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Current Affairs 17 January 2022 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS

CONTENTS

  1. Marital Rape
  2. Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954
  3. Suspension of MLAs
  4. Carbon footprints of Bitcoins
  5. Web 3.0: A vision for the future

Marital Rape

Context:

The court is hearing multiple petitions challenging the exception to Section 375 of the IPC, which exempts forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife from the offence of rape, provided the wife is above 15 years of age. 

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Women, Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Important Judgements and Committees)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. About Marital Rape
  2. Status of Marital Rape in India
  3. Criticism of India’s Legal regime on Marital Rape
  4. On courts differing in views on marital rape

About Marital Rape

  • According to Justice Verma committee recommendations,  The IPC differentiates between rape within marriage and outside marriage.  Under the IPC sexual intercourse without consent is prohibited.  However, an exception to the offence of rape exists in relation to un-consented sexual intercourse by a husband upon a wife. 
  • The Committee recommended that the exception to marital rape should be removed.  Marriage should not be considered as an irrevocable consent to sexual acts.
  • Therefore, with regard to an inquiry about whether the complainant consented to the sexual activity, the relationship between the victim and the accused should not be relevant. 

Status of Marital Rape in India

  • The definition of rape codified in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) includes all forms of sexual assault involving non-consensual intercourse with a woman.
  • Non-Criminalization of marital rape in India emanates from Exception 2 to Section 375.
  • However, Exception 2 to Section 375 exempts unwilling sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife over fifteen years of age from Section 375’s definition of “rape” and thus immunizes such acts from prosecution.
  • As per current law, a wife is presumed to deliver perpetual consent to have sex with her husband after entering into marital relations.
  • The concept of marital rape in India is the epitome of what we call an “implied consent”. Marriage between a man and a woman here implies that both have consented to sexual intercourse and it cannot be otherwise.

Criticism of India’s Legal regime on Marital Rape

  • Marital rape is criminalized in more than 100 countries but, unfortunately, India is one of the only 36 countries where marital rape is still not criminalized.
  • The Supreme Court has included sanctity of women, and freedom to make choices related to sexual activity under the ambit of Article 21. Therefore, this exception clause is violative of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Rape laws in our country continue with the patriarchal outlook of considering women to be the property of men post marriage, with no autonomy or agency over their bodies. They deny married women equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
  • A married woman has the same right to control her own body as does an unmarried woman. Unfortunately, this principle is not upheld in Indian rape laws.
  • Our penal laws, handed down from the British, have by and large remained untouched even after 73 years of independence. But English laws have been amended and marital rape was criminalised way back in 1991. No Indian government has, however, so far shown an active interest in remedying this problem.

On courts differing in views on marital rape

  • Kerala High Court backed marital rape as a valid ground for divorce.
  • A court in Maharashtra gave anticipatory bail to a man while concluding that forcible sex with his wife was not an “illegal thing” though she said it left her paralysed.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court highlighted that legislative immunity given to marital rape stemmed from the “outdated notion that a wife is no more than a subservient chattel of her husband”.
  • Gujarat High Court has held that “a law that does not give married and unmarried women equal protection creates conditions that lead to the marital rape”.
  • In the Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration case, the SC backed a “woman’s right to refuse participation in sexual activity or alternatively the insistence on use of contraceptive methods”. The court has held that “rape is not only a crime against the person of a woman, it is a crime against the entire society”.

-Source: The Hindu


Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954

Context:

The law that governs inter-faith marriages in the country, the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954, is being challenged for endangering the lives of young couples who seek refuge under it.

  • More than a year after a writ petition was moved before the Supreme Court, seeking striking down of several of its provisions, the Union government is yet to submit its response.
Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions:
  1. About Special Marriage Act, 1954
  2. Applicability of the Act
  3. The Section of SMA which is being contested

About Special Marriage Act, 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:

  • to provide a special form of marriage in certain cases,
  • to provide for registration of certain marriages and,
  • to provide for divorce.
Applicability of the Act
  • 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.
Succession to the property
  • Succession to the property of person married under this Act or customary marriage registered under this Act and that of their children, are governed by Indian Succession Act.
  • However, if the parties to the marriage are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion, the succession to their property will be governed by Hindu succession Act.
  • The Hindu Marriage Act is pertinent to Hindus, though the Special Marriage Act is appropriate to all residents of India regardless of their religion applicable at Court marriage.
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.

-Source: The Hindu


Suspension of MLAs

Context:

Recently, 12 MLAs from Maharashtra’s legislative assembly have gone to Supreme Court to challenge their one-year suspension from the Assembly. The Supreme Court held that the one-year suspension was unconstitutional and created a constitutional void for these constituencies.

Relevance

GS II- Parliament

Dimensions:
  1. About the Suspension of MLAs:
  2. What are the arguments by Maharashtra Assembly?
  3. What are the arguments by the Supreme Court?

About the Suspension of MLAs:

  • The MLAs were suspended for misbehaviour in the Assembly regarding the disclosure of OBC data.
  • The challenge to suspension is based primarily on grounds of denial of natural justice principles and violation of established procedure.
  • The 12 MLAs claim they were not given an opportunity to present their case and the suspension violated their fundamental right to equality before the law, as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • According to Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Assembly, the “Speaker may direct any member who refuses to obey his decision or whose behaviour is, in his judgement, grossly disorderly, to withdraw immediately from the Assembly.”
  • The member is required to “absent himself for the remainder of the day’s meeting.”
  • If a member is ordered to withdraw for the 2ndtime in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to be absent “for any duration not exceeding the remainder of the Session.

What are the arguments by Maharashtra Assembly?

  • According to Article 212, the House acted within its legislative competence, and courts lack jurisdiction to inquire about legislative procedure.
  • According to Article 212 (1), “the validity of any proceedings in the Legislature of a State shall not be called into question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.”
  • The state has also highlighted Article 194 on the powers and privileges of the House, arguing that any member who violates these privileges can be suspended using the House’s inherent powers.
  • It has denied the power to suspend a member can be exercised only under Assembly Rule 53.

What are the arguments by the Supreme Court?

  • Violation of the Basic structure of the Constitution: The Constitution’s basic structure would be violated if the constituencies of the suspended MLAs were unrepresented in the Assembly for a full year.
  • The bench cited Article 190 (4) of the Constitution, which states that “if a member of a House of the Legislature of a State is absent from all meetings thereof without permission of the House for a period of sixty days, the House may declare his seat vacant.”
  • Statutory Requirement: Section 151 (A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 states that “a bye-election for filling any vacancy shall be held within six months of the date of the occurrence of the vacancy.”
  • This means that, with the exceptions specified in this section, no constituency can go more than six months without a representative.
  • Punishing the Constituency as a Whole: The Supreme Court ruled that the one-year suspension was unconstitutional because it exceeded the six-month limit and amounted to “punishing the constituency as a whole” rather than “punishing the member.”
  • The Supreme Court is anticipated to rule on whether the judiciary has the authority to intervene in House proceedings.
  • According to constitutional experts, the court has clarified in prior rulings that the judiciary can intervene in the case of an unconstitutional act committed by the House.

-Source: The Hindu


Carbon Footprints of Bitcoins

Context:

Bitcoin prices are rising these days and so will be its mining. As cryptocurrency will become mainstream, its carbon footprint cannot be ignored.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Banking, Money, Monetary Policy), GS-III: Science and Technology (Developments in Science and Technology, Application of Technology in Daily life, Blockchain technology), GS III- Environment & Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What are cryptocurrencies?
  2. How do cryptocurrencies create such a footprint?
  3. How are they different from actual currency?
  4. How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?
  5. Reasons For Adoption of Crypto in India
  6. RBI’s views on Cryptocurrency

What are cryptocurrencies?

  • Cryptocurrencies are e-currencies that are based on decentralized technology and operate on a distributed public ledger called the blockchain.
  • Blockchain records all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
  • The technology allows people to make payments and store money digitally without having to use their names or a financial intermediary such as banks.
  • Cryptocurrency units such as Bitcoin are created through a ‘mining’ process which involves using a computer to solve numerical problems that generate coins.
  • Bitcoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies to be launched and was created in 2009.
How do cryptocurrencies create such a footprint?
  • Increasing popularity of cryptocurrency has environmentalists on edge, as the digital “mining” of it creates a massive carbon footprint due to the staggering amount of energy it requires.
  • Unlike mainstream traditional currencies, bitcoin is virtual and not made from paper or plastic, or even metal.
  • Bitcoin is virtual but power-hungry as it is created using high-powered computers around the globe.
  • Bitcoin is created when high-powered computers compete against other machines to solve complex mathematical puzzles.
  • This is an energy-intensive process that often relies on fossil fuels, particularly coal, the dirtiest of them all.

How are they different from actual currency?

  • The Main difference is that unlike actual currencies cryptocurrencies are not issued by Governments.
  • Actual money is created or printed by the government which has a monopoly in terms of issuing currency. Central banks across the world issue paper notes and therefore create money and assign paper notes their value.
  • Money created through this process derives its value via government fiat, which is why the paper currency is also called fiat currency.
  • In the case of cryptocurrencies, the process of creating the currency is not monopolized as anyone can create it through the mining process.

How do cryptocurrencies derive their value?

  • Any currency has its value if it can be exchanged for goods or services and if it is a store of value (it can maintain purchasing power over time).
  • Cryptocurrencies, in contrast to fiat currencies, derive their value from exchanges.
  • The extent of involvement of the community in terms of demand and supply of cryptocurrencies helps determine their value.

Reasons For Adoption of Crypto in India

  • Establishing India as an Integral Part of the New Financial Ecosystem: Large global financial institutions and investors are adding crypto assets to their portfolios. Finance firms, banks, fintech and crypto startups can tap into the huge growth of the industry. Software technology parks (STPs) and special economic zones (SEZs) enabled the IT services boom. Creative ‘crypto export zone’ schemes can incubate clusters of excellence and create world-class financial services firms and unicorns.
  • Capitalizing on New Technology and Services Opportunities: Blockchain application development, its scalability, security and analytics are their next growth opportunities. To cater to this demand, there is a need for a large talent pool with expertise in the crypto tech stacks.
  • Scope of Financial Innovation: There is a burst of technology innovation and business models around blockchains. There are several interesting applications, but new killer apps will emerge. The impact of new technologies is overestimated in the short term, but underestimated in the long term.

RBI’s views on Cryptocurrency

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) informed the Supreme Court that dealing in cryptocurrency will encourage illegal transactions.
  • According to the RBI, Cryptocurrencies are “a stateless digital currency” in which encryption techniques are used for trading and these ‘currencies’ operate independently of a Central bank, rendering it immune from government interference.
  • An interdisciplinary committee headed by secretary of economic affairs Subhash Garg was set-up in 2017 to examine virtual currencies and recommend the regulatory framework for crypto currencies.
  • The RBI had already issued a circular prohibiting use of these virtual currencies.

-Source: Down to Earth


Web 3.0: A vision for the future

Context:

The concept of Web3, also called Web 3.0, used to describe a potential next phase of the internet, created quite a buzz in 2021.

Relevance

GS III-  Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology

Dimensions:
  1. About Web 1
  2. About Web 2
  3. About Web 3
  4. What are some of the concerns?
  5. How will Web3 address the problems of data monopoly?
  6. About  Decentralized Autonomous Organization
  7. Will it take off?

About Web 1

  • Web 1.0 is the world wide web or the internet that was invented in 1989. 
  • It became popular from 1993. 
  • The internet in the Web 1.0 days was mostly static web pages where users would go to a website and then read and interact with the static information. 
  • Even though there were e­commerce websites in the initial days it was still a closed environment and the users themselves could not create any content or post reviews on the internet. Web 1.0 lasted until 1999. 

About Web 2

  • Web 2.0 started in some form in the late 1990s itself though 2004 was when most of its features were fully available.
  • It is still the age of Web 2.0 now.
  • The differentiating characteristic of Web 2.0 compared to Web 1.0 is that users can create content.
  • They can interact and contribute in the form of comments, registering likes, sharing and uploading their photos or videos and perform other such activities.
  • Primarily, a social media kind of interaction is the differentiating trait of Web 2.0.

About Web 3

  • The model, a decentralized internet to be run on blockchain technology, would be different from the versions in use, Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.
  • In Web3, users will have ownership stakes in platforms and applications unlike now where tech giants control the platforms.
  • Gavin Wood, founder of Ethereum, a block chain technology company, used the term Web3 first in 2014 and in the past few years many others have added to the idea of Web3.
  • In 2021, owing to the popularity of crypto-currency, more discussions happened on Web3.
What are some of the concerns?
  • In Web 2.0, most of the data in the internet and the internet traffic are owned or handled by very few behemoth companies ex. Google.
  • This has created issues related to data privacy, data security and abuse of such data.
  • There is a sense of disappointment that the original purpose of the internet has been distorted.
  • It is in this context that the buzz around Web3 is significant.
How will Web3 address the problems of data monopoly?
  • Web3 will deliver decentralized and fair internet where users control their own data.
  • Currently if a seller has to make a business to the buyer, both the buyer and seller need to be registered on a “shop” or “platform” like Amazon or Ebay or any such e-commerce portal.
  • What this “platform” currently does is that it authenticates that the buyer and seller are genuine parties for the transaction.
  • Web3 would try to remove the role of the “platform”.
  • For the buyer to be authenticated, the usual proofs aided by block chain technology will be used. The same goes for the seller.
  • With block chain, the time and place of transaction are recorded permanently. 
  • Thus, Web3 enables peer to peer (seller to buyer) transaction by eliminating the role of the intermediary. This concept can be extended to other transactions also.
  • Consider a social media application where you want to share pictures with your followers. It could be a broadcast operation from you aided by blockchain and you don’t need social media accounts for all the participants to be able to perform this.
About  Decentralized Autonomous Organization
  • The key concepts in Web3 seen so far are peer to peer transaction and block chain.
  • The spirit of Web3 is Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO).
  • DAO is all about the business rules and governing rules in any transaction are transparently available for anyone to see and software will be written conforming to these rules.
  • Crypto-currency and block chain are technologies that follow the DAO principle.
  • With DAO, there is no need for a central authority to authenticate or validate.
Will it take off?
  •  Web3 is in its very initial days and there is no consensus if it will take off like Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 did. 
  • There is much scepticism from top tech brains in the industry and the academic community that Web3 does not solve the problems it purports to solve.
  • We don’t know yet if Web3 will become the dominant mode of handling the internet but the questions it raises are relevant.

-Source: The Hindu


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