Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 24 May 2023

RBI's 'Clean Note Policy'

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to withdraw the Rs 2,000 note after only seven years of circulation under the ‘Clean Note Policy’. While existing notes will continue to hold legal tenderA similar step was taken in 2013-14 when RBI had withdrawn all notes issued prior to 2005. The decision was made to counteract the insurgence of counterfeit notes in circulation.

What is RBI's Clean Note Policy?

  1. The goal of the RBI's Clean Note Policy is to provide citizens with high-quality currency notes and coins while removing worn-out notes from circulation, the Central Bank said in a statement.
  2. The RBI has instructed banks to give the public only clean and good-quality notes, avoiding the recycling of worn-out notes received by them.
  3. To achieve this, the apex bank has installed high-speed Currency Verification and Processing Systems (CVPS) machines at all its offices that deal with currency. These machines could process 50,000-60,000 notes per hour, and old notes were shredded and compacted.
  4. This policy was first announced in 1999. During his tenure as the deputy governor of RBI, Vepa Kamesam worked to update the technology in banks.
  5. Under his guidance, the public was encouraged not to write on currency notes, while banks were instructed to offer unrestricted exchange services for soiled and damaged notes.
  6. According to the Reserve Bank's instructions, even non-customers had to be provided with good-quality notes and coins in exchange for worn-out and damaged ones at the currency chest branches of banks.
  7. In October 2018, the new clean note policy was introduced in order to make digital payments more secure.

How does the Rs 2,000 note fall under this policy?

  1. The new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes were introduced in November 2016 under Section 24 (1) of the RBI Act of 1934.
  2. By 2018-19, the central bank had already printed new Rs 2,000 notes. The RBI had already stopped printing new notes in 2018-19, less than three years after its introduction.
  3. RBI said that the value of Rs 2,000 notes in circulation has nearly halved from Rs 6.73 trillion in 2018 to Rs 3.62 trillion as on 31 March 2023.
  4. According to data available on RBI's website, the share of these notes fell from 2.4 per cent in 2020 to 1.6 per cent in 2022.
  5. The rationale behind RBI's announcement is that these notes were introduced to rapidly exchange cash during demonetisation and now there is ample supply of smaller denominations to meet the currency requirements of the country.
  6. Furthermore, there are now enough stocks of banknotes in other denominations that meet the currency requirements of the country and the banknotes are not commonly used for daily transactions.


Mitigation investigation for death row convicts

GS Paper - 2 (Judiciary)

The Kerala High Court has directed that a “mitigation investigation” be conducted while considering the death sentence references of two convicts, Nino Mathew and Muhammed Ameer-ul-Islam. A mitigation investigation in death penalty cases involves the consideration of mitigating circumstances or factors that can encourage the judge to be more lenient with sentencing.

What did the Kerala High Court order?

  1. In its order dated 11 May 2023, the Kerala High Court directed the Director General of Prisons to place on record reports from the jail authority concerning the convict’s “conductnature of works done by them in the jail concerned”.
  2. Directing the mitigation investigation to commence before it began hearing the convicts’ appeals against the Sessions Court orders; the Court reasoned that “there is no legal bar in the High Court, at the appellate stage, to commence mitigation study efforts, even before the commencement of the hearing process on the issue of conviction”.
  3. Reasoning that this would help in avoiding an unduly protracted hearing, the court also expressed concerns that if mitigation efforts are undertaken only after the conviction is over, there could be allegations of delay and possible deprivation of the convicts’ “effective and meaningful opportunity of hearing”.

What are Nino and Muhammed convicted of?

  1. Nino Mathew is a convict in the Attingal twin murder case, where a software engineer was arrested on charges of conspiring with her alleged lover (Nino) to get him to murder her four-year-old daughter and mother-in-law in Thiruvananthapuram. Additionally, the engineer’s husband was also grievously injured.
  2. Meanwhile, migrant worker Muhammed’s death conviction was in a 2016 rape and murder case of a 29-year-old Dalit law student.

What has the SC said on mitigation investigations?

  1. In September 2022, a Bench of the then Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia recalled earlier SC rulings on the issue of death sentences and said: “The common thread that runs through all these decisions is the express acknowledgment that meaningful, real and effective hearing must be afforded to the accused, with the opportunity to adduce material relevant for the question of sentencing”.
  2. What is conspicuously absent is consideration and contemplation about the time this may require. In cases where it was felt that real and effective hearing may not have been given (on account of same-day sentencing), this court was satisfied that the flaw had been remedied at the appellate (or review stage), by affording the accused a chance to adduce material and thus fulfilling the mandate of Section 235(2), said the Bench.
  3. The Bench, however, pointed out that its 1980 ruling in the “Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab case,” where it upheld the constitutional validity of the death penalty for murder while restricting it to the rarest of rare cases, requires consideration and clarity as the court had not addressed the question of what constitutes sufficient time at the trial court stage.
  4. In 2022, the SC in “Mohd Firoz vs. State of Madhya Pradesh” reduced the death sentence awarded to a man for raping a seven-year-old girl to life imprisonment after taking on record the report of a mitigation investigator.


SpaceX sends Saudi astronauts to ISS

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

Saudi Arabia's first astronauts in decades rocketed toward the International Space Station on a chartered multimillion-dollar flight. SpaceX launched the ticket-holding crew, led by a retired NASA astronaut now working for the company that arranged the trip from Kennedy Space Center. Also on board: a U.S. businessman who now owns a sports car racing team.


  1. The four should reach the space station in their capsule; they'll spend just over a week there before returning home with a splashdown off the Florida coast.
  2. Sponsored by the Saudi Arabian governmentRayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher, became the first woman from the kingdom to go to space. She was joined by Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force.
  3. They're the first from their country to ride a rocket since a Saudi prince launched aboard shuttle Discovery in 1985. In a quirk of timing, they'll be greeted at the station by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.
  4. It's the second private flight to the space station organized by Houston-based Axiom Space. The first was last year by three businessmen, with another retired NASA astronaut.
  5. After decades of shunning space tourism, NASA now embraces it with two private missions planned a year. The Russian Space Agency has been doing it, off and on, for decades.

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