Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – August 29, 2018


Q. 1) Blasphemy law is not required in a secular state like India. Critically examine, with special emphasis on SC judgements in this regard. (GS-2)

Ans 1. Blasphemy refers to a matter pertaining to lack of respect toward God, religion, a religious icon, or something else considered sacred. Section 295A of IPC is a cognizable offence which penalizes any deliberate insult to a religion, its beliefs or any class of citizens. Recently, Punjab government proposed to add Section 295AA in IPC to expand and tighten law on Sacrilege.

Why is Blasphemy law not required in India?

  1. India already has constitutional provisions under Articles 25-28 which protect religion and its sanctity.
  2. Art 19(1)(a) has reasonable restrictions to protect any speech which may hurt religious sentiments.
  3. Blasphemy has been described as irreverence towards God or Religion, however the term “Religion‟ itself lacks a proper definition for itself.
  4. It is considered to be against the spirit of Fundamental right of Speech and Expression. USA has no blasphemy law.
  5. Blasphemy law is incompatible with the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  6. Blasphemy law is often used as a tool by the majority to oppress the minority.
  7. The allegations of blasphemy have been used by vigilante groups and non-state actors to justify and instigate incidents of interreligious violence
  8. Blasphemy law is required by the states that have an official religion like Pakistan

However, there are reasons which favor introduction of blasphemy law in India:

  1. To inculcate value of respect for sanctity of the God, Religion and Religious beliefs.
  2. Religion affects the actions of human beings. Legal protection provided by state to protect religious belief and sentiments leads to stable society and governance.
  3. Most of the countries implement Blasphemy laws as a reasonable restriction for the maintenance of communal harmony.
  4. Section 295A was also introduced to control series of communal violence

Various SC judgements regarding blasphemy:

Ramji Lal Modi v. State of Uttar Pradesh

  • The case challenges the constitutional validity of law.
  • Case argue that Art. 19(2) puts only reasonable restrictions but section 295A casts its net much wider by criminalizing all speech that was intended to outrage religious feeling
  • A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 295 A
  • Supreme court observed that section 295A did not cover all types of Insults but only intentional insult

The Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh v Ram Manohar Lohia

  • Under this case Supreme Court observed that speech which is prohibited should have a direct connection with disruption of public order. It should not just be a remote connection
  • This is contrary to previous judgment (Ram ji Lal Modi case) which gave the order that a slight connection of freedom of speech with public disorder falls under Section 295 A


On the basis of above arguments, it is clear that India has a strong constitutional and legal framework to protect the sanctity of religion, its idols, beliefs and sentiments. However, it is pertinent to note that in the interest of maintenance of public order, it is necessary to arm the civil authorities with required legal and rule based powers. Thus, a blasphemy law catering to the needs of the society may be the order of the day. However, care must be taken to ensure that it has built-in provisions to protect the minorities from exploitation.


Q.2) Discuss the recent controversy around collegium system of Supreme Court. What is the criterion to decide seniority in the Supreme Court. Is there there any need to bring changes to this criterion?  (GS-2)

Answer:  After the Three Judges Cases, a judge is appointed to the supreme court by the president on the recommendation of the collegium which is a closed group of Chief Justice of India, the four most senior judges of the court and the senior-most judge hailing from the high court of a prospective appointee.

Controversy – the lowering in seniority of one of the three new judges in the government notification on the appointments despite collegium recommending the name ahead.

Criteria to decide seniority:

  1. Decided on the basis of date of induction in the Supreme Court. A judge who takes oath earlier becomes senior to another who takes oath later.
  2. Where warrants for appointment of judges to Supreme Court are issued by the government on different dates, the seniority is automatically decided by virtue of the dates of swearing-in by the CJI.
  3. There is no stated rule in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) to decide the seniority of judges whose warrants of appointment are issued on the same date. As the warrants are issued by the government in a sequence, the practice has been for the CJI to administer the oath in the same order. For example, the warrants for appointment of current CJI Misra and now retired Justice J Chelameswar were issued on the same day but, as Misra’s warrant was numbered above that of Justice Chelameswar, he was sworn in first. This ensured that he became CJI, deemed as senior to Justice Chelameswar.
  4. These are on the basis of the recommendation of the Collegium, which comprises the five most senior SC judges. The Collegium’s recommendations for any name can be returned by the government, but if the Collegium reiterates the name, the government is bound to issue the warrant of appointment. The procedure for this is laid down in the MoP.

Need to bring changes:

  1. It leads to government deliberately slighting the judiciary.
  2. This seniority affects the chances of a judge becoming the CJI as in the case of Justice Chelameswar.
  3. The seniority of a judge also affects the membership of the Collegium.


Q.3) India and Pakistan will resume their talks on various aspects of the Indus Waters Treaty. Discuss the provisions of Indus water treaty and highlight the point of contentions between India and Pakistan over it. (GS-2)

Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank to use the water available in the Indus System of Rivers


According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India, while control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan.

Since Pakistan’s rivers receive more water flow from India, the treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects

Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. The treaty is considered to be one of the most successful water sharing endeavours in the world today

Both countries agreed to exchange data and co-operate in matters related to the treaty. For this purpose, treaty creates the Permanent Indus Commission, with a commissioner appointed by each country. It would follow the set procedure for adjudicating any future differences and disputes arising over the allocation of waters. The Commission has survived three wars and provides an ongoing mechanism for consultation and conflict resolution through inspection, exchange of data and visits. The Commission is required to meet at least once in a year to discuss potential disputes as well as cooperative arrangements for the development of the Indus System of Rivers.

Either party must notify the other of plans to construct any engineering works which would affect the other party and to provide data about such works.

The annual inspections and exchange of data continue, unperturbed by tensions on the subcontinent.

In cases of disagreement, Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) or a neutral technical expert is called in for arbitration.

point of contentions

The treaty has not considered Gujarat state in India as part of the Indus river basin. The Indus river is entering the Rann of Kutch area and feeding in to Kori Creek during floods.

Without taking consent from India, Pakistan has constructed Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) project passing through the Great Rann of Kutch area with the assistance from the world bank.

Water released by the LBOD is enhancing the flooding in India and contaminating the quality of water bodies which are source of water to salt farms spread over vast area

Indus originates from Tibet in China. If China decides to stop or change the flow of the river, it will affect both India and Pakistan.

Climate change is causing melting of ice in Tibetan plateau, which scientists believe will affect the river in future.

India completed the building of the Kishanganga dam in Kashmir and continued work on the Ratle hydroelectric power station on the Chenab River despite Pakistan’s objections

Q.4) What is Biofuel. Discuss its applications, benefits and challenges in its application.  

Answer:  A biofuel is a fuel that is produced through contemporary biological processes, such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion, rather than a fuel produced by geological processes such as those involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum, from prehistoric biological matter.

Ex: Ethanol, Syngas, Biodiesel

Biofuels can be derived directly from plants (i.e. energy crops), or indirectly from agricultural, commercial, domestic, and/or industrial wastes.

Biofuels are categorised based on the type of feedstock (the input material) used to produce them.

First generation – produced from food crops.  For ethanol, feedstocks include sugar cane, corn, maize, etc.  For biodiesel, feedstocks are naturally occurring vegetable oils such as soybean and canola[

Second generation – produced from cellulosic material such as wood, grasses, and inedible parts of plants.  This material is more difficult to break down through fermentation and therefore requires pre-treatment before it can be processed

Third generation – produced using the lipid production from algae. algaculture unlike crop-based biofuels, does not entail a decrease in food production, since it requires neither farmland nor fresh water.

Fourth generation – Similar to third-generation biofuels, fourth-generation biofuels are made using non-arable land. However, unlike third-generation biofuels, they do not require the destruction of biomass


Replacements for transportation fuels like petroleum, diesel and jet fuel Biofuel can provide hydrogen, clean up oil, work as cooking oil Biofuels can work as an alternative to replacing energy needs life central home heating. Biofuel can be used to generate power in backup systems Biofuel can replace the toxic products that are designed to remove paint and adhesives


Biofuels are in theory carbon-neutral – the carbon dioxide that is absorbed by the plants is equal to the carbon dioxide that is released when the fuel is burned Produce less greenhouse gases overall than fossil fuels when they are burned.
Alternative sources to fossil fuels – allowing for greater fuel security for countries with little or no oil reserves of their own.
May not produce any particulates such as soot and other fine particles.
Cost benefit of using them is much higher. Biofuels are adaptable to current engine designs and perform very well in most conditions. This keeps the engine running for longer, requires less maintenance and brings down overall pollution check costs.

Since most of the sources like manure, corn, switchgrass, soyabeans, waste from crops and plants are renewable and are not likely to run out any time soon, making the use of biofuels efficient in nature. These crops can be replanted again and again.


High Cost of Production – Even with all the benefits associated with biofuels, they are quite expensive to produce in the current market. Biofuels are similar to fossil fuels in that biofuels contribute to air pollution.

Large quantities of water are required to irrigate the biofuel crops and it may impose strain on local and regional water resources, if not managed wisely.

Risk of diverting farmland or crops for biofuels production to the detriment of the food supply It might be economically attractive for farmers but growing same crop every year may deprive the soil of nutrients Biofuels are produced from crops and these crops need fertilizers to grow better. The downside of using fertilizers is that they can have harmful effects on surrounding environment

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