Mitras Analysis of News : 24-6-2017

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1.Sedition law in India (The Hindu)

2.Is Prohibition a solution? (The Hindu)

3.Explained: How combating soil pollution can lead a way to reducing global warming

 

1.Sedition law in India (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the sedition law and the issues associated with it. (GS paper II)

Introduction

  • Recently, sedition charges have been slapped on certain individuals for chanting pro Pakistani slogans during a cricket match.
  • According to reports, the FIR has been registered under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (sedition).

Sedition in India

  • For decades, successive governments have used a colonial-era sedition law – the dreaded section 124a of the antiquated Indian Penal Code – against students, journalists, intellectuals, social activists, and those critical of the government.
  • Section 124ain The Indian Penal Code makes “words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government” punishable by law, a fine and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
  • Drafted by Thomas Macaulay, it was introduced in the 1870s, originally to deal with “increasing Wahabi activities between 1863 and 1870 that posed a challenge to the colonial government”.
  • In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the law was mainly used against Indian political leaders seeking independence from British rule.
  • Mahatma Gandhi, who was charged with sedition, famously said the law was “designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
  • In the decades after independence in 1947, the law was used against people accusing the ruling Congress government of corruption and tyranny, and little-known Communist leaders who exhorted people to “overthrow the government and capitalists”.
  • In 1951, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru described the law as “highly objectionable and obnoxious”.
  • In 1962, the Supreme Court imposed limits on the use of the law, making incitement to violence a necessary condition.

Controlling sedition

  • The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that sedition only applies when there is clear and immediate incitement to violence, which is certainly not the case if you applaud or deny certain ideology or praise national from certain countries.
  • In Kedar Nath Singh’s Case, 5 judges of the Supreme Court – a Constitution bench – made it clear that allegedly seditious speech and expression may be punished only if the speech is an ‘incitement’ to ‘violence’, or ‘public disorder’. Subsequent cases have further clarified the meaning of this phrase.
  • In 1995, in the Balwant Singh case, when it ruled that Khalistan Zindabadis not seditious, it upheld the 1962 ruling. More recently, in September 2016, the Supreme Court explicitly reaffirmed this position.
  • In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the famous 66A judgment, the Supreme Court drew a clear distinction between “advocacy” and “incitement”, stating that only the latter could be punished.
  • Therefore, advocating revolution, or advocating even violent overthrow of the State, does not amount to sedition, unless there is incitement to violence, and more importantly, the incitement is to ‘imminent’ violence.

Way forward

  • As long as any action is verbal and not physical and, therefore, violent it is fully covered by Article 19 (1), which guarantees free speech.
  • Furthermore, what most politicians forget is that whilst Article 19 (2) permits restrictions on freedom of speech on the grounds of sovereignty, it’s an enabling provision and not the law itself. After the law of sedition was read down, such a law no longer exists.

Question:  What is sedition? What is the case for its compatibility with Fundamental right to speech and expression?

 

2.Is Prohibition a solution? (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the dimensions of banning liquor versus regularising liquor. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Recorded references to intoxicating drinks go back by 7,000 years at least, and the arguments against their excessive use have had a concomitant life the emphasis being on the word “excessive.”
  • With the advent of modern nation states and the universal acceptance of personal liberty as a consistent political goal, the desirable or tolerable extent of state control over individual autonomy of choice has been a matter of debate in recent centuries.
  • Alcohol has been a battleground to test this question.

Why alcohol ban is justified?

  • Total ‘prohibition’ was introduced earlier in Gujarat and later in Bihar. In poorer States like Bihar, the justification for prohibition is even stronger as alcoholism among men from the economically vulnerable sections is even more harmful, leading to economic ruin of their families.
  • The number of liquor addicts worldwide is staggering, approximately two billion. Several studies have found that high alcohol intake increases blood pressure and enhances the risk of stroke and liver cirrhosis. In developing countries, those who drink tend to do so heavily.
  • For them, alcohol addiction has both adverse health and social consequences, as diverting the resource away from basic necessities such as food and shelter affects the welfare of other members of the household, especially children and women.
  • Moreover, alcohol is a State subject and each State government has the right to decide whether to go for prohibition or not.

Why prohibition may not serve the purpose?

  • Banning food and beverages is neither desirable nor feasible in a civilised society. It would interfere with social and customary practices, religious rites and rituals and put unnecessary fetters on individual freedoms.
  • In most of countries in the world and in Indian States like Gujarat and Nagaland where consumption of liquor is banned either totally or partially, breaches in law are more common than their observance.
  • The U.S., which experimented with prohibition for 13 years from 1920, finally lifted it finding it to be impractical and interfering. For this, the 18th amendment, by which prohibition was introduced, was repealed, the only time that a part of the U.S. Constitution has been revoked.
  • The indirect ban on meat consumption being imposed by the Central government and the attempt of the erstwhile government in Kerala to introduce prohibition of liquor belong to the category of draconian steps that interfere with individual and social freedoms.
  • Apart from crippling the tourism industry with its adverse impact on the State’s finances and employment opportunities, it led to an unprecedented increase in crimes relating to drug abuse and bootlegging.
  • As against 974 cases registered in Kerala in 2013, the State police registered 1,836 drug cases in the first six months of 2016 after the introduction of partial liquor ban.

Conclusion

  • While conscientious objections of prohibitionist lobbies and religious organisations are understandable, the hue and cry being raised by the opposition parties is politically motivated. The world over, Catholic catechism does not directly ban alcohol consumption. It only advocates temperance, advising Catholics to avoid every kind of excess.

Question:  How government should respond to fight alcoholism without impinging on personal freedom and liberty?

 

3.Explained :  How combating soil pollution can lead a way to reducing global warming

(GS paper III)

Introduction

  • Excess human activities leading to soil pollution took centre stage at the fifth Global Soil Partnership Plenary Assembly held at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • Soil pollution is an emerging problem, but, because it comes in so many forms, the only way we can reduce knowledge gaps and promote sustainable soil management is to intensify global collaboration and build reliable scientific evidence.

Combating soil degradation

  • Excessive amount of nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and reduce crop productivity. When they enter the food chain, these pollutants pose risk to food security, water resources, rural livelihoods and human health.
  • Combating soil pollution and pursuing sustainable soil management is essential for addressing climate change.
  • Around one-third of the world’s soils are degraded due to unsustainable soil management practices. Tens of billions of tonnes of soil are lost to farming each year, which in some countries affects as much as one-fifth of all croplands.
  • When it comes to Africa, the Status of the World’s Soil Resources report has established that 40 per cent of the continent’s soils are severely degraded.
  • Land degradation is also a major problem in India. According to the State of India’s Environment 2017, India’s total geographical area of 328.72 million hectares (MHA), 96.4 MHA is under desertification. In nine states, around 40 to 70 per cent of land has undergone desertification.

Soils to fight climate change

  • Healthy soils are vital for food security. Of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) and 169 targets, four contain targets related to soils and sustainable soil management.
  • On farms where climate-smart agriculture practices are used, the soil is treated almost as if it were a crop. Not only does fertile soil impart better flavor and higher nutritional valueto food, soil is one of the biggest carbon sinks on the planet.
  • Tending to the soil increases the amount of greenhouse gasses sequestered, and means healthier plants with higher yields. Healthy soil holds more moisture, keeping plant roots hydrated in dry periods.
  • Soil conservation methods such as contour planting or no-till farming reduce erosion, keeping the soil in place during heavy rains or floods a major concern in certain parts of the world such as India. Regular compost applications enrich the soil and minimize need for commercial fertilizers. All this equates to higher climate resilience for farms, and better soil for years down the road.

Question: What are the different approaches to conserve soil in order to use them as a tool to fight climate change?

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