SC dismisses review petitions challenging verdict on adultery

Paper: II

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

Why in news:

The Supreme Court has refused to review its 2018 judgment which decriminalized adultery. A five-judge Review Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde upheld a September 2018 Constitution Bench which had struck adultery out of the penal statute book.

Background:

  • The original judgment of the September 2018 Constitution Bench had held that Section 497 (adultery) of the Indian Penal Code cannot “command” married couples to remain loyal to each other for the fear of penal punishment and had struck adultery out of the penal statute book.
  • The then Chief Justice had opined that two individuals may part if one cheats, but to attach criminality to infidelity was not right.
  • Adultery was considered not a crime if the cuckolded husband connives or consents to his wife’s extra-marital affair.
  • Section 497 treats a married woman as the commodity of her husband, the Bench had held.
  • The court had reasoned that there was no data whatsoever to support claims that the abolition of adultery as a crime would result in “chaos in sexual morality” or an increase of divorce.

Key Details:

  • A five-judge Review Bench upholding the September 2018 Constitution Bench judgment has dismissed the review petitions.
  • Adultery is not a crime if the cuckolded husband connives or consents to his wife’s extra-marital affair. Section 497 treats a married woman as her husband’s “chattel”. The provision is a reflection of the social dominance of men prevalent 150 years ago.
  • “Husband is not the master… Obituaries should be written of these historic perceptions,” then chief justice Misra had observed.
  • The Bench had also held that Section 198 (2) of the CrPC, which gave the cuckolded husband the exclusive right to prosecute his wife’s lover, was manifestly arbitrary.
  • Adultery can however be a ground for civil remedy like dissolution of marriage, the 2018 verdict had said.

‘Draft EIA notification fosters non-transparency, encourages environmental violations’

Paper: III

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

Why in news:

The draft environmental impact assessment (EIA) notification issued by the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in March dilutes the EIA process and encourages environment violations in case of big irrigation projects, alleged the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).

Details:

  • When implemented, the MoEF’s draft will replace the 2006 EIA notification for future projects.
  • SANDRP argues that the draft notification dilutes the EIA process and renders the environmental clearance (EC) process “non-transparent, undemocratic, unjust and unaccountable”.
  • SANDRP claims that the draft EIA notification encourages environmental violations in the case of large-scale hydropower and irrigation projects.
  • The SANDRP, through its field studies, has routinely witnessed irregularities like poor quality of work, dishonest EIAs coupled with misinformation about the project, and inadequate or no impact assessment.

Issues/Concerns:

  • The threshold limits having been lowered, a large number of projects will not need an EIA or a public consultation for their appraisal.
  • While hydro-electric projects lesser than 75 MW but higher than 25 MW fall in category ‘B1’, hydro-electric projects lesser than 25MW and irrigation projects that have a culturable command area between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares would fall into B2 category and will not need an EIA or a public consultation for their appraisal.
  • The MoEF’s draft ensures no monitoring of these projects which might also lead to lesser compliance with respect to environmental guidelines.
  • The draft notification dilutes the provision of public consultation as compared to the 2006 EIA notification.
  • With the relaxing of the threshold limits for classification, a significant number of projects would now be pushed under category ‘B2’ projects, which are completely exempted from the EIA and public consultation process.
  • The lack of public consultation would limit the avenue for public views into the whole process.
  • In the 2006 EIA notification, category ‘B’ project was treated as category ‘A’ project if the project fulfilled the ‘general conditions’, which meant if they were located (in whole or in part) within 10 km from the boundaries of protected areas, critically polluted areas, eco-sensitive zones, or inter-State and international boundaries.
  • As per the new notification, ‘B1’ projects fulfilling the general condition will be appraised by the expert appraisal committee, but they will no more be treated as category ‘A’ projects. This would imply that such projects will undergo a less rigorous appraisal.
  • With this new provision, projects could now be proposed in close proximity to the boundary of protected and eco-sensitive zones endangering the ecosystem of the region.
  • The draft notification states that projects concerning national defence and security or “involving other strategic considerations as determined by the Central government” would not be treated as category ‘A’ and no information relating to such projects shall be placed in the public domain.
  • This provision would allow the government to hide information from people which goes against the very stated intention of making the EC process more transparent.

Centre unveils new rules to regulate exotic animal trade

Paper: III

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

Why in News:

The Environment Ministry’s wildlife division has introduced new rules to regulate the import and export of ‘exotic wildlife species.

Background:

  • In its first global report on the illegal wildlife trade, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has described wildlife trafficking as a “global threat”, which also has links with other organised crimes such as modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade. The illegal trade is estimated to generate revenues of up to $23 billion a year.
  • According to the World Wildlife Crime Report 2016 of the UN, criminals are illegally trading products derived from over 7,000 species of wild animals and plants across the world.
  • Apart from such activities being illegal, they also threaten the biodiversity of the world.
  • On the domestic front, India continues to battle wildlife crime, with reports suggesting that many species are available for trade on online marketplaces.
  • Currently, it is the Directorate-General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce that oversees the legal trade of wildlife species. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is tasked with monitoring illegal trade in India.

Key Details:

  • Under the new rules, owners and possessors of exotic animals and birds must register their stock with the Chief Wildlife Warden of their respective States.
  • Officials of the Wildlife Department will prepare an inventory of such species and have the right to inspect the facilities of such traders to check if these plants and animals are being housed in appropriate conditions.
  • Exotic live species would mean animals named under Appendices I, II and III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora. It will not include species from the Schedules of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The CITES is part of a multilateral treaty that includes plants, animals and birds under varying categories of threat of extinction and which will be jointly protected by members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. India is a signatory to the CITES.

Hackers get data of 80,000 COVID-19 patients in Delhi

Paper: III

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

Why in news:

The website of the Delhi State Health Mission (dshm.delhi.gov.in) has been taken down temporarily on Sunday after a group of hackers exposed its vulnerability. They hacked the website and accessed personal data of more than 80,000 COVID-19 patients in Delhi.

Key Details:

  • Recently, the website of the Delhi State Health Mission (dshm.delhi.gov.in) was taken down temporarily by a group of hackers.
  • The group has claimed that it merely wanted to highlight the vulnerability of the data system and express its dissatisfaction with the government’s approach towards healthcare personnel.

Concerns:

  • Data of more than 80,000 corona positive patients in Delhi, recovered and active, could potentially be at risk as a result of the hacking. This could lead to privacy concerns for the patients.
  • The hacking incident has brought to light the fact that sensitive data was stored in the servers without sufficient security.
  • Given that the server is used by the Delhi government to investigate, report, and track the COVID-19 situation in Delhi, and the fact that a hacker can edit, manipulate as well as misuse these data to make profits, there are dire consequences to the entire Indian security. For instance, manipulating these data will cause miscalculations and inaccuracy in tracking COVID-19.