Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Dawoodi Bohra case
- Article 105
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Lithium
Context: The discovery of 5.9 tonnes of lithium deposits in Jammu and Kashmir, a first for India, would reduce the need for imports and improve employment opportunities. This find was a major boost to the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for smartphones, laptops and electric cars.
What is Lithium?
- Lithium is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal
- It is non-ferrous in nature
- Lithium is a metal that is known for its low density, high energy-to-weight ratio and its ability to store large amounts of energy.
- Lithium is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in vacuum, inert atmosphere, or inert liquid such as purified kerosene or mineral oil.
- It never occurs freely in nature but is found combined in small amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in the waters of many mineral springs. Spodumene, petalite, lepidolite, and amblygonite are the more important minerals containing lithium.
- Most lithium is currently produced in Chile, from brines that yield lithium carbonate when treated with sodium carbonate.
- The metal is produced by the electrolysis of molten lithium chloride and potassium chloride
- Currently, India is import-dependent for Lithium, nickel and cobalt.
Applications of Lithium
- Lithium is a key component in rechargeable batteries that power numerous gadgets like smartphones and laptops, as well as electric cars.
- Lithium is also used in some non-rechargeable batteries for things like heart pacemakers, toys and clocks.
- Lithium metal is made into alloys with aluminium and magnesium, improving their strength and making them lighter.
- Aluminium-lithium alloys are used in aircraft, bicycle frames and high-speed trains.
- A magnesium-lithium alloy is used for armour plating.
- Lithium oxide is used in special glasses and glass ceramics.
- Lithium chloride is one of the most hygroscopic materials known and is used in air conditioning and industrial drying systems (as is lithium bromide).
- Lithium stearate is used as an all-purpose and high-temperature lubricant.
- Lithium hydride is used as a means of storing hydrogen for use as a fuel.
- Lithium salts have proven to be useful as a mood stabilizer and antidepressant in the treatment of mental illness such as bipolar disorder.
Why this discovery is significant for India?
- The discovery of resources which will go a long way in solving shortage of Lithium, a key component of Lithium-ion batteries used in electrical vehicles (EVs) and other chargeable instruments.
- The discovery makes India as having the seventh largest resource of Lithium globally
- India currently has to depend heavily on imports of Lithium as major reserves of this critical non-ferrous metal are located in the US, Australia, Chile, China, Argentina and Bolivia.
- The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has recently disrupted the supply, resulting in high cost of the minerals.
- Lithium-ion battery demand will grow exponentially in the power and transport sectors. Globally, there are 98 million tonnes of Lithium resources and India has found 5.5% of the total resources. Out of it only 26 million tonnes were treated as reserves – it means ready for use – globally
- If some of these resources can be converted to reserves, it would help to meet domestic demand and supply to the world
- Besides for EVs, Lithium is also critical for harnessing solar power and wind energy — key aspects of India’s efforts to move towards its low carbon growth path in the pursuit of reaching carbon neutrality (net zero emission goal) by 2070.
- Around the world the demand for rare metals, including lithium, has increased as countries look to adopt greener solutions to slow down climate change.
- The process of mining lithium is not environment friendly.
- Lithium is extracted from hard rocks and underground brine reservoirs largely found in Australia, Chile and Argentina.
- After it is mined, it is roasted using fossil fuels, searing the landscape and leaving behind scars.
- The extraction process also requires a lot of water and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
2 . Dawoodi Bohra Case
Context: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court referred to a larger Bench of nine judges a series of petitions challenging the authority of Dawoodi Bohra community leaders to excommunicate their members.
Who are the Dawoodi Bohra?
- The Dawoodi Bohra’s are Shia Muslims whose leader is known as the Al-Dai-Al-Mutlaq. According to members of the community, there are around 1 million Dawoodi Bohra’s spread around the world. For over 400 years, the leader of the community has been based in India.
- The leader of the community is recognised by the members as having the right to excommunicate its members.
- In practical terms, excommunication means not being allowed to access a mosque belonging to the community or a burial dedicated to the community.
- Among the members of the community who have faced excommunication in the past are those who contested the headship of the leaders.
How did challenge to the practice of excommunication begin?
- On November 1, 1949, the Bombay Prevention of Excommunication Act (now repealed) was enacted, which sought to prevent the practice of excommunication prevalent in certain communities, as it led to the deprivation of legitimate rights and privileges of its members and in “keeping with the spirit of changing times and in public interest”.
- The law defined excommunication as the “expulsion of a person from any community of which he is a member, depriving him of rights and privileges which are legally enforceable by a suit of civil nature”. It invalidated excommunication of any member, “notwithstanding anything contained in law, custom, usage” for the time being in force.
- A member of the Dawoodi Bohra community filed a suit in 1949, saying the Act rendered certain orders passed by their leader unlawful. Other cases also came before various courts.
About 1962 judgement
- The 51st leader of the community, Sardar Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb, challenged the constitutional validity of the Act, stating it violated fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs).
- It was submitted that the power of excommunication was part of the management of community affairs in matters of religion, and depriving the Dai (leader) of the right and making its exercise a penal offence “struck at the very life of the denomination and rendered it impotent to protect itself against dissidents and schismatics”.
- The practice was claimed to be essential to the Dawoodi Bohra faith.
- The respondents to the petition said that the Quran does not permit excommunication, and that it goes against the spirit of Islam. They submitted that the right to regulate religious communities does not include the right to excommunicate.
- A Constitution Bench of the SC held in 1962 that the Dai’s position is an essential part of the community and the power to excommunicate is to enforce discipline and preserve the denomination, not to punish. (Sardar Syedna Saifuddin v. State of Bombay).
Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016
- A challenge to the 1962 judgment was filed in 1986. While that petition was still pending, the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, was passed.
- The 2016 Act prohibits the social boycott of a person or a group of persons, and terms it a violation of fundamental rights. The Act describes a social boycott as “inhuman”, and defines 16 types of social boycott — including preventing members of a community from having access to facilities including community halls, burial grounds, etc.
- In October 2022, the court said that it would consider whether the practice of excommunication that was protected by the 1962 order can continue.
- The petitioners (Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community) argued that a nine-judge Constitution Bench was going to consider the broad issues on the interpretation of Article 25 and 26 but the specific issue challenging the constitutionality of excommunication may not be considered by it, and sought a decision on that limited issue.
What exactly did the Supreme Court said?
- A Constitution Bench led by Justice S K Kaul said that the 1962 judgment needed a relook.
- The court held that the consideration was needed mainly on two grounds: balancing the rights under Article 26(b) — the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs in matters of religion — and Article 21 — whether the practice can be protected under Article 26(b) when tested on the touchstone of constitutional morality.
- The court said both these issues are covered by questions pending for the consideration of the nine-judge Bench and requested the Chief Justice of India to tag it with the matters pending before the nine-judge Bench
What does Article 25 say?
Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
- 25(1): Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
- 25(2): Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law—
- 25(2)(a): regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
- 25(2)(b): providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
- 25(2): Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law—
What does Article 26 say ?
Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs
- Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right—
- to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
- to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
- to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
- to administer such property in accordance with law.
Article 25 vs Article 26
- Article 25 guarantees the rights of individuals, while Article 26 guarantees the rights of religious denominations or their sections.
- Article 26 protects collective freedom of religion.
- Like the rights under Article 25, the rights under Article 26 are also limited on certain ground.
- public order,
but not limited by other provisions relating to the Fundamental Rights.
- The Supreme Courtin S. P. Mittal vs UOI 1983 case held that a religious denomination must satisfy three conditions:
- It should be a collection of individuals who have a system of beliefs (doctrines) which they regard as conducive to their spiritual well-being;
- It should have a common organization; and
- It should be designated by a distinctive name.
3 . Article 105
Context: Protesting against the expunction of parts of his speech on the motion of thanks on the President’s Address, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has argued that MPs have freedom of speech and that he did not make any personal allegations in the House. In his letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge cited Article 105 of the Constitution which deals with the privileges and powers of parliamentarians.
What does Article 105 say?
- Article 105 of the Constitution deals with “powers, privileges, etc of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof” and has four clauses. It reads:
- (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and to the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament, there shall be freedom of speech in Parliament.
- (2) No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of any thing said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.
- (3) In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and, until so defined, shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of section 15 of the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978.
- (4) The provisions of clauses (1), (2) and (3) shall apply in relation to persons who by virtue of this Constitution have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, a House of Parliament or any committee thereof as they apply in relation to members of Parliament.
- Article states that Members of Parliament are exempted from any legal action for any statement made or act done in the course of their duties. For example, a defamation suit cannot be filed for a statement made in the House
- This immunity extends to certain non-members as well, such as the Attorney General for India or a Minister who may not be a member but speaks in the House.
- In cases where a member oversteps or exceeds the contours of admissible free speech, the Speaker or the House itself will deal with it, as opposed to the court.
Are there absolutely no restrictions on this privilege?
- There are some, indeed. For example, Article 121 of the Constitution prohibits any discussion in Parliament regarding the “conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the Judge.”.
Where did the idea of this privilege of Parliament originate?
- The Government of India Act, 1935 first brought this provision to India, with references to the powers and privileges enjoyed by the House of Commons in Britain.
- An initial draft of the Constitution too contained the reference to the House of Commons, but it was subsequently dropped.
- However, unlike India where the Constitution is paramount, Britain follows Parliamentary supremacy. The privileges of the House of Commons is based in common law, developed over centuries through precedents.
4 . Facts for Prelims
Sundarban Bird Festival
- The first-ever festival was organised by the Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR) division of West Bengal Forest Department, where six teams visited different areas inside the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve.
- Its aim to create a platform for knowledge-sharing and discussion on the future of conservation of the Sunderban birds
- Bird Festival was a unique citizen science initiative of documenting the avifauna.
- It has provided baseline data as far as the number of bird species in the Sundarban
- It points out the faunal diversity of the Sundarban ecosystem
- Birders, wildlife enthusiasts and forest officials have sighted 145 different bird species during the first Sundarbans Bird Festival.
- A publication by Zoological Survey of India, (ZSI) in 2021, had recorded 428 bird species in the Sundarbans which is one-third of all the avian species found in the country. Of which 145 species were sighted in the Bird Festival
- Significance of the bird festival – The Bird festival will also provide encouragement to forest officials about conservation of different species including birds
- Despite being home to so many species of birds the habitats face different threats including plantation activity along the chars (river islands) which disturbs the birds, and illegal activities along chars and uninhabited islands.
- The threats also include climate change and the use of destructive fishing nets in the Sundarbans.
- The Sundarbans are part of the migratory routes of the Central Asian Flyway and experts have called for protection of winter-resting and bird-breeding habitats in the Sundarbans.
- There is also a need for increasing protection along non-forest areas for birds as well as creating small protected areas in the non-forest regions at critical locations for bird-breeding and migration
PM-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM- ABHIM)
- PM-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM- ABHIM) is announced in Budget 21-22. The objective of the scheme is to fill critical gaps in health infrastructure, surveillance and health research – spanning both the urban and rural areas so that the communities are Atmanirbhar in managing such pandemic/ health crisis.
- The PM-ABHIM is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with some Central Sector Components, for implementation of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Package for health sector
- It is the largest Pan-India scheme for public health infrastructure since 2005.
- The measures under the scheme focus on developing capacities of health systems and institutions across the continuum of care at all levels viz. primary, secondary and tertiary. It focus on preparing health systems in responding effectively to the current and future pandemics/disasters.
- The Mission targets to build an IT-enabled disease surveillance system by developing a network of surveillance laboratories at block, district, regional, and national levels, in Metropolitan areas
- It aims to strengthen the health units at the Points of Entry, for effectively detecting, investigating, preventing, and combating Public Health Emergencies and Disease Outbreaks.
- Increased investments are also targeted in the mission to support research on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, including biomedical research to generate evidence to inform short-term and medium-term response to COVID-19 like pandemics
- And to develop core capacity to deliver the One Health Approach to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks in animals and humans.
- The components of the PM-ABHIM scheme are:
- Centrally Sponsored Components:
- Support for 17,788 rural Health and Wellness Centres in 10 High Focus States.
- Establishing 11,024 urban Health and Wellness Centres in all the States.
- 3382 Block Public Health Units in 11 High Focus states. Support for other States/UTs under XV Finance Commission Health Sector Grants and NHM.
- Setting up of Integrated Public Health Labs in all districts.
- Establishing Critical Care Hospital Blocks in all districts with population more than 5 lakhs.
- Central Sector Components :
- 12 Central Institutions as training and mentoring sites with 150 bedded Critical Care Hospital Blocks;
- Strengthening of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 5 New Regional NCDCs and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units;
- Expansion of the Integrated Health Information Portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs;
- Operationalisation of 17 new Public Health Units and strengthening of 33 existing Public Health Units at Points of Entry, that is at 32 Airports, 11 Seaports and 7 land crossings;
- Setting up of 15 Health Emergency Operation Centres and 2 container based mobile hospitals; and
- Setting up of a national institution for One Health, 4 New National Institutes for Virology, a Regional Research Platform for WHO South East Asia Region and 9 Bio-Safety Level III laboratories
- Centrally Sponsored Components:
Full strength of the Supreme Court
- India’s Supreme Court is now back to its full strength of 34, with the elevation of two High Court Chief Justices to the apex court.
- The last time the apex court was at its full strength was in September-November 2019.
- The sanctioned judge strength of the Supreme Court is 34 (including Chief Justice of India). Though there have been no criteria for fixing the judge strength of the Supreme Court.
- The original Constitution of 1950 envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 puisne Judges – leaving it to Parliament to increase this number.
- The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act 1956, as originally enacted, provided for the maximum number of Judges (excluding the Chief Justice of India) to be 10.
- This number was increased to 13 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges), Amendment Act, 1960, and to 17 by the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1977.
- The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 1986 augmented the strength of the Supreme Court Judges from 17 to 25 excluding the Chief Justice of India.
- Subsequently, the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2009 further augmented the strength of the Supreme Court Judges, from 25 to 30.
- The Act was amended multiple times and in 2019 through The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019 the total number of judges excluding CJI was brought to 33
- There are currently 34 judges (including the Chief Justice) who comprise the Supreme Court of India, the highest court in the country.
- According to the Constitution of India, the judges of the Supreme Court retire at the age of 65.