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31st August Current Affairs

Challenging the Special Marriage Act, 1954

(GS-II: Social empowerment, Government policies and interventions for the development of the social sector and issues arising out of it, special marriage Act etc)

In News:

The Supreme Court dismissed a writ petition challenging provisions of the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954 requiring couples to give a notice declaring their intent to marry 30 days before their marriage.

What does the petition seek?

Article 21: This provision in the act violates the right to privacy of the parties.

Article 14: The requirement violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution since no other laws prescribe such a requirement.

What are the provisions that have been challenged?

Section 5 of the SMA: It requires couples getting married under it to give notice to the Marriage Officer 30 days before the date of marriage.

Section 6: It requires notice to be entered into the Marriage Notice Book maintained by the Marriage Officer, which can be inspected by “any person desirous of inspecting the same.

Section 7: It provides the process for making an objection such as if either party has a living spouse, is incapable of giving consent due to “unsoundness of mind” or is suffering from a mental disorder resulting in the person being unfit for marriage or procreation.

Section 8:It Specifies the inquiry procedure to be followed after an objection has been submitted.

What did the Court say:

SC rejected the writ petition on the grounds that the petitioner(35- year-old Athira Sujatha) was no longer an aggrieved party as she had already solemnized her marriage under SMA.

Rules and laws in different states:

Haryana: The Haryana government has laid down 16 prerequisites which ask couples to issue a notice in a newspaper and that such notices be sent to their parents.

No-objection certificate: In certain States, couples have to seek a no-objection certificate from their parents.

Maharashtra: The Maharashtra Department of Registration and Stamps publicly shares the details of couples marrying under SMA on its website.

Love Jihad law: 11 States passed anti-conversion laws.example: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc

How do these provisions make couples vulnerable?

Harassment by anti-social elements: Public notices have been used by anti-social elements to harass couples getting married.

Officers’ incompetence: There have been instances, where marriage officers have gone over and beyond the law and sent such notices to the parents of the couple.

Example: Muslim woman in Delhi being confined to her house by her parents in March 2020.

Special Marriage Act:

The SMA is a law which allows the solemnization of marriages without going through any religious customs or rituals.

People from different castes or religions or states get married under SMA in which marriage is solemnized by way of registration.

Indian Navy’s ensign

In News:

PM will unveil the new naval ensign (flag) for the Indian Navy in Kochi on the sidelines of the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant at Cochin Shipyard Limited.

What is the Saint George’s Cross?

The red cross on a white background is known as the Saint George’s Cross and is named after a Christian Warrior Saint who is believed to have been a crusader during the third crusade. (This cross also serves as the flag of England)

Background: After Independence, on August 15, 1947, the Indian defence forces continued with the British colonial flags and badges and it was only on Jan 26, 1950, that a changeover to Indianised pattern was made, however, in the Navy’s flag Union Jack was replaced with the Tricolour, and the George’s Cross was retained.

In 2014, the words ‘Satyamev Jayate’ were included on the flag below the Ashoka emblem in the Devanagri script.

Cloud Seeding

In News:

Countries in middle-east and north Africa are racing to develop chemicals to get rain drops out of the cloud.


Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances (such as silver iodide, potassium iodide and dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) and liquid propane)  into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei.

Benefit: It improves a cloud’s ability to produce rain or snow, supplements the rainwater supply and cleans the atmosphere by introducing tiny ice nuclei into certain types of subfreezing clouds. These nuclei provide a base for snowflakes to form.

Dangers: So far, experts haven’t found any harmful effects of cloud seeding with silver iodide on the environment. But Silver iodide can be toxic to aquatic life.

The concentration of silver in a storm from cloud seeding is far below the accepted limit of 50 micrograms per litre.

India: In India, cloud seeding operations were conducted during the years 1983, 1984–87,1993-94 by Tamil Nadu Govt due to severe drought. In the years 2003 and 2004 Karnataka government initiated cloud seeding.

Delhi: Collection of forensic evidence is mandatory

In News:

Delhi Police has become the first police force in the country to make the collection of forensic evidence mandatory in crimes punishable by more than six years.


A forensic mobile van: will be allotted to each district to provide scientific and forensic assistance on the spot whenever any need arises.

These forensic mobile vans shall not be under the administrative control of the police but shall be an independent entity responsible to the court of law.

The recently released NCRB report showed a 40% increase in crimes against women in Delhi, the highest among all metropolitan cities in the country.

Forensic Evidence:

Any evidence which can make investigators identify the criminal easily amounts.

Some major categories of forensic evidence are DNA, fingerprints, and bloodstain pattern analysis.

Forensic evidence is useful in helping solve the most violent and brutal of cases, as well as completely nonviolent cases related to crimes such as fraud and hacking.


In News:

Govt proposes a new regulator for ‘uniformity’ in all board exams


Objectives of PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) (a constituent unit of NCERT):

  • Holding periodic learning outcome tests like the National Achievement Survey (NAS) and State Achievement Surveys.
  • Set norms, standards and guidelines for student assessment and evaluation for all recognised school boards in India
  • Encourage and help school boards to shift their assessment patterns towards meeting the skill requirements of the 21st century.
  • Tackle the problem of students of some state boards being at a disadvantage during college admissions as compared to their peers in CBSE schools.
  • Develop and implement “technical standards for the design, conduct, analysis and reporting” of tests at all levels of school education.

PARAKH, the proposed implementing agency is also part of the NEP 2020 proposal. It is also one of the components of World Banks’ sponsored STARS Project (to improve the quality and governance of school education in Indian states).

Presently, different state and central boards follow different standards of evaluation, leading to wide disparities in scores and confusion among universities to set admission criteria.

Data gathering by public agencies picks up even as the law hangs fire

(GS-III: Internal Security/ Governance)

In News:

Experts have raised concerns about the trend of increasing the government’s efforts in data collection and monetisation in the absence of a basic data protection regime.

Instances of increasing data collection:

Customs department mandating airlines to share personal details of international flyers,

Civil Aviation Ministry’s facial recognition system DigiYatra

MeitY’s proposal to share non-personal data collected by the government with start-ups and researchers

CERT-In’s mandate asks virtual private network (VPN) service providers to store data of their users

Department of Telecommunications (DoT) (2021): Telecom operators and internet service providers to maintain commercial and call detail records for at least two years (instead of 1 year currently)

Contact tracing app Aarogya Setu —and collected data like their names, phone numbers and location.

Karnataka High Court in October 2020 ordered that the app cannot be made mandatory.

Instances of increasing efforts for Data Monetisation:

IRCTC released a tender detailing its plans to monetise its bank of passenger data (including sensitive data such as mobile numbers, email, and passwords) for doing business with government and private entities. (now withdrawn)

MeitY had floated a draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy which proposed that data collected by the Centre that has “undergone value addition” can be sold in the open market for an “appropriate price”. (now withdrawn)

The Ministry of Road Transport (2020): Bulk Data Sharing Policy, under which the ministry used to sell vehicle registration data (Vahan) and driving licence data (Sarathi) to private and public entities. (Now Scrapped)

Previously, the government withdrew the Data Protection Bill, 2021, saying that it will soon come out with a “comprehensive legal framework” for the online ecosystem.

The bill laid down a framework for consent-related mechanisms before gathering data and how personal data was supposed to be handled by various entities and provided for a recourse mechanism in case a person’s data was compromised.

Fundamental issue in treating citizens’ data as a “wealth resource”:

The 2018-2019 Economic Survey of India referred to data as a ‘public good’. By definition, that means it should be treated as a ‘non-excludable and non-rivalrous public good’ and not traded as if it were a commodity.

Data is not a ‘sovereign wealth resource’: Treating it as such will lead to attempts to accumulate, and subsequently monetise large volumes of data, without data protection law.

Violating SC order (Puttaswamy Judgement 2017): ‘Right to Privacy’ as a fundamental right.


The government’s primary concern should be service delivery and safeguarding the information it gathers from citizens towards this end. Its key objective should not be to monetise this data for profit.