17, February 2017

1.Fundamental rights vs personal laws: Centre wants SC ruling on triple talaq

Source: Indian Express

Questioning the validity of triple talaq, the Centre has sought a fresh debate on issues relating to limitations of freedom to profess, practise and propagate religion

  • Even as the Supreme Court observed that it would examine if triple talaq was an essential religious practice of Islam, the Centre called for an authoritative ruling on whether personal laws — as a facet of freedom to practise religion — would be circumscribed by fundamental rights of equality and to live with dignity.
  • Questioning the validity of triple talaq, the Centre has sought a fresh debate on issues relating to limitations of freedom to profess, practise and propagate religion in the light of fundamental rights that guarantee every person equality and right to life and liberty.

Amid a non-uniform body of Supreme Court decisions on the subject, the government appealed for a decisive ruling on four questions:

  1. Whether the impugned practices of talaq-e-biddat, nikaah halala and polygamy are protected under Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India? Article 25(1) deals with freedom to practise religion.
  2. Whether Article 25(1) is subject to part III of the Constitution and in particular Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India? Articles 14 ensures right to equality while Article 21 guarantees right to life and liberty.
  3. Whether personal law is law under Article 13 of the Constitution? Article 13 lays down that all laws should conform to the fundamental rights
  4. Whether the impugned practices of talaq-e-biddat, nikaah halala and polygamy are compatible with India’s obligations under International treaties and covenants to which India is a signatory?

Issues:

  • The bench observed that the question whether divorce under Muslim Personal Law needs to be supervised by either courts or by a court-supervised institutional arbitration falls under the legislative domain.
  • The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), however, had rubbished the stand taken by the government that the apex court should re-look these practices as they are violative of fundamental rights like gender equality and the ethos of secularism, a key part of the basic structure of the Constitution
  • Led by Supreme court incline to form a five-judge Constitution Bench for adjudicating upon issues raised in a clutch of petitions challenging validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy.

Background:

  • In a number of cases, it has held that personal laws are not subject to Part III of the Constitution that deals with fundamental rights and hence, they cannot be challenged for violating rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 21. In Krishna Singh Vs Mathura Ahir, 1980, the top court held that “Part III of the Constitution does not touch upon the personal laws of the parties.
  • On the other hand, in a line of other judgments, the apex court has tested personal laws on the touchstone of fundamental rights and read down these laws or interpreted them so as to make them consistent with fundamental rights.
  • In Anil Kumar Mhasi Vs Union of India, 1994, the court tested the validity of some sections of the Indian Divorce Act (a personal law for Christians) on the touchstone of fundamental rights.

Conclusion:

The court has hinted that a Constitution Bench may be formed to take up the matter during the summer vacation. Laws that violate fundamental rights can be struck down by a constitutional court but the Supreme Court has exhibited an inconsistent attitude in testing constitutionality of personal laws.

2.Set up mechanism to delete sex determination ads: SC

Source: The Hindu

The top court, however, explained that its only objective was to help check the decline in sex ratio, which was “quite low”, and was “likely to affect the prospects of human race”.

  • The Supreme Court ordered three Internet giants — Google, Microsoft and Yahoo — to immediately set up their own in-house expert bodies to keep tabs on and delete online pre-natal sex determination advertisements.
  • The court said the intent of the order was to make these search engines “responsive to Indian law.”

This step is in addition to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s move to set up a nodal agency to receive complaints on violation of Section 22 of the 1994 Act.

Background:

  • Section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994 prohibits advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and imposes punishment. However, ads continue to appear online, rendering the law toothless.
  • Since 2001, this court has expressed its concern with regard to reduction of sex ratio in this country. It has gone to the extent of stating that when there is decrease in sex ratio, it is a disaster signal to the mankind.
  • Now, the Supreme Court has made the search engines themselves liable for preventing illegal sex determination ads from appearing online. This step is in addition to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s move to set up a nodal agency to receive complaints on violation of Section 22 of the 1994 Act.

What court says?

  • The court ordered that the search engines “shall appoint their ‘In-House Expert Body’ which shall take steps to see that if any words or any key words that can be shown on the Internet which has the potentiality to go counter to Section 22 of the 1994 Act, should be deleted forthwith.”
  • The court observed that the in-house expert body “shall on its own understanding” delete anything that violates the letter and spirit of language of Section 22 of the 1994 Act. In case of doubt, they are free to approach the Ministry’s nodal agency and be guided by the latter.

Child sex ratio

  • India’s child sex ratio – the number of girls for 1,000 boys in the 0-6 age group – dropped from 964 in 1971 to a low of 918 in 2011.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the decline was seen in more than two-thirds of the districts in the nation.
  • The problem is worse in urban areas, numbers show. In 2011, the national capital, Delhi, had one of the lowest child sex ratios of any state, with only 871 girls born for every 1,000 boys.
  • Parliament outlawed prenatal sex determination way back in 1994 to prevent sex-selective abortions but by most accounts, implementation of the law has been patchy. In 2015, the top court had also expressed its dissatisfaction with the number of people booked for violating this law in certain states.

PCPNDT Act:

1.The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.

2.The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.

3.Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.

4.Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.

  • The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
  • The amendment also empowered the central supervisory board and state level supervisory board was constituted. In 1988, the State of Maharashtra became the first in the country to ban pre-natal sex determination through enacting the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.

3.Multilateral FIs allowed to invest in ‘masala bonds’

Source: Business standard

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on permitted multilateral and regional financial institutions to invest in rupee-denominated bonds.

  • In order to provide more choices of investors to Indian entities issuing rupee-denominated bonds abroad, it has been decided to also permit multilateral and regional financial institutions where India is a member country, to invest in these rupee denominated bonds.

What is MASALA BOND?

  • Masala bonds are Indian rupee denominated bonds issued in offshore capital markets. These will be offered and settled in US dollars to raise Indian rupees from international investors for infrastructure development in India. IFC (International Finance Corp) will convert bond proceeds from dollars into rupees and use the rupees to finance private sector investment in India. (International Finance Corp. (IFC), an investment arm of the World Bank.)
  • IFC has named these ‘Masala’ bonds as ‘masala’ is a globally recognized term that evokes the culture and cuisine of India. This is not the first time that a bond has been named after the food or culture of a country. Chinese bonds, for example, are called Dim sum bonds, and Japanese ones as Samurai bonds.

What’s on offer?

  • This is a 10-year bond with a yield of 6.3% and a AAA benchmark rating. This is not the first rupee denominated offshore issuance to be settled in dollars. IFC had earlier issued offshore rupee bonds with maturities up to seven years. Though there are other offshore rupee bonds, this issuance will be the first to be listed on a stock exchange.
  • IFC will support private investment in the infrastructure sector and sectors that contribute to economic growth and job creation. Hence, future Masala bond issuances may support other kinds of related private sector investments.

WHAT DOES THE ISSUE MEAN?

  • Issuances in overseas financial centers such as London give countries like India a chance to tap global investors for funding investment needs.
  • The IFC Masala bonds are a boost for Indian rupee-denominated issuances as listing on LSE will provide visibility, and set a benchmark for yields in future issuances. It could also increase demand for similar products later as liquidity of these bonds goes up. This also shows the confidence of international investors in the Indian economy and its currency.

4.India hopes for Bhutan’s ratification of BBIN soon

Source: Business standard

Ahead of the implementation of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA), India remains hopeful that Bhutan would ratify the accord soon.

Background:

The four South Asian nations have already signed the BBIN Agreement in June 2016 in Thimphu and the accord was seen as a significant symbol of sub-regional unity. Despite ratifications by three partner countries, Bhutan’s Upper House has not yet ratified the deal, citing environmental as well as livelihood concerns.

BBIN agreement:

  • The agreement encapsulates the spirit of economic integration emphasised in the SAARC Charter. The main objective of the agreement is to provide seamless people-to-people contact and enhance economic interaction by facilitating cross border movement of people and goods.
  • It would permit unhindered movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries. Cargo vehicles do not have to be changed at the border, a practice that has prevailed until now. As per the agreement, member countries would allow vehicles registered in the other countries to enter their territory under certain terms and conditions. Customs and tariffs will be decided by the respective countries and these would be finalised at bilateral and trilateral forums.
  • Signing of the BBIN agreement will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration.

The draft BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement, which is similar to the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) draft with minor changes.



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