Q1. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, in a recent report to the Rajya Sabha, has recommended that the government should immediately revive the idea of a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) as a unified counter terrorism agency. Comment
One may recall the sweeping transformation of India’s internal security architecture following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
It prominently included the creation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) as well as the revamp of National Security Guard (NSG).
The Central government had also announced an ambitious plan to create a single overarching body for counter terrorism purposes by combining two distinct intelligence systems—predictive intelligence and counter-intelligence.
NCTC was meant to subsume the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), an intelligence-sharing “fusion centre” functioning under the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and its operatives were to have arrest powers throughout India. But in line with India’s dismal record of institution-building in the security domain, the NCTC has been the biggest disappointment of the post-26/11 reform process.
The proposed NCTC—whose aims included preventing, containing and responding to terrorist attacks—found itself trapped in the political quagmire of Centre-state relations during the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.
In particular, the non-Congress-ruling states of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Karnataka, Bihar, Tripura and West Bengal were bitterly opposed to the proposal. Their main objection revolved around the potential violation of the principle of federalism as they argued that the NCTC would encroach upon the powers of the states.
NCTC was modelled on the American institution of the same name. In wanting to emulate the US model, MHA had overlooked a significant detail: the American NCTC is part of its Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI), which is manned by officials from the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and other agencies who can also access its databases.
By analysing and collating terrorism-related information to support counter-terrorism operations of various intelligence agencies that have ground-level source networks, it effectively duplicates their analysis and assessment functions. But the Centre is neither authorized to conduct intelligence operations on its own nor does it have the powers to investigate or arrest.
The idea of keeping NCTC under the control of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was both good and bad. IB is the nodal agency for counterterrorism, and it makes sense to house NCTC under it in a similar fashion to the MAC . But why IB’s control over NCTC created controversy is also not difficult to understand. It is an accepted principle in all liberal democracies that an intelligence agency should not possess police powers of arrest.
Opposition parties expressed fears that if NCTC was made part of IB, the powers given to it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act could be misused.
The politicization of India’s intelligence agencies has often allowed the ruling parties to use these agencies for politically motivated spying.
There were several allegations that the NIA was used by the UPA government for political purposes to probe cases involving alleged right-wing radical outfits. Moreover, the turf war between different intelligence agencies operating under different government ministries has also hampered consensus on the establishment of NCTC.
Eventually, in the face of heated political debates and resistance from various stakeholders, plans for NCTC were steadily watered down. The 2012 executive order had mandated the NCTC to function as an integral part of the IB besides giving it the powers of “arrest, search and seizure”.
The revised draft, however, stipulated it to work directly under the MHA. It was also clarified that upon identification of a terrorist or terror group, operations would be carried out in conjunction with state police.
For the last couple of years, there have been several unconfirmed media reports and speculation about the structure, mandate and legal framework of NCTC—the latest being that the NCTC will become an umbrella body encompassing all leading intelligence agencies whose respective heads will report to the NCTC chief.
India faces constant threats from terrorism, cross-border as well as from locally radicalized jihadists. But almost one decade after 26/11, what the Central government has to show for itself on NCTC is a muddle of proposals, minutes of committee meetings, turf battles, and political controversies.
Nobody can predict the fate of NCTC. However, anyone familiar with the functioning of India’s various intelligence agencies can argue that collection of intelligence or data generation is as big a challenge, if not bigger than coordination among intelligence community. As long as intelligence capabilities at the ground level are not substantially improved, institutional overhaul at the apex level will bear not the desired outcomes, but only another bulky bureaucratic structure.
Q2. Don’t restrict definition of contempt of court: Law panel to government. Comment
The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 is one of the most powerful statutes in the country. It gives the constitutional courts wide powers to restrict an individual’s fundamental right to personal liberty for “scandalising the court” or for “wilful disobedience” of any judgment, writ, direction or order.
The offence of “scandalising the court” continues in India even though it was abolished as an offence in England and Wales long ago.
The Department of Justice wrote to the Law Commission of India, asking it to examine an amendment to the Act to nix “scandalising the court” as a ground for contempt and restrict contempt to only “wilful disobedience” of directions/judgments of the court.
The Supreme Court recently published a report that noted that 568 criminal contempt cases and 96,310 civil contempt cases were found pending in the High Courts. In the Supreme Court, as of April 10, 683 civil contempt cases and 15 criminal contempt cases have been shown as pending.
But the Law Commission has submitted a report stating that there is no point “tinkering” with the 1971 Act. The statute, it said, only lays down the procedure in contempt cases. “The powers of contempt of the Supreme Court and High Courts are independent of the Act 1971,” the report of the Commission said. The contempt powers of the higher courts are drawn from the Constitution itself.
The Commission said that “to delete the provision relating to ‘criminal contempt’ inter alia ‘scandalising of courts’ will have no impact on the power of the Superior Courts to punish for contempt (including criminal contempt) in view of their inherent constitutional powers, as these powers are independent of statutory provisions”. Additionally, Article 142(2) enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
The Law Commission informed the government that the 1971 Act was a good influence. In fact, the statute, by laying down procedure, restricts the vast authority of the courts in wielding contempt powers, it said.
The 1971 Act contains “adequate safeguards to exclude instances which may not amount to criminal contempt” as defined under Section 2(c) of the Act 1971. The Commission said the statute has stood the test of judicial scrutiny for about five decades. It empowers the High Court to act if someone is in contempt of the subordinate courts. Diluting the Act would expose the subordinate judiciary to acts of contempt of court.
The reason being that even prior to the commencement of the Act, these inherent powers were being exercised by the superior courts. Thus, the powers of contempt of the Supreme Court and high courts are independent of the Act, and, therefore, by making any such amendment, the power of the superior courts to punish for contempt under Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution cannot be tinkered with or abrogated,” the Commission said, cautioning the government.
Q3. What Is Indian heterodox school of philosophy?
Three Heterodox Schools of Indian Philosophy
Schools that do not accept the authority of vedas are by definition unorthodox (nastika) systems. The following schools belong to heterodox schools of Indian Philosophy.
It is characterised as a materialistic and aesthetic school of thought. Accepted direct perception as the surest method to prove the truth of anything. Insists on joyful living.
Also known as Lokayata, Carvaka is a materialistic school of thought. Its founder was Carvaka, author of the Barhaspatya Sutras in the final centuries B.C.
The original texts have been lost and our understanding of them is based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools. As early as the 5th Century, Saddaniti and Buddhaghosa connected the Lokayatas with the Vitandas (or Sophists), and the term Carvaka was first recorded in the 7th Century by the philosopher Purandara, and in the 8th Century by Kamalasila and Haribhadra.
It is a system of beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautma. Buddhism is a non-theistic philosophy whose tenets are not especially concerned with the existence or non-existence of God.
Four Noble Truths in Buddhism are the following.
There is suffering
There is a cause of suffering
There is a cessation of suffering
There is a way to the cessation of suffering
Buddhists philosophy of life to get ‘Nirvana’ from suffering is based on the following eight principles:
Right Faith (Samyak Dristi)
Right Resolve (Samyak Sankalpa)
Right Speech (Samyak Vakya)
Right Action (Samyak Karmanta)
Right Living ( Samyak Ajiva)
Right Thought (Samyak Smriti)
Right concentration (Samyak Samadhi)
Right Effort (Samyak Vyayama)
Already in existence by 6th century B.C, it was revived by Mahavira, the 24th Jain Tirthankara. According to Jainism, Nirvana or liberation is obtained through three jewels: Right Philosophy, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (Tri-ratna). Right conduct implies 5 absinences: not to lie, not to steal, not to strive for luxury and not to strive for possessions, not to be unchaste and not to injure (Ahimsa).
A related philosophy which some classify under the heterodox sytem is Ajivika Philosophy. The Ājīvikas may simply have been a more loosely-organized group of wandering ascetics (shramanas or sannyasins). Some of its prominent figures were Makkhali Gosala and Sanjaya Belatthaputta. This was an ascetic movement of the Mahajanapada period in the Indian subcontinent.
Q4 . What is the draft National Clean Air Programme?
The NCAP is a national action plan that proposes multiple strategies to reduce air pollution.
Highlights of the National Clean Air Programme
NCAP aims to enhance and develop an effective and a proficient network to monitor the ambient air quality across the country for a comprehensive and reliable database.
The plan calls for an efficient data distribution and public outreach mechanism for timely measures to prevent and mitigate air pollution.
It also aims to have a feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
NCAP details a host of measures to bring down air pollution
The Ministry has detailed a host of measures to bring down air pollution under the NCAP and few of these are:
Air quality monitoring network
Identification of alternative technology for real-time monitoring
Setting up of 10 city super network
Indoor air pollution monitoring and management
Air pollution health impact studies
Air quality forecasting system
Issuance of notification on dust management
Three-tier mechanism for review, assessment and inspection for implementation of the plan
National emission inventory
However, this new plan lacks the mention of targets of achieving absolute pollution reduction of 35 per cent in three years and 50 per cent in five years. Earlier, the environment ministry announced that it hopes to bring down air pollution in around 100 non-attainment cities by 50 per cent in the next five years under the NCAP.
Non-attainment cities are those which have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.