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The Hindu Editorial

8-February-2024

1. Downloading child pornography is an offence

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections. Critical for UPSC: Highlights judicial interpretation, legislative gaps in child pornography cases, urging alignment and term change for clarity.
Context
  • Madras High Court controversially quashes proceedings in child pornography case, asserting downloading and private viewings aren’t offenses, citing flawed precedent.
  • The decision calls for legislative alignment and term change.
 Case Overview: S. Harish vs Inspector of Police Background:
  • Madras High Court quashes judicial proceedings in a case involving the download of child pornography.
  • The court ruled that downloading and watching child pornography in private are not offenses under Section 67B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
Legal Reference:
  • Section 67B(b) of the IT Act criminalizes actions like downloading, advertising, promoting, or distributing material depicting children in obscene or sexually explicit ways.
High Court’s Flawed Interpretation:
  • The court focused on the accused not publishing or transmitting material, overlooking sub-clause (b) of Section 67B that includes downloading as an offense.
Precedent Misinterpretation:
  • The court cited a Kerala High Court case irrelevant to child pornography, creating an inappropriate precedent.
  • Recent case law (Aneesh vs State of Kerala, September 2023) distinguishes between adult and child pornography under Section 292 of the IPC.
Inherent Powers and Quashing:
  • Madras High Court used inherent powers under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to prevent misuse of the court process.
  • Supreme Court guidelines (State of Haryana vs Bhajan Lal, 1992) suggest quashing only when no prima facie offense is evident, contradicting the present case.
Inconsistency and Legislative Suggestions:
  • Section 67, 67A, and 67B of the IT Act create a comprehensive code for offenses, including child pornography.
  • It can be suggested for renaming “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse materials (CSAM)” to better reflect the nature of the crime.
  • Proposes amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to align with the IT Act, making mere possession of CSAM a separate offense.
Recommendation:
  • Urges the State government to appeal the judgment to prevent setting a detrimental precedent.
  • Advocates for legislative amendments to harmonize laws, ensuring effective prosecution and protection of children from sexual exploitation.
Conclusion:
  • The Madras High Court’s controversial decision on child pornography highlights a judicial misinterpretation, necessitating legislative alignment.
  • Urgent amendments, as suggested, are crucial for effective child protection and legal clarity.
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the recent Madras High Court decision on child pornography, emphasizing legal lacunae and the need for legislative coherence. (150 words/10 m)

2. Equity concerns in banning fossil fuel extraction

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation Critical for UPSC as it involves global governance, climate agreements, legal intricacies, and impacts on developing economies.
Context
  • The article discusses global momentum towards phasing out fossil fuels, citing a proposed coal elimination treaty, international legal challenges, and India’s situation.
  • It emphasizes the need for equitable transitions, aligning with climate agreements, and India’s strategic coalition building.
Inadequate Response to Climate Change:
  • Governments and corporations face criticism for inadequate responses to climate change.
  • Rising climate change litigation globally reflects growing dissatisfaction.
  • Momentum favors phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and banning fossil fuel extraction.
  • Proposal for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty gains support.
Coal Elimination Treaty Proposal:
  • Academic literature proposes a coal elimination treaty by 2030.
  • Aim is to phase out mining and burning of coal due to Production Gap concerns.
  • Production Gap Report (PGR 2023) indicates a significant gap in fossil fuel production plans and Paris Agreement goals.
UNFCCC and COP Actions:
  • COP26 in 2021 references phasing down unabated coal power and fossil fuel subsidies.
  • COP28 in 2023 in Dubai adopts a decision for transitioning away from fossil fuels to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Alignment with Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Nationally Determined Contributions remains a challenge.
Equitable Phasing Out of Fossil Fuels:
  • CBDR-RC criteria (per capita emissions, historic emissions, financial resources) face challenges in fossil fuel extraction context.
  • Countries that are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, like Azerbaijan, Congo, and Nigeria, may struggle with transition.
  • Diversified economies like Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are better positioned for transition.
International Law and Fossil Fuel:
  • States have the right to use natural resources for economic development but must avoid significant harm to other states.
  • The duty to prevent harm is linked to trans-boundary consequences, but global application remains unclear.
  • Scholars argue for EIA for fossil fuel extraction’s global environmental impact and human rights concerns.
India’s Situation:
  • Despite progress in renewable energy, fossil fuels dominate India’s power sector.
  • Nearly 3.6 million people in 159 districts are connected to the fossil fuel economy.
  • India faces unemployment concerns and needs transition support for cleaner fuel adoption.
  • India’s subsidies on kerosene oil are scrutinized for inconsistency with the Paris Agreement.
India’s Response and Coalition Building:
  • India, at COP26, emphasizes “phasing down” unabated coal instead of “phasing out.”
  • India leans on coalition building with like-minded developing countries.
  • Opposition to developed countries’ expectations for radical economic shifts without sufficient support.
Conclusion:
  • In conclusion, the global discourse on phasing out fossil fuels underscores the need for equitable transitions, legal considerations, and coalition efforts.
  • Balancing economic realities with environmental goals remains crucial for a sustainable future.
PYQ: Do you think India will meet 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2030? Justify your answer. How will the shim of subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables help achieve the above Objective? Explain. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question:  In the context of global efforts to phase out fossil fuels, discuss the challenges and strategies for equitable transitions, considering legal frameworks and developing economies. (250 words/15 m)
 

3. Road map for fiscal consolidation

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy –  Government Budgeting
Critical for UPSC as it involves fiscal policies, economic stability, capital expenditures, and understanding implications for national development.
Context
  • The article discusses the key points from the interim budget for 2024-25, highlighting tax rate stability, increased focus on capital expenditures, and the imperative of fiscal correction.
 Interim Budget Highlights:
  • No proposed changes in tax rates for direct or indirect taxes in the 2024-25 ‘vote on account.’
  • Emphasis on increasing Union government’s capital expenditures and fiscal correction.
Buoyancy and Revenue Projections:
  • Tax revenue buoyancy at 1.33 based on the Budget Estimates for the current year.
  • Nominal GDP growth estimated at 10.5%, providing a buffer for potential expenditure increase or deficit reduction.
Capital Expenditure Trends:
  • Capital expenditures of the Central government to increase by 11.1%, maintaining the trend of recent years.
  • Higher growth rate of 16.9% compared to the Revised Estimates of 2023-24.
Challenges in Capital Expenditure:
  • Lower-than-budgeted growth in capital expenditures in 2023-24 associated with a real GDP growth of 7.3%.
  • Possibility of achieving a 17% capital expenditure growth in 2024-25 to support a 7% real GDP growth.
Fiscal Deficit Target:
  • Fiscal deficit for 2024-25 expected to decrease to 5.1%, a 0.7 percentage point decline.
  • Target fiscal deficit of 3% of GDP for the Central government and 6% of GDP combined with State governments.
Logic behind Fiscal Targets:
  • Linked to household savings in financial assets and net inflow of resources from abroad.
  • Household savings in financial assets declining, raising concerns about making adjustments to the desired fiscal deficit level.
Debt-GDP Ratio and Simulations:
  • Committee suggests a debt-GDP ratio of 60% for the Centre and States combined, with a 40% target for the Centre.
  • Simulations project reaching a 40% debt-GDP ratio for the Centre by 2034-35 with a 3% fiscal deficit sustained from 2028-29.
Inflation and Long-Term Fiscal Goals:
  • Fiscal deficit above 6% of GDP for the Centre and States combined could lead to inflation.
  • The goal is to achieve a fiscal deficit of 3% of GDP each for the Centre and the States over a specified time horizon.
PYQ: What are the reasons for Introduction of Fiscal responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) act, 2003? Discuss critically its salient features and their effectiveness. (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2013)

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