News & Events
In this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition.
1.Stomach criticism: End the sedition law, it silences legitimate dissent and democratic activism
The sedition case filed by Andhra Pradesh police against a rebel YSRCP parliamentarian and two Telugu news channels comes amid Supreme Court commencing proceedings in a challenge to the sedition provision. MP KR Krishnam Raju and the channels have moved SC. Raju’s charge of torture in custody will be scrutinised by a medical board and the news channels want contempt proceedings against AP government for violating SC’s order forbidding coercive actions against those revealing shortcomings in official Covid responses.
Interestingly, the petitioner challenging sedition in SC, journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, has been jailed in Manipur on another frequently misused law, National Security Act, just after securing bail on IPC charges of promoting communal enmity, following a social media post in which he said that cow dung and cow urine are no cure for Covid. Such overreach by the state apparatus, happening at regular intervals and across the country, bears out the dangers of draconian laws. Sedition’s definition in the IPC – bringing or attempting to bring or exciting “hatred or contempt … or disaffection towards the Government” – sounds dangerously similar to bona fide criticism of government.
Despite SC narrowing sedition to require incitement of violence threatening national security or public order, police officers tend to follow the literal IPC definition. The latest challenge to sedition in SC flags this frequent subversion of SC’s guard rails, notes alternate provisions in IPC and other laws that police can wield against speech and conduct threatening public order, and also warns of the provision’s chilling effect on free speech. This last aspect is detectable in UP BJP legislator Rakesh Rathore suggesting that speaking frankly on Covid management in the state could earn him a “desh droh” case.
Muzzling dissent has grave implications. Governance suffers when shortcomings aren’t promptly exposed. This boomerangs on citizens, akin to the happenings in this pandemic. Sedition cases have seen a year-on-year increase from 30 in 2015 to 93 in 2019 but total convictions are only in single digits, recording the lowest conviction rate among offences against the state. That courts will ultimately acquit is of little comfort; the byzantine legal process is often the punishment in India. Other Commonwealth countries like United Kingdom, Uganda and Ghana have repealed sedition. It has served no purpose in maintaining the rule of law or the authority of government over the people. Sedition must go.
2.Fighting blind: States shouldn’t cut Covid testing. It trims virus spread, helps people get timely treatment
Despite the second Covid wave still seeing high daily cases and deaths, six worst-hit states have scaled down testing over the last fortnight. Overall tests across the country have gone up by almost 6% during this period, but Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Telangana, Delhi and Uttarakhand have reduced tests. Karnataka, which now has the second highest number of Covid deaths in the country, saw testing go down by 4.8 lakh samples during May 4-17 compared to the previous fortnight.
During the same period tests came down by 3.7 lakh in Gujarat, 2.6 lakh in Maharashtra and by more than 1.8 lakh in Telangana. Uttarakhand and Rajasthan reduced testing by about 1 lakh each, while in Delhi testing has come down by more than 52,000 in the last two weeks. This suggests officials are not even trying to capture the real number of infections in the current surge. Lower testing fails to provide healthcare systems with adequate data about the spread of the disease, the way it’s evolving, and the potential infection hotspots. This may also lead to premature declarations of mission accomplished, while the enemy multiplies within.
From last year itself we have known that this is akin to fighting the pandemic blindfolded. Hence the massive investment and policy focus on expanding capacity. There is also the issue of quality of testing with the gold standard RT-PCR tests usually taking a hit when overall testing numbers come down – this is precisely what happened in Delhi. This again would mean more positive cases going undetected. Identification of infection in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals is particularly critical in interrupting the spread of infection. The poorer our surveillance of the virus, the more it will stay ahead of us.
3. On live-in couples, the HC is wrong
The judiciary must stand with the freedom of consenting adults, instead of weighing in on the side of oppressive social structures and illegal family diktats
The Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC)’s recent ruling, refusing to grant protection to a young couple allegedly facing harassment from the woman’s family, is flawed, both in terms of earlier judicial precedents and constitutional rights. The court said that a live-in relationship could disturb the social fabric of society and was morally and socially wrong. This goes against the view of the Supreme Court (SC), which held, in an earlier case, that the assertion of choice is an “insegregable facet of liberty and dignity”. In fact, the Punjab and Haryana HC last year had remarked in a protection petition filed by a couple that the hearing need not preach on morality or human behaviour.
The couple apprehended a threat to their lives — a legitimate plea given the frequency of so-called honour killings. The question before the court was about the protection to be offered to this couple to safeguard their right to life and liberty, not the ethics of live-in relationships which have been deemed legitimate. The apex court has, in the past, issued directives to states to protect couples who have chosen their partners against the wishes of their families, and even provide them safe houses. Unfortunately, HC did not follow suit.
The judiciary must stand with the freedom of consenting adults, instead of weighing in on the side of oppressive social structures and illegal family diktats. It must respect the right of adults to choose their partners and be in a relationship in any form they deem fit. The couple in question — to reiterate, both are above 18 — must be accorded protection from any threat of violence, and HC ruling must be challenged and reversed at the earliest.