational outcomes. 
    • Right to work/work absenteeism: They may refrain from taking certain jobs, or they may be forced to forgo working hours and wages. 
    • Right to non-discrimination and gender equality: Stigmas and norms related to menstruation can reinforce discriminatory practices. 
    • Right to water and sanitation: during periods: They also face poor access to safe Water and sanitation facilities, such as bathing facilities, that are private, safe and culturally acceptable

    Tampon Tax / Tax On Periods

    • What it is? “Tampon tax” (or period tax) means menstrual products being subject to value-added tax (VAT) or sales tax. 
    • What it is not? It is not a special tax levied directly on feminine hygiene products.
    • Arguments for abolishing it: This will ‘End Period Poverty’; It is a basic necessity as females use them for about a week each month for about 30 years.
    • Why do countries retain it? VAT is an important source of revenue for governments. In countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), VAT revenue represented 6.7% of their gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.

    Global Initiatives 

    • Since Kenya became the first country to scrap VAT on sanitary pads and tampons in 2004, at least 17 countries have followed suit. Among the latest countries to pass laws to abolish the tampon tax are Mexico, Britain and Namibia.
    • Another 10 countries have designated sanitary products as tax-exempt goods or have exempted the tax on imported raw materials used to make them.
    • In 2022, Scotland became the first nation to make tampons and sanitary pads free and available at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies.
    • In 2017, Government of India imposed a 12 % tax on sanitary napkins under the new GST regime; this was abolished later on.

    Janaushadhi Suvidha

    • In 2018, Government of India launched ‘Janaushadhi Suvidha’.
    • It is an Oxo-biodegradable Sanitary Napkin complying with ASTM D-6954 (biodegradability test) standards. ‘Oxo-biodegradable’ means a special additive is added in the SUVIDHA napkin which makes it biodegradable when it reacts with oxygen after it is used and discarded.
    • It has been launched under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) by the Union Department of Pharmaceuticals.
    • The affordable sanitary napkins are available through Janaushadhi Kendras at a minimum price of Rs.1/-per pad. The market price of the similar Sanitary Napkins is around Rs. 3/- to Rs. 8/- per pad.   
    • This ensures ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha’ for the underprivileged Women.

    Source: IE

    Copyright Infringement and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

    Syllabus: GS3/ Science & Technology, Intellectual Property Rights

    In News

    • Recently the U.S. Supreme Court in the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. versus Goldsmith et al. has added more unpredictability to the process of being exempted from copyright infringement liabilities.

    What is copyright infringement?

    • Copyright infringement is the use or production of copyright-protected material without the permission of the copyright holder. 
    • It means that the rights afforded to the copyright holder, such as the exclusive use of a work for a set period of time, are being breached by a third party. 
    • Music and movies are two of the most well-known forms of entertainment that suffer from significant amounts of copyright infringement.

    To what extent does copyright law protect artists?

    • Copyright law protects the work of diverse artists, including photographers, and provides a set of exclusive rights for artists over their creative output. 
    • This includes controlling the manner in which others reproduce or modify their work. 

    Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. versus Goldsmith et al. case

    • Lynn Goldsmith photographed the famous musician Prince in 1981. One of those photos was licensed in 1984 to Vanity Fair magazine for use as an “artist reference”. Vanity Fair paid Ms. Goldsmith $400 for the licence.
    • Vanity Fair hired the celebrated visual artist Andy Warhol to work on the illustration. It appeared in the magazine with appropriate credits to Ms. Goldsmith. But while the licence had authorised only one illustration, Mr. Warhol additionally created 13 screen prints and two pencil sketches.
    • Vanity Fair, approached the Andy Warhol Foundation (AWF) to reuse the 1984 illustration as part of a story on Prince. But when they realised that there were more portraits available, they opted to publish one of them instead. As part of the licence to use it, they paid $10,000 to AWF, and nothing to Ms. Goldsmith.
    • When the AWF realised that Ms. Goldsmith may file a copyright infringement suit, it filed a suit to declare that it had not committed infringement. Ms. Goldsmith then counter-sued AWF for copyright infringement.

    U.S Supreme Court Verdict

    • In this particular instance, according to the majority decision, both Ms. Goldsmith’s photos and Mr. Warhol’s adaptations had more or less the same purpose — to portray Prince. 
    • The majority of judges concluded that if an original work and secondary work have more or less similar purposes and if the secondary use is of a commercial nature, the first factor may not favour a fair-use interpretation unless there are other justifications for copying.

    Indian copyright law

    • The Copyright Act, 1957 provides copyright protection in India. 
    • India follows a hybrid model of exception in which fair dealing with copyrighted work is exempted for some specific purposes under Section 52(1)(a) of the Copyright Act 1957. India also has a long list of enumerated exceptions.
    • India being a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886, is obligated to give equal protection to the works originating not only in India but also outside India in any of the contracting states.

    How does this affect generative AI?

    • While this dispute arose in the context of the use of a photograph as an artistic reference, the implications of the court’s finding are bound to ripple across the visual arts at large. 
    • The majority position could challenge the manner in which many generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as ChatGPT4, have been conceived. 
    • In India observations by the U.S. The Supreme Court’s decision could have a persuasive effect, particularly when determining ‘fairness’ as part of a fair-dealing litigation. 

    Source: TH

    Narco And Polygraph Tests

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • Protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar said they were willing to undergo a narco analysis test, provided it was monitored by the Supreme Court.

    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”.
    • However, narco tests must not be confused with polygraph tests, which, although having the same truth-decoding motive, work differently. 

    Polygraph Test

    • 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.

    Supreme Court’s Ruling on Narco and Polygraph Test

    • In the 2010 Supreme Court (SC) ruling in “Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr” (2010), SC 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 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 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.

    Source: IE

    Sengol

    Syllabus: GS1/ Art and Culture, Indian Polity

    In News

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will install the ‘Sengol’, a historical sceptre from Tamil Nadu, in the new Parliament building.

    About

    • The ‘Sengol’ was received by Independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, from Lord Mountbatten to symbolically represent the transfer of power from the British and was later kept in a museum in Allahabad.
    • It was freedom fighter Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari) who suggested to Nehru the ceremonial gesture, a tradition found to have been documented even in the Chola-era as a symbol of the transfer of power to a new king.

    What is the “sengol” sceptre?

    • The “sengol” sceptre is a long, stick-like item ( 5 feet) made of silver and covered in gold. The sceptre has a carving of a bull, called a Nandi, at the top. This is done to remind everyone about the importance of fair and just leadership in the country.
    • ‘Sengol’ is derived from the Tamil word ‘semmai,’ which means ‘full of wealth’, the ‘Sengol’ represents the embodiment of power and authority.

     

    Traditional Chola practice

    • It was a traditional Chola practice for Samayacharyas (spiritual leaders) to lead the coronation of kings and sanctify the transfer of power, which is also considered a kind of recognition for the ruler.
    • Following the Chola era tradition, the pontiff of the Thiruvavaduthurai Aadeenam presented the Sengol to the first Nehru signifying the transfer of power from the British to Indian hands.

    Significance

    • The inclusion of the ‘Sengol’ in the Parliament building inauguration seeks to revive this ancient tradition and commemorate India’s independence as the nation enters a new chapter in its democratic journey.

     Source: IE

    International Booker Prize

    Syllabus: GS2/ Miscellaneous, Awards

    News 

    • Time Shelter, written by Georgi Gospodinov and translated into English by Angela Rodel, has won the International Booker Prize 2023. This is the first time a novel originally published in Bulgarian has won this annual award.

    About 

    • The International Booker Prize is given every year to a foreign language book translated into English and published in Britain or Ireland.
    • From 2016 onwards, the prize equally recognises the work of both author and translator.
    • Novels and collections of short stories are both eligible.
    • Last year, the prize went to Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand, translated into English by Daisy Rockwell.

    Booker Prize 

    • It is distinct from the Booker Prize which is awarded to the best work of fiction written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. 
    • Indian writers like Arundhati Roy and Aravind Adiga have won it in the past.

    Source: IE

    Fastest Supercomputers

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • The Ministry of Earth Sciences has said that India is set to dramatically scale up its super-computing prowess and install an 18-petaflop system over the course of this year.

    What is a Supercomputer?

    • A supercomputer is a computer that performs at or near the highest operational rate for computers.
    • These computers leverage a memory block along with multiple central processing units grouped into ‘compute nodes’ – sometimes tens of thousands of nodes.
    • Currently India’s most powerful, civilian supercomputers — Pratyush and Mihir — with a combined capacity of 6.8 petaflops are housed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Noida, respectively. 
    • The new supercomputers too will be housed at the IITM and NCMRWF.
    • The fastest high-performance computing system in the world is currently the Frontier-Cray system at Oakridge National Laboratory, United States. 

    Petaflop system

    • Flops (floating point operations per second) are an indicator of computers processing speed and a petaflop refers to a 1,000 trillion flops. 
    • Processing power to such a degree greatly eases complex mathematical calculations required, for among other things, forecasting how the weather will be over the next few days all the way up to two-three months ahead.

    Source: TH