1. Supreme Court upholds amendments made to nullify own judgment diluting provisions of SC/ST Act

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

Recent stand of SC

The Supreme Court upheld the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018, which nullified its own controversial March 20, 2018 judgment diluting the stringent provisions of the Dalit protection law.

Rationale given by SC

The Supreme Court had itself earlier recalled the March 20 judgment on October 1, 2019 in a review petition filed by the government. It had said it was wrong on the part of the March 20 judgment to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook”. It was against “basic human dignity”. The March 20 judgment had diluted the original 1989 legislation, saying they were using its provisions to file false criminal complaints against innocent persons.

Parliament act

The government had enacted the Amendments, saying the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes continued to face the same social stigma, poverty and humiliation which they had been subjected to for centuries.

The 2018 Act had nullified a March 20 judgment of the Supreme Court, which allowed anticipatory bail to those booked for committing atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes members. The original 1989 Act bars anticipatory bail. The Supreme Court verdict saw a huge backlash across the country. Several died in ensuing protests and property worth crores of rupees was destroyed. The government reacted by filing a review petition in the Supreme Court and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back into its original form.

Arguments by government

The government had responded that there was no decrease in the atrocities committed on members of SC/ST communities despite the laws meant to protect their civil rights.

“The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 is the least which the country owes to this section of the society who have been denied several civil rights since generations and have been subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment,” the government had argued.

Source: The Hindu

2. States not bound to make reservation in promotions, says Supreme Court

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

SC judgement on reservation in promotions

Reservation in promotion in public posts cannot be claimed as a fundamental right, the Supreme Court reiterated in a judgment. Even the courts could not issue a mandamus directing States to provide reservations.

Citing Constitution Bench precedents that had settled the law, the court said Articles 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) of the Constitution did not confer individuals with a fundamental right to claim reservations in promotion.

The Articles empower the State to make reservation in matters of appointment and promotion in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes only “if in the opinion of the State they are not adequately represented in the services of the State”.

“The inadequacy of representation is a matter within the subjective satisfaction of the State,” the judgment said.

Thus, the State government has discretion “to consider providing reservations, if the circumstances so warrant”.

Summary

“It is settled law that the State government cannot be directed to provide reservations for appointment in public posts. Similarly, the State is not bound to make reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in matters of promotions,” the apex court explained.

However, if a State wishes to exercise its discretion and make reservation in promotions, it has to first collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of a class or community in public services.

If the decision of the State government to provide SC/ST reservation in promotion to a particular public post is challenged, it would have to place the data and prove before the court that reservation was necessary and does not affect the efficiency of administration.

The judgment was based in a batch of appeals pertaining to the reservations to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions in the posts of Assistant Engineer (Civil) in Public Works Department of Uttarakhand.

Source: The Hindu

 3. Select Committee of Parliament recommendations on Surrogacy Bill

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

In a recent report, a Select Committee of Parliament has recommended that the contentious clause limiting surrogacy only to “close relatives” be removed from the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, to make the benefits of modern technology more easily available to infertile couples. A look at the genesis of the Bill, its provisions and why the current report could signal some progressive amendments in the Bill:

What are the provisions of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill?

The Surrogacy Bill proposes to allow altruistic ethical surrogacy to intending infertile Indian married couples in the age groups 23-50 years (women) and 26-55 years (men). The couple should have been legally married for at least five years and should be Indian citizens. They cannot have a surviving child, either biological or adopted, except when they have a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from a life-threatening disorder with no permanent cure.

Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare recommendations

The Bill has already been scrutinised once earlier by the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. It requires surrogacy clinics to be registered, and national and state surrogacy boards to be formed, and makes commercial surrogacy, and abandoning or disowning a surrogate child punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.

Need for the bill

It was first mooted in 2016 in the wake of repeated reports of exploitation of women who were confined to hostels, not provided adequate post-pregnancy medical care and paid a pittance for repeatedly becoming surrogate mothers to supplement family income.

Select Committee recommendations

The Select Committee chaired by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav recommended that the “close relatives” clause should be removed, and any “willing” woman should be allowed to become a surrogate mother provided all other requirements are met and the appropriate authority has cleared the surrogacy. It has strongly backed the ban on commercial surrogacy.

It has also recommended that divorced and widowed women aged between 35 and 45 years should be able to be a single commissioning parent, and the need for a five-year waiting period for childless married couples could be waived if there is a medical certificate that shows that they cannot possibly conceive. It has recommended that persons of Indian origin should be allowed to avail surrogacy services.

The committee has not, however, recommended expanding the definition of commissioning parent to include singles, either men or women. This means people like Tusshar Kapoor, Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor, all from the entertainment industry, would still not qualify for using the surrogacy route for children. All of them have already used that route.

The Select Committee also recommended that the ART Bill (which deals with assisted reproductive technologies) should be brought before the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, so that all the highly technical and medical aspects could be properly addressed in the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019.

Source: The Indian Express

4. India moves to include elephant, bustard in global conservation list

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Environment

India will be moving to include the Asian Elephant and the Great Indian Bustard in the list of species that merit heightened conservation measures. The list will be debated at the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environment treaty under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

13th COP in Gandhinagar, Gujarat

The COP is scheduled to be organised from February 17 to 22 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. There are 130 parties to the convention and India has been a member since 1983.

Other important migratory species

India is home to several migratory species of wildlife, including the snow leopard, Amur falcons, bar- headed geese, black-necked cranes, marine turtles, dugongs and hump-backed whales.

Implication of including Asian Elephant and the Great Indian Bustard in the list of species

Having the elephant and the Great Indian Bustard in the list — more formally known as Appendix 1 — would coax countries neighbouring India, where wild animals such as tigers and elephant foray into, to direct more resources and attention to protecting them. There are now 173 species in the Appendix 1.

Source: The Hindu

 Q. What are the reformative steps taken by the Government to make food grain distribution system more effective? (2019, 15 Marks, 250 Words)

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