Daily Current Affairs : 20th July 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Henley Passport Index
  2. Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950
  3. Martial Rape
  4. Rajasthan Minimum Income bill

1 . Henley Passport Index

Context: India has climbed seven places on the Henley Passport Index, 2023 to the 80th rank from 87 last year, though the number of countries allowed visa-free access to Indian passport holders remains unchanged.

About Henley Passport Index

  • The Henley Passport Index is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom allowed by those countries’ ordinary passports for their citizens. It started in 2006 as Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index (HVRI) and was changed and renamed in January 2018.
  • The index annually ranks 199 passports of the world alby the number of countries their holders can travel to without visas. The number of countries that a specific passport can access becomes its visa-free “score”.
  •  In collaboration with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and using official data from their global database, Henley & Partners has analysed the visa regulations of almost all the world’s countries and territories since 2006
  • The Henley Passport index (HPI) ranks passports according to the number of destinations that can be reached using a particular country’s ordinary passport without the need of a prior visa (“visa-free”). The survey ranks 199 passports against 227 destination countries, territories, and micro-states.
  • All destinations that are in the IATA database are considered by the index. The IATA maintains a database of travel information worldwide. However, because not all territories issue passports, there are far fewer passports ranked than destinations about which queries are made

About the findings of the Henley Passport Index 2023

  • In 2014, India ranked 76 with 52 countries allowing Indian passport holders visa-free access, but its performance has not been linear. It ranked 88 in 2015 (visa-free access to 51 countries), 85 in 2016, 87 in 2017, 81 in 2018, 82 in 2019 and 2020, and 81 in 2021.
  • Japan, which occupied the top position on the Henley Passport Index for five years, dropped to the third place. It was replaced by Singapore, which is now officially the most powerful passport in the world, with its citizens able to visit 192 travel destinations out of 227 around the world visa-free.
  • Germany, Italy, and Spain occupied the second place. Alongside Japan at the third position are Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden. The U.K. climbed two places to occupy the fourth place, while the U.S. continued its decade-long slide down the index, dropping two places to the eighth spot. Both the U.K. and the U.S. jointly held the first place on the index nearly 10 years ago in 2014.
  • India was ranked 94 out of a total of 97 ranks for allowing only four countries visa-free access. At the bottom of the Index were four countries for scoring zero for not permitting visa-free access for any passport — namely, Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan.

2 . Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950

Context: A complaint has been filed with the Delhi police against the 26 Opposition parties for “improper use” of the name ‘INDIA’ for their newly formed alliance to gain “undue influence” in elections.

Background of the issue

  • 26 political parties from across the country announced the formation of a new coalition and named it Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA)  
  • The complaint was filed which cited the multiple Sections of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and claimed that the use of name ‘INDIA’ is prohibited by any person.
  • The aforenamed political parties have contravened Section 3 of the Emblems Act by using the name ‘INDIA’ as the name of their political alliance and hence are liable to be punished under Section 5 of the said Act
  • By naming their alliance as ‘INDIA’, these parties have attempted to put undue influence on the electorate by personifying their alliance as the nation itself and hence they are liable for prosecution under Section 171F of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

About the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950

  • Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 was enacted to prevent the improper use of certain emblems and names for professional and commercial purposes.
  • This act extends to extends to the whole of India and also applies to citizens of India outside India.
  • Definition (Section 2)
    • Emblem- According to the Act, emblem means any emblem, seal, flag, insignia, coat-of-arms or pictorial representation specified in the Schedule;
    • Competent Authority- competent authority” means any authority competent under any lay for the time being in force to register any company, firm or other body of persons or any trademark or design or to grant a patent
  • Prohibition of Improper use of emblem( Section 3)
    • Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no person shall, except in such cases and under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, use or continue to use, for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design, any name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation thereof without the previous permission of the Central Government or of such officer of Government as may be authorized in this behalf by the Central Government.
  • If any question arises before a competent authority whether any emblem is an emblem specified in the Schedule or a colourable imitation thereof, the competent authority may refer the question to the Central Government, and the decision of the Central Government thereon shall be final
  • Penalty (Section 5)
    •  Any person who contravenes the provisions of section 3 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.
  • Previous sanction of prosecution(Section 6)
    • No prosecution for any offence punishable under this Act shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or of any officer authorized in this behalf by general or special order of the Central Government.
  • Power of the Central Government to amend the Schedule( Section 8) .
    • The Central Government may, be notification in the Gazette, add to or alter the Schedule, and any such addition or alternation shall have effect as if it had been made by this Act.
  • Power to make rules ( Section 9)
    • (1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.
    • (2) Every rule made under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament, while it is in session, for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.

3 . Martial Rape

Context: Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud  agreed to list early a series of petitions seeking the criminalization of marital rape.

What is marital rape?

  • Marital rape’ refers to the act of forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his wife without her consent. While rape is a serious crime in India, marital rape is not illegal.

What is the background of the issues?

  • There are four different matters before the Supreme Court related to the subject.
  • An appeal against a split verdict by a two-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court on a challenge to the constitutional validity of the ‘marital rape immunity’ in the Indian Penal Code.
  • An appeal against a judgment by the Karnataka High Court that allowed the prosecution of a man for raping his wife.
  • PILs challenging the ‘marital rape exception’ allowed under IPC Section 375 which defines rape.
  • Various intervening petitions on the issue

What exactly is this ‘exception’ to the rape law?

  • IPC Section 375 defines rape and lists seven notions of consent that, if vitiated, would constitute the offence of rape by a man.
  • The crucial exemption is this: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”
  • This exemption essentially allows a marital right to a husband, who can with legal sanction exercise his right to consensual or non-consensual sex with his wife. The challenge to the exception is based on the argument that it undermines the consent of a woman based on her marital status, and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

What is the basis for the exception being in place

  • Several post-colonial common law countries have the marital rape immunity. (‘Common law’ is the body of law that is created by judges through their written opinions, rather than through statutes or constitutions (statutory law). Common law, which is used interchangeably with ‘case law’, is based on judicial precedent. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries, including India, are common law countries.)
  • The marital rape exception is premised on broadly two assumptions:
    • Consent in perpetuity: This is the assumption that once married, a woman gives her permanent consent, which she cannot retract. This concept in the colonial-era law is rooted in the idea that a woman is the ‘property’ of the man who marries her.
    • Expectation of sex: This is the assumption that a woman is duty-bound or is obligated to fulfil sexual responsibilities in a marriage, since the aim of marriage is procreation. And since the husband has a reasonable expectation of sex in a marriage, the provision implies that a woman cannot deny it.

What are the main arguments against the exception to the IPC section on rape?

  •  It has been argued that the marital rape immunity stands against the light of the right to equality, the right to life with dignity, personhood, sexual, and personal autonomy — all of which are fundamental rights protected under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution respectively.
  • The exception creates an unreasonable classification between married and unmarried women and, by corollary, takes away the right of a married woman to give consent to a sexual activity.
  • Since courts have recognised that consent can be withdrawn even during or in between a sexual act, the assumption of “consent in perpetuity” cannot be legally valid. On the issue of “reasonable expectation of sex”, the petitioners argued that even though there is a reasonable expectation of sex from a sex worker or other domestic relationships as well, consent is not irrevocable.
  • The provision was inserted before the Constitution came into force, the provision cannot be presumed to be constitutional.
  •  In 2013, the J S Verma Committee, set up to look into criminal law reforms following the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic in Delhi in 2012, had recommended removing the marital rape exception.

What is the stand of the government?

  • In an affidavit in the Delhi case, the Centre defended marital rape immunity. Its arguments spanned from protecting men from possible misuse of the law by wives, to protecting the institution of marriage.
  • The Delhi government too defended the law on the ground that married women who might be subjected to rape by their husbands have other kinds of legal recourse such as filing for divorce or a case of domestic violence
  • The government has also said that since the law on restitution of conjugal rights, a provision in the Hindu Marriage Act that allows a court to compel a spouse to cohabit with the husband, is valid, so is the exception to marital rape, by extension.
  • However, restitution of conjugal rights is a provision in personal laws and not in penal laws and even that provision is currently under challenge before the Supreme Court.

About Karnataka High Court verdict

  • The Karnataka Government has supported the prosecution of a husband in a case for marital rape. The State has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court supporting a Karnataka High Court judgment which sustained the charges framed against a husband under Section 376 IPC for forcible sex with wife.
  • The Karnataka High Court had in its ruling held that the exemption of the husband on committing rape cannot be absolute, as no exemption in law can be so absolute that it becomes a license for the commission of a crime against society.  

About Delhi High Court verdict

  • In May 2022, a division bench of the Delhi High Court gave a split verdict on the criminalisation of marital rape. Justice Rajiv Shakdher, who headed the bench, struck down Exception 2 to Section 375 as being violative of Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Justice C. Hari Shankar, however, chose to disagree with the opinion given by Justice Shakdher. He held that the second exception to Section 375 does not violate Article 14, and is based on an intelligent differentia, having a rational nexus with the object both of the impugned Exception as well as Section 375 itself. He further held it does not violate Articles 19(1)(a) and 21. He held that none of the grounds on which a statute could be struck down existed in the present case. He added that the court could not substitute its subjective value judgment for that of a democratically elected government.

4 . Rajasthan minimal Income bill

Context: The Ashok Gehlot government tabled the Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Bill, 2023, which effectively seeks to cover the entire adult population of the state with guaranteed wages or pension.

What is the Bill?

  • Under the Bill, all families of the state get guaranteed employment of 125 days every year, while the aged, disabled, widows, and single women get a minimum pension of Rs 1,000 per month. Importantly, the pension will be increased at the rate of 15 per cent each year.
  • The Bill has three broad categories:
    • Right to minimum guaranteed income,
    • Right to guaranteed employment, and
    • Right to guaranteed social security pension.
  • The government anticipates an additional expenditure of Rs 2,500 crore per year for this scheme, which may increase with time.

What are its major provisions?

  • Minimum guaranteed income: Each adult citizen of the state has been guaranteed a minimum income for 125 days a year through the Rajasthan government’s flagship Indira Gandhi Shahri Rozgar Guarantee Yojana for urban areas, and through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in rural areas.
  • The government will provide eligible categories with a minimum pension of Rs 1,000.
  • Guaranteed employment: The right to employment states that post the work in urban or rural employment schemes, the minimum wages should be paid “weekly or in any case not later than a fortnight.”

Implementation of the Act

  • The state will designate a program officer — not below the rank of Block Development Officer in rural areas and an Executive Officer of the local body in urban areas — to implement the Act. Among other things, the Program Officer shall ensure that the work site is within a radius of five kilometers of where the job card is registered in both rural and urban areas.
  • If the Program Officer fails to provide employment within 15 days from the receipt of the application, the applicant shall be entitled to an unemployment allowance on a weekly basis “and in any case not later than a fortnight.”
  • Guaranteed social security pension: Every person falling in the category of old age/specially abled/widow/single woman with prescribed eligibility shall be entitled to a pension. It will increase over the base rate in two installments — 5 per cent in July and 10 per cent in January of each financial year 24 starting 2024-2025.

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