Centre opposes move to recognise same-sex unions

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

The Centre opposed before the Delhi High Court a petition seeking recognition of same-sex Marriages.

Key details:

  • According to Central government, “our legal system, society and values do not recognise marriage between same sex couples”.
  • The Solicitor General representing the Centre, said the 2018 judgment of the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court “merely decriminalises homosexuality or lesbianism, nothing more nothing less”.
  • The Solicitor General said the petition was not permissible as it was asking the court to legislate and also that any relief granted “would run contrary to various statutory provisions”.
  • The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed on September 8 claimed that Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act did not specify that the marriage must be between a Hindu man and a Hindu woman, but instead refers to marriage between “two Hindus”.
  • The petition invoked Article 21, which guarantees right to life, arguing that right to marriage was part of that fundamental right.

Background

  • On September 6, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench unanimously held that criminalisation of private consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex.

Section 377 Judgement

  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished.
  • This included private consensual sex between adults of same sex.
  • Supreme Court stated that the ‘Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’ should be applied as a part of Indian law.

Yogyakarta Principles

  • It recognises freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity as part of Human Rights.
  • They were outlined in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by a distinguished group of International Human Right experts.

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  • The Hindu Marriage Act is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 1955.
  • Three other important acts were also enacted as part of the Hindu Code Bills during this time:
  1. The Hindu Succession Act (1956),
  2. The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956),
  3. The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956).

Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

A marriage may be solemnised between any two Hindus, if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely-

  • Neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage.
  • At the time of the marriage, neither party, is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind; or, though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children;
  • The bridegroom has completed the age of twenty-one years and the bride the age of eighteen years at the time of the marriage; the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two.

Truth Fund to provide legal aid in fight for free speech

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

With hundreds of people wanting to support advocate Prashant Bhushan by symbolically contributing Re.1 – or more – towards his fine in the contempt of court case in the Supreme Court, a fund has been set up to use the money to help others fighting for free speech.

Key Details:

  • The Satyamev Jayate or Truth Fund will be used to provide legal support and amplify the voices of those facing criminal charges for standing by their conscience and speaking truth.
  • According to Justice Madan Lokur, the arbitrary use of preventive detention, the increase in sedition charges, the labelling of opinion as “fake news” and the misreading of statements such as Bhushan’s tweets have all resulted in the curbing of free speech in unconstitutional ways.
  • The Prashant Bhushan case had instilled a stimulating effect on free speech and expression.
  • The contempt judgment against Bhushan was a “fierce” one and contained “strong language, “the punishment (₹1) was certainly incongruous.
  • There was no real substantiation for this kind of punishment.

Preventive detention

  • When a person is imprisoned with the aim of preventing him/her from committing further offences or of maintaining public order.
  • Article 22 (3) – If a person is arrested or detained under preventive detention, then the protection against arrest and detention under Article 22 (1) and 22(2) shall not be available.
  • A detainee under preventive detention can have no right of personal liberty guaranteed by Article 19 or Article 21.
  • To prevent reckless use of Preventive Detention, certain safe guards are provided in the constitution:
  • A person may be taken to preventive custody only for 3 months at the first instance.
  • The detainee is entitled to know the grounds of his detention.
  • The detaining authorities must give the detainee earliest opportunities for making representation against the detention.

Contempt of court

  • Contempt of Court refers to the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, gives statutory backing to the Contempt of court provisions.
  • ARTICLE 129 of the Constitution conferred on the Supreme Court the power to punish contempt of itself.
  • ARTICLE 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
  • The law codifying contempt classifies it as civil and criminal.
  • Civil contempt refers to the willful disobedience of an order of any court.
  • Criminal contempt consists of three forms: (a) words, written or spoken, signs and actions that “scandalise” or “tend to scandalise” or “lower” or “tends to lower” the authority of any court (b) prejudices or interferes with any judicial proceeding and (c) interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice.

What is dissent

  • Dissent means “a strong difference of opinion on a particular subject, especially about an official suggestion or plan or a popular belief”.
  • The baseless arrest of academicians, human rights activists’ journalists and thinkers by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence, brought out an interesting remark from the Supreme Court of India.
  • The apex court said, Dissent is a safety valve for democracy. If this safety valve is not allowed to function then the pressure cooker will burst.

What’s next for Palestine after UAE, Bahrain deals with Israel?

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

The new-found readiness of Arab countries to have peace with Israel, under the mediation of the Trump administration, appears to be transforming one of the oldest conflicts in modern West Asia.

Key details

  • There are speculations that more Arab countries, from Morocco to Sudan and Oman, might follow the footsteps of the UAE and Bahrain.
  • These deals, which have formalised years of back-room contacts between the Gulf kingdoms and Israel, suggest that the pan-Arab-Israel conflict is turning the page.

Arab Peace Initiative

  • Till the UAE-Israel deal was announced on August 13, the official Arab position on the question of Palestine was rooted in the Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, and endorsed by the Arab League in the same year.
  • The proposal calls for normalising relations between the Arab world and Israel, in exchange for full Israeli withdrawal from the territories it captured in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
  • Since 2002, both the UAE and Bahrain have supported the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Issue

  • The recent agreements made by Bahrain and the UAE break with this consensus.
  • The Abraham Accords [Israel-UAE deal] require Israel only to ‘temporarily halt’ its formal annexation of the West Bank settlements.
  • The agreement between Bahrain and Israel dispenses with the pretence altogether, making no mention of Palestinian land.
  • The Palestinian leadership considers this step to blow up the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, and international legitimacy, as an aggression against the Palestinian people, and as neglecting Palestinian rights and sacred things, especially Jerusalem and the independent Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967.
  • The Palestinians have further called for “an immediate emergency session” of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation “to reject this declaration”.

Background

  • It took more than three decades for the first Arab country to recognise Israel.
  • Egypt signed a peace treaty with its Jewish neighbour in 1979, a year after the Camp David summit between President and Israeli Prime Minister.
  • Jordan, the second Arab country that established peace with Israel, took 15 more years to do so.
  • There was a gap of 26 years between Jordan’s peace treaty and that of the UAE with Israel.
  • And then, it took less than 30 days for the fourth agreement – between Bahrain and Israel that was announced by U.S. President.
  • The Palestinians got nothing in return from these agreements.

Arab-Israel Conflict:

India- Palestine- Israel relations

  • India hopes for an early resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel to achieve a sovereign, independent and United Palestine state.
  • India was the first non-Arab country to recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
  • A PLO office was set up in New Delhi in 1975 and full diplomatic relations were established in 1980.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Israel in July 2017.
  • Modi was the first Indian PM to visit Israel.
  • Indo-Israeli ties have witnessed a sharp upswing since the present government came to power and there has been an unprecedented level of bilateral visits by senior ministers from India to Israel and vice-versa.
  • India is the largest purchaser of Israeli military equipment.

Retail inflation eases to 6.69% in August

Why in news?

  • Retail inflation softened slightly to 6.69% in August, even as food prices continued to rule high.

Findings of the data

  • The government has revised downwards the retail inflation for July to 6.73% from the earlier estimate of 6.93%.
  • Food inflation during the month stood at 62%.
  • Food inflation in August fell marginally to 9.05%, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data.
  • The retail inflation, mainly taken into account by the RBI to arrive at its policy decisions, has been above the regulator’s comfort level.
  • The government has mandated the central bank to restrict the inflation at 4% (+/- 2%).

Consumer Price Index

  • It measures price changes from the perspective of a retail buyer.
  • CPI is calculated for a fixed list of items including food, housing, apparel, transportation, electronics, medical care, education.
  • Four types of CPI are as follows:
  1. CPI for Industrial Workers (IW)
  2. CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL)
  3. CPI for Rural Labourer (RL)
  4. CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined)
  • Of these, the first three are compiled by the Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and
  • Fourth is compiled by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • Base Year for CPI is 2012.
  • CPI Components:


Three agriculture reform bills introduced

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

Three Bills on agriculture reforms were introduced in Parliament to replace the ordinances issued during the lockdown.

Key details

The proposed legislations will bring about changes to the marketing and storage of farm produce and agriculture commodities outside registered markets, as well as the facilitation of contract farming.

Centre’s view

  • The new laws would benefit farmers by empowering them to decide the price of their produce, which was earlier determined by traders.
  • It would also encourage private investments and technology introduction in the sector.
  • The MSP would stay but, majority of farmers are small and marginal and do not see benefits from it. The legislations are a “game-changer” for small farmers.

Opposition’s view

  • It is beyond the legislative competence of this House to enact any law on agriculture, which is a domain of the State governments.
  • Members of several farmer outfits in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh staged demonstrations to protest against the Centre’s agriculture-related ordinances and to demand their immediate withdrawal.

About the Bills

Key Features

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020

  • Trade of farmers’ produce:The Ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside:

(i) The physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts.

(ii) Other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.  Such trade can be conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, i.e., any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce.

Electronic trading: The Ordinance permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area.

Market fee abolished: The Ordinance prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020

  • Farming agreement: The Ordinance provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.  The minimum period of an agreement will be one crop season, or one production cycle of livestock.  The maximum period is five years, unless the production cycle is more than five years.
  • Pricing of farming produce: The price of farming produce should be mentioned in the agreement.  For prices subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement.
  • Dispute Settlement: A farming agreement must provide for a conciliation board as well as a conciliation process for settlement of disputes. At first, all disputes must be referred to the board for resolution.  If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after thirty days, parties may approach the Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution.  Parties will have a right to appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the Magistrate.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

  • Regulation of food items: The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to designate certain commodities (such as food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products) as essential commodities. The Ordinance provides that the central government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, only under extraordinary circumstances.   These include: (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.
  • Stock limit: The Ordinance requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise.  A stock limit may be imposed only if there is: (i) a 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce; and (ii) a 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.   The increase will be calculated over the price prevailing immediately preceding twelve months, or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.

Srilanka revisiting draft 20th Amendment

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

The Sri Lankan government is revisiting the draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution, gazetted earlier this month, in the light of “public concerns”, according to government sources.

Key details

  • Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a nine-member committee to study the proposed Amendment.
  • The newly drafted 20th Amendment envisages enhancing Presidential powers, along with immunity, while significantly reducing the Prime Minister’s role and powers.

What is the 20th constitutional amendment?

  • On September 2, the Sri Lanka government published the draft of the 20th amendment, that will replace several provisions of the previous constitutional amendment that sought to put some curbs on presidential powers and introduced independent commissions.
  • This will be the 20th amendment to the constitution introduced 42 years ago by Prime Minister Junius Richard Jayawardene.
  • Sri Lanka’s legislative process provides for members of the public to examine the Bill for two weeks. Thereafter, the Bill can be challenged in the Supreme Court – and the opposition has already expressed its intention to do so. Once the Supreme Court gives its observations, then the Bill can be tabled for passage in parliament for approval by a two-thirds majority.