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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 17 November 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Constitutional courts can’t interfere with temple rituals: SC
  2. Kartarpur corridor to reopen
  3. No records of Internet shutdowns in India
  4. Earth’s first landmass emerged in Singhbhum 3.2bn years ago
  5. US inflation and impact on India

Constitutional courts can’t interfere with temple rituals: SC

Context:

The Supreme Court said that constitutional courts could not interfere with day-to-day rituals and sevas performed in temples on the basis of “public interest” petitions- while hearing a writ petition that alleged that rituals were not being performed as per traditions at the famous Tirumala Tirupati temple.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the SC Judgement on interfering with temple rituals
  2. Power of Writs
  3. Article 226 before Article 32
  4. Article 226
  5. Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion in India
  6. Secularism in India

Highlights of the SC Judgement on interfering with temple rituals

  • The Supreme Court held that the day-to-day rituals and sevas performed in temples is not for a constitutional court to look into and the question of whether a particular ritual was being performed in the right way or not was a “disputed question of fact”.
  • The writ jurisdiction of a constitutional court under Articles 226 and 32 is limited.
  • At the most, Courts could ask the temple administration to clarify in case devotees complain about discrimination or of not allowing darshan while taking into consideration the current public health crisis.

Power of Writs

The SC has power to issue directions or orders or writs for the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights.

The Constitution empowers the Supreme Court and High Courts to issue orders or writs of the following types:

  1. Habeas Corpus
  2. Certiorari
  3. Prohibition
  4. Mandamus
  5. Quo Warranto

Habeas Corpus

  • Habeas Corpus is a writ that is enforced to protect the fundamental right to liberty of an individual against unlawful detention.
  • This writ commands a public official to deliver a detained person in front of the court and provide valid reasons for the detention.
  • However, this writ cannot be issued in case the proceeding is for contempt of a legislature or a court.

Certiorari

  • Certiorari is issued to a lower court directing that the transfer of a case for review, usually to overrule the judgment of the lower court.
  • The Supreme Court issues the writ of Certiorari in case the decision passed by the lower court is challenged by the party.
  • It is issued in case the higher court finds it a matter of over jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction.

Prohibition

  • Prohibition is a writ issued by a higher court to a lower court to enforce inactivity in the jurisdiction.
  • It happens only in case the higher court is of the discretion that the case falls outside the jurisdiction of the lower court.
  • Writ of Prohibition can only be issued against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities.

Mandamus

  • Mandamus is issued to a subordinate court, an officer of the government, or a corporation or other institution commanding the performance of certain acts or duties.
  • Unlike Habeas Corpus, Mandamus cannot be issued against a private individual.
  • The writ of mandamus can be used to order the completion of a task or in other cases, it may require an activity to be ceased.

Quo warranto

  • Quo warranto is issued against a person who claims or usurps a public office.
  • Through this writ, the court inquires ‘by what authority’ the person supports his or her claim.
  • This writ prevents the illegal assumption of a public office by an individual.

Article 226 before Article 32

  • The SC has ruled that where relief through the high court is available under Article 226, the aggrieved party should first move the high court.
  • In case of the enforcement of Fundamental Rights, the jurisdiction of the SC is original but not exclusive. It is concurrent with the jurisdiction of the high court under Article 226.
  • Recently, the SC also conveyed its concerns that in many matters involving personal liberty, the High Courts are not exercising their jurisdiction as constitutional courts.

Article 226

  • Article 226 of the Constitution empowers a high court to issue writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens and for any other purpose.
  • The phrase ‘for any other purpose’ refers to the enforcement of an ordinary legal right. This implies that the writ jurisdiction of the high court is wider than that of the SC. This is because the SC can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights and not for any other purpose, that is, it does not extend to a case where the breach of an ordinary legal right is alleged.
  • The high court can issue writs to any person, authority and government not only within its territorial jurisdiction but also outside its territorial jurisdiction if the cause of action arises within its territorial jurisdiction.

Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion in India

Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India.

Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

  • Article 25 is the bedrock of secularism in India and it states that people have the freedom to
    • Conscience (inner freedom of thought),
    • Profess (declare one’s religious beliefs openly),
    • Practice (perform religious worship), and
    • Propagate (dissemination of one’s religious beliefs) their religion.
  • The Right to Propagate religion does NOT include the right to convert another person to a particular religion.
  • Thus, Article 25 covers not only religious beliefs (doctrines) but also religious practices (rituals).
  • However, the rights guaranteed under Article 25 are subject to reasonable restrictions to maintain public order, morality and health.
  • Religious rights under Article 25 are available to both citizens and non-citizens.

Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs

  • Article 25 gives freedom to an individual, while Article 26 deals with an entire religious denomination or any of its section.
  • Under Article 26, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to:
    • establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
    • manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
    • own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
    • administer such property in accordance with law
  • The rights guaranteed under Article 26 are also subject to reasonable restrictions to maintain public order, morality and health.

Article 27: Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion

  • Article 27 prohibits the State from spending any public money collected by way of tax for the promotion of any religion.
  • In other words, the state should not spend the public money collected by way of tax for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion.
  • This provision prohibits the state from favouring, patronizing and supporting one religion over the other.
  • This also means that taxes can be used for the promotion or maintenance of all religions.
  • Article 27 prohibits only the levying of a tax and not a fee. This is because the purpose of a fee is to control secular administration of religious institutions and not to promote or maintain a religion. Thus, a fee can be levied on pilgrims to provide them with some special service or safety measures.

Article 28: Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions

  • Article 28 prohibits religious instruction (religious teachings) from being provided in educational institutions that are Wholly Maintained by State funds.
  • Article 28 distinguishes between 4 types of religious institutions and has different restrictions on providing religious instructions for different types:
 Type of Educational InstitutionStatus of Religious Instruction
1.Wholly Maintained by StateCompletely Prohibited
2.Administered by the State, but established under some trust or endowmentPermitted – no conditions
3.Just Recognized by StatePermitted – but only with consent (or Guardian’s consent in case of a minor)
4.Just Receiving Aid from StatePermitted – but only with consent (or Guardian’s consent in case of a minor)

Secularism in India

  • Secularism is a principle that advocates separation of religion from civic affairs and the state.
  • The term means that all the religions in India get equal respect protection and support from the state.
INDIAN SECULARISMWESTERN SECULARISM
Equal protection by the state to all religions. It reflects certain meanings. First secular state to be one that protects all religions, but does not favour one at the cost of others and does not adopt any religion as the state religion.Separation of state and religion as mutual exclusion means both are mutually exclusive in their own spheres of operation.
In the Indian context, secularism has been interpreted as the state maintaining an “arm’s length distance” from ALL religions.Western secularism can be seen as the state refusing to interact with any form of religious affairs.

-Source: The Hindu


Kartarpur corridor to reopen

Context:

The government is considering reopening the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara corridor to Pakistan to allow Sikh pilgrims to cross over, more than 20 months after it was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Kartarpur Corridor
  2. About the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur

About the Kartarpur Corridor

  • The Kartarpur Corridor is a visa-free border crossing and secure corridor, connecting the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India’s Punjab province.
  • The crossing allows devotees from India to visit the gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the India–Pakistan border without a visa, creating a link which allows pilgrims holding Indian passports to easily visit both the Kartarpur shrine and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side of the border.
  • The corridor is one of the rare new initiatives between India and Pakistan amidst ties that have been in a downward spiral in 2019 after the Pulwama attack, Balakot strikes and the decision to amend Article 370 on Jammu and Kashmir, which led to the recall of diplomats on both sides and cancellation of all trade relations.
  • The project is also unique as visa-free “Human corridors” of this sort are normally used for emergency situations: refugees fleeing violence or humanitarian disasters, not for pilgrimages.
  • The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 and the corridor was built to commemorate 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism on 12th November 2019.

About the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur

  • Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a gurdwara in Kartarpur, located in Shakargarh, Narowal District, in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
  • It is built on the historic site where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, settled and assembled the Sikh community after his missionary travels and lived until his death.
  • It is one of the holiest sites in Sikhism, alongside the Golden Temple in Amritsar and Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib.

-Source: The Hindu


No records of Internet shutdowns in India

Context:

The parliamentary standing committee on information and technology pointed out that there were no verifiable, centralised records of Internet shutdowns in the country.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions, Accountability and Transparency)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the rules regarding suspension of internet services in India and how have they been used recently?
  2. What are the negative impacts of Internet shutdown?
  3. Rationale of Internet Shutdown
  4. Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India case of 2020
  5. India being infamous for the Internet shutdown
  6. About the lack of data on internet shut downs

What are the rules regarding suspension of internet services in India and how have they been used recently?

  • The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 under the Indian Telegraph Act contains the procedure to restrict internet access.
  • The Rules empowers the central and state governments to suspend internet services during public emergencies or for protecting the public interest.
  • However, this provision has been frequently used in India. In the past 4 years, India has witnessed more than 400 internet shutdowns throughout the country. Which is the highest compared to any democracy in the world.
  • For instance, after the abrogation of Article 370, J&K witnessed the longest Internet shutdown across the world.
  • Most recently, Internet services were shut down in Delhi NCR following the violence that erupted during the Farmers protest on Republic day.
  • Many civil society organizations including UN rights groups have termed these shutdowns a form of collective punishment for people, and an overreach of governments on citizens’ rights and liberties.
  • In 2020, the Supreme Court declared that freedom of speech and expression and freedom to practice any profession over the medium of Internet enjoyed constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g).

Back to the Basics: Article 19 – Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc.,

  • Clause (1) All citizens shall have the right
  • to freedom of speech and expression;
  • to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  • to form associations or unions;
  • to move freely throughout the territory of India;
  • to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
  • omitted
  • to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

The State can enact laws that imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right in the Interests of:

  1. the sovereignty and integrity of India,
  2. the security of the State,
  3. friendly relations with foreign States,
  4. public order, decency or morality
  5. in relation to contempt of court, defamation or
  6. incitement to an offence

What are the negative impacts of Internet shutdown?

  • Arbitrary internet shutdowns have many undetermined consequences. These consequences were particularly aggravated during the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Lack of internet connectivity or digital illiteracy will force many citizens to be excluded from social and economic systems.
  • It will cut off the most vulnerable i.e., the elderly, and pregnant women, from accessing vital digital health services, health and welfare alerts.
  • It denies access to learning for students as most of the classes are shifting online to maintain physical distancing norms.
  • Arbitrary internet shutdowns will cause large-scale disruptions in the economy – especially considering how many white-collar employment sectors, including IT, financial and consulting services, have resorted to working from home option.

Rationale of Internet Shutdown

  • Internet shutdowns are typically used when there is civil unrest, in order to block the flow of information about government actions or to end communication among activists and prevent the spread of rumours and fake news.
  • Cutting off the Internet is both an early and preventive response to block restive groups to organise riots against the Government.
  • The Internet cannot be independent of national sovereignty. Therefore, the necessary regulation of the internet is a reasonable choice of sovereign countries based on national interests.

Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India case of 2020

  • In Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India case of 2020, the Supreme Court of India held that access to information via the Internet is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.
  • The Court in Anuradha Bhasin recognised the proportionality test as the framework for such assessment, under which, the government must provide a four-step justification. It has to show that:
    1. The restrictions are in pursuance of a legitimate aim (in this case, national security),
    2. They are suitable to achieving that aim,
    3. There exist no less restrictive alternatives that would limit the right to a lesser extent,
    4. The adverse impact of the restrictions are proportionate to their benefit.
  • It also ruled that any restriction on Internet access by the Government must be temporary, limited in scope, lawful, necessary and proportionate.
  • The Court reiterated that the Government’s orders restricting Internet access are subject to review by Courts.
  • Public emergency or a threat to public safety is the legislatively mandated prerequisites for restricting Internet access.
  • Indian constitution makes the right to freedom of speech and expression a fundamental right for all citizens- listed in Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has on many occasions expanded the scope of the right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • The Supreme Court ruling is also in sync with the United Nations recommendation that every country should make access to Internet a fundamental right.
  • A state cannot technically declare a service, facility or a kind protection as fundamental right as it requires interpretation of (by high courts and/or the Supreme Court) or amendment to the Constitution by Parliament.

India being infamous for the Internet shutdown

  • India remains infamous as the Internet shutdown capital of the world.
  • While the expectation was that this decision would limit the instances of Internet suspension to exceptional situations only, these promises have remained unfulfilled.
  • The year following the decision, India saw more instances of Internet shutdown than the year preceding it.
  • India’s Internet restrictions also accounted for more than 70% of the total loss to the global economy in 2020.

Recent restrictions

  • The Government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has restricted access to mobile data in the Valley of Kashmir. It has also faced complete internet services shut down. Restrictions were issued in the wake of the death of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
  • Similar restrictions have been ordered by the government of Haryana in five different districts following farmers’ protests that were organised there.
  • While in these instances, the governments have published the orders restricting access, such publication remains an exception and not the rule.
  • In a few instances, the suspension orders have not been uploaded on the government’s websites.
  • Compliance with the Anuradha Bhasin judgement remains low in other parts of India as well.

About the lack of data on internet shut downs

  • Neither the Ministry of Home Affairs nor the Department of Telecom maintain a verifiable, centralised records of Internet shutdowns in the country.
  • It was highlighted that in the absence of database on internet shut downs there was no mechanism to review whether the Internet clampdowns followed the laid down rules or the Supreme Court guidelines.
  • It is equally revealing, the committee noted, there were no coherent rules dictating these shutdowns.
  • On the grounds of maintaining “public safety” or in a scenario of “public emergency” the State governments have the right to impose an Internet clampdown. But the report, as per the sources, pointed out that “public safety” and “public emergencies” were not clearly defined.
  • The report noted that the absence of Internet and regular telecom services also had a percolating effect. The Cellular Operators Association, in their submission to the committee, said that every hour of Internet/telecom shutdown cost them Rs. 25 million in every circle area. Trade, which is now heavily dependent on Internet banking, also was strongly hit.

-Source: The Hindu


Earth’s first landmass emerged in Singhbhum 3.2bn years ago

Context:

A new study has challenged the widely accepted view that the continents rose from the oceans about 2.5 billion years ago.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the study
  2. Back to the Basics: The Continental Drift Theory and Gondwanaland
  3. Evidence supporting the Continental Drift Theory

Highlights of the study

  • A new study suggests that continents rose from the oceans 700 million years earlier than the previously believed 2.5 billion years (about 3.2 billion years ago).
  • The study also said that the earliest continental landmass to emerge may have been Jharkhand’s Singhbhum region.
  • Scientists have found sandstones in Singhbhum with geological signatures of ancient river channels, tidal plains and beaches over 3.2 billion years old, representing the earliest crust exposed to air.
  • Patches of the earliest continental land, however, exist in Australia and South Africa, too.

Arriving at the conclusion

  • The answer to when the first land masses were formed lay in the sedimentary rocks of the region. Scientists have found a particular type of sedimentary rocks, called sandstones. Later on they found the age by analysing the uranium and lead contents of tiny minerals. These rocks were 3.1 billion years old, and were formed in ancient rivers, beaches, and shallow seas.
  • All these water bodies could have only existed if there was continental land. Thus the inference was drawn that the Singhbhum region was above the ocean before 3.1 billion years ago.
  • The researchers also studied the granites that form the continental crust of Singhbhum region.
  • These granites are 3.5 to 3.1 billion years old and formed through extensive volcanism that happened about 35-45 km deep inside the Earth and continued on-and-off for hundreds of millions of years until all the magma solidified to form a thick continental crust in the area.
  • Due to the thickness and less density, the continental crust emerged above the surrounding oceanic crust owing to buoyancy (the quality of being able to float).
  • The earliest emergence of continents would have contributed to a proliferation of photosynthetic organisms, which would have increased oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
  • Weathering of the cratons would have led to nutrient runoff, supplying the ocean with phosphorus and other building blocks for early life. (Craton are the stable interior portion of a continent characteristically composed of ancient crystalline basement rock.)

Back to the Basics: The Continental Drift Theory and Gondwanaland

  • Continental drift theory was proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912 and according to Wegner all the continents were one single continental mass (called a Super Continent) – “Pangaea” and a Mega Ocean called “Panthalassa” surrounded this supercontinent.
  • However, around 200 million years ago Pangaea began to split into two large land masses called as Laurasia and Gondwanaland which subsequently broke into many smaller continents.

Evidence supporting the Continental Drift Theory

Jig-Saw-Fit: The coastlines of South America and Africa fronting each other have a remarkable and unique match.

Rocks of the Same Age across the Oceans: The radiometric dating methods have helped in correlating the formation of rocks present in different continents across the ocean. The ancient rocks belts on the coast of Brazil match with those found in Western Africa. The old marine deposits found in the coasts of South America and Africa belong to the Jurassic Age which implies that the ocean never existed before that time.

Tillite: Tillite is the sedimentary rock made from glacier deposits. The Gondwana system of sediments from India is recognized as having its counterparts in 6 different landmasses in the Southern Hemisphere. Generally, the similarity of the Gondwana type sediments shows that these landmasses had exceptionally similar origins.

Distribution of Fossils: The interpretations that Lemurs occur in India, Africa, and Madagascar led to the theory of a landmass named “Lemuria” connecting these 3 landmasses. Mesosaurus was a tiny reptile adapted to shallow brackish water, and the skeletons of these creatures are found in the Traver formations of Brazil and Southern Cape Province of South Africa.

-Source: Indian Express


US inflation and impact on India

Context:

Retail inflation in the US has risen to 6.2% which is the highest year-on-year jump in 3 decades. However, U.S. consumers withstood rising inflation to power a burst of shopping ahead of the holiday season.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Inflation?
  2. Rising Inflation in U.S.
  3. Effect of US Inflation on India

What is Inflation?

  • Inflation refers to the consistent rise in the prices of most goods and services of daily or common use, such as food, clothing, housing, recreation, transport, consumer staples, etc. Inflation measures the average price change in a basket of commodities and services over time.
  • A moderate level of inflation is required in the economy to ensure that production is promoted. Excess Inflation is indicative of the decrease in the purchasing power of a unit of a country’s currency. This could ultimately lead to a deceleration in economic growth.
  • In India, inflation is primarily measured by two main indices — WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and CPI (Consumer Price Index) which measure wholesale and retail-level price changes, respectively.

Rising Inflation in U.S.

  • The Federal Reserve, the US central bank, targets an inflation rate of just 2%. Seen in that context, 6.2% inflation rate is a very sharp increase in prices.
  • Typically, inflation spikes can be assigned to either an increase in demand or a decrease in supply. Currently, in the US, both factors are at play.
  • The pace of economic recovery has been much faster than the supply chain recovery, and this has worsened the mismatch between demand and supply, thus triggering a sustained price rise.
  • With the rapid rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, the US economy posted a sharp recovery. A part of the inflationary spike came from this unexpectedly fast recovery in all-round demand from consumers.
  • This recovery was further fuelled by billions of dollars pumped by the government to not only provide relief to consumers and those who lost their jobs, but also to stimulate demand.
  • While the US has seen the sharpest increase in prices, inflation has surprised policymakers across most of the major economies, be it Germany, China or Japan.

Effect of US Inflation on India

  • Indians import will become costlier.
  • High inflation in the advanced economies, especially the US, will likely force their central banks to abandon their loose monetary policy.
  • A tight money policy in advanced economies would imply higher interest rates.
  • That will affect the Indian economy in two broad ways:
    1. Indian firms trying to raise money outside India will find it costlier to do so.
    2. The RBI will have to align its monetary policy at home by raising interest rates domestically. That, in turn, may further raise inflation because the production costs would go up.

-Source: Indian Express

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