Polity & Governance
- Courts can turn down child repatriation, says Supreme Court
Issues related to Health & Education
- Health Ministry and Rotary India sign MoU for achieving immunization target
- Uniform Civil Code: Law panel may recommend piece meal amendments to family laws
- Minority tag for Hindus: NCM forms committee
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India’s battle with air pollution: UNICEF report
Bilateral & International Relations
- India and Cuba ink MoU for enhanced cooperation in Health Sector
- China says no change in its stand on India’s membership to NSG
- US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Key Facts for Prelims
- What is OP Sahayam?
- 7 December: International Civil Aviation Day
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Polity & Governance
Courts can turn down child repatriation, says Supreme Court
A recent Supreme Court judgment has accorded courts in India unlimited discretion to determine which parent should have the custody of minor children involved in international parental child abduction.
- The verdict holds that Indian courts can decline the relief of repatriation of a child to the parent living abroad even if a foreign court, located in the country from where the child was removed, has already passed orders for the child’s repatriation.
- The judgment observed that welfare of the child came first over the repatriation order of the foreign court as India was not a signatory to the Hague Convention of “The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”.
- The court also held that the issue with regard to the repatriation of a child has to be addressed not on a consideration of legal rights of the parties, but on the sole and preponderant criterion of the welfare of the minor.
- The judgment came in a case where the father took the younger of the two sons from his wife’s custody in the United States and came to India. The mother’s version was that he had taken the boy on the pretext of visiting the neighbourhood mall. A U.S. Court upheld her lawful custody and ordered the man to return his son to his wife.
What is Inter-country parental child abduction?
- Inter-country parental child abduction is a situation that is attained when one parent takes a child or children to a foreign country to prevent the other parent from seeking custody of the child.
Inter-country parental child abduction cases in India:
- India’s case-load (regarding IPCA) is second largest in the United States which is followed by Mexico.
- At least 90 children from 80 Indian-American families were affected by separating parents and the legal problems involved.
- As more and more Indians are studying and working in the U.S, such cases are growing in number and it is necessary to get a better mechanism to deal with this.
About the Hague Abduction Convention:
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH).
- It provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one-member country to another.
- The Convention was entered into force between the signatories on 1 December 1983.
- The Convention was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence.
- The primary intention of the Convention is to preserve whatever status quo child custody arrangement existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal or retention thereby deterring a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court.
- The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16.
- 94 states are party to the convention. In 2016, Philippines acceded to the convention.
Issues related to Health & Education
Health Ministry and Rotary India sign MoU for achieving immunization target
The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Rotary India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for intensive efforts towards achieving the immunization target.
The key areas for collaboration will be:
- Social mobilization of beneficiaries, especially in urban slums and undeserved areas having no mobilizers.
- Support to the members of NCC, NYK, NSS etc. in their efforts of community mobilization through incentives like refreshments/mementoes during the sessions.
- Advocacy and generating awareness through innovative approaches and involving private practitioners and local leaders for Polio Eradication Programme, Routine Immunization including Mission Indradhanush, Intensified Mission Indradhanush and Measles-Rubella.
Significance of the MoU:
- The collaboration between Rotary International India National Polio Plus Committee in India and the Health Ministry will support the efforts of the states and the districts for advocacy and community mobilization for Polio Eradication Programme, Routine Immunization including Mission Indradhanush, Intensified Mission Indradhanush and Measles-Rubella.
About Rotary International’s India National PolioPlus Committee
- In 1988, the Rotary International established a committee called the India National PolioPlus Society (INPPS) for polio eradication efforts in the country.
- Based in Delhi, the Committee organizes large teams of committed Rotary volunteers who help in vaccine delivery to infants and children and ensure social mobilization around the cause.
- It works in close cooperation with the Indian government, the WHO, the UNICEF and other bodies such as the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Uniform Civil Code: Law panel may recommend piece meal amendments to family laws
What is the Uniform Civil Code?
- Uniform civil code is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen.
- These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.
- Article 44 of the Directive Principles in India sets its implementation as duty of the State.
- According to Article 44, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
- Since, the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.
Controversy over UCC:
- Apart from being an important issue regarding secularism in India, it became one of the most controversial topics in contemporary politics during the Shah Bano case in 1985.
- The debate then focused on the Muslim Personal Law, which is partially based on the Sharia law and remains unreformed since 1937, permitting unilateral divorce and polygamy in the country.
Why in news?
- The 21st Law Commission is now planning to suggest specific amendments to several personal law legislations, dropping the idea of UCC, which gained momentum during public debate on instant triple talaq.
Remarks made by the Law Commission:
The Law Commission remarked that
- It will try to recommend religion-wise amendments in family laws.
- It would be the piecemeal way to suggest what are the changes required in Hindu law, Muslim law, Christian law, Parsi law, etc.
- It will target the problems of each religion and deal with them accordingly. It cannot take the whole UCC, as it cannot go outside the constitution.
- India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance. Hindu family laws were modified in the 1950s but those for the Christians and Muslims are colonial-era relics.
- Activists have long argued Muslim personal law, which remained mostly unchanged, contains provisions biased against Muslim women, often victims of polygamy and the triple talaq system.
- The Uniform Civil Code has been a long-standing poll promise and ideological position of the present government, but many minority groups have opposed what they see as an effort to erase their cultural and religious identities.
- The law ministry had in June 2016 sent a reference to the commission asking it for an in-depth examination of “matters in relation to the Uniform Civil Code” and whether the time was ripe for bringing it in.
- Amid a raging debate on uniform civil code, the law panel had in October last year sought public views on the subject to revise and reform family laws, saying the aim is to address social injustice rather than to do away with the plurality of laws. In an appeal issued then, the commission had said the objective behind the endeavor is to address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonize various cultural practices.
According to the Law Commission, why UCC is not possible?
Exemptions under the Constitution:
- As the Law Commission stated that the exemptions under the Constitution must be honoured and UCC could disturb the essence of the Constitution. Constitution itself has given so many exemptions to so many people like the tribals, etc. There are exemptions even in Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code. UCC is not a solution and there cannot be a composite Act.
Protection under the Constitution:
- According to the Law Commission, UCC is also not possible because of the customs prevalent in remote parts of India, which are protected by the Constitution. “In a particular community in North East, the whole property goes to the younger daughter. Then the son-in-law comes and settles there and he is not only husband of the girl but also becomes the husband of the girl’s mother. This practice is known as Nokuram and the son-in-law becomes the man in place of father-in-law for all purposes and not only property. Now what do you do with it under UCC? It is protected under the Constitution.
Why India needs a uniform civil code?
India needs a uniform civil code for two principal reasons:
- First, a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
- There is a second reason why a uniform civil code is needed: gender justice. The rights of women are usually limited under religious law, be it Hindu or Muslim. The practice of triple talaq is a classic example.
- The Law Commission will recommend religion-wise “piece meal” amendments to family laws if it finds it difficult to come out with a composite uniform civil code.
- The commission is in the process of segregating the nearly 45,000 suggestions it has received on its questionnaire on the uniform civil code.
Minority tag for Hindus: NCM forms committee
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has formed a three-member committee to look into whether Hindus should get minority status in eight states where they are not the dominant religious group.
- The committee will submit a report on this in three months.
Why the committee was set up?
- According to 2011 Census, Hindus are in a minority in Lakshadweep (2.5%), Mizoram (2.75), Nagaland (8.75), Meghalaya (11.53), J&K (28.44), Arunachal Pradesh (29) Manipur (31.39) and Punjab (38.4).
- It is argued that in the absence of the “minority” tag, benefits meant for the minority communities were being given away to majority community in each state in an illegal and arbitrary manner.
- It is also argued that neither central nor state governments have notified Hindus as a ‘minority’ under Section 2(c) of National Commission for Minority Act. Therefore, Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights, guaranteed under Articles 25 to 30.”
About National Commission for Minorities (NCM):
The NCM was set up under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to look into complaints from members of five religious communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis).
- Jain community was notified as a minority community in 2014.
- The NCM adheres to the United Nations Declaration of 18 December 1992 which states that “States shall protect the existence of the National or Ethnic, Cultural, Religious and Linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”
State Minorities Commissions:
- Besides NCM, 15 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam, which are home to sizeable minority populace, have set up commissions at their respective levels.
- Aggrieved persons belonging to the communities may approach the state minorities commissions concerned for redressal of their grievances or send their representations to the NCM after exhausting all avenues of remedies available.
- The functions of the state commissions, inter-alia, are to safeguard and protect the interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and state legislatures.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India’s battle with air pollution: UNICEF report
A UNICEF report titled ‘Danger in the air: How air pollution can affect brain development in young children’, has once again set alarm bells ringing about high levels of air pollution and its likely impact on brain development among infants.
UNICEF report salient points:
- Air pollution-related ailments has led to the deaths of over 920,000 children under the age of five every year.
- Nearly 17 million infants worldwide live in areas where outdoor air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits. These babies are at a risk of suffering brain damage.
- The threat is much higher in Asia. Nearly 16 million infants belong to Asia. Moreover, 75% of them live in the Indian subcontinent, which has three of the world’s 10 most populations countries in the world — India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In fact, India topped the list of countries with babies at risk, followed by China, the most populated country in the world.
- Focusing on the adverse effect on the development of brain among infants, the UNICEF report has found a direct relationship between exposure to air pollution and cognitive outcomes.
- Affected infants faced problems of low verbal and nonverbal IQ and memory, reduced test scores, gradepoint averages among school children, along with neurological behavioral issues.
- As per the report, Ultrafine pollution particles (particulate matter that is equal or less than 2.5 microns in diameter) pose an especially high risk because they can more easily enter the blood stream and travel through the body to the brain.
- The report also notes that harmful particles from magnetite, a form of an ore, is a leading cause for pollution in urban areas. As its particles are small, they easily penetrate humans through olfactory nerves and the gut.
- Magnetite nano particles are highly toxic to the brain due to their magnetic charge and their ability to help create oxidative stress – which is often the cause of neurodegenerative diseases.
- The report said that poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a kind of pollutants formed from fossil fuel combustion is responsible for loss of or damage to white matter in infant brains.
- As PAHs are commonly found in areas of high automobile traffic, the UNICEF report believed that urbanisation without adequate protection and pollution reduction measures will put more children at risk.
Solutions offered by the UNICEF:
- The UNICEF report urged citizens, especially in the developing world — South Asia and China — to be aware of the quality of air they breathe, and protect children from exposure to unhealthy air through protective masks or air filtration systems.
- Putting the onus of safety on the parents, the report urged them to provide their children with healthy and balanced diets to mitigate the threat from air pollution. But while parents can provide the first line of defence to vulnerable children, the UNICEF report also urged macro-level measures to tackle the menace of air pollution.
- In an apparent signal to municipal and political authorities to take action against the issue, the report also said that reducing air pollution means replacing fossil fuel combustion with cleaner, renewable sources of energy, including appropriate use of solar, wind and thermal sources.
- The report also urged modern-day town planners to focus on creating new models of urbanisation, which will take care of the rising pollution levels.
- Rapidly urbanising areas have an opportunity to bypass some of the older planning models and take advantage of sustainable, cleaner innovations. They can also lay the right foundations from the onset.
Bilateral & International Relations
India and Cuba ink MoU for enhanced cooperation in Health Sector
India and Cuba signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for enhanced cooperation in the health sector.
The objective of this MoU is to:
- Establish comprehensive inter-ministerial and inter-institutional cooperation between the two countries in the field of health by pooling technical, scientific, financial and human resources with the ultimate goal of upgrading the quality and reach of human, material and infrastructural resources involved in health care, medical education & training, and research in both countries.
Significance of the MoU:
- The MoU is important for exchanges in the health sector and to develop institutional framework for cooperation in the health sector between the two countries.
- Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
- It is south of both the U.S. state of Florida and the Bahamas, west of Haiti, and north of Jamaica.
- Cuba is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos.
- Havana is the largest city and capital.
- The country is one of the world’s last planned economies and its economy is dominated by the exports of sugar, tobacco, coffee and skilled labor.
- According to the Human Development Index, Cuba has high human development and is ranked the eighth highest in North America, though 67th in the world.
- It also ranks highly in some metrics of national performance, including health care and education, and is the only country in the world to receive WWF’s definition of sustainable development.
China says no change in its stand on India’s membership to NSG
China asserted its opposition to India’s membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), saying there is no change in its stand and efforts were on to forge “consensus” among the 48-member elite nuclear club about the admission of new members.
- In contrast, Russia has come out strongly in support of India saying that India’s application cannot be “interlinked” with that of Pakistan and that Moscow is discussing the issue with Beijing at different levels.
- India sought membership of the NSG in 2008, but its application hasn’t been decided on, primarily because signing the NPT or other nuclear moratoriums on testing is a pre-requisite. However, India has received a special waiver to conduct nuclear trade with all nuclear exporters.
- India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan are among the four UN member states which have not signed the NPT, the international pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
- China, a key member of the NSG, has been stridently opposing India’s bid primarily on the grounds that New Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its opposition has made India’s entry into the group difficult as the NSG works on the principle of consensus.
- China has favoured a criteria-based approach for expansion of the 48-member group, which controls international nuclear commerce, instead of one based on merit, in what India sees an attempt to draw a false equivalence between India’s case and Pakistan’s.
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.
- The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 to stop what it called the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes.
- Currently, it has 48 members and European Commission is its Permanent Observer.
Why India needs permanent membership?
- India is currently engaged in nuclear trade with international partners based on a waiver from the NSG in 2008.
- The waiver is in the form of a concession without according India the status of a full member and therefore has an element of unpredictability and attendant risks in the long run for India’s long-term nuclear power programme.
- The NSG took a consensus decision in September 2008 to permit its members to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with India despite India not being a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Since then, India has been trying to upgrade the “waiver” into a full member status.
Benefits of full membership:
- Full membership of the NSG would enable India to have enhanced and predictable global access to nuclear technology, fuel, materials and components required for our expanding civil nuclear programme.
- It would advance energy security, contribute to India’s growth strategy based on clean energy to combat climate change, and strengthen global nuclear non-proliferation.
US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
In a major announcement, United States President Donald Trump officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
- He directed the State Department to initiate the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which many Arab leaders warn can trigger an upheaval in the already volatile Middle East.
Who lives in Jerusalem?
- Jerusalem is home to nearly one million residents. West Jerusalem’s population of some 330,000 is almost entirely Jewish.
- The eastern half of the city, which comprises the Old City, Palestinian neighborhoods, and refugee camps, along with some newer Jewish settlements, is home to about 320,000 Arabs and 212,000 Jews.
- Unlike Palestinians who live elsewhere in Israel, most Palestinian East Jerusalemites have permanent residency, but not citizenship, since they do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city.
Why is recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital so contentious?
- Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. The holy city has been at the centre of peace-making efforts for decades.
- Seventy years ago, when the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was defined as a separate entity under international supervision. In the war of 1948 it was divided, like Berlin in the cold war, into western and eastern sectors under Israeli and Jordanian control respectively. Nineteen years later, in June 1967, Israel captured the eastern side, expanded the city’s boundaries and annexed it – an act that was never recognised internationally.
- Israel routinely describes the city, with its Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy places, as its “united and eternal” capital. For their part, the Palestinians say East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future independent Palestinian state. The unequivocal international view, accepted by all previous US administrations, is that the city’s status must be addressed in peace negotiations.
- Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital puts the US out of step with the rest of the world, and legitimises Israeli settlement-building in the east – considered illegal under international law.
What will be the international response?
Regional powers have already registered strong protests. The Islamic world is outraged.
- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned of “dangerous consequences”.
- Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Saudi King Salman have cautioned the US.
- Turkey has threatened to cut ties with Israel.
- Iran has declared that “the Palestinian nation will achieve victory”.
- China has said it “could sharpen regional conflict”.
- Egypt, the Arab League and several European nations have expressed grave reservations.
- Hamas has threatened an intifada, and Hezbollah could react aggressively.
- The Pope has pleaded for status quo.
India differed with the US on recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Indian foreign ministry stated that India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express, Guardian, CRF]
Key Facts for Prelims
What is OP Sahayam?
- ‘OP Sahayam’ is an Indian Navy exercise for undertaking Search and Rescue (SAR) and providing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster relief (HADR) material support, over Southeast Arabian Sea and L&M islands in the aftermath of Very Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘OCKHI’.
7 December: International Civil Aviation Day
- International Civil Aviation Day was observed on 7 December 2017 with the theme ‘Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind’.
- The main aim of the day is to help generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of States and of the unique role of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in helping States to cooperate and realize a truly global rapid transit network at the service of all mankind.
- The current theme was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) council for a period of four years from 2015 to 2018.
- In 1944, participants from 54 nations gathered in Chicago, USA and signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known more popularly as the ‘Chicago Convention’. The agreement has since then permitted the global civil aviation system to develop peacefully, in a manner benefitting all nations across the world.