- 9-judge Supreme Court Bench
- Nature of religious freedom under the Constitution.
- CJI: Court will not be deciding the petitions seeking a review of the verdict in the Sabarimala temple case.
- Interplay between freedom of religion and other fundamental rights
- Extent to which courts can probe whether a particular practice is essential to that religion or not.
- Law on women’s entry into mosques/temples
- Genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras
- Entry of Parsi women who marry outside the community into the fire temple
- Prudent: set out the limits
- Unwise: an examination of every discriminatory practice becomes a fresh treatise on Articles 25 and 26
- Simple test: whether the particular practice is protected by the freedom of religion, or can be curbed on the grounds of “public order, morality and health” .
- 1954 seven-judge Bench decision in the Shirur Mutt case: religious denominations had the autonomy to decide what religious practices were essential to them.
- A reconsideration of this “essentiality doctrine” will be useful only if it is a means to rid the court of the burden of entering the theological thicket.
The long wait for empowered mayors
- Indian metros have been deprived of empowered Mayors who can raise efficiency, productivity and liveability.
- Mayors in many global cities go on to lead their country. In India, mayors have been reduced to obscure, ceremonial figures by national parties in India.
- Economic Survey of 2017-18 3rd of the population now lives in urban areas Produce three-fifths of the GDP.
- India’s overflowing cities lack capacity, infrastructure and leadership.
- Absence of a single city government in charge
- Low spending on infrastructure.
- State governments amass the large economic output from urban agglomerations, but are averse to a strong Mayoral system.
- Chief Ministers see a potential threat from a charismatic and empowered Mayor with progressive policies.
- In spite of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act of 1992 the idea of giving more authority to the third tier of governance has suffered serious stunting
- 18 local level functions
- Average: 9 functions Planning for economic development Social development Regulation of land Construction of buildings Urban planning Public health
- Newer devices used to bypass local bodies and priorities are styled as special schemes, such as urban renewal and smart cities, directly supervised by the Central government and partnered by State governments.
- Even on a salient issue such as climate change, Mayors are much in demand.
Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017
- Covers 23 cities across 20 States
- Found 33% of medium and large cities with a provision for directly-elected Mayors, but none in the megacities.
- A tenure of five years for Mayors is available only in a fifth of the biggest cities, and half of urban Indians live in cities where Mayors can be in office for just two-and-a-half years
- Government departments will feel accountable for urban services and infrastructure only under the watch of an empowered leader, who enjoys the mandate of the city’s residents.
- John Kenneth Galbraith’s famous description of India as a “functioning anarchy” .
- India’s cities need a new deal, one that is focused on development. Only elected, empowered and accountable Mayors can deliver on that.
Chalk and cheese in private vs. government schools
- Big debate: is whether children in private schools perform better than those in government schools?
- Do children who start grade one in private schools have a learning advantage?
- Grade 1 curriculum: children are supposed to be able to identify and read words and simple sentences.
- Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019: 21% children in grade one of government schools could read words compared to 46.7% in private schools — an advantage of 122%.
How is this possible?
- Age distribution in grade one of government schools is very different from that in private schools.
- Private schools stundents come from relatively affluent backgrounds.
National Early Childhood Care and Education curriculum framework
- Developing skills related to sequential thinking
- Predicting patterns
- Problem solving in the pre-school stage
- Private pre-schools provide school based curriculum in pre-school itself.
- The findings of ASER 2019 make a clear case for strengthening these early childhood education centres so that they implement appropriate “school readiness” activities.
- A case can also be made for streamlining the curriculum at the pre-school stage so that all pre-schools focus on activities that build cognitive and early literacy and numeracy skills.
A regime that chooses its critics
- 16|Nov|2019: Central Bureau of Investigation raided Amnesty International’s offices in Bengaluru and Delhi
- Allegations: violated provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and of the Indian Penal Code. Amnesty has been vocal about human rights abuses, notably in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
- In early 2019, Greenpeace had to shut two offices in India and reduce its staff.
- July 2019: raids in the offices of the Lawyers Collective In 2019 alone, more than 1,800 NGOs lost their licence to receive foreign funding.
- This is worrying given that international funding is crucial for NGOs to function.
- The contribution of NGOs to human rights and public awareness is significant in India.
- Developments in the public provision of health and education are unlikely to come about without pressure by NGOs.
- Most NGOs are neither politically powerful nor have great financial capacity.
- There is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest” .
- In 2014, several groups including Greenpeace were accused by the Intelligence Bureau of stalling India’s economic development.
- The restrictions also have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.
- Democracy requires critics and civil society.
- This is why invoking the FCRA to curb the work of NGOs is deeply troubling.
- In a democracy, criticism should be welcomed, not repressed.
- No government should ever be able to choose its own critics.
The risk of a domino effect
- Lebanon is home to Iran’s most important regional collaborator, Hezbollah.
- USA’s allay, Israel is confronted by Hezbollah in Lebanon
- Iraq has been the battleground for U.S.- Iran confrontation
- Heightened anti-American feelings
- Sympathy wave for Iran in Iraq
- Islamic State can resurrect
- SC rejects curative pleas of 2 Nirbhaya death row convicts
- After Modi’s call, Trump likely to visit Delhi in late February
- Kerala govt. challenges CAA in Supreme Court
- J&K Internet links partially restored
- Hallmarking made must for gold jewellery
- CRZ rules eased for ‘Blue Flag’ beaches
- NIA questions DSP in Srinagar
- China stands by Sri Lanka, says Wang Yi
- Iran nuclear deal: EU launches dispute mechanism