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8th July Current Affairs

Cities on river banks to incorporate river conservation plans

In News:

National Mission for Clean Ganga has released a policy document on the conservation of river Ganga.

Highlights of the policy:

Cities situated on Ganga river banks will have to incorporate river conservation plans when they prepare their Master Plans.

These “river-sensitive” plans must be practical and consider questions of encroachment and land ownership.

There is a need for a systematic rehabilitation plan for such encroaching entities that emphasizes alternative livelihood options in addition to a relocation strategy.

The Master Plan shouldn’t mandate specific technologies, but it can “create an environment” for facilitating the use of state-of-the-art technologies (without naming the providers) for river management.

Applicability:

The recommendations are currently for towns that are on the main stem of the river Ganga. There are 97 of them encompassing 5 States — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

About the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG):

It was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

It acted as the implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority(NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986.

Please note, NGRBA was dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to the constitution of the National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).

Recusal of judges

In News:

The Calcutta high court has imposed a penalty of ₹5 lakh on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for seeking recusal of Justice Kaushik Chanda from her Nandigram election petition over the judge’s alleged links with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Details:

The court said the amount paid in penalties by the West Bengal CM will be used for the families of lawyers affected by Covid-19.

The judge, however, decided to step away from the case on his own personal discretion and released the case from his bench.

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

Judicial disqualification, referred to as recusal, is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.

Grounds for Recusal:

  • The judge is biased in favour of one party, or against another, or that a reasonable objective observer would think he might be.
  • Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.
  • Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.
  • Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.
  • Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
  • Rulings, comments or conduct.

Are there any laws in this regard?

There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.

However, In taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

What has the Supreme Court said on this?

In Ranjit Thakur v Union of India (1987), the SC held that the test of the likelihood of bias is the reasonableness of the apprehension in the mind of the party. The judge needs to look at the mind of the party before him, and decide that he is biased or not.

Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”.

Fresh plea filed in HC on same-sex marriage

In News:

The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Union government on a fresh petition seeking legal recognition to all same-sex, queer or non-heterosexual marriages under the Foreign Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act.

What’s the issue?

A plea has been filed by a married same-sex couple, where one of them is an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holder and his partner a U.S. citizen. The spouse is applying for OCI status but fears that his application for OCI status as well as the request for apostilization of the marriage certification – a requirement in the application process – will not be accepted.

What are the demands now?

The Citizenship Act, 1955, does not distinguish between heterosexual, same-sex or queer spouses. Therefore a person married to an Overseas Citizen of India, whose marriage is registered and subsisting for two years, should be declared eligible to apply as a spouse for an OCI card.

The petition has also prayed for a direction in the nature of prohibition to the Consulate General of India, New York, restraining it from declaring a spouse of an OCI applying for an OCI card to be ineligible for the same merely, on the ground that they are in a same-sex marriage or queer (non-heterosexual) marriage.

On the subject of the Foreign Marriage Act, the plea asks for a direction in the that to the extent the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 excludes same-sex marriages or queer marriages, it be declared to be in violation of Articles 14, and 21 of the Constitution of India.

A similar prayer is made in respect of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, stating that “to the extent that the Act excludes same-sex marriages or queer marriages, it violates Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India”.

Current scenario in India:

The acceptance of the institution of marriage between two individuals of the same gender is neither recognized nor accepted in any uncodified personal laws or any codified statutory laws”.

The centre had also said that contrary to the popular view that homosexuality was legalized by the Supreme Court in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the court had “only made a limited declaration to decriminalize a particular human behavior, which was a penal offence under S.377 IPC.“

Observations in ‘Puttaswamy Judgment'(Privacy Case) and ‘Navtej Johar’ case(which struck down Sec 377 IPC) do not confer a fundamental right to seek recognition of same-sex marriages.

What is the Special Marriage Act of 1954?

The SMA is a law which allows 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.

The prime purpose of the Act was to address Inter-religious marriages and to establish marriage as a secular institution bereft of all religious formalities, which required registration alone.

The SMA prescribes an elaborate procedure to get the marriage registered. It includes:

One of the parties to the marriage has to give a notice of the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district where at least one of the parties to the marriage has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to the date on which such notice is given.

Such notice is then entered in the marriage notice book and the marriage officer publishes a notice of marriage at some conspicuous place in his office.

The notice of marriage published by the marriage officer includes details of the parties like names, date of birth, age, occupation, parents’ names and details, address, pin code, identity information, phone number etc.

Anybody can then raise objections to the marriage on various grounds provided under the Act. If no objection is raised within the 30 day period, then marriage can be solemnized. If objections are raised, then the marriage officer has to inquire into the objections after which he will decide whether or not to solemnize the marriage.

What are the Criticisms?

  • Vulnerable to coercive tactics by family.
  • Intrusion of privacy.
  • Pushes for religious conversion.

Bengal passes resolution to set up Council

In News:

The West Bengal Assembly has passed a resolution to set up a Legislative Council with a two-thirds majority.

What are the Legislative Councils, and why are they important?

India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament. At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.

How is a legislative council created?

Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.

Strength of the house:

As per article 171 clause (1) of the Indian Constitution, the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall not exceed one third of the total number of the members in the legislative Assembly of that state and the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall in no case be less than 40.

How are members of the Council elected?

  • 1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly.
  • 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state.
  • 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
  • 1/12th by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.