Daily Current Affairs for 8th October 2020

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Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely: Supreme Court


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

Why in news?

The Supreme Court found the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protestors unacceptable.

Key details

  • The protest, considered an iconic dissent mounted by mothers, children and senior citizens of Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), became inconvenient to commuters.
  • The judgment upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law but made it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
  • Factors like the absence of leadership and many “influencers” and groups working at cross-purposes saw the movement slip out of the hands of the women of Shaheen Bagh.

Democracy and Dissent

  • Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.

  • The present case was not even one of protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters.

What is Protest?

  • A protest (also called a demonstration, remonstration or remonstrance) is a public expression of objection, disapproval or dissent towards an idea or action, typically a political one.
  • Protests can take many different forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations. It is temporary gathering of a group to parade or demonstrate or become a sustained movement, necessary to complement or reinforce more conventional forms of politics.

Right to protest

  • The Right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the Indian Constitution – Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression; Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
  • Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
  • These reasonable restrictions are imposed in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
  • In Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors. case (2012), the Supreme Court had stated, “Citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action.”

Importance of Right to protest

  • This cluster of political rights (expression, association, assembly, petition and protest) is meant to ensure that even when the government works in our interests, we don’t sit back and allow it to conduct business as usual.
  • Citizens act as watchdogs and constantly monitor its acts, for even such governments can falter and then it is up to us, through consultation, meetings and discussion, to recognise and rectify its mistakes.
  • An elected government may stray from the constitutional course, go against the interests of the people, become unresponsive and refuse to listen. Here pressure against the government must be built by still stronger public methods. Protests may take the form of street assemblies

Interfaith pair seek removal of objection provision in Special Marriage Act


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

Why in news?

The Delhi High Court sought a response from the Union government on a petition by an interfaith couple seeking to do away with the provision of inviting objection from public while applying for marriage registration under the Special Marriage Act (SMA).

Key details

  • All marriages done under the SMA require publication of the names of the couple for inviting objections from the public for 30 days.
  • Within this period, anyone can object to the marriage on the ground that it would contravene one or more of the conditions specified in section 4 of the SMA.
  • Some of the conditions include that neither party has a spouse living; either of them is of unsound mind, incapable of giving a valid consent; and the male has completed the age of 21 and the female the age of 18.

Quashing of sections

  • The petition sought to quash section 6 and 7 of the SMA, which mandate the publication of the public notice, on the ground that it was unreasonable and arbitrary.
  • It claimed that the law commission had urged a reduction of this period to bring the procedure in line with all other personal laws, where registration under the Hindu Marriage Act could be attained in a day and signing of a ‘Nikahnama’ also conferred the status of husband and wife on a couple immediately.

Special Marriage Act of 1954

  • The SMA is a law which allows solemnization of marriages without going through any religious customs or rituals.
  • People from different castes or religions or states get married under SMA in which marriage is solemnized by way of registration.
  • The prime purpose of the Act was to address Inter-religious marriages and to establish marriage as a secular institution bereft of all religious formalities, which required registration alone.

Procedure mentioned

  • One of the parties to the marriage has to give a notice of the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date on which such notice is given.
  • Such notice is then entered in the marriage notice book and the marriage officer publishes a notice of marriage at some conspicuous place in his office.
  • The notice of marriage published by the marriage officer includes details of the parties like names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number etc.
  • Anybody can then raise objections to the marriage on various grounds provided under the Act.
  • If no objection is raised within the 30 day period, then marriage can be solemnized.
  • If objections are raised, then the marriage officer has to inquire into the objections after which he will decide whether or not to solemnize the marriage.

Important sections

  • Section 5 of the (Act) requires that a notice of intended marriage to be given by the parties to the marriage to the Marriage Officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for a period of not less than thirty days immediately preceding the date on which such notice is given.
  • Section 6 mandates that all such notices received shall be entered in the marriage notice book and the Marriage Officer shall publish a notice by affixing a copy thereof to some conspicuous place in his office.
  • Sections 6(2) and 6(3): The provisions under the Act require parties to an intended marriage to publish their private details for public scrutiny 30 days prior to the intended marriage.

India, Japan finalise text of cybersecurity pact


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

Why in news?

India and Japan welcomed the finalisation of the text of a cybersecurity agreement that will promote cooperation in key areas such as 5G network and Artificial Intelligence.

Key details

  • The announcement on the agreement followed the 13th India-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Japanese counterpart Motegi Toshimitsu in Tokyo.
  • The agreement promotes cooperation in capacity building, research and development, security and resilience in the areas of Critical Information Infrastructure, 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), among others
  • The Japanese Foreign Minister highlighted the 50 billion Yen emergency assistance loan and a 1 billion Yen grant for provision of medical support to India that will help India fight COVID-19.

India and 5G

  • The government approved National Electronics Policy 2019, which aims to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing and promotes early stage Startups in emerging technology areas such as 5G, loT, Artificial Intelligence etc.
  • Bharat Net project aims to provide digital infrastructure on a non-discriminatory basis by an affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households.
  • Indian government also initiated measures to introduce 5G technology via the National Telecom Policy (NTP), which aims to reach 100% teledensity, high-speed internet highways and delivery of citizen-centric services electronically.
  • The Department of Telecommunications set up a high-level forum to develop the roadmap for 5G services in India by 2020.
  • The government is also working on creating a corpus of Rs 500 crore for research and development for 5G technology in India.
  • The government has invited leading telecom companies to undertake pilot projects on spectrum allocated free of charge for a year.

Difference between 3G/4G/5G

India- Japan ties

  • The people of India and Japan have engaged in cultural exchanges, primarily as a result of Buddhism, which spread indirectly from India to Japan, via China and Korea.
  • India is the largest recipient of Japanese and both country have a special relationship official development assistance (ODA).
  • In December 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan culminated in the signing of the “Joint Statement Towards Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership
  • In 2016, India and Japan signed the “Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” a landmark civil nuclear agreement, under which Japan will supply nuclear reactors, fuel and technology to India.
  • Recently, Japan and India have signed a military pact enabling them to exchange supplies and logistical support, as part of efforts to step up security cooperation in the face of China’s growing assertiveness.

Pandemic could push 150 mn into extreme poverty


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

Why in news?

Global extreme poverty is expected to rise for the first time in 20 years because of the disruption caused by COVID-19, exacerbating the impact of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing down poverty reduction

Key details

  • The pandemic may push another 88 million to 115 million into extreme poverty or having to live on less than $1.50 per day, resulting in a total of 150 million such individuals.
  • Some 9.1% to 9.4% of the world will be affected by extreme poverty in 2020 compared to 7.9% in the counterfactual scenario where the pandemic had not raged across the world.
  • According to a study by London’s King’s College, the coronavirus crisis could set back progress on reducing global poverty by 20 or even 30 years,
  • Many of the newly poor individuals will be from countries that already have high poverty rates while many in middle income countries (MICs) will slip below the poverty line, as per the report. Some 82% of the total will be in MICs.

Way forward

  • Emerging markets must take urgent relief measures to address distress among households and small firms due to the pandemic and lockdowns, instead of holding off for a stimulus package after the virus is reined in
  • Many governments have been cautious, and some would argue overly cautious, because they have lower resources for relief, and they fear rating downgrades.
  • For a number of countries, the right thing to do is to spend to diminish the damage than to wait to spend hoping that it will increase demand.
  • Relief was distinct from stimulus measures that only aim to increase demand.
  • If government don’t provide relief, small and medium firms and households are much less able to produce or spend when the recovery happens, and the economy’s potential growth is reduced largely from the supply side.
  • India can expand its fiscal space for spending more on relief measures if it can build institutions to convince markets that it will be fiscally responsible over the medium term.
  • Adopt a debt target with legislation, appoint independent fiscal commission which will look at Budgets and talk about where there is lack of transparency, hiding the true fiscal position.

Makers of gene ‘scissors’ win Chemistry Nobel


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

Why in news?

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the U.S won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the gene-editing technique known as the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA snipping “scissors”, the first time a Nobel science prize has gone to a women-only team.

Key details

  • Charpentier and Prof. Doudna are just the sixth and seventh women to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and this is the first time a Nobel science prize goes to a women-only team.
  • While researching a common harmful bacteria, Prof. Charpentier discovered a previously unknown molecule — part of the bacteria’s ancient immune system that disarms viruses by snipping off parts of their DNA.
  • After publishing her research in 2011, Prof. Charpentier worked with Prof. Doudna to recreate the bacteria’s genetic scissors, simplifying the tool so it was easier to use and apply to other genetic material.

Benefits of DNA snipping “scissors”

  • Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.
  • This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.
  • The CRISPR/Cas9 tool has already contributed to significant gains in crop resilience, altering their genetic code to better withstand drought and pests.
  • The technology has also led to innovative cancer treatments, and many experts hope it could one day make inherited diseases curable through gene manipulation.
  • There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments

What are genome editing and CRISPR-Cas9

  • Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA.
  • These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.
  • Several approaches to genome editing have been developed. A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9


  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is a gene editing technology, which replicates natural defence mechanism in bacteria to fight virus attacks, using a special protein called Cas9.
  • CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information
  • It was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria.
  • The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays.
  • The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to “remember” the viruses (or closely related ones).
  • If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.

Govt. to back preventive steps


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

Why in news?

Centre will launch an awareness campaign to promote the use of face masks, maintaining a safe distance between one another and hand­washing to help curb the spread of  COVID­19.

Key details

  • There is a need to be careful, and not afraid, especially with the winter coming. With no vaccine or treatment available, the only way to stay safe was to wear masks, maintain a safe distance and wash hands regularly.
  • Banners, posters and stickers would be put on public transport such as railways, Metros, buses and airports, petrol pumps, schools, colleges, anganwadi centres, markets, office complexes, housing societies, police stations and government.

Other steps taken by Govt. during Pandemic

  • The government introduced the Aarogya Setu mobile application to educate citizens about novel coronavirus and help them make informed decisions amid the crisis.
  • The government planned to set up a chain of 20 lakh retail shops called ‘Suraksha Stores’ across India which will provide daily essentials to citizens while maintaining stringent safety norms.
  • Union Human Resource Development Ministry launched a web portal to monitor and record the initiative by the ministry to combat Covid-19 with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation (YUKTI).
  • The government decided to double the collateral-free loan amount for women in self-help groups to Rs 20 lakh.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a relief package worth Rs 1.70 lakh crore in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Over 2 crore construction workers received financial support worth Rs 3,066 crore under the Building and Construction Workers’ Fund.

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