Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 27 February 2023

Section 153A of the IPC

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Supreme Court granted interim bail to Pawan Khera, chairman of the media and publicity department of the All India Congress Committee, who had been arrested for alleged hate speech by Assam Police. Multiple FIRs registered against Khera across different states mentioned offences ranging from criminal conspiracyimputationsassertions prejudicial to national-integration to promoting enmity between religions.

Section 153A: What the law says

  1. Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) penalises “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”.
  2. This is punishable with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  3. The provision was enacted in 1898 and was not in the original penal code. At the time of the amendment, promoting class hatred was a part of the English law of sedition, but was not included in the Indian law.
  4. In the pre-Independence Rangila Rasool case, the Punjab High Court had acquitted the Hindu publisher of a tract that had made disparaging remarks about the private life of the Prophet, and had been charged under Section 153A.
  5. Along with Section 153A, Section 505, which penalises “statements conducing to public mischief” was also introduced.
  6. The FIR against Khera also mentioned Section 153B (1) (Making imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration); 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs); 500 (Defamation); and 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace).

Safeguards against misuse

  1. Given that the provisions are worded broadly, there are safeguards against its misuse. For example, Sections 153A and 153B require prior sanction from the government for initiating prosecution. But this is required before the trial begins, and not at the stage of preliminary investigation.
  2. To curb indiscriminate arrests, the Supreme Court laid down a set of guidelines in its 2014 ruling in Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar.
  3. As per the guidelines, for offences that carry a sentence of less than seven years, the police cannot automatically arrest an accused before investigation.
  4. In a 2021 ruling, the SC said that the state will have to prove intent for securing a conviction under Section 153A.


First ever Tejas at foreign air exercise

GS Paper - 3 (Defence Technology)

Home grown combat jet Tejas Light Combat Aircraft is set to participate in its maiden war game outside India as five such IAF jets will take to the skies at an international air exercise in the UAE between 27 February and 17 March 2023. An Indian Air Force contingent of 110 air warriors has arrived at Al Dhafra air base to participate in Exercise Desert Flag VIII.

More about the Exercise

  1. The IAF would be participating with five LCA Tejas and two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
  2. This is the first occasion when LCA Tejas will fly in an international exercise outside India, an IAF said in New Delhi on 25 February 2023.
  3. The gulf drill comes a year after the cancellation of last year’s Exercise Cobra Warrior in the UK, which was to be the first outing of the indigenous fighter jets outside the home. But the Royal Air Force exercise at Waddington was cancelled due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
  4. Exercise Desert Flag is a multilateral air exercise in which air forces from UAEFranceKuwaitAustraliaUKBahrainMoroccoSpainSouth Korea, and USA would be taking part.
  5. India now pitches LCA as an export item competing with the Chinese, which has moved beyond its traditional customer Pakistan and sold JF-17 multi-role fighters to Myanmar and Nigeria.


  1. An advanced version of the aircraft (LCA Mk-2) is to be rolled out by February, 2024, said an HAL official.
  2. Last September, the Cabinet Committee on Security sanctioned Rs 9,000 crore to develop the 4.5 generation LCA Mk-2, which would be technologically much superior to LCA Mk-1.


New brain of ALMA telescope

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) — a radio telescope comprising 66 antennas located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile — is set to get software and hardware upgrades that will help it collect much more data and produce sharper images than ever before. The most significant modernisation made to ALMA will be the replacement of its correlator, a supercomputer that combines the input from individual antennas and allows astronomers to produce highly detailed images of celestial objects. Today, ALMA’s correlators are among the world’s fastest supercomputers.

What is ALMA?

  1. ALMA is a state-of-the-art telescope that studies celestial objects at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths — they can penetrate through dust clouds and help astronomers examine dim and distant galaxies and stars out there. It also has extraordinary sensitivity, which allows it to detect even extremely faint radio signalsThe telescope consists of 66 high-precision antennas, spread over a distance of up to 16 km.
  2. Each antenna is outfitted with a series of receivers, and each receiver is tuned to a specific range of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.
  3. As ALMA is operated under a partnership among the United States, 16 countries in EuropeCanadaJapanSouth KoreaTaiwan, and Chile, the announcement came after all the partners cleared the funding required for the improvements.
  4. Fully functional since 2013, the radio telescope was designed, planned and constructed by the US’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Over the years, it has helped astronomers make groundbreaking discoveries, including that of starburst galaxies and the dust formation inside supernova 1987A.

Why is ALMA located in Chile’s Atacama Desert?

  1. ALMA is situated at an altitude of 16,570 feet (5,050 metres) above sea level on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama Desert as the millimetre and submillimetre waves observed by it are very susceptible to atmospheric water vapour absorption on Earth.
  2. Moreover, the desert is the driest place in the world, meaning most of the nights here are clear of clouds and free of light-distorting moisture — making it a perfect location for examining the universe.

What are some of the notable discoveries made by ALMA?

  1. With ALMA’s capability of capturing high-resolution images of gas and dust from which stars and planets are formed and materials that could be building blocks of life, scientists are trying to find answers to age-old questions of our cosmic origins.
  2. One of the earliest findings came in 2013 when it discovered starburst galaxies earlier in the universe’s history than they were previously thought to have existed.
  3. These newly discovered galaxies represent what today’s most massive galaxies looked like in their energetic, star-forming youth.
  4. Next year, ALMA provided detailed images of the protoplanetary disc surrounding HL Tauri — a very young T Tauri star in the constellation Taurus, approximately 450 light years from Earth — and “transformed the previously accepted theories about the planetary formation”.
  5. In 2015, the telescope helped scientists observe a phenomenon known as the Einstein ring, which occurs when light from a galaxy or star passes by a massive object en route to the Earth, in extraordinary detail.


India’s way of addressing sickle cell anaemia

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

Sickle cell anaemia (SCA), a genetic blood disorder, found mention in the Budget this year. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government will work in “mission mode” to eliminate the condition by 2047. India is the second-worst affected country in terms of predicted births with SCA, chances of being born with the condition.

Sickle cell anaemia:

  1. In 1910, a physician named James Herrick wrote of discovering unusual red blood cells in an anaemic student from Granada, Spain.
  2. Haemoglobin which is tasked with carrying oxygen to all parts of the body has four protein subunits — two alpha and two beta. In some people, mutations in the gene that creates the beta subunits impact the shape of the bloodcell and distort it to look like a sickle.

Impact of this disease

  1. round red blood cell can move easily through blood vessels because of its shape but sickle red blood cells end up slowing and even blocking the blood flow.
  2. Sickle cells die early, resulting in a shortage of red blood cells that deprive the body of oxygen. These obstructions and shortages may cause chronic anaemia, pain, fatigue, acute chest syndrome, stroke, and a host of other serious health complications.

Does SCA only affect some?

  1. In India, first descriptions of SCD came around 1952, when researchers H. Lehmann and Marie Cut bush were studying tribal populations in the Nilgiri hills.
  2. The presence of the sickle haemoglobin was also reported around this time in tea garden workers of Upper Assam – labourers who had migrated from tribal groups in Bihar and Odisha.
  3. Research and screening programmes have found that the prevalence of haemoglobinopathies — disorders of the blood — is more common among tribal populations than non-tribal communities in India.
  4. Research has shown that SCA is prevalent incommunities residing in areas where malaria is endemic.
  5. The sickle cell trait thus gave an evolutionary advantage, offering immunity to some people during malaria epidemics. In India, States and UTs with tribal populations contribute a significant malaria caseload.
  6. The documented prevalence of SCA is higher in communities that practice endogamy, as the chances of having two parents with sickle cell trait are higher.


  1. Sickle cell anaemia is a genetic disorder, making complete “elimination” a challenge that requires a major scientific breakthrough.
  2. The only cure comes in the form of gene therapy and stem cell transplants, both costly and still in developmental stages.

What has India done so far?

  1. The Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Rural Health Mission in different States are undertaking outreach programmes for better management and control of the disease.
  2. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs launched a portal wherein people can register themselves if they have the disease or the trait, in order to collate all information related to SCA among tribal groups.
  3. The National Health Mission guideline on Hemoglobinopathies also identifies “establishing services at the community level for pre-marital and pre-conception screening backed by genetic counselling services” as a strategy for addressing SCA.
  4. In the Budget, the Union Health Minister said the government plans to distribute “special cards” across tribal areas to people below the age of 40.
  5. The cards will be divided into different categories based on the screening results. The mission will receive funding under the National Health Mission.