Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Electoral Bonds
- Details of Verdict on Abortion case
- Money laundering and political party
- Same –Sex Marriage
- Space Station
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Electoral Bonds
Context: In a quick turn of events, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud recently referred the challenge to the validity of the electoral bonds scheme, which facilitates anonymous donations to political parties, to a Constitution Bench of five judges.
About the news
- Supreme court had received a plea to refer the case on Electoral Bonds from the three-judge Bench to a larger Bench. The case would go before a five-judge Bench owing to the “importance of the issue”. It has been pending in the Supreme Court for over eight years now.
About the Case
- The petition was filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), CPI (M) and Common Cause challenging the Centre’s electoral bonds Scheme.
- The petition alleged that the Finance Act 2017 made the electoral bonds exempt from disclosure under the Representation of peoples Act, 1951 led to unchecked, unknown funding to political parties.
- According to the petition The Finance Act 2016 which amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 will allow the foreign companies with subsidiaries in India to fund political parties in India. This will made Indian politics and democracy exposing to international lobbyists
- The plea has been pending since 2017.
What is electoral bond scheme?
- Electoral bonds are money instruments like promissory notes that can be bought by companies and individuals in India from the State Bank of India (SBI)
- Such bonds, which are sold in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore, can be bought from authorised branches of the State Bank of India.
- As such, a donor is required to pay the amount — say Rs 10 lakh — via a cheque or a digital mechanism (cash is not allowed) to the authorised SBI branch.
- There is no limit on the number of electoral bonds that a person or company can purchase.
- The donor can then give this bond (just one, if the denomination chosen is Rs 10 lakh, or 10, if the denomination is Rs 1 lakh) to the party or parties of their choice.
- The political parties can choose to encash such bonds within 15 days of receiving them and fund their electoral expenses. On the face of it, the process ensures that the name of the donor remains anonymous.
- Every party registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and having secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election has been allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India.
- The bonds go for sale in 10-day windows in the beginning of every quarter, i.e. in January, April, July and October, besides an additional 30-day period specified by the Central Government during Lok Sabha election years.
- The central idea behind the electoral bonds scheme was to bring about transparency in electoral funding in India.
What is the Purpose of the electoral Bond?
- It was introduced to” cleanse the system of political funding in the country” by eradicating the “menace of unaccounted money coming into the country’s economy through political funding”.
- It would make political donations transparent while also protecting the identity of the donor.
- Under the scheme, bonds are available for purchase at any SBI branch in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and can be bought through a KYC-compliant account. There is no limit on the number of electoral bonds that a person or company can purchase.
- Every party registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and having secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election has been allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. The donor can donate the bond to a party of their choice, which can cash it within 15 days, only through the allotted account.
Will it be tax deductible?
- A donor will get a deduction and the recipient, or the political party, will get tax exemption, provided returns are filed by the political party.
Why have electoral bonds attracted criticism?
- The central criticism of the electoral bonds scheme is that it does the exact opposite of what it was meant to do: bring transparency to election funding.
- Critics argue that the anonymity of electoral bonds is only for the broader public and opposition parties.
- The fact that such bonds are sold via a government-owned bank (SBI) leaves the door open for the government to know exactly who is funding its opponents.
- This, in turn, allows the possibility for the government of the day to either extort money, especially from the big companies, or victimise them for not funding the ruling party — either way providing an unfair advantage to the party in power.
- Critics have noted that more than 75 per cent of all electoral bonds have goes to the ruling party in the centre.
- Further, one of the arguments for introducing electoral bonds was to allow common people to easily fund political parties of their choice but more than 90% of the bonds have been of the highest denomination (Rs 1 crore).
- Moreover, before the electoral bonds scheme was announced, there was a cap on how much a company could donate to a political party: 7.5 per cent of the average net profits of a company in the preceding three years. However, the government amended the Companies Act to remove this limit, opening the doors to unlimited funding by corporate India, critics argue.
Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court
- Article 145(3) mandates that cases involving substantial questions and interpretation of the Constitution should be heard by a Bench of at least five judges.
- The Supreme Court is at the apex of the Indian judicial system. As the guardian of the Constitution, it is the primary duty of the SC to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens and protect their liberties.
- Whenever a matter of law arises that requires a provision or provision of the Constitution to be interpreted, or there is a “significant legal question”, it is required to be decided by a Bench involving a minimum of five judges of the Supreme Court. Such a Bench is called Constitution Bench.
- The Chief Justice of India has the power to set up a Constitution bench. And he is the one who refers cases to it. Currently, there are four situations when such a bench can be formed.
- First, if a case involves a “substantial question of law” related to the interpretation of the Constitution.
- Second, a bench can be formed if the President seeks SC’s opinion on law or fact. In this case, however, the apex court’s decision is not binding on the President, and they can take a different point of view.
- Third, a Constitution bench can be formed when a two-judge bench and later a three-judge bench deliver conflicting judgements on the same issue.
- Lastly, it can be formed if a three-judge bench delivers a judgement that is different from the judgement delivered by a previous three-judge bench on an issue.
2 . Same –Sex Marriage Verdict
Context: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court recently held that only the legislature can recognise or regulate same-sex marriage. The Bench reasoned that since there was no fundamental or unqualified right to marry, the courts cannot intervene.
Background of the case
- In 2022, two sets of same-sex couples in India filed legal petitions in the Supreme Court. These petitions revolved around the constitutionality of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which currently defines marriage as only between a ‘male’ and a ‘female.’
- The couples argued that this discriminates against them by denying them marital benefits such as adoption, surrogacy, employment, and retirement benefits. They requested the Court to declare this section of the Act as unconstitutional.
- These cases were combined with other petitions challenging similar aspects of personal laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
- The petitioners contended that the lack of recognition for same-sex marriages violates their rights to equality, freedom of expression, and dignity. They drew on precedents such as NALSA vs. Union of India (2014) and Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India (2018), which acknowledged non-binary gender identities and upheld equal rights for homosexual individuals.
- In 2023, a 3-Judge Bench, with Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud leading, referred these cases to a 5-Judge Constitution Bench for further consideration.
About the Judgement
- Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that only the legislature can recognise or regulate same-sex marriage. The Bench reasoned that since there was no fundamental or unqualified right to marry, the courts cannot intervene.
- However, the Bench failed to reach a consensus on providing even long-abiding relationships between same-sex couples the status of a legally recognised “civil union”. This was despite all five judges on the Bench unanimously accepting that it was time to end discrimination against same-sex couples
- Judges unamiously agreed on following issues –
- Same sex couples do not have a ‘right to marry’ (“The answer must be an emphatic no,” Justice Kaul said).
- Transgender persons have a right to marry under the current framework.
- Same-sex couples have a right to choose their partners and cohabit with one another.
- Majority vs. minority opinions
- Queer couples do not have the right to adopt (3:2)
- Couples do not enjoy a right to a civil union (3:2)
Key observation on different point of contention
On Fundamental Right to Marry:
- The petitioners contended that there is a fundamental right to marry a person of one’s choice according to the Constitution, and the court should address the denial of this right. Recognizing it as a fundamental right, similar to the 2017 Aadhaar ruling on privacy, would create an obligation for the state to safeguard this right.
- Representing minority view of the judgement, Chief Justice declared that queer people had a fundamental right to form relationships and the State was obligated to recognise and grant legal status to such unions, so that same-sex couples could avail themselves of the material benefits provided by law.
- The majority view of the judgement explained that the fundamental importance of marriage lies in personal preference and social status. Simply because something is important to an individual doesn’t automatically make it a fundamental right, even if that preference is widely accepted or supported. The majority opinion also questioned the rationale behind U.S. court decisions that declared the right to marry as a fundamental right, suggesting that this reasoning might not be valid.
On Special Marriage Act
- The petitioners wanted the SC to interpret the word marriage as between “spouses” instead of “man and woman”. Alternatively, the petitioners wanted to strike down provisions of the SMA that are gender-restrictive.
- On the expansive reading, CJI said the court could not allow that, because it would amount to encroaching on the sphere of legislation. On striking down provisions of the SMA, it claimed that the action would take India back to pre-independence era.
- The majority of the judges also had similar view and stated that the court could not interpret the SMA to include same-sex couples since the objective of the legislation is not to include same-sex couples within the realm of marriage
- The petitioners had argued that the guidelines of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which does not allow unmarried couples to jointly adopt children, is discriminatory against queer couples who cannot legally marry. The present guidelines allow only a couple who have been in at least two years of a stable marital relationship to be eligible to adopt. Individually, queer persons can adopt as single people. However, a single male is not eligible to adopt a girl child — even though a single female is eligible to adopt a child of any gender.
- The CJI struck down certain CARA regulations on the grounds that the legislation’s object is not to preclude unmarried couples from adopting a child. It added that the exclusion of same-sex couples from adopting has the effect of “reinforcing the disadvantage already faced by the queer community. Law cannot make an assumption on good and bad parenting based on the sexuality of individuals”.
- However majority of the judges largely agreed with the discriminatory aspects of preventing queer couples from adopting children. Justice Bhat termed this as having the “most visible” discriminatory impact on queer couples, and in principle agreed that a couple “tied together in marriage are not a ‘morally superior choice’, or per se make better parents”. Yet, the majority view said that this change cannot be achieved by the judiciary. It claimed that to read down ‘marital’ status as proposed by the petition may have deleterious impacts that only the legislature and executive could remedy.
On Civil Unions for queer Couples
- Petitioners argued that civil unions are not an equal alternative to the legal and social institution of marriage, and relegating non-heterosexual relationships to civil unions would send the queer community a message that their relationships were inferior to those of heterosexual couples.
- Minority view of the judgement located the right to form intimate associations within the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. The minority view noted Solicitor General’s statement that a committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary would be constituted to set out the rights which would be available to queer couples in unions.
- Majority view of the judgement disagreed with the view that the court can prescribe a “choice” of civil unions to queer couples. The majority opinion said that instead the state should facilitate this choice for those who wish to exercise it.
On trans persons’ rights
- That trans persons have the right to marry under the existing framework formed the majoritarian opinion of the Bench. “The gender of a person is not the same as their sexuality,” the judgment noted.
- “Since a transgender person can be in a heterosexual relationship like a cis-male or cis-female, a union between a transwoman and a transman, or a transwoman and a cisman, or a transman and a ciswoman can be registered under Marriage laws.” Similarly, it said that intersex persons who identify as a man or a woman also share this right.
Supreme Court Directives to Centre
- Non-Discrimination: The government must ensure that there is no discrimination against the queer community in terms of access to goods and services.
- Public Awareness: Efforts should be made to sensitize the public about the rights of the queer community.
- Helpline for Queer Community: A dedicated helpline should be established to provide support and assistance to the queer community.
- Safe Houses: Safe houses should be created to offer protection to queer couples who may face threats or harassment.
- Formation of Committee: The SC recorded the statement of the Solicitor General that the Union government will constitute a committee to decide the rights and entitlements of persons in queer unions. The issues before the committee will be mentioning queer couples as family in ration cards, allowing queer couples to nominate for joint bank account, allowing them all the rights that from pension, gratuity, etc.
3 . Verdict on Abortion case
Context: The Supreme Court recently declined a married woman’s plea to medically terminate her 26-week pregnancy, saying the court is averse to ordering doctors to “stop the heartbeat” of the foetus when medical reports say she will give birth to a “viable baby”.
Details of the Case
- Petitioner mentioned that she was physically, emotionally, mentally, financially and medically unable to carry, deliver or raise a child.
- It was also informed that she was already a mother of two. She suffered from post-partum depression after the birth of her second child last year.
- Medical reports showed a healthy foetus with no abnormalities and the woman was well past the abortion limit of 24 weeks under the Act.
- Section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act prescribes medical termination if the pregnancy was “immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman”.
Details of the Verdict
- According to the verdict the woman cannot claim an absolute, overriding right to abort, especially when multiple reports from the AIIMS medical Board have confirmed that the pregnancy was not a cause of immediate danger to her life or the foetus.
- According to the judgement the term ‘life’ used in this provision cannot be equated to the broader meaning in which ‘life’ is used in Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 upholds an individual’s fundamental right to a dignified, meaningful life.
- Section 5, on the other hand, uses ‘life’ in the context of a life-and-death situation when medical opinion confirms that a woman’s very existence hangs in the balance if she attempts to carry her pregnancy to full term. In fact, Section 5 allows abortion only if the pregnancy poses an actual, physical and immediate danger to a woman’s life and health, according to medical experts.
4 . Money laundering and political party
Context: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) told the Supreme Court that it is “contemplating” adding the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as an accused in its money laundering probe linked to the Delhi government’s now-scrapped excise policy.
What is the law under which a political party can be booked for money laundering?
- Section 70 of the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act deals with offences by companies.
- The provision states that, “Where a person committing a contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or of any rule, direction or order made thereunder is a company, every person who, at the time the contravention was committed, was in charge of and was responsible to the company, for the conduct of the business of the company as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the contravention and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”
- While a political party is not a ‘company’ incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013, the provision has a crucial explanation that could bring a political party under the ambit of the anti-money laundering law.
- It reads: “For the purposes of this section (Section 70),(i) “company” means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association of individuals;”
- The phrase ‘association of individuals’ can include a political party
- A party, according to Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, is any association or body of individual citizens of India calling itself a political party.
5 . Space Station
Context: Prime Minister has “directed” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to set up an Indian-crafted, indigenous space station by 2035 and land an Indian on the moon by 2040.
About the news:
- Prime Minister said that India should aim for new and ambitious goals, including setting up a “Bharatiya Antariksha Station” (Indian Space station) by 2035 and sending the first Indian to the moon by 2040
- He called upon scientists to work towards interplanetary missions, including a space vehicle to orbit Venus and one that will land on Mars.
What is a Space Station?
- A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting a human crew in orbit for an extended period of time and is therefore a type of space habitat. It lacks major propulsion or landing systems.
- An orbital station or an orbital space station is an artificial satellite (i.e., a type of orbital spaceflight). Stations must have docking ports to allow other spacecraft to dock to transfer crew and supplies.
- The purpose of maintaining an orbital outpost varies depending on the program. Space stations have most often been launched for scientific purposes, but military launches have also occurred.
About the International Space Station
- The ISS was launched in 1998 as part of joint efforts by the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe.
- The space station was assembled over many years, and it operates in low-earth orbit.
- Since its inception, the ISS has served as a laboratory suspended in space and has aided multiple scientific and technological developments.
- The idea of a space station originated in the 1984 State of the Union address by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
- ISS has consistently maintained human presence for the past 21 years, providing astronauts with sophisticated technologies for scientific research.
- The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
- The station serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields
6 . Facts for Prelims
- The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is India’s most prestigious award in the field of cinema.
- The award is named after Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, who is also known as the “Father of Indian Cinema.” He made India’s first full-length feature film, “Raja Harishchandra,” in 1913.
- It is given to individuals for their outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema. The award recognizes lifetime achievement and exceptional service to the film industry.
- The award is presented by the Government of India, and a committee of eminent personalities from the film industry is responsible for selecting the awardee.
- The Launch Vehicle Mark-3 or LVM3 (previously referred as the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III or GSLV Mk III) is a three-stage medium-lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- Primarily designed to launch communication satellites into geostationary orbit, it is also due to launch crewed missions under the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
- LVM3 has a higher payload capacity than its predecessor, GSLV. It can carry payloads of up to 8,000 kilograms to a low-Earth orbit and approximately 4,000 kilograms to a geostationary transfer orbit.
- The LVM3 has launched CARE, India’s space capsule recovery experiment module, Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3 , India’s second and third lunar missions, and will be used to carry Gaganyaan, the first crewed mission under Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
- The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation(CDSCO) under Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
- Its headquarter is located at New Delhi and it also has six zonal offices,four sub zonal offices,thirteen Port offices and seven laboratories spread across the country.
- CDSCO constantly thrives to bring out transparency, accountability and uniformity in its services in order to ensure safety, efficacy and quality of the medical product manufactured, imported and distributed in the country.
- Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, CDSCO is responsible for approval of Drugs, Conduct of Clinical Trials, laying down the standards for Drugs, control over the quality of imported Drugs in the country and coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organizations by providing expert advice with a view of bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
- Further, CDSCO along with state regulators, is jointly responsible for grant of licenses of certain specialized categories of critical Drugs such as blood and blood products, I. V. Fluids, Vaccine and Sera.
International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)
- The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) serves as a regional Institute for Training and Research in Population Studies for the ESCAP region.
- Started in 1956 under the joint sponsorship of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, the Government of India and the United Nations, it has established itself as the premier Institute for training and research in Population Studies for developing countries in the Asia and Pacific region.
- IIPS holds a unique position among all the regional centres, in that it was the first such centre to be started, and serves a much larger population than that served by any of the other regional centres.
- The Institute is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
- Objectives include- To train persons from India and other countries in demography and related fields, including demographic aspects of family planning, To undertake scientific research on population problems which are of special importance to India and other countries in the ESCAP region, To collect, organize and disseminate demographic information about the population of India and other countries of the world! To provide services of research, evaluation, training, consultation and guidance related to demographic problems to government departments, public corporations or private establishments as deemed desirable in pursuance of the objective of the Society.
Map marking – Ecuador
- Ecuador is a country in western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator
- It encompasses a wide range of natural formations and climates, from the desert-like southern coast to the snowcapped peaks of the Andes mountain range to the plains of the Amazon Basin.
- Cotopaxi in Ecuador is one of the world’s highest active volcanos. It also has a large series of rivers that follow the southern border and spill into the northwest area of Peru.
- Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death.
- It is used during early development to eliminate unwanted cells; for example, those between the fingers of a developing hand.
- In adults, apoptosis is used to rid the body of cells that have been damaged beyond repair.
- It also plays a role in preventing cancer. If apoptosis is for some reason prevented, it can lead to uncontrolled cell division and the subsequent development of a tumor.