IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 17 July 2019

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El Niño could be losing steam

 Topic: GS-I:  Geography

A weak El Nino prevailing in the Pacific Ocean since the start of this year is beginning to dissipate. Over the next two months, a fully neutral condition is likely to be restored in the Pacific Ocean, according to the latest bulletin issued by the Climate Prediction Centre of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US.

What is El Nino and why does it matter?

  • El Nino is a condition wherein the surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America, become unusually warm. Its opposite condition, when it becomes unusually cold, is termed, La Nina. The two conditions influence weather events worldwide, including the Indian monsoon. El Nino is known to suppress rainfall during the monsoon months.

Why a weak El Nino is good for India?

  • The beginning of dissipation of El Nino is good news for India which is hoping to get good rainfall in the remaining part of the monsoon season after a deficient first month. In June, rainfall in India had been 32 per cent below normal, though it was not on account of El Nino which has remained weak since it developed at the start of the year. But a continuing El Nino, even if weak, could be a cause for concern for the remaining season as well.
  • As of now, the cumulative deficit in the rainfall this monsoon season for the country as a whole is 12 per cent. The last couple of weeks, though, have brought good rainfall in many parts of the country. Overall, rainfall in the last week was 28 per cent above normal.

Kulbhushan Jadhav case file

 Topic: GS –II: International relations

Today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will deliver its verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case between India and Pakistan. Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the court, will read out the decision at the Peace Palace in The Hague.


  • Jadhav, 49, a retired Navy officer, was arrested allegedly on March 3, 2016, and India was informed on March 25. He was sentenced to death on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.
  • India first approached the ICJ on May 8, 2017, over Pakistan’s “egregious violation” of provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, by repeatedly denying it consular access to Jadhav. India argued that it had not been informed of Jadhav’s detention until long after his arrest and that Pakistan had failed to inform him of his rights. India also alleged that it had learned about the death sentence against Jadhav from a press release.
  • On May 9, 2017, the ICJ asked the two countries to present their arguments and until such time, asked Pakistan not to do anything. On May 15, the two sides presented their arguments; on May 18, the 10-member-bench of the ICJ restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav until a final verdict is given.
  • On June 13, the court fixed September 13 for filing of memorial (petition) by India and December 13, 2017 as the time-limit for a counter-memorial by Pakistan. These were filed within the time-limits. The court fixed April 17 and July 17, 2018 as the respective time-limits for written replies by India and Pakistan. These too were filed within the deadlines.

What arguments has India made?

  • India has said the sentence is based on an “extracted confession”. Citing international bodies like the European Parliament and the International Committee of Jurists, Salve questioned military courts in Pakistan, saying they do not follow due process.
  • He argued that the Vienna Convention, which guarantees consular access, cannot be selectively given and the ICJ should make it a “human right”. He said Article 36 of the Vienna Convention doesn’t exclude espionage.

Broadly, India has argued:

  • The sentence violates international law and provisions of the Vienna Convention;
  • India is entitled to restitutio in integrum (restoration to original condition);
  • The ICJ should annul the military court decision and restrain Pakistan from giving effect to the sentence or conviction; and
  • Pakistan should be directed to release Jadhav immediately and facilitate his safe passage to India.

If the ICJ were to find that Jadhav is not to be released, then India has requested:

  • Annul the military court decision and restrain Pakistan from giving effect to the sentence; or
  • Direct it to take steps to annul the military court decision; or
  • Direct a trial under ordinary law in civilian courts, after excluding his confession and in strict conformity with provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with full consular access and a right to India to arrange for his legal representation.

And what has Pakistan argued?

  • Pakistan has asked the ICJ to “dismiss or declare inadmissible” India’s claim. It rejected India’s argument that the military courts don’t have officers with judicial expertise and experience, and said Pakistan’s courts are “extremely independent”.

How binding are ICJ judgments?

  • According to ICJ, judgments delivered by the court (or by one of its chambers) in disputes between states are binding upon the parties concerned. Article 94 of the United Nations Charter provides that “each Member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of [the court] in any case to which it is a party”. Judgments are final and without appeal.
  • If there is a dispute about the meaning or scope of a judgment, the only possibility is for one of the parties to make a request to the court for an interpretation. In the event of the discovery of a fact hitherto unknown to the court which might be a decisive factor, either party may apply for revision of the judgment.

  • However, there have been instances when the ICJ’s rulings have not been followed. The most famous one was in 1986, when the ICJ ruled in a petition by Nicaragua, which alleged that the US had waged a covert war against it by supporting a rebellion.
  • The ICJ ordered reparations from the US in favour of Nicaragua. The US, in response, cancelled its declaration of the ICJ’s jurisdiction. It then went to the UN Security Council against the ICJ order and succeeded.
  • So, whatever the ICJ decides, both governments will have to be prepared for a long haul.
The International Court of Justice:

·         The International Court of Justice (ICJ) sometimes called the World Court, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). The ICJ’s primary functions are to settle international legal disputes submitted by states (contentious cases) and give advisory opinions on legal issues referred to it by the UN (advisory proceedings). Through its opinions and rulings, it serves as a source of international law.

·         The ICJ is the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was established by the League of Nations in 1920 and began its first session in 1922. After the Second World War, both the League and the PCIJ were succeeded by the United Nations and ICJ, respectively.

·         The ICJ comprises a panel of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and Security Council for nine-year terms.

·         The court is seated in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, making it the only principal U.N. organ not located in New York City.

·         Its official working languages are English and French.

More obesity in India and world

 Topic: GS–II: Health

  • The number of obese adults in India has risen by a fourth in four years, from 24.1 million in 2012 to 32.8 million in 2016, while the country’s undernourished population has dropped by roughly the same fraction in 12 years, from 253.9 million in 2004-06 to 194.4 million in 2016-18, according to a new United Nations report.

  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report, released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimated that 820 million people worldwide did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year. At the same time, the number of overweight individuals and obesity continue to increase in all regions.
  • The report has a section on economic growth in China and India, and its effect on poverty. Between 1990 and 2017, the two countries had an average GDP per capita growth rate of 8.6 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively, the report said, citing World Bank figures.

  • In both countries, the increase in GDP per capita has been accompanied by poverty reduction. While China’s poverty rate declined from 88 per cent in 1981 to 0.7 per cent in 2015, India’s poverty reduction appeared to be relatively more modest, moving from 48.9 per cent in 1987 to 21.2 per cent in 2011, or to 13.4 per cent in 2015 if another World Bank source is used, the report said.

Changes in NIA: Wider jurisdiction, more offences, faster trial

Topic: GS -III: Security

Lok Sabha passed the NIA Act Amendment Bill, which gives more powers to the National Investigation Agency and extends its jurisdiction beyond India’s borders. The Bill was hotly debated, with the Opposition accusing the government of misusing the agency for political vendetta and turning India into a police state.

  • Home Minister Amit Shah assured the House that the Act would never be misused, but would be used to finish terrorism, irrespective of the terrorist’s religion.

The NIA Act

  • The NIA Act, 2008, governs the functioning of India’s premier counterterror agency. It was introduced in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and was passed with very little opposition.
  • The Act makes NIA the only truly federal agency in the country, along the lines of the FBI in the United States, and more powerful than the CBI. The CBI has to seek the permission of a state government before investigating a case against a central government employee in that state. If a crime is committed in a state, it has to wait for that state government or a court to call it in to investigate.The NIA Act, on the other hand, gives the NIA powers to take suo motu cognisance of terrorist activity in any part of India and to register a case, to enter any state without needing permission from its government, and to investigate and arrest people.
  • The NIA can, however, only investigate cases which are listed in the Act’s schedule, which largely deal with the security and integrity of the country. This means the NIA cannot probe murder and rape cases, which come under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Now beyond borders

  • The new Bill makes three broad additions to the NIA Act. It gives NIA extra-territorial jurisdiction; adds four more scheduled offences to the list of eight offences in the original Act; and gives powers to the government to designate sessions courts as special courts for trial of NIA cases.
  • In giving NIA extra-terrorial jurisdiction, the Bill allows the agency to register a case when Indians living abroad or India’s assets based in a foreign country come under attack from terrorists.
  • All major countries have this provision for their concerned agencies. The US was able to prosecute David Coleman Headley in the 26/11 attacks because they had powers to register a case in a terror attack that had happened in a foreign country. Their nationals had been killed in the attack, and they took cognisance of the case. NIA does not have such powers.
  • This lacuna was a reason why the case against the Italian Marines who had shot dead an Indian fisherman off the coast of Kerala in 2012 hit an initial spot of rough weather. The accused argued that the offence had taken place in international waters, and thus NIA had no jurisdiction. It was after India proved that the offence had taken place in Indian waters that the case could proceed.
  • The new provision will allow the NIA to register cases if an Indian embassy comes under attack abroad, or if Indian underwater cables of communication in international waters are sabotaged. While the outcome of such cases will continue to depend on how much diplomatic leverage India has with that country, the Bill empowers it to begin the process.
  • The IPC does have provisions of extra-territorial jurisdiction, but it is limited to Indians committing crime abroad.

What has not changed

  • Not all NIA’s suggestions have been accepted. A key proposal was to include the Ranbir Penal Code, applicable in J&K, as a special provision under the Schedule of the Act. The NIA believes that while prosecuting people from Kashmir for offences committed in that state (it is probing alleged terror funding and organised stone-pelting), it could face challenges of jurisdiction.
  • The Ranbir CrPC varies slightly from the CrPC. A statement recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC is not signed. Under RCrPC, it is. Such procedural differences can impact a prosecution case in court.

Pakistan re-opens airspace

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Pakistan opened its airspace for the first time since February 26. The country had imposed restrictions on its airspace in response to the non-military counter-terrorism airstrike by the Indian Air Force against terror camps in Balakot.

More in news:

  • A NOTAM, or Notice to Airmen, was last issued by the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority closing the airspace. This was cancelled early on Tuesday, effective around 1 am Indian Standard Time (IST). According to flight tracking portal Flightradar24, several inbound Air India flights from Europe were using routes passing through the Pakistan airspace to return to Delhi.

Impact of the move

  • The move is expected to result in the reduction of flight times by around 70-80 minutes for flights that earlier used Pakistan’s airspace for transit.
  • Indian carriers together lost over Rs 550 crore due to the restrictions that had resulted in longer flight times and higher fuel burns.

Editorial section:

Chinese check – The Hindu

Making sense of Karnataka’s politics– The Hindu

One for the ages– The Hindu

The wheels to a low-carbon transport system– The Hindu

The many hurdles in proving citizenship– The Hindu

Rethinking KUSUM– The Hindu

Tapping the potential of communities to end AIDS– The Hindu



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