Special Issue Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Sept Week 3
Lovers of Modena
- In 2009, two 1,600-year-old skeletons were unearthed at the ancient Ciro Menotti cemetery in Modena, Italy.
- Holding hands when buried, they sparked worldwide interest, and the assumption that they were a pair of lovers – the ‘Lovers of Modena’ as they came to be known. New analysis has now established that both were men.
- Researchers from the University of Bologna extracted proteins from dental enamels to complete the skeletons’ biological profile, including their sex.
- Their findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
- Various skeleton pairs in the past have been found holding hands in areas such as Greece, Turkey and Siberia, but none of these so far have been established to be of the same sex.
- The new finding gives new insight about the funerary and burial practices in Late Antique Italy.
- The researchers hypothesise that the pair’s burial “represents a voluntary expression of commitment between two individuals, rather than a recurring cult practice of the Late Antiquity”.
- The injuries on some of the other skeletons found in the cemetery suggest that they could have been war casualties and therefore, could have been “comrades” or “friends”.
- Alternatively, they could have been cousins or brothers (given their similar ages) who shared the same grave because of familial bonds.
Uniform Civil code
Recently, while hearing a matter relating to properties of a Goan, the Supreme Court described Goa as a “shining example” with a Uniform Civil Code, observed that the founders of the Constitution had “hoped and expected” a Uniform Civil Code for India but there has been no attempt at framing one.
What is Uniform Civil Code
- A Uniform Civil Code is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
- Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
- Article 44 is one of the directive principles. These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance. Fundamental rights are enforceable in a court of law.
- While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc.
- Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation” while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44. All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.
Fundamental Rights vs Directive Principles
- There is no doubt that fundamental rights are more important.
- The Supreme Court held in Minerva Mills (1980): “Indian Constitution is founded on the bed-rock of the balance between Parts III (Fundamental Rights) and IV (Directive Principles).
- To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution”.
- Article 31C inserted by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, however, lays down that if a law is made to implement any directive principle, it cannot be challenged on the ground of being violative of the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 19.
Uniform Civil code in civil matters
- Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters – Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act etc. States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and therefore in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws.
- Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
- If the framers of the Constitution had intended to have a Uniform Civil Code, they would have given exclusive jurisdiction to Parliament in respect of personal laws, by including this subject in the Union List.
- But “personal laws” are mentioned in the Concurrent List. Last year, the Law Commission concluded that a Uniform Civil Code is neither feasible nor desirable.
- All Hindus of the country are not governed by one law, nor are all Muslims or all Christians.
- Not only British legal traditions, even those of the Portuguese and the French remain operative in some parts.
- In Jammu and Kashmir until August 5, 2019, local Hindu law statutes differed from central enactments.
- The Shariat Act of 1937 was extended to J&K a few years ago but has now been repealed.
- Muslims of Kashmir were thus governed by a customary law, which in many ways was at variance with Muslim Personal Law in the rest of the country and was, in fact, closer to Hindu law.
- Even on registration of marriage among Muslims, laws differ from place to place. It was compulsory in J&K (1981 Act), and is optional in Bengal, Bihar (both under 1876 Act), Assam (1935 Act) and Odisha (1949 Act).
- In the Northeast, there are more than 200 tribes with their own varied customary laws.
- The Constitution itself protects local customs in Nagaland.
- Similar protections are enjoyed by Meghalaya and Mizoram. Even reformed Hindu law, in spite of codification, protects customary practices.
Uniform Civil Code & Fundamental right to religion
- Article 25 lays down an individual’s fundamental right to religion; Article 26(b) upholds the right of each religious denomination or any section thereof to “manage its own affairs in matters of religion”; Article 29 defines the right to conserve distinctive culture. An individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality” and other provisions relating to fundamental rights, but a group’s freedom under Article 26 has not been subjected to other fundamental rights
- In the Constituent Assembly, there was division on the issue of putting Uniform Civil Code in the fundamental rights chapter.
- The matter was settled by a vote. By a 5:4 majority, the fundamental rights sub-committee headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel held that the provision was outside the scope of fundamental rights and therefore the Uniform Civil Code was made less important than freedom of religion.
View of Muslim members in the Constituent Assembly
- Some members sought to immunise Muslim Personal Law from state regulation. Mohammed Ismail, who thrice tried unsuccessfully to get Muslim Personal Law exempted from Article 44, said a secular state should not interfere with the personal law of people.
- B Pocker Saheb said he had received representations against a common civil code from various organisations, including Hindu organisations. Hussain Imam questioned whether there could ever be uniformity of personal laws in a diverse country like India.
- B R Ambedkar said “no government can use its provisions in a way that would force the Muslims to revolt”.
- Alladi Krishnaswami, who was in favour of a Uniform Civil Code, conceded that it would be unwise to enact Uniform Civil Code ignoring strong opposition from any community.
- Gender justice was not mentioned in these debates.
Common Code for Hindus
- In June 1948, Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, warned Jawaharlal Nehruthat to introduce “basic changes” in personal law was to impose “progressive ideas” of a “microscopic minority” on the Hindu community as a whole.
- Others opposed to reforms in Hindu law included Sardar Patel, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, M A Ayyangar, M M Malaviya and Kailash Nath Katju.
- When the debate on the Hindu Code Bill took place in December 1949, 23 of 28 speakers opposed it.
- On September 15, 1951, President Prasad threatened to use his powers of returning the Bill to Parliament or vetoing it. Ambedkar eventually had to resign.
- Nehru agreed to trifurcation of the Code into separate Acts and diluted several provisions.
A 38,400-acre facility, Area 51 is in Southern Nevada. Officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range, Area 51 is part of the Nellis Air Force Base and is used as a training centre for the US Air Force. The name originates from its location of the Nevada map.
Area 51 and conspiracy theories
- With the facility shrouded in secrecy, several conspiracy theories have emerged over the years.
- Several Americans believed it was where the government hid bodies of aliens and UFOs, some believed it was where the government held “meetings” with extraterrestrials, and others speculated it was where the government developed “time travel” technology.
- The CIA, according to official documents, has been using the facility since 1955 to develop and test supersonic aircraft and stealth fighter jets. It was only in 2013 that the CIA published declassified documents admitting that the Area 51 is a secret military site.
- This was following a Freedom of Information request filed in 2005 by Dr Jeffrey T Richelson, a senior fellow at the George Washington University National Security Archive.
- Expanding plantains like tea and eucalyptus along with exotic and invasive species in the Nilgiris can wipe out Shola vegetation, according to a report filed by an expert committee formed by the Madras High Court.
- This change in vegetation will result in loss of water sources and is already leading to massive landslides.
- The committee recognises the deleterious impact of invasive species like eucalyptus, tea plantations and wattle and naturalised alien species like Lantana camara, Opuntia stricta, Chromolaena odorata, Parthenium hysterophorusand Senna spectabilis on the Shola forest and grasslands.
- The Shola vegetation are tropical montane forests found in the Western Ghats separated by rolling grasslands in high altitudes.
- The expert committee visited the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve on August 21, 2019. Around 60 per cent (690 square kilometres) of the entire core and buffer area of the reserve is under invasion, found the committee.
- Three petitions were filed in the Madurai bench of the high court in 2014, 2016 and 2017 to draw the court’s attention to this invasion. The petitions were later moved to the Madras High Court, which, on January 11, formed an expert committee to look into the issue.
- The domination of invasive species in the Western Ghats was between 65 and 75 per cent, according to data presented by the state government during the January 11 hearing.
- No secondary or fresh growth of indigenous trees, plants or grass, which serve as food for elephants, was seen in areas occupied by invasive species, the government said in court.
- Moreover, the attempts made by the forest department to manage the invasive alien species has had little or no success, according to the report.
- The committee recommended that there is an urgent need to map the extent of exotic plantations, spread of invasive alien species and loss of grasslands in each forest division of the Nilgiris.
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