December 12, 2013
Supreme Court sets aside Delhi HC verdict decriminalizing gay sex
- In a major setback to gay rights activists, the Supreme Court has held that homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is illegal and will continue to be an offence.
What does Section 377 say?
- Whoever voluntarily has “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal commits an unnatural offence” and can be punished with up to life term.
- However, ‘Section 377, which holds same-sex relations unnatural, does not suffer from unconstitutionality’.
- The Delhi High Court in 2009 had ruled that Section 377 was against constitutional values and human dignity, which clearly violates the Human Right’s of an individual.
- But the SC has argued that, the Delhi HC has relied extensively upon the judgements of other foreign countries which cannot be applied blindfolded for deciding the constitutionality of Indian law.
- And since LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) community constitute only a diminutive fraction of the population, the decision does not hold water. Now, it is upto the parliament to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting section 377 of IPC from the constitution or amend it.
Ruling regressive, say gay rights activists
- The Naz Foundation has said that, the decision has let down the constitutional vision of an equal and inclusive society and violated the fundamental tenets of the Constitution.
- The 2.5-million LGBT community is categorised as a high-risk group by the Department of AIDS Control, as prevalence of HIV infection among them is close to 7 % as against less than 1% in others. India has cut down HIV infections by 57% through its inclusive public health schemes. With this decision HIV infected among LGBT community may no longer access public health facilities without risking harassment or arrest.
- The community would also face threats and intimidation or even blackmailing.
A retrograde decision:
- The Supreme Court’s is viewed as ‘retrograde’ as it has brought back medieval prejudice and has also curtailed liberal values and human rights.
- Through its path-breaking judgment in Naz Foundation, the Delhi High Court had amended Section 377 to decriminalise consensual sex among adults irrespective of gender. The Union government too was in favour of the High Court’s view, and had left it to the Supreme Court (SC) to decide on the penal provision.
- The court has stepped in wherever the executive had failed and has not hesitated to read into the constitutionally enumerated fundamental rights to life and to equality an expansive set of human rights including the right to education, the right to work with dignity and the right of prisoners to humane treatment. That is all the more reason why it should not shy away from correcting a centuries-old law and an outdated mind-set that offend against basic rights and human dignity.
- Changes in law have come about both by legislation and through the judiciary’s constitutional interpretation.
- With this decision, the judicial route to bringing the law in line with fundamental human right has been closed. It is strange that a decision involving a major constitutional issue and the hard-won rights of large sections of the socially oppressed should have been decided by a two-member bench rather than by a larger Constitutional Bench.
- It is Parliament’s prerogative to amend Section 377 in tune with the social circumstances, declared the court in a show of restraint that is uncharacteristic of its attitude in recent times. However, the legislative route to decriminalising gay sex would seem to be problematic in this election season because the issue may not be accorded priority and also because it may be difficult to forge a political agreement.
- If harassment by law enforcement agencies drives sections of the LGBT community underground and makes them terrified of disclosing their orientation, it would have serious public health consequences as well, particularly in the fight against AIDS. Above all, it is a test of humane values, fairness and dignity in a society. It is important that institutions of the state acknowledge the importance of these values.
As India takes a step back, U.K. prepares to legalise gay marriage
- The Indian Supreme Court has re-criminalized gay relationships based on a colonial law that the United Kingdom has long back done away with is an irony that has not gone unnoticed in the U.K., where a much-awaited government announcement promising a spring deadline for same- sex marriages has just been made.
Stringent checks on India-Nepal border
- After the launch of the “return and rehabilitation scheme” by the Jammu & Kashmir government in 2010, there has been a spurt in the number of people returning from Pakistan via the Nepal border. The defence authorities, however, are worried that terrorists may cross over along with former militants, using the Sunauli border in Uttar Pradesh to cross over from Nepal. The authorities are, therefore, pressing for stringent checks at the India-Nepal border.
- Border crossing has not been taking place through the four routes designated by the Union Home Ministry. People coming into India from Pakistan could do so via the IGI Airport in Delhi or the Wagah-Attari border in Amritsar with their Pakistani passports and visas, or through the Poonch-Rawlakote and the Uri-Muzaffarabad border points on the Line of Control with permits approved by the authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)
- But instead of taking these legal routes, a large number of individuals and their families are crossing over from Nepal.
Courtesy – blogs.fas.org (image)
Iran nuclear deal: Russia, U.S. pushing for a permanent agreement
- The Geneva deal was premised on allowing Iran to enrich uranium only below 5% purity in return for limited sanctions relief for a period of six months. Within this time, both sides are to work out the contours of a permanent agreement to ensure the peaceful orientation of the programme in tune with Iran’s sanctions-free accommodation in the international economic mainstream.
- The intensive talks during the six months ahead would focus on the parameters of fuel production by Iran to run nuclear power stations, research reactors and others producing isotopes for medical and humanitarian purposes.
- The Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also advocated Iran’s participation in resolving the Syrian crisis.
- In U.S, John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, battled Congress to dissuade it from passing another set of stringent sanctions, which were likely to push Iran to walk out of negotiations, as Iran had earlier warned that the Iranian nuclear deal would be dead if the U.S. Congress imposed new sanctions, even if they do not take effect for six months.
G8 aims to find dementia cure by 2025
- At a summit of Health Ministers and experts in London, G8 members have decided to work together to find a cure or modifying therapy for dementia by 2025.
- The G8 countries have agreed to significantly increase funding, develop a co-ordinated international research plan and encourage open access to research and information.
- They also called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to recognize dementia as “an increasing threat to global health” and urged society to continue and to enhance global efforts to reduce stigma, exclusion and fear.
- Dementia, which impairs cognitive ability, affects 36 million people around the world and the WHO expects this number to almost double every two decades as the population ages.
More about G8:
- The Group of Eight (G8) is a forum for the governments of eight of the world’s largest national economies as nominal GDP with higher Human Development Index; not included are India at 9th, Brazil at 7th and China at 2nd.
- The forum originated with a 1975 summit hosted by France that brought together representatives of six governments: France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States; later Canada and Russia joined the group to make it G8.
- Lately, both France and the United Kingdom have expressed a desire to expand the group to include five developing countries, referred to as the Outreach Five (O5) or the Plus Five: Brazil (7th country in the world by nominal GDP), People’s Republic of China (2nd country in the world by GDP), India (9th country in the world by GDP), Mexico, and South Africa. These countries have participated as guests in previous meetings, which are sometimes called G8+5.
Courtesy- Wikipedia & http://www.g8.utoronto.ca
Uruguay legalizes marijuana
- Though consumption of marijuana is allowed in some countries, Uruguay has become the first country in the world to allow its citizens to grow and sell it. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking.
- This experiment is being watched by several countries, which are getting tired of the U.S.-led “war on drugs” and working on drug liberalisation policies.
SEBI panel prescribes stricter norms on insider trading
- The Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) panel, headed by former chief justice of India N. K. Sodhi, has suggested that trades by promoters, employees, directors and their immediate relatives would need to be disclosed internally to the company.
- The panel on insider trading also recommended that trades within a calendar quarter of a value beyond Rs. 10 lakh (or such other amount as the capital market regulator may specify) would be required to be disclosed to the stock exchanges.
Code of fair disclosure
- Every entity that has issued securities which are listed on a stock exchange or which are intended to be listed would be required to formulate and publish a code of fair disclosure governing disclosure of events and circumstances that would impact price discovery of its securities.
- The Committee has also suggested that each regulatory provision may be backed by a note on legislative intent.
- While enlarging the definition of “insider”, the term “connected person” has been defined more clearly and immediate relatives are presumed to be connected persons, with a right to rebut the presumption. The term “immediate relative” would cover close relatives who are either financially dependent or consult an insider in connection with trading in securities.
Clarity on UPSI
- Further the regulations would bring greater clarity on what constitutes “unpublished price sensitive information” (UPSI) by defining what constitutes “generally available information”, essentially, information to which non-discriminatory public access would be available. A list of types of information that may ordinarily be regarded as price sensitive information has also been provided.
- Insiders would be prohibited from communicating, providing or allowing access to UPSI unless required for discharge of duties or for compliance with law.
- Insiders, who are liable to possess UPSI all round the year, would have the option to formulate pre-scheduled trading plans. In such cases, the new UPSI that may come into their possession without having been with them when formulating the plan would not impede their ability to trade.
- The Committee suggested that every listed company and market intermediary is required to formulate a Code of Conduct to regulate, monitor and report trading in securities by its employees and other connected persons.
- Companies would be entitled to require third-party connected persons who are not employees to disclose their trading and holdings in securities of the company.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
New, long-lived greenhouse gas found
- Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) a novel chemical lurking in the atmosphere, is the most radioactively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to impact climate.
More about Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) – ‘application & its impact’:
- PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment and is currently used in thermally and chemically stable liquids marketed for use in electronic testing and as heat transfer agents.
- It does not occur naturally, that is, it is produced by humans. There are no known processes that would destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere so it has a very long lifetime, possibly hundreds of years, and is destroyed in the upper atmosphere.
- It is the most radioactively efficient chemical found to date, the result of this is a very high global warming potential. It was found to be 7,100 times more powerful at warming the Earth over 100 years than carbon dioxide.
- Researchers found PFTBA is present in small amounts but can remain in the atmosphere for about 500 years. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is absorbed by forests and oceans.
- Today, concentrations of PFTBA are low with 0.18 parts per trillion in the Toronto area – compared to 400 parts per million for carbon dioxide.