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Current Affairs - 07 September 2018

NATION

SC decriminalises homosexuality
    • In a landmark judgment , a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality, with a prayer to the LGBTQ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) to forgive history for subjecting it to “brutal” suppression.
    • The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, unanimously held that criminalisation of private consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was clearly unconstitutional. The court, however, held that the Section would apply to “unnatural” sexual acts like bestiality. 
    • Sexual act without consent continues to be a crime under Section 377.
    • In four concurring opinions, the Constitution Bench declared the 156-year-old “tyranny” of Section 377 “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.” 
    • Section 377 thus far punished homosexuality with 10 years of imprisonment.
    • The prayer for forgiveness came from Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Constitution Bench. “History owes an apology,” she said, reaching out to the rainbow spectrum.
    • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud called the law “Macaulay’s legacy,” which continued for 68 years despite a liberal Constitution because of the manifest lethargy of the lawmakers. It had been a reason for much tragedy and anguish.
    • He said decriminalisation of homosexuality was just a step. This case was about people wanting to live with dignity. Citizens cannot be pushed into obscurity by a colonial law.
    • Section 377 discriminated against a minority based solely on their sexual orientation. It violated the right of the LGBTQ community to “equal citizenship and equal protection of laws.” The court held that bodily autonomy was individualistic. Choice of a partner was part of the fundamental right to privacy.
    • The court set aside its 2013 judgment in the Suresh Koushal case. Legal experts said this was a much-needed self-correction of a past judicial wrong committed against the community. Experts said the Constitution Bench verdict would become the foundation for members of the community to seek individual rights.
    India signs landmark defence pact with U.S.
    • India and the United States sealed the landmark Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will lead to a new generation of bilateral military partnership.
    • Apart from the agreement that was signed at the end of the inaugural India-U.S. ‘2+2’ Ministerial Dialogue, both sides called on Pakistan to stop terrorist strikes on “other countries” and urged for maritime freedom in the Indo-Pacific region.
    Panchayati Raj Bill passed
    • The Rajasthan Assembly passed a Bill which relaxes the provision “two-child” provision for those aspiring to contest panchayat elections provided one of the children is differently-abled.
    • It also passed an amendment to allow people suffering from leprosy to contest Panchayat elections. The amendment Bill was passed by voice vote.
    Odisha House nod for Legislative Council
    • A resolution seeking creation of a Legislative Council in Odisha was passed in the State Assembly.
    • The resolution moved by State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha was passed with as many as 104 of the total 147 legislators casting their votes in its favour. The ruling Biju Janata Dal has 117 members in the House.
    • The resolution will be sent to the Centre for approval of Parliament to facilitate creation of the Legislative Council.
    • After the passing of the resolution, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the creation of the Council will be of great help as wider consultations are required to accelerate the growth momentum that the State has picked up.
    • A proposal for creation of the Legislative Council in Odisha was passed by the State Cabinet on August 24.
    • The proposed Council will have 49 members, which is one-third of the total members of the State Assembly.
    • The Odisha government had set up a committee in 2015 to study the Legislative Councils in other States and recommend for establishment of one in the State.
    Govt. grants ‘trust’ status to ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ initiative
    • The government has granted the status of a trust to ‘Bharat Ke Veer’, a private initiative promoted by actor Akshay Kumar, which aids families of paramilitary personnel killed in action. 
    • Contributions to Bharat Ke Veer have been exempted from Income Tax, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.
    • Mr. Kumar and former national badminton champion Pullela Gopichand have been included as trustees.
    • Mr. Singh said the Home Ministry had taken up the Bharat Ke Veer initiative in April last year, and its success had been stupendous.
    • He said the initiative had now been formalised into a registered trust for providing a platform for all citizens to contribute and provide assistance to the families of martyred personnel.
    • The public can visit the ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ application and website, and contribute to support the families of jawans who die in the line of duty.
    ECONOMY

    EVs, CNG vehicles don’t need permits
    • Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that no permits would be required for vehicles running on alternative fuel, including CNG, ethanol and EVs, a move that is expected to boost the demand for such vehicles in the country.
    • Mr. Gadkari, however, added that this would not extend to mild hybrids or hybrid vehicles.
    • The Minister added that with the GST on EVs at 12%, there was’nt any further need for subsidy. 
    • The government, he said, was also mulling converting two-wheelers into taxis in non-metros, while encouraging the auto industry to use waterways for logistics to trim costs and lower pollution.
    • Mr. Gadkari also said the government would soon “abolish” the requirement of speed governors.
    • Meanwhile, in an earlier session, the industry put forth its demand for speedy infrastructure development and better roads, while reiterating the need for a long-term regulatory and policy roadmap for the sector to plan investments better.
    Plantation sector may have suffered ₹5,000-cr. loss due to floods : UPASI
    • The plantation sector in the south, including tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom and pepper, is estimated to have suffered a ₹5,000-crore crop loss due to the recent floods in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
    • “These are the early estimates made by the United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) and the extent of the damage is unprecedented,” T. Jayaraman, president of the apex body, told The Hindu.
    • In some cases, substantial area under cultivation has been lost to landslips, he said. The losses include those of field crops and stocks in warehouses and they may increase due to attacks from pests and fungi in the coming months.
    • In respect of tea, a crop loss ranging between 41 and 64% is being feared for August alone at a time when adverse weather conditions had already battered production since June. 
    • The coffee-producing regions of Kodagu, Hassan and Chikmagalur in Karnataka, accounting for 70 % of the country’s crop, were ravaged by rains causing berry dropping, according to an UPASI report.
    • The Coffee Board had estimated a crop loss of about 82,000 tonne (annual output of 6.9 lakh tonne in 2017-18). The loss is the highest in Karnataka followed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the board said. Mr. Jayaraman said that the crop loss in respect of rubber is estimated at about 1.25 lakh tonne (out of an annual average output of 9 lakh tonne).
    • In respect of spices, pepper vines and cardamom plants had been badly affected. Almost 50% of the average annual pepper output of 55,000 tonne may be lost, said UPASI.
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