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Editorial Today (English)

in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The livemint,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. Good riddance to an illiberal mandate

The Allahabad High Court has delivered a signal service to the cause of individual liberty by removing a dubious requirement under the Special Marriage Act 1954.

The court ruled that a provision that now stands as mandatory would be rendered optional. Section 5 of the Act requires a couple intending to tie the knot under the Act to give advance public notice of 30 days for anyone to raise whatever objections they have to the union.

The court has ruled that this violates the couple’s liberty and privacy, deemed fundamental rights, if interpreted as a mandatory requirement, but would not need to be removed from the law as it now stands, if interpreted as a voluntary option. This provision of the law gave mischief-makers, chiefly guardians of caste or religious community honour vigilant against a member forming a liaison with someone outside their group, plenty of room to raise many hurdles in the couple’s path to matrimony.

In the past, this used, predominantly, to be in the form of emotional blackmail by elder members of the immediate and extended family. More recently, in an atmosphere of heightened polarisation in society, the objection comes from right-wing groups that object to marriage across the religious divide.

The 30-day notice period can become a period of harassment and immense emotional stress for a couple who should be spending their time in happy expectancy of an important transition in their life. The Allahabad High Court ruling makes it clear that the socalled love jihad law that has been framed in Uttar Pradesh and its clones in other BJP-ruled states would be struck down. These laws violate the right to religious freedom as well, mandating the state’s permission for changing one’s faith. Such laws should go.

2.A Global Ill Wind Of Inflation

The rising trend in commodity prices calls for greater efficiency in inflation management, and makes achieved real growth more important than ever, so that the additional liquidity created to support growth does not end up merely raising the prices of a static supply of goods and services.

Ironically, the spurt in global commodity prices comes just when inflation finally seems to be coming down in India, consumer price increase now being 4.59%. Global recourse to infrastructure building as a tool of bolstering growth pushes up demand for commodities. The need is for imaginative and proactive fiscal policy to boost growth, vigilant monetary policy management and concerted efforts to achieve optimal efficiency in resource use.

Energy commodities have spiked 15% in December alone. And there is double-digit price rise on the metals and minerals front. Further, the pandemic has also elevated precious metals. Note that in April last year, while prices of oil, the most traded commodity, collapsed, albeit temporarily, gold prices went past $2,000 per ounce for the first time ever, as a store of value.

Meanwhile, international commodity assets under management have reportedly gone up to a record $640 billion last month. A new commodity super-cycle seems well underway. The way forward is to purposefully stepup recycling and reusing, for instance, steel, metals and building materials generally. India has a 25 MT domestic scrap industry.

But as the steel scrap policy paper of 2019 makes clear, it is quite unorganised and in pressing need for policy support for much-needed modernisation. Aligning the import duty on scrap and virgin metal is the efficient way to boost recycling. Lowering excessive import duties is an option at our disposal to fight inflation. Besides, Section 35 AD of the Income-Tax Act, which provides deduction of expenditure of a capital nature, surely needs to be extended to scrap. In parallel, we require active futures and options products in the commodity derivatives market for better price discovery.

3.Privacy checks in: Special Marriage Act’s intrusive 30 day public notice provision could be on its last legs

The Allahabad high court judgment holding the 30 day public notice under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) optional, promises to put an end to a regressive provision in a law often touted as a Uniform Civil Code template. Justice Vivek Chaudhary has held that a couple not willing to allow the publication of a 30 day notice requires the marriage officer to solemnise the marriage forthwith. The public notice provision has faced increasing flak over communal and caste vigilantes using it to foil marriages.

The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition by a Hindu man seeking out his wife, a Muslim who converted to Hinduism on marriage eve, detained by her father. It was moved to address this matter when the reunited couple bemoaned their preference to marry under SMA instead of religious personal law was frustrated by its onerous 30 day public notice, soliciting objections that violated their privacy and incentivised societal and family pressures. The court was also informed that many such interfaith couples were now trapped between this unhelpful public notice and the new, draconian UP law stricturing religious conversion for marriage.

Justice Chaudhary has ruled that the public notice violated the fundamental right to privacy recognised by the Supreme Court. He also flagged sweeping societal changes since SMA’s enactment in 1954 and that the very purpose of laws is to serve society as per its needs, which SC judgments have consistently satisfied through greater fulfilment of personal freedoms. Finally, the judge recognised the farcical situation where personal law marriages do not require such public notices. In a modern, secular society that recognises the right of consenting adults to marry, the SMA should entrust the marriage officer with no greater role than verifying identity, age and valid consent. The right to privacy promises more such resets in the power asymmetry between state and citizens in the coming days.

Through a series of interventions, Allahabad HC has struck some powerful blows for couples torn apart by society, state officers and mistaken laws. With this resounding HC verdict, SC must step in and examine the constitutionality of this SMA provision and the near-identical UP, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh laws targeting interfaith marriages and religious conversions. Unlike the farm laws with political and policy imperatives which have opposing and supporting farmers making adjudication dicey, threats to individual liberties and privacy lie squarely in SC’s domain and must occupy its utmost energies.

  1. Societal delusions: Trump bulldozed reality and aroused a mirror pathology at the national level

Any accounting of how polarised his country will remain after US President Donald Trump exits office begins with his outsized contribution to various societal delusions. Indeed, throughout his term psychiatrists have questioned his mental health. Diagnoses have included emotional fragility, malignant narcissism, sociopathic characteristics, and a personal reality that’s a “patchwork of knowing falsehoods and sincerely believed fantasies.” Further, World Mental Health Coalition president Bandy X Lee points out, “when such wounded individuals are given positions of power they arouse similar pathology in the population,” inducing delusions at the national level. The treatment, she says, is removal of exposure.

Exacting socio-economic conditions have facilitated this shared psychosis. To take just a couple of big examples, beginning February last year Trump has unbendingly stuck to the line that Covid will simply go away and beginning November he has continuously claimed election victory. Such wild falsehoods put him in a league of his own, especially if he believes them too. As Mitt Romney has said, what happened in the US Capitol on January 6 was horrifyingly an insurrection incited by the president of the United States himself.

His exit will in itself bring a degree of healing. But many of the 73 million who voted for him will remain vulnerable to a shadow presidency or a 2024 candidacy. As Lee argues, the goal is to change the circumstances that led to their faulty beliefs. The social media cancellations which have already diluted his influence on the news cycle, indicate that muting his delusional narratives to grab back reality is certainly possible. But either through a Senate impeachment conviction during his presidency or criminal prosecution afterwards, he must be held to account. To protect Truth, begin there.

  1. Delhi’s balancing act with Nepal | HT Editorial

Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali is in Delhi for a bilateral meeting. External affairs minister, S Jaishankar, will be his counterpart as co-chair of the joint commission meeting. It is a sign that after troubles last year, triggered by Nepal’s decision to publish a new map including territory India considers its own, the bilateral relationship is broadly on track. The two sides will discuss the status of connectivity projects, and Mr Gyawali is expected to make a strong pitch for early delivery of Covid-19 vaccines — India has already committed to supplying it to its close neighbours. This is positive and will earn India goodwill among Nepali citizens at large and reflect Delhi’s capacity to be a provider of public goods.

But even as the State-to-State relationship is on track, it is important for Delhi not to lose sight of the political churn in Nepal. Prime Minister KP Oli’s unconstitutional move to dissolve Parliament (the new Nepali Constitution does not give the PM the right to do so) has led to a de facto split in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Nepal’s Opposition parties are slowly building up a street movement against the current government. Four former chief justices have slammed Mr Oli’s move, even as the Supreme Court’s verdict on the constitutionality of the dissolution is awaited. Mr Oli is widely seen to have pushed the country into a period of instability in order to enjoy power without accountability. And there is a widespread belief that elections, announced for April-May, will not be held.

This churn has led to three tactical gains for India — the unity in NCP, a product of China’s blatant interference, is shattered; China’s efforts to reunify the party haven’t borne fruit; and India is not being blamed, as is often the custom in Nepal, for its internal troubles. At the same time, India must be careful not to be seen as backing Mr Oli. This will put it at the risk of being on the wrong side of democratic principles — Mr Oli’s move undermines Nepal’s fragile constitutional democratic structure — and of power. After all, this may mark the beginning of the end of Mr Oli’s dominance in Nepali politics and an alternative configuration is likely to take power eventually. India must stand firmly on the side of the democratic aspirations of Nepali citizens. That is ethical, prudent and strategic.

  1. Upholding the right to liberty and privacy | HT Editorial

The Allahabad High Court has upheld the fundamental right to liberty and privacy with its ruling that a 30-day notice is not mandatory for those seeking to get married under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954. The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition, which stated that an adult woman was being forcibly detained for wanting to marry a man of another faith. She had converted to Hinduism but was prevented from proceeding with her marriage by her father. The petition sought her release. The ruling clears a significant obstacle for interfaith marriages and curtails State interference in personal relationships.

Though this ruling has no direct link to the controversial Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, it comes in the backdrop of an ugly campaign by right-wing forces against what they term “love jihad” when referring to interfaith marriages. The ruling puts the provisions of SMA on a par with personal laws which require no notice period. The executive must follow up on the court ruling by cracking down on vigilante groups, which have harassed couples seeking to get married under SMA.

The law is meant to resolve conflict, not create it — which is what the 30-day notice was doing in the case of many people wishing to marry under SMA. Until now, couples faced the prospect of social persecution, even violence, when seeking to marry outside their faith. The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of the individual’s autonomy in personal relationships as per articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution. The high court ruling that the notice period for a marriage under SMA is voluntary and not mandatory is a firm reiteration of liberty as a fundamental right in personal matters.

 

 

 

 

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