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20th January 2023

Courts have no power to reduce minimum sentence prescribed in POCSO Act


The Karnataka High Court has enhanced the sentence of five years imposed by the special court on an accused convicted under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO), Act, observing that when the Special Judge did not have any power whatsoever to reduce the minimum sentence to five years.

About the Case:

  • A single-judge bench of Justice V. Srishananda upheld the conviction handed down to Shaikh Rouf under Section 4 of the Act and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code and enhanced the sentence of the trial court.

Section (4) says that “Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment of either description for a period which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year or with fine or with both”.

  • However, the statute has prescribed a minimum sentence of seven years for the offence punishable under the POCSO Act.

What was the High Court’s say on it?

  • The approach of the trial Court in sentencing the respondent/accused for a period of five years for the offence under Section 4 of the POCSO Act is illegal as the minimum sentence that is prescribed under the provisions of Section 4 of the POCSO Act is seven years and there is no discretion vested in the learned Special judge to reduce the minimum sentence of seven years to five years.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012:

  • Definition: “Children” according to the Act are individuals aged below 18 years. The Act is gender-neutral.
  • Types: Different forms of sexual abuse including but not limited to sexual harassment, pornography, penetrative & non-penetrative assault are defined in the Act.
  • Child-friendly process: The investigation process should be child-friendly and the case should be disposed of within one year from the date of reporting.
  • Special Court: The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences and matters related to them.
  • Implementing Agency: The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) monitor the Act’s implementation.
  • Both are statutory bodies.

Recent amendments under the Act:

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, or POCSO, (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to provide for stringent punishment to those engaging in sexual crimes against children, death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual assault, besides levying fines and imprisonment, to curb child pornography.
  • The POCSO Bill proposes to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensure their safety and dignity.
  • The Bill has been approved by Parliament — the Rajya Sabha on July 29, 2019, and the Lok Sabha passed it on August 1, 2019.


  • A large part of the investigation of offences under the Act is still guided by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). 
  • The investigation of penetrative sexual assault cases generally involves recording the statement of the prosecutrix, a medical and forensic science laboratory (FSL) examination, and a determination of the child’s age.
  • The POCSO Act provides for recording the statement of the affected child by a woman sub-inspector at the child’s residence or place of choice.
  • But it is practically impossible to comply with this provision when the number of women in the police force is just 10%, and many police stations hardly have women staff.
  • Similarly, despite funds being provided by the Centre to strengthen Mahila desks, many police stations still do not have even a single woman staff.

Government Interventions:

  • In 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) introduced a scheme to create an Investigation Unit on Crime against Women (IUCAW) which was to be made up of 15 police officers (with at least one-third comprising women officers and headed by an additional superintendent of police) in each district.
  • Its aim was to ensure quality investigation of crimes against women on a 50:50 expenditure-sharing basis; the response by States to the scheme has been half-hearted.

Supreme Court Collegium backed free speech for lawyers


The Supreme Court collegium backed the right to free speech of an advocate recommended for Bombay High Court judgeship after the Centre objected to his critical comments on social media.

About the Case:

  • Responding to the government’s objection, the collegium has mentioned that there is no material to indicate that the expressions used by the candidate are suggestive of his links with any political party with strong ideological leanings.
  • Also, the collegium argued that the listed qualities required of a candidate for a judgeship, include honesty, ability, a high order of emotional stability, serenity, legal soundness, among others and not loyalty to a political party.

Right to freedom of speech:

  • India does not have a formal legal framework for dealing with hate speech.
  • India prohibits hate speech through several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and other laws which put limitations on the freedom of expression.
  • Constitutionally, Article 19 gives all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression but the said freedom of expression is subject to "reasonable restrictions" for preserving inter alia "public order, decency or morality".
The extent of free speech available to public functionaries:
  • Speech must be exercised with consciousness: Every citizen of India must consciously be restrained in speech, and exercise the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a)only in the sense that it was intended by the framers of the Constitution, to be exercised.
  • Freedom of speech vs. right to dignity: The content of Article 19(1)(a) which does not vest with citizens unbridled liberty to utter statements which are vitriolic, derogatory, unwarranted, have no redeeming purpose and which, in no way amount to the communication of ideas.

Criteria to become a Judge:

  • In order to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, a person must be;
    • A citizen of India and
    • For at least five years, a Judge of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession, or
    • An Advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession for at least 10 years or
    • He/she must be, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist.
  • Provisions exist for the appointment of a Judge of a High Court as an Ad-hoc Judge of the Supreme Court and for retired Judges of the Supreme Court or High Courts to sit and act as Judges of that Court.

Process of Removal:

  • A Judge of the Supreme Court cannot be removed from office except by an order of the President passed after an address in each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting, and presented to the President in the same Session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
  • A person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court is debarred from practising in any court of law or before any other authority in India.
  • Supreme Court Rules, 1966 and Supreme Court Rules 2013 are framed under Article 145 of the Constitution to regulate the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court.

Who appoints the judges in the Court of law?

  • The Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system, and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.
  • Names recommended for appointment by a High Court collegium reach the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court collegium.
  • Sometimes the government delays making the appointments, especially in cases where the government is perceived to be unhappy with one or more judges recommended for appointment by the collegium.

Appointment Procedures:

For Judges of Apex Court

For High Court CJ

  • For other judges of the SC, the proposal is initiated by the CJI.
  • The CJI consults the rest of the Collegium members, as well as the senior-most judge of the court hailing from the High Court to which the recommended person belongs.
  • The consultees must record their opinions in writing and it should form part of the file.
  • The Collegium sends the recommendation to the Law Minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.
  • High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges.
  • The proposal, however, is initiated by the outgoing Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues.
  • The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.

National Export Co-operative Society to export farm, non-farming products


The Nano fertilizers produced by IFFCO and dairy products from Amul are going to be among the first few products to be exported by the National Export Co-operative Society.

The National Export Cooperative society

  • The National Export Cooperative Society is set up under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) Act, of 2002.
  • Objective:
  • To provide thrust to exports from the cooperative sector by acting as an umbrella organisation for carrying out and promoting exports.
  • To help cooperatives in getting benefits of various export-related schemes and policies of different ministries of the Government of India in a focussed manner through the ‘Whole of Government Approach’.


  • Higher exports through the proposed society will increase the production of goods and services by the cooperatives at various levels thus leading to more employment in the cooperative sector.
  • Processing of goods and enhancing the services to match international standards will also generate additional employment.
  • Increased export of cooperative products would, in turn, also promote “Make in India” thus leading to Atmanirbhar Bharat.

The Union Cabinet approved the setting up Multi-State Seed Society, Multi-State Organic Society and Multi-State Export Society.

  • The National Export Cooperative Society will have five promoters that will invest Rs 100 crore each —
  • Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) also known as Amul;
  • National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED);
  • National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC);
  • Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO); and
  • Krishak Bharati Co-operative Limited (KRIBHCO).
  • Though Amul and IFFCO currently export products to countries such as Brazil, the Philippines, Kenya and Canada, the proposed Society is expected to enhance the scale and volume of exports.

What are Cooperative societies?

  • They are autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspiration through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises.
  • Cooperative societies are service enterprises aiming at rendering service to their members. In one sentence the philosophy of cooperation can be summed up as “each for all and all for each”.
Cooperatives in India:
  • Cooperatives in India have a presence in almost all sectors, for example, agriculture (food grains, pulses, oilseeds, etc.), horticulture (fruits, vegetables, flowers, aromatic products, etc.), dairy, poultry, livestock, fisheries, sugar, spices, organic products, fertilizer, handloom, handicraft, textile, tea/coffee, minor forest produce, ayurvedic/ herbal medicines, processed food and leather, among others.
  • Cooperatives contribute substantially in various sectors.
  • They contribute 28.80% in fertilizer production, 35% in fertilizer distribution, 30.60% in sugar production and 17.50% in the procurement of marketable surplus of milk in the national economy but their contribution to exports is negligible.

What does ‘shadow banning’ of social media posts mean?


The term is related to the fact that social media companies are taking stealth actions to limit a post’s visibility.

What does shadow banning mean?

The term was coined by Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of computer science and law at Harvard University.

  • A shadow ban refers to partially blocking or blacklisting a user's profile to reduce visibility without their knowledge.
  • It may lead to less engagement with the account and low visibility of posts instead of an outright ban.
  • In other words, followers cannot see your posts on a social media platform.
  • It refers to a situation that our online activity can be manipulated by a platform without our knowledge.

Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter generally deny performing shadowbans, but typically do so by referring to the original 2001 understanding of it.

When it takes place?

  • Shadowbanning occurs when your posts or activity aren’t viewable to other users, but you haven’t received an official ban or notification.
  • In most cases, the user can still see their own content and have no idea no one else can see their posts.

Is shadow banning by companies legal?

  • Private companies are allowed to make their own rules about content moderation, but for advertisers, users and free speech champions, true shadow bans are problematic because they enforce unarticulated rules secretly.
  • They allow a company to avoid taking responsibility for moderating content while quietly manipulating its flow.
  • And those who are silenced have no process for emerging from the shadows.

How one can identify shadow banning?

  • When shadowbanning has been reported, platforms have explained this away by citing technical glitches, users’ failure to create engaging content, or as a matter of chance through black-box algorithms.



UAE and India settling on non-oil trade in Indian Currency


UAE and India are trying to negotiate the non-oil trade in Rupees as India is seeking for several trade agreements dealing in dollars remaining a trading contest among countries.

Need of the initiative:

  • The large majority of Gulf trade is conducted in U.S. dollars but countries such as India and China are increasingly seeking to pay in local currencies for various reasons, including lowering transaction costs.
  • The UAE signed a wide-ranging free trade agreement last year with India, which, along with China, is among the biggest trade partners for Gulf Arab oil and gas producers, most of whose currencies are pegged to the U.S. dollar.

Benefits of trading oil in Indian currency:

  • More frequent cross-border transactions in the rupee will help in the process of internationalizing the rupee.
  • It would reduce dependency on the dollar for cross-border transactions thus lowering the requirement of maintaining a huge Forex Reserve.
  • Reducing dependence on foreign currency makes India less vulnerable to external shocks.
  • It lowers the transaction cost which occurs during cross-border transactions in Dollars

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and UAE:

  • It is a Free Trade Agreement that took effect on 1st June 2022.
  • It has a separate chapter on small and medium enterprises that recognizes the fundamental role of SMEs in maintaining dynamism and enhancing the competitiveness of the respective economies of both countries.
  • From Day 1 of the agreement coming into force, 90 per cent of India’s current exports to the UAE will have immediate market access at zero duty.
  • Duties on an additional 9 per cent of India’s exports are set to reduce to zero within the next 5 to 10 years, according to CEPA provisions.
  • The CEPA is likely to benefit about $26 billion worth of Indian shipments that are currently subjected to a 5 per cent import duty by the UAE.
  • The major beneficiaries of this would be gems and jewellery, apparel, engineering products, and pharmaceutical exports.
  • A separate Annex on Pharmaceuticals has been incorporated to facilitate early access of Indian pharmaceuticals to the UAE market.

Significance of the agreement:

  • UAE is the second largest source of gold for India.
  • Lowering of tariff on gold coming from UAE will boost the gems and jewellery sector in India and also disincentives smuggling of the yellow metal into India.
  • The CEPA with the UAE incorporates a permanent safeguard mechanism that can be resorted to by either nation, in case of a sudden surge in imports.
  • Both countries have also prepared separate exclusion lists, detailing the products that they want to keep out of the ambit of the FTA, owing to sensitivities.
  • To protect domestic industry, India has decided to keep a range of agri-products outside the deal.
  • This includes dairy, tea, coffee, rubber, spices, sugar and tobacco products.
  • Manufactured items such as pharmaceuticals, certain chemicals including azo dyes, aluminium and copper scrap, and certain categories of steel, helicopters and aeroplanes have also been kept out.

Short News Article

Polity and Governance (GS-II)

Supreme Court on appointing gay lawyer as High Court judge

The Supreme Court Collegium led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana has approved the proposal for elevating Mr. Saurabh Kripal as the first gay lawyer in the higher judiciary.

Government’s stand:

  • The Government had raised several objections regarding the sexual orientation.
  • Collegium’s stand:
  • The Collegium said the fact that Mr. Kirpal is open about his sexual orientation goes to his credit.
  • The lawyer’s sexual orientation is his constitutionally recognised right.
  • Collegium said that having a Swiss national as partner has no bearing on National Security.

Polity and Governance (GS-II)

First ASER survey after pandemic

After a gap of four years, the national Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey was held in 2022, reaching 616 rural districts of the country to understand children’s enrolment status and basic reading and arithmetic ability.

Key findings:

  • India had one of the longest school closures in the world — primary schools were closed for almost two years.
  • The impact of the pandemic on the education sector was two-fold:
    • learning loss associated with long school closures
    • Higher dropout rates, especially among older children, due to squeezed family budgets.
  • The learning levels had been rising slowly between 2014 and 2018, after being stagnant for several years.
    • For example, at the all-India level, the proportion of children in Class III who could read a Class II level text had raised from 23.6 per cent in 2014 to 27.2 per cent in 2018.
    • ASER 2022 shows a big drop in this proportion to 20.5 per cent.
  • In maths also, learning levels had risen slowly between 2014 and 2018.
  • The 2022 estimates show a drop here as well although much smaller than in the case of reading.

Environment (GS-III)

Mercury dips to -2 degree Celsius in Munnar

Recently, the Mercury in Munnar touched -2° Celsius, marked as the lowest temperature recorded so far at Letchmi estate.

Geographical importance of Munnar:

  • Being one of the major hill stations in Kerala, Munnar is blessed with the fruits of nature.
  • The several hills, tea plantations, National Parks, Rivers and lakes have made Munnar an essential tourist destination in India
  • Munnar is also known for Neelakurinji, a rare plant which flowers only once in twelve years.
  • Kerala is home to a number of tribal communities and the Mannans and the Palians are among the most prominent tribes of Munnar.


Polity and Governance (GS-II)

Title deed distribution for Nomadic tribes

Prime Minister launched the 'Hakku Patra' (land title deed) distribution drive for over 52,000 nomadic Lambani (Banjara) families in five districts in north Karnataka.

About Lambani community:

  • Lambani are Banjara (nomadic) community living in the "Thandas" (Lambani habitats) in Kalaburagi, Bidar, Yadgiri, Raichur and Vijayapura districts.

About Hakku Patra distributed by Prime Minister:

  • 'Hakku Patra' is land title deed.
  • Lambani community will get own roof by way of Hakku Patra
  • Way back in 1993, it was recommended to give revenue village status to 'Thandas'(Lambani habitats) but this was never executed.


A Hollow Peace Offer


  • The recent remarks of Pakistan’s Prime Minister on India-Pakistan relations are seen as a positive step for both countries, though with a conditionality.

The Unexpected remarks from Pakistan:

  • Talks for peace: Pakistan has called for serious and sincere talks to resolve burning issues like Kashmir and to resolve flagrant human rights violations in Kashmir and the persecution of minorities in India.
  • Called UAE for mediation: Pakistan has taken up the issues with the UAE president during his recent visit, as its president could play a very important role in bringing the two countries to the talking table.
  • On the Kashmir issue: Its talk of building peace has always been conditional on the resolution of the Kashmir issue and the settlement of the Kashmir dispute must be in accordance with the UN resolutions and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
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