CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 05/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 05/02/2024

L.K. Advani to get Bharat Ratna

(General Studies- Paper I)

Source : TH

Former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor.

About L.K. Advani

  • Lal Krishna Advani, born on November 8, 1927, is a prominent Indian politician and a key figure in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • He served as the 7th Deputy Prime Minister of India from 2002 to 2004 and is recognized as one of the co-founders of the BJP and a member of the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS).
  • Advani played a pivotal role in the remarkable rise of the BJP, transforming it from just 2 seats in the 1984 general election to becoming the single largest party in the Lok Sabha during the 1996 general election.
  • His political career includes being the longest-serving Minister of Home Affairs from 1998 to 2004 and the longest-serving Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
  • He was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate during the 2009 general election.
  • Born in Karachi and migrating to India during the Partition, Advani settled in Bombay and completed his college education.
  • He joined the RSS in 1941 at the age of fourteen and worked as a pracharak in Rajasthan.
  • Advani became a member of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951, holding various roles such as in charge of parliamentary affairs, general secretary, and president of the Delhi unit.
  • He was elected chairman of the First Delhi Metropolitan Council in 1967 and served until 1970, concurrently becoming a member of the RSS national executive.
  • Advani entered the Rajya Sabha in 1970, serving four terms until 1989.
  • He became the president of Jan Sangh in 1973, and following the party’s merger into the Janata Party before the 1977 general election, he assumed the position of union minister for Information and Broadcasting and leader of the house in Rajya Sabha.
  • In 1980, Advani, along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, co-founded the BJP and served as its president three times.
  • Elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1989, he served seven terms and held the position of leader of the opposition in both houses.
  • Advani served as the Minister of Home Affairs from 1998 to 2004 and held the office of Deputy Prime Minister from 2002 to 2004.
  • His political tenure extended until 2019, marking an illustrious and enduring presence in Indian politics.

About the Bharat Ratna

  • Bharat Ratna, established in 1954, stands as the highest civilian award in India, recognizing outstanding contributions across various fields.
  • This prestigious honor is open to individuals of any race, occupation, position, or gender, emphasizing merit and achievement.
  • Eligibility and Recognition:
    • The award is bestowed in acknowledgment of exceptional service or performance of the highest order in any area of human endeavor.
    • Notably, there are no formal recommendations required for consideration, and the Prime Minister personally makes recommendations to the President.
    • The annual awards are limited to a maximum of three in a given year.
  • Award Components:
    • Upon receiving the Bharat Ratna, the awardee is presented with a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a distinctive medallion.
    • Unlike some honors, the Bharat Ratna does not carry any monetary grant, emphasizing its symbolic and prestigious nature.
  • Usage and Constitutional Provisions:
    • Article 18(1) of the Constitution prohibits the use of the award as a prefix or suffix to the recipient’s name.
    • However, recipients are allowed to express their recognition by stating, ‘Awarded Bharat Ratna by the President’ or ‘Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award,’ on their bio-data, letterhead, visiting card, etc.

Dusted Apollo sighted for first time in Himachal’s Chamba

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

In a momentous event for butterfly enthusiasts, the elusive Dusted Apollo butterfly (Parnassiusstenosemus) has been sighted and photographed for the first time in Himachal Pradesh, showcasing the thriving diversity of Apollo butterflies in the region.

  • The discovery, made during a September 2023 trek to Manimahesh Lake in Chamba, was spearheaded by GajinderVerma and Abinash Thakur, forest guards of Chamba Forest Circle, Himachal Pradesh Forest Department.

Key Highlights

  • Rare Sighting and Background:
    • The Dusted Apollo, a species identified in 1890, is known for its rarity and inhabits the high-altitude regions from Ladakh to West Nepal, flying at elevations between 3,500 to 4,800 meters in the inner Himalayas.
    • This marks the first-ever photographic documentation of the butterfly in Himachal Pradesh, shedding light on its distinctive features and confirming its presence in the region.
  • The Dusted Apollo closely resembles the Ladakh Banded Apollo but can be distinguished by the complete discal band on its upper forewing and a narrower dark marginal band on the hind wings.
    • The sighting of another rare species, the Regal Apollo (Parnnasiuscharltonius), at Manimahesh further underscores the flourishing diversity of Apollo butterflies in the region.
    • Notably, five out of the 11 Apollo species recorded in Himachal Pradesh are classified as Scheduled species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

About the Manimahesh Lake in Chamba

  • Manimahesh Lake is a pristine alpine lake situated in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • Nestled amidst the majestic Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas, the lake is perched at an elevation of approximately 4,080 meters (13,385 feet) above sea level.
  • Spiritual Significance:
    • The lake holds immense religious and cultural importance, as it is considered sacred in Hindu mythology.
    • It is named after Lord Shiva, known locally as “Manimahesh,” with the belief that the deity resides in a cave near the lake.
    • The annual pilgrimage, known as the “ManimaheshYatra,” attracts devotees from far and wide who trek to seek the divine blessings of Lord Shiva.
    • The religious significance of this lake is also about the fact that it is situated next to the Lake Manasarovar in Tibet
  • The lake is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, including the impressive Manimahesh Kailash Peak, which stands as a backdrop to the serene waters.

In Image : Lake ManiMahesh

Reducing ammonia emissions through fertilizer management

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

A study, published in the journal Nature, employs machine learning to estimate ammonia emissions from global rice, wheat, and maize crops.

  • The research, led by Yi Zheng from the Southern University of Science and Technology, reveals that effective fertilizer management in these staple crops could reduce atmospheric ammonia emissions from farming by up to 38%.
  • The dataset, comprising over 2,700 observations, facilitates a cropland-specific assessment of emission reduction potential.
  • The study proposes an optimized strategy, involving enhanced-efficiency fertilizers placed deeper into the soil during conventional tillage practices, potentially mitigating ammonia emissions.

Key Findings

  • Ammonia Emission Impact:
    • Approximately 51-60% of anthropogenic ammonia emissions are attributed to crop cultivation, with rice, wheat, and maize contributing significantly.
  • Machine Learning Model:
    • Researchers utilize machine learning to model ammonia output, considering variables such as climate, soil characteristics, crop types, irrigation, tillage, and fertilization practices.
  • Global Ammonia Emissions:
    • The study estimates that global ammonia emissions reached 4.3 teragrams (4.3 billion kilograms) in 2018.
  • Reduction Potential:
    • Spatially optimizing fertilizer management, guided by the model, could lead to a 38% reduction in ammonia emissions from the three crops.
  • Crop-Specific Contributions:
    • Rice crops could contribute 47% to the reduction potential, while maize and wheat could contribute 27% and 26%, respectively.
  • Optimized Strategy:
    • Placing enhanced-efficiency fertilizers deeper into the soil during the growing season emerges as a key component of the proposed management strategy.
  • Future Projections:
    • Without management strategies, ammonia emissions may increase by 4.6% to 15.8% by 2100, depending on future greenhouse gas emission levels.

About Ammonia

  • Ammonia (NH₃) is a colorless gas with a pungent odor, composed of one nitrogen (N) atom bonded to three hydrogen (H) atoms.
  • It is a crucial compound in various industrial processes and serves as a significant component in fertilizers.
  • Sources of Ammonia Emissions:
    • Agricultural Activities: Approximately 51-60% of anthropogenic ammonia emissions are attributed to agricultural practices, with the cultivation of staple crops like rice, wheat, and maize being major contributors.
    • Livestock Farming: Animal waste and urine contribute to ammonia emissions, particularly in intensive livestock farming operations.
    • Industrial Processes: Certain industrial activities, such as chemical manufacturing and combustion processes, release ammonia into the atmosphere.
  • Environmental Impact:
    • Ecosystems: Ammonia can have detrimental effects on ecosystems, including soil acidification and nutrient imbalances, impacting plant and microbial communities.
    • Water Bodies: When deposited into water bodies, ammonia can lead to nutrient enrichment, causing algal blooms and negatively affecting aquatic life.
    • Air Quality: Elevated levels of atmospheric ammonia can contribute to air pollution, influencing respiratory health in humans and animals.
  • Role in Agriculture:
    • Fertilizer Component: Ammonia is a key ingredient in the production of synthetic fertilizers, contributing to nitrogen supply for plant growth.
    • Emission Challenges: Overapplication of fertilizers and inefficient agricultural practices can lead to excessive ammonia emissions, posing environmental challenges.

Micro-credentials, the next chapter in higher education

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in India are urged to take a more proactive role in ensuring students’ employability by addressing the gap between acquired knowledge and the skills demanded by the job market.

  • A disruptive solution to this challenge is the emergence of micro-credentials, recognized as a new norm in higher education due to their flexibility, accessibility, and practical advantages.

Key Highlights

  • Understanding Micro-Credentials:
    • Micro-credentials are short-duration learning activities that validate specific learning outcomes through a reliable assessment process.
    • They are offered in online, physical, or hybrid modes, catering to different skill levels.
    • In contrast to traditional macro-credentials like undergraduate degrees that require years of study, micro-credentials offer a more immediate and targeted approach.
    • Moreover, they are designed to accommodate life-long learners, particularly working professionals unable to commit to formal degree programs.
    • The landscape of micro-credentials is still evolving, evident in the diverse terminologies used, including digital badges, micro-master degrees, nano-degrees, and online certificates.
    • This adaptability allows for a broad spectrum of learners to engage in short-duration, focused learning experiences.
  • Key Players in Micro-Credential Ecosystem:
    • Several prominent organizations, such as Atingi,, Credly, Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, Google, Linkedin, Microsoft, PwC, and Udacity, are actively involved in offering micro-credentials.
    • Notably, universities in Australia, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States have embraced this trend, with expectations of more organizations joining the micro-credential movement.
  • Changing Hiring Practices:
    • A noteworthy shift in hiring practices is observed, with an increasing emphasis on skills over traditional degrees.
    • The endorsement of micro-credentials is gaining momentum, reflecting a recognition of the practical, just-in-time nature of skills acquired through these programs.
  • Traditional Credit System in HEIs:
    • In formal degree programs conducted by Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), the use of ‘credits’ is common to assign value to various forms of learning, including lectures, tutorials, laboratory work, seminars, projects, and internships.
    • Typically, courses in macro-credential programs are designed to be three to four credits, with one credit corresponding to one hour of lecture or two hours of lab work per week.
    • In this traditional setting, ‘credit’ is linked to the time spent in a classroom or lab.
  • Micro-Credentials and Credit Association:
    • In contrast, micro-credentials depart from the traditional credit model by associating credits with notional hours spent acquiring a defined minimum competency.
    • This divergence allows micro-credential credits to be universally validated and recognized, aligning them with conventional higher education practices.
    • The emphasis shifts from time spent in a formal setting to the acquisition of specific competencies.
  • Quality Benchmarking and Regulation Needs:
    • While this shift offers flexibility and recognition, it highlights the importance of clear quality benchmarking and regulation for micro-credentials.
    • This ensures consistency in learning outcomes, preventing significant divergences and facilitating easy endorsement in both the workplace and traditional higher education institutes.
    • The need for standardized measures becomes crucial to maintain the integrity and value of micro-credentials.
  • India’s National Credit Framework (NCrF):
    • India has introduced a National Credit Framework (NCrF), outlining learning outcomes and corresponding credits that students must accumulate to progress to the next level of learning.
    • This framework establishes a structured approach, addressing the potential challenges of varying credit systems.
    • Additionally, micro-credentials, with their portable and stackable nature, find a fitting place within digital platforms like the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC), enhancing accessibility and organization.
  • Ensuring Authentic Skill Acquisition:
    • Establishing trust in micro-credentials is crucial, and alignment with higher education standards in delivery, assessment, grading, and qualification awarding is essential.
    • Reliable assessment methods are key to building trust, with the involvement of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) playing a pivotal role in this process.
  • Integration into Traditional Education:
    • For students in Indian universities, micro-credentials present opportunities to integrate diverse skills into their regular education.
    • Credits earned through micro-credentials can be stored on platforms like the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) for future redemption or for obtaining additional certificates or diplomas alongside traditional macro-credentials.
    • Micro-credentials, typically ranging from one to five credits, can be incorporated as short modules, allowing learners to accumulate credits toward a degree, as specified in the National Credit Framework (NCrF).
    • With the National Education Policy 2020 focusing on skill development and employers seeking skilled individuals, there is a growing demand for micro-credentials in India.
    • The flexibility of earning stand-alone credits or integrating micro-credentials into standard higher education appeals to millions of students, offering them a valuable advantage in the job market.
  • Strategic Role of Indian HEIs:
    • As the NCrF is implemented nationwide, Indian HEIs are urged to partner with industries to develop credit-based micro-credentials.
    • The incorporation of micro-credentials into regular degree programs is seen as an opportunity for HEIs to align with strategic institutional objectives and contribute to the transformative landscape of tertiary education.
    • To ensure a seamless integration, regulators and HEIs must collaborate to harmonize micro-credentials with existing academic programs, establishing clear validation metrics.
    • This cooperative effort is crucial for realizing the full potential of micro-credentials and their role in shaping the future of higher education in India.

About National Credit Framework (NCrF)

  • The National Credit Framework (NCrF) is a recently introduced framework in India that redefines the education landscape by offering students the opportunity to earn educational credits through various learning modes, including offline, online, or a combination of both. Aligned with the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP2020), which emphasizes integrating academic education with vocational learning, the NCrF aims to bring uniformity between these two streams and supports the concept of lifelong learning.
  • Key Features:
    • Flexible Learning Paths:
      • The NCrF provides flexibility for students to earn credits through diverse learning pathways, fostering a balance between academic and vocational education.
    • Uniformity in Education Levels:
      • Education is divided into eight levels, ranging from Class 5 to Ph.D. level. Credits are assigned based on notional learning hours, ensuring consistency across general and vocational education.
      • School education falls under Levels 0 to 4, while higher education and vocational training are categorized from Levels 4.5 to 8.
    • Credit Definition:
      • One credit corresponds to 30 notional learning hours in a year with two semesters.
      • Students are required to earn a minimum of 20 credits per semester, totaling 40 credits in one academic year (equivalent to 1200 notional learning hours).
      • Students have the opportunity to earn more than 40 credits in a year.
    • Credit Earning Methods:Students can earn credits through various avenues, including:
      • Prior Learning: Recognition of prior learning, which includes family learning, work experience, and cluster-based learning.
      • Classroom Projects: Involvement in classroom projects contributes to credit accumulation.
      • Laboratory Work: Credits are awarded for participation in laboratory work.
      • Vocational Education: Engagement in vocational education programs.
      • Social Work: Credits can be earned through participation in social work initiatives.
      • Olympiads: Recognition for achievements in academic Olympiads.
      • Performing Arts: Participation in performing arts activities contributes to credit acquisition.
      • Internships: Practical experience gained through internships is credited.
    • Implementation and Validation:
      • End-of-Year Credits: The academic year is defined by the credits students earn, which are provided at the end of each academic year.
      • Validation of Learning: NCrF validates various forms of learning, addressing the changing dynamics of education, including homeschooling trends accelerated by the pandemic.

Unending woes

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : TH

The repeated arrests of fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry by the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Bay, coupled with attacks by armed civilians at sea, have become a significant cause for concern.

  • While acknowledging that Indian fishermen occasionally enter Sri Lankan waters, affecting the livelihood of local fishers, the surge in detentions and attacks this year is alarming.
  • The recent detention of 23 fishermen and seizure of two trawlers off Delft island bring the total arrests to 69 this year, compared to 240 in the entire previous year.
  • The prolonged judicial custody, release of some fishermen, and the confiscation of vessels and fishing nets add to the distress within the fishing community.

Key Highlights

  • Background and Causes:
    • Sri Lankan authorities respond to pressure from their Northern Province fishermen who accuse Tamil Nadu fishermen of engaging in destructive bottom trawling, banned in Sri Lanka since July 2017.
    • Despite India’s commitment to end bottom trawling in the Palk Bay and promote deep-sea fishing under the Blue Revolution Scheme, the practice persists.
    • Practical challenges arise from the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act of 1983, restricting mechanised fishing boats to operate beyond three nautical miles from the coast.
  • Inadequate Diplomatic Consistency:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed in 2015 that fishing tensions should be treated as a “humanitarian concern.”
    • However, neither side has consistently demonstrated a humanitarian approach.
    • The Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries, established in November 2016, was intended to meet regularly and have bi-annual ministerial meetings.
    • However, the JWG has only held five sittings, with the last one occurring in 2022.
  • Call for Tangible Solutions:
    • Tangible and targeted actions are needed to incentivize deep-sea fishing and discourage bottom trawling.
    • Resolving the issue with mutual compassion and periodic talks is crucial to prevent further tensions in the Palk Bay.
    • Consistent diplomatic efforts are necessary to address the root causes of the conflict, promote sustainable fishing practices, and safeguard the well-being of Indian fishermen.

What is bottom trawling?

  • Bottom trawling is a fishing method that involves dragging a large net, called a trawl, along the seabed to catch fish or other marine organisms.
  • This method is primarily used for harvesting species that live on or near the ocean floor.
  • The trawl net is typically cone-shaped and equipped with weights and sometimes metal doors that help it sink to the seabed and maintain contact with the ocean floor during the towing process.
  • While bottom trawling is an efficient method for catching a large quantity of fish, it has raised environmental concerns due to its impact on marine ecosystems.
    • The process can cause significant habitat destruction, especially in sensitive areas like coral reefs and other benthic habitats.
    • The dragging of heavy gear along the seabed can damage the seafloor structure, disrupt marine habitats, and lead to unintended bycatch of non-target species.

About Blue Revolution

  • The Blue Revolution, embodied in the Neel Kranti Mission, aims to propel economic prosperity in India by fully utilizing water resources for sustainable fisheries development.
  • The vision includes contributing to food and nutritional security while addressing bio-security and environmental concerns.
  • The objectives of this mission encompass:
    • Increased Fish Production: Striving for responsible and sustainable growth in fish production to boost economic prosperity.
    • Modernization with Technology: Focusing on the modernization of fisheries, incorporating new technologies for enhanced efficiency.
    • Food and Nutritional Security: Ensuring a steady supply of fish products to contribute to food and nutritional security.
    • Employment and Export Earnings: Generating employment opportunities and boosting export earnings through the fisheries sector.
    • Inclusive Development: Ensuring inclusive development by empowering fishers and aquaculture farmers.
  • Restructuring for Comprehensive Development:
    • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has undertaken a comprehensive restructuring of existing schemes, consolidating them under the umbrella of the Blue Revolution.
    • This restructured scheme is designed to provide focused development and management of fisheries, covering a wide spectrum of activities related to inland fisheries, aquaculture, marine fisheries (including deep-sea fishing and mariculture), and initiatives led by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB).
  • Key Components: The Blue Revolution scheme encompasses the following key components:
    • National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and its activities: Supporting and coordinating the various activities undertaken by the National Fisheries Development Board.
    • Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture: Aiming at the sustainable growth and enhancement of inland fisheries and aquaculture.
    • Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure, and Post-Harvest Operations: Focusing on the comprehensive development of marine fisheries, including the enhancement of infrastructure and post-harvest operations.
    • Strengthening of Database & Geographical Information System of the Fisheries Sector: Emphasizing the importance of data management and geographical information systems to enhance the efficiency of the fisheries sector.
    • Institutional Arrangement for Fisheries Sector: Establishing and strengthening institutional frameworks to facilitate the development and management of the fisheries sector.
    • Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) and Other Need-based Interventions: Implementing measures for effective monitoring, control, and surveillance, along with other interventions based on identified needs.
    • National Scheme of Welfare of Fishermen: Addressing the welfare of fishermen through a national scheme that encompasses various supportive measures.
  • Holistic Approach:
    • The Blue Revolution scheme, through its diverse components, aims to foster sustainable and responsible development across the entire spectrum of fisheries activities.
    • By merging ongoing schemes under a unified framework, it seeks to streamline efforts for the comprehensive growth and management of fisheries in India.

A sunshine initiative

(General Studis- Paper II and III)

Source : TH

The interim budget speech by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveils Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to power one crore households in India through rooftop solar panels, offering significant savings.

  • Households with monthly electricity consumption below 300 units will be eligible for mid-sized systems (1-2 kilowatts), with the government covering the expenses.
  • The subsidy for rooftop solar systems is set to increase from 40% to 60%, and the remainder will be financed by private developers affiliated with a Power Ministry-connected public sector enterprise, ensuring quality installation and reliable service.

Key Highlights

  • The initiative could involve a minimum outlay of ₹1 lakh crore, aiming to provide an annual savings of ₹15,000 per household.
  • Subsidy Mechanism:
    • Currently, rooftop solar systems are subsidized up to 40%, and the proposed policy suggests increasing it to 60%, with the private developer covering the remaining costs.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • Households with monthly consumption below 300 units are eligible, constituting a significant portion of Indian households, with about 80-85% falling within the 100-120 units per month range.
  • Net-Metering Mechanism:
    • The plan includes a net-metering mechanism, allowing households to sell surplus electricity back to the grid to offset the loan.
  • Unlike earlier policies driven by State power distribution companies (discoms), this initiative is led by the Centre, promoting solarization and decarbonized power at the household level.
    • Recognizing the crucial role of discoms, the Centre’s direct involvement aims to overcome discoms’ historical reluctance to adopt decentralized solutions.
    • The initiative is expected to boost the domestic solar panel industry, emphasizing subsidies for locally produced panels over imports.
  • Installation Progress:
    • Of the intended 40 GW of rooftop solar panels, only 12 GW has been installed so far, with household rooftops accounting for 2.7 GW.
  • Challenges and Considerations:
    • The success of the initiative depends on effective implementation, particularly overcoming challenges that have hindered previous efforts.
    • The policy should be adapted to accommodate varying needs and challenges at the state level for comprehensive success.

About India’s Solar Power Targets

  • In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set an ambitious target of installing 100 GW of solar power in India by 2022, which included a significant component of 40 GW from grid-connected solar rooftop systems.
  • However, as of the end of the previous year, the total solar installed capacity in the country stood at 73.3 GW, with grid-connected rooftop solar contributing only 11 GW.
  • Missed Milestones:
    • The initial target of 100 GW by 2022 marked a five-fold increase from the existing goal at that time.
    • Despite rapid growth in solar power capacity over the past decade, the country fell significantly short of the 100 GW target by the specified deadline.
    • The target for rooftop installations, a crucial component, also remained unmet, reaching only about 11 GW by the end of the last year.
  • Challenges and Disruptions:
    • The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the growth trajectory of solar power, contributing to the challenges in meeting the 2022 targets.
    • Even before the pandemic, the growth trajectory of solar power was not steep enough to meet the ambitious targets.
  • Revised Goals:
    • The 40 GW target for rooftop solar systems is now rescheduled to be achieved by 2026.

Uttarakhand’s Uniform Civil Code

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The Uttarakhand Assembly is set to pass the State’s Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill during the upcoming four-day session in February.

  • After the BJP’s victory in the 2022 elections, the Uttarakhand government formed a five-member committee, led by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, to draft the UCC legislation.
  • The committee engaged with the public, receiving over 2.15 lakh suggestions and conducting more than 38 public meetings across the state during the drafting process.
  • The government granted four extensions to the committee within 20 months for the submission of its final report.
  • The drafted UCC will undergo discussion in a State Cabinet meeting before being formally presented in the Assembly as a Bill.

Key Highlights

  • Objective of a UCC:
    • A Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is designed to establish a standardized set of laws that would replace the distinct personal laws associated with each religion.
    • This uniformity would extend to crucial aspects such as marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance.
    • The constitutional basis for this initiative lies in Article 44, which falls under the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV of the Constitution).
    • Although not legally enforceable, these principles guide the state in governance.
  • Historical Context and Debates:
    • Constitutional Mandate: Article 44 mandates the state to “secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
    • Judicial decisions, such as the Minerva Mills v. Union of India (1980) case, emphasize the need to strike a balance between fundamental rights and Directive Principles, considering it part of the Constitution’s basic structure.
    • The inclusion of UCC in the Constitution sparked intense debates in the Constituent Assembly. Concerns were raised, particularly by Muslim members, about potential dilution of minority rights and the impact on India’s religious diversity.
    • Vote on Inclusion:
      • The matter was settled by a 5:4 majority vote, with the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights deciding that the UCC should not be part of fundamental rights but a directive principle.
    • Opponents argued that a UCC could interfere with the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 (formerly Article 19) and required consent from concerned communities.
    • Supporting Equality and Social Reform:
      • Advocates, including K.M. Munshi, highlighted benefits such as promoting equality, especially for women, and the potential to eliminate discriminatory practices.
      • B.R. Ambedkar expressed the desirability of a UCC but suggested a purely voluntary approach in the initial stages. He emphasized that the provision should not be imposed on all citizens.
    • Committee Formation and Objectives:
      • In June 2022, the Uttarakhand government established an expert committee, led by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, to explore the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state.
      • The committee, which included legal experts and social representatives, aimed to examine ways to introduce a UCC.
    • Key Changes Expected:
      • Gender Equality: The draft UCC in Uttarakhand is expected to emphasize gender equality, particularly in matters related to inheritance, treating men and women equally.
      • Revocation of Controversial Practices: The UCC is likely to address concerns raised by Muslim women by revoking practices such as polygamy, iddat (mandatory waiting period after the dissolution of a Muslim marriage), and triple talaq.
      • Equal Property Share for Muslim Women: The draft proposes extending equal property share to Muslim women, surpassing the existing 25% share granted under Muslim personal laws.
      • Marriage Age: While other reforms are anticipated, the minimum age for marriage is expected to remain the same, with 18 years for women and 21 years for men.
      • Coverage of Various Aspects: The UCC is set to encompass diverse aspects including divorce, marriage registrations, adoption, and provisions for social security for aging parents.
      • Mandatory Registration of Live-In Relationships: The committee reportedly recommends the mandatory registration of live-in relationships.
    • Supreme Court’s Perspective:
      • Over the years, the Supreme Court has addressed the Uniform Civil Code in various judgments, expressing regret about Article 44 remaining a “dead letter.”
      • The Court, in judgments like Shah Bano Begum case (1985), SarlaMudgal v. Union of India (1995), and John Vallamattom v. Union of India (2003), urged for the implementation of Article 44.
      • Goa’s Example:
        • In the Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira case (2019), the Court praised Goa as a “shining example” where the uniform civil code applies to all, regardless of religion, encouraging its pan-India implementation.
      • Filing of UCC Petitions (2021-2022):
        • Between 2021 and 2022, six petitions were filed in the Supreme Court seeking uniformity in divorce, maintenance, and alimony laws.
        • The petitioners argued that existing laws discriminated against women, violating Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15 (right against discrimination based on religion and gender) of the Constitution.
      • Petitioners: BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, known for filing cases against polygamy and nikahhalala, and Firoz Ahmed Bakht, former Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, were among the petitioners.
      • Union Law Ministry’s Opposition and Court’s Response:
        • The Union Law Ministry opposed the maintainability of the petitions, emphasizing that the Court cannot direct Parliament to frame or enact laws, as it falls under the exclusive domain of elected representatives.
        • Supreme Court’s Dismissal (March 2021):
          • A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed the petitions, stating that such matters are within the exclusive domain of Parliament.
          • The Court declined to refer the issue to the Law Commission of India, noting that it would not aid in legislation.
          • The Court highlighted that Article 162 permits the exercise of executive powers by the State.
          • The constitution of a committee was deemed not ultra vires, citing Entry 5 of the Concurrent List, which includes matters related to marriage, divorce, infants, minors, adoption, wills, intestacy, succession, joint family, and partition.
          • The Supreme Court consistently asserted that the framing of laws, including the Uniform Civil Code, is a legislative prerogative within the exclusive purview of Parliament.
          • It dismissed petitions seeking judicial directions to enact such laws, emphasizing the separation of powers and the constitutional authority of elected representatives to decide on policy matters.
        • Law Commission’s Evolving Stance on UCC
          • In 2016, the BJP government requested the Law Commission of India to assess the formulation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) due to the diversity of “thousands of personal laws” in the country.
          • The 21st Law Commission, led by Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan, submitted a 185-page consultation paper on “Reforms of family law” in August 2018.
          • The paper stated that a UCC was neither necessary nor desirable at that stage, emphasizing that a unified nation did not require uniformity.
          • It highlighted the coexistence of secularism and plurality in the country.
          • The Commission recommended amending discriminatory practices and stereotypes within existing personal laws.
        • 22nd Law Commission’s Notification (June 2022):
          • On June 14, 2022, the 22nd Law Commission, led by Justice (Retd) RiturajAwasthi, issued a notification to seek views from stakeholders, including public and religious organizations, on the UCC.
          • The Commission noted that over three years had passed since the issuance of the 2018 consultation paper.
          • Considering the relevance and importance of the subject, along with various court orders, the 22nd Law Commission deemed it expedient to deliberate afresh on the UCC.
        • Future of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Initiatives in India
          • Goa already has a UCC dating back to the 1870s from its Portuguese colonial era.
          • However, it is not entirely uniform and makes exceptions for certain religious customs.
          • Uttarakhand’s move to introduce a UCC has inspired two other BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, to appoint committees for UCC formulation.
          • A similar proposal was part of the BJP’s election manifesto for the Karnataka Assembly polls.
          • Central Government’s Approach:
            • The Centre may tread cautiously and observe the outcomes of individual State initiatives before proposing a pan-India UCC.
            • The anticipated report from the 22nd Law Commission is likely to influence the decision.
          • Pending Supreme Court Query:
            • A pending query before the Supreme Court related to the “scope and ambit of the right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution” might influence the UCC debate.
            • The question arose in the Sabarimala case and awaits consideration by a larger bench.

About Article 44 of the Indian Constitution

  • Article 44 is a directive principle enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution of India.
  • The directive principles are guidelines or principles given to the government to be kept in mind while framing laws and policies.
  • They are not enforceable in a court of law but are fundamental in the governance of the country.
  • Text of Article 44:“The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
    • The objective of Article 44 is to promote a Uniform Civil Code for all citizens of India.
    • A Uniform Civil Code aims to replace the personal laws based on religious scriptures and customs with a common set of laws governing various aspects of personal life, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption.
  • Secular Principles:
    • The idea behind a UCC is rooted in the principles of equality and secularism, emphasizing that all citizens, regardless of their religion, should be subject to the same set of civil laws.
    • It seeks to eliminate discrepancies arising from diverse personal laws that different religious communities follow.