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Current Affairs 18 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Karnataka Cabinet clears anti-conversion bill
  2. Changes proposed to Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  3. President inaugurates landmark Kalibari temple in Dhaka
  4. Right to be forgotten Under right to privacy: Centre to HC

Karnataka Cabinet clears anti-conversion bill

Context:

Karnataka Government is all set to table the anti-conversion bill – The Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religious Bill, 2021 – in the Legislature.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Policies), GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights), GS-I: Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Freedom of Religion in our Constitution
  2. What is Religious Conversion?
  3. Anti-Conversion laws in Indian States
  4. Why have the laws been criticised?
  5. Important Cases Regarding Marriage and Conversion of Religion
  6. Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021

Freedom of Religion in our Constitution

  • Right to freedom of faith is not a conferred right but a natural entitlement of every human being. In fact, the law does not assign it but it asserts, protect and insurers its entitlement. Indian Society has nourished and nurtured almost all the established religion of the world like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. from its time immemorial.
  • Article 25: All persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
  • Article 26: gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law. This guarantee is available to only Citizens of India and not to aliens.
  • Article 27: This Article mandates that no citizen would be compelled by the state to pay any taxes for promotion or maintenance of particular religion or religious denomination.
  • Article 28: This Article mandates that NO religious instruction would be imparted in the state-funded educational institutions.

What is Religious Conversion?

  • Religious conversion has always been a very sensitive social issue not only because of the reasons that it has psychological concerns of religious faith but also because it has wider socio-legal and socio-political implications.
  • Religious conversion means adopting a new religion, a religion that is different from his previous religion or religion by his birth.
  • There are various reasons for which people convert to different religion:
    1. Conversion by free will or free choice
    2. Conversion due to change of beliefs
    3. Conversion for convenience
    4. Conversion due to marriage
    5. Conversion by force

Reasons for Religious Conversions

  • Religious Conversion is a multifaceted and multi-dimensional phenomenon. Indian society is a pluralist and heterogeneous society with the multiplicity of races, religions, cultures, castes and languages etc. Religious Conversion has always been a problematic issue in India.
  • The reasons for religious conversions in India can be–
    • Rigid Hindu caste system
    • Polygamy prevailing in Islam
    • To get rid of matrimonial ties.
    • To get reservation benefits.

Anti-Conversion laws in Indian States

  • To date, there have been no central legislations restricting or regulating religious conversions.
  • Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass an anti-conversion legislation.
  • Apart from UP and Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh too, have also enacted similar laws.
    • In 1967-68, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh enacted local laws called the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 and the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam 1968. Chhattisgarh inherited the law when it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
    • The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978 was enacted to prohibit the conversion from one religious faith to any other by use of force or inducement. As the state has not formulated rules, the law is yet to be implemented in the State.
    • The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Ordinance was promulgated by the Governor on October 5, 2002 and subsequently adopted by the State Assembly. However, this law was repealed in 2004.
    • The Rajasthan Assembly passed an Act in 2006, however, the Presidential assent is still awaited.
    • The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020: The law makes conversion non-bailable with up to 10 years of jail time if undertaken unlawfully and requires that religious conversions for marriage in Uttar Pradesh to be approved by a district magistrate. The proposed law does not include any restriction on interfaith marriage.
    • The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 was brought in line with several similar laws enacted in 2020 by BJP-ruled states, starting with Uttar Pradesh, to amend the 2003 Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act.The laws ostensibly seek to end conversion through unlawful means, specifically prohibit any conversion for marriage, even if it is with the consent of the individual except when prior sanction is obtained from the state.

Why have the laws been criticised?

  • The new anti-conversion laws shift the burden of proof of a lawful religious conversion from the converted to his/her partner.
  • They define “allurement” for religious conversion in vague, over-broad terms; prescribe different jail terms based on gender.
  • The new laws legitimise the intrusion of family and the society at large to oppose inter-faith marriages.
  • They also give powers to the state to conduct a police inquiry to verify the intentions of the parties to convert for the purposes of marriage.
  • Legal experts have pointed out that the laws interfere in an individual’s agency to marry a partner from a different faith and to choose to convert from one’s religion for that purpose.
  • Apart from being vague and sweeping, the laws also test the limits to which the state can interfere in the personal affairs of individuals.
  • The freedom to propagate one’s religion and the right to choose a partner are fundamental rights that the new anti-conversion laws impinge upon.

Important Cases Regarding Marriage and Conversion of Religion

  1. Lata Singh Case 1994 – The apex court held that India is going through a “crucial transformational period” and the “Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”. Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.
  2. Hadiya Judgement 2017 – Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
  3. Soni Gerry case, 2018 – The SC warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father”.
  4. Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case (Allahabad HC) 2020 – The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21). It also held that earlier court rulings upholding the idea of religious conversion for marriage as unacceptable are not good in law.

Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021

  • A draft bill to prevent religious conversion in Karnataka, called the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021, has proposed a maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment for forcible conversion of persons from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe communities, minors and women, to another religion.
  • The ruling BJP is pushing for introducing this stringent bill in the Karnataka Legislature Assembly during its winter session in Belagavi, with the state government holding a series of meetings over the last few days to examine the validity of the proposed legislation.
  • A jail term of three year to five years, and a fine of Rs 25,000, has been proposed for people violating the law in the case of people from general categories and a jail term of three to 10 years, and a fine of Rs 50,000 for people converting minors, women and persons from the SC and ST communities.

-Source: The Hindu


Changes proposed to Biological Diversity Act, 2002

Context:

Environmentalists have expressed concern over amendments to the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 on the grounds that it prioritises intellectual property and commercial trade at the expense of the Act’s key aim of conserving biological resources.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
  2. The need for amending Biodiversity Act 2002
  3. Concerns with the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 in order to fulfil India’s obligations under the Convention of Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol.
  • The Bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.
  • The Bill proposes to exempt AYUSH practitioners from intimating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge.
  • The Bill also facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences.
  • The Bill brings more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.
  • The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored.
  • The Bill has also clarified and strengthened the role of state biodiversity boards.
  • In the direction of Decriminalization, Violations of the law related to access to biological resources and benefit-sharing with communities, which are currently treated as criminal offences and are non-bailable, have been proposed to be made civil offences.

The need for amending Biodiversity Act 2002

  • People from AYUSH medicine urged the government to simplify, streamline and reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
  • They also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
  • Ayush companies have been seeking relaxation of the benefit-sharing provisions.
  • Case study: Divya Pharmacy founded by Swami Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna in Uttarakhand. The Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) sent a notice to Divya Pharmacy in 2016 stating that the company was in violation of the Biodiversity Act for using biological resources from the state for its ayurvedic formulations, without intimating the board and that it was liable to pay an access and benefit-sharing fee.
    • The company filed a writ petition in the Uttarakhand high court challenging the powers of the biodiversity board to determine benefit-sharing by Indian companies.
    • The court in 2018 upheld the powers of the biodiversity board in its judgement.
    • Under the Biodiversity Act 2002, national and state biodiversity boards are required to consult the biodiversity management committees while taking any decision relating to the use of biological resources.

Concerns with the Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021

  • Experts criticized the law for prioritizing intellectual property and commerce over the Act’s primary goal of safeguarding biological resources.
  • The bill imposed a heavy “compliance burden” and made it difficult to conduct collaborative research and investments, as well as to simplify patent application processes.
  • According to the bill’s text, it also wants to “extend the scope of levying access and benefit sharing with local populations, as well as for greater conservation of biological resources.”
  • The Bill intends to exclude registered AYUSH medical practitioners and those who have access to codified traditional knowledge, among others, from notifying State biodiversity boards before utilizing biological resources for specific reasons.
  • The bill would “reverse all of the recent attempts to implement the Biological Diversity Act.”
  • There was not a single “suggested amendment provision to safeguard, conserve, or strengthen the stake of local communities in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.”
  • The modifications will allow “biopiracy” and eliminate the necessity for AYUSH manufacturing enterprises to get permits.

-Source: The Hindu


President inaugurates landmark Kalibari temple in Dhaka

Context:

President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated a famous Hindu temple in Dhaka that was destroyed by Pakistani forces in 1971. The President declared that the revived shrine represents the “spiritual and cultural” bonds between India and Bangladesh.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Ramna Kali temple
  2. Ramna massacre

About Ramna Kali temple

  • Ramna Kali Temple is a temple in Dhaka dedicated to the Goddess Kali.
  • The Ramna Kali is believed to have been built during the Mughal period.
  • The temple gained prominence in the early 20th century when the renowned saint Ma Anandamayi built her ashram within temple premises.
  • However, the temple was destroyed in 1971 by the Pakistani Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
  • In 2017, the Government of India had pledged money for reconstruction efforts of the temple.
  • And now the temple has been inaugurated by the President of India after reconstruction got completed.

Ramna massacre

  • Ramna massacre was the massacre of the Hindus who lived in the region around the Ramna Kali temple by the Pakistani army in 1971.
  • It is estimated that around 250 Hindus were killed in the massacre.
  • The Pakistani army doused the temple with petrol and gunpowder and set it on fire, along with around 50 cows.

-Source: The Hindu


Right to be forgotten Under right to privacy: Centre to HC

Context:

The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which was tabled in Parliament contains provisions related to the ‘right to be forgotten’. The right to privacy is a fundamental right and it also includes the right to be forgotten according to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Right to be Forgotten (RTBF)
  2. ‘Right to be Forgotten’ in the Indian context
  3. Issues with Right to be Forgotten
  4. What does the Personal Data Protection Bill say about this?

Right to be Forgotten (RTBF)

  • Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) is the right to have publicly available personal information removed from the internet, search, databases, websites or any other public platforms, once the personal information in question is no longer necessary, or relevant.
  • This right has been recognised as a statutory right in the European Union under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

‘Right to be Forgotten’ in the Indian context

  • The Right to be Forgotten falls under the purview of an individual’s right to privacy, which is governed by the Personal Data Protection Bill that is yet to be passed by Parliament.
  • The Supreme Court in Puttaswamy v. Union of India, 2017, declared the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right and noted that the RTBF was a part of the broader right of privacy.
  • The court said at the time that, “the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution”.

Relating Right to Privacy and Right to be Forgotten

  • In Puttaswamy v. Union of India case, 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court. Right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.
  • The RTBF gained importance after the 2014 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in the Google Spain case.

Issues with Right to be Forgotten

  • The existence of RTBF in a given situation depends on its balancing with other conflicting rights such as the right to free expression or other publication rights. For example, a person may want to de-link information about his criminal records and make it difficult for people to access certain journalistic reports when they google him. This brings the person’s right to be left alone, derived from Article 21, directly in conflict with the rights of the media to report on issues, flowing from Article 19.
  • The RTBF will normally be claimed against a private party (a media or news website). This raises the question of whether fundamental rights can be enforced against the private individual, which is generally enforceable against the state. Only Article 15(2), Article 17 and Article 23 provides protection against a private act of a private party that is challenged based on its violation of the Constitution.
  • In recent years, without a data protection law to codify RTBF, there are some inconsistent and peculiar adjudications of the right by various high courts. Courts in India have repeatedly either accepted or rejected the application of RTBF while completely ignoring the wider constitutional questions associated with it.

Extras: Right to be Left Alone

Right to be Left Alone is an expectation that society will not interfere in the choices made by the person so long as they do not cause harm to others. It doesn’t mean that one is withdrawing from society.

What does the Personal Data Protection Bill say about this?

  • The Personal Data Protection Bill aims to set out provisions meant for the protection of the personal data of individuals.
  • The draft bill mentions the “Right to be Forgotten” and states that the “data principal (the person to whom the data is related) shall have the right to restrict or prevent the continuing disclosure of his personal data by a data fiduciary”
  • (A data fiduciary means any person, including the State, a company, any juristic entity or any individual who alone or in conjunction with others determines the purpose and means of processing of personal data.)
  • Therefore, broadly, under the Right to be forgotten, users can de-link, limit, delete or correct the disclosure of their personal information held by data fiduciaries.
  • Even so, the sensitivity of the personal data and information cannot be determined independently by the person concerned, but will be overseen by the Data Protection Authority (DPA).
  • This means that while the draft bill gives some provisions under which a data principal can seek that his data be removed, but his or her rights are subject to authorisation by the Adjudicating Officer who works for the DPA.
  • While assessing the data principal’s request, this officer will need to examine the sensitivity of the personal data, the scale of disclosure, degree of accessibility sought to be restricted, role of the data principal in public life and the nature of the disclosure among some other variables.

-Source: The Hindu

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