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Today's Headlines - 27 January 2023

Padma Awards 2023 announced

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The government announced one Padma Vibhushan and 25 Padma Shri awards. The Padma Vibhushan will be awarded posthumously in the field of Medicine (Pediatrics) to Dilip Mahalanabis, who came up with ORS. The Padma Awards are India’s highest civilian honours after the Bharat Ratna, seeking to “recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved,” the Padma Awards website said.

The history of Padma Awards

  1. Two awards, the Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan were first instituted in 1954 as India’s highest civilian honours.
  2. The latter had three classesPahela Varg (1st Class)Dusra Varg (Second Class) and Tisra Varg (Third Class). In 1955, these were subsequently named as Padma VibhushanPadma Bhushan and Padma Shri respectively.
  3. While the Bharat Ratna is treated as an exceptional award with only 45 Bharat Ratnas being handed over till date, the Padma Awards are annually conferred to deserving civilians.
  4. Except for interruptions in 1978, 1979 and between 1993 and 1997, every year the names of the recipients are announced on Republic Day eve.
  5. Typically, not more than 120 awards are given in a year, but this does not include posthumous awards or awards given to NRIs and foreigners.
  6. While the award is normally not conferred posthumously, the Government can consider posthumous felicitation in exceptional circumstances.
  7. The first ever Padma Vibhushan awardees in 1954 were scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, artist Nandalal Bose, educationist and politician Zakir Hussain, social worker and politician Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher, and diplomat and academic V.K. Krishna Menon. The first ever non-Indian Padma Vibhushan awardee was Bhutanese king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who also received the award in 1954.

What the Padma Awards entail

  1. The awards are presented by the President of India, typically at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
  2. The awardees do not get any cash reward but a certificate signed by the President apart from a medallion which they can wear at public and government functions.
  3. The awards are, however, not a conferment of title and the awardees are expected to not use them as prefix or suffix to their names.
  4. While a Padma awardee can be given a higher award (i.e. a Padma Shri awardee can receive a Padma Bhushan or Vibhushan), this can only happen after five years of the conferment of the previous award.
  5. The awards are given in certain select categories which include ArtSocial WorkPublic AffairsScience & EngineeringTrade & Industry, Medicine, Literature & Education, Civil Service and Sports. Awards are also given for propagation of Indian culture, protection of human rights, wildlife protection among others.


Mandatory minimum sentences

GS Paper - 2 (Judiciary)

The CJI Chandrachud-led bench of the Supreme Court decided to examine a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 376 DB of the Indian Penal Code. This section describes the punishment for gangrape of a minor under 12 years of age, to the extent that it prescribes a ‘minimum mandatory sentence’ of life imprisonment for the remainder of the convict’s life and even death.

What is mandatory minimum sentencing?

  1. The concept of mandatory minimum sentencing refers to “a sentence which must be imposed without leaving any discretion to the court.
  2. It means a quantum of punishment which cannot be reduced below the period fixed,” the Apex court held in its 2016 ruling in ‘Mohd Hashim vs State Of UP And Others’.
  3. Essentially, this predetermines the minimum punishment or sentence for certain offenses which are considered to be more serious than others, with a view to ensure justice and not let the perpetrator of such an offense go unpunished.
  4. No matter what the unique, individual circumstances of the offender or the offense might be, the court must mandatorily award this minimum period of sentencing for the offenses which prescribe it.

What provisions award a mandatory sentence?

  1. A concept that comes primarily from the Canadian and American legal systems; in India, such sentences are prescribed for all sexual offenses under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act except the offense of sexual harassment.
  2. Under Section 8 of the POCSO Act, a punishment of 3-5 years has been prescribed for offenses under Section 7 which deals with offenses of sexual assault against children. However, imposing the minimum punishment in such cases is mandatory.
  3. When the legislature has prescribed a minimum sentence without discretion, the same cannot be reduced by the courts. In such cases, imposition of minimum sentence, be it imprisonment or fine, is mandatory and leaves no discretion to the court, the Supreme Court reiterated in its 2019 ruling in ‘State Of Madhya Pradesh vs Vikram Das’.
  4. In 2012, following the brutal gangrape and death of a medical student in Delhi, the demand for more stringent rape laws with stricter punishments gained widespread momentum.
  5. This resulted in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Actof 2013, which expanded the definition of ‘rape’ beyond penetration to include insertion of objectsanal sex, and oral sex.
  6. The 2013 reforms also updated the definition of ‘life imprisonment’ to mean the entire remainder of the convict’s life and introduced a minimum sentence of 20 years for gang rape. Following this, even the death penalty could be meted out to those repeatedly indulging in such offenses.


New Supreme Court order for euthanasia

GS Paper - 2 (Judiciary)

Five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice K M Joseph agreed to significantly ease the procedure for passive euthanasia in the country by altering the existing guidelines for ‘living wills’, as laid down in its 2018 judgment in Common Cause vs. Union of India & Anr, which allowed passive euthanasia.

What is euthanasia and living will?

  1. Euthanasia refers to the practice of an individual deliberately ending their life, oftentimes to get relief from an incurable condition, or intolerable pain and suffering.
  2. Euthanasia, which can be administered only by a physician, can be either ‘active’ or ‘passive’.
  3. Active euthanasia involves an active intervention to end a person’s life with substances or external force, such as administering a lethal injectionPassive euthanasia refers to withdrawing life support or treatment that is essential to keep a terminally ill person alive.
  4. Passive euthanasia was legalised in India by the Supreme Court in 2018, contingent upon the person having a ‘living will’ or a written document that specifies what actions should be taken if the person is unable to make their own medical decisions in the future.
  5. In case a person does not have a living will, members of their family can make a plea before the High Court to seek permission for passive euthanasia.

What did the SC rule in 2018?

  1. The Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia while recognising the living wills of terminally-ill patients who could go into a permanent vegetative state, and issued guidelines regulating this procedure.
  2. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said that the guidelines would be in force until Parliament passed legislation on this.
  3. However, this has not happened, and the absence of a law on this subject has rendered the 2018 judgment the last conclusive set of directions on euthanasia.
  4. The guidelines pertained to questions such as who would execute the living will, and the process by which approval could be granted by the medical board.
  5. We declare that an adult human being having the mental capacity to make an informed decision has the right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life-saving devices, the court said in the 2018 ruling.

Different countries, different laws

  1. NETHERLANDS, LUXEMBOURG, BELGIUM allowed both euthanasia and assisted suicide for anyone who faces “unbearable suffering” that has no chance of improvement.
  2. SWITZERLAND bans euthanasia but allows assisted dying in the presence of a doctor or physician.
  3. CANADA had announced that euthanasia and assisted dying would be allowed for mentally ill patients by March 2023; however, the decision has been widely criticised, and the move may be delayed.
  4. UNITED STATES has different laws in different states. Euthanasia is allowed in some states like Washington, Oregon, and Montana.
  5. UNITED KINGDOM considers it illegal and equivalent to manslaughter.


Domicile reservation policy Controversy

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru has recently come under fire from the Karnataka government, advocate association members and Pro Kannada outfits for its controversial “domicile reservation policy.” In 2021, NLSIU had voluntarily adopted the “Inclusion and Expansion Plan 2021-2025.”

What is horizontal and vertical reservation?

  1. Reservation for Scheduled CastesScheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is referred to as vertical reservationHorizontal reservation refers to opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as womenveterans, the transgender communitydomicile and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.
  2. NLSIU claims that ‘Karnataka Students’ are admitted to 25 per cent of seats in every vertical category, including General/ SC/ ST/ OBC/ EWS and as a result, constitute at least 25 per cent of the overall student body.
  3. The institution also claims that the consortium of National Law Universities (NLUs) administers State horizontal reservations in 21 NLUs based on the merit rank list and that NLSIU follows an identical procedure.

Why was domicile reservation introduced?

  1. In 2020, the Karnataka government notified the National Law School of India Amendment Act.
  2. This mandates that NLSIU shall horizontally reserve 25 per cent seats for Karnataka domicile students – any student who has studied in any one of the recognized educational institutions in the state for a period of not less than 10 years preceding the qualifying examination. The amendment was made to encourage more graduates from NLSIU to join the Bar in Karnataka.
  3. However, in 2020, the Karnataka High Court struck down this amendment act stating that the state legislature has no power or authority under the Act to direct the Law School to provide reservations for students.
  4. The court also held that the law school is an autonomous entity and any form of reservation for students to be admitted to it shall be provided by the Executive Council of the Law School bearing in mind the fact that it is an institution of national importance.
  5. However, despite the Act being struck down, NLSIU voluntarily adopted the ‘Inclusion and Expansion Plan 2021-25.’
  6. This aimed to increase annual student intake, include multidisciplinary approaches in curricula, introduce new reservation categories including the 25 per cent domicile reservation for Karnataka students.

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