25 , August 2017

Shri Ashwani Lohani, has been appointed as Chairman, Railway Board (Ministry of Railways) and ex-officio Principal Secretary to Government of India. Prior to this appointment, he was serving as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Air India.
His appointment comes after A.K. Mital resigned from post, owing moral responsibility of Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailment in Uttar Pradesh due to several lapses in track maintenance work.

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The civil aviation ministry has relaxed the norms for its flagship regional flying scheme called UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) to allow for greater connectivity.

The relaxations include dilution of the exclusivity clause mandating that only one airline may fly on one route in the initial years. The norms that restricted two airports in close proximity from participating in the bidding has also been relaxed.

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1.Privacy is a fundamental right, declares SC:
Source: The Hindu

The SC’s rules that the “Right to Privacy is an integral part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution”. From now on, ‘Right to Privacy’ is a fundamental right

The nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar in a landmark unanimous decision has declared right to privacy a fundamental right under the constitution. With this, the apex court overruled its own previous eight-judge Bench and six-judge Bench judgments of M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh delivered in 1954 and 1961, respectively, both of which had pronounced that the right to privacy is not protected under the constitution

Observations of the Court

  • According to the court, Privacy enables each individual to take crucial decisions which find expression in the human personality
  • It enables individuals to preserve their beliefs, thoughts, expressions, ideas, ideologies, preferences and choices against societal demands of homogeneity
  • Privacy is an intrinsic recognition of heterogeneity, of the right of the individual to be different and to stand against the tide of conformity in creating a zone of solitude

Government’s argument in court

  • Government draws on two Supreme Court verdicts: P. Sharma vs Satish Chandra, 1954 and Kharak Singh vs State of UP, 1962
  • The attorney general had argued that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to privacy

Following are the cases that will have implications of Supreme Court’s verdict on Right to Privacy

Aadhaar Case: The Supreme Court decision on Right to Privacy will have a bearing on the challenge to the validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of its violating the right to privacy. A hearing is underway on a batch of petitions challenging Centre’s order to make Aadhaar card mandatory for filing income tax returns and availing social welfare schemes and the apex court’s verdict that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right could have a sweeping impact on this case. Petitioners argued biometric data is vulnerable and violates Right to Privacy.

Section 377 and LGBT Rights: After Supreme Court has held that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right, the top court’s 2013 ruling upholding Section 377 — which criminalises homosexuality — could fall. In 2012, privacy was one of the grounds on which the Delhi High Court had struck down Section 377. The top court, however, had overturned the ruling a year later. Now that Right to Privacy is upheld, the verdict on Section 377 is subject to being challenged.

WhatsApp Data Sharing: The Right to Privacy verdict will also have an impact on Delhi High Court’s September 23, 2016, order by which it allowed popular messaging app WhatsApp to roll out its new privacy policy. Challenging Delhi High Court’s order, petitions have been filed against WhatsApp in which petitioners have opposed its policy to share user data with its parent Facebook on grounds of privacy

Lesson for future Juries

  • Democratic societies require their judiciary to self-correct, as done in this judgement
  • The spirit of self-correction and commitment to human dignity are also behind the court’s decision to set aside its 2013 verdict that resuscitated Section 377

The way forward

  • The court does impose reasonable restrictions on the Right to Privacy
  • A democracy can survive when citizens have an undiluted assurance that the rule of law will protect their rights and liberties
  • Government and Judiciary should take care of it in future as well

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2.Right to Privacy: Protection of sexual orientation at core of fundamental rights, says Supreme Court – Section 377
Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court, in its order on right to privacy, ruled that “sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy”. Right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution

This ruling is expected to have an implication on the curative petition on Section 377, pending before a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

Section 377

The colonial-era IPC Section 377 criminalises sexual activities that are “against the order of nature”, including consensual sex between couples who are from the LGBTQI community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex)

Judgements on Section 377

  • In July 2009, the Delhi High Court had read down IPC Section 377, and held that it is in violation of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution insofar as it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private.
  • But in December 2013, the two-judge Supreme Court Bench overturned the Delhi High Court order.
  • A curative petition was then filed by Naz Foundation and others in March 2014
  • On Section 377, the court said the right to privacy cannot be denied, even if there is a minuscule fraction of the population which is affected, and “the majoritarian concept does not apply to Constitutional rights”.

New judgement

  • Court expressed its disagreement with the reasoning of a two-judge Bench of the SC in the Suresh Kumar Koushal vs Naz Foundation case of December 2013, and the way it had dealt with the privacy-dignity based claims of LGBT persons.
  • It, however, held that since the curative petition is pending before the Supreme Court, the “constitutional validity would be decided in an appropriate proceeding”
  • Disagreeing with the two-judge Bench’s use of the term ‘’so-called rights” with reference to the rights of the LGBT population, the court today stressed that these are not illusory, but are real rights founded on sound constitutional doctrine.
  • It also differed with the two-judge Bench’s observation that only “a miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitutes LGBT and in the last more than 150 years, less than 200 persons have been prosecuted”.
  • The court today held that “the invasion of a fundamental right is not rendered tolerable when a few, as opposed to a large number of persons, are subjected to hostile treatment.’
  • The court has held that fundamental rights are not subject to minority or majority and also that the rights of the LGBT persons are not illusory

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3.Worried SC calls for robust data protection regime
Source: The Hindu

The SC has urged the government to put in place a robust mechanism for data protection. According to the SC, dangers to personal data originate not only from the government but also from private players

  • The Centre has undertaken in the court that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology would work with the panel(constituted by Government)
  • Government will hand over all necessary information to it within the next eight weeks, after which the latter will start its deliberations
  • The government has already indicated in the court that the panel is framing a data protection Bill similar to the “technology-neutral” draft Privacy Bill
  • This bill was  submitted by an earlier expert committee  to the Planning Commission of India in 2012

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4.SC overrules Emergency-era habeas corpus verdict
Source: The Hindu

A nine-judge Bench condemned the decision in the infamous ADM Jabalpur case, better known as the habeas corpus case, as “seriously flawed.”

Explanation

The Supreme Court’s judgement in 1976 is considered the darkest hour when it said citizens had no right to life and liberty during the Emergency period.

The habeas corpus judgment in 1976 upheld the Congress government’s move to unlawfully detain citizens, including political rivals, during the Emergency years.

Cost of Dissent

Of the five judges on that Bench, only Justice H.R. Khanna opposed with the majority opinion of then Chief Justice of India A.N. Ray, Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati. Justice Khanna’s dissent cost him the chief justiceship. He was superceded by Justice Beg, following which he resigned.

Landmark move

For the first time in Supreme Court’s history, a nine-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, officially condemned the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the habeas corpus case.

  • The judgment, authored by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, “expressly overruled” the 1976 majority judgment and removed a long-pending taint on the court’s history as a people’s champion.
  • Justice Chandrachud, writing for himself, Chief Justice Khehar, Justices R.K. Agrawal and S. Abdul Nazeer, held that “the judgments rendered by all the four judges constituting the majority in ADM Jabalpur are seriously flawed. Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human existence”.
  • “No civilized state can contemplate an encroachment upon life and personal liberty without the authority of law. Neither life nor liberty are bounties conferred by the state nor does the Constitution create these rights. The right to life has existed even before the advent of the Constitution,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.

Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, in his separate judgment, termed Justice Khanna’s dissent as one of the “three great dissents” in the Supreme Court’s history.

The second great dissent was by Justice Subba Rao, who upheld the individual’s right to privacy. Pointing to the introduction of the National Human Rights Commission law, which recognizes right to life as a human right and observed that “developments after this judgment (ADM Jabalpur) have also made it clear that the majority judgments are no longer good law and that Khanna, J.’s dissent is the correct version of the law”.

In his separate judgment, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul termed the ADM Jabalpur case as “an aberration in the constitutional jurisprudence of our country.”

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5.NITI Aayog’s 3-Year Agenda
Source: PIB

NITI Aayog has come out with a detailed plan for reforms in the economy, judiciary, regulatory structure and social sectors, in the three-year document to be implemented from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

In May 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office directed Niti Aayog to come up with a 15-year vision document for the period up to 2031-32. This would be complemented with a seven-year strategy starting 2017-18 to convert the vision document into implementable policy and action as part of the National Development Agenda and a three-year draft action plan.

According to the ‘Three-Year Action Agenda’ India has good prospects of achieving over 8% growth within 2-3 years. Therefore, the chances of massive cut in the poverty rate in the upcoming decade are excellent. Also the agenda has set stiff economic targets and meeting those would benefit the economy.

Some important reforms proposed are as follows:

  • Link central government expenditure to future priorities, shifting additional allocations to high-priority sectors which are more likely to promote development.
  • Expand expenditures by 2019-20 on education, health, agriculture, rural development, defence, railways, roads and other categories of capital expenditure.
  • Facilitate urbanisation in the country and deal with key challenges like affordable housing, infrastructure development, pubic transport and promotion of Swachh Bharat.
  • Eliminate corruption and black money, and increase tax base besides reforms in civil services and electoral process.
  • Reform the judicial system by streamlining human resource availability and performance, increasing and strengthening avenues for dispute resolution and extensive use of ICT to improve efficiency.
  • On the social sector, bring in changes in segments like education, skill development, health and issues facing specific groups, such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women.
  • Strengthen and streamline regulatory structure governing sustainability of environment

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6.New Rs 200 note to be issued from today

  • The new denomination has a motif of Sanchi Stupa on the reverse, besides th

    e Ashoka Pillar emblem.

  • The base colour of the note is bright yellow.
  • The note also has other designs, geometric patterns aligning with the overall colour scheme, both at the obverse and reverse.
  • It is of the size 66 mm x 146 mm.
  • Rs 200 inscribed on the note is in colour-changing ink.
  • There are special features for the visually impaired, with the Mahatma Gandhi portrait and Ashoka Pillar emblem raised on the note.
  • It has the logo of the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan.

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