1. SC offers to find solution to ‘deceitful conversions’
Bench says it will examine ‘veiled intentions’ behind religious conversions through allurement by offering food, medicines, treatment; purpose of charity should not be conversion, it adds
The Supreme Court on Monday said acts of charity or good work to help a community or the poor should not cloak an intention to convert them religiously as payback.
A Bench, led by Justice M.R. Shah, said conversion on the basis of a voluntarily felt belief in the deity of a different faith was different from belief gained through allurement.
The court said it would examine such veiled intentions behind religious conversions through allurement by offering food, medicines, treatment and so on.
The court posted for final hearing on December 12 the “very serious issue” of forcible or deceitful conversions in the country. “We are here for a cause, we are here to find a solution,” it said.
“Everybody has a right to choose their faith but that does not mean luring somebody by giving something. If you believe that a particular community needs help, you help it. It is charity. But the purpose of charity should not be conversion. Every charity or good work is welcome, but what requires to be considered is the intention… Charity, help, everything is welcome, but within the framework. The intention should be very clear. That is what we will consider,” Justice Shah said. “When everybody is India, they have to act as per the culture of India,” he noted.
Justice C.T. Ravikumar, the Associate Judge on the Bench, said that “this is required for the harmony of India”.
When senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said people could choose to renounce their faith for various reasons, Justice Shah said “belief is a different thing… Belief by allurement, that is very dangerous”.
At this point, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said it was therefore that a “statutory mechanism” was in place. “A neutral authority will decide whether it is in lieu of grains, medicines, treatment offered that a person is converting or whether there is a religious or philosophical change of heart,” he said.
2. Climate talks as shortchanging international law
Fraud in public law is the deliberate attempt to avoid provisions of the statute. In the climate negotiations for instance, areas of interest to developing countries are not covered or sparsely covered, while other areas are over-regulated. Equitable sustainable development is not even discussed. At COP27, the policy debate was no longer legitimised by science. There seems to be a concerted effort to fraudulently change the basic structure of the Climate Treaty.
There are three problems with the current negotiating process. First, citizens in developed countries are not even aware that two-thirds of their national emissions of carbon dioxide come from their diet, transport, and residential and commercial sectors, which together constitute the major share of their GDP; the consumption sectors are not independent silos but reflect their urban lifestyles. Second, the process ignores that global well-being will also follow urbanisation of the developing country’s population, requiring fossil fuels for infrastructure and energy to achieve comparable levels. Third, the need for vast quantities of cement and steel in developing countries for infrastructure — constituting essential emissions, as they urbanise — is not being considered.
As late urbanisers, developing countries account for more than half the annual emissions and most emissions growth. They cannot affordably access many of the new technologies to decarbonise quickly. The result is a shrinking of their policy space and human rights, endangering efforts to achieve comparable levels of well-being with those who developed earlier without any constraints. Such discussions are not taking place in the climate negotiations because of the way the agenda is set.
Politics, not science
The foundation of the Climate Treaty in international environmental law is questionable. In the run-up to the Stockholm Conference on the Environment (1972), the United States Secretary of States’ Advisory Committee stated that “urbanization has changed the nation with seventy five percent of its people living in the urban area …we must see ourselves not only as victims of environmental degradation but as environmental aggressors and change our patterns of consumption and production accordingly”. A scientific committee set up by the U.S. State Department had earlier concluded that “long range planning to cope with global environmental problems must take account of the total ecological burden… controlling that burden by systematic reduction in per-capita production of goods and services would be politically unacceptable. A concerted effort is needed to orient technology toward making human demands upon the environment less severe”. Power play framed natural resource use around risk management rather than technology transfer and the well-being of all within ecological limits.
Differentiated common responsibility
The objective of the Climate Treaty is to avoid a concentration of cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide, prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and enable sustainable economic development. The Paris Agreement (2015) agreed to a 1.5°C global temperature goal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 recommended that net emissions needed to zero out around 2050. In Glasgow, in 2021, negotiators zeroed in on coal to reduce future emissions. This initiative was not based on science and it ignored the key finding of the IPCC on the centrality of the carbon budget, i.e., cumulative emissions associated with a specific amount of global warming that scientifically links the temperature goal to national action.
Carbon budgets are robust as they can be estimated accurately from climate models. And, they are the most useful for policy as they couple the climate to the economy consistent with the science of both. The IPCC, in 2018, estimated the budget for a 50% chance of avoiding more than 1.5°C of warming to be 2,890 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (now, it is less than 400bn tonnes), raising the question on how late developers will attain comparable levels of well being.
Climate injustice flows from the negotiations and not from the text of the Climate Treaty. First, the process adopted the structure of international law in a manner that rejected historical responsibility for a continuing problem, and steadily shifted the burden to China and India.
Second, the agenda was set around globalised material flows described as global warming (the symptom), and not wasteful use of energy.
Third, public finance is used as a means to secure a political objective, and not to solve the problem itself. The $100 billion promised at Paris along with pre-2020 commitments constituting the incentive for developing countries to agree to a global temperature goal has not materialised. And, new funding for ‘Loss and Damage’ will be from a “mosaic of solutions”, constituting a breach of trust.
Fourth, the longer term trend has been ignored. With one-sixth of the global population, the developed country share in 2035 will still be 30%. Asia’s emissions with half the world’s population will rise to 40% remaining within its carbon budget. Pressures to further reduce emissions displace their human rights.
India’s thrust on LiFE (or “Lifestyle for Environment”), with the individual shifting from wasteful consumption of natural resources goes back to the original science. Consumption-based framing challenges the ‘universalism’ that has dominated the negotiations and its common path of reductions based on single models. The carbon budget formalises a ‘diversity’ of solutions. For example, in developed countries, exchanging overconsumption of red meat for poultry can meet half the global emissions reduction required by the end of the century. A just transition for developing countries is about keeping within their carbon budget. And not de-carbonisation of arbitrarily selected sectors.
3. EWS quota: beyond the smokescreen
Reservation was introduced as a short-term measure to give opportunities to classes of people who were socially and educationally backward and/or inadequately represented in education, employment, politics and other spheres. The intent was laudable. Reservation has increased the standard of life for many. But what was supposed to be a short-term measure got extended due to various political and sociological compulsions.
Eliminating the cause
Even after seven decades of reservation, we are not able to claim success in eliminating the cause that required reservation in the first place. In our personal lives and careers, if a solution to a problem doesn’t give the expected result within a reasonable time frame, we reconsider the solution and try to improve it. However, successive governments kept extending the reservation system, hoping for a different outcome. People who benefited from reservation wanted the system to continue for successive generations too. It was clear that the reservation system was being used by them as a self-perpetuating mechanism. As a result, those who really needed reservation were deprived of its benefits.
At the time of Independence, the economy was primarily agrarian and based on traditional commerce. People were largely unskilled. They continued engaging in the professions that their family had practised for generations. However, free school education and industrialisation helped people learn new skills, which gave them scope to migrate to greener pastures. As cities became cosmopolitan, the class divide became a thing of the past. Employment in the industrial sector became largely skill-based rather than caste-based.
Social and educational backwardness go hand-in-hand with economic weakness. More than 70 years of reservation has brought economic prosperity to a large section of people and given them adequate representation. Ideally, families that have been brought above the poverty line through adequate employment opportunities and other benefits should make way for others who are less fortunate; instead, they oppose extending the system to the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society only because some of the beneficiaries could be from the so-called ‘forward’ communities.
The cause for social inequality and oppression was somewhat wrongly attributed to a particular faith and the practice of caste system prevalent in those days. In this technology-cum-information age, the surging middle class population makes the caste system less prevalent. The economic prosperity seen today has neutralised to a large extent the very reason for social injustice — the class disparity. However, the caste and reservation system are still being kept alive only so that political parties and those who have benefited from the system so far can continue to milk it.
The government has a constitutional and moral duty to achieve the goal of “social, economic and political justice,” mentioned in the Preamble. The 10% quota for the EWS aims to correct an anomaly in the system that is depriving deserving and qualified people. We need to accept that reservation on the basis of economic criteria is the need of the hour and the stepping stone to achieving economic and social justice.
Most objections to this come from a misunderstanding that the basic structure of the Constitution has been violated by the EWS amendment, which seeks to empower the privileged sections of society who are neither socially and educationally backward nor inadequately represented. Another misconception is that the 10% quota in the open category in favour of ‘forward’ communities reduces the availability of seats in the open category for other classes and communities. But the government has clarified that this 10% is in addition to the existing reservation in favour of SEBCs. This means it does not in any way affect reservation up to 50% for SEBCs, OBCs, SCs and STs.
The judgment that sets the basis for this 10% quota said, “If an egalitarian socio-economic order is the goal…, the deprivations arising from economic disadvantages, including those of discrimination and exclusion, need to be addressed to by the State; and for that matter, every affirmative action has the sanction of our Constitution…”
Opposition to this quota is intended to derail the all-round economic development that this government stands for.
4. Well within our right to disagree with RBI, government tells SC
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government whether it would have brushed aside objections from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had the central bank opposed the demonetisation policy.
The question from the Constitution Bench led by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer came after Attorney-General R. Venkataramani said the government and the RBI “acted in consultation” to notify demonetisation in 2016. There was no question of delegation of powers to the Centre, he said.
The government had announced demonetisation, not through a parliamentary statute, but by issuing a notification in the gazette. The petitioners had argued that such an important move should not have been made by way of a “delegated legislation” like a gazette notification. The petitioners had also argued that the RBI had been in the dark about the demonetisation move.
“Suppose it [demonetisation] had emanated from the Centre and the RBI, in its wisdom, thought it was not right to do it now, or [it was not] right to do it at all, and given its proposal to the Centre. What would have happened then? Would the Centre have brushed it aside?” Justice B.V. Nagarjuna, one of the five judges on the Bench, asked the Attorney-General.
Mr. Venkataramani said the question did not arise in the case. The notification had subsequently merged with an Act of Parliament. Besides, he said, the government, as a sovereign power, was well within its right to disagree with the RBI.
5. Catching small fry is not enough, nab masterminds of drugs smuggling: FM
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday urged investigative agencies such as the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to capture the masterminds behind the proliferating smuggling of drugs such as cocaine into the country, stressing that just nabbing mules and peddlers is not enough to engender public confidence in actions against the drug menace.
Flagging the rising detection of smuggled cocaine into the country, Ms. Sitharaman asked the DRI to examine if this was being driven by India becoming ‘a consuming country for the drug’ rather than a transit route for drug smugglers.
Speaking at the DRI’s Foundation Day, Ms. Sitharaman also saidthere seemed to be a correlation between high gold imports and the periods when higher smuggled gold is intercepted.
For ordinary citizens reading reports about seizures of drugs such as cocaine, the question that comes to mind is ‘who is actually the big fish behind it and what happened to them’, the Minister pointed out.
“You’re catching all the small fries, the peddlers, the traffickers, the mules? Is that sufficient to gain public confidence? That’s not sufficient at all,” she underlined, urging DRI sleuths to be smarter than smugglers, who, she said, ‘must leave some kind of trail or evidence’ and ‘indicate their modus operandi’.
“Are you able to bring the handlers of such matterswho are behind the sceneto face the law? Unless at least in a few cases, you are able to get those big fries, who are actually behind these operations, the constant question which remains in the citizen’s mind is who are the people who are perpetrating this, the global mafiathatcontrols this?” she added.
6. SC set to host ‘hackathon’ to spot ideas for better system
The Supreme Court, for the first time in its 72-year history, is hosting a ‘hackathon’ event, a clear signal that it is looking to the public and the youth of the country to bring innovations to make justice delivery system more efficient. Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud said the event would be an opportunity to engage in “collaborative brainstorming”.
A statement from the Supreme Court said the goal is to “bring in evolution by inclusion of a new methodology for upgrading the ecosystem by generating out-of-the-box, open, innovative ideas”. The event brings to focus the court’s efforts to find an independent and exclusive online platform to livestream proceedings of courts around the country.
7. HC notice to EC for framing rules to stop caste-based rallies
Nine years after it passed an interim order banning caste-based political rallies in Uttar Pradesh while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) plea, the Allahabad High Court has now issued fresh notices to the Election Commission as well as the BJP, the Congress, the SP and the BSP in the case and listed the matter for next hearing on December 15.
The court had in July 2013 passed the order, directing that there shall be no caste-based rallies with a political motive in the State till the EC took suitable measures after participating in the court proceedings.
However, in a November hearing before the Bench of Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Jaspreet Singh, the court noted that the counsel for respondents were not present for the hearing and that no response had been filed by them.
Taking note of this, the court then proceeded to issue fresh notices to the respondents, seeking their reply by the next date of hearing.
The matter was taken up when advocate Moti Lal Yadav had sought directions that the EC be asked to frame rules to control political parties to influence voters on the basis of caste and religion.
8. CPI calls for abolition of post of Governor
Stepping up their campaign demanding abolition of the post of Governor, the Communist Party of India (CPI) on Monday announced that it would observe December 29 as ‘Defend Federalism Day’ across the country.
Addressing a press conference in Delhi, party general secretary D. Raja said there are several examples of how the BJP has misused the Governor’s office, recounting the events in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Puducherry.
“Governors are acting as direct political representatives of the ruling dispensation. In a parliamentary system, we do not need Governors. Situation is such that the Governors are not acting as Constitutional representatives,” he said. He added that the Governor’s office cannot be allowed to function as “camp offices of the BJP”.
“In such a situation, what is the need for a Governor in States that have elected governments? Our party feels that it is time that we demand for the abolition of the post of Governor,” Mr. Raja said.
9. India eyes access for more goods to Russia
India gave a list of Indian products to Moscow for access to Russian markets, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Monday, as his country seeks to narrow a growing trade deficit with Russia at a time when Moscow faces acute shortages of some crucial materials following Western sanctions.
Reuters had reported that Moscow had sent India a list of more than 500 products for potential delivery, including parts for cars, aircraft and trains, as sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine squeeze its ability to keep vital industries running.
Russia has been India’s largest supplier of military equipment for decades and it is the fourth-biggest market for Indian pharmaceuticals.
But with India’s purchases of Russian oil soaring and coal and fertilizer shipments strong, the South Asian nation is looking to rebalance trade.
“We have given Russians a set of products which we believe we are very competitive in and which we feel should be getting access to the Russian market,” Mr. Jaishankar told reporters in a briefing with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock.