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11 November, 2019

20 Min Read

GS-II : Miscellaneous
Study calls for lowering the age of consent

Syllabus subtopic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

News: A new study calls for a need to distinguish between self-arranged marriages among older adolescents and forced child marriages to protect teens from social stigma, parental backlash and punitive action

Prelims and Mains focus: Laws on this issue, need for change.

Findings of the study:

  1. The study makes a case for an age of consent that is lower than the age of marriage to decriminalise sex among consenting older adolescents to protect them from the misuse of law for enforcing parental and caste controls over daughters.
  2. It also demanded uniform age for marriage.
  3. The study also records that while girls face restrictions on their mobility, premarital relations and sexuality, the same was not true for boys of the same social milieu who enjoyed greater freedom.
  4. The study again provides evidence of the misuse of POCSO, which raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 years. Activists have long argued that this would result in adolescents being wrong

What the law says?

  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women,
  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.
  • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.

Why have a minimum age for marriage?

The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent abuse of minors. Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.

Need for uniformity:

  1. The different legal standards for the age of men and women to marry has been a subject of debate.
  2. In a consultation paper of reform in family law in 2018, the Law Commission argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”.
  3. Women’s rights activists too have argued that the law perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and therefore can be allowed to marry sooner.
  4. The Law Commission paper recommended that the minimum age of marriage for both genders be set at 18. For the difference in age for husband and wife has no basis in law as spouses entering into a marriage are by all means equals and their partnership must also be of that between equals.

Two Supreme Court rulings could be significant to the context of this argument:

  1. In 2014, in National Legal Services Authority of India v Union of India, the Supreme Court while recognising transgenders as the third gender said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws.”
  2. In 2019, in Joseph Shine v Union of India, the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity.”

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II :
Ayodhya Case

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

News: The constitution bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi delivered the Ayodhya verdict alongside CJI designate S.A. Bobde, and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer. The verdict was unanimous.

Prelims focus: Details of the case and the judgment.

Mains focus: Implications of the judgement and significance of the precedent it has set.

About the issue

  • At the centre of the issue is the belief among sections of Hindus that the Babri Masjid, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple that marked the birthplace of the deity.

  • The Hindu parties wanted the land to themselves, contending that Lord Ram was born at a spot on which later the central dome of the mosque was built. The Muslim parties, however, contended that the mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army, without demolishing any place of worship and since the land rights had not been transferred to any other party, the space was rightfully theirs.

About the verdict:

  1. The Hindus would get the entire disputed 2.77 acres in Ayodhya where the demolished Babri Masjid once stood.
  2. Possession of disputed 2.77 acre land will remain with Central government receiver.
  3. The Muslims will get alternate five acres of land either in the surplus 67 acres acquired in and around the disputed structure by the central government or any other “prominent” place.
  4. A trust will be formed in 3 months to build a temple on the disputed land. The court held that the Nirmohi Akhara is not the shebait or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla but will get to be a member of the Trust.

About the Article 142:

The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.

Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.

  • This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over an immovable property, involving private parties.

The European travellers quoted by the SC judges in the judgment

In its judgment, the Supreme Court relied in part on centuries-old travelogues, gazetteers and books to provide an account of the faith and belief that the Hindus placed in the Janmasthan. The travelogues that the court took note of included, among others, those by the European travellers Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Finch, and Montgomery Martin – these being written before the building of the grill-brick wall in front of the mosque during British rule.

  1. Tieffenthaler was an 18th-century missionary who travelled in India for 27 years, and wrote his travelogue titled “Description Historique et Geographique De l’Inde”. In India, he was commissioned at the famous observatory of Sawai Jai Singh, the Raja of Jaipur, and was later attached at the Jesuit College in Agra which was built with the patronage of Akbar.
  2. William Finch’s account has been recorded in the 1921 book ‘Early Travels in India (1583-1619)’ by the historiographer Sir William Foster.
  3. Originally from Dublin in Ireland, Martin was an Anglo-Irish author and civil servant. He practised medicine in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), East Africa and Australia. Martin then went on to work in Kolkata where helped found the paper ‘Bengal Herald’. He wrote the three-volume work ‘History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India’.

About the adverse possession and the Muslim claim rejected by SC

One of the questions before the Supreme Court was whether the Sunni Waqf Board had acquired the title of the disputed land by adverse possession.

Adverse possession is hostile possession of a property – which has to be continuous, uninterrupted and peaceful.

The Muslim side had claimed that the mosque was built 400 years ago by Babar – and that even if it is assumed that it was built on the land where a temple earlier existed, Muslims, by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession – beginning from the time the mosque was built, and up to the time the mosque was desecrated – they had perfected their title by adverse possession. This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II :
HS code for Khadi

Syllabus subtopic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

News: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has allocated a separate Harmonised System (HS) code for Khadi. The move is expected to boost Khadi exports in the coming years. Earlier, Khadi did not have its exclusive HS code.

Prelims and mains focus: Meaning and significance of HS code.

Khadi is India’s signature handspun and handwoven cloth that was made iconic by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle.

What does the HS code mean?

  • Khadi is India’s signature handspun and handwoven cloth that was made iconic by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle.
  • The Harmonised System, or simply ‘HS’, is a six-digit identification code. Of the six digits, the first two denote the HS Chapter, the next two give the HS heading, and the last two give the HS subheading.
  • Developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO).
  • Called the “universal economic language” for goods.
  • It is a multipurpose international product nomenclature.
  • The system currently comprises of around 5,000 commodity group

HS code are used by Customs authorities, statistical agencies, and other government regulatory bodies, to monitor and control the import and export of commodities through:

  1. Customs tariffs
  2. Collection of international trade statistics
  3. Rules of origin
  4. Collection of internal taxes
  5. Trade negotiations (e.g., the World Trade Organization schedules of tariff concessions)
  6. Transport tariffs and statistics
  7. Monitoring of controlled goods (e.g., wastes, narcotics, chemical weapons, ozone layer depleting substances, endangered species, wildlife trade)
  8. Areas of Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessment, information technology and compliance.

Need for and significance:

  • Over 200 countries use the system as a basis for their customs tariffs, gathering international trade statistics, making trade policies, and for monitoring goods.
  • The system helps in harmonising of customs and trade procedures, thus reducing costs in international trade.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-II :
Draft Social Security code

Syllabus subtopic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

News: The draft code on social security, which subsumes 8 existing laws covering provident fund, maternity benefits and pension, is being further worked upon after a recent round of public consultations.

Prelims focus: key features of the draft.

Mains focus: need for and significance of the code.

Mission:

  1. To amalgamate a clutch of existing laws and proposes several new initiatives including universal social security for unorganized sector workers and, insurance and health benefits for gig workers.
  2. To Corporatize of existing organizations like EPFO and ESIC headed by people other than the labour minister.

Key highlights of the draft:

  1. Insurance, PF, life cover for unorganized sector employees: Central Government shall formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers on matter relating to life and disability cover; health and maternity benefits; old age protection; and any other benefit as may be determined by the central government.
  2. Corporatization of EPFO and ESIC: The pension, insurance and retirement saving bodies including EPFO and ESIC will be body corporate. Labour minister, labour secretary, the central PF commissioner and Director General of ESIC may not be by default the head of such organizations.
  3. Benefits for Gig workers:“Central Government may formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable social security schemes for gig workers and platform workers” and such schemes would encompass issues like “life and disability cover”, “health and maternity benefits” , “old age protection” and “any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government”.
  4. Maternity Benefit: Subject to the other provisions of this Code, every woman shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be liable for, the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence, that is to say, the period immediately preceding the day of her delivery, and any period immediately following that day.
  5. The Code on Social Security, 2019 once in place will merge eight exiting labour laws including Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923; Employees‘ State Insurance Act, 1948, Employees‘ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981; Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 and Unorganized Workers‘ Social Security Act, 2008.

Source: The Hindu

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GS-III : Economic Issues Agriculture
Fall Armyworm (FAW)

Syllabus subtopic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

News: Proper precaution and timely management by the state agriculture department and awareness among farmers have succeeded in thwarting an attack by the Fall Armyworm (FAW) on maize crop in Odisha.

Prelims and Mains focus: FAW- causes, effects, concerns and measures needed.

  • Odisha produces over 7 lakh tonnes maize every year. The coverage of maize has increased to 2.40 lakh hectares in 2019-20 from 2.28 lakh ha a year ago.

About Fall Armyworm

  • It is a native of the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas.
  • First detected in the African continent in 2016. Since then, it has spread to other countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
  • The pest can attack at least 80 types of crops including bajra, jawar, ragi, paddy, wheat and vegetables.

In India: It was reported in India for the first-time in Karnataka. Within a span of only six months, almost 50 per cent of the country, including Mizoram, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, has reported FAW infestations.

What makes FAW dangerous?

  1. It is the polyphagous (ability to feed on different kinds of food) nature of the caterpillar and the ability of the adult moth to fly more than 100 km per night.
  2. Given its ability to feed on multiple crops — nearly 80 different crops ranging from maize to sugarcane — FAW can attack multiple crops.
  3. Similarly, it can spread across large tracts of land as it can fly over large distances. This explains the quick spread of the pest across India.

How FAW affects output?

  1. Till date, India has reported FAW infestation on maize, sorghum (jowar) and sugarcane crops. Maize has been the worst affected as most maize-growing states in southern India have been affected by the pest.
  2. FAW infestation and drought has led to a shortfall of nearly 5 lakh tonnes in output, prompting the central government to allow import of maize under concessional duty. Maize is the third most important cereal crop grown in the country and the infestation, if not checked in time, can wreck havoc.

Source: The Hindu

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