IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 13th March 2019
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Citizens protest against threat to use Official Secrets Act
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – Government schemes and policies; Fundamental Rights; Freedom of Press
- Eminent personalities across different fields staged a protest and criticised the Central government for threatening to act against N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu group of publications, and The Hindu for publishing investigative stories surrounding the controversies over the Rafale deal.
- The Centre had recently threatened to book The Hindu and others under the Official Secrets Act for publishing stories based on Defence Ministry documents.
Note: For more about Official Secrets Act, read today’s editorial section. (covered below)
Thakurani Jatra festival
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains I – Indian Heritage and Culture
- Thakurani Jatra festival – famous biennial festival celebrated in Odisha’s Berhampur.
- It includes hoisting of the holy mast or ‘shubha khunti’.
- Goddess Budhi Thakurani – traditional deity of silk handloom weavers or the Dera community of Berhampur.
- As homage to the goddess, people of all ages, including children and the elderly, transform themselves into various characters from Indian mythology through body painting.
- The number of devotees in the garb of mythological characters increase towards the last days of the festival. Hundreds of them come out in processions with different themes making the city colourful.
Guided rocket system ‘Pinaka’
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III –Defence and Security related issues; Missiles and technology
- DRDO successfully tested-fired the indigenously developed guided rocket system ‘Pinaka’ at Pokhran in Rajasthan.
- This was the third test conducted by the DRDO.
- All the three trials were able to meet the mission objectives.
- It is a multiple rocket launcher produced in India and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army.
- The system has a maximum range of 40 km for Mark-I and 75 km for Mark-II,and can fire a salvo of 12 HE rockets in 44 seconds.
- The system is mounted on a Tatra truck for mobility.
- Pinaka saw service during the Kargil War, where it was successful in neutralizing enemy positions on the mountain tops.
- It has since been inducted into the Indian Army in large numbers.
- As of 2014, about 5,000 missiles are being produced every year while an advanced variant is under development with enhanced range and accuracy.
Animal in news: Starry dwarf frog
Part of: Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity; Animal conservation
- A “secretive” new species of frog has been discovered on the forest floor in India’s Western Ghat mountain range.
- Dubbed the Starry dwarf frog after the markings on its dark brown back, Astrobatrachus kurichiyana has an orange underbelly and is just 2cm in length.
- It has named as Astrobatrachus kurichiyana (genus Astrobatrachus after its starry spots and kurichiyana in honour of the Kurichiya tribal community who live in the area).
- The frog, whose closest relatives are a group of species native to India and Sri Lanka, is the only member of an ancient lineage dating back millions of years, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
- It is unclear yet whether the species descended from African or Asian frogs.
- Genetic testing and a closer look at its shape, colouring and other features have revealed that it does not match any existing species.
- Genetic analysis reveal that the species is at least 60 million years old.
DGCA bars Boeing 737 MAX 8 after global alarm
- India grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft “immediately.”
- The move came after European aviation regulator EASA, the U.K, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore joined a growing number of countries that have barred the aircraft from their airspace following the recent crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane.
- These planes will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken.
Do you know?
- After last year october’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia, investigators said the pilots had appeared to struggle with an automated system designed to keep the plane from stalling, a new feature of the jet.
- Anti-stall system may be the problem along with other technical issues or human error.
General studies 2:
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- India and the World ; India and its neighborhood- relations.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
General studies 3:
- Role of external state and nonstate actors in creating challenges to internal security.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas;
Next steps for Indian diplomacy
In the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack and then the Indian Air Force strike in Balakot, the government has been garnering international support for its case against Pakistan and the need to take direct action against groups there.
The below are the next steps for Indian diplomacy:
- India should focus on keeping the pressure going on Pakistan.
- It should work to ensure that Masood Azhar is listed as a terrorist by the UNSC.
- It should work with the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] to keep the lens on terror financing and choking off support that groups like the JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] receive in Pakistan.
- India should repeatedly raise the Azhar issue with the Chinese government.
- Core focus should be to ensure Pakistan end cross-border terror. Therefore, India cannot afford to lose focus on that.
Garnering support from international community
- After the Pulwama attack, almost all major nations recognised India’s right to protect itself and take action to prevent terror attacks on its soil wherever it is needed.
- Three Security Council members led by France have taken up the listing of Azhar at the UNSC 1267 Committee again, and the case on terror funding at the FATF. (Welcome move)
- International community has affirmed India’s right to protect its citizens from attacks planned across its borders. (That is a net gain.)
- China expects enough information to list Azhar and it does take Pakistan’s interests into account. However, China’s objections are not insurmountable.
- India was able to bring China around to placing Pakistan on the FATF’s ‘grey list’ by being transactional about it.
- India’s approach must be to work slowly on China to align itself on terror with our concerns, and then for it to move Pakistan in the direction we want it to go.
- Like many countries (the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE) which supported India and conveyed to Pakistan that it needs to crack down on terror groups there. India must also hope that China will do the same.
- China does not wish to be isolated from the rest of the world, especially on the issue of terror.
- Indian government holds the view that talks and terror don’t go together. As witness in 2016 and 2019, it is willing to take action against those terror groups directly if Pakistan refuses to.
- Therefore, Pakistan is left with only one choice if it wishes to avoid more such action: to stop the terrorist groups there.
Connecting the dots:
- What strategy should India adopt in order to deal with proxy-wars from the neighbouring countries?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Fundamental Rights and Freedom of Press
To serve the governed: on Official Secrets Act
- Recently in the Supreme Court, the government threatened to invoke the Official Secrets Act against two publications that had run reports on the Rafale deal, on the basis of documents which, the government claimed, had been stolen from the Defence Ministry.
About Official Secrets Act (OSA)
- Official Secrets Act (OSA) has its roots in the British colonial era.
- The original version was The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act XIV), 1889. This was brought in with the main objective of muzzling the voice of a large number of newspapers that had come up in several languages, and were opposing the Raj’s policies, building political consciousness and facing police crackdowns and prison terms.
- It was amended and made more stringent in the form of The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904, during Lord Curzon’s tenure as Viceroy of India. In 1923, a newer version was notified. The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.
OSA mainly deals with spying or espionage
- OSA broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, covered under Section 3, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, under Section 5.
- Secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.
- Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished.
- It is the government’s discretion to decide what falls under the ambit of a “secret” document to be charged under OSA. It has often been argued that the law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act, 2005.
RTI Act and OCA
- Between the RTI Act and OSA, RTI Act has its primacy.
- Section 22 of the RTI Act provides for its primacy vis-a-vis provisions of other laws, including OSA.
- This gives the RTI Act an overriding effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent with the provisions of OSA.
- So if there is any inconsistency in OSA with regard to furnishing of information, it will be superseded by the RTI Act.
- However, under Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act, the government can refuse information. Effectively, if government classifies a document as “secret” under OSA Clause 6, that document can be kept outside the ambit of the RTI Act, and the government can invoke Sections 8 or 9. (Legal experts see this as a loophole)
Do you know: Major instances when OSA has been invoked
One of the oldest and longest criminal trials involving OSA is the 1985 Coomar Narain spy case.
- Twelve former staff members in the Prime Minister’s Office and Rashtrapati Bhavan Secretariat were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in 2002.
- They were found guilty of entering into a criminal conspiracy with officials of the French, Polish and German embassies, communicating secret official codes, classified documents and information pertaining to defence, shipping, transport, finance, planning, and R&AW and Intelligent Bureau reports.
The other high-profile case was the ISRO spy case targeting scientist S Nambi Narayan.
- Before his recent acquittal, he had faced a criminal trial under OSA, and was accused of passing on rocket and cryogenic technology to Pakistan for illegal gratification.
In another high-profile case, then Kashmir Times journalist Iftikhar Gilani was arrested in 2002 and charged under OSA.
Madhuri Gupta case
- The most recent conviction under OSA came in 2018, when a Delhi court sentenced former diplomat Madhuri Gupta, who had served at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, to three years in jail for passing on sensitive information to the ISI.
Past effort to change provisions of OSA
- In 1971, the Law Commission observed that “it agrees with the contention” that “merely because a circular is marked secret or confidential, it should not attract the provisions of the Act, if the publication thereof is in the interest of the public and no question of national emergency and interest of the State as such arises”. The Law Commission, however, did not recommend any changes to the Act.
- In 2006, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended that OSA be repealed, and replaced with a chapter in the National Security Act containing provisions relating to official secrets. Observing that OSA was “incongruous with the regime of transparency in a democratic society”, the ARC referred to the 1971 Law Commission report that had called for an “umbrella Act” to be passed to bring together all laws relating to national security.
- In 2015, the present government set up a committee to look into provisions of the OSA in light of the RTI Act. It submitted its report to the Cabinet Secretariat on June 16, 2017, recommending that OSA be made more transparent and in line with the RTI Act.
Concern over Official Secret Act:
- It is against the Constitutional Freedom to Use and Publicise information (Article 19)
- Arbitrary discretionary powers: It is the government’s discretion to decide what falls under the ambit of a “secret” document to be charged under OSA.
- Press, which is considered as the 4th pillar of the governance, had played effective role in cases such as irregularities in Bofors defence deal (during 1980s); 2016 Panama Papers leaks etc. OSA might curb its effective role.
- Conflict with RTI Act, 2005: As RTI is for transparency whereas OSA is for confidentiality, it gives rise to opacity.
- Chances of Misuse in Name of National Security: Governments is being accused for misusing the law against journalists and whistleblowers. For instance, ISRO spy case which targeted scientist S Nambi Narayanan. There is high chance of misuse the act by corrupt officials in name of national security.
As suggested by 2nd ARC, OSA must be replead and should replaced by a National Security Act where “Security” must be defined objectively so that it cannot be misused.
If government is indeed for the people, it has a solemn obligation to keep the people well informed.
Connecting the dots:
- Do you think Official Secrets Act (OSA) should be repealed from our statute books? Critically examine whether the Act has become archaic and irrelevant in recent times.
- The Official Secrets Act has no place in a democracy. Critically comment.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements
- Pinaka is Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher developed by DRDO
- INSAS is a small satellite developed by ISRO
- Nag is an antitank missile
Select the correct statement/s
- 1 and 3
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 2
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.2) The rise of extremism in India is said to believe to be the reactionary rule of Lord Curzon. Which of the following is associated with him?
- Division of Bengal
- Educational reforms
- The Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act
- Rowlatt Act
Choose the correct code:
- 1, 2 and 3
- 2, 3 and 4
- 1, 2 and 4
- 1, 3 and 4
Q.3) Thakurani Jatra festival is celebrated in –
In the pursuit of four freedoms
Final showdown: on IS
A time for her story
Secrets are not sacred
The reason India jobs data is not credible
Why the nexus between Pakistan and terrorists persists