Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 04 January 2023

SC verdict on right to freedom of speech

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

A statement made by a minister, including MLAs and MPs, cannot be attributed vicariously to the government even when applying the principle of collective responsibility, the Supreme Court said on 3 January 2023. A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Justice S A Nazeer gave the decision. It said no additional restrictions against free speech can be imposed except those mentioned under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which follows Article 19.

What was the case about?

  1. The case, Kaushal Kishor v the State of Uttar Pradesh, relates to the Bulandshahar rape incident of 2016, in which the then Minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan termed the incident a ‘political conspiracy and nothing else’.
  2. The survivors then filed a writ petition before the Apex Court seeking action against Khan.
  3. While directing him to submit an unconditional apology, which he did, the Court also noted that the case raises serious concerns regarding state obligation and freedom of speech and expression. Several questions were framed on the matter.

What does the judgment say about free speech restrictions?

  1. An important question here was “whether restrictions can be imposed on a public functionary’s right to freedom of speech and expression”.
  2. A statement made by a minister even if traceable to any affairs of the state or for protection of the government cannot be attributed vicariously to the government by invoking the principle of collective responsibility, the majority ruled.
  3. Further, it said while citizens had the right to petition the Court for violations of Article 19 (freedom of expression) and Article 21 (right to life), a statement made by the Minister, inconsistent with the rights of the citizens, may not by itself be actionable. But if it leads to omission or commission of offence by a public official, then remedies can be sought against it.

PM inaugurate ISC virtually

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

The 108th edition of the Indian Science Congress inaugurated by Prime Minister through video conferencing which is meeting in Nagpur on 3 January 2023 after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. The previous edition of the Indian Science Congress, a key event in the science calendar, was held in Bengaluru in January 2020.

More about the Indian Science Congress

  1. The five-day 108th session of ISC take place at Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, which is celebrating its centenary this year.
  2. This is perhaps the first time in nearly two decades that the prime minister was not be physically present at the gathering of top scientists from across the spectrum, apparently due to his packed schedule.
  3. The focal theme of this year's Science Congress is "Science and Technology for Sustainable Development with Women Empowerment."
  4. The annual Congress will see discussions on issues of sustainable development, women empowerment, and the role of science and technology in achieving these objectives.
  5. A special programme to showcase the contribution of women in science and technology will also be held with lectures by renowned women scientists.
  6. The event will also see a Children's Science Congress, organised to help stimulate scientific interest and temperament among children.
  7. The Farmers' Science Congress will provide a platform to improve the bio-economy and attract young people to agriculture.
  8. The Tribal Science Congress will be a platform for the scientific display of indigenous ancient knowledge systems and practices and will focus on the empowerment of tribal women.


Govt announces free foodgrains in 2023

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

As 2022 drew to a close, the government announced that it would provide free foodgrains to eligible beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, for all of the New Year.  The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) — launched in April 2020 as a pandemic relief measure under which 5 kg of free foodgrains were provided to NFSA beneficiaries in addition to their monthly entitlement (35 kg to a Antyodaya household and 5kg per person in a Priority Household) of subsidised foodgrains under at Act — has been discontinued.

What is NFSA

  1. The NFSA, which was enacted by the UPA-2 government and came into effect on 5 July 2013, entitles 67 per cent of households50 per cent urban and 75 per cent rural — in India to subsidised grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). About 81.35 crore people around the country are covered under the NFSA.
  2. The subsidised prices are specified in Schedule-1 of the Act which the government can change by executive order.
  3. In fact, the government issued a notification on 30 December 2022 to provide free foodgrains under the NFSA from 1 January.
  4. The quantity of grains to which a beneficiary is entitled is also laid down, and cannot be changed without Parliament’s approval.
  5. As of now, NFSA beneficiaries pay Rs 3, Rs 2, and Re 1 per kilogram of rice, wheat, and nutri-cereals (millets) respectively. These prices were initially fixed for three years.
  6. Thereafter, the grains were to be supplied “at such price, as may be fixed by the Central Government, from time to time, not exceeding, (i) the minimum support price for wheat and coarse grains; and (ii) the derived minimum support price for rice, as the case may be”.
  7. While the three years ended on 5 July 2016, prices have remained constant despite the steady rise in the Economic Cost of the foodgrains, and the government’s growing food subsidy bill.
  8. The Economic Cost has four main componentsPooled Cost of Grain, Procurement Incidentals, Acquisition Cost, and Distribution Cost — which have increased over the years.


India, Austria seal deals on migration

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

India and Austria signed several agreements including one on migration and mobility for Indian students and professionals. Jaishankar said it will enable demands for skills and talents to be synchronised with their availability.

More about agreements

  1. Similar agreements have been recently concluded by India with Germany, France, Portugal, UK and Denmark, amongst others.
  2. It will help us to cooperatively expand our economic opportunities and meet the requirements of the global knowledge economy.
  3. We want a fair, legal and equal opportunity to demonstrate the contributions of Indian skills and talents, he said.
  4. Foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg said last year Austria experienced the highest number ever of asylum seekers in Austria at over 100,000.
  5. He said the numbers of Indians coming in illegally via Serbia to Austria reached 18,000 last year from 600 asylum applications from Indian citizens in 2021.
  6. The problem is not migration to be very clear. We want that we need them. The problem is illegal immigration.
  7. We need immigration, but immigration controlled by states and not by organised crime by human traffickers.


Mahadayi water sharing row

GS Paper -2 (Constitution- States)

Karnataka’s decision to go ahead with a water diversion project on river Mahadayi has escalated its long-standing dispute on the issue with neighbouring Goa.

More about the news:

  1. On December 30, 2022, Karnataka Chief Minister told the Legislative Assemblythat the government had received clearance from the Centre for two Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) on the Kalasa-Banduri Nala on the Mahadayi.
  2. Goa immediately raised a red flag, announcing on January 2 that it would take an all-party delegation to Prime Minister and meet other Union ministers to block the project.
  3. Karnataka has dug in its heels; with Water Resources Minister announcing that tenders for the project would be floated soon and work begins within a month.

The Kalasa-Banduri Nala project and the dispute:

  1. The project aims to divert water from Mahadayi to satisfy the drinking water needs of Belagavi, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Gadag districts.
  2. Though the project was first proposed in the early 1980s, it has remained on paper owing to a dispute between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
  3. Mahadayi originates inside the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in the Belagavi district of Karnataka and flows into the Arabian Sea in Goa.
  4. As per plans, barrages are to be built against Kalasa and Banduri streams, tributaries of Mahadayi and water diverted towards Karnataka’s parched districts.

What did the Tribunal say?

  1. The Tribunal in 2018 awarded 13.42 TMC water from Mahadayi river basin to Karnataka, 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra and 24 TMC to Goa. In Karnataka’s share, 5.5 TMC was to meet drinking water needs and 8.02 TMC was for hydro-electricity generation.
  2. Of the 5.5 TMC, 3.8 TMC was to be diverted to Malaprabha basin through Kalasa and Banduri Nalas (canals). This was notified by the Central government in February 2020.

What happened after the notification?

  1. After the Tribunal award, Goa filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court in July 2019, challenging the quantum of allocation.
  2. Subsequently, in October 2020, it filed a contempt petition before the SC, accusing Karnataka of illegally diverting water from the Mahadayi basin. Civil appeals were also filed by Maharashtra over the dispute.