14 July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Kesaria Buddha Stupa is located in which of the following states?

a.   Bihar
b.   Uttar Pradesh
c.   Odisha
d.   Madhya Pradesh

2)Which of the following statement(s) is/ are correct with respect to Speaker of the house

  1. Constitution has prescribed specific qualifications for a person being elected as Speaker.
  2. Any one even outside the respective house can become a speaker.
  3. The Constitution provides that the office of the Speaker should never be empty.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a.   1 & 2 only

b.   2 only

c.   2 & 3 only

d.   3 only

3)Consider the following statements with respect to River Cauvery

  1. The River Cauvery rises at Talakaveri on the Brahmagiri range in the Western Ghats in Karnataka and drains into the Bay of Bengal.
  2. The disputed Mekedatu Dam Project is being proposed to be built across River Cauvery.
  3. Harangi, Shimsha and the Arkavati River are the important tributaries of the River Cauvery.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.   1 and 2 only
b.   1 and 3 only
c.   2 and 3 only
d.   1, 2 and 3

Map of the day

Borders with : R A A T ( Kaali – Black Sea )
R for Russia
A for Azerbaijan
A for Armenia
T for Turkey

Prelims Specific News Items

A list of new Union Cabinet ministers issued has triggered a debate in political circles in Tamil Nadu, as well as on social media, by referring to ‘Kongu Nadu’, the informal name for a region in the western part of the state.

Where is Kongu Nadu?

‘Kongu Nadu’ is neither a place with a PIN code nor a name given formally to any region.

It is a commonly used name for part of western Tamil Nadu.

In Tamil literature, it was referred to as one of the five regions of ancient Tamil Nadu.

There were mentions of ‘Kongu Nadu’ in Sangam literature as a separate territory.

The name derives from Kongu Vellala Gounder, an OBC community with a significant presence in these districts.

2) India to display relics of St. Ketevan :-

What is the News?

According to the Archaeological Survey of India(ASI), the relics of St. Queen Ketevan that were found in Goa in 2005 are likely to be put on display in India as well as her native Georgia.

Who was St Queen Ketevan?
  • St Queen Ketevan also known as Ketevan the Martyr. She was the queen of Kakheti, a kingdom in eastern Georgia, in the 17th century.
  • She was killed in 1624 for not converting to Islam, and parts of her remains were brought to Goa by Augustinian monks.
Where were her relics found?
  • The relics of the martyred Queen Ketevan were found by the ASI in 2005 in the ruins of the Church of St. Augustine. They have ever since been in the possession of the Indian government.
What has happened now?
  • Indian Government has gifted one part of the relics of St Queen Ketevan to Georgia.
  • However, the larger part of the relic remained with the ASI in Goa as a reminder of our shared past. This would be publicly displayed for the first time.

3) Assam bill proposes ban on sale of beef in ‘Hindu, Jain, Sikh areas’, near temples :- The Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, bans the sale and purchase of beef items in areas “predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non beef-eating communities”, or “within a radius of 5 km” of any temple or sattra (Vaishnavite monasteries).

This is a unique provision in the Bill as other states with anti-cattle slaughter legislations do not exclude specific areas to sell or buy beef and its products. If passed, the new Bill will replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, which Sarma said lacked sufficient legal provisions to protect cows.

As part of the draft Bill, cattle slaughter in the state can be done only with the permission of the authorities and at a licenced slaughterhouse after government veterinary officers issue fitness certificates.

The proposed law does not distinguish between different cattle types. It applies to all cattle that includes “bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves, male and female buffaloes and buffalo calves”. Both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, in their anti-slaughter acts, include only cow progeny, but not buffaloes.

As part of the old legislation, cattle slaughter is allowed only for cattle aged over 14 years or those that are unfit subject to a “fit-for-slaughter certificate” issued by a local veterinary officer. The proposed legislation says that the approval certificate for all cattle is required for slaughter but adds that a cow cannot be slaughtered regardless of age.

The Bill also bans the transport of cattle without a licence to states where cattle slaughter is not regulated by law. It adds that cattle cannot be transported within the state without documents.

The proposed legislation also empowers police officers, not below the rank of sub-inspector, and registered veterinary officers to enter and inspect any slaughterhouse for violations. If violations are found, the accused cannot get bail till the public prosecutor is heard on the petition.

The accused can face imprisonment for three years, which can be extended up to eights years and fined Rs 3 lakh with limit up to Rs 5 lakh.

4) India to host 2026 BWF World Championship :- The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has allotted the BWF World Championship to India for 2026, it was officially announced.
This will be the second time that India will host the premium tournament, after the 2009 edition in Hyderabad.

Editorials of the Day

The upcoming challenges to Indian federalism:-

Context

In 2026, there will be the challenge of addressing the conflict between the democratic principles and the federal principles, when there will be a reallocation of Lok Sabha seats. India needs to reimagine the current federal compact to address the challenges to federalism.

Population freeze for Lok Sabha seats

  • Since 1976, seats in the Lok Sabha have reflected the 1971 census and have not taken into account changes in the population.
  • The primary reason for this has been unequal population growth among States.
  • India’s most highly developed and prosperous States have been successful at family planning, while the poorer States continue to expand.
  • The freeze was thus a chance to ensure that India’s most successful States are not punished politically for their success.
  • Therefore, the Indian Constitution may face an unprecedented crisis in 2026 when there will be a dramatic change in the composition of the Lok Sabha.

Challenge of balancing the principle of democracy and federalism

  • As Article 1 of the Indian Constitution says, India is a Union of States.
  • However, the history of the linguistic reorganisation of States in 1956, and subsequent movements for Statehood afterwards demonstrates that States are distinct associative communities, within the federal structure of the Indian Union.
  • In a democratic set-up, all citizens are equal and are thus entitled to equal representation in governance.
  • But this would imply that bigger States are likely to dominate the national conversation over smaller States.
  • This leads us to an inherent contradiction between the principles of democracy and federalism when federal units are unequal in size, population and economics. 
  • The small States fear that they would get a smaller share of the pie economically, a much reduced say in national issues, and be irrelevant in the political governance of the country.

How the US Constitution addresses the concerns of small states

  • When the Americans adopted their Constitution, they protected smaller States in four ways.
  • First, national powers over the States were limited.
  • Second, each State regardless of size had two seats in the Senate, giving smaller States an outsized role in national governance.
  • Third, Presidents are elected by electoral votes, which means they must win States rather than the total national population.
  • Fourth, the slave-owning states were allowed to count the slaves for purposes of representation, with each slave being counted as three-fifths of a person.
  • This essential structure remains the bedrock of the American Constitution today.

How Indian Constitution deals with the issue?

  • India’s quasi-federal structure has always been sui generis.
  • Our founders knew that India’s diversity made federalism inevitable, but, fearing separatist tendencies among States that had never been a single political unit, they also created a strong centre.
  • However, the 1956 reorganisation of States on linguistic lines was a popular recognition of federal principles and yet did not result in separatist tendencies.
  • Since then, new States within the Union have been created in response to the demands of people for greater autonomy.

Way forward on addressing the challenges to federalism

  • There is an urgent need to reimagine our national compact.
  • Following are the components of such a new balance that need to be fine-tuned to Indian realities.
  • Give more powers to States: The powers of States vis-à-vis the Centre contained in the Lists and in the provisions dealing with altering boundaries of States must be increased to assuage the fear of smaller States that they will be dominated by bigger ones.
  • More localised decision-making is bound to increase national prosperity.
  • Indeed, this was the entire goal of the creation of Panchayat governance through the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution.
  • Expand the role of Rajya Sabha: The role and composition of the Rajya Sabha, our House of States, must be expanded.
  • This would allow smaller States a kind of brake over national majoritarian politics that adversely impact them.
  • Consent of all states on financial redistribution: Constitutional change and the change in financial redistribution between the States must require the consent of all or nearly all States.
  • Constitutional provisions dealing with language and religion must also be inviolate.
  • Break the bigger States: Serious thought must be given to breaking up the biggest States into smaller units that will not by themselves dominate the national conversation.

Conclusion

The unity of India is, of course, the fundamental premise underlying this discussion; but this unity does not depend on an overbearing Centre for its survival.

Editorial 02 : Framing the legislation, forgetting the transparency

Synopsis: Discussions and transparency indicate trust in the people by an elected government. However, there is little evidence of that in the framing of the IT guidelines.

Background:

  • The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill aimed to regulate the business of lakhs of cable operators, multi-system operators, and broadcasters.
  • The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, much like the present Government, was clueless about the number of cable operators.
    • Many had sizeable stakes in the real estate business in the country and carried the channels for a price which was at the centre of animosity between the broadcasters and the cable operators.
  • The draft of the proposed Bill was discussed with all stakeholders and spilled over months.
  • Eventually passed by Parliament in 2002, the Cable Television Networks Regulation (Amendment) Act was not a perfect Act and undergone many more amendments.
  • But the changes were the outcome of intense discussions with all stakeholders.

This is a marked departure from the manner in which the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 is being pushed through.

Need to regulate digital media:

  • Lack of data: Former Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Minister commented that the Ministry officials had no fix on the number of OTT platforms and users in the country.
  • Increasing user base: There are over 200 million OTT subscribers. There are around 550 million television and smartphone consumers in the country. The figures are expected to double by 2025.
  • No regulation: it’s business along with the entertainment industry had reached ₹1.82 trillion in 2019 and has been projected to cross ₹2.4 trillion by 2022.

Issues with Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021:

  • Firstly, the Government never put up the amendments for public discussion.
    • However, while amending the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, the Ministry had put out the draft on its website inviting discussions.
  • Secondly, lesser time to comply.
    • The IT rules came into effect on February 25 with the Government giving digital publishers three months to comply.
  • Thirdly, the Digital News Publishers Association, the Press Trust of India, and now the News Broadcasters Association have moved courts petitioning that the code restricts free speech and exceeds the mandate of the IT Act.
  • Fourth, India has not followed best practices and the new rules are characterised by excessive government overreach. Most countries have set up an enabling architecture for OTT platforms to grow.
    • The EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, encourages self-regulation and co-regulation among players, with a specific focus on child safety and violence, and hate speech.
    • In the United Kingdom, programming on video-on-demand services is regulated by Ofcom, which not only provides editorial rules but also has specific provisions for protecting those under 18 and the prohibition of content inciting hatred.
    • In the United States, OTT content remains unregulated.
  • Lastly, there is a question about the government’s mandate to control and regulate digital news.
    • There is a question over the formulation of a self-regulating code for digital media by the government, as it makes no sense.

Hence, freedom of expression and public debate should be given adequate importance as they are the heart of the content.

Editorial 03 : Disable unconstitutional sections :-

Relevance: Laws that are declared unconstitutional by the judiciary, are still in use. What policy measures are required to ensure the proper implementation of orders.

Synopsis:

The police must ensure that no FIR is registered under unconstitutional sections and no one is harassed for the negligent actions of SHOs. A multipronged approach is desired to achieve this objective. This includes regular training, disabling online registration of FIR under unconstitutional sections and taking corrective actions against negligent police officers.

Background:
  • Recently, the Supreme Court expressed shock while hearing an application filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). 
    • It observed that criminal cases are still being registered by the police under Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. However, the section was declared unconstitutional by the SC in 2015 (Shreya Singhal v. Union of India).
  • The PUCL said that 1,307 cases had been registered since 2015 across the States. Therefore, the Court must issue guidelines against registering FIRs by the police under this head.
    • Undoubtedly, the registration of FIRs by the police under these sections is illegal and violative of the Court’s directions.
Sections declared unconstitutional by the court:
  • In 2015, the Supreme Court had declared Section 66A of the IT Act as unconstitutional. The section made the online posting of information considered as “grossly offensive” a crime punishable by jail. 
    • However, the court held that it was violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and not saved under the ambit of reasonable restrictions defined in Article 19(2). 
    • It had also said that the expressions used in Section 66A were open-ended, undefined, and therefore arbitrary.
  • In 1983, the Court had struck down Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It provided capital punishment for murder by a person serving a life term in another case. 
    • In Mithu v. State of Punjab, it held that the punishment was not based on rational principle as no judicial discretion was available to a life convict.
  • In 2018 (Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India), the Court read down Section 377 of the IPC criminalising “unnatural sex” as being unconstitutional. 
  • Similarly, in Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018), the Court held adultery as defined under Section 497 of the IPC as being manifestly arbitrary, discriminatory and violative of the dignity of a woman and therefore, unconstitutional.
Steps to improve the situation:
  • The supervisory police officers at the sub-divisional level must ensure that such sections, if invoked, are removed at the earliest. The Superintendents of Police must fix responsibility on the erring officer and take corrective action. 
    • If the SHOs and others don’t mend their ways despite reprimands, their annual confidential reports could be dented with adverse entries.
    • Action can also be initiated under the new Section 166A of the IPC, which provides punishment for up to two years for disobeying directions under the law.
  • A prudent focus should be placed on educating police officers of all ranks about unconstitutional provisions in basic training institutes.
  • There could be a mention in brackets near the provision that the provision has been struck down, so that FIRs are not registered under those sections. 
  • Unconstitutional sections of the IPC can be disabled in the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS).
    • Most States register FIRs in the CCTNS either on a real-time basis or in offline mode and synchronise this data with the State Data Centre as soon as connectivity is restored.

Chhattisgarh has disabled these Sections in the system; a similar thing could be done by other states as well.

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