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News Analysis: 07-01-2019
General Studies-II : Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
The private member’s Bill aimed at protecting literary freedom from threats is welcome
Literary freedom is taken for granted in democracies, but forces that threaten or undermine it are always at work. Each age has to fight the battle afresh.
In recent times, several attempts to get books withdrawn, pulped or sanitised of offending content have achieved full or partial success in India.
Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History was withdrawn from circulation, and A.K. Ramanujan’s essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ was dropped from a Delhi University syllabus.
Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s Madhorubagan was withdrawn by the author under mob pressure but resurrected by a Madras High Court verdict.
Public order, national unity and social or religious harmony are the principles commonly invoked against the practice of literary freedom.
Threats to free expression, especially artistic freedom, in our times mainly come from those claiming to espouse the interests of a particular religion or social group.
It is in this context that Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP and writer, has introduced a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha seeking to protect freedom of literature.
Its objective — that “authors must be guaranteed the freedom to express their work without fear of punitive action by the State or by sections of society” — commends itself to any society that upholds liberal values.
It seeks the omission of three IPC sections, including 295A, in effect a non-denominational blasphemy law, as it targets deliberate or malicious acts to outrage religious feelings.
Section 295A is a grossly misused section, often invoked in trivial ways to hound individuals, harass writers and curtail free expression. It deserves to be scrapped.
Sections that relate to the sale of obscene books and uttering words that hurt religious feelings are also sought to be omitted.
However, it is unclear why Section 153A, which punishes those who promote enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race or language, and Section 153B, which criminalises words and imputations prejudicial to national integration, do not draw Mr. Tharoor’s attention.
In the process of proscribing a book, he proposes a tweak in the form of a 15-day prohibition. Thereafter, the onus should be on the State government to approach the High Court to seek a permanent ban.
It favours the scrapping of the provision in the Customs Act to ban the import of books, but makes a public order exception. It wants to limit the bar on obscenity in the Information Technology Act to child pornography.
Private Bills rarely become law, but they are useful in highlighting gaps in the body of law.
Seen in this light, Mr. Tharoor’s initiative is most welcome as a step towards removing or diluting penal provisions that inhibit literary freedom.
Source: The Hindu
General Studies-II : Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Panel to go into quota for Assamese
The Centre has set up a high-level committee headed by former IAS officer M.P. Bezbaruah to assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in the Assam Assembly and local bodies for the Assamese people, besides providing employment opportunities.
Last week, the Union Cabinet took a decision in this effect under the Assam Accord of 1985.
The committee and its terms of reference were notified a day before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, is expected to table its report in Parliament, paving the way for India to grant citizenship to six persecuted minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to the country prior to the year 2014.
There has been a strong resistance to the Bill in BJP-ruled Assam as it would pave the way for giving citizenship, mostly to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh in Assam, who came after March 1971, in violation of the Assam Accord.
In a notification, the Home Ministry said the committee would examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
Clause 6 of the Accord states: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.
The committee can also suggest any other measures, as may be necessary, to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. It will submit its report within six months from the date of notification
A Joint Parliamentary Committee will submit its report on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Monday, in all probability recommending its introduction.
Source: The Hindu
General Studies-III : Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Rana extradition unlikely before 2023, indicates U.S.
Indian agencies will have to wait a little longer before Tahawwur Rana, a key accused in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case is extradited here from the U.S.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) team that was in the U.S. a few days ago to seek the extradition of Rana, a close associate of David Coleman Headley, has been given an indication that Rana has to first complete his jail sentence.
Rana, who was arrested in 2009, is serving a 14-year prison term in the U.S. for providing material support to terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which planned and executed the attacks.
Though he was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2013 by a U.S. district court, his term would also include the period he has already served in prison and would come to an end in 2023.
Minister of State Gen. V.K. Singh (retired) told the Lok Sabha last week that the Government of India had engaged with U.S. authorities, under terms of the India-U.S. Extradition Treaty of 1997, for custody of U.S.-based individuals for their role in the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The ‘double jeopardy’ clause in U.S. law prohibits punishment for the same crime twice, so India renewed its bid to seek Rana’s custody on the ground that he was actively involved in planning an attack on the National Defence College in Delhi and Chabad Houses (Jewish religious centres) in several cities.
Rana, a Chicago-based businessman, helped Headley open an immigration firm in Mumbai, which was a cover to conduct reconnaissance on targets that were attacked on November 26, 2008.
Rana was a school friend of Headley from Pakistan. According to the FBI, after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Headley visited India again in March 2009 to conduct additional surveillance, including of the NDC in Delhi and of Chabad Houses.
The NIA also has registered a forgery case against Rana for opening the immigration centre based on fake documents.
Source: The Hindu
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