Daily Current Affairs : 7th February 2024

Topics Covered

  1. Uttarakhand’s Uniform Civil Code
  2. Anti Cheating bill
  3. IMEC
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Uttarakhand’s Uniform Civil Code


Context: Uttarakhand Assembly passes Uniform Civil Code.  

What is the framework on registration of marriages proposed by the Uttarakhand UCC Bill? 

  • The Bill has made the registration of marriage and a decree of divorce compulsory with retrospective application. 
  • While there is no requirement of notice and objection for registration of marriage, upon registration, the Register of Marriages is open to public inspection. Although this may have been introduced with an intent to prevent bigamy and fraudulent marriages, it will likely disproportionately affect inter-caste and inter-faith couples by making them vulnerable to surveillance. 
  • Under the Bill, while an unregistered marriage remains valid, the failure to register a marriage after issue of notice by the sub-registrar attracts a fine of Rs 25,000. Thus, the Bill uses a penal mechanism to nudge people towards compulsory registration of marriages. 
  • In case of non-registration for live-in relationships, the punishment includes imprisonment. 

What are some of the main features in the UCC Bill with regard to personal law and customs around marriage and divorce? 

  • Marriages may be solemnised through any ceremonies or rituals applicable to the parties to the marriage. 
  • Prohibition on bigamy has been extended to all communities. 
  • Enforcement of any customs imposing conditions on remarriage between divorced spouses is criminalised. 
  • Extrajudicial modes of divorce through modes not prescribed under the Code have been penalised. Local customs such as customary divorce deed or panchayat divorce are punishable under the Code. 
  • Divorce in the form of talaq-us-sunnat (pronouncement of divorce by the husband during the period between menstruation followed by sexual abstinence), talaq-i-biddat (triple talaq) , khula (divorce on the instance of the wife), maba’arat (divorce by mutual consent), zihar (availability of judicial divorce to wife if husband compares her to any woman within prohibited degrees of relationship) are all punishable with imprisonment. 
  • Mehr and dower have been acknowledged as payable in addition to any maintenance payable under the provisions of the Bill. 

What does the Uttarakhand UCC mean for guardianship? 

  • The Bill is silent on the question of guardianship, which means that the position under personal laws will continue to prevail. Similarly, the GWA will continue to govern court-appointed guardians. 
  • Under the Bill, the father will be the guardian of the child, while the mother will be the custodian. The provision on custody under the Bill reinforces this by stipulating that the custody of a child up to the age of five will ordinarily be with the mother, while failing to clarify whether the mother will also be an equal legal guardian. 
  • The Law Commission in 2018 had recommended that guardianship laws must treat both parents on an equal footing to address the discrimination faced by mothers. This recommendation is not reflected in the Bill. 
  • the Bill clarifies that all children born out of void and voidable marriages and live-in relationships will be deemed legitimate, and will have the same rights as children born within wedlock. However, since live-in relationships have been defined to be in the “nature of marriage”, children born in relationships that fall short of this threshold may continue to be deemed illegitimate. 

How does the UCC change the position on adoption? 

  • The HAMA and the JJ Act will continue to prevail. 
  • Adoption under HAMA involves the giving and taking of the child between the surrendering parent or guardian and the adoptive parents. Demands have been made for reforming HAMA, because there is no requirement of registration of adoption or institutional oversight to address concerns of misuse such as trafficking of children. 
  • The JJ Act, on the other hand, provides sufficient safeguards to protect the safety and best interests of the child being adopted. 
  • The Uttarakhand Bill encourages mandatory registration of marriages and live-in relationships, but it fails to do the same for adoptions made under Hindu law. This is a missed opportunity to reform Hindu adoption. 

What are some of the concerns around criminalisation? 

  • The Bill relies on criminalisation for enforcement. This is likely to disproportionately impact minority communities, as several religious and customary practices of religious minorities have been outlawed. 
  • The surveillance regime enabled by the Bill can be misused to harass inter-faith and inter-caste couples. 

What changes for Muslims after Uttarakhand civil code? 

  • First, the proposed UCC brings the minimum age of marriage to 18 and 21 for Muslim women and men, in line with the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954. 
  • This issue has been debated in courts since Muslim law allows puberty (presumed at 13 years) as the age of marriage for girls. Since Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) criminalised sexual activity between minors and the Prevention of Child Marriage Act prohibited marriage between minors, the Muslim age of marriage was at odds with these laws. 
  • In 2022, the National Commission for Women challenged in the Supreme Court the practice of allowing minors to get married. The case is pending before a bench led by Chief Justice of India. 
  • On succession, the nature of testamentary succession (through a will) and intestate succession (in the absence of a will) for Muslims will change drastically. 
  • Currently, Muslims may bequeath up to one-third of their property to anyone of their choosing through a will. The remaining property, or the entire property when there is no will, must then be divided in the manner provided in the Quran and the Hadith. This would ensure that the legal heirs are not entirely dispossessed. 
  • However, under the proposed UCC, in situations where the deceased person does leave a will behind, there is no restriction on how much of their property they can bequeath, or to whom. 
  • The UCC draws heavily from the Indian Succession Act, 1925, retaining a majority of the provisions. In cases of intestate succession, the property will pass on to Class-1 heirs, who include the children, the widow and parents among a long list of others. 
  • In the absence of Class-1 heirs, the property will pass on to Class-2 heirs, who include siblings, nieces, nephews and grandparents, among other. 
  • If no such heir exists, anyone most closely related to the deceased person may receive the property. 
  • The practices of bigamy or polygamy are outlawed in the UCC Bill. This is done by placing a condition for marriage under Section 4 of the Bill that neither party can have a living spouse at the time of their marriage. 
  • The proposed Code also criminalises certain Muslim marriage practices such as Iddat and Nikah Halala, without explicitly naming them. 
  • Section 30 deals with the right of a person to remarry following a divorce. Here, the UCC provides that the right can be exercised without any other condition, such as marrying a third person before such marriage. This is a reference to the practice of halala under Muslim personal law. 
  • Section 32 provides the punishment for anyone who “compels, abets or induces” someone to meet such conditions. Anyone convicted under Section 32 can be punished with imprisonment up to three years and also be liable to fine of Rs 1 lakh. 

What changes for Hindus after Uttarakhand civil code? 

  • The key change for Hindus under the proposed UCC involves succession. 
  • First, the UCC takes away the distinction under Hindu law between ancestral and self-acquired property. Coparcenary rights under the Hindu Succession Act do not find mention in the UCC Bill. 
  • In a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara school of law, a son/daughter; grandson/granddaughter; great-grandson/great-granddaughter are deemed joint owners of the property from the time of their birth. Each of them is a coparcener. Practically, what this means is that the father cannot sell or will away the joint family property on his own accord if his descendants are alive. The ancestral property is held jointly across four generations. However, in the case of self-acquired property, the father is free to dispose of it. 
  • The other key change is the elevation of both parents — mother and father — as Class I heirs in case of intestate succession (when a person dies without making a will). 
  • Currently under Hindu law, in case of an intestate succession, the Class I legal heirs who will simultaneously inherit the property include children, the widow and mother and other lineal descendants of the deceased man. If no Class I heirs exist, then Class II heirs are considered, where the father is included. Now, Class I heirs would include the children, widow, and both the father and the mother. 
  • This concept is in fact found in Shariat law. Hindu law does not include siblings as legal heirs, but inclusion of both parents could mean that a person’s property could travel to his siblings through his parents, cutting into the share of his children and widow. 

2 . Anti Cheating Bill


Context : Centre introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha titled “The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024”

Key Provisions

  • The bill aims to to curb leaks, malpractices as well as organized malpractices in recruitment examinations like UPSC, SSC etc and entrance tests such as NEET, JEE, and CUET.
  • “Prevention of Unfair Means Bill, 2024” will also cover entrance examinations held by the Union Public Service Commission, the Staff Selection Commission, the Railways, banking recruitment examinations and all computer-based examinations conducted by the National Testing Agency.
  • The Bill proposes a punishment of a minimum of three to five years of imprisonment to curb cheating and for those involved in organised crimes of cheating will face five to 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs 1 crore.
  • The Bill is aimed at preventing organised gangs and institutions that are involved in unfair means for monetary gains, but it protects candidates from its provisions.
  • The bill however protects the candidates appearing in the examination from the punitive provisions and they will be governed under the provisions of the existing unfair means policy of the examination conducting authority.
  • Candidates shall not be liable for action within the purview of the Bill and shall continue to be covered under the extant administrative provisions of the concerned public examination authority.

Importance

  • In the last few years, leaks of question papers and organised cheating had affected the interests of lakhs of student due to cancellation of tests and examinations
  • In the recent past, many States have had to cancel or were unable to declare results of their public examinations due to adverse impact of unfair practices and means adopted by antisocial, criminal elements. These unfair practices if not effectively prevented and deterred will continue to jeopardize the future and careers of millions of aspiring youths of this country. 
  • In many instances, it has been observed that organized groups and mafia elements are involved. They deploy solver gangs, impersonation methods and indulge in paper leaks.  The Bill primarily aims to deter such kind of nefarious elements
  • At present there is no specific substantive law at national level to deal with unfair means adopted or offences committed by persons, organized groups, or any other agency/organization that adversely impacts the conduct of Public Examinations by Central Government and its agencies.
  • Therefore, it is imperative that the elements both within and outside the examination systems, that exploit these vulnerabilities are identified and effectively dealt with by way of a comprehensive Central legislation. There is a need to prevent such criminal elements from playing with lives and hopes of genuine and sincere youths who appear in these examinations.
  • Objective is to bring in greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the Public Examination systems and to reassure the youths that their sincere and genuine efforts will be fairly rewarded and their futures are safe. 
  • “The Bill is aimed at effectively and legally deterring persons, organised groups or institutions that indulge in various unfair means and adversely impact the public examination systems for monetary or wrongful gains

3 . IMEC


Context : After months of a pause on the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) that was launched during the G-20 summit in September 2023 but stalled due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the government is expected to take talks on the project forward this month, when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits India. 

India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)

  • The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) is a planned economic corridor that aims to bolster economic development by fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Persian Gulf and Europe.  
  • The corridor is proposed from India to Europe through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Greece. 
  • The IMEC comprises of an Eastern Corridor connecting India to the Gulf region and a Northern Corridor connecting the Gulf region to Europe. It will include a railway and ship-rail transit network and road transport routes.
  • It was was signed during the 2023 G20 New Delhi summit by the governments of India, United States, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, and European Union. 
  • It aims to bolster transportation and communication links between Europe and Asia through rail and shipping networks and is seen as a USA counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 
  • The corridor will include a shipping route connecting Mumbai and Mundra (Gujarat) with the UAE, and a rail network connecting the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan with the Israeli port of Haifa to reach the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Haifa will then be connected by sea to the port of Piraeus in Greece to eventually be connected to Europe. 

Significance

  • IMEC is significant from an infrastructure and connectivity perspective as well as from a geopolitical angle. IMEC is “expected to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.” 
  • It has other significant dimensions including reliable and secure regional supply chains, better trade accessibility, and trade facilitation. 
  • In geopolitical terms, IMEC is touted as a counter to China’s BRI, but the scale and scope of the BRI is much greater. 

4 . Facts for Prelims


Astronomical unit

  • AU’ stands for ‘astronomical unit’, which is the distance between the earth and the Sun. Mars is at a distance of 1.52 AU and Jupiter at 5.2 AU from the Sun.

Zodiacal light

  • Zodiacal light is sunlight scattered by interplanetary dust. From the earth, it is visible as a faint, diffuse glow on completely dark nights. Zodiacal light is present across the entire path of the ecliptic, which is the path along which the Sun moves in the sky over the course of a year.

Deimos and Phobos

  • Mars’s two moons are called Deimos and Phobos. Mars in Greek mythology is the god of war and the planet’s moons are named for his twin sons, the gods of dread and panic, respectively. The American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered both of them in 1877.
  • Phobos is the bigger of Mars’s two moons. It is drifting closer to Mars at a rate of six feet per century.
  • The most prominent feature on Phobos is a 10-km-wide crater named in honour of Hall’s wife Angeline Stickney. Stickney crater is in fact half as wide as the entire moon.

PGII

  • PGII is a developmental initiative aimed at narrowing the infrastructure gap in developing countries as well as help towards accelerating progress on SDGs globally.
  • G7 countries — the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan — and the EU have noted the infrastructure projects being undertaken and funded by China at a global level and decided to present their alternative mechanism for it.
  • The stated purpose of both the PGII and the BRI is to help secure funding for countries to build critical infrastructure such as roads, ports, bridges, communication setups, etc. to enhance global trade and cooperation.
  • However, the G7 say their initiative is meant to be transparent, focused on building climate change-resilient infrastructure, and help in achieving objectives of gender equality and health infrastructure development.

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