Daily Current Affairs 07.02.2023 ( SC to ascertain if woman is detained at home to prevent contact with her same-sex partner,The freedom of speech and an ‘adolescent India’,Jammu, village defence and governance,Russian envoy calls for normalisation of India-China relations,With swearing-in of five new judges, SC now just 2 short of full strength,Opposition’s call for JPC probe continues to stall Parliament,Naval LCA lands on Vikrant, first aeroplane to touch down, India’s growing energy demand offers investment opportunities: PM )

Daily Current Affairs 07.02.2023 ( SC to ascertain if woman is detained at home to prevent contact with her same-sex partner,The freedom of speech and an ‘adolescent India’,Jammu, village defence and governance,Russian envoy calls for normalisation of India-China relations,With swearing-in of five new judges, SC now just 2 short of full strength,Opposition’s call for JPC probe continues to stall Parliament,Naval LCA lands on Vikrant, first aeroplane to touch down, India’s growing energy demand offers investment opportunities: PM )


1. SC to ascertain if woman is detained at home to prevent contact with her same-sex partner

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to ascertain if a young woman in Kerala is being detained by her parents to avoid any contact with her same-sex partner or whether she is simply staying at home of her own free will.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud intervened when the partner, G. Devu, appealed to the Supreme Court. Ms. Devu said she and the other woman, both in their early twenties, were in a “romantic relationship”.

She had moved the Kerala High Court in a habeas corpus petition. The High Court, she said in a petition filed through advocates Sriram Parakkat and Vishnu Shankar, instead of ordering the parents to produce their daughter in court, had directed a District Legal Service Authority officer to visit her home to determine whether or not the woman was actually under detention.

Later on, the High Court had suggested a few “counselling sessions” for the woman.

The CJI Bench stayed further proceedings before the High Court. It ordered the woman to be produced before the Family Court concerned on February 8.

There she would interact with a senior judicial officer who is also a member of the Supreme Court e-committee. “The Principal Judge of the Family Court shall arrange for an interview of the detenu with Ms. Saleena VG Nair, a member of the e-Committee of the Supreme Court, who is a senior judicial officer from the State of Kerala. The interview shall be arranged in consultation with the Principal Judge of the Family Court,” the Supreme Court ordered.

The senior judicial officer would not only consult the woman about her wishes but also ascertain whether she was under illegal detention. The Family Court Judge would ensure that the statement of the woman was recorded in a fair and free manner without any coercion.

A report of the meeting would be submitted in the court in a sealed cover before February 17, the next date of hearing.

2. The freedom of speech and an ‘adolescent India’

We hold adults to different standards of behaviour than we do for children. But what about adolescents? We are disappointed when they are unable to behave with maturity but are often not surprised by their lack of it. Maturity, in a human, is the duty to conduct oneself in accordance with social norms, under varying circumstances, irrespective of how the individual feels.

In the context of a nation, Tocqueville defines the maturity of a nation as the capacity of the people of that nation to act responsibly in the face of social flux.

The rapid growth in national power, along with the unbridled freedom of economic power, has given Indians something that our predecessors never had. Simultaneously, the tide of events that has rocked the world has not passed by India. So, has India behaved responsibly in light of all this? Is India mature?

Let us test this from the perspective of the freedom of speech.

The freedom of speech is one of the most cherished freedoms. The Constitution of India, too, declares that Indians possess this freedom, but makes it subject to the interest of public order, or the sovereignty and integrity of India.

We believe that the framers of the Constitution accepted this watering down of this fundamental freedom, simply because the notion of unfettered freedom of speech was foreign to us.

The concept of freedom of speech is a western notion. While some form of freedom may have existed in ancient Greece, the real freedom of speech, as we understand it today, was propounded by Voltaire and Rousseau.

There is nothing in our soil that suggests that this freedom took root here. B.R. Ambedkar, in his Writings and Speeches, notes this in relation to ancient India: “‘As to freedom of speech it exists. But it exists only for those who are in favour of the social order. The freedom is not the freedom of liberalism which was expressed by Voltaire when he said ‘I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it.”’

There is some evidence that the freedom of expression existed within state-ordained constructs. The content of the debates of Adi Shankara or Saint Thirugnana Sambandar seem remarkably liberal. Yet, this freedom did not extend to criticism of the king or his royal policies. A man who spoke ill of a king did not live long enough to see the effect. Hence, free speech was within state-defined boundaries.

On the other hand, the freedom of speech and thought that sparked the minds of western thinkers was the freedom from such limits. Bertrand Russell’s masterpiece on western philosophy traces the history of free thought, to its culmination, where a man’s right to think freely supersedes his duty of obedience to the state. The right to not just think freely but also to criticise the state is very fundamental to western notions of democracy.

As Justice Holmes said in the celebrated case of Abrams vs United States, in America, “When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe… that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.”

This then is the full freedom of thought and expression that has emerged from the West.

The British Raj obviously did not tolerate free speech, and our thoughts remained manacled until 1947. In 1947, our nation was born, and suddenly, in 1950, we were free to express ourselves.

Progress that has been faltering

The first 50 years of freedom were spent in framing the contours of this freedom. The gestalt of what this freedom exactly was came to be created through a series of judicial decisions which recognised this freedom in a restricted form, defining more by exception than by rule. This faltering progress is consistent with the infancy of a nation, trying to define its relationship with its citizenry.

The 1990s and 2000s brought with it unprecedented economic progress, and brought us to the last decade — and also the transition from infancy to adolescence. This adolescence has not brought with it free thought, but rather, a strong opposition to it — by other Indians, who disagree.

The muzzling of unpopular opinions is now done through mob power, actions for defamation, social media blackouts and vetoes and the like. Calls for bans and boycotts of films and books are done for the silliest of reasons. Persons perceive insults and commence protests and lawsuits. Banners in film theatres are burnt, art studios are vandalised and the staging of plays are stopped, not because the art is bad, but because they disagree with what is expressed.

Thus, we see for the first time that the freedom of speech is under threat not only vertically (that is to say, from the state) but also horizontally (that is to say, from other citizens).

Free speech is unpopular when it unsettles the existing order. People feel uneasy when someone stands up and says we have been doing things wrong and that things must change.

Therefore, people maintain the status quo by suppressing unpopular speech. This enables the state to step in and define the framework within which speech is free. And when this happens, we have only the illusion of free speech, and real freedom is lost.

The mob, its dangers

Indians seek to shut down the opinions and expressions of others when they feel threatened by it. This sense of insecurity along with aggression is the hallmark of adolescence and runs as a common thread through all the oppressive actions we have noticed above. We seek strength in numbers. The mob provides us the comfort and the anonymity to suppress opinions and views that we disagree with. Once all dissenting thought is suppressed, we will find only views that echo our own.

This trend, if not arrested, can lead to a nation’s inhabitants surrendering their independence to a domineering public opinion. This, in turn, yields to persons depending on a doting, parent-like guardian state for all “freedom”. Most recently, the Supreme Court of India in its judgment in Kaushal Kishore’s case (rendered on January 3, 2023) declared that the fundamental rights of Indians are exercisable not only vertically but also horizontally. The question before the Court in this case was whether the fundamental rights (including the freedom of speech) can be claimed other than against the state or its instrumentalities. The Court concluded that such fundamental rights can be enforced even against persons other than the state and its instrumentalities.

This judgment holds the key as to how India can emerge from its adolescence. If every citizen enforces their fundamental freedoms not only against the state but against each other, to the fullest extent, we will then seize back the power to define our own freedoms. Our failure to do so will result in us becoming an obedient and bovine citizenry which implicitly obeys the false credo that nothing can be done unless expressly permitted.

3. Jammu, village defence and governance

The rise in terror-related strikes in the relatively peaceful Jammu division, especially in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, needs a closer look. In spite of militancy-related indices not being a cause for alarm, any complacency on the part of the state could be disastrous in the mid and long terms. The dynamics of militancy in these regions are different from those prevalent in Kashmir due to the demographic profile of an almost equal proportion of Hindus and Muslims. The agency of the local population in a conflict zone cannot be overlooked. Conflict resolution in such regions is a function of utilising the potential of people by facilitating their participation in decision making and execution vis-à-vis issues concerning them.

The catalyst

There have been several terror-related incidents in the region of Jammu division over the last year with the gravest of them so far having been committed in Dangri village in Rajouri district at the beginning of the year. In January, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, there were infiltration attempts, recoveries of war-like stores, explosions followed by gunshots at the house of a local MLA, a neutralisation of hideouts, and the nabbing of suspects in Rajouri and Poonch.

Since Dangri happened, the demand for a revival of the erstwhile Village Defence Committees (VDC) has emerged from different quarters. The government had issued instructions to operationalise VDC (rechristened as Village Defence Guards, or VDG) in August 2022. As in the policy, the VDGs were to instil a sense of self protection, with the district’s superintendent of police mandated to exercise command and control. VDCs have played a crucial role in containing militancy in the Jammu division, after being set up in the mid-1990s. Pockets with a VDC presence were those in remote areas; their difficult terrain and a meagre presence of security forces made chances of successful operations remote. VDCs were trained to hold the front against militants till the arrival of security forces, thus proving to be force multipliers.

However, in several cases , the VDCs have proved to be counterproductive, with instances of cadres abusing their authority and even facing allegations of human rights violations. Given the lower levels of insurgency and state support, a ‘false notion of power’ developing in the minds of VDC cadre is quite natural, leading to potentially adverse fallouts. However, the benefits of the VDC far outweigh their drawbacks. leading to the decision to revive them.

State policy on the VDGs must now aim to mitigate the negatives, which lies in viewing the issue through the prism of human resources management of the cadres. There needs to be an evolution of a hands-down command and control mechanism. The present methodology of being under the superintendent of police, i.e., a top-down approach, may not be the ideal arrangement as it will be found wanting in terms of close supervision at the execution level. A good control mechanism is needed to ensure that cadres remain motivated and focused.

Empowering local institutions

One of the most encouraging facets of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir has been the enthusiasm of people in electing and trusting local bodies. The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Panchayati Raj Act of 1989 amended in 2020, paved the way for the setting up of the District Development Council. This completed the three-tier local-governance structure and reinforced the other two bodies, at the panchayat and block levels. However, due to the security situation and socio-political uncertainties, the empowerment of local bodies never moved beyond holding elections.

The revival of the VDG should be used as an opportunity to empower the local bodies. Panchayats are most suited to understand local dynamics in a conflict zone that change rapidly from one sub-region to the other. In addition to the compulsory functions, panchayats could be entrusted with the task of assisting the local police in an institutionalised manner. This will create advantages such as expanding the stakeholdership of the local population in security matters, a quality check on the character of VDG cadres during the selection stage as well as monitoring their activities and having consolidated control by means of oversight and deterrence.

Some advice

From a practitioner’s point of view, the VDGs should never be sucked into proactive intelligence and tactical operations, and must instead remain confined to ‘self defence and deterrence roles’. Or else, they will end up as one more agency hunting dwindling numbers of militants.

Entrusting local bodies to manage the VDGs would elicit a positive vibrancy from the population that normally does not manifest when a measure is enforced top down in a bureaucratic manner. The key to a resolution of challenges in J&K lies in empowering the local population by strengthening democracy and making it more participatory at the grassroots — the Gandhian way of decentralised governance.

4. Russian envoy calls for normalisation of India-China relations

The sooner there is normalisation in India-China relations, the better it would be for the world, Russian Ambassador to India Denis Alipov on Monday said, adding that a weak Pakistan would not be better for the region, India or Afghanistan, and Russia would not do anything detrimental to India in its relations with Islamabad.

He acknowledged that India-Russia ties have been under stress for some time in terms of economic ties, which had accelerated since last year due to the “tectonic geopolitical” shifts in Europe, referring to the war in Ukraine.

The envoy said Russia had completed deliveries of the third regiment of the S-400 Triumf air defence system and reiterated that they were committed to completing the deal on schedule.

Speaking at a seminar on 30 years of the India-Russia friendship treaty organised by India Writes Network and the Centre for Global India Insights, Mr. Alipov said, “We have maintained consistently that we will never do anything detrimental to India in our relations with Pakistan. We strangle our defence cooperation with Pakistan because it will impact our relations with India.” He added, “We don’t think a weak Pakistan would be a better choice for the region, for India or Afghanistan.” To a question from The Hindu on reports of Pakistan supplying military equipment to Ukraine in the ongoing war, Mr. Alipov said, “I can assure that we have taken very close notice of those reports.”

On India-China relations he said, “It is not for us to say what India and China should do. It is entirely a bilateral matter between them. The sooner there is normalisation between the two countries, the better for the whole world.”

5. With swearing-in of five new judges, SC now just 2 short of full strength

The Supreme Court got five new judges on Monday, increasing its judicial strength to 32.

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud read the oath of allegiance to the Constitution to Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal; Patna High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Karol; Manipur High Court Chief Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar; Patna High Court judge Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah; and Allahabad High Court judge, Justice Manoj Misra.

The court is now just two short of its sanctioned strength of 34 judges.

The Supreme Court Collegium proposal on January 31 to appoint Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Aravind Kumar is still pending with the government. If these appointments are made shortly, the Chandrachud court will for the first time function with the full strength of its Bench.

While many constitutional questions of law, bail matters and important commercial cases are awaiting judicial attention, the appointments also come at a time the court has been facing a barrage of verbal attacks from the government and constitutional functionaries on the collegium system.

The new entrants

Justice Mithal was appointed Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court only on October 14, 2022. His parent High Court is Allahabad. He was born on June 17, 1961.

Justice Karol was appointed the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court on November 11, 2019. His parent High Court is Himachal Pradesh. He was born on August 23, 1961.

Justice Kumar was appointed the Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court on February 14, 2021. His parent High Court is Telangana. He was born on August 14, 1963. Justice Amanullah was appointed judge of his parent Patna High Court on June 20, 2011. He was transferred to the Andhra Pradesh High Court in October 2022. He was re-transferred back to the Patna High Court on June 20, 2022. He was born on May 11, 1963.

Justice Misra has been a Permanent Judge of the Allahabad High Court since August 2013. He was born on June 2, 1965.

6. Opposition’s call for JPC probe continues to stall Parliament

Parliament failed to start the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President on Monday as Opposition members in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha continued their protests over the demand to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to investigate the allegations of fraud against the Adani Group.

Ever since a report by the New York-based investor research firm Hindenburg Research accused the Adani Group of corporate fraud and brazen manipulation of the stock markets, the Opposition parties have been pressing for a discussion on its impact on public financial institutions such as the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and the State Bank of India (SBI), which have invested in several projects of the port-to-power conglomerate.

The Congress’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh, tweeted after the Upper House was adjourned 12 minutes after the day’s proceedings started at 11 a.m.: “Yet again for the third day in a row, Opposition not allowed to even mention in Parliament its legitimate demand for JPC into PM-linked Adani MahaMegaScam. Adjourned till 2pm. Modi Govt is simply running away!”

“The facts are — Congress is least interested in letting Parliament run. They are least bothered about pro-people legislation being brought and they detest the historic productivity of Parliament under the Modi government,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi responded to Mr. Ramesh’s tweet.

Sloganeering by parties

In the Lok Sabha, as soon the House met after the weekend break, the Opposition members, mostly Congress MPs, entered the Well of the House and started shouting slogans such as “Adani sarkar shame-shame”.

Urging the members to go back to their seats, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla told the Congress members, “You have ruled this country for a long time. Such behaviour is not good on your part. You are not interested in allowing the House to function properly.”

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned within 12 minutes of its sitting after Chairperson Jagdeep Dhankhar rejected notices moved by the Opposition members under Rule 267 to suspend the notified business for a debate on the issue. A total of 10 notices had been moved.

The Opposition Benches roared in protest after Mr. Dhankhar declined to accept the notices, which he said were not in order. His exhortations to bring in order were ignored by the Opposition.

7. Naval LCA lands on Vikrant, first aeroplane to touch down

MiG-29K follows suit as efforts are currently under way to operationalise the aviation complex of the first indigenous aircraft carrier; Navy says it is a historic milestone achieved towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat

In a major milestone, the naval variant of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) landed on the first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, on Monday. This is also the maiden landing of a fixed-wing aircraft on the carrier. The LCA’s feat was followed by the landing and take-off by a twin-engine MiG-29K fighter jet.

“A historic milestone achieved towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat [self-reliant India] by the Navy as naval pilots carry out landing of LCA [Navy] onboard INS Vikrant,” Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said. “It demonstrates India’s capability to design, develop, construct and operate IAC with indigenous fighter aircraft.”

Cdr. Madhwal further added: “Indian Navy takes a significant step towards operationalising the IAC by successful landing of MiG-29K on INS Vikrant by naval pilots…”

Post commissioning, efforts are currently under way to operationalise the aviation complex of the carrier after which it would be ready for operational deployment.

In January 2020, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had demonstrated a successful arrested landing of the naval LCA on INS Vikramaditya and subsequently, 18 take-offs and landings were conducted in five days. However, the Navy has projected a requirement for a twin-engine aircraft to operate from the carrier, and the DRDO has now embarked on developing a twin-engine deck-based fighter.

INS Vikrant, displacing a weight of 42,800 tonnes, was commissioned into the Navy last September. The aviation trials are to be carried out post commissioning. The ship uses an aircraft-operation mode known as short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) for which it is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft, and a set of three “arrester wires” for their recovery onboard.

Advanced fighter

Initially, the carrier would be operating the existing MiG-29Ks in service, while a decision on procurement of an advanced fighter, between the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Rafale, is expected in a few months.

The TEDBF being developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency of the DRDO is expected to be the mainstay. The project is expected to get approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security by mid-2023.

8. India’s growing energy demand offers investment opportunities: PM

India’s energy demand has significantly increased and in the coming years, it will reach 11% of the global demand as against 5% currently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while inaugurating the India Energy Week (IEW), 2023 here on Monday.

“Demand for energy in the country has grown significantly. This offers opportunities for energy companies to invest in and collaborate with energy firms in the country,” he said.

The energy sector played a major role in deciding the future of the world in the 21st century and India was one of the strongest voices today in developing new resources of energy and in the energy transition, the Prime Minister said. Also, the country has a chunky class of aspirational population and energy would play an important role in fulfilling the aspirations of these people; in fact, energy demand would be highest globally in India in coming years, Mr. Modi added, quoting the International Energy Agency.

He said the government, under the National Green Hydrogen Mission, had set aside ₹1 lakh crore for green hydrogen. The country was taking the lead in the green hydrogen space, and would replace grey hydrogen (created from natural gas, or methane, using steam methane reformation but without capturing the greenhouse gases made in the process), to increase its share to 25% in the next five years.

Addressing a large audience of energy experts and captains of global energy companies, Mr. Modi said global and domestic investors should increase their presence in fossil fuel exploration in the country. Some 10 lakh square kilometres of ‘no-go zones’ were freed for energy exploration, he added.

Domestic exploration of fuels and an increase in production of such fuels was one of the focus areas for the energy sector in the country. “Based on investor sentiment, we have reduced no-go areas in the country by 10 lakh square km to facilitate exploration in inaccessible areas of the country,” he said.

Changing landscape

Speaking at the opening session of the event, Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas and Housing and Urban Affairs, said the country’s energy landscape had undergone significant shifts in recent years. “To accommodate these changes, the government is prepared to play a catalyst in accelerating adoption of low-carbon options, including biofuels, electric vehicles, and green hydrogen,” he said.

Collaboration and transition towards low-carbon energy was crucial in the country’s achievement of its climate change targets, he added.

IEW 2023, touted as India’s first comprehensive energy event, covering the entire value chain in its year of G20 presidency, is designed to ensure energy security, affordability and accessibility, according to Mr. Puri.

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