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Current Affairs August 01, 2023: POSCO Act, Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

{GS2 – POSCO} Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act

  • Context (TH): Former Bombay HC Judge Pushpa Ganediwala, known for controversial POCSO Act judgments, is seeking a pension through the court.
  • She resigned after SC refused to confirm her permanent appointment to the HC after she delivered several controversial judgments concerning cases of sexual assaults against women and children.
  • In 2021, she adjudicated an appeal against a trial court order that sentenced the offender to three years in prison, the minimum sentence for sexual assault against children under the POCSO Act.
  • Ganediwala ruled that for an offence to qualify as sexual assault under the POCSO Act, there had to be skin-to-skin contact with sexual intent!
  • Ganediwala reduced that the man had committed the offence of outraging a woman’s modesty under section 354 of the IPC as he had groped the child through her clothing!
  • In a second case, she ruled that the acts of a man who exposed himself to a five-year-old child did not constitute offences under POCSO, as there was no physical contact.
  • In a third case, she acquitted a man holding that the absence of signs of violent struggle on women indicated it could not have been non-consensual.

Salient Features of POSCO Act, 2012

  • POCSO Act is the first comprehensive law in India dealing specifically with sexual abuse of children. It seeks to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
  • The Act, for the first time, defines penetrative sexual assault, sexual assault, & sexual harassment.
  • It also includes penalties for storing pornographic material and abetment of an offence.
  • The Act defines certain actions as “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”. These include:
    1. The cases when the offender is a police officer, armed forces member, or public servant.
    2. The cases where the offender is a relative of the child.
    3. If the assault injures the sexual organs of the child or the child becomes pregnant, etc.
  • It criminalises all sexual activities for those under the age of 18, even if consent was factually present between two minors.
  • Each district shall designate a Sessions Court to be a Special Court. The state government shall establish it in consultation with the Chief Justice of the HC.
  • A POSCO case must be disposed of within a year from the date the offence is reported.
  • It empowers the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights to monitor the implementation of the provisions of this Act.
  • If a child has committed an offence under POSCO, it shall be dealt with under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

POCSO (Amendment) Act, 2019

  • The amendment has enhanced punishment under various sections of the Act, including the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children.
  • It defines child pornography and makes it punishable.
  • The act added two more grounds to the definition of aggravated penetrative sexual assault:
    1. Assault resulting in the death of the child.
    2. Assault committed during a natural calamity.


  • A registered medical practitioner (RMP) is obliged under Section 19(1) of the POCSO Act to report to the police when a minor approaches him/her for an abortion.
  • SC’s 2022 judgment exempted RMPs from disclosing to the police the identity of minors who have come in for an abortion, only on request of the minor and the guardian.
  • This was done to enable minors to approach an RMP for abortion without fearing exposure.

POCSO Act and Consent

  • Under the POCSO act, the consent of a child is immaterial.
  • Consensual sexual intercourse with or among adolescents is treated on par with rape.
Demand for changing the age of consent
  • With the enactment of POCSO, several young couples in consensual and non-exploitative relationships have found themselves embroiled in the criminal justice system.
  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud appealed to the government to relook at the issue of the age of consent under the POCSO Act.
  • Madras High Court recommended that the age of consent be revised to sixteen.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

  • UNCRC is an international human rights treaty that sets out children’s civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights.
  • The UN General Assembly adopted the treaty in 1989, and it came into force in 1990.
  • India ratified the convention in 1992.
  • The convention defines a child as any human being under 18 years unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation.
  • The parties to the Convention must take measures to prevent children from being coerced into any unlawful sexual activity.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

  • It is a statutory body established in 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
  • It is responsible for the protection and promotion of the rights of children, including monitoring the implementation of child-specific laws, such as:
    • Right to Education (RTE), 2009
    • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), 2012
    • Juvenile Justice Act, 2015


  • It consists of Chairperson and six members appointed by the Central Government.
  • Out of the six members, at least two should be women.
  • The Chairperson is appointed on the recommendation of a 3-member selection committee chaired by the minister-in-charge of the Ministry or the Department of Women and Child Development.
  • The Chairperson holds office for a term of three years or 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The members hold the office for a term of three years or 60 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They are not eligible for appointments for more than two terms.

{GS3 – Envi – Laws} Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (FCA, 1980)

  • FCA, 1980 was enacted to protect India’s forests and regulate forest resource extraction by industries and forest-dwelling communities.
  1. Features of the FCA, 1980

Restriction on Dereservation

  • The Act restricts the states and other authorities from allowing dereservation (i.e., use of forest land for non-forest purposes) without permission from the central government.
  • Non-forest purposes include using land for cultivating horticultural crops or for any purpose other than reafforestation.

Appeal to National Green Tribunal

  • The Act provided that any aggrieved person may file an appeal to the National Green Tribunal against the decision of the State Government or any authority.

Constitution of Advisory Committee

  • The Act empowered the Central Government to constitute a committee to advise the Government regarding forest conservation.


  • The Act levies penalties in case of violations of the provisions of FCA.

Power to Make Rules

  • The Act empowers the Central Government to make rules for carrying out the provisions of this Act.

Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2003

Objectives of the 2023 Bill

  • To broaden the horizons of the Act to boost India’s forest cover to 33% and to create a carbon sink of additional 2.5-3.0 billion tons of CO2 by 2030 as part of its Pari Agreement commitments.
  • To balance industrial development and the conservation of forests.
  • To clarify the applicability of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, on various lands.

Key Provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

  • The Bill renames the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam or Forest (Conservation and Augmentation) Act.
  • The new name reflects a new focus on afforestation and reforestation activities.

Restrictions on Activities in the Forest

FCA, 1980
  • FCA, 1980 specifies activities that will be excluded from restriction on dereservation.
  • These activities include conservation, forest development, wildlife-related works, etc.
  • GoI may exclude any survey (exploration, seismic survey) from restrictions on dereservation.
2023 Bill
  • The 2023 Bill adds more activities to the restriction on dereservation list, such as:
    • zoos and safaris under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 owned by the government or any authority, in forest areas other than protected areas,
    • eco-tourism facilities,
    • silvicultural operations (enhancing forest growth), and
    • any other purpose specified by the central government.

Land under the Purview of FCA

  • The 2023 Bill provides that two types of land will be under the purview of the FCA:
  1. Land notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law, or
  2. Land not covered in the first category but notified as a forest on or after 25th October 1980 in a government record.
  • 25th October 1980: The day when Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 came into effect.
Limits Scope of the FCA
  • SC in T.N. Godavarman vs. Union of India held that the provisions of the FCA will apply beyond ‘notified forests’ to all areas ‘recorded’ as forest in any government record.
  • But the 2023 Bill proposes that the FCA will apply ONLY to those lands which are recorded as forest on or after 25th October 1980, thus restricting the scope of the Godavarman judgement.
  • This is a significant exclusion because it will potentially exclude 28% of India’s forests outside Recorded Forest Areas from the purview of the FCA.
  • The lands excluded from the purview of FCA will be easily diverted for commercial use.

Land Exempted from the Purview of FCA

The 2023 Bill exempts certain types of land from the provisions of the FCA. They include:

  • Forest land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the government providing access to a habitation, or to a rail, and roadside amenity up to 0.10 hectares.
  • Forest land situated within 100 km along the international borders proposed to be used for construction of strategic projects of national importance or security.
  • Forest land up to 10 ha, proposed to be used for construction of security-related infrastructure.
  • Forest land proposed for construction of defence and paramilitary projects, or public utility projects as specified by the GoI (not exceeding 5 hectares in left-wing extremism affected area).
  • Land changed from forest use to non-forest use on or before 12th December 1996 by any authority authorised by a state/UT.
Endangers Ecologically Sensitive Bio-geographic Regions and Biodiversity Hotspots
  • This exemption provision of the Bill is problematic as forests in the Himalayan, Trans-Himalayan and North Eastern regions, which are rich with endemic biodiversity will be exempted.
  • Clearing of these forests without any assessment and mitigation plan will lead to biodiversity loss and increase the vulnerability of the ecologically and geologically sensitive areas.
  1. Incentiving Private Agro-Forestry and Tree Plantation Activities
FCA, 1980
  • It allowed private plantations or reforested land to be retrospectively earmarked as forest.
  • This provision disincentivised the private parties.
2023 Bill
  • 2023 Bill incentivises the private parties by allowing the divertion of private forests for commercial or other uses, without the need for acquiring forest clearance.
Criticism: Incentivise Afforestation for Commercial Ends
  • The Bill allows the diversion of private forests for afforestation activities. This may not help create a permanent carbon stock as they can simply be used as carbon credits.
  • Carbon Credits (or carbon offsets): They are permits that allow the owner to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.
    • They are awarded to organisations based on quantities of greenhouse gases that they kept out of the air or removed from it.
    • The carbon credit owner can sell it to organisations that have exceeded their limit.

Assigning of Land through a Lease or Otherwise

FCA, 1980
  • State government or any authority requires prior approval of the GoI for assigning forest land to any organisation (private person, authority, corporation) not owned by the government.
2023 Bill
  • The 2023 Bill provides that state government or any authority do this assigning to any organisation subject to terms and conditions prescribed by the GoI.
  1. Power to Issue Directions
    • The 2023 Bill adds that the GoI may issue directions for implementing the FCA to any other authority/organisation under or recognised by the centre, state, or UT.

Other Criticisms of the 2023 Bill

Diluted the Power of FCA

  • The 203 Bill used terms like ‘proposed’, ‘ecotourism facilities’, and ‘any other purposes’ which are too vague and can be exploited or misused for commercial purposes.

Biodiversity Loss

  • Though the 2023 Bill proposes to ease the land transfer for compensatory afforestation, it will not serve the ecological purpose until fundamental changes are made.
  • Generally, monoculture is practiced in compensatory afforestation, which leads to biodiversity loss.

Violation of Constitutional Rights

  • The provision of exemptions without the consultation of local individuals violates the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA 2006), the Panchayat Act, and constitutional provisions for the STs.
  • The requirement of consent for diverting forest lands gives legal recognition to the rights of the forest dwellers, which is recognised by FRA 2006.

Constitutional Provisions for Conservation of Forests

Fundamental Rights

Article 21(Right to Life)
  • According to Article 21, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. Thus, it guarantees the fundamental right to life. The right to a healthy environment, free of the danger of diseases and infection etc., is inherent in it.
  • Right to a healthy environment as part of Article 21 was first recognised in the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. State case (popularly known as the Dehradun Quarrying Case).

Directive Principles of State Policy

Article 48A (Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife)
  • The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.
Fundamental Duties
Article 51A(g)
  • To protect and improve forests and wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures.

{GS3 – IE – Industry} Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI)

  • Context (TH): The country’s eight core industries’ output hit a five-month high of 8.2 per cent in June 2023. Except for Crude Oil, all other core industries recorded positive growth in June 2023.
  • The monthly Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI) is a production/output of eight core industries.
  • The Office of Economic Advisor (Ministry of Commerce and Industries) releases ICI.
  • The objective is to provide an advance indication of the production performance of core industries before the release of the IIP (which has a 6-week lag) by the NSO, Ministry of Statistics.
  • The core sectors account for about 40.3% of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).

Core Industries Weightage (In percentage)

  1. Petroleum & Refinery production – 28.04
  2. Electricity generation – 19.85
  3. Steel production – 17.92
  4. Coal production – 10.33
  5. Crude Oil production – 8.98
  6. Natural Gas production – 6.88
  7. Cement production – 5.37
  8. Fertilisers production – 2.63

Index of industrial production (IIP)

  • IIP measures sectoral growth in India’s economy, including mining, electricity, and manufacturing.
  • IIP is compiled monthly with a 6-week lag by the National Statistical Organisation (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
  • The IIP represents changes in production volume compared to a chosen base period (base value=100), with the current base year being 2011-2012.
  • IIP has been limited to
    1. Mining (1 item)
    2. Electricity (1 item)
    3. Manufacturing (405 items)

National Statistical Organization (NSO)

  • In 2019, the National Sample Survey Office/National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and Central Statistical Office/Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) were merged together to form a new organisation called National Statistical Office/National Statistical Organization (NSO).
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