Context: triple talaq and polygamy.
- The Centre promised to enact a new divorce law for Muslim men if the Supreme Court down all three forms of triple talaq- talaq-e-biddat, talaq hasan and talaq ahasan.
- This was in response to the question -“So if we accept that giving unfettered rights to a husband is bad and we strike down triple talaq, then where will Muslim men go for divorce?” – asked by one of the judge.
- All the tree forms of triple talaq are unilateral, extrajudicial and inequal.
- “Constitutional morality” includes secularism, dignity and non-discrimination.
Attorney General’s contention:
- Issues of Muslim marriage and divorce were separated from religion in Shariat Act way back in 1937.
- Practices of marriage and divorce have been codified as “personal law” under Section 2 of the 1937 Act.
- The Bench has to test them on the touchstone of the fundamental rights of gender equality, gender justice, gender discrimination, human rights, dignity under Articles 14, 15, 21 and 51A of the Constitution.
- But once marriage and divorce is separated from religion, in this case under Section 2 of the 1937 Act, the practices of talaq no more enjoy the protection of Article 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution. So talaq is out of Article 25. Talaq has become ‘law’ under Article 13 and should be constitutionally moral.
⏳ Jadhav’s trial farcical, says India
- The International Court of Justice will decide whether to order Pakistan to temporarily halt the execution of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav after what India termed a “farcical” military trial in Pakistan, following a day of intense public hearings.
- During the hearings, India’s counsel Harish Salve said “The situation we find ourselves in is grave and it is urgent and is the reason we have sought the indulgence of this court for a hearing on the indication of provisional measures,” he told the court during the 90-minute session on 15 May 2017 morning.
- “The Vienna Convention offers no exception.”
- In its presentation, Pakistan dubbed Mr. Jadhav a “terrorist” and accused India of ambushing it by pushing for provisional measures (the stay on execution) from the court, denying the need for extreme urgency in the case.
- Mr. Salve accused Pakistan of “egregious violations of the Vienna convention,” right from Mr. Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016.
- He described as “facetious” a May 12 communication from Pakistan that had outlined the legal avenues open to Mr. Jadhav, noting that it had failed to provide an assurance that the sentence would not be carried out.
- India relied solely on the Vienna Convention and not the agreement between India and Pakistan on consular access, he said.
- The worldwide “ransomware” cyberattack spread to thousands of more
computers as people logged in at work, disrupting business, schools, hospitals and daily life, though no new large-scale breakdowns were reported.
- The full extent of the damage from the cyberattack felt in 150 countries was unclear and could worsen if more malicious variations of the online extortion scheme appear.
- The initial attack, known as “WannaCry,” paralysed computers running factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems in scores of countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, India and Japan, among others.
⏳ India escapes damage from ransomware
- On 15 May 2017, the first weekday after the WannaCry ransomware attack began, several thousand more computers turned out to be affected, particularly in Asia.
- In India, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that barring “isolated incidents” in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, there had been no major impact of the attack.
- Earlier in the day, the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In), under the IT Ministry, held a web conference, sharing technical details of the attack and precautions to be taken.
- The agency said it was yet to get official notification on any attacks in India from the malware that encrypts files and demands a ransom to decrypt them.
- Banks and financial institutions in the country went on a war footing on 15 May 2017 to upgrade their software systems, particularly their antivirus packages, in the wake of the ransomware virus, WannaCry, which affected computers in 150 countries across the globe.
- There is no impact on automated teller machines, SBI said.
- “ATM [network] is a [highly] closed loop [system] and one mitigating factor is that, generally, the malwares are large files while ATMs are connected with a very small bandwidth.“
⏳ Surrendered ULFA cadres criticise rehabilitation policy
- Accusing both the Centre and the State government of “doing little” to ensure proper rehabilitation of former militants of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), activists have criticised the lack of a “comprehensive policy” in this regard.
- “Most of our returnees wanted to do something for Assam. Some of us came up with great ideas for rural development, but we hardly get any encouragement [from the State and Central government],” Samanoy Samity secretary Bijoy Hazarika said at the conference.
- Mr. Hazarika alleged that “of the at least 10,000 former ULFA cadres in Assam, about 7,643 do not get any kind of government assistance and have no choice but to earn their living by either working as daily wage earner or doing other odd jobs“.
- Mr. Hazarika said these 7,643 former ULFA cadres “surrendered between 1998 and 2005” and are yet to get any government aid.
- He further alleged that “the State government has not yet withdrawn cases lodged against these former ULFA cadres when they were associated with the organisation“.
- Veteran journalist Subir Bhaumik said: “India lacks a proper counter insurgency policy which is why there is no clear national policy on surrendered rebels.”
- He said it was important for security forces and intelligence agencies to wean away rebels and get them to surrender and help them in earning a living.
⏳ Cash is back as digital payments dip on costs
- Cash transactions are beginning to trump almost every form of digital payment alternative with April clocking a decline in volumes as well as value of transactions conducted through cards, mobile banking and the Unified Payment Interface (UPI).
- The trend assumes significance six months after the Centre announced demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes on November 8.
- The near-completion of the remonetisation process and merchants unwillingness to pay user charges also known as theMerchant Discount Rate (MDR) to banks has resulted in a slump in demand for new point of sale (PoS) devices, according to industry players.
- The RBI’s database shows that Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) transactions contracted 3.4% in volume and 0.5% in value in April 2017 compared with the previous month.
- E-wallets were the only commonly- used mode of electronic payments that witnessed a growth (4%) in the value of transactions in April and players in the space are optimistic that this trend may stick.
- Overall, financial technology experts say that the government could take more steps to encourage the shift to digital payments but do admit that the attraction of cash is very tough to combat.
⏳ April trade deficit widens to $13.2 bn, highest since Nov. ’14
- The country’s goods trade deficit in April, the first month of FY’18, widened to $13.2 billion – the highest since the $16.2 billion clocked in November 2014, data released on 15 May 2017 by the Commerce Ministry showed.
- This was due to goods imports in April recording a historic 49.07% year-on-year growth to $37.9 billion – following a surge in gold, oil, coal, chemicals, pearls and precious stones, machinery, transport equipment and electronics imports – and outpacing exports despite shipments rising for the eighth consecutive month.
- Goods exports in April were worth $24.6 billion but its growth slowed down on a month-on-month basis to 19.8% as against the 27.12% growth in March.
- Non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in April increased 17.06% to $177.18 billion.
- The growth in exports is positive for all major economies – USA (4.74%), European Union (0.16%) and Japan (13.3%) – barring China(where it shrunk -1.56%) for February 2017 over the corresponding period of the previous year as per latest WTO statistics, the Ministry said.
- In India, gold imports continued to surge when it jumped 211.35% in April to $3.8 billion.
- In March, the imports of the yellow metal had risen 328.9% to $4.1 billion while in February it had increased by 147.6% to $3.4 billion.
- Oil imports in April rose 30.12% to $7.3 billion.
- According to G.K. Gupta, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations, double digit growth in exports in April showed Indian economy’s capability to recover from the challenging times.
- Rise in imports of oil and pearls and precious/ semi-precious stones augur well for exports of petroleum products and gems and jewellery as such imports are inputs for the exports.
- However, the reasons for increasing electronic imports needs to be analysed.
- India now has its own standard bar of gold that is 99.99% pure and can be used to verify the purity of gold sold in shops
- Despite India being one of the largest markets for gold, goldsmiths so far depended on imported reference gold bars to check the purity of their biscuits, coins and jewellery
- Bharatiya Nirdeshak Dravya (BND 4201), the bar, weighing 20gm and with the dimensions of a ‘Parle-G’ biscuit (in the words of a scientists associated with its development), will mean that Indian jewellers will no longer need to import gold bars to check the purity of ornaments
- Last November, the India Government Mint (IGM), a unit of Security Printing and Minting Corp of India Ltd, signed an agreement with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to develop the first gold standard
Role of the stakeholders:
- The NPL is the repository of standard units — such as the kilogram, the second, the centimetre — in India and provides calibration services
- While the bars will be made by the IGM, technical aspects such as measurement would be done by the BARC and certifying the purity of the bars would be the responsibility of the NPL
- The Department produces Standard Gold Bars of standard fineness and purity of 10g, 50g, 100g, 500g & 1000g denominations
Importance to India
- Development of this reference material indigenously will add to the Make in India campaign and will save foreign exchange as well as minimise dependency on foreign countries
⏳ Iran sets new conditions for gas block
- In fresh conditions, Iran wants India to pay more than triple the gas price for award of the coveted Farzad- B natural gas block to ONGC Videsh (OVL).
- Iran wants India to buy all of the natural gas to be produced from the Persian Gulf block at a price equivalent to the rate Qatar charges for selling liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India under a longterm deal.
- Qatar, as per a revised formula agreed upon in December 2015, sells 7.5 million tonnes a year of LNG to Petronet LNG Ltd. – India’s biggest gas importer – at a price of $7-plus per million British thermal unit.
- The rate being sought by Iran is triple of $2.3 per mmBtu rate OVL is willing to pay for the gas during [times of ] low global oil prices.
- If global rates rise, OVL is willing to pay $4.3 per mmBtu, sources privy to the development said.
- When oil prices move up, rates of LNG from Qatar would also rise.
- Sources said that since the lifting of western sanctions, Iran is playing hardball over award of the field which was discovered by OVL – the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
- Farzad-B was discovered by OVL in the Farsi block about 10 years ago.
- OVL has recently submitted a $5.5 billion master development plan for bringing the gas in Farzad-B to production.
- Iran allows all the cost sunk in by an operator to be recovered from sale of oil or gas.
- For this reason, it wants OVL to reduce the cost of development as well as pay a higher gas price.
- The two nations were initially targeting concluding a deal on Farzad-B field development by November 2016 but later mutually agreed to push the timeline to February 2017.
- Now, the deal is being targeted to be wrapped up by September after the two sides agree on a price and a rate of return for OVL’s investments.
- The project has so far cost the OVL-led consortium, which includes Oil India Ltd. and Indian Oil Corp., over $80 million.
- Iran was initially unhappy with the $10 billion plan submitted by OVL for development of the 12.5 trillion cubic feet reserves in Farzad-B field and an accompanying plant to liquefy the gas for transportation in ships.
- It felt the $5 billion cost OVL and its partners have put up for developing the field was on the higher side and wanted it to be reduced.
- OVL will earn a fixed rate of return and get to recover all the investment it has made in the field development.
⏳ Anti-dumping duty on glass, radiators
- India has imposed antidumping duty on a certain type of glass from Iran and also Chinese aluminium radiators to protect domestic industry from cheap imports.
- While an anti-dumping duty of up to $55.59 per tonne was imposed on clear float glass, $22.89 was slapped on imports of aluminium radiators.
- The duty on both the products would be effective for a period of five years, the Finance Ministry said in a notification.
- Clear float glass is used in construction, refrigeration, mirror and solar energy industries. The product is a superior quality of glass.
- The Commerce Ministry’s investigation arm – Directorate General of Anti dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) – in a separate probe, had arrived at a conclusion that these products had been dumped into India and had caused material injury to the domestic industry in the country.
- North Korea said the missile “Hwasong-12” , it launched over the weekend was a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.
- Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons couldstrike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.
- Each new nuclear test is part of the North’s attempt to build a nuclear-tipped long-range missile.
- Kim said the North would stage more nuclear and missile tests in order to perfect nuclear bombs needed to deal with U.S. “nuclear blackmail.”