IT Act(Section 66A)
The Supreme Court has issued notice in an application filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), on the continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. In its petition, PUCL had submitted that more than 22 people have been prosecuted under the provision, after it was scrapped by the Apex Court in 2015.
Section 66A had been dubbed as “draconian” for it allowed the arrest of several innocent persons, igniting a public outcry for its scrapping. This had led to the Supreme Court striking it down as unconstitutional in March, 2015 in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India.
SC struck down section 66A:
The SC had noted that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech, under article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right and the definition of offences under the provision was open-ended and undefined.
The court also said that the provision, introduced in 2009 to the original Act of 2000, used expressions “completely open-ended and undefined” and every expression used was “nebulous” in meaning. “What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another. Even the expression ‘persistently’ is completely imprecise.
Section 66A :
Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.
Source: The Hindu
The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal for introduction of the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty- Fourth Amendment) Bill, extending 10% quota to “the economically weaker sections in the general category who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation”.
The bill is designed to amend the Constitution to extend 10% reservation in direct recruitment in government jobs and for admission in higher educational institutions to “economically weaker” sections among all castes and communities, Christians and Muslims included, who are not eligible under the existing quotas.
The proposed amendment Bill will define Economically Weaker Section (EWS) as one having:
What would it take for the quota to become reality?
It will need an amendment of Articles 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution.
The amendment will have to be ratified in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by at least two thirds of members present and voting, and by the legislatures of not less than half the states.
The 10% reservation will be in addition to the existing cap of 50% reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking total reservation to 60%. The quota targets the poor among the upper castes. This will be over and above 50% mandated by Constitution and hence the need for Constitution amendment Bill.
Supreme Court in Indira Sawhney case:
The proposed law would face roadblocks if challenged in the Supreme Court.
A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992 specifically answered the question “whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.”
The constitution bench had categorically ruled that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion. The bench had held that economic criterion may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.
The bench in its judgement declared 50% quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations “inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people” happen. Even then, the court stated that extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case should be made out.
Source: The Hindu
Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018
The Lok Sabha has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. Leprosy is being removed as a ground for divorce as it is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable.
Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018:
Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeks to end the discrimination against leprosy persons in various central laws: the Divorce Act, 1869; the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939; the Special Marriage Act, 1954 etc.
The Bill eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce.
The condition under Section 18 (2) (c) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, that a Hindu wife is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if the latter is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy has been omitted.
The amendments introduced in the Bill omit the provisions which stigmatise and discriminate against leprosy-affected persons.
Significance of the Bill:
The Bill is meant to provide for the integration of leprosy patients into the mainstream. It is in keeping with the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2010 on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’ .
The proposed law follows a National Human Rights Commission recommendation a decade ago to introduce amendments in personal laws and other statutes.
Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest diseases with India accounting for over 60% of the annual new cases of leprosy.
Official data says that the number of new Leprosy cases detected during 2016-17 is around 140000 and the prevalence Rate per 10000 population as on March 2017 for India is 0.66, it is established that the number underestimates the real Leprosy burden. In 2017, India along with Brazil and Indonesia are the only countries where more than 10000 new cases are reported per year.
What necessitated this?
Over 110 Central and State laws discriminate against leprosy patients. These laws stigmatise and isolate leprosy patients and, coupled with age-old beliefs about leprosy, cause the patients untold suffering. So there is a need for a separate bill.
Government Initiatives in Recently:
The Government has announced the three-pronged strategy for early detection of leprosy cases in the community. It was introduced in 2016 under the National Health Mission, especially in the hard-to-reach areas.
A special Leprosy Case Detection Campaign was carried out in 2016. As a result, more than 32000 cases were confirmed and were put on treatment.
Supreme Court Ruling:
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre, states and Union Territories to undertake a campaign to spread awareness about the curability of leprosy so that those suffering from it are not discriminated.
It recommended for repealing archaic provisions from 119 statutes that stigmatise leprosy patients.
No government hospital shall decline treatment to leprosy patients. People suffering from leprosy also have the right to live with human dignity.
What is leprosy?
Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history. Also, known as Hansen’s disease (HD), it is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose, the upper respiratory tract and the eyes. The disease produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. If it isn’t treated, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability.
It is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age. It is common in many countries, especially those with a tropical or subtropical climate.
Source: The Hindu
70 Point Grading Index to assess states on schooling system
The government has launched a 70 point Performance Grading Index (PGI) to assess areas of deficiency in each state’s school education system so that targeted interventions can be made at every level from pedagogy to teacher training.
About the Performance Grading Index (PGI):
Aim: The index is aimed at helping states understand where they may be lagging behind and prioritise areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
The union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry is compiling this schooling index.
The Index will assess states on a 1,000 point grading system with 10-20 points per parameter.
Areas: The 70 indicators will grade state schooling systems on areas like number of existing teacher vacancies, number of direct entry recruitments especially at leadership positions, school infrastructure and so on.
The Niti Aayog which was earlier developing its own School Education Quality Index, will be using 33 of the 70 criteria under the PGI for their own assessments.
The move is in keeping with the government’s overall thrust on quality improvement, teacher training and learning outputs. It will prioritize areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
Source: The Hindu
National Policy on Domestic Workers
In a bid to give recognition to domestic workers besides making them eligible for minimum wages, social security and safe working conditions, labour ministry is drafting the national policy.
There is a need for the policy due to the following reasons:
Employer-dominated, domestic work industry is characterised by low, stagnant wage rates. Wages are particularly low for Bengali and Adivasi workers.
Irregular payment of wages by employer.
Extraction of more work than agreed upon at the start of employment.
Practice of arbitrarily reducing wages.
Private power of regulation enjoyed by the employer.
Private nature of regulation has allowed the employer to exercise quasi-magisterial powers over the domestic worker in India.
Workers’ attempts to renegotiate their terms of work or to leave such employment are outbid by verbal, and often, physical assaults by employers.
Domestic workers are on an almost absolute risk of unemployment or criminalisation when they try to obtain their dues.
Proposed national policy for domestic workers:
Its aim is to protect the domestic workers from abuse, harassment, violence and guarantee them rights in the matter of social security and minimum wages. The policy also includes social security cover and provisions against sexual harassment and bonded labour.
It is a national policy for all kinds of household helps, under which payment of wages will be made to the board under fixed slab rates and the central board/trust will be managed by all stakeholders.
The policy intends to set up an institutional mechanism to social security cover, fair terms of employment, grievance redressal and dispute resolution. It provides for recognising domestic workers as a worker with the right to register themselves with state labour department or any other suitable mechanism.
The policy will also promote the rights for them to organise and form their own unions/associations and affiliate with other unions/associations. It will also provide for model contract of employment with well-defined period of work and rest.
It also aims to regulate the recruitment and placement agencies by respective governments through formulation of a policy. It will also have a tripartite implementation committee at centre, state and district levels.
It will also clearly define various terms such as part time workers, full time workers, live in workers, employers and private placement agencies.
Source: The Hindu
CITES — Washington Convention
India has proposed to remove rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
The species is currently part of Appendix II of CITES that has species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. But, India doesn’t want that for rosewood.
Why India wants rosewood removed from the list?
The species grows at a very fast rate and has the capacity to become naturalised outside its native range, even it is invasive in some parts of the world. The regulation of trade in the species is not necessary to avoid it becoming eligible for inclusion in Appendix I in the near future and the harvest of specimens from the wild is not reducing the wild population to a level at which its survival might be threatened by continued harvesting or other influences.
About Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):
It is an International agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species. It also restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, clothing, medicine, and souvenirs
It was signed on March 3, 1973 (Hence world wildlife day is celebrated on march 3).
It is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Secretariat — Geneva (Switzerland).
CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened. They are.
Appendix I: It lists species that are in danger of extinction. It prohibits commercial trade of these plants and animals except in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
Appendix II species: They are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted. Their trade is regulated by permit.
Appendix III species: They are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member states and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.
Source: The Hindu