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22nd February Current Affairs

Public order: A constitutional provision for curbing freedoms

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

The Karnataka High Court is hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of the state government’s ban on students wearing a hijab in educational institutions.

Details:

In the last hearing, the judges heard an argument on whether the state can justify the ban on the ground that it violates ‘public order’.

What is Public Order?

Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons the right to freedom and conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.

So, public order is one of the three grounds on which the state can restrict freedom of religion. It is also one of the grounds to restrict free speech and other fundamental rights.

Who has the power to legislate on aspects of public order?

Public order is normally equated with public peace and safety. According to List 2 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the power to legislate on aspects of public order rests with the states.

How does it relate to the hijab ban?

The state government has issued an order under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983.

As per this, “public order” is one of the reasons for not allowing students to wear a headscarf in educational institutions along with “unity” and “integrity.”

However, the petitioners have asked the state to show how the mere wearing of a hijab by students could constitute a public order issue. This is not a case where a religious practice involves a public gathering where dangerous weapons are paraded.

How has public order been interpreted by courts?

Courts have broadly interpreted it to mean something that affects the community at large and not a few individuals.

In Ram Manohar Lohia vs State of Bihar (1965), the Supreme Court held that in the case of ‘public order’, the community or the public at large have to be affected by a particular action.

Karnataka’s case:

One has to imagine three concentric circles, the largest representing ‘law and order’, the next representing ‘public order’ and the smallest representing ‘security of State’.”

FATF

(GS-II: Indian and its neighbourhood. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

Pakistan’s efforts to investigate and prosecute leaders of UN-designated terror groups in order to counter terror financing will be assessed during the ongoing meetings of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris.

Details:

The multilateral financial watchdog will announce whether Pakistan is to be retained in the grey list, or the list of countries under increased monitoring.

Experts believe Pakistan is set to be retained in the grey list and that there is little likelihood of the country being included in the “black list”, which would entail harsh economic sanctions and greater scrutiny of financial transactions. Only North Korea and Iran are currently included in the black list.

Background:

Pakistan was put on the grey list by the Paris-based FATF in June 2018, and the country has been struggling to come out of it.

It has now completed 26 of the 27 action items given to it in 2018.

About FATF:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.

It is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.

The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.

Roles and functions:

Initially it was established to examine and develop measures to combat money laundering.

In October 2001, the FATF expanded its mandate to incorporate efforts to combat terrorist financing, in addition to money laundering.

In April 2012, it added efforts to counter the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Composition:

The FATF currently comprises 37 member jurisdictions and 2 regional organisations, representing most major financial centres in all parts of the globe. It also has observers and associate members.

What is a blacklist and grey list?

Black List: Countries known as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs) are put in the blacklist. These countries support terror funding and money laundering activities. The FATF revises the blacklist regularly, adding or deleting entries.

Grey List: Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.

Considered in the grey list may face:

  • Economic sanctions from IMF, World Bank, ADB.
  • Problem in getting loans from IMF, World Bank, ADB and other countries.
  • Reduction in international trade.
  • International boycott.

NASA’s Perseverance rover

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has completed a full Earth year on Mars after its successful landing on February 19, 2021.

Details:

During this period on the Red Planet, the rover has completed many firsts from its ambitious to-do list:

  • Collected the first rock cores from another planet.
  • Served as a base station for Ingenuity helicopter.
  • Extracted oxygen from thin Martian air.
  • It broke a record for the most distance driven by a rover on Mars in a single day by travelling almost 320 meters on February 14.
  • Tested the first prototype oxygen generator on the Red Planet, called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment).

About Perseverance Rover:

NASA’s Perseverance rover is exploring the Jezero Crater on Mars and attempting to collect its first rock samples.

It was launched in 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V.

Why is this mission significant?

It carried a unique instrument, MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: which for the first time manufactured molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere (ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft).

It carried Ingenuity, the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars.

It is the planned first step to bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth: with the goal of looking for biosignatures: or signatures of present or past life.

These are some of the key mission objectives:

Look for signs of ancient microbial life.

Collect Martian rock and dust samples for later return to Earth.

Deliver an experimental helicopter.

Study the climate and geology of Mars.

Demonstrate technology for future Mars missions.

What is the reason for the near-term interest in Mars?

Mars is located in the very near backyard (about 200 million km away).

It is a planet that humans can aspire to visit or to stay for a longer duration.

Mars had flowing water and an atmosphere in the distant past: and perhaps conditions to support life.

It also has implications for commercial travel.

Gangubai Kathiawadi

(GS-I: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues)

In News:

A film starring actor Alia Bhatt is facing legal trouble after individuals claiming to be family members of the main protagonist, Gangubai Kathiawadi, have objected to her portrayal in the film.

Who is Gangubai Kathiawadi?

Full name: Ganga Harjeevandas Kathiawadi.

From: Gujarat.

Known for: One of Mumbai’s well-known and influential brothel owners in the 50s and 60s. She also fought for the welfare and rights of sex workers.

Brief history of her life:

She is said to have been sold to a brothel owner by her husband.

She gradually ended up operating her own brothel.

She is known to also have lobbied for the rights of commercial sex workers.

Gangubai, apparently, lobbied with politicians on this issue.

Why is the movie based on her life being opposed?

Her adopted children have objected to her portrayal in the film and sought a stay on its release.

The petitioners have said that the movie shows her as a ‘prostitute’ and a ‘mafia queen’.

It claims that after the release of the film’s trailer, the women members of his family who live in the redlight areas of Kamathipura have been a victim of objectionable and abusive comments by men, affecting their reputation.

Challenges faced by sex workers:

Sex work is not recognised as “legitimate work.

They do not become eligible to benefit from the government’s relief programmes.

How are they protected?

The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Children Act was enacted in 1956.

Subsequent amendments were made to the law. And the name of the Act was changed to Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.

This is the legislation currently governing sex work in India.

Article 23(1) of the Constitution prohibits traffic in human beings and beggars and other similar forms of forced labor. Article 23(2) declares that any contravention of this provision shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law.

Pros and Cons of legalizing prostitution:

If prostitution is legalized, the State will acquire responsibility to manage brothels and it can fulfill this obligation by issuing a license to authorized persons.

It shall also formulate guidelines regarding the age of prostitutes, database on clientele, adequate remuneration and medical facilities to the prostitutes.

By this method, the prostitutes can acquire some rights such as the right to medical care, the right to education of their children, right against exploitation and rape, etc.

This method can facilitate the eradication of sex racquet operations, hidden and street prostitution, abuse of prostitute, etc.

There shall be protection houses established for those prostitutes who have lost their livelihood, or those who were forced into prostitution but do not want that lifestyle anymore.

Also, the government can impart training and basic education to these prostitutes so that they find other means to earn money and sustain their livelihood.

Cons:

On the flipside, legalization of prostitution could be misinterpreted as the promulgation of prostitution.

This could pave the way for easy money for prostitutes and could encourage more women to practice prostitution.

There is a great possibility that this could be a revenue-generating industry for the Government.