Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 04 April 2023

Bail after ‘undue delay’ in trials

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Giving weight to the right to a speedy trial, the Supreme Court held that “undue delay” in a trial can be a ground for granting bail to an accused even under stringent special legislation such as the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. The ruling is significant because the bar for bail otherwise is quite high under the law, similar to the standards in anti-terror legislation.

What was the case?

  1. A bench of Justices Ravindra Bhatt and Dipankar Datta directed that an undertrial booked under the NDPS Act nearly seven-and-a-half years ago for possession of cannabis be released on bail.
  2. NDPS is an exception to the ordinary rules for granting bail. Under Section 37 of the Act, for a court to grant bail it has to be satisfied that “that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such an offence” and that upon release, “isn’t likely to commit any offence.” This high bar, requiring the accused to prove innocence at the time of seeking bail, ensures getting bail under the law is virtually impossible for certain offences.
  3. Now, the SC has said that the condition seeking the court’s satisfaction to the extent that an accused is not guilty of an offence “has to be interpreted reasonably.”
  4. In a 2008 verdict in ‘Vaman Narain Ghiya v. State of Rajasthan’, the Supreme Court has upheld the stringent bail provisions under NDPS by “balancing two competing values, i.e., the right of the accused to enjoy freedom, based on the presumption of innocence, and societal interest.”

What does undue delay mean in law?

  1. In the current case, the SC recorded that the accused Mohammad was in custody “for over 7 years and 4 months” and the progress of the trial had been at a snail’s pace, “with 34 witnesses remaining to be examined still”.
  2. The Court said that the stringent conditions under Section 37 of the NDPS Act cannot override the general law for granting bail for undue delay in the trial.
  3. Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires an accused to be granted bail if the trial is not concluded within specified periods.
  4. Moreover, the expression “reasonable grounds” used in Section 37 is not defined in the statute, thereby widening the scope of judicial interpretation.
  5. Section 436A also requires that no person shall be detained during the period of investigation, inquiry, or trial for more than the maximum period of imprisonment provided for the offence.
  6. In the landmark 1979 ruling in ‘Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar’, the SC recognised the right to a speedy trial as “implicit in the broad sweep and content of Article 21”.

AI can ‘pose profound risks to society

GS Paper - 3 (Emerging Technology)

Twitter owner and entrepreneur Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are among the high-profile names in an open letter, signed to urge halting the rollout of artificial intelligence-powered tools like ChatGPT. a letter titled ‘Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter’ was posted on the website of the Future of Life (FLI) Institute. It said, “We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

What is ChatGPT and what does the open letter say about it?

  1. chatbot is a computer programme that can have conversations with a person and has become a common part of websites in the last few years.
  2. On websites like Amazon and Flipkart, chatbots help people raise requests for returns and refunds. But a much more advanced version came about when OpenAI, a US-based AI research laboratory, created the chatbot ChatGPT last year.
  3. According to OpenAI’s description, ChatGPT can answer “follow-up questions” and can also “admit its mistakeschallenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” It is based on the company’s GPT 3.5 series of language learning models (LLM).
  4. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 and this is a kind of computer language model that relies on deep learning techniques to produce human-like text based on inputs.
  5. With Artificial Intelligence or AI, instead of human programmers having to feed specific inputs into a programme, big amounts of data are fed into a system and then the programme uses that information to train itself into understanding information in a meaningful manner.

What is the criticism raised here?

  1. The letter was posted on the website of FLI, which describes its work as engaging in grantmakingpolicy research and advocacy on areas such as AI.
  2. The letter points out that AI systems now have human-competitive intelligence. The authors believe this “could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources.”
  3. They claim that this level of planning and management is not happening, even as an “out-of-control race” has been on to develop new “digital minds” that not even their creators can understand or predict.
  4. A range of questions are also asked here, such as “Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones?
  5. Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?” The letter adds that such decisions must not be delegated to “unelected tech leaders”.

Micro plastics afloat in oceans

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

An estimated 170 trillion plastic particles weighing about 2 million metric tons are currently afloat in the oceans across the world, according to a new study, which added that if no urgent action is taken then this number could nearly triple by 2040.

More about the news:

  • The study says, growing plastic smog, now estimated to be over 170 trillion plastic particles afloat in the world’s oceans.
  • In 2014, it was estimated that there were 5 trillion plastic particles in the ocean. Now, less than ten years later, we’re up at 170 trillion.
  • It explained that, a vast majority of these plastic particles found on the ocean’s surface are micro plastics; these are tiny plastic particles that measure less than 5mm in diameter.
  • Micro plastics are particularly harmful to the oceans as they don’t readily break down into harmless molecules and adversely affect the health of marine organisms, which mistake plastic for food.
  • These particles can trigger loss of biodiversity and threaten ecosystem balance.

The findings of the new study:

  • The researchers examined surface-level plastic pollution data from nearly 12,000 ocean stations in six major marine regions, from 1979 to 2019.
  • The researchers were able to estimate not only how much micro plastics is currently in the oceans but also how their concentration has changed over the years.
  • They found that from 1990 to 2005, the number of plastic particles more or less fluctuated.
  • In the 1980s and 90s, there were some international policies, like MARPOL Annex 5 that enforced laws against dumping trash at sea. They were powerful laws that were enforceable and were preventative.
  • The study finds that since, 2005 we have produced more than 5,000,000 tons of new plastic into the world, and with more plastic there is more pollution.
  • It advocate for a strong UN treaty on plastic pollution that is enforceable, not voluntary, and preventative, not focused on Clean up and recycling.

Micro-plastics impact on the oceans and marine life:

  • Several recent studies have detected micro-plastics in marine organisms, from phytoplankton to whales and dolphins, which might prove hazardous for them.
  • It further added that ingested plastics can cause chemical problems by leaching absorb chemicals into organisms.
  • It also said that micro-plastics absorb many hydrophobic compounds, like DDT, PCBs and other industrial chemicals, and evidence shows they can be released when ingested.
  • It can also disrupt the carbon cycle of the oceans.

Measures taken to limit plastic pollution in oceans:

  • There is an urgent need to implement a global resolution to limit the production of single-use, throwaway plastic.
  • There is need to make cities responsible for managing their waste so it does not leave their territory, also to reduce the amount of chemical additives in new plastic products.

OPEC+ announces voluntary oil output cuts

GS Paper -2 (International organization)

Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ oil producers announced further cuts in their production amounting to around 1.16 million barrels per day in a surprise move they said was aimed at supporting market stability.

More about the news:

  • The development comes after a virtual meeting of an OPEC+ ministerial panel, which includes Saudi Arabia and Russia, and which had been expected to stick to 2 million bpd of cuts already in place until the end of 2023.
  • Oil prices last month fell towards $70 a barrel, the lowest in 15 months, on concern that a global banking crisis would hit demand.

Impact of the announcement:

Oil prices surge

  • Oil prices jumped about $5 a barrel, jolted by a surprise announcement by the OPEC+.
  • The pledges bring the total volume of cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other allies to 3.66 million bpd, equal to 3.7% of global demand.
  • Last October, OPEC+ had agreed to an output cut of 2 million bpd from November until the end of the year, a move that angered Washington as tighter supply boosts oil prices.
  • The U.S. has argued that the world needs lower prices to support economic growth and prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from earning more revenue to fund the Ukraine war. The unexpected voluntary cuts start from May.

Oil production cuts:

  • Saudi Arabia said it would cut output by 500,000 bpd while Iraq will reduce its production by 211,000 bpd.
  • The UAE said it would cut production by 144,000 bpd, Kuwait announced a cut of 128,000 bpd while Oman announced a cut of 40,000 bpd and Algeria said it would cut its output by 48,000 bpd. Kazakhstan will also cut output by 78,000 bpd.
  • Russia’s said that Moscow would extend a voluntary cut of 500,000 bpd until the end of 2023. Moscow announced those cuts unilaterally in February following the introduction of Western price caps.
  • An OPEC+ source said Gabon would make a voluntary cut of 8,000 bpd and not all OPEC+ members were joining the move as some are already pumping well below agreed levels due to a lack of production capacity.
  • The Saudi energy ministry said in a statement that the kingdom’s voluntary cut was a precautionary measure aimed at supporting the stability of the oil market. 



  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an organization enabling the co-operation of leading oil-producing countries, in order to collectively influence the global market and maximise profit.
  • It is founded on 14 September 1960, in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela).
  • Since, 1965, been headquartered in Vienna, Austria, although Austria is not an OPEC member state.
  • As of September 2018, the 13 member countries accounted for an estimated 44 percent of global oil production and 81.5 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, giving OPEC a major influence on global oil prices that were previously determined by the so-called "Seven Sisters" grouping of multinational oil companies.
  • Current OPEC members are Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, Ecuador, Indonesia and Qatar are former OPEC members.
  • A larger group called OPEC+ was formed in late 2016 to have more control on the global crude oil market.