- People are free to choose religion: Supreme Court
- India protests against U.S. naval exercise sans consent
- Biden govt. restores aid to Palestinians
The Supreme Court said people are free to choose their own religion, even as it lashed out at a “very, very harmful kind” of “public interest” petition claiming there is mass religious conversion happening “by hook or by crook” across the country.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Highlights of the Recent Supreme Court Judgement
- What is Religious Conversion?
- Reasons for Religious Conversions
- What is “Love jihad”?
- Why do the state governments want to enact the law to curb it?
- Freedom of Religion in our Constitution
- Views of the Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion
Highlights of the Recent Supreme Court Judgement
A person above 18 years can choose his/her religion as Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health.
Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner.
Religious faith is a part of the fundamental right to privacy.
What is Religious Conversion?
- Religious conversion has always been a very sensitive social issue not only because of the reasons that it has psychological concerns of religious faith but also because it has wider socio-legal and socio-political implications.
- Religious conversion means adopting a new religion, a religion that is different from his previous religion or religion by his birth.
There are various reasons for which people convert to different religion:
- Conversion by free will or free choice
- Conversion due to change of beliefs
- Conversion for convenience
- Conversion due to marriage
- Conversion by force
Reasons for Religious Conversions
Religious Conversion is a multifaceted and multi-dimensional phenomenon. Indian society is a pluralist and heterogeneous society with the multiplicity of races, religions, cultures, castes and languages etc. Religious Conversion has always been a problematic issue in India.
The reasons for religious conversions in India can be–
- Rigid Hindu caste system
- Polygamy prevailing in Islam
- To get rid of matrimonial ties.
- To get reservation benefits.
What is “Love jihad”?
- The term “love jihad” was first mentioned in around 2007 in Kerala and neighbouring Karnataka state, but it became part of the public discourse in 2009.
- Love Jihad is an unsubstantiated campaign defined as an activity under which Muslim men target women belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.
Why do the state governments want to enact the law to curb it?
- The state governments have argued that it is the duty of the state to protect the dignity of women from the men, by concealing their identities and operating secretly.
- The UP government referred to a recent order of the Allahabad High Court which said religious conversion for the sake of marriage is unacceptable.
- The Allahabad court in its order in the Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case (Allahabad HC) 2020, observed that conversion “just for the purpose of marriage”, and where the religious belief of the party involved is not a factor, is unacceptable.
- The Allahabad High Court also ruled that the freedom to live with a person of one’s choice is intrinsic to the fundamental right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. Hence, the order recognised that our society rested on the foundations of individual dignity, that a person’s freedom is not conditional on the caste, creed or religion that her partner might claim to profess, and that every person had an equal dominion over their own senses of conscience.
Freedom of Religion in our Constitution
Right to freedom of faith is not a conferred right but a natural entitlement of every human being. In fact, the law does not assign it but it asserts, protect and insurers its entitlement. Indian Society has nourished and nurtured almost all the established religion of the world like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. from its time immemorial.
- Article 25: All persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
- Article 26: gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law. This guarantee is available to only Citizens of India and not to aliens.
- Article 27: This Article mandates that no citizen would be compelled by the state to pay any taxes for promotion or maintenance of particular religion or religious denomination.
- Article 28: This Article mandates that No religious instruction would be imparted in the state-funded educational institutions.
Views of the Supreme Court on Marriage and Conversion
- According to the Supreme Court – the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual’s “personhood and identity”.
- India is a “free and democratic country” and any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.
- The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith.
-Source: The Hindu
India said that it has protested the U.S. decision to conduct a patrol in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the western Indian Ocean, rejecting the U.S.’s claim that its domestic maritime law was in violation of international law.
GS-II: International Relations (Effect of Foreign Policies on India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the U.S. conducting FONOP and India’s objection
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
- Freedom of navigation
- US and Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS)
About the U.S. conducting FONOP and India’s objection
- Earlier, in a rare and unusual public statement, the U.S. Navy announced that its ship the USS John Paul Jones had carried out Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the Indian EEZ, adding that its operations had “challenged” what the U.S. called India’s “excessive maritime claims.”
- Defending its actions, the U.S. said it was in compliance with the international law and that the U.S. Navy destroyer asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Republic of the Maldives by conducting innocent passage through its territorial sea in normal operations within its exclusive economic zone without requesting prior permission.
- The incident is a rare falling out between the two partners in the Quadrilateral Grouping that had recently committed to upholding freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific together.
- The Government of India’s stated position on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is that the Convention “does not authorise other States to carry out in the EEZ and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state.”
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the international agreement defining the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
- UNCLOS replaces the older ‘freedom of the seas’ concept, dating from the 17th century: national rights were limited to a specified belt of water extending from a nation’s coastlines according to the ‘cannon shot’ rule.
- All waters beyond national boundaries were considered international waters: free to all nations, but belonging to none of them.
- While India ratified UNCLOS in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far.
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
- The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defined the EEZ as a zone in the sea over which a sovereign nation has certain special rights with respect to the exploration and usage of marine resources, which includes the generation of energy from wind and water, and also oil and natural gas extraction.
- The EEZ is an area that is adjacent to and beyond the territorial sea.
- It can extend to a maximum of 200 nautical miles from the baseline. The baseline is normally measured is the low-water line along the coast as indicated on large-scale charts officially approved by the coastal state.
- The EEZ does not include the territorial sea and also does not include the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, however, it includes the contiguous zone.
- Within the EEZ, the country has rights over natural resources. The country has jurisdiction over some activities for the reasons of environmental protection, among others.
- It also has to respect the rights of other countries in the EEZ such as the freedom of navigation.
- The difference between territorial sea and the EEZ is that the former confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the latter is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal nation’s rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters are international waters.
Freedom of navigation
- Freedom of navigation (FON) is a principle of customary international law that ships flying the flag of any sovereign state shall not suffer interference from other states, apart from the exceptions provided for in international law.
- In the realm of international law, it has been defined as freedom of movement for vessels, freedom to enter ports and to make use of plant and docks, to load and unload goods and to transport goods and passengers. This right is now also codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- Not all UN member states have ratified the convention, notably, the United States has signed, but not ratified the convention – However, United states enforces the practice.
US and Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS)
- The US Department of Defense defines FONOPs as “operational challenges against excessive maritime claims” through which “the United States demonstrates its resistance to excessive maritime claims.”
- The United States has an institutionalized FONOPs program called the Freedom of Navigation Program, which undertakes many FONOPs around the world every year.
- U.S. armed forces have conducted FONOPs in areas claimed by other countries but considered by the U.S. to be international waters.
-Source: The Hindu
- The United States, in a significant reversal to the earlier policy, has announced the restoration of at least USD 235 million in financial assistance to the Palestinians.
- The financial aid includes USD 75 million economic help for the West Bank & Gaza, USD 10 million for ‘peacebuilding’ programmes of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and USD 150 million in humanitarian assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
GS-II: International Relations (Effect of Foreign Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Israel – Palestine Conflict
- What is the Two-state solution?
- India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict
Israel – Palestine Conflict
- The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century.
- The origins to the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs.
- Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement.
- The key issues are mutual recognition and security, borders, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement, and Palestinian right of return.
What is the Two-state solution?
- The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.
- The boundary between the two states is still subject to dispute and negotiation, with Palestinian and Arab leadership insisting on the “1967 borders”, which is not accepted by Israel.
- Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948).
- In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.
India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict
- Israel and the Palestinian Territories Countries that recognize Palestine as a state
- India has consistently voted in favour of those resolutions that promote the two-state solution with a Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem.
- Peace based on two-state solution is much needed in the face of international proposals that are in breach of these principles, and cannot be forged between Israel and a third country [U.S.], but can only come from Israel-Palestine talks, which India also supports.
-Source: The Hindu