Daily Current Affairs : 18th April 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Same sex Marriage
  2. Starship 
  3. Ninth Schedule
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Same Sex Marriage

Context:  A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli, and P S Narasimha, will hear a batch of petitions seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriage.

About the Petition

  • A petition seeking same sex marriage was filed by the same-sex couple who have submitted that despite having built a life together, they do not enjoy the rights of married couples — even though the SC has repeatedly said that all adults have the right to marry a person of their choice.
  • The petitioners have also sought for same-sex couples the benefits that legislation such as the Special Marriage Act, of 1954, provides to opposite-sex couples. They have argued that they meet the eligibility requirements under Section 4 of the Act (Conditions relating to solemnization of special marriages between any two persons), and the only reason preventing their marriage was belonging to the same sex.
  • They have argued that non-recognition of same-sex marriage violates rights under Articles 14 (right to equality before law), 15 (right against discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth), 19 (freedom of speech and expression), and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

Arguments favour for same-sex marriage

  • “Marriage is one of the key ways in which society accepts, respects, and validates a couple and crucially, this is a social status which is bestowed by law. By excluding same-sex couples from the realm of marriage, the law places a burden on same-sex couples that it is constitutionally impermissible.
  • Equality is not achieved by the decriminalisation of sexuality alone; it must extend to all spheres of life, such as the home, workplace, and public places, the plea contends, making the case for structural changes along with attitudinal ones.

What are the views of the centre?

  • In two counter-affidavits filed on March 12 and April 16, the Centre opposed the petitions and questioned their maintainability.
  • It has argued that if the court allows same sex marriage, it would amount to the “judicial creation of a social institution called ‘marriage’ of a different kind than contemplated in the existing law”. According to the Centre, only the legislature has the right to make such changes in the law.
  • The centre argued that “Marriage is not…confined to the private sphere. The regulation of marriage is very much an issue of acceptance by the society and as such ought to be debated only by the competent legislature, being a body, which is the repository of democratic representation and reflects the will of the people”.
  • This rationale is the very basis for state recognition of marriage, thus becomes the condition precedent for the State’s very existence.

What are the earlier Supreme Court judgements on Right to Marry?

  • Placing reliance on the Supreme Court’s judgments in Lata Singh vs State of UP (2006), Shafin Jahan vs Asokan KM (2018), and Laxmibai Chandaragi B vs The State of Karnataka (2021), the plea contends that an adult person has the right to marry a person of their choice under Article 21.
  • In Navtej Singh Johar & Ors vs UOI, the SC held that members of the LGBTQ community are entitled to the “full range of constitutional rights including the liberties protected by the Constitution”.

What are the Rights enjoyed by the married couple?

  • The right to adopt, or have children by surrogacy or assisted reproductive technology, and automatic rights to inheritance, maintenance, and tax benefits are available only to married couples, who are also entitled to benefits under a host of employment statutes.
  • Also, Section 80 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, provides for deduction of certain sums for computing the total income of an assessee, when such sums are paid on behalf of a spouse.
  • The state’s protection of a spouse continues even after death — a widow or widower, or their children, can avail of pension or compassionate appointments

2 . Starship

Context: Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has postponed the debut launch of the most powerful rocket ever built, Starship. The uncrewed flight was scheduled to lift off from Boca Chica in Texas.

What is Starship?

  • Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy rocket are collectively referred to as Starship. Starship consists of a 164-foot (50-metre) tall spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo that sits atop a 230-foot tall first-stage Super Heavy booster rocket.
  • They represent the next generation of SpaceX’s launch systems, designed to carry both astronauts and cargo to Earth’s orbit, the Moon, Mars, and maybe even beyond.
  • After its testing is complete Starship could become the most powerful launch system ever developed by humanity, with the capability to carry a payload of up to 150 metric tonnes in “fully-reusable” mode and 250 metric tonnes in “expendable mode,” according to SpaceX.

What is the Starship spacecraft?

  • The Starship spacecraft is the second stage of the Starship system. It will have an integrated payload section that is designed to carry both crew and cargo to their destination in the solar system. According to SpaceX, Starship is also capable of point-to-point transport on Earth.
  • The Starship spacecraft will be about 50 metres tall and 9 metres wide. It will have a payload capacity of between 100 tonnes and 150 tonnes. It will be powered by three normal Raptor engines and three Raptor engines specially modified for use in the vacuum of space. Together, this will give it a thrust capacity of 1,500 tonnes of force.

What is Super Heavy Rocket?

  • The Super Heavy booster is the first stage of Starship. According to SpaceX, Starship will be completely reusable and after launch, it will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to land back at the launch site.
  • It will be about 69 metres tall, 9 metres wide and will have the capacity to hold about 3,400 tons of propellant. It will be powered by 33 Raptor engines that will together provide close to 7,600 tons of thrust.

What is Raptor Engine?

  • Just like the rest of Starship, the Raptor engine will also be reusable. It is a staged-combustion engine that will be powered by a mixture of methane and liquid oxygen.
  • Each raptor engine will be capable of providing 230 tonnes of force, which is more than twice that of the Merlin engines that power SpaceX’s Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy spacecraft.
  • It will be about 3.1 metres tall and will have a diameter of about 1.3 metres at its widest. The Super Heavy first stage will have 33 Raptor engines, 13 in the centre and 20 along the perimeter.

What is Raptor-vacuum (R-Vac)?

  • The Raptor Vacuum (RVac) engine will have a design similar to the standard Raptor engine. The difference with RVac is that it will feature a larger expansion nozzle so that the engine’s efficiency in space is maximised. The Starship spacecraft will be powered by three RVacs along with three standard raptor engines.

Potential Uses

  • Space Exploration– After Starship goes through a series of rigorous tests like the one planned for Thursday, it will be part of an uncrewed mission where it will land on the Moon. NASA says that it will begin using the rocket system for the Artemis Moon missions after its fully developed.
  • Commercial and defence use- Starship also plans to launch the second generation of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, which deliver global high-speed internet.

3 . Ninth Schedule of the Constitution

Context: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the inclusion of two amendment Bills allowing for higher quota in jobs and educational institutions, in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

What is the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution?

  • The Ninth Schedule contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts. Currently, 284 such laws are shielded from judicial review.
  • The Schedule became a part of the Constitution in 1951, when the document was amended for the first time (First Amendment Act). It was created by the new Article 31B, which along with 31A was brought in by the government to protect laws related to agrarian reform and for abolishing the Zamindari system.

What is Article 31B of the constitution?

  • Article 31B reads: “Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions contained in article 31A, none of the Acts and Regulations specified in the Ninth Schedule nor any of the provisions thereof shall be deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on the ground that such Act, Regulation or provision is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by, any provisions of this Part, and notwithstanding any judgment, decree or order of any court or Tribunal to the contrary, each of the said Acts and Regulations shall, subject to the power of any competent Legislature to repeal or amend it, continue in force.”
  • The First Amendment added 13 laws to the Schedule. Subsequent amendments in 1955, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1984, 1990, 1994, and 1999 have taken the number of protected laws to 284
  • Article 31B also has retrospective operation: meaning if laws are inserted in the Ninth Schedule after they are declared unconstitutional, they are considered to have been in the Schedule since their commencement, and thus valid.
  • Although Article 31B excludes judicial review, the apex court has said in the past that even laws under the Ninth Schedule would be open to scrutiny if they violated fundamental rights or the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • While most of the laws protected under the Schedule concern agriculture/land issues, the list includes other subjects, such as reservation. A Tamil Nadu law that provides 69 per cent reservation in the state is part of the Schedule.

Why the need to include in Ninth Schedule?

  • The 76 per cent reservation breaches the 50 per cent ceiling set by the Supreme Court in the landmark 1992 Indra Sawhney v Union of India verdict. However, placing a legislation in the Ninth Schedule shields it from judicial scrutiny.

Previous instances — Tamil Nadu’s case

  • The Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993, reserves 69 per cent of the seats in colleges and jobs in the state government.
  • When it ran into legal obstacles in the 1990s after the SC verdict, the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, along with other leaders of various parties, led a delegation to New Delhi to meet the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. The reservation provision was then included in the Ninth Schedule.

Are laws in the Ninth Schedule completely exempt from judicial scrutiny?

  • While the Ninth Schedule provides the law with a “safe harbour” from judicial review, the protection is not blanket.
  • When the Tamil Nadu law was challenged in 2007 (I R Coelho v State of Tamil Nadu), the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous nine-judge verdict that while laws placed under Ninth Schedule cannot be challenged on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights, they can be challenged on the ground of violating the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The court clarified that the laws cannot escape the “basic structure” test if inserted into the Ninth Schedule after 1973, as it was in 1973 that the basic structure test was evolved in the Kesavananda Bharati case as the ultimate test to examine the constitutional validity of laws.

4 . Facts for prelims

International Buddhist Conference

  • India is set to host the first-ever Global Buddhist Conference which would be attended by delegates from 30 countries.
  • The Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) will be hosting the Global Buddhist Summit (GBS).
  • Buddhist monks from various countries will visit India and take part in the Summit.
  • The summit discussions will be held on how to deal with contemporary challenges, with the help of Buddhist Philosophy and thought.
  • This global Summit will mark the significance and importance of India in Buddhism, as Buddhism was born in India.
  • Theme of the two- day Global Buddhist Summit is “Responses to Contemporary Challenges: Philosophy to Praxis”.
  • Delegates from almost 30 countries will participate in this summit and around 171 delegates from foreign countries and 150 delegates Indian Buddhist organizations.
  • The discussions will fall under the following four themes:
    • 1. Buddha Dhamma and Peace
    • 2. Buddha Dhamma: Environmental Crisis, Health and Sustainability
    • 3. Preservation of Nalanda Buddhist Tradition
    • 4. Buddha Dhamma Pilgrimage, Living heritage and Buddha Relics: a resilient foundation to India’s centuries-old cultural links to countries in South, Southeast and East Asia.
  • The conference was expected to produce a document for further academic research and study the viability of Buddhism as a tool for the conduct of international relations on global stage.
  • The prime vision of the Summit is to look into the teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha that have been continuously enriched over the centuries with the practice of Buddha Dhamma.

Mangrove pitta Bird

  • Mangrove pitta are colourful birds which have black head with brown crown, white throat, greenish upper parts, buff under-parts and reddish vent area.
  • Scientific Name: Pitta megarhyncha
  • Diet- It is a non-migratory bird found in mangrove forests where it feeds on crustaceans, molluscs and insects
  • Conservation Status- Mangrove pitta birds are considered as a nearly threatened species under IUCN Red List
  • Distributions and Habitat: The mangrove pitta is native to the countries of: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand (primarily the west coast of the southern Thai peninsula).
  • In India it is found in few pockets of eastern India, including Odisha’s Bhitarkanika and West Bengal’s Sundarbans.
    • Its natural habitat is specialised and restriction to subtropical or tropical mangrove forests and Nipa palm stands. It is threatened by habitat loss.
  • The breeding season of this species ranges from April to August in Bhitarkanika. Abundant fish in the river and creeks and distance from human habitation has made Bhitarkanika a suitable congenial breeding place for this bird species

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