TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Amid protests, triple talaq Bill passed 2. Shah Bano case echoes in LS 3. Will review minimum education criteria: Pilot 4. Virudhunagar shines in development 5. Adivasi group moves NHRC on sedition law C. GS3 Related ENVIRONMENT 1. River Dolphins go missing in Sunderbans as water salinity rises D. GS4 Related E. Editorials POLITY & GOVERNANCE 1. Snooping or saving? 1. India needs ‘individual acts of bravery’ F. Tidbits 1. Delayed FIR: SC backs witness 2. Indians suffer pay gap in U.K., shows report G. Prelims Fact 1. Horse lovers throng Chetak festival H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here today!!!
B. GS2 Related
- The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, after a heated debate.
- The Bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 to replace an ordinance issued in September.
Salient features of the Bill
- Definition- The bill defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat (instant triple talaq) or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce. It makes all forms of declaration of talaq to be void i.e. not enforceable in law.
- Offence and penalty – The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence. A husband declaring talaq can be imprisoned for up to 3 years along with a fine.
- Allowance – A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband.
- This applies to the woman and her dependent children. The amount of the allowance will be decided by the Magistrate.
- Custody – A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The determination of custody will be made by the Magistrate.
- Nearly 33 years after the Shah Bano case and its aftermath shook up Indian polity, the case once again took centre stage in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the Muslim Women (Protection on Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, also known as the triple talaq Bill.
Shah Bano case
- The case of Mohd. Ahmad Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum & Ors. also called the Shah Bano case is seen as one of the milestones in Muslim women’s fight for rights in India and the battle against the set Muslim personal law. It laid the ground for thousands of women to make legitimate claims which they were not allowed before.
- In April 1978, a 62-year-old Muslim woman, Shah Bano, filed a petition in court demanding maintenance from her divorced husband Mohammed Ahmad Khan, a renowned lawyer in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
- Shah Bano went to court and filed a claim for maintenance for herself and her five children under Section 123 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The section puts a legal obligation on a man to provide for his wife during the marriage and after divorce too if she isn’t able to fend for herself. However, Khan contested the claim on the grounds that the Muslim Personal Law in India required the husband to only provide maintenance for the iddat period after divorce.
- After detailed arguments, the decision was passed by the Supreme Court of India in 1985. On the question whether CrPC, 1973, which applies to all Indian citizens regardless of their religion, could apply in this case
- Then Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud upheld the decision of the High Court that gave orders for maintenance to Shah Bano under CrPC. For its part, the apex court increased the maintenance sum.
- The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, commonly known as the Shah Bano Act, the 1986 law was enacted by the Rajiv Gandhi government under pressure from the Muslim clergy to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in the Shah Bano case. This law allowed, in line with Muslim personal law, maintenance to a divorced woman only during the period of iddat, or three menstrual cycles/three lunar months after divorce.
- The new Rajasthan government said on Thursday it would review the condition of minimum educational qualification for candidates to contest local bodies elections in the State.
- The previous BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje had introduced the provision of minimum qualification for aspiring candidates in local bodies polls in 2015.
- A candidate should be Class 10 pass for contesting municipal elections while in Panchayti Raj institutions, the minimum qualification is Class 8 for the post of sarpanch (and Class 5 in tribal reserved areas) and Class 10 for Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti elections.
Merits of minimum education criteria
- It ensures that candidate with basic education enables to more effectively discharge various duties which befall the elected representatives.
- To promote and spread the literacy level in the society specially women education giving greater importance due to the new rule, furthermore men’s are changing their tendency to marry with the educated girls without even taking dowry so that women can stand for the elections even for the general seats. Ultimately this situation leads to creation of better consensus among people.
- This new norms have help to reinforce the gender imbalance in the Grass root level of the society.
- It meant to elect model representatives for local self government for better administrative efficiency. By setting example to others one who aspires to get elected in civic bodies and administration can get the education and learning benefits to rule the smooth and effective functioning of the offices with much of responsibility and their own power of intelligent.
- Rural India is reeling under agrarian debts and farmers are committing suicide to escape the debt trap. Somehow this qualification may be stand as resolving the debt burden and debt trap.
- Upholding the constitutional validity of a law enacted by Haryana government to bar the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls in the state, the Supreme Court ruled that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.
Criticism against minimum education criteria
- Experience has shown that wisdom plays a greater role than education at local governance level, especially villages.
- Although more educated people should be part of the political system, more ground reforms are needed before such a law is implemented.
- The intent is right but other factors also need to be looked into. It is always good that more educated people become a part of panchayats, but the rest of the systems including something as basic as education and sanitation should be put in place first. Nothing can be so alienated from reality.
- Despite being illiterate many leaders played the major role in bringing the developmental procedure with the effective implementation based on the local resources and local common and cultural knowledge and experience and are closely connected with their constituents.
- Niti Aayog has released the Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme. The ranking details the incremental progress achieved by the districts during June to October this year across six key development sectors.
- The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across various performance indicators like Health and Nutrition, Education, Skill Development and Basic Infrastructure among others.
- The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
Aspirational Districts Programme
- Launched in January this year, the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ programme aims to quickly and effectively transform some of the most underdeveloped districts of the country.
- The broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a Mass Movement or a Jan Andolan.
- With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.
- To enable optimum utilization of their potential, this program focuses closely on improving people’s ability to participate fully in the burgeoning economy. Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure are this programme’s core areas of focus.
- If these districts are transformed, there would be tremendous improvement in the internal security environment of the country. If Prabhari officers can bring convergence in the development efforts of different Ministries and state Governments and the schemes specially launched by Home Ministry in these districts, it would serve as a great opportunity to ensure rapid development in the country.
- The Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch moved the National Human Rights Commission against what they called “reckless” and “illegal” use of the sedition law against 15,000 adivasis in Kunti district of Jharkhand by the State government.
- Section 124A of the IPC defines sedition – Whoever by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, the government established by law; or
- Whoever by the above means excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law, has committed the offence of sedition.
- According to the law, disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. However, disapprobation of the measures or administrative action of the government to obtain their alteration by lawful means is not an offence.
C. GS3 Related
- Rise in salinity in the water system that makes the Indian Sunderbans has resulted in a decrease in population of the Ganges River Dolphins in the region.
- A recent study covering 100 km of rivers and channels around the Sunderbans has revealed that the national aquatic animal is no longer sighted in the central and eastern parts of the archipelago. Only in the western part of Sunderbans, where the salinity is lower, could researchers find some evidence of the species.
- The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
- This vast area has been altered by the construction of more than 50 dams and other irrigation-related projects, with dire consequences for the river dolphins.
- It is classified as endangered by the IUCN.
- This dolphin is among the four “obligate” freshwater dolphins – the other three are the baiji now likely extinct from the Yangtze river in China, the bhulan of the Indus in Pakistan and the boto of the Amazon River in Latin America. Although there are several species of marine dolphins whose ranges include some freshwater habitats, these four species live only in rivers and lakes.
- Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
- Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs proposed new rules for interception and monitoring of computer based information.
- A political storm erupted after the notification authorized 10 intelligence and security agencies to intercept data on computers, mobile devices and servers used by Indians.
- It created an uproar in the Parliament with the Opposition groups uniting against the move and labelling it unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights.
- The government defended the move, saying it merely fulfilled a requirement under Rule 4 of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Description of Information) Rules, 2009.
What is the issue?
- The government feels the need to secure the country’s national interests by combatting the security threats posed via online and social media platforms.
- The online medium has become the preferred mode for radicalization, communication and planning amongst various terror groups, some of which are backed by state agencies. The Islamic State is the best example to highlight the security threats posed via the internet and social media platforms.
- The government is also concerned about the potential of online and social media platforms in spreading fake news, hate messages and rumors which in turn has led to riots and lynchings carried out by mobs.
- The government plans to combat the threat by enabling the security and intelligence agencies to set up mass surveillance of computer networks in the country by mandating the ISP’s, network operators etc. to co-operate as per the provisions of the IT Act.
- But proposed rules for online monitoring should balance legitimate interest with privacy concerns.
- Laws seeking to regulate online activity, especially on social media, will have to be tested against two fundamental rights: free speech and privacy.
The need for enhanced surveillance:
- The Government of India has claimed that social media has brought new challenges for law enforcement agencies, including inducement for recruitment of terrorists, circulation of obscene content, spread of disharmony, and incitement to violence.
- The Supreme Court, in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), ruled that privacy is a fundamental But this right is not unbridled or absolute.
- The Central government, under Section 69 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, has the power to impose reasonable restrictions on this right and intercept, decrypt or monitor Internet traffic or electronic data whenever there is a threat to national security, national integrity, security of the state, and friendly relations with other countries, or in the interest of public order and decency, or to prevent incitement to commission of an offence.
- Only in such exceptional circumstances, however, can an individual’s right to privacy be superseded to protect national interest.
- The Central government passed the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, that allow the Secretary in the Home Ministry/Home Departments to authorize agencies to intercept, decrypt or monitor Internet traffic or electronic data.
- In emergency situations, such approval can be given by a person not below the Joint Secretary in the Indian government. In today’s times, when fake news and illegal activities such as cyber terrorism on the dark web are on the rise, the importance of reserving such powers to conduct surveillance cannot be undermined.
Grounds for carrying out surveillance
- There should be some reasonable basis or some tangible evidence to initiate or seek approval for interception by State authorities. This is the position in the U.S.
- Any action without such evidence or basis would be struck down by courts as arbitrary, or invasive of one’s right to privacy.
- Therefore, the framework of the prescribed procedure needs to be adhered to, and its implementation needs conformance, both in letter and spirit.
- Any digression from the ethical and legal parameters set by law would be tantamount to a deliberate invasion of citizens’ privacy and make India a surveillance state.
Checks and balances for accountability
- The government needs to increase accountability and responsibility, and infuse reasonable checks and balances in exercising these surveillance powers.
- The recent order passed by the Central government is within the ambit of its powers under Section 69 of the IT Act. However, present implementation of the Intermediary Rules of 2011 will have to be tested on the grounds of reasonableness, fairness, proportionality and judicious exercise of powers.
- Another important aspect is that an individual may not even know if her electronic communications are being intercepted/monitored. If such surveillance comes within her knowledge, due to the obligation to maintain confidentiality and provisions in the Official Secrets Act, she would not be able to know the reasons for such surveillance. This can make surveillance provisions prone to misuse.
- Therefore, the role of the review committee is quite significant: The committee will aid in checking any arbitrariness in the exercise of these powers. Only 10 agencies have been declared as authorized agencies to confer certainty in this regard.
- In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (1996), the Supreme Court had set rules for the judicious exercise of surveillance and interception in phone tapping The same fundamental principles should hold good in cyberspace too.
- There is justified concern that attempts are on to expand the scope for surveillance at a time when the government must be looking at ways to implement the Supreme Court’s landmark decision holding that privacy is a fundamental right.
- Some of these rules, originally framed in 2009, may have to be tested against the privacy case judgment, now that the right has been clearly recognised.
- It is indeed true that the court has favoured stringent rules to curb online content that promotes child pornography or pedophilia, foments sectarian violence or activates lynch mobs.
- We need not debate the whether or why of surveillance, but the how, when, and what kind of surveillance, moving towards a new legal framework for surveillance.
- All measures within such a framework must pass the test of proportionality specified by the right to privacy judgment.
- They must also account for how digital technologies are implicated in the problems of opacity, arbitrariness and impunity that characterize the rules and current practices of surveillance.
- Intermediaries must be mandated to locate servers in India. The oversight of algorithms, employed by state agencies and corporations, is an important aspect. Rules for digital evidence collection must be specific to technological applications.
- While the exercise to regulate online content is necessary, it is important that while framing such rules, a balance is struck between legitimate public interest and individual rights. And it will be salutary if judicial approval is made an essential feature of all interception and monitoring decisions.
- The editorial refers to the ongoing assault on liberal values, modernism and individual freedom in India and as well as in other countries.
- Rising government interference and fascist forces have posed an existential threat to modern ideals and liberalism and this could undo the constitutional guarantees of equality and justice.
Secularism under threat?
- One particular freedom that has come under fire is the freedom of practicing one’s own religion. Secularism, in the western context refers to the narrow interpretation of separation of church from the state.
- But in its broader interpretation, it would include one’s right not to follow any religion or practice a certain religion and yet advocate equality of all religions and support the right of others follow their respective faith.
- Unfortunately, those of us who value religious freedom have been disillusioned by multiple governments once too often. The current government has no pretensions about its dislike for the secular idea. Even those governments that proudly flaunt the label of “secularism” have subjected us to their non-secular realpolitik.
- The government order to overturn the Shah Bano judgment and also the ban on Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ and the communal polarization around Babri Masjid and Ayodhya comes to mind.
- In contrast, an exhibition of true “secularism” would be open ended, either agnostic or, at the other extreme, in a country like India where faith is so central, multi-religious. Most importantly, at its heart, true secularism would be driven by universal values of truth, compassion and equality, which are fundamental values that straddle all religions.
- These freedoms are, ultimately the most valuable. Recognizing these freedoms was central to the politics of Mahatma Gandhi. Sadly, our leaders since have either forgotten or chosen to turn a blind eye to these ideas completely.
Constitution as saviour
- The Constitution contains all the declarations essential to a nation that preserves individual liberties. It is for us to protect it from neglect and disrepair.
- It was B.R. Ambedkar, the key driver of the Constituent Assembly, who said: “The assertion by the individual of his own opinions and beliefs, his own independence and interest as over and against group standards… is the beginning of all reform.” These ideas also find their way into the Constitution.
- Even while the constitution was being drafted, the then fascist forces and radical religious elements were trying to disrupt the introduction of modern and liberal values.
- Even today, the constitution can act as a bulwark against fascist forces and protect the egalitarian values that are espoused by a modern society but there is a definite risk posed by the divisive forces of fascism to the very core principles of our constitution.
Characteristics of Fascism:
- Fascism always promises to return us to a mythic past. Similarly, fascist politicians use propaganda, for example, about anticorruption campaigns, even when they are transparently corrupt.
- Another aspect is ant intellectualism, for the “enemy of fascism is equality,” and the target of such anti-intellectual campaigns are places of learning, like universities.
- How can the educated elite know anything about anything, the fascist believes. Only the mythical “common man” can know what is right; note the emphasis on “man”, which includes no women, or racial and sexual minorities. The similarities do not end there.
- Unlike liberal democracies, based on freedom and equality, fascist regimes posit the dominant group’s interests as the ultimate, unquestionable truth.
- The dominant group is also always the victim of the situation. They rely on conspiracy theories to justify calls to power.
- And most tellingly, fascist politicians promise a law and order regime designed not to seek out offenders, but to criminalise outliers, who are usually ethnic, religious or sexual minorities.
- Today, we live in an India where we are told what we can and cannot eat, what we can and cannot watch, what we can and cannot speak about, and who we can or cannot marry. Dissent, particularly in universities and public spaces, is being curbed. Sloganeering and flag raising have become tests for nationalism.
- Journalists and Intellectuals are shot dead at point blank range for the views they hold and propagate.
- Crucial institutions which shield and protect the constitution and its values seem to have been compromised or curtailed from doing so. The crisis witnessed in the Supreme Court, CBI, RBI etc. are few examples of this institutional assault on democracy and modern, liberal values.
- Ultimately, it is the people who will protect the Constitution, and all of the wisdom it contains about personal liberties and individual freedoms.
- The case concerns the complaint filed by a woman whose son was hacked to death by eight persons in Tamil Nadu 22 years ago. The accused argued that there was a delay in the woman filing her complaint.
- The case concerned the murder of Sankar on August 19, 1986 by the accused Harikesavanallur. Sankar’s mother, Kamala, who was traveling with him to attend a function, saw the crime. The incident happened at 5 p.m. and the complaint was filed after 8.30 p.m. the same evening.
- Delay on the part of an eye-witness, reeling under the shock of witnessing a crime, to register an FIR cannot be fatal to the prosecution case, the Supreme Court has held.
- Dismissing the appeal of the accused, the court said the tragedy of a mother who has to see with her own eyes the scene of her own son being brutally attacked cannot be measured. It may take her some time to come out of the shock and go to the police station to file her complaint.
- The trial court had convicted all eight to life imprisonment, with the Madras High Court confirming the sentence in 2008.
- A Supreme Court Bench of Justices R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee observed that, normally, a delay in lodging the complaint is viewed suspicion because there is possibility of concoction of evidence against the accused.
- Justice Banumathi observed that, however, there may be instances when delay does not vitiate the case. One of them is when the eye-witness has no motive to falsely implicate the accused.
- Indians, along with black and Asian minorities in the U.K., face an unfair pay gap in comparison to their white counterparts, said a new report released on Thursday.
- The Resolution Foundation report stated that, overall, Britain’s 1.9-million ethnic minority workers have lost out on £3.2 billion a year due to the “pay penalty” suffered as a result of their background.
- Between 2007 and 2017 the total annual cost of pay penalties experienced by black, Indian and Pakistani/Bangladeshi men and women would amount to £3.2 billion per year
- All things held equal, Indian non-graduate women earned 44 pence an hour and black non-graduate women 61 pence an hour less than their white counterparts
- Pay gaps refer to the average difference in pay that exists between groups and pay penalties cover the average difference in pay that persists after personal and work-related characteristics are accounted for.
- The Resolution Foundation concludes that both taken together represent a significant living standards issue for individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds.
- The report found the biggest impact was on black male graduates, who were paid 17% or £3.90 an hour less when compared to their white peers. Pakistani and Bangladeshi male graduates earned an average of 12% less an hour.
G. Prelims Fact
- The third edition of Chetak Festival 2018-19, one the oldest horse fairs in the country, kicked off amid the presence national and international tourists, political leaders and horse breeders and traders in Nandurbar district.
Chetak Festival 2018-19
- A legacy that lives on, saddled in splendour and riding in glory, Chetak Festival, Sarangkheda is where you will find one of the most magnificent creatures mankind has known.
- An age-old rural fair of horses that has now been transformed into a month-long celebration, the festival is held in the picturesque rural hinterlands of Northern Maharashtra on the banks of River Tapi.
- Today, it is jointly organised as an initiative of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. (MTDC) and Sarangkheda Committee in a modified format in order to share this stunning festival with the world.
- A 300-year-old legacy, it recreates the vibrant heritage for those who admire world-class equestrian spectacle.
- Held on the banks of River Tapi, in Sarangkheda village of Nandurbar district, the festival hosts more than 2500 horses at the venue. Began on the 12th December 2018 and lasting till 8th January 2019, the festival is the perfect year-end getaway, and a fascinating way to usher in the New Year.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements:
- The Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts is appointed by the PM.
- The Committee on Public Accounts comprises members of Lok Sabha, members of Rajya Sabha and a few eminent persons of industry and trade.
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 2. Which of the following provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority in the Parliament?
- Salaries and allowances of the members of Parliament
- Admission or establishment of new states
- Citizenship—acquisition and termination
- Directive Principles of State Policy
Correct answer code is:
- Only 1, 2 and 3
- Only 1, 3 and 4
- Only 2, 3 and 4
- None of the above
Question 3. Which of the following is/are indicative of the federal system of Indian Constitution?
- Written Constitution
- Independent Judiciary
- All India Services
- Integrated Judiciary
Select the correct code:
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 3 and 4
- Only 1, 2 and 3
- All of the above
I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam
- India has formally taken over operations of Iran’s strategic Chabahar Port. In this context discuss the possibilities and challenges provided by Chabahar port for India. (10 Marks; 150 words)
- E-waste generation across the world has increased significantly on account of growing adoption of technology and electronic products. The e-waste can be recycled to collect valuable metals but the process in India has been associated with a lot of environmental and health problems. In this context write a note on e-waste recycle process in India. (10 Marks; 150 words)
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