1. Remarriage under the Special Marriage Act
Context: A Muslim couple in Kerala registered their marriage under the secular Special Marriage Act.
- Why the remarriage?
- To avoid their inheritance being split under the Shariat legal code, and to ensure only their three daughters can be their legal heirs as per civil law.
- Muslim inheritance laws:
- Inheritance for Muslims in India is governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
- This legislation that codifies Shariat recognises two kinds of legal heirs–
- sharers and
- A legal heir who gets a share in the inheritance are twelve categories–
- (1) Husband, (2) Wife, (3) Daughter, (4) Daughter of a son (or son’s son or son’s son and so on), (5) Father, (6) Paternal Grandfather, (7) Mother, (8) Grandmother on the male line, (9) Full sister (10) Consanguine sister (11) Uterine sister, and (12) Uterine brother.
- Residuary heirs can be aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and other distant relatives.
- A wife takes 1/8 share of her husband’s property upon his death if they have lineal descendants.
- If not, she takes 1/4th share.
- Daughters cannot inherit more than half of what the sons inherit.
- The estate of a Muslim can only pass to a Muslim, which prejudices the wife or children following another religion.
- Under Shariat law, only 1/3 of the estate can be willed in favour of anyone.
- The remaining will still have to be divided as per the complex religious law.
- Therefore, a Muslim couple has no way under the religious law to make someone their sole heirs.
Remarrying under the SMA:
- The SMA allows for any marriage celebrated not according to the provisions of the Special Marriage Act can be registered under the Act.
- This can happen when:
- A ceremony of marriage has been performed between the parties and they have been living together as husband and wife ever since;
- Neither party has at the time of registration more than one spouse living;
- Neither party is an idiot or a lunatic at the time of registration;
- The parties have completed the age of twenty-one years at the time of registration;
- The parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship
- The process:
- The procedure for registering an existing marriage would be the same as solemnizing a new marriage.
- Both the parties must have been residing within the district of the Marriage Officer for a period of not less than thirty days and a 30 day notice is given by the Marriage Officer for objections.
- The registration of the marriage under SMA would mean that the couple would now be governed under secular law and for inheritance, the Indian Succession Act would apply.
What is the Special Marriage Act?
- The Special Marriage Act of 1954 (SMA) was passed by the Parliament on October 9, 1954.
- It governs a civil marriage where the state sanctions the marriage rather than the religion.
- The SMA enables marriage between inter-faith or inter-caste couples without them giving up their religious identity or resorting to conversion.
- Issues of personal law such as marriage, divorce, adoption are governed by religious laws that are codified.
- These laws, such as the Muslim Marriage Act, 1954, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, require either spouse to convert to the religion of the other before marriage.
- The applicability of the Act extends to the people of all faiths, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, across India.
- The minimum age to get married under the SMA is 21 years for males and 18 years for females.
- Effect on rights:
- Once married as per the SMA, any member of an undivided family who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion shall be deemed to effect their severance from the family.
- This would affect rights, including the right to inheritance, of the persons choosing to marry under the SMA.
- Procedure for a civil marriage:
- The parties to the marriage are required to give a notice to a “Marriage Officer” of the district in which at least one of the parties has resided for at least 30 days immediately preceding the notice.
- Before the marriage is solemnized, the parties and three witnesses are required to sign a declaration form before the Marriage Officer.
- Once the declaration is accepted, the parties will be given a “Certificate of marriage” which is essentially proof of the marriage.
- The clause of Objection to marriage allows any person before the expiration of thirty days from the date of the notice’s publication to object to the marriage.
- If an objection has been made, the Marriage Officer cannot solemnize the marriage until he has inquired into the matter of the objection and is satisfied that will not prevent the marriage from taking place, unless the person making such an objection withdraws it.
- Recent Court rulings:
- In January 2021, the Allahabad High Court ruled that couples seeking to solemnize their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 can choose not to publish the mandatory 30-day notice of their intention to marry.
2. National Assessment and Accreditation Council
Context: The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is facing allegations of irregularities in the way it operates.
- The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is a government organisation in India that assesses and accredits Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
- It is an autonomous body funded by the University Grants Commission.
- Headquarters: Bangalore
- NAAC was established in 1994 in response to recommendations of National Policy in Education (1986).
Functions of NAAC
- The NAAC is entrusted with assessing the quality of India’s higher educational institutions.
- It awards grades to colleges and universities.
- research and financial well-being.
- The grades issued by NAAC range from A++ to C.
- If an institution is graded D, it means it is not accredited.
How is the accreditation process carried out?
- The first step involves an institute approaching the NAAC for assessment.
- The applicant has to submit a self-study report (SSR) containing information related to quantitative and qualitative metrics.
- The data is then validated by expert teams of the NAAC, followed by spot visits by peer teams comprising assessors drawn from universities across India.
Is a NAAC accreditation mandatory?
- The process still remains largely voluntary.
What are the irregularities?
- Out of the 1,113 universities and 43,796 colleges in the All India Survey on Higher Education Report 2020-21, only 418 universities and 9,062 colleges were NAAC-accredited as on January 31, 2023.
- People with vested interests are indulging in malpractices, leading to the awarding of questionable grades to some institutions.
- The IT system of the agency was found compromised.
- Assessors were being allocated arbitrarily.
- Nearly 70% of experts from the pool of around 4,000 assessors have not received any opportunity to make site visits, while some have visited multiple times.
- Among the other lapses highlighted was individuals without authority having full access to the NAAC’s internal system.
- The fear of obtaining poor grades holds institutes back from applying.
- In 2019, the UGC had launched a scheme named ‘Paramarsh’ to address the issue.
- Under the scheme, some of the best performing institutes were identified to serve as mentors to at least five institutes aspiring to get accredited.
- The NAAC also explored the possibility of issuing Provisional Accreditation for Colleges (PAC), under which one-year-old institutes could apply for accreditation that would be valid for two years.
- Currently, only institutes that are at least six years old, or from where at least two batches of students have graduated, can apply.
- The accreditation is valid for five years.
- Every ranking system has its vulnerabilities but ensuring transparency, accountability and honesty of NAAC scores is an urgent task because every year more and more young Indians will depend on these to make an informed choice.3. Treaty on the high seas
Context: The UN member states agreed on a historic treaty for protecting marine life in international waters that lie outside the jurisdiction of any country.
- The breakthrough followed talks led by the UN during the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).
- The treaty is yet to be formally adopted as members are yet to ratify it.
- What are the high seas?
- Parts of the sea that are not included in the territorial waters or the internal waters of a country are known as the high seas, according to the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas. No country is responsible for the management and protection of resources on the high seas.
Significance of high seas:
- The high seas account for more than 60% of the world’s ocean area and cover about half of the Earth’s surface.
- They are home to around 2.7 lakh known species.
- The high seas are fundamental to human survival and well-being.
Issues with the high seas:
- These oceans absorb heat from the atmosphere, are affected by phenomena like the El Nino, and are also undergoing acidification which endanger marine flora and fauna.
- Several thousand marine species are at a risk of extinction by 2100 if current warming and acidification trends continue.
- Anthropogenic pressures on the high seas include:
- seabed mining,
- noise pollution,
- chemical spills and fires,
- disposal of untreated waste (including antibiotics),
- introduction of invasive species, and
- coastal pollution.
- Despite the alarming situation, the high seas remain as one of the least-protected areas, with only about 1% of it under protection.
- The draft agreement of the ‘High Seas Treaty’ recognises the need to address biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean.
- It is also referred to as the ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean’.
- The treaty was to be negotiated under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 which governs the rights of countries regarding marine resources.
- The treaty will deal with Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and it has been under discussion for several years.
- It places 30% of the world’s oceans into protected areas, puts more money into marine conservation and covers access to and use of marine genetic resources.
- The treaty has agreed to setup an access- and benefit-sharing committee to frame guidelines.
- It was also underlined that activities concerning marine genetic resources of areas on high seas should be in the interests of all States and for the benefit of humanity.
- They have to be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes.
|UNCLOSThe United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an international agreement that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities.The Convention resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982.UNCLOS replaced the four treaties of the 1958 Convention on the High Seas.UNCLOS came into force in 1994.The United Nations Secretariat has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention.A UN specialized agency, the International Maritime Organization as well as other bodies such as the International Whaling Commission and the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which was established by the Convention itself, plays an important role for implementation of the Convention.It divides marine areas into five main zones:Internal Waters,Territorial Sea,Contiguous Zone,Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)the High Seas.It is the only international convention which stipulates a framework for state jurisdiction in maritime spaces.
4. Time zone for moon
Context: The European Space Agency said that a universal timekeeping system for the moon is needed, but that many details remain to be worked out.
Upcoming lunar missions:
- The M1 lunar lander built by the Japanese company Ispace will try to deploy a rover built by the United Arab Emirates and a robot built by Japan’s space agency, JAXA.
- A six-legged cylindrical robot called the Nova-C lander is expected to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and land on the South Pole of the moon.
- The European Space Agency is contributing to NASA’s effort to build the Gateway lunar station, which will serve as a way station for future crews on their way to the lunar surface.
- South Korea launched its own lunar spacecraft, Danuri, on a SpaceX Falcon rocket.
Need for lunar time zone:
- The time on the Moon is measured using Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), which is used on the Earth.
- Because the Moon’s day is much longer than Earth’s day, it would be difficult to use UTC for day-to-day activities on the Moon.
- The main objective of establishing a universal timekeeping system for the moon is to streamline contact among the various countries and entities, public and private, that are coordinating trips to and around the moon.
- With increased exploration comes the potential for miscommunication.
- These missions will often be interacting as well, potentially relaying communications for one another, performing joint observations or carrying out rendezvous operations.
- For all those interactions to happen smoothly, the missions will need to operate on a standardized time.
Methods for establishing a ‘moon time zone’:
- Among the current topics under debate is whether a single organization should similarly be responsible for setting and maintaining lunar time.
- And also, whether lunar time should be set on an independent basis on the Moon or kept synchronized with Earth.
- Time on Earth is precisely tracked by atomic clocks, but synchronizing time on the moon is tricky because clocks run faster there, gaining around 56 microseconds, or millionths of a second, per day.
- To work together properly, the international community will also have to settle on a common ‘selenocentric reference frame’
It will be similar to the role played on Earth by the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, allowing the consistent measurement of precise distances between points across our planet.
5. Exercise Tropex-23
Context: Indian Navy’s major Operational level exercise TROPEX for the year 2023 culminated recently in the Arabian Sea.
- It is Indian Navy’s major maritime exercise.
- This Operational level exercise is conducted biennially.
- Participation includes:
- Indian Army
- Indian Air force
- Indian Coast Guard.
- The exercise is conducted in different phases, both in harbour and at sea.
6. Finance Ministry brings crypto assets under Prevention of Money Laundering Act
Context: The Finance Ministry has notified transactions involving the exchange, transfer and safekeeping of crypto assets under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act (PMLA).
- The circular brings transactions involving exchanges, transfers and safekeeping of crypto assets under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 (PMLA).
- Indian crypto exchanges will now be required to report any suspicious activity to the Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND).
- It also mandates that crypto exchanges and intermediaries dealing with virtual digital assets (VDAs) must have proper KYC documentation for all customers they onboard.
- The central government notified the following activities for the purposes:
- exchange between virtual digital assets and fiat currencies;
- exchange between one or more forms of virtual digital assets;
- transfer of virtual digital assets;
- safekeeping or administration of virtual digital assets or instruments enabling control over virtual digital assets;
- participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer and sale of a virtual digital asset.
- The measure is expected to aid investigative agencies in carrying out their actions against crypto companies.
What are cryptocurrencies?
- A cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency.
- It is a collection of binary data which is designed to be anonymous and secure.
- Cryptocurrency works on the model of Cryptography wherein data is converted into codes.
- The virtual currency is designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure the transactions and to control the creation of additional units of currency.
- These are decentralised in nature, which means that no single entity owns or controls them.
- It does not rely on central banks, and is a collection of data, overall designed to work as a medium of exchange, using its underlying technology, the blockchain.
Is Cryptocurrency In India Legal or Not?
- Cryptocurrencies as a payment medium in India are not regulated by any central authority.
- There are no rules and regulations or any guidelines laid down for settling disputes while dealing with cryptocurrency.
- Trading in cryptocurrency is done at investors’ risk.
- They are unregulated but according to the Union Budget 2022, the government of India announced a 30% tax on gains from cryptocurrencies and a 1% tax deducted at source.
Issues with cryptocurrencies in India:
- Anonymity of transacting parties
- Problems related to lack of proper authority
- Absence of well defined Laws
- Problems of Tax Evasion, Money laundering etc
- Phishing attacks faced by users
- Loss of Data
- Insecurity of trading & purchase platforms etc
- TheCryptocurrency Bill 2021:
- The Cryptocurrency Bill 2021, is a legislative initiative that was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the government to regulate the thriving market of cryptocurrency in India.
- An unregulated crypto market is unfavorable and risky even when the government wants to protect young entrepreneurs and investors.
- The bill seeks to create a favorable structure for the creation of the official digital currency that will be issued by the Reserve Bank Of India (RBI).
- It also prohibits all other private cryptocurrencies but, with certain exceptions to boost the underlying technology of cryptocurrency.
- Safety and security of virtual currencies always remains as a question because it does not have any proper regulatory authority as in ordinary currencies.
- Cryptocurrencies can be used boldly once if the government sets out proper legislations to tackle the associated issues