Daily Current Affairs : 1st December 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. None Of The Above
  2. BRICS Media Forum
  3. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
  4. U.P. religious conversion ordinance

1 . None Of The Above

Context : An advocate has moved the Supreme Court for a direction that fresh elections should be held in a constituency where NOTA (‘None of the above’ option) garnered the maximum number of votes. Besides, none of the candidates who lost to NOTA should be allowed to contest the fresh polls.

Details of the Petition

  • According to the petition if the electorate has rejected the candidates by voting for NOTA, the parties should be barred from fielding them again in the fresh polls. The parties should accept that the voters have already made their discontent loud and clear.
  • Right to reject and elect new candidate will give power to the people to express their discontent … Right to reject will check corruption, criminalisation, casteism, communalism … parties would be forced to give tickets to honest and patriotic candidates,”
  • According to the petition ‘right to reject’ was first proposed by the Law Commission in 1999. “It also suggested that the candidates be declared elected only if they have obtained 50%+1 of the valid votes cast. Similarly, the Election Commission endorsed ‘Right to Reject’, first in 2001, under James Lyngdoh [the then CEC], and then in 2004 under T.S. Krishnamurthy [the then CEC], in its Proposed Electoral Reforms
  • The ‘Background Paper on Electoral Reforms’, prepared by the Ministry of Law in 2010, had proposed that if certain percentage of the vote was negative, then election result should be nullified and new election held, the petition said.

About None of the Above

  • The ‘None of the Above’ option, simply put, gives the voter the right to express a negative opinion by not selecting any of the candidates in the fray. The Supreme Court envisaged NOTA as a way of cleansing the political system, saying, “Negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates.”
  • According to the Supreme Court the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution.
  • It actually came into force only in 2013. The first time it was used was during the Assembly elections held in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Delhi.
  • This was preceded, in September 2013, by a Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India case to provide for a NOTA button in the EVMs, thereby upholding a citizen’s right to vote negatively along with the right to secrecy.

How not to vote before the introduction of NOTA

  • Now you may ask if citizens could exercise their right to not vote for any candidate prior to the institution of NOTA. The answer is yes, but process was tedious. The precedent existed in the form of Section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. Here, the voter could cast a negative vote would through Form 17A, which would also have to go through the presiding officer. Considering that it did not maintain the voter’s right to secrecy, this section was invalidated with the SC ruling of 2013.

How Does It Work? Does it Make a Difference?

  • The NOTA option on EVMs has no electoral value. Even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared winner.”
  • In other words, the existence of NOTA has been seen just as a “symbolic instrument to express resentment” against all the contesting candidates or the political system in general.
  • However, attempts have been made recently, albeit at the local level, to expand the scope of NOTA. In 2015, it got a symbol – a ballot paper with a black cross running across it.
  • In November 2018, the Maharashtra State Election Commission (MSEC) announced that if NOTA garners the most number of votes in a panchayat or municipality election, then none of the candidates in the fray would be declared elected, and instead a re-election would take place.
  • That same month, the Haryana State Election Commissioner made a similar announcement ahead of municipal corporation polls in the state. “If in the re-election, NOTA again gets the highest number of votes, then the candidate with the second highest votes will be declared elected,” state election commissioner Dalip Singh had further explained.
  • However, note that for Assembly and general elections – which are governed by the Election Commission of India – the scope of NOTA remains limited.

2 . BRICS Media Forum

Context : Representatives of media organisations from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) on Monday called for the five nations to work together to jointly combat the “virus of disinformation” in the pandemic era.

About BRICS Media Forum

  • Launched in 2015, the BRICS Media Forum mechanism was proposed by Xinhua News Agency and jointly initiated with mainstream media from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.
  • The forum aims to establish an efficient coordination mechanism among BRICS media, advance innovation-driven media development and gather stronger momentum for the development of BRICS countries through exchange and pragmatic cooperation under the mechanism.
  • The presidium is the decision-making body of the forum and holds a meeting regularly ahead of the opening of the forum.
  • Four forums were held in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, which issued the Beijing Declaration of the BRICS Media Summit, the Action Plan of Promoting BRICS Media Cooperation, as well as action plans of the BRICS Media Forum for 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Several documents have been incorporated into the BRICS summit declarations.

3 . Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

What is the OIC?

  • The OIC — formerly Organisation of the Islamic Conference — is the world’s second largest inter-governmental organisation after the UN, with a membership of 57 states.
  • The OIC’s stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”. OIC has reserved membership for Muslim-majority countries.
  • Russia, Thailand, and a couple of other small countries have Observer status.

What is India’s relationship with OIC as an organisation?

  • At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in 2018, Bangladesh, the host, suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status, but Pakistan opposed the proposal.
  • In 1969, India was dis-invited from the Conference of Islamic Countries in Rabat, Morocco at Pakistan’s behest. Then Agriculture Minister Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was dis-invited upon arrival in Morocco after Pakistan President Yahya Khan lobbied against Indian participation.
  • In 2019, India made its maiden appearance at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, as a “guest of honour”. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the Inaugural Plenary in Abu Dhabi on March 1 2019, after having been invited by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister. The Ministry of External Affairs said then that the invitation was a “welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world”.
  • This first-time invitation was seen as a diplomatic victory for New Delhi, especially at a time of heightened tensions with Pakistan following the Pulwama attack. Pakistan had opposed the invitation to Swaraj, and its Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boycotted the plenary after the UAE turned down his demand to rescind the invitation. 

4 . Issues with religious conversion ordinance

Context : Uttar Pradesh ordinance criminalising religious conversion via marriage breaks away from a series of Supreme Court judgments, which hold that faith, the State and courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.

Supreme Court Observations and Judgements on the issue

  • Hadiya Case : According to the Supreme Court the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual’s “personhood and identity. Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters as per Hadiya Case
  • K.S. Puttuswamy or ‘privacy’ judgment : Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life, the Constitution Bench said in the K.S. Puttuswamy or ‘privacy’ judgment.
  • Any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.
  • Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable, the court has said. “The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith”.
  • In the Lata Singh case, the top court recognised the country is going through a “crucial transformational period”. It said the “Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”. Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.
  • “If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage”, the court said.
  • In the Soni Gerry case, the court warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father”.

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