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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 19 March 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. SC on courts making gender stereotypical comments
  2. SC to hear plea against sale of electoral bonds
  3. World Air Quality Report 2020

SC ON COURTS MAKING GENDER STEREOTYPICAL COMMENTS

Context:

The Supreme Court forbade judges from making gender stereotypical comments like “’good women are sexually chaste”, women who drink and smoke ‘ask’ for sexual advances or presume that a sexually active woman consented to rape while hearing cases of sexual offence.

Relevance:

GS-I: Indian Society (Issues in Indian Society, Gender Equality and Women Empowerment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Supreme Court’s Scathing Order on Language used by Courts
  2. What was mandated by the Supreme Court?
  3. Issues with stereotyping sexual assault observed by the SC
  4. Recent Judgments that are along the lines of controversy
  5. Some Important Judgements on Assault of Women at different levels

The Supreme Court’s Scathing Order on Language used by Courts

  • The SC said that judgments and orders continue to reflect “entrenched paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes” even after 70 years as a Republic.
  • A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges the conduct of a woman from a masculine point of view.
  • SC also said that the law does not support a scenario where a victim can potentially be traumatised many times over and be led to accept or condone a serious offence.
  • Even one such insensitive judgment adversely reflects upon the entire judiciary undermining the guarantee to fair justice to all.

What was mandated by the Supreme Court?

The Judges were barred completely, under all circumstances, from:

  1. trying to mandate marriage or compromise between a molestor and his victim.
  2. granting bail to suspected sexual offenders on the condition that they perform “community service” or apologise to their victims.
  3. giving judgments that enable the accused to get in touch with the survivor. (The court said the victim should be immediately notified if the accused is given bail in a sexual offence case.)
  4. using reasoning/language which diminishes a sexual offence and tends to trivialise the survivor (for example: crassly stereotypical expressions like “women are physically weak and need protection”; “men are the head of the household”; “being alone at night or wearing certain clothes make women responsible for being attacked”; “women are emotional and often overreact or dramatize events”; “lack of evidence of physical harm in a sexual offence case leads to an inference of consent by the woman”, etc.)

Issues with stereotyping sexual assault observed by the SC

  • The SC noted that Stereotyping of the ideal sexual assault victim disqualifies several accounts of lived experiences of sexual assault.
  • Crimes such as stalking, eve-teasing, shades of verbal and physical assault, and harassment are typically characterised as “minor offences” and viewed through prisms like “boys will be boys” and condoned.
  • Judges should not fall into the trap of stereotyping. A judge’s address is not limited to the parties in a case but extends to the broader legal community of other lawyers, judges, legal academics, law students and indeed the public at large.

Recent Judgments that are along the lines of controversy

  • A Madhya Pradesh High Court order said that if a suspected molestor visits his victim at her home and ‘allows’ her to tie a rakhi on him, he could be granted bail.
  • A Bombay High Court verdict acquitted a man found guilty of assault under POCSO on the grounds that he groped his victim over her clothes and there was no ‘skin-to-skin’ contact between them, and said that he should be charged under the applicable IPC sections instead of POCSO.
  • Recently, even the Supreme Court asked a man whether he would marry the woman who had accused him of raping her when she was a minor.

Some Important Judgements on Assault of Women at different levels

Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan case, 1997

In the Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan case regarding sexual harassment of women at workplace, the Supreme Court passed a judgement that:

  1. acknowledged and relied to a great extent on international treaties that had not been transformed into municipal law;
  2. provided the first authoritative definition of ‘sexual harassment’ in India; and confronted with a statutory vacuum, it went creative and proposed the route of ‘judicial legislation’.

Since there was no legislation in India related to sexual harassment at the workplace, the court stated that it was free to rely on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW—signed by India in 1980) in interpreting Articles 14, 15, 19 and 215 of the Constitution.

Laxmi vs. Union of India & others

  • In 2006, Laxmi, an acid attack victim, filed a petition seeking measures to regulate the sale of acid and provide adequate compensation to the victim.
  • Taking cognizance of the number of cases relating to acid attacks against women on the rise, the Supreme Court imposed stringent regulations on the sale of acid in 2013.
  • The ruling banned over the counter sale of acid. Dealers can sell the acid only if the buyer provides a valid identity proof and states the need for the purchase.
  • It is mandatory for the dealer to submit the details of the sale within three days to the police.
  • It also made it illegal to sell acid to a person below 18 years.

Suhas Katti vs. Tamil Nadu

  • This case was the first in India where a conviction was handed down in connection with the posting of obscene messages on the internet under the controversial section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • The victim was being harassed by the accused, Suhas Katti online on internet forums and she also began to receive phone calls from unknown people soliciting sex work.
  • In an age of merciless trolls and other forms of online harassment, this judgment acts as a tool that woman can use to safeguard their dignity.

-Source: The Hindu


SC TO HEAR PLEA AGAINST SALE OF ELECTORAL BONDS

Context:

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds before Assembly elections in crucial States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Governance and Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What are Electoral Bonds?
  • Need for electoral bonds:
  • Points in the Plea against the Electoral Bonds scheme
  • Government’s response defending the Electoral Bonds scheme

What are Electoral Bonds?

An electoral bond is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.

  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • The bonds are similar to bank notes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are free of interest.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.
All about Electoral Bonds
Fund political party in Transparent Manner: Electoral Bonds Regime

Need for electoral bonds:

  1. Electoral Bonds limit the use of cash in political funding.
  2. It also reduces using illicit means of funding and the ‘system’ was wholly opaque and ensured complete anonymity.
  3. To curb black money – payments made for the issuance of the electoral bonds are accepted only by means of a demand draft, cheque or through the Electronic Clearing System or direct debit to the buyers’ account”.
  4. Limiting the time for which the bond is valid ensures that the bonds do not become a parallel currency.
  5. Eliminate fraudulent political parties that were formed on pretext of tax evasion, as there is a stringent clause of eligibility for the political parties in the scheme.
  6. Electoral Bonds protect donors from political victimization- as non-disclosure of the identity of the donor is the core objective of the scheme.

Points in the Plea against the Electoral Bonds scheme

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both said the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
  • Data obtained through RTI has shown that illegal sale windows have been opened in the past to benefit certain political parties. There is a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral bonds before the upcoming State elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam would further increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
  • The plea said that the Electoral Bonds scheme “opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies, thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding”.
Supreme Court to hear on March 24 plea against sale of electoral bonds

Government’s response defending the Electoral Bonds scheme

  • The Government said that the Electoral Bond Scheme allowed anonymity to political donors to protect them from “political victimisation”. The earlier system of cash donations had raised a “concern among the donors that, with their identity revealed, there would be competitive pressure from different political parties receiving donation”.
  • The Ministry of Finance’s affidavit in the top court had dismissed the Election Commission’s version that the invisibility afforded to benefactors was a “retrogade step” and would wreck transparency in political funding.

-Source: The Hindu


WORLD AIR QUALITY REPORT 2020

Context:

Swiss organisation IQAir’s World Air Quality Report 2020 aggregated PM2.5 data from 106 countries and found that 22 of the top 30 most polluted cities globally are in India.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Conservation, Pollution Control measures)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the World Air Quality Report 2020
  2. Trends of Air Pollution in India from the report
  3. About PM2.5 and other Particulates

Highlights of the World Air Quality Report 2020

  • Delhi has been ranked as the world’s most polluted capital city followed by Dhaka (Bangladesh), Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Kabul (Afghanistan), Doha (Qatar).
  • Bangladesh has been ranked as the most polluted country followed by Pakistan and India.
  • The least polluted country is Puerto Rico, followed by New Caledonia, US Virgin Islands respectively.
  • Hotan in China is the most polluted city followed by Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh at second place.

Trends of Air Pollution in India from the report

  • Delhi has been listed as the 10th most polluted city and the top polluted capital city in the world, however, there is a boost in Delhi’s air quality by approximately 15% from 2019 to 2020.
  • Compared to north Indian cities, the cities in the Deccan recorded relatively better air quality, remaining above the daily WHO limits for PM2.5 of 25 µg/m3 for most part of 2020.
  • Every city in India observed air quality improvements compared to 2018 and earlier, while 63% saw direct improvements against 2019.
  • Major sources of India’s air pollution include transportation, biomass burning for cooking, electricity generation, industry, construction, waste burning, and episodic agricultural burning.
  • 2020 was a particularly severe year for agricultural burning in which farmers set fire to crop residue after a harvest. Farm fires in Punjab increased almost 50 % over 2019.
  • In 2020, the spread of Covid-19 raised new concerns as exposure to particle pollution was found to increase vulnerability to the virus and its impact on health.

About PM2.5 and other Particulates

  • Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM), or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air.
  • The term aerosol commonly refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone.
  • Sources of particulate matter can be natural or anthropogenic.
  • They have impacts on climate and precipitation that adversely affect human health, in ways additional to direct inhalation.
  • Types of atmospheric particles include suspended particulate matter; thoracic and respirable particles; inhalable coarse particles, designated PM10, which are coarse particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers (μm) or less; fine particles, designated PM2.5, with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less; ultrafine particles; and soot.
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), tends to penetrate into the gas exchange regions of the lung (alveolus), and very small particles (ultrafine particulate matter, PM0.1) may pass through the lungs to affect other organs.
  • The smallest particles, less than 100 nanometers (nanoparticles), may be even more damaging to the cardiovascular system as they can pass through cell membranes and migrate into other organs, including the brain.

-Source: The New Indian Express

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