Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 12 May 2023

The law on polygamy in India

GS Paper - 1 (Society)

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that the state government will move to ban the practice of polygamy through “legislative action”, and that an “expert committee” would be formed to examine the issue.

Practice of polygamy

  1. Polygamy is the practice of having more than one married spouse — wife or husband. The issue is governed both by personal laws and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  2. Traditionally, polygamy — mainly the situation of a man having more than one wife — was practised widely in India. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 outlawed the practice.
  3. IPC Section 494 (“Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife”) penalises bigamy or polygamy.
  4. This provision does not apply to a marriage which has been declared void by a court — for example, a child marriage that has been declared void.
  5. The law also does not apply if a spouse has been “continually absent” for the “space of seven years”. This means a spouse who has deserted the marriage or when his or her whereabouts are not known for seven years will not bind the other spouse from remarrying.

Under Hindu law

  1. After Independence, anti-bigamy laws were adopted by provincial legislatures including Bombay and Madras. The Special Marriage Act, 1954, was a radical legislation that proposed the requirement of monogamy — subsection (a) of Section 4 of the SMA (“Conditions relating to solemnization of special marriages”) requires that “at the time of marriage…neither party has a spouse living”.
  2. Parliament passed the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, outlawing the concept of having more than one spouse at a time.
  3. BuddhistsJains, and Sikhs are also included under the Hindu Marriage Code. The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act1936, had already outlawed bigamy.
  4. However, despite bigamy being an offence, the child born from the bigamous marriage would acquire the same rights as a child from the first marriage under the law.
  5. crucial exception to the bigamy law for Hindus is Goa, which follows its own code for personal laws. So, a Hindu man in the state has the right to bigamy under specific circumstances mentioned in the Codes of Usages and Customs of Gentile Hindus of Goa.
  6. These circumstances include a case where the wife fails to conceive by the age of 25 or if she fails to deliver a male child by the age of 30. However Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has said that the provision for Hindus is virtually “redundant” and that “no one has been given the benefit of it since 1910”.

Under Muslim law

  1. Marriage in Islam is governed by the Shariat Act, 1937. Personal law allows a Muslim man to have four wives. To benefit from the Muslim personal law, many men from other religions would convert to Islam to have a second wife.
  2. In a landmark ruling in 1995, the Supreme Court in Sarla Mudgal v Union of India held that religious conversion for the sole purpose of committing bigamy is unconstitutional. This position was subsequently reiterated in the 2000 judgment in Lily Thomas v Union of India.
  3. Any move to outlaw polygamy for Muslims would have to be a special legislation which overrides personal law protections like in the case of triple talaq.

Prevalence of polygamy

  1. The National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-20) showed the prevalence of polygamy was 2.1% among Christians1.9% among Muslims1.3% among Hindus, and 1.6% among other religious groups.
  2. The data showed that the highest prevalence of polygynous marriages was in the Northeastern states with tribal populations. A list of 40 districts with the highest polygyny rates was dominated by those with high tribal populations.


India is heating slower than the world average

GS Paper -3 (Climate)

The annual mean temperature of the world is known to have increased by 1.1 degree Celsius from the average of the 1850-1900 periods. This increase is not uniform. It varies in different regions and also at different times of the year. It is very effective in communicating the dangers of climate change, built on top of several layers of averages.

More about the news:

  1. According to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), temperature rise over land is much higher than over oceans.
  2. Over land, the annual mean temperatures have risen by as much as 1.59 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, Oceans, in contrast, have warmed by about 0.88 degree Celsius.

Warming trends over the Indian region:

  1. An assessment of climate change over the Indian subcontinent, published by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in 2020, said annual mean temperatures had risen by 0.7 degree Celsius from 1900.
  2. It is significantly lower than the 1.59 degree Celsius rise for land temperatures across the world.

Reason warming is lower over Indian region:

  1. The increase in temperatures is known to be more prominent in the higher altitudes, near thePolar Regions, than near the equator.
  2. It is attributable to a complex set of atmospheric phenomenaincluding heat transfers from the tropics to the poles through prevailing systems of air circulation. India happens to be in the tropical region, quite close to the equator.
  3. Aerosol concentration over the Indian region is quite high, due to natural as well as man-made reasons. As aerosol reflects most of the sunlight back, due to its location in the tropics and the arid climate, India is no stranger to dust.

Higher warming in the Polar Regions:

  1. The IPCC report says the Arctic region has warmed at least twice as much as the world average. Its current annual mean temperatures are about 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times.
  2. The prominent cause is what is known as the albedo effect, or how much sunlight a surface reflects. The ice cover in the Arctic is melting, because of which more land or water is getting exposed to the Sun.Ice traps the least amount of heat and reflects most of the solar radiation when compared with land or water.
  3. More recent research suggests that the higher warming in the polar region could be attributed to a host of factors, including the albedo effect, changes in clouds, water vapour and atmospheric temperatures.

Higher warming over land than oceans:

  1. Daily and seasonal variations in heating over land and oceans are usually explained in terms of their different heat capacities.
  2. Oceans have a higher capacity to cool themselves down through the process of evaporation. The warmer water evaporates, leaving the rest of the ocean relatively cooler.
  3. The longer-term enhanced heating trends over land have to be attributed to physical processes involving land-ocean-atmospheric interactions.


Supreme Court rules in favour of Delhi Govt in tussle with Centre

GS Paper -2 (Polity)

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of the Delhi government on the issue of who controls the bureaucracy in the national capital. The 5-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, held that the legislature has control over bureaucrats in administration of services, except in areas outside the legislative powers of the National Capital Territory (NCT).

More about the news:

  1. The question of the regulation of services was a major part of the overall dispute between the elected government in Delhi and the Lieutenant Governor (LG) nominated by the Centre.
  2. There are three areas outside the control of Delhi government: public order, police and land.
  3. The CJI said an ideal conclusion would be that the Delhi government ought to have control over services, subject to the exclusion of subjects which are out of its legislative domain.
  4. If services are excluded from its legislative and executive domain, the ministers and the executive, who are charged with formulating policies in the territory of NCTD would be excluded from controlling the civil service officers who implement such executive decisions.
  5. The CJI said, “The legislative and executive power of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) over entry 41 shall not extend over to services related to public order, police and land.
  6. It said, "legislative and executive power over services such as IAS or joint cadre services, which are relevant for the implementation for the policies and the vision of NCTD in terms of day to day administration of the region shall lie with the NCTD.”

About the matter before the CJI-led Bench:

  1. On May 6, 2022, a three-judge Bench headed by then CJI N V Ramana, acting on a plea by the Centre, had referred this case to a larger Bench. The three-judge Bench had decided that the question of control over administrative services required “further examination”.
  2. The Centre had sought the reference to a larger Bench on April 27, 2022, arguing that it needed the power to make transfers and posting of officers in Delhi on account of it being the national capital and the “face of nation”.
  3. The court had agreed that the limited question relating to the scope of the legislative and executive powers of the Centre and NCT of Delhi, with respect to the term “services”, would need an authoritative pronouncement by a Constitution Bench in terms of Article 145(3) of the Constitution.
  4. Article 145(3) deals with the setting up of a Constitution Bench comprising at least five judges “for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution.


Article 239AA (3)(a) of the Constitution:

  1. Article 239AA was inserted in the Constitution by the 69th Amendment Act, 1991. It conferred Special Status upon Delhi following the recommendations of the S Balakrishnan Committee that was set up in 1987 to look into Delhi’s demands for statehood.
  2. According to this provision, the NCT of Delhi will have an Administrator and a Legislative Assembly. Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the Legislative Assembly, “shall have the power to make laws for the whole or any part of the NCT with respect to any of the matters in the State List or Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union territories” except on the subjects of police, public order, and land.


Indian Sludge show High Potential Use as Fertilizer

GS Paper - 3 (Environment and Ecology)

A first of its kind analysis of the sludge found in Indian sewage treatment plants (STP), set up to treat polluted water from the Ganga, found that most of it had “high potential” for use as fertilizer, but required treatment before it could be used unrestricted in farms, or as a potential biofuel.

New Initiatives

  1. An emerging initiative of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, a flagship programme of the government to establish treatment facilities and prevent pollution of the river, is to derive livelihood opportunities from the river rejuvenation programme.
  2. One of the measures, under this ‘Arth Ganga’ (economic value from Ganga),is to “monetise” and reuse treated wastewater and sludge.
  3. This means converting sludge — a thick residue filtered out of STP that while rich in organic chemicals is also a repository of heavy metals, industrial effluents and bacterial contaminants — into usable products such as manure and bricks.
  4. The contaminants in sludge means that they need to be treated and dried before they can be safely disposed.

Categorization of sludge

  1. Treated sludge can be classified as class A or class B — as per the standards of the United States Environment Protection Agency.
  2. Class Abeing safe to be disposed of in the open and useful as organic fertilizer.
  3. Class B means that the sludge can be used in “restricted” agricultural applications, the edible parts of the crop not be exposed to the sludge-mixed soil, and animals and people not come into extensive contact.

Programme under Namami GANGA

  1. Currently, those awarded contracts for developing and maintaining STPs under the Namami Ganga Mission are also apportioned land for disposing off sludge.
  2. However, this is rarely treated, and during rains, such sludge — with its accompanying chemical and metallic constituents — often makes its way back into rivers and local water sources.
  3. It was necessary to understand the characteristics of the sludge from these STPs before ways could be devised to incentivize private players to treat and dispose of sludge.
  4. “This is the first time such a project has been conceived in India,” On the basis of chemical characteristics of the sludge can we then ask developers to adopt practices on treatment and safe disposal of sludge.”

Fertilizer from sludge

  1. A study by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Roorkee found that most of the sludge analyzed after drying fell into the class B category.
  2. Nitrogen and phosphorous levels — the basic soil nutrientswere higher than those recommended by India’s fertilizer standards (FCO, 2009).
  3. However, potassium levels of some sludges were less than recommended. The total organic carbon was more than 16%, again higher than FCO recommendations, but the degree of pathogens as well as heavy metal contamination was above the recommended fertilizer standards.
  4. The calorific value of sludge ranged from 1,000-3,500 kcal/kg. This is lower than the average calorific value of Indian coal.
  5. To improve the quality of sludge, the report recommends the sludge needs to be stored for at least three months to kill pathogens, and blended with cattle manure and husk or local soil to reduce the heavy metal. This, however, would still put it in class B, and converting it into grade A sludge would require far more extensive treatment.

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