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Current Affairs 09 November 2022

CONTENTS

  1. Amendments in Electoral Bond Scheme
  2. National Population Register
  3. Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (POCSO)
  4. 22nd Law Commission
  5. G20
  6. Mother Tongue Survey of India

Amendments in Electoral Bond Scheme


 

Context:

Weeks ahead of elections in certain states, the Central Government has amended the Electoral Bond Scheme.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Electoral Bonds?
  2. Why have they attracted criticism?
  3. Government’s response defending the Electoral Bonds scheme

Amendments to the Scheme

  • Introduced a new para, stating that an additional period of fifteen days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of general elections to the Legislative Assembly of States and Union territories with Legislature.
    • In 2018, when the Electoral Bond Scheme was introduced, these bonds were made available for a period of 10 days each in January, April, July and October, as may be specified by the central government.
    • An additional period of 30 days was to be specified by the Central Government in the year of the General election to the House of People.
  • The Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue and no payment shall be made to any payee Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period.
  • The Electoral Bond deposited by an eligible Political Party in its account shall be credited on the same day.
  • Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which secured at least 1% of votes polled in the last General Election to the Lok Sabha or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive Electoral Bonds.

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.

Why have they attracted criticism?

  • The central criticism of the electoral bonds scheme is that it does the exact opposite of what it was meant to do: bring transparency to election funding.
  • For example, critics argue that the anonymity of electoral bonds is only for the broader public and opposition parties.
  • The fact that such bonds are sold via a government-owned bank (SBI) leaves the door open for the government to know exactly who is funding its opponents.
  • This, in turn, allows the possibility for the government of the day to either extort money, especially from the big companies, or victimise them for not funding the ruling party — either way providing an unfair advantage to the party in power.
  • Further, one of the arguments for introducing electoral bonds was to allow common people to easily fund political parties of their choice but more than 90% of the bonds have been of the highest denomination (Rs 1 crore).
  • Moreover, before the electoral bonds scheme was announced, there was a cap on how much a company could donate to a political party: 7.5 per cent of the average net profits of a company in the preceding three years. However, the government amended the Companies Act to remove this limit, opening the doors to unlimited funding by corporate India, critics argue.

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


National Population Register


Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recently highlighted the need to update the National Population Register (NPR) database across the country.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the National Population Register (NPR)?
  2. How is the NPR linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
  3. Significance

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a database of usual residents in the country who have stayed in a local area for the past six months or more and who intend to remain in the same place for the next six months or more.
  • The NPR is individual and identity specific unlike the Census which only provides information on the status of the residents of India and population swings.
  • The NPR database was first created in 2010.
  • The data collection is done under the aegis of the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
  • The NPR is undertaken under the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • The NPR was last updated, except in Assam and Meghalaya, in 2015-16.

How is the NPR linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • NPR is the first step toward compiling a National Register of Citizens, according to Citizenship Rules 2003. (NRC). A national NRC could proceed to validating the citizens from that list when a list of residents (i.e., NPR) has been generated.
  • The NPR, in contrast to the NRC, does not serve as a citizenship enumeration drive because it keeps track of foreign residents who stay in a community for more than six months.

Significance:

  • Data on residents across numerous platforms will be streamlined.
  • For instance, it is typical to see a person’s birthdate differ on various government documents. NPR will assist in removing that.
  • It will improve policy formulation for the government and benefit national security.
  • In a manner similar to how Aadhaar has helped, it will aid in better targeting of government beneficiaries and further reduce paperwork and red tape.
  • It will assist in putting into practise the government’s newly proposed “One Identity Card” plan.
  • Aadhaar cards, voter ID cards, banking cards, passports, and other forms of segregated paperwork are all intended to be replaced by the “One Identity Card.”

-Source: The Hindu


Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (POCSO)


Context:

Recently, the Dharwad Bench of the Karnataka High Court, while dismissing a case filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, said the Law Commission of India would have to rethink the age criteria, to take into consideration the ground realities.

  • The aspect of consent by a girl of 16 years, but who is below 18 years, would have to be considered, it said, if it is indeed an offence under the Indian Penal Code and/or the POCSO Act.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Children, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
  2. Salient features of the Act
  3. Contention/Criticisms around implementation of POCSO
  4. About POCSO Amendment Act 2019

About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
  • The framing of the Act seeks to put children first by making it easy to use by including mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts.
  • The Act provides for a variety of offences under which an accused can be punished. It recognises forms of penetration other than penile-vaginal penetration and criminalises acts of immodesty against children too. Offences under the act include:
    • Penetrative Sexual Assault: Insertion of penis/object/another body part in child’s vagina/urethra/anus/mouth, or asking the child to do so with them or some other person
    • Sexual Assault: When a person touches the child, or makes the child touch them or someone else
    • Sexual Harassment: passing sexually coloured remark, sexual gesture/noise, repeatedly following, flashing, etc.
    • Child Pornography
    • Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault/ Aggravated Sexual Assault

Salient features of the Act

  • The act is gender-neutral for both children and for the accused.
  • With respect to pornography, the Act criminalises even watching or collection of pornographic content involving children.
  • The Act makes abetment of child sexual abuse an offence.
  • Defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age
  • Provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences, keeping with the best international child protection standards.
  • Police cast in the role of child protectors during the investigative process: The police personnel receiving a report of sexual abuse of a child are given the responsibility of making urgent arrangements for the care and protection of the child.
  • Provisions for the medical examination of the child in a manner designed to cause as little distress as possible
  • Provision of Special Courts: that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a child-friendly manner.
  • Timely disposal of cases: A case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
  • Recognition to a wide range of form of sexual abuse against children: as punishable offences.
  • People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act. The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
  • Child-friendly process: It also provides for various procedural reforms, making the tiring process of trial in India considerably easier for children. The Act has been criticised as its provisions seem to criminalise consensual sexual intercourse between two people below the age of 18.

Contention/Criticisms around implementation of POCSO

Criticism in Definition of child

  • The Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. However, this definition is a purely biological one, and doesn’t take into account people who live with intellectual and psycho-social disability.
  • A recent case in SC has been filed where a women of biological age 38yrs but mental age 6yrs was raped.
  • The victim’s advocate argues that “failure to consider the mental age will be an attack on the very purpose of act.”
  • SC has reserved the case for judgement and is determined to interpret whether the 2012 act encompasses the mental age or whether only biological age is inclusive in the definition.

Issue with the Mandatory Reporting feature

  • According to the Act, every crime of child sexual abuse should be reported. If a person who has information of any abuse fails to report, they may face imprisonment up to six months or may be fined or both.
  • Many child rights and women rights organisation has criticised this provision. According to experts, this provision takes away agency of choice from children.
  • There may be many survivors who do not want to go through the trauma of criminal justice system, but this provision does not differentiate.
  • Furthermore, mandatory reporting may also hinder access to medical aid, and psycho-social intervention.
  • It contradicts the right to confidentiality for access to medical, and psychological care.

Contradiction with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

  • The POCSO Act was passed to strengthen legal provisions for the protection of children below 18 years of age from sexual abuse and exploitation.
  • Under this Act, if any girl under 18 is seeking abortion the service provider is compelled to register a complaint of sexual assault with the police.
  • However, under the MTP Act, it is not mandatory to report the identity of the person seeking an abortion.
  • Consequently, service providers are hesitant to provide abortion services to girls under 18.

Issue with Legal Aid

  • Section 40 of the Act allows victims to access legal aid. However, that is subject to Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • In other words, the lawyer representing a child can only assist the Public Prosecutor, and file written final arguments if the judge permits.
  • Thus, the interest of the victim often go unrepresented.

Issue with Consent

  • The law presumes all sexual act with children under the age of 18 is sexual offence.
  • Therefore, two adolescent who engage in consensual sexual act will also be punished under this law.
  • This is especially a concern where adolescent is in relationship with someone from different caste, or religion.
  • Parents have filed cases under this Act to ‘punish’ relationships they do not approve of.

About POCSO Amendment Act 2019

  • Increases the minimum punishment (including death penalty) for penetrative sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
  • The earlier amendment allowed the death penalty only in cases of sexual assault of girls below 12 years but now it will be applicable to boys also.
  • Adds assault resulting in death of child, and assault committed during a natural calamity, or in any similar situations of violence into Aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
  • Tightened the provisions to counter child pornography. While the earlier Act had punishment for storing child pornography for commercial purposes, the amendment includes punishment for possessing pornographic material in any form involving a child, even if the accused persons have failed to delete or destroy or report the same with an intention to share it.
  • The Act defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child including photograph, video, digital or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child.

-Source: The Hindu


22nd Law Commission


Context:

Recently, The Centre constituted the Law Commission of India with Justice (retd) Rituraj Awasthi, former Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, at its head.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background to the Law Commission in India
  2. About the Law Commission of India
  3. 22nd Law Commission

Background to the Law Commission in India

  • Law Reform has been a continuing process particularly during the last 300 years or more in Indian history. In the ancient period, when religious and customary law occupied the field, the reform process had been ad hoc and not institutionalised through duly constituted law reform agencies.
  • However, since the third decade of the nineteenth century, Law Commissions were constituted by the Government from time to time and were empowered to recommend legislative reforms to clarify, consolidate and codify particular branches of law where the Government felt the necessity for it.
  • The first such Commission was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay which recommended codification of the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • After independence, the Constitution stipulated the continuation of pre-Constitution Laws under Article 372 until they are amended or repealed.
  • The Government of India established the First Law Commission of Independent India in 1955 and since then twenty-one more Law Commissions have been appointed, each with a three-year term.

About the Law Commission of India

  • Law Commission of India it is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India.
  • The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • Its major function is to work for legal reforms and its membership primarily comprises legal experts.
Functions of the Law commission
  • The Law Commission, on a reference made to it by the Central Government or suo-motu, undertakes research in law and review of existing laws in India for making reforms therein and enacting new legislations.
  • It also undertakes studies and research for bringing reforms in the justice delivery systems for elimination of delay in procedures, speedy disposal of cases, reduction in the cost of litigation etc.
  • Identification of laws which are no longer relevant and recommending for the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments, and giving suggestions for enactment of new legislation as may be necessary to implement the Directive Principles and to attain the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution is also a part of the Law Commission’s functions.
  • It also conveys to the Government its views on any subject relating to law and judicial administration that may be specifically referred to it by the Government.
  • The recommendations of the commission are not binding on the government.

22nd Law Commission

  • The Commission headed by Justice Awasthi is the 22nd Law Commission of India.
  • The tenure of the 21st Law Commission, which was headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice B S Chauhan, came to an end on August 31 2018.
  • The 22nd Commission has been constituted two and a half years after it was approved by the Union Cabinet on February 19, 2020, just before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • A petition had been moved in the Supreme Court subsequently against the delay in constituting the 22nd Commission.
  • An official release at the time of Cabinet clearance had said the Commission would have a tenure of three years from the date of publication of the Order of Constitution in the Official Gazette.

-Source: Indian Express


G20 Logo Unveiled


Context:

Prime Minister unveiled the logo, theme and website of India’s G20 presidency. The logo bears a lotus and the message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — One Earth, One Family, One Future’.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significance of the G20 logo
  2. About G20

Significance of the G20 logo

  • The PM said the logo is not just a symbol, but a message and a resolve. “This G20 logo is not just a symbol, it is a message, an emotion running through our veins. It is a resolve, which is now being included in our thoughts”.
  • Elaborating, the Prime Minister said that the logo reflects our idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole earth is a family), because of which India has always believed in global harmony.
  • The lotus flower symbolises our Puranic heritage, our aastha (belief) and boddhikta (intellectualism).

About G20

  • The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment, over 75% of global trade and roughly half the world’s land area.
  • The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
  • Spain as a permanent, non-member invitee, also attends leader summits.

Structure and functioning of G20

  • The G20 Presidency rotates annually according to a system that ensures a regional balance over time.
  • For the selection of presidency, the 19 countries are divided into 5 groups, each having no more than 4 countries. The presidency rotates between each group.
  • Every year the G20 selects a country from another group to be president.
  • India is in Group 2 which also has Russia, South Africa and Turkey.
  • The G20 does not have a permanent secretariat or Headquarters.
  • The work of G20 is divided into two tracks:
    • The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies. Meeting several times throughout the year they focus on monetary and fiscal issues, financial regulations, etc.
    • The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, energy, etc.
  • Since 2008, the group convenes at least once a year, with the summits involving each member’s head of government.

-Source: Indian Express


Mother Tongue Survey of India


Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has completed the Mother Tongue Survey of India (MTSI) with field videography of the country’s 576 languages.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the MTSI?
  2. How many “mother tongues” does India have, and what is spoken the most?
  3. What is the status of the population census?

What is the MTSI?

  • According to the report, the Mother Tongue Survey of India is a project that “surveys the mother tongues, which are returned consistently across two and more Census decades”.
  • It also documents the linguistic features of the selected languages.
  • The report states that the NIC and the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) will be documenting and preserving the linguistic data of the surveyed mother tongues in audio-video files.
  • Video-graphed speech data of Mother Tongues will also be uploaded on the NIC survey for archiving purposes.

How many “mother tongues” does India have, and what is spoken the most?

  • As per an analysis of 2011 linguistic census data in 2018, more than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues.
  • The category “mother tongue” is a designation provided by the respondent, but it need not be identical with the actual linguistic medium.
  • After subjecting the 19,569 returns to linguistic scrutiny, edit and rationalisation, they were grouped into 121 mother tongues, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India.
  • According to the 2011 linguistic census, Hindi is the most widely spoken mother tongue, with 52.8 crore people or 43.6 per cent of the population declaring it as the mother tongue.
  • The next highest is Bengali, mother tongue for 9.7 crore individuals, and accounting for 8 per cent of the population.

What is the status of the population census?

  • The forthcoming decennial population census will be the 16th since the first exercise was conducted in 1872. It will be the eighth census since independence.
  • The census was supposed to take place in 2021, but was postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • To ensure efficient processing and quick release of data, the Home Ministry has said that it has adopted some new initiatives, which include digital data processing and the use of geospatial technology.
  • According to the report, pre-census mapping activities like preparation and updation of maps that show administrative units will be carried out.
  • Census results will be disseminated via web-based interactive maps.

-Source: Indian Express


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