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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 14 & 15 January 2021


  1. U.S. re-designates Cuba as state sponsor of terrorism
  2. Allahabad HC on 30-day public notice clause under SMA
  3. Karnataka HC on PIL challenging Contempt of Courts Act



  • U.S.A. has re-designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” citing Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebels, a few American fugitives and its backing for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as evidence for its “support for acts of international terrorism”.
  • The designation now puts the Caribbean country of Cuba with Iran, North Korea and Syria, and would trigger fresh sanctions, making it more difficult for Cuba to do business.


GS-II: International Relations 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. State Sponsors of Terrorism (U.S. list)
  2. Cuba–India relations

State Sponsors of Terrorism (U.S. list)

“State Sponsors of Terrorism” is a designation applied by the United States Department of State to countries which the Department alleges to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism” and the inclusion to this list imposes strict unilateral sanctions.

The sanctions which the US imposes on countries on the list include:

  1. A ban on arms-related exports and sales
  2. Prohibitions on economic assistance
  3. Controls over exports of dual-use items
  4. Denying companies and individuals tax credits for income earned in terrorist-listed countries
  5. Denial of duty-free treatment of goods exported to the United States
  6. Opposing loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions to the listed countries.

After the recent re-designation of Cuba, four countries are in the U.S.’s State Sponsors of terrorism list: Syria, Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

Cuba–India relations

  • India was among the first nations to recognize Cuba following the 1959 Cuban revolution.
  • India opened its embassy in Havana in 1960 itself symbolizing Indian solidarity with the Cuban revolution.
  • India has always voted in favour of UN General Assembly resolutions calling for an end to the United States embargo against Cuba.
  • Cuba has publicly expressed support for India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council on numerous occasions.
  • Both nations are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement.


  • The main commodities exported from India to Cuba are pharmaceutical products, organic chemicals, plastic and rubber articles, machinery and mechanical appliances.
  • The main commodities Cuba exports to India are tobacco products including cigars, raw hides and skins, and leather.

India’s Support to Cuba

  • India donated a 5 KW solar power plant to Cuba in 1995.
  • In 2008, India wrote off a $62 million loan and interest that it had provided to the Cuban government.
  • India provided Cuba with $2 million in cash in the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma in August–September 2008.
  • Citizens of Cuba are eligible for scholarships under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

-Source: The Hindu



The Allahabad High Court has ruled that couples seeking to solemnise their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 can choose not to publish the mandatory 30-day notice of their intention to marry.


GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954
  2. The Section of SMA which is being contested
  3. Allahabad High Court’s Verdict
  4. The Impact of this verdict

Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954

The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party.

Marriages solemnized under Special Marriage Act are not governed by personal laws.

The Act has 3 major objectives:

  1. to provide a special form of marriage in certain cases,
  2. to provide for registration of certain marriages and,
  3. to provide for divorce.


  • Any person, irrespective of religion.
  • Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, or Jews can also perform marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
  • Inter-religion marriages are performed under this Act.
  • This Act is applicable to the entire territory of India and extends to intending spouses who are both Indian nationals living abroad.
  • Indian national living abroad.

Landmark judgement

In Navtej Johar v. union of India case, Supreme court not only did the Court hold Section 377 of the IPC to be unconstitutional, it explicitly recognised the rights of the LGBTQ+ community to express their individuality, sexual identity and love on par with heterosexuals, as fundamental to Articles 14 (right to equality), 19 (right to freedom), and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

The Section of SMA which is being contested

  • Under Sections 5 and 6 of the SMA, the parties wishing to marry are supposed to give a notice for their marriage to the Marriage Officer in an area where one of the spouses has been living for the last 30 days. Then, the marriage officer publishes the notice of marriage in his office.
  • Anyone having any objection to the marriage can file against it within a period of 30 days. If any such objection against the marriage is sustained by the marriage officer, the marriage can be rejected.

Allahabad High Court’s Verdict

  • The court made it optional for the parties to the intended marriage to make a request in writing to the Marriage Officer to publish or not to publish a notice under Section 5 and 6 of the Act of 1954.
  • The provision for mandatory publication of notice, derived through “simplistic reading” of the particular law, “would invade the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, including within its sphere freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned”.
  • The court also noted that despite the secular law for marriage, a majority of marriages in the country happen as per religious customs. It said that when marriages under personal law do not require a notice or invitation for objections, such a requirement is obsolete in secular law and cannot be forced on a couple.

The Impact of this verdict


  • It would decrease the cases of conversion for marriage, as the delay under the special marriage Act 1954 was forcing many couples to marry by converting.
  • It shall remove hindrances to inter-faith and inter-caste marriages, and thus could promote ideals of secularism and egalitarianism.
  • It shall provide relief to interfaith couples from being targeted by vigilante groups.


  • Doing away with the public notification of the marriage could increase the cases of cheating, for example cases of duping by a married spouse.
  • It can facilitate anti-social activities such as forceful conversion.

-Source: Indian Express



The Karnataka High Court ordered issue of notice to the Union government on a PIL petition, filed by four eminent personalities, challenging the constitutional validity of a provision of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, that makes “scandalising or tends to scandalising courts” as a ground for contempt.


GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Constitution: Regarding Contempt of court
  2. Arguments of the Petitioners
  3. Highlighted Issues

Indian Constitution: Regarding Contempt of court

Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.

The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of the High Court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts.

Power to punish for contempt of court under Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a).

According to Lord Hardwick, there is a three-fold classification of Contempt:

  1. Scandalizing the court itself.
  2. Abusing parties who are concerned in the cause, in the presence of court.
  3. Prejudicing the public before the cause is heard.

However, in India contempt of court is of two types:

  1. Civil Contempt: Under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined as wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  2. Criminal Contempt: Under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, criminal contempt has been defined as the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
    1. Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or
    2. Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
    3. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

Arguments of the Petitioners

  • Section 2(c)(i) of the Act violates the right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and does not amount to a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2).
  • Though the petitioners have not challenged the constitutional validity of Section 2(c) (ii) and Section 2(c)(iii) of the Act, they have contended that rules and guidelines must be framed defining the process that superior courts must employ while taking criminal contempt action, keeping in mind principles of natural justice and fairness.
  • In the contempt jurisdiction, the petitioners have contended, the judges may often be seen to be acting in their own cause, thus violating the principles of natural justice and adversely affecting the public confidence they seek to preserve through the proceeding.

Highlighted Issues

  • The word ‘scandalising’ is subjective and depends on the perception of the concerned person. As long as the words ‘scandalising the court’ are present (in the statute book), it will be susceptible to arbitrary exercise of power.
  • One of the disturbing trends is the propensity of the court to treat personal attacks on their character as contempt.
  • A strong judiciary in a democratic republic is the bulwark of masses of this country. It must work towards fulfilling the goals set out in the constitution – to secure social economic and political justice for the masses and to uphold their fundamental rights.
  • If the judiciary is not functioning keeping in mind these objectives, an individual should have the freedom to point out the same and it cannot be said to be criminal contempt. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right.
  • Contempt of court cases does not recognise one of the basic principles of natural justice, i.e., no man shall be a judge in his own cause.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023