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7th January Current Affairs

SC transfers to itself all pleas related to same-sex marriage

(GS-II: Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections)

In News:

The SC transferred to itself (for an authoritative ruling) petitions pending in various HCs seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) 1954 and making the law gender-neutral.

The Special Marriage Act, 1954:

It provides for civil marriage (or “registered marriage”) for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party.

Marriages solemnised under the Act are not governed by personal laws.

Background:

Batches of petitions, filed after the Navtej Johar case (which decriminalised homosexuality by reading down section 377 of the IPC), were pending before the Delhi, Kerala and Gujarat HCs.

These petitions argue that non-recognition of same-sex marriage amounted to discrimination impacting the dignity and self-fulfilment of LGBTQ+ couples.

They also challenge the mandatory requirement to issue public notice and objection to marriage contemplated under the SMA and the Foreign Marriage Act, exposing same-sex couples to the risks of ostracism, persecution and violence.

32 countries around the world recognise gay marriage.

What happens in other countries?

US: In 2015, the US SC recognised gay marriage, as limiting marriage solely to heterosexual couples violated the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

The decision led to a nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Australia, Ireland, Switzerland: Following a referendum, Australia’s Parliament passed a law recognising the same-sex-marriage.

In Ireland and Switzerland too, a popular vote by the majority led to formal recognition of LGBTQ marriages.

South Africa became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriages in 2006, as the highest court found the ‘Heterosexual-Only Marriage’ policy to be violative of the equal rights enshrined in the constitution.

Taiwan became the first Asian country to recognise same-sex marriage.

Argentina became the first Latin American country to allow same-sex marriages nationwide.

Canada: Same-sex couples in Canada have enjoyed the legal benefits of marriage since 1999. In 2005, the Canadian Parliament passed nationwide legislation to this effect.

Sagol Kangjei

In News:

Home Minister inaugurated a 122-foot-tall statue of a polo player astride a Manipur Pony in Imphal.

Background:

Modern polo is said to have originated from Sagol Kangjei, a sport indigenous to Manipur, in which players ride horses, specifically the Manipur Ponies, which are referenced in records dating back to the 14th century.

Marjing is considered the God of polo and features a pony as his carrier.

The Lai-Haraoba festival of the state depicts the life and times of Khori-phaba, the polo-playing god of sports.

The Manipur Pony is one of five recognised equine breeds of India and has a powerful cultural significance for Manipuri society.

The Marjing Polo Complex has been developed as a way to conserve the Manipur Pony.

Reserve Bank of India puts on hold NUE licensing

In News:

RBI is said to have put on hold licensing of the New Umbrella Entity (NUE) network, a fintech institution planned as a rival to the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

Details:

Six groupings, which included Facebook, Google, Amazon, Flipkart and others, had applied for NUE licences, but none of them could meet the RBI’s expectations in bringing a technology breakthrough.

What is Retail Digital Payment System?

The retail payment system facilitates the transfer of funds from consumers to merchants in exchange for goods and services.

What is NUE?

NUE is an entity (under the Companies Act 2013) that will manage and operate the new payment system in the retail sector such as ATMs, POS, UPI etc.

It will also manage clearing and settlement systems that could be an alternative to the bank-promoted NPCI.

It will be allowed to charge fees for transactions (unlike the existing NPCI).

The RBI had in 2020 issued guidelines for corporates to create for-profit NUEs with an aim to foster competition and “de-risk” India’s burgeoning digital payments ecosystem, where much of the settlement burden has fallen on the non-profit NPCI over recent years.

What is NPCI?

NPCI was established by the RBI and the Indian Banks’ Association in 2008 modelled on the non-profit payments and settlement entity run by the Swedish central bank that’s owned and operated by banks.

It has developed the country’s key payment railroads, including UPI, the Immediate Payments System (IMPS), RuPay and the National Financial Switch (NFS). It’s also credited with powering the Direct Benefit Transfer architecture that supports the government’s Jan Dhan Yojana.

Snapdragon Satellite

In News:

Qualcomm at CES 2023 has announced Snapdragon Satellite- a satellite-based two-way capable messaging solution for premium smartphones. The company has collaborated with Iridium and Garmin to introduce satellite connectivity for two-way texting in remote or no internet connectivity areas.

Features:

According to a report, you can send only 160-character messages using Qualcomm’s satellite connectivity feature.

You can type your own messages and choose the recipient from your phone’s contact book which isn’t possible with iPhone 14.

Apple allows you to send limited responses to emergency services.

SC directs the committee to build a framework to ensure road safety

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

A Bench led by the Chief Justice of India (D.Y. Chandrachud) agreed that urgent steps need to be taken to enforce Section 136A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

Background:

Section 136A was introduced into the Motor Vehicles Act in 2019 to keep an electronic eye on errant drivers.

In this respect, the SC directed its committee (led by Justice A.M. Sapre) to meet with the Road Transport Secretary and frame State-specific guidelines.

In its reply, the Centre stated that it has already framed Rules under sub-section (2) of Section 136A, which provides for rules for the electronic monitoring of road safety including speed cameras, CCTV cameras, speed guns, etc.

Data on Road accidents in India:

According to NCRB data, over 1.5 lakh people died from road accidents in 2021 and nearly 90% of deaths on the road were due to speeding, overtaking and dangerous driving.

According to the World Bank’s data from 2019, India ranked first among the top 20 countries for road accidents.

The WB’s report on women’s mobility in India:

For women, the fear of sexual assault is another cause for concern when they traverse public spaces after dark.

84% of women’s trips were estimated to be by public transport, and more women tend to walk to work compared to men.

Steps taken by the Indian government:

The 2021 National Road Safety Board Rules require the formation of technical working groups to address issues such as crash investigation and forensics.

Way ahead for India:

Evidence-based preventive interventions. For example, black spots or accident-prone areas on roads where mishaps happen without the fault of drivers, need to be marked.

Sundar Committee’s recommendations need immediate implementation. For example, establishing a centralised national body for road safety and establishing decentralised responsibility at the district level.

WB launched a “Toolkit on Enabling Gender Responsive Urban Mobility and Public Spaces in India”, suggesting a four-pillared approach.