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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 15 July 2021

Contents

  1. Assam-Mizoram border dispute: Baggage of the past
  2. India: Future of Afghanistan cannot be its past
  3. SC to examine plea challenging sedition law
  4. HC on compassionate appointment and personal laws
  5. Drop cases filed under Section 66A: Centre

Assam-Mizoram border dispute: Baggage of the past

Context:

Recently, several IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts were carried out inside Cachar district of Assam allegedly by miscreants from Mizoram.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Inter-State Relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background to the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute
  2. Other Boundary Issues in Northeast
  3. Way Forward

Background to the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute

  • Mizoram borders Assam’s Barak Valley and the boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long. Both states border Bangladesh.
  • The boundary issue between present-day Assam and Mizoram dates back to the colonial era when inner lines were demarcated according to the administrative needs of British Raj.
  • Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950 and lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders between the early 1960s and the early 1970s.
  • Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987 by the State of Mizoram Act, 1986.
  • The Assam-Mizoram dispute stems from a notification of 1875 that differentiated Lushai Hills (During colonial times, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills) from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
  • According to an agreement between the governments of Assam and Mizoram, the status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area.
  • In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, clashes between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between other neighbouring states of Assam, like with Nagaland.

Other Boundary Issues in Northeast

During British rule, Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya besides Mizoram, which became separate states one by one.

  1. Assam-Nagaland: Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam and achieved statehood in December 1963 and was formed out of the Naga Hills district of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (then North-East Frontier Agency). Violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965.
  2. Assam-Arunachal Pradesh: Arunachal Pradesh shares a 800-km boundary with Assam and was granted statehood by the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986 in 1987. Clashes were first reported in 1992 and since then, there have been several accusations of illegal encroachment from both sides, and intermittent clashes.
  3. Assam-Meghalaya: Meghalaya shares a 884-km boundary with Assam and came into existence as an autonomous state within the state of Assam in April 1970 comprising the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Garo Hills districts. In 1972, it got statehood. As per Meghalaya government statements, today there are 12 areas of dispute between the two states.

Way Forward

  • Boundary disputes between the states can be settled by using satellite mapping of the actual border locations.
  • Reviving the Inter-state council (Article 263) can be an option for resolution of an Inter-state dispute.
  • Zonal Councils could also be revived to discuss the matters of common concern to states in each zone—matters relating to social and economic planning, border disputes, inter-state transport, etc.

-Source: Financial Express


India: Future of Afghanistan cannot be its past

Context:

Amidst rapid advances made by the militant group Taliban on towns and border check-posts in various parts of Afghanistan – Indian External Affairs Minister said that the world won’t legitimise a Taliban regime that comes to power in Kabul by force.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan
  2. Taliban back to old ways in newly seized Afghan territory
  3. India’s reaction
  4. About Afghan peace process
  5. The US Taliban Agreement
  6. India’s Concerns with the U.S. deal with Taliban
  7. India and Views on communicating with Taliban

Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan

  • In recent weeks, the Taliban militants have made rapid advances across the country, seizing a series of border posts from Afghan forces, including crossings with Iran, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
  • The Taliban – a fundamentalist Islamist militia who were pushed out of power by the US invasion nearly 20 years ago – have also seized control of a number of key roads as they seek to cut off supply routes to major cities.
  • Control over the Pakistani crossing (Spin Boldak border crossing) would be a major prize to Taliban as it would give them significant customs revenue from the trade which flows back and forth and would provide direct access to areas in Pakistan (Balochistan province), where Taliban leaders and fighters are known to have been based for many years.
  • The seizure of the border crossing follows days of heavy fighting across Kandahar province, where the government was forced to deploy commando fighters to prevent the fall of the provincial capital even as the insurgents inched closer to taking the frontier.
  • It comes as the US withdraws its forces from Afghanistan ahead of an 11 September deadline set by President Joe Biden.

Taliban back to old ways in newly seized Afghan territory

  • Days after the Taliban captured a remote district in Afghanistan’s north, they issued their first orders in the form of a letter to the local imam which said women can’t go to the bazaar without a male companion, and men should not shave their beards.
  • The insurgents also banned smoking and warned that anybody violating the rules “will be seriously dealt with”.
  • In some areas they are again introducing the harsh interpretation of Islamic rule that earned them notoriety until being overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks.

Rules during the 1996-2001 Taliban regime

  • Women were ordered to stay indoors unless accompanied by a male relative, girls were banned from school, and those found guilty of crimes such as adultery were stoned to death.
  • Men had relatively more freedom but were ordered not to shave, would be beaten if they didn’t attend prayers, and were told to only wear traditional clothing.
  • Afghanistan is deeply conservative and some rural pockets of the country adhere to similar rules even without Taliban oversight — but the insurgents have tried to impose these edicts even in more modern centres.

India’s reaction

  • Reflecting the urgency and concern over the developing situation in Afghanistan, India said the world is “against seizure of power by violence and force”, and “peace negotiations in earnest are the only answer” at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • India called for “ceasing violence and terrorist attacks against civilians and state representatives”, settlement of conflict “through political dialogue”, respect towards “interests of all ethnic groups”, and ensuring that “neighbours are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism”.
  • The challenge, the External Affairs Minister said, was to “act seriously and sincerely on these beliefs”, because there are “forces at work with a very different agenda” — in an oblique reference to Pakistan.
  • India has pulled out its officials and staffers from its consulate in Kandahar in the past few days and is monitoring the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif where it has another consulate.

About Afghan peace process

  • The Afghan peace process comprises the proposals and negotiations in a bid to end the ongoing war and conflict involving the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • In February, 2020, US president has struck a peace deal with the Taliban (see box) on the issues of counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops. The intra-Afghan talks were part of the deal.
  • Though the deal was to be held in march-April 2020, it got delayed due to disagreement on mutual release of prisoners by both Taliban and Afghan Government.

The US Taliban Agreement

  • Withdrawal of foreign forces: The United States agreed to reduce its number of troops in the country from roughly 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days.
  • Release of prisoners- The deal also provides for a prisoner swap.
  • Recognition to Taliban- The US will move to the United Nations Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list.
  • Counter terror measures- The Taliban would prevent any terror group from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of US and its allies.
  • Intra-Afghan Negotiations- will be started among all the stakeholders of the Afghan society and the Taliban would commit towards it.

India’s Concerns with the U.S. deal with Taliban

  • In the Doha agreement, The U.S. appears to submit to the possibility of a Taliban-led government, by extracting promises that the Taliban will not provide “visas, passports, travel documents or asylum” to those threatening the U.S. and its allies.
  • This sidelines the “Intra-Afghan” dialogue, and India’s support for the election process for leadership in Afghanistan.
  • India cannot look at the agreements or the route to Kabul via Washington’s view that the Ghani government (which India has recognised as winner of the 2019 election) will only serve for an interim period.
  • This also raises a big question mark on the future of Afghanistan’s government, and whether it will remain a democracy.
  • India has raised concerns over the future of democracy, human rights, women’s rights and other achievements made in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban regime was last defeated.

India and Views on communicating with Taliban

  • While the MEA did not confirm the talks, which would represent a major shift for Indian policy, it did not deny recent reports that indicated that Indian security officials have exchanged messages with several “nationalist” Taliban factions.
  • MEA said that India is in touch with various stakeholders in pursuance of our long-term commitment towards development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
  • India has thus far refused to open direct dialogue with the Taliban leadership, which it held responsible for facilitating terror attacks along with groups like the Lashkar-e Taiba and Jaish-e Mohammad on Indian missions in Afghanistan.
  • However, according to experts, India has reconsidered its position in the aftermath of the U.S. announcement that it would pull out all its troops by September 2021.
  • The clarity over the U.S. decision to pull out, which could be as early as September 2021 has added to the sense of urgency for Delhi to make these direct contacts with the stakeholders in Afghanistan.
  • The exercise of India opening these channels and being comfortable with this information being out in the public is a signal to both the policymaking community in India and the interlocutors on the other side that they are serious about the talks with the Taliban.
  • India’s engagement with groups in Afghanistan can be thought of as driven by a desire to “limit damage” to its security interests as a result of the U.S.’s decision to leave and the Taliban gaining military strength in several key provinces.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


SC to examine plea challenging sedition law

Context:

The Supreme Court  agreed to examine a fresh plea by a former army officer challenging the Constitutional validity of the sedition law on the ground that it causes “chilling effect” on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions – Fundamental Rights, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Sedition?
  2. About Sedition law
  3. Criticism of Sedition laws

What is Sedition?

Sedition, which falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt towards the government of India and has been illegal in India since 1870.

Historical background of Sedition laws

  • Sedition as a concept comes from Elizabethan England, where if you criticised the king and were fomenting a rebellion, it was a crime against the state.
  • When they ruled India, the British feared Wahhabi rebellion. They brought the [sedition] law in, and it was used against our freedom fighters as well.
  • We must remember that both Mahatma Gandhi and [Bal Gangadhar] Tilak were tried under this law and sentenced.
  • Government didn’t remove it because every administrator has this thought that dissent is okay, but beyond a certain point it gets dangerous and an administration must have the means to control it.
  • Previously policemen were much more independent. But since Indian independence, the independence of the police has also been severely compromised. So, any local leader can almost bully a policeman into registering a case.

About Sedition law

The law was originally drafted by Thomas Macaulay. Since its introduction in 1870, meaning of the term, as well as its ambit, has changed significantly.

Sedition is a cognisable, non-compoundable, and non-bailable offence, under which sentencing can be between three years to imprisonment for life.

About Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

  • The Indian Penal Code in Section 124A lays down the offence:
  • “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
  • A person charged under this law can’t apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court as and when required.

Criticism of Sedition laws

  • Colonial Era law: It is a colonial relic and a preventive provision that should only be read as an emergency measure.
  • Right to Freedom of expression: Use of Section 124A by the government might go beyond the reasonable restrictions provided under fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as per Article 19 of the Constitution.
  • Democratic foundation: Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy and therefore, should not be constructed as sedition. The sedition law is being misused as a tool to persecute political dissent.
  • Lower Conviction Rate: Though police are charging more people with sedition, few cases actually result in a conviction. Since 2016, only four sedition cases have seen a conviction in court which indicates that sedition as an offence has no solid legal grounding in India.
  • Vague provision of sedition laws: The terms used under Section 124A like ‘disaffection’ are vague and subject to different interpretation to the whims and fancies of the investigating officers.
  • Other legal measure for offences against the state: Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967), have provisions that penalize “disrupting the public order” or “overthrowing the government with violence and illegal means”. These are sufficient for protecting the national integrity. o Similarly, the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act is also there for offences against the state.
  • Perception of law: Globally, sedition is increasingly viewed as a draconian law and was revoked in the United Kingdom in 2010. In Australia, following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) the term sedition was removed.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


HC on compassionate appointment and personal laws

Context:

Children born from all void or voidable marriages, irrespective of the personal laws applicable to their parents, are eligible for compassionate appointments in government service, said the High Court of Karnataka.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Karnataka HC Judgement
  2. What is Compassionate Appointment?
  3. Legislation regarding Marriage – HMA and SMA
  4. What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

About the Karnataka HC Judgement

  • The HC while analysing a verdict of the apex court on the right of a child born out of void and voidable marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act for compassionate job, has found it necessary to examine the right of a child born out of a void marriage irrespective of the personal laws of parents.
  • In this exercise, the Bench found that even under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which is not relatable to any personal law and it is a species of a uniform civil law applicable to marriages of persons irrespective of the religion they may belong to, there are concepts of void and voidable marriages.
  • The HC observed that Children born from all void or voidable marriages, irrespective of the personal laws applicable to their parents, are eligible for compassionate appointments in government service- in order “to protect the children born out of void and voidable marriages under any of the personal laws applicable in India or the Special Marriage Act, 1954, irrespective of whether the personal law confers such legitimacy or not”.

What is Compassionate Appointment?

  • Compassionate Appointment is a social security scheme launched by the Government of India to grant appointment to a dependent family member on a compassionate basis when a government servant dies while in service or retires on medical grounds.
  • The Objective of the scheme is to provide immediate financial assistance to the family who is left in poverty and without any means to sustain their livelihood.
  • Dependent family members applying for compassionate appointment should be eligible and suitable for the post under the relevant Recruitment Rules.
  • In deserving cases with the approval of the Secretary of the Department or the concerned Ministry, a dependent family member can be appraised for a compassionate appointment even if there is an earning member.

Legislation regarding Marriage – HMA and SMA

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:

  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with marriage registration in case both husband and wife are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs or, where they have converted into any of these religions.
  • It is to be noted that Hindu Marriage Act deals with only marriage registration that has already been solemnized.

The Special Marriage Act, 1954:

  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 lay down the procedure for both solemnization and registration of marriage, where either of the husband or wife or both are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs.
  • It is the duty of the judiciary to ensure that the rights of both the husband and wife are protection.
  • In case this union between the husband-and-wife breaks, it should be determined that if this break-up was a result of actions of any of the parties or not.

What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

  • The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India proposes to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen.
  • The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
  • Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy. These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
  • Fundamental Rights are enforceable in a court of law. While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc.
  • Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation”, while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44. All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.

-Source: The Hindu


Drop cases filed under Section 66A: Centre

Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) asked the States and Union Territories to immediately withdraw the cases registered under the repealed-Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, days after the Supreme Court expressed shock that it was being invoked even six years after the apex court had struck it down.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Judiciary, Important Judgements & Cases Judiciary, Fundamental Rights)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Information Technology (IT) Act?
  2. Section 66A of IT Act – Struck down

What is the Information Technology (IT) Act?

  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 is the primary law in India dealing with cybercrime and electronic commerce.
  • The laws apply to the whole of India. If a crime involves a computer or network located in India, persons of other nationalities can also be indicted under the law.
  • The Aim of the Act was to provide legal infrastructure for e-commerce in India.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 also aims to provide for the legal framework so that legal sanctity is accorded to all electronic records and other activities carried out by electronic means.
  • It also defines cyber-crimes and prescribes penalties for them.

Section 66A of IT Act – Struck down

  • Section 66A of the IT Act has been enacted to regulate the social media law India and assumes importance as it controls and regulates all the legal issues related to social media law India.
  • This section clearly restricts the transmission, posting of messages, mails, comments which can be offensive or unwarranted.
  • The offending message can be in form of text, image, audio, video or any other electronic record which is capable of being transmitted.
  • In the current scenarios such sweeping powers under the IT Act provides a tool in the hands of the Government to curb the misuse of the Social Media Law India in any form.
  • However, in 2015, in a landmark judgment upholding the right to free speech in recent times, the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal and Ors. Vs Union of India, struck down Section 66A of the Information & Technology Act, 2000.
  • The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
  • The repeal of 66A does not however result in an unrestricted right to free speech since analogous provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) will continue to apply to social media online.

-Source: The Hindu

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