ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 9 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • Misuse of Section 498A IPC

GS Paper 2:

  • Draft-Anti Conversion bill: Haryana
  • Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022

GS Paper 3:

  • India’s patent waiver plan at WTO and issues associated:
  • Marine Heatwaves

GS paper 1

Misuse of Section 498A IPC:

Why in News?

       The Supreme Court in a recent judgement highlighted the growing misuse of Section 498A IPC, with friction rising in marriages.

  • The incorporation of section 498A was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in-laws by facilitating rapid state intervention.
  • The court held that there is an increased tendency to employ provisions such as Section 498A IPC as instruments to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives.

What is Section 498A IPC?

  • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 was passed by the Indian Parliament in 1983.
  • The section of 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a criminal law.
  • It is defined that if the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjected such woman towards cruelty would be punished with imprisonment for a term which might extend to 3 years and may also be liable for fine.
  • Section 498 A of Indian Penal Code is one of the greatest rescues for Violence against Woman (VAW), which is a reflection of the pathetic reality of the domestic violence occurring within the four walls of a house.

What are Acts of Domestic Violence?

  • Physical violence, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and beating.
  • Sexual violence, including forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion.
  • Emotional (psychological) abuse, such as insults, belittling, constant humiliation, intimidation, threats of harm, threats to take away children.
  • Controlling behaviors, including isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring their movements and restricting access to financial resources, employment, education or medical care.

What are Indian laws that help curb the instances of violence against women?

  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
  • The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

How Section 498A is Misused?

  • Against Husband & Relatives: With the rise in the rate of education, financial security, and modernization, the more independent and the radical feminists have made Section 498A of IPC as a weapon in their hands than a shield.
  • Due to this, many helpless husbands and their relatives have become the victims of the vengeful daughters-in-law of their house.
  • Blackmail Attempts: These days in many cases where Section 498A is invoked, they turn out to be false cases as they turn out to be mere blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) when troubled with a stressed marriage.
  • Due to this, in most cases the Section 498A complaint is generally followed by the demand of a huge amount of money to settle the case outside the court.
  • Degradation of Marriage: The court held specifically that there is misuse and exploitation of the provisions to such an extent that it was hitting on the basis that is the foundation of marriage itself.
  • This has ultimately proved to be not a good sign for the health of society for the public at large.
  • Women have begun misusing Section 498 of IPC as this law is a tool for their vengeance or to get out of wedlock.
  • Malimath Committee Report, 2003: Similar views were also expressed by the 2003 Malimath Committee report on reforms in the criminal justice system.
  • The committee noted that the “general complaint” of Section 498A of the IPC to be a subject to gross misuse.

Way Forward

  • It is important to note that the domestic violence and abuse by the spouse and family members are very complex behaviors and the social organization of courts, legal cultures, and the police systematically tend to devalue several domestic violence cases.
  • Therefore the perspective of the state and the people needs to change from potential “misuse” of the concerned laws of domestic violence to that of implementing it for their real purpose.

GS Paper 2

Draft-Anti Conversion bill: Haryana

Why in News?

Recently, the Haryana government released the draft of the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022.

  • The bill aims at prohibiting religious conversions which are affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offense.
  • Other States like Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have also passed laws restricting religious conversion.

What is the Need for Anti-Conversion Laws?

  • No Right to Proselytize: The Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion.
  • The individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize.
  • For the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted.
  • Fraudulent Marriages: In the recent past, several instances have come to the notice that whereby people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion.
  • SC Observations: Recently, the Supreme Court also took judicial notice of such instances.
  • According to the court, such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society.

What are the Provisions of the Draft Bill?

  • The Bill provides for greater punishment for such conversions in respect of minors, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • It also provides that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.
  • Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected through was not by any fraudulent means.
  • Besides, it provides for declaring marriages null and void, which were solemnized by concealment of religion.

What is the Status of Anti-Conversion Laws in India?

  • Constitutional Provision: The Indian Constitution under Article 25 guarantees the freedom to profess, propagate, and practise religion, and allows all religious sections to manage their own affairs in matters of religion; subject to public order, morality, and health.
  • However, no person shall force their religious beliefs and consequently, no person should be forced to practice any religion against their wishes.
  • Existing Laws: There has been no central legislation restricting or regulating religious conversions.
  • However, since 1954, on multiple occasions,  Private Member Bills have been introduced in (but never approved by) the Parliament, to regulate religious conversions.
  • Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass anti-conversion legislation.
  • Over the years, several states have enacted ‘Freedom of Religion’ legislation to restrict religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or inducements.

What are the Issues Associated with Anti-Conversion Laws?

  • Uncertain and Vague Terminology: The uncertain and vague terminology like misrepresentation, force, fraud, allurement presents a serious avenue for misuse.
  • These terms leave room for ambiguities or are too broad, extending to subjects far beyond the protection of religious freedom.
  • Antithetical to Minorities: Another issue is that the present anti-conversion laws focus more on the prohibition of conversion to achieve religious freedom.
  • However, the broad language used by the prohibitive legislation might be used by officials to oppress and discriminate against minorities.
  • Antithetical to Secularism: These laws may pose a threat to the secular fabric of India and the international perception of our society’s intrinsic values and legal system.

What are Supreme Court Judgements on Marriage and Conversion?

  • 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.
    • The principle that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 .
    • S. Puttaswamy or ‘privacy’ Judgment 2017
    • Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
  • Other Judgements:
    • The SC in its various judgments, has held that faith, the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
    • India is a “free and democratic country” and any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.
    • Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual’s “personhood and identity”.
    • The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith.

Way Forward

The governments implementing such laws need to ensure that these do not curb one’s Fundamental Rights or hamper the national integration instead, these laws need to strike a balance between freedoms and malafide conversions.

Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022:

Why in News?

Recently, the Central government has released the Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022.

  • Applications for accreditation are vetted by a Central Press Accreditation Committee headed by the DG, PIB.
  • At present, there are 2,457 PIB-accredited journalists in the country.

What are the Provisions under Guidelines?

  • Provisions to Withdraw/Suspend Accreditation:
    • If a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s security, sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with foreign States, public order or is charged with a serious cognisable offence.
    • If actions are prejudicial to decency, or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
    • Accredited media persons have been prohibited from using the words “Accredited to the government of India” on public/social media profile, visiting cards, letter heads or on any other form or any published work.
  • Provisions for Granting Accreditation:
    • Accreditation is only available for journalists living in the Delhi NCR region. There are multiple categories.
    • A journalist needs to have a minimum five years’ professional experience as a full-time working journalist or a cameraperson in a news organisation, or a minimum of 15 years as a freelancer to become eligible.
    • Veteran journalists, with over 30 years of experience, and who are older than 65 years of age, too are eligible.
    • A newspaper or a periodical needs to have a minimum daily circulation of 10,000, and news agencies must have at least 100 subscribers. Similar rules apply for foreign news organisations and foreign journalists.
    • Journalists working with digital news platforms are also eligible, provided the website has a minimum of 10 lakh unique visitors per month.
    • No accreditation will be granted to freelance journalists working for foreign news media organisations.
  • Central Media Accreditation Committee (CMAC):
    • The Government shall constitute a Committee called the Central Media Accreditation Committee.
    • The Committee will be chaired by the Principal Director General, Press Information Bureau (PIB) and composed of up to 25 members nominated by the government to discharge the functions laid down under these guidelines.
    • The CMAC would function for a period of two years from the date of its first meeting and shall meet once in a quarter or more frequently, if necessary.

What are the associated Concerns?

  • The guidelines leave it to the discretion of government nominated officials to assess what is defamatory or prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of India while deciding on whether a journalist’s accreditation should be suspended or withdrawn.
  • One of the core responsibilities of a journalist is to expose wrongdoing, whether by public officials, politicians, big businessmen, corporate groups, or other people in power.
  • This could result, at times, in such powers trying to intimidate journalists or to block information from coming out.
  • Journalists often report on issues and policy decisions that the government may not like.
  • Any investigative story on sensitive issues could be held to be in violation of any of these provisions.

How does Accreditation Help?

  • Allow Access to Big Events:
    • In certain events where VVIPs or dignitaries such as the President, the Vice President or the Prime Minister are present, only accredited journalists are allowed to report from the premises.
  • Help in Protecting Identities:
    • Second, accreditation ensures that a journalist is able to protect the identity of his or her sources.
    • An accredited journalist does not have to disclose who he or she intends to meet when entering offices of union ministries, as the accreditation card is “valid for entry into buildings under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) security zone”.
  • Benefits the Journalist:
    • Accreditation brings certain benefits for the journalist and his or her family, like being included in the Central Government Health Scheme, and some concessions on railway tickets.

What are the Constitutional Provisions related to Freedom of Press?

  • The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, which deals with Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
  • Freedom of the press is not expressly protected by the Indian legal system but it is impliedly protected under article 19(1) (a) of the constitution.
  • However, Freedom of the press is also not absolute.
  • A law could impose only those restrictions on the exercise of this right, it faces certain restrictions under article 19(2), which is as follows:
  • Sovereignty and integrity of India, Security of the State, Friendly relations with foreign States, Public order, decency or morality or in Contempt of court, Defamation, Incitement to an offence.

GS Paper 3

India’s patent waiver plan at WTO and issues associated:

Context:

         A proposal was taken up at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, in 2020, to “temporarily waive” intellectual property rights (IPR) held, by primarily Western countries, on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for covid-19. This proposal was co-authored by India.

  • Now, India runs the risk of being excluded from this proposal.

 Background:

        India and South Africa had jointly sponsored a proposal in October 2020 and this was updated, with representation from several low– and middle–income countries — though with the notable omission of China — to expand the scope of the waiver to “all health products and technologies” and to have the waiver in place for at least a year.

What’s the issue?

       A small group of WTO members are “discussing suggestions” to exclude drug manufacturers in India and China — two major, global suppliers of medicine — from prospective waivers to IPR obligations that result from the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which WTO members are committed to uphold.

  • Also, Manufacturers want to “limit” any benefits of the waiver only to African countries, and not pave the way for Indian manufacturers who, with their large production capacities, would easily undercut Western competitors.

Why is there an opposition to the waiver? What are the arguments against it?

       Waiving of intellectual property rights will neither lead to increased production of vaccines or increased deployment nor practical solutions to fight the virus of COVID-19 vaccines since IP is not the barrier.

      Waiving of intellectual property rights could impact patient safety by opening doors for counterfeit vaccines to enter the supply chain.

 Need of the hour:

Our top most priority should be to address the supply side constraints, including IP barriers, to augment the manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, essential for treatment, prevention and control of the ongoing pandemic.

 What does the intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines mean?

        The IP waiver might open up space for production of Covid vaccines with emergency use authorisations (EUA) — such as those developed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Bharat Biotech — on a larger scale in middle-income countries.

  • Most production is currently concentrated in high-income countries; production by middle-income countries has been happening through licensing or technology transfer agreements.

 What are patents and IP rights?

         A patent represents a powerful intellectual property right, and is an exclusive monopoly granted by a government to an inventor for a limited, pre-specified time. It provides an enforceable legal right to prevent others from copying the invention.

 Patents can be either process patents or product patents:

  1. A product patent ensures that the rights to the final product is protected, and anyone other than the patent holder can be restrained from manufacturing it during a specified period, even if they were to use a different process.
  2. A process patent enables any person other than the patent holder to manufacture the patented product by modifying certain processes in the manufacturing exercise.

 Patent regime in India:

         India moved from product patenting to process patenting in the 1970s, which enabled India to become a significant producer of generic drugs at global scale, and allowed companies like Cipla to provide Africa with anti-HIV drugs in the 1990s.

  • But due to obligations arising out of the TRIPS Agreement, India had to amend the Patents Act in 2005, and switch to a product patents regime across the pharma, chemicals, and biotech sectors.

What is the TRIPS Agreement?

The TRIPS agreement was negotiated in 1995 at the WTO, it requires all its signatory countries to enact domestic law.

  • It guarantees minimum standards of IP protection. Such legal consistency enables innovators to monetise their intellectual property in multiple countries.
  • In 2001, the WTO signed the Doha Declaration, which clarified that in a public health emergency, governments could compel companies to license their patents to manufacturers, even if they did not think the offered price was acceptable.
  • This provision, commonly referred to as “compulsory licensing”, was already built into the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha declaration only clarified its usage.

Marine Heatwaves:

Why in News?

According to a study, marine heatwaves — or the ones that form on oceans — have been on the rise in the waters around India.

What are the Findings of the Study?

  • The Western Indian Ocean region experienced the largest increase in marine heatwaves at a rate of about 1.5 events per decade, followed by the north Bay of Bengal at a rate of 0.5 events per decade.
  • The marine heatwaves in the Western Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal increased drying conditions over the central Indian subcontinent.
  • Correspondingly, there is a significant increase in the rainfall over south peninsular India in response to the heatwaves in the north Bay of Bengal.
  • From 1982 to 2018, the Western Indian Ocean had a total of 66 events, while the Bay of Bengal had 94 events.
  • These changes are in response to the modulation of the monsoon winds by the heatwaves.
  • This is the first time that a study has demonstrated a close link between marine heatwaves and atmospheric circulation and rainfall.

What are Marine Heatwaves?

  • Marine heatwaves are periods of extremely high temperatures in the ocean.
  • These events are linked to coral bleaching, seagrass destruction, and loss of kelp forests, affecting the fisheries sector adversely.
  • Study showed that 85% of the corals in the Gulf of Mannar near the Tamil Nadu coast got bleached after the marine heatwave in May 2020.
  • The most common drivers of marine heatwaves include ocean currents which can build up areas of warm water and air-sea heat flux, or warming through the ocean surface from the atmosphere.
  • Winds can enhance or suppress the warming in a marine heatwave, and climate modes like El Niño can change the likelihood of events occurring in certain regions.

What are the Impacts of Marine Heatwaves?

  • Affect Ecosystem Structure:
    • Marine heat waves affect ecosystem structure, by supporting certain species and suppressing others.
    • It has been associated with the mass mortality of marine invertebrates, and may force species to change behaviour in a way that puts wildlife at increased risk of harm.
  • Change Habitat Ranges of Certain Species:
    • Marine heatwaves can change the habitat ranges of certain species, such as the spiny sea urchin off southeastern Australia which has been expanding southward into Tasmania at the expense of kelp forests which it feeds upon.
  • Economic Losses:
    • Marine heatwaves can cause economic losses through impacts on fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Affect Biodiversity:
    • Biodiversity can be drastically affected by marine heatwaves.
    • In 2016, marine heatwaves across northern Australia led to severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Increase the Risk of Deoxygenation and Acidification:
    • Often they occur alongside other stressors such as ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and overfishing.
    • In such cases, MHWs not only further damage habitats, but also increase the risk of deoxygenation and acidification.

Way Forward

  • Since the frequency, intensity, and area covered by the marine heatwaves are increasing, it is needed to enhance the ocean observational arrays to monitor these events accurately, and update our weather models to skillfully predict the challenges presented by a warming world.
  • Effective responses to MHWs require action from a broad range of stakeholders: policymakers, researchers, the private sector (fisheries, aquaculture, ecotourism), conservationists, and civil society.
  • Local management agencies should therefore raise awareness across all stakeholders and implement forecast systems to help achieve a coordinated response.
  • National and sub-national governments should design and implement measures to protect communities and build regional ocean resilience.

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