Daily Current Affairs : 17th July 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Maternal Mortality Rate
  2. Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968
  3. Retail Inflation
  4. Judicial Review on Speaker’s decision
  5. 5 G
  6. Facts for Prelims

1 . Maternal mortality ratio

Context: India registers a steep decline in maternal mortality ratio

About Special Bulletin on Maternal Mortality Rate

  • The special bulletin on Maternal Mortality in India 2016-18 is released by the Office of the Registrar General’s Sample Registration System (SRS)
  • The Office of the Registrar General, India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, apart from conducting Population Census and monitoring the implementation of Registration of Births and Deaths Act in the country, has been giving estimates on fertility and mortality using the Sample Registration System (SRS).
  • SRS is the largest demographic sample survey in the country that among other indicators provide direct estimates of maternal mortality through a nationally representative sample. Verbal Autopsy (VA) instruments are administered for the deaths reported under the SRS on a regular basis to yield cause-specific mortality profile in the country.
  • The present bulletin provides the level of maternal mortality for the period 2016-2018.

Maternal Mortality

  • As per World Health Organization, “Maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes”.
  • Maternal mortality in a region is a measure of reproductive health of women in the area.
  • One of the key indicators of maternal mortality is the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR)

Details of the Special bulletin on Maternal Mortality in India 2016-18

  • The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in India has declined to 113 in 2016-18 from 122 in 2015-17 and 130 in 2014-2016
  • The MMR of various States according to the bulletin includes Assam (215), Bihar (149), Madhya Pradesh (173), Chhattisgarh (159), Odisha (150), Rajasthan (164), Uttar Pradesh (197) and Uttarakhand (99).
  • The southern States registered a lower MMR — Andhra Pradesh (65), Telangana (63), Karnataka (92), Kerala (43) and Tamil Nadu (60).

2 . Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968

Context: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 that prohibits sacrifice of animals and birds in temples to ‘please’ the deity.

About the case

  • An appeal was filed by the Shakthi worshippers for whom the animal sacrifice is an integral part of the worship.
  • In their appeal, they highlighted that the High Court had no power to interfere in the essential religious practices.
  • It further stated that the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 criminalises the intent behind the animal sacrifice, and not animal sacrifice per se which is an arbitrary classification and is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution

Background of the case

  • Recently Kerala High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968.
  • The High court observed that there are no materials on record to substantiate which community of the religion is required under the Hindu or any other religion, to kill an animal, for propitiating, if not personal consumption, in the manner required in the religion.
  • Another argument was that the Act is repugnant to Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 which clearly excludes animal killing in relation to religious purposes from the rigour of an offence, if it is done in a manner required by the religion of any community.
  • Not Essential Practice : Taking note of Apex Court judgments on the subject, the bench observed that unless the acts are essentials of the religion, they are not protected under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968.

  • Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968, prohibits propitiation of deity through sacrifice of animals and birds in temples and temple precincts
  • 1968 State law bans killing of animals and birds for religious sacrifices but not for personal consumption. 

Provisions regarding Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals
  • The Act makes it a crime to beat, kick, torture, mutilate, administer an injurious substance, or cruelly kill an animal.
  • It is also illegal to over-ride, over-drive, over-load, or work an unfit animal. It is an offense to cruelly transport, confine, chain or tether an animal.
  • Under Section 28 of the act  killing of animals for religious purposes is not an offence.

Difference between PETA act and Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 as per High Court

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is an Act to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and for that purpose, to amend the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
  • Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 is an Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to prohibition of the sacrifice of animals and birds in or in the precincts of Hindu temples in the State of Kerala.
  • The former is to prevent cruelty to animals and the latter is to prohibit sacrifice of animals and birds in the precincts of temples in the State of Kerala.
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 does not employ the word “sacrifice”, which in the latter Act of the State – Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968, as per Section 2(b), has been defined as killing or maiming of any animal or bird, for the purpose, or with an intention of propitiating any deity.

3 . Retail inflation

Context: According to a State Bank of India ‘Ecowrap’ report retail inflation is likely to remain at elevated levels in the next few months on account of supply constraints driven by labour shortage, rather than due to fiscal deficit or other external factors.

Suggestions for computing retail inflation

  • The SBI ‘Ecowrap’ report has suggested that the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) should take online prices of products into account while computing retail inflation as more and more people are relying on online stores, especially after the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • In the current scenario, the services should not be included while computing retails inflation as their consumption fell drastically on account of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Retail Inflation

  •  Rate of inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) is called as Retail Inflation
  • The CPI monitors retail prices at a certain level for a particular commodity; price movement of goods and services at rural, urban and all-India levels.
  • The change in the price index over a period of time is referred to as CPI-based inflation, or retail inflation.

What is Consumer Price Index

  • Consumer Price Index is a measure of change in retail prices of goods and services consumed by defined population group in a given area with reference to a base year.
  • This basket of goods and services represents the level of living or the utility derived by the consumers at given levels of their income, prices and tastes.
  • The consumer price index number measures changes only in one of the factors; prices.
  • This index is an important economic indicator and is widely considered as a barometer of inflation, a tool for monitoring price stability and as a deflator in national accounts.
  • The dearness allowance of Government employees and wage contracts between labour and employer is based on this index.
  • Consumer price indices compiled in India are CPI for Industrial workers CPI(IW), CPI for Agricultural Labourers CPI(AL) and; Rural Labourers CPI(RL) and (Urban) and CPI(Rural).


  • The CPI(IW) and CPI(AL& RL) compiled are occupation specific and centre specific and are compiled by Labour Bureau.
  • This means that these index numbers measure changes in the retail price of the basket of goods and services consumed by the specific occupational groups in the specific centres.

CPI(Urban) and CPI(Rural)

  • CPI(Urban) and CPI(Rural) are new indices in the group of Consumer price index and has a wider coverage of population.
  • This index compiled by Central Statistical Organisation tries to encompass the entire population and is likely to replace all the other indices presently compiled.
  • In addition to this, Consumer Food Price Indices (CFPI) for all India for rural, urban and combined separately are also released w.e.f May, 2014.

Other Important Points

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has started using CPI-combined as the sole inflation measure for the purpose of monetary policy.

4 . Judicial review on Speaker’s decision’

Context: Constitutional courts cannot judicially review disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) of the Constitution until the Speaker or Chairman makes a final decision on merits.

What is the issue?

  • Recently Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and the 18 MLAs were issued notice under the anti-defection law after the ruling Congress sought their disqualification.
  • They have approached the Rajasthan High Court challenging the constitutionality of Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule which makes “voluntarily giving up membership of a political party” liable for disqualification.
  • For now, the SC verdict in Kihoto Hollohan case will be the key in the issue

Supreme courts verdict in Kihoto Hollohan case

  • A 28-year-old judgment of the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillu and Others has said that “judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman and a quia timet action would not be permissible. Nor would interference be permissible at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings.”
  • “The only exception for any interlocutory interference being cases of interlocutory disqualifications or suspensions which may have grave, immediate and irreversible repercussions and consequence,”

Earlier Judgement regarding Judicial Review

  • The February 1992 judgment had said that even the scope of judicial review against an order of a Speaker or Chairman in anti-defection proceedings would be confined to jurisdictional errors, that is, “infirmities based on violation of constitutional mandate, mala fides, non-compliance with rules of natural justice and perversity.”

Background of Anti Defection Law

  • Indian political scene was besmirched by political defections by members of the legislature. This situation brought about greater instability in the political system.
  • Legislators used to change parties frequently, bringing about chaos in the legislatures as governments fell. In sum, they often brought about political instability. This caused serious concerns to the right thinking political leaders of the country.Several efforts were made to make some law to curb defections
  • Finally, in 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought a Bill to amend the Constitution and curb defection.
  • Through 52nd constitutional amendment act 10th Schedule of the Constitution, which contains the anti-defection law, was added to the Constitution.

Details of Anti Defection Law

  • The purpose of the law is to curb political defection by the legislators.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified.
    • If the member voluntarily gives up the membership of the party, he shall be disqualified. Voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party. Even without resigning, a legislator can be disqualified if by his conduct the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned House draws a reasonable inference that the member has voluntarily given up the membership of his party.
    • If a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his party and his action is not condoned by his party, he can be disqualified.

Exception from Disqualification

  • The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.


  • When it was enacted first, there was a provision under which if there occurs a split in the original political party and as a result of which one-third of the legislators of that party forms a separate group, they shall not be disqualified.
  • This provision resulted in large scale defections and the lawmakers were convinced that the provision of a split in the party was being misused. Therefore, they decided to delete this provision.
  • Now, the only provision which can be invoked for protection from disqualification is the provision relating to the merger

Is the law, as it stands now, open to interpretation?

  • The first ground for disqualifying a legislator for defecting from a party is his voluntarily giving up the membership of his party. This term “voluntarily giving up the membership of his party” is susceptible to interpretation. As has been explained earlier, voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified this point by saying that the presiding officer (Speaker), who acts as a tribunal, has to draw a reasonable inference from the conduct of the legislator.


  • The law certainly has been able to curb the evil of defection to a great extent. But, of late, a very alarming trend of legislators defecting in groups to another party in search of greener pastures is visible.
  • The recent examples of defection in state Assemblies and even in Rajya Sabha bear this out. This only shows that the law needs a relook in order to plug the loopholes if any. But it must be said that this law has served the interest of the society. Political instability caused by frequent and unholy change of allegiance on the part of the legislators of our country has been contained to a larger extent.


  • The anti-defection law seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides. However, this law also restricts a legislator from voting in line with his conscience, judgement and interests of his electorate. Such a situation impedes the oversight function of the legislature over the government, by ensuring that members vote based on the decisions taken by the party leadership, and not what their constituents would like them to vote for.
  • Political parties issue a direction to MPs on how to vote on most issues, irrespective of the nature of the issue. Several experts have suggested that the law should be valid only for those votes that determine the stability of the government (passage of the annual budget or no-confidence motions

Way Forward

  • Various expert committees have recommended that rather than the Presiding Officer, the decision to disqualify a member should be made by the President (in case of MPs) or the Governor (in case of MLAs) on the advice of the Election Commission.
  • This would be similar to the process followed for disqualification in case the person holds an office of profit (i.e. the person holds an office under the central or state government which carries a remuneration, and has not been excluded in a list made by the legislature).

5 . 5 G

Context : Reliance Industries CMD Mukesh Ambani Wednesday announced that the company’s telecom venture Jio has designed and developed from scratch, a complete indigenous 5G solution ready for deployment.

What is 5G?

  • 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • The first generation of networks allowed only mobile voice calls to be made, while the second generation allowed mobile voice calls as well as sending of short text messages.
  • It was the third generation or 3G network which allowed web browsing on mobile devices, the speed and latency of which improved with fourth generation or 4G networks.
  • The 5G networks will have even faster speeds with latency down to between 1-10 milliseconds.
  • Latency is the time a device takes to communicate with the network, which stands at an average of up to 50 milliseconds for 4G networks across the world.

How does 5G work?

  • All 5G networks chiefly operate on three spectrum bands.
  • The low-band spectrum has been proven to have great coverage and works fast even in underground conditions. However, the maximum speed limit on this band is 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • In the mid-band spectrum, though the speeds are higher, telcos across the world have registered limitations when it comes to coverage area and penetration of telephone signals into buildings.
  • The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed but has extremely limited network coverage area and penetration capabilities. The telcos using this band rely on the existing LTE networks and will need to install a number of smaller towers to ensure adequate coverage and high-speed performance.

What does it mean to be 5G ready?

  • Globally, companies like AT&T, T-mobile, and Verizon have been deploying 5G networks across their service areas. While AT&T had started rolling out the service as early as 2018, other providers in the US have caught up and are starting to provide limited services on a test case basis to customers.
  • Not only the network, the devices will also have to be 5G ready for customers to be able to enjoy maximum benefits of the latest upgrade in mobile broadband.
  • One of the major improvements in 5G is the use of beam tracking to follow all devices on the network to ensure consistent connection in real-time for the device.
  • 5G networks are also designed to multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) efficient which improves signal throughput for all devices on the network.

6 . Facts for Prelims

Plasma donors

  • Plasma donors in Assam may get preference in jobs and government schemes as a gesture for helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Donating plasma can also entail extra marks in interviews besides acknowledgement
  • The plasma donors will get a certificate.
  • Govt of Assam is also considering giving preference to them in interviews, government schemes, etc. For instance, a plasma donor will get two extra marks if he or she is tied in any test or interview

Postal ballot facility for electors above the age of 65

  • According to Election Commission postal ballot facility for electors above the age of 65 in the Bihar Assembly elections, which would have been the first time it would have been used since the Centre had notified it on June 19, would not be implemented.
  • Postal ballots would be available to electors over 80 years of age, persons with disabilities, essential service workers and those infected with COVID-19 or suspected to be.

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