Daily Current Affairs for 16th January 2023

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Marriage of Underage Muslim Girl

Why in News?

The Supreme Court on Friday (January 13) agreed to examine a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court holding that a Muslim girl can marry a person of her choice after attaining puberty. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said the HC’s decision should not be relied on as a precedent in any other case.

Key Points

  • In October last year, another bench of the Supreme Court had agreed to hear an appeal on the case and appointed senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao as an amicus in the case.
  • The SC intervention opens up the issue of regulating the minimum age of marriage for women and the impact it has on personal law.

What is the Punjab and Haryana HC ruling?

  • In October last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court while hearing a Habeas Corpus petition ruled that a Muslim girl is free to marry a person of her choice after attaining puberty, unless she is under the age of 18.
  • A 26-year-old Muslim man who had married a 16-and-a-half-year-old girl had moved the High Court seeking custody of his spouse. The Punjab police had taken custody of the girl since she was a minor.
  • Justice Vikas Bahl examined the girl’s statement and noted in the judgment that “she had run from the house along with the present petitioner out of her own will as the dentenue is fond of the petitioner and wished to marry him.”
  • The girl, referred to as the dentenue, also told the Panchkula magistrate in her statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that she “had run away from her house along with the present petitioner out of her own will and has stated that her family members forcefully engaged her with her maternal uncle and she has performed Nikah with the present petitioner on 27.07.2022 in a Mosque at Manimajra and she does not want to stay with her family and in fact, is married to the petitioner and wishes to reside with him.”
  • Under these circumstances, the HC allowed the marriage of the girl as per her free, especially since under Muslim law, a girl can be married after attaining puberty.

What is the Muslim law on the age of marriage for a woman?

The HC ruling quoted the Principles of Mohammedan Law by Sir Dinshah Fardunji Mulla, on the capacity for marriage. It states:

Capacity for marriage:

  1. Every Mahomedan of sound mind, who has attained puberty, may enter into a contract of marriage.
  2. Lunatics and minors who have not attained puberty may be validly contracted in marriage by their respective guardians.
  3. A marriage of a Mahomedan who is of sound mind and has attained puberty, is void, if it is brought about without his consent.

Explanation. Puberty is presumed, in the absence of evidence, on completion of the age of fifteen years.

What is the challenge?

  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had moved the Supreme Court against the HC ruling. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the child rights’ body, argued that the High Court’s ruling essentially allowed a child marriage, and this was in violation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
  • The plea argued that the Child Marriage Act is a secular legislation and would apply to all religions, overriding their personal law.

What is the law on child marriage?

  • Under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, any marriage below the prescribed age of 18 years for women and 21 for men is illegal, and the perpetrators of a forced child marriage can be punished. However, child marriages are illegal but not void. It is voidable at the option of the minor party. This means, the marriage can be declared void by a court only if the minor party petitions the court.
  • The NCPCR also argued that since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 does not recognise consent for sexual activity by minors, marriages on attaining puberty cannot be allowed.

Several High Courts have ruled differently on this issue.

  • The Karnataka High Court, in a 2013 ruling in the case of Seema Begaum D/O Khasimsab vs State Of Karnataka (2013), said that “no Indian citizen on the ground of his belonging to a particular religion, can claim immunity from the application of the P.C.M”.
  • In February 2021, the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted protection to a Muslim couple (a 17-year-old girl married to a 36-year-old man), holding that theirs was a legal marriage under personal law. The HC examined provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act but held that since the special law does not override personal laws, Muslim law will prevail.
  • In 2021, the Centre introduced a Bill to increase the age of marriage for women, and ensure harmony in the age limit across religions.

What is the proposed law?

  • Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani had introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 to increase the age of marriage for women, and ensure harmony in the age limit across religions. The Bill was subsequently referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • “All women from all faiths, under Hindu Marriage Act or the Muslim Personal Law, should get equal rights to marry,” Irani had said while introducing the Bill.
  • During the debate, E T Mohammed Basheer of the Indian Union Muslim League said the Bill was unconstitutional and was violative of Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.


Doppler Weather Radar Network

Why in News?

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology launched Dedicated 4 Doppler Weather Radar Systems to the Western Himalayan States of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. He also dedicated 200 Agro Automated Weather Stations to the Nation. The Minister also released eight publications of the IMD and gave away awards to school children and also felicitated the best performing offices and officers of IMD.

What is Doppler Weather Radar (DWR)?

  • It is a specialized radar that uses the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance.
  • It is designed to improve precision in long-range weather forecasting and surveillance using a parabolic dish antenna and a foam sandwich spherical radome.
  • It has the equipment to measure rainfall intensity, wind shear and velocity and locate a storm centre and the direction of a tornado or gust front.
  • It provides advanced information, enhancing the lead-time so essential for saving lives and property, in the event of natural disaster associated with severe weather.
  • Division of Doppler Radars and their applications: Doppler radar can be divided into several different categories according to the wavelength which are L, S, C, X, K.
  • L Band Radars: Operate on a wavelength of 15-30 cm and a frequency of 1-2 GHz.
    • Mostly used for clear air turbulence studies.
  • S-band radars: They operate on a wavelength of 8-15 cm and a frequency of 2-4 GHz. Because of the wavelength and frequency, S-band radars are not easily attenuated. This makes them useful for near and far range weather observation.
    • The drawback to this band of radar is that it requires a large antenna dish and a large motor to power it.
  • C band radars: They operate on a wavelength of 4-8 cm and a frequency of 4-8 GHz. Because of the wavelength and frequency, the dish size does not need to be very large.
    • This makes C band radars affordable for TV stations. The signal is more easily attenuated, so this type of radar is best used for short-range weather observation.
  • X-band radars: They operate on a wavelength of 2.5-4 cm and a frequency of 8-12 GHz. Because of the smaller wavelength, the X band radar is more sensitive and can detect smaller particles.
    • It is used to detect thunderstorms and lightning.
  • K band radars: They operate on a wavelength of .75-1.2 cm or 1.7-2.5 cm and a corresponding frequency of 27-40 GHz and 12-18 GHz. This band is split down the middle due to a strong absorption line in water vapour. This band is similar to the X band but is just more sensitive.

Doppler effect

  • When the source and the signal are in relative motion to each other there is a change in the frequency observed by the observer. If they are moving closer, frequency increases and vice versa.
  • It does this by bouncing a microwave signal off a desired target and analyzing how the object’s motion has altered the frequency of the returned signal.
  • This variation gives direct and highly accurate measurements of the radial component of a target’s velocity relative to the radar.


  • Covering the central and western Himalayas, these dual polarised radars will gather atmospheric variations and pick signals of extreme weather events.
  • Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are highly prone to cloud bursts, landslides, heavy rain and snowfall. Timely weather forecasts and warnings would ensure the governments make advance plans and initiate rescue measures.


Where do Indian cities stand on toxic air?

Why in News?

Four years since the Centre launched the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP), analysts found that progress has been slow and pollution only incrementally reduced in most cities.

What is the NCAP?

  • Following years of evidence that many Indian cities were among the most polluted in the world, the government launched the NCAP that committed funds as well as set targets for 131 of India’s most polluted cities on January 10, 2019.
  • The 131 cities are called non­attainment cities, as they did not meet the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for the period of 2011­15 under the National Air Quality Monitoring Program (NAMP).

What are the target levels?

  • The country’s current, annual average prescribed limits for the two main classes of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) are 40 micrograms/per cubic metre (ug/m3) and 60 micrograms/per cubic metre.
  • The NCAP initially set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 by 20­30% in 2024, taking the pollution levels in 2017 as the base year to improve upon.
  • In September 2022, however, the Centre moved the goalposts and set a new target of a 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration, but by 2026.
  • To meet these targets, approximately ₹6,897.06 crore has been disbursed to the cities by the government.
  • For administering funds, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which coordinates the programme, looks at a city’s PM10 levels the relatively larger, coarser particles.
  • However, PM2.5, the smaller, more dangerous particles, aren’t monitored as robustly in all cities, mostly due to the lack of equipment. Cities were required to quantify improvement starting from 2020­21, which requires 15% and more reduction in the annual average PM10 concentration and a concurrent increase in “good air” days to at least 200.
  • Anything fewer will be considered ‘low’ and the funding, provided by the Centre via the Environment Ministry, consequently reduced.

How effective has the NCAP been?

  • An analysis of the four year performance of the NCAP by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), found that only 38 of the 131 cities that were given annual pollution reduction targets managed to meet the targets for FY21­22.
  • The CREA noted that 37 cities have completed the source apportionment studies (which list out and quantify the major sources of pollution in a city).
  • However, most of these reports weren’t available in the public domain and no city action plan had been updated with information from these studies, as they were supposed to be under the NCAP programme.
  • The CREA estimates that India will need to install more than 300 manual air quality monitoring stations per year to reach the NCAP goal of 1,500 monitoring stations by 2024. Only 180 stations have been installed over the last four years.

Has NCAP managed to reduce pollution?

  • The NCAP Tracker, a joint project by two organisations active in air pollution­policy, Climate Trends and Respirer Living Sciences, have been monitoring progress in achieving the 2024 clean air targets set under the NCAP. Among these cities, the national capital of Delhi ranked the most polluted in 2022, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 99.71 ug/m3.
  • But Delhi’s PM2.5 levels have improved by over 7% compared to 2019. Most cities in the top 10 most polluted list of 2022 were from the Indo­Gangetic Plain.
  • All three of Bihar’s non­attainment cities, Patna, Muzaffarpur and Gaya, now feature in the top 10 most polluted cities on the basis of PM2.5 levels.
  • Nine of the 10 cities, which were the most polluted in 2019, have reduced their PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations though the levels in these cities remain much higher than CPCB’s annual average safe limits for PM2.5 and PM10.
  • In September 2022, the Centre for Science and Environment reported that based on PM2.5 levels, only 14 of 43 (NCAP) cities registered a 10% or more reduction in their PM2.5 level between 2019 and 2021.
  • Only 43 cities were considered as only they had adequate data to scientifically establish a long­term trend. On the other hand, out of 46 non­NCAP cities with adequate data, 21 recorded significant improvement in their annual PM2.5 value with 5% or more decline between 2019 and 2021.
  • There were 16 NCAP cities and 15 non­NCAP cities that registered a significant increase in their annual PM2.5 levels with near identical numbers. This suggested that non­NCAP and NCAP cities were as likely to be polluted, with the NCAP regime having limited effectiveness


Inflation moderating

Why in News?

Official data last week showed retail inflation grew by 5.7% in December the fourth successive month when retail inflation has moderated.

Does that mean inflation has been tamed now?

  • It is obvious that the inflation trend has moderated, and short of another black swan event (like the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic) or an unanticipated spike in the hostilities between major powers such as Russia and Nato or the US and China it is likely that the world has seen the worst of the inflationary spiral for now.
  • This implies that while central banks may still continue to raise interest rates, these hikes are likely to be smaller and fewer. For instance, the US Federal Reserve, which aims to bring down the annual rate of inflation to 2%, is likely to continue raising rates and stay at that level for longer; in India, the RBI may go for one more hike of 25 basis points before pausing to see how inflation is getting impacted by the cumulative effect of the past increases in interest rates.
  • Typically, higher interest rates bring down demand for money (both by consumers and producers) in the economy, and thus cool down inflation.

The second way to look at this is the level of core inflation.

  • This is the inflation when one ignores the prices of food and fuel — two groups where prices fluctuate more. Core inflation is a measure of inflation in the broader economy and, typically, moves up and down far more gradually. In the last policy meeting, the RBI Governor had said that core inflation is a concern it has stayed at the 6% mark since September, and in December inched up to 6.1%.
  • The core inflation picture suggests that while headline inflation may no longer be as big a worry as it was earlier, higher prices have seeped through in the broader economy. This means Indian consumers will have to pay higher prices even if food and fuel prices come down everything from haircuts to rents will continue to be expensive. This will cut into people’s budgets and drag down overall consumption. And that points to the bigger worry in 2023: sustaining fast economic growth.

Why is economic growth a bigger worry this year?

Essentially what India is likely to experience in 2023 is elevated core inflation — read higher prices across the board and this will curtail consumption and dampen the demand among businesses to invest in new capacities.

But there are three other big factors that are likely to drag down India’s economic growth in 2023.

  • One, the economy is already losing momentum. The First Advance Estimates of GDP for the current year released in the first week of January pointed to the economy slowing down significantly in the second half — that is, October to March. Data suggest while India’s GDP in the first six months of 2023-24 (April to September) grew by almost 10%, in the second half it is expected to grow by less than half that rate; just 4.5% to be precise.
  • Two, even while inflation hasn’t completely gone away, the RBI’s tighter monetary policy will take effect and drag down growth by making credit costlier.
  • Three, the domestic slowdown will likely to be exacerbated by the likely global slowdown. In a recent note, CRISIL research said: “Over the past two decades, India’s growth cycles have got increasingly synchronised with that of advanced economies since the 2000s due to enhanced integration of trade and capital flows.”

Given this past trend, the expected slowdown of GDP growth in the US from 1.8% in 2022 to a contraction of 0.1% in 2023, and from 3.3% to essentially zero growth in the European Union, does not portend well for India.

As a result, CRISIL expects the Indian economy to grow at just 6% in 2023-24. More to the point, in the 2023 calendar year, expectations are even more muted. Nomura Research, for instance, expects the GDP to grow by just about 5% in 2023.

Lower growth rate will make the already uncomfortable levels of joblessness in the country worse. Two, slower growth creates problems for the Union Budget because revenues start to falter and deficits begin to rise.

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