Plea to decriminalise begging
The Supreme Court has asked Centre and four States to respond to a plea to decriminalise begging. These states include Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.
The court, in February 2021, sought a response from the Centre, and five States on the plea which claimed that the sections of the statute criminalising begging were violative of constitutional rights.
What’s the case?
The plea has referred to the August 2018 verdict of the Delhi High Court which had decriminalised begging in the national capital and said provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which treats begging as an offence cannot sustain constitutional scrutiny.
It argues that the provisions of the statutes criminalising the act of begging put people in a situation to make an unreasonable choice between committing a crime or not committing one and starving, which goes against the very spirit of the Constitution and violates Article 21 i.e. Right to Life.
Other Issues involved:
As per the Census 2011, the total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 and the number has increased from the last census.
The government has the mandate to provide social security to everyone and ensure that all had basic facilities, as embedded in the Directives Principles of State Policy in the Constitution. However, the presence of beggars is evidence that the state has failed to provide these basic facilities to all its citizens.
Therefore, instead of working on its failure and examining what made people beg, criminalising the act of beggary is irrational and against the approach of a socialist nation as embedded in the preamble of our Constitution.
Begging is also a peaceful method by which a person sought to communicate their situation to another, and solicit their assistance. Thus, criminalising begging is violative of Article 19(1)(a)-freedom of speech guarantee.
Beggary Laws In India:
There is no central Act on beggary, however, many States and Union Territories have used certain sections of the Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1959, as the basis for their own laws. The Act, 1959 criminalises begging.
Through these legislations, the governments try to maintain public order, addresses forced begging or “begging rackets”, prevent annoyance to tourists.
People are free to choose religion: SC
In a recent case, the Supreme Court has said people are free to choose their religion.
What’s the case?
A petition was filed in the court claiming there is mass religious conversion happening “by hook or by crook” across the country.
The petition alleged that the court should direct the Centre and the States to control black magic, superstition and religious conversion being done through threats, intimidation or bribes.
Observations made by the Court:
People have a right under the Constitution to profess, practise and propagate religion (Article 25).
Every person is the final judge of his/her choice of religion or who their life partner should be. Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner.
Religious faith is a part of the fundamental right to privacy.
The Constitution Bench judgment has already upheld inviolability of the right to privacy, equating it with the rights to life, of dignity and liberty.
Several types of coronavirus vaccination records, sometimes called “vaccine passports,” already exist, in paper and digital form. Hundreds of airlines, governments and other organizations are experimenting with them.
What is a “vaccine passport?”
It is an electronic record of vaccination, possibly in the form of a QR code, that is easily accessible through a smartphone or possibly stored on the device, though it could also be printed out. It is mostly used for International travel.
In February 2021, Israel became the first country to introduce a certification system that allows those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to access certain facilities and events.
Challenges and criticisms:
World Health Organisation (WHO) is against the introduction of Covid-19 vaccination proofs as a requirement for international travel.
There are still critical unknown facts regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.
There is also the lack of uniformity across jurisdictions in requirement and issuance of proofs of vaccination.
Preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
There is a possibility that they would be used by authorities to track the movement of their holders. This may give rise to privacy concerns.
Dolphin boom in Odisha’s Chilika lake
Odisha has released the final data on the dolphin census.
The population of dolphins in Chilika, India’s largest brackish water lake, and along the Odisha coast has doubled this year compared with last year.
Three species were recorded during the census, with 544 Irrawaddy, bottle-nose and humpback dolphins sighted this year, compared with 233 last year.
The rise in the Irrawaddy dolphin population in Chilika can be attributed to the eviction of illegal fish enclosures.
About Irrawaddy dolphins:
Found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, and in three rivers: the Irrawaddy (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong (China).
They are ‘Endangered’ as per the IUCN Red List.
About Indo- Pacific Bottlenose dolphins:
Lives in the waters around India, northern Australia, South China, the Red Sea, and the eastern coast of Africa.
IUCN status: Near Threatened (Source: Wiki).
About Indian Ocean Humpback dolphins:
The Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin occurs within the Indian Ocean from South Africa to India.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin as Endangered (Source: Wiki).
In India, Dolphins are endangered cetacean species, protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Indian Humpback Dolphin is listed in Appendix I of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).