- Paxlovid is a combination of Pfizer’s investigational antiviral PF-07321332 and a low dose of ritonavir, an antiretroviral medication traditionally used to treat HIV.
- The treatment disrupts the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in the body.
- A group from Mechanical Engineering Department and Centre for Non-Destructive Testing (CNDE) of IIT Madras has developed a robot that can, if deployed extensively, put an end to this practice of sending people into septic tanks.
- The robot, named HomoSEP (“homogeniser of septic tanks”) has taken the group about three years to develop.
Transfer of judges controversy
- The transfer of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee from the Madras High Court to the Meghalaya High Court has given rise to a controversy over the question whether judicial transfers are made only for administrative reasons or have any element of ‘punishment’ behind them.
- Article 222 of the Constitution provides for the transfer of High Court judges, including the Chief Justice. It says the President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, may transfer a judge from one High Court to any other High Court.
- It also provides for a compensatory allowance to the transferred judge. This means that the executive could transfer a judge, but only after consulting the Chief Justice of India.
- From time to time, there have been proposals that one-third of the composition of every High Court should have judges from other States.
Supreme Court view
- In Union of India vs. Sankalchand Himatlal Sheth (1977), the Supreme Court rejected the idea that High Court judges can be transferred only with their consent. It reasoned that the transfer of power can be exercised only in public interest;
- Secondly, the President is under an obligation to consult the Chief Justice of India, which meant that all relevant facts must be placed before the Chief Justice of India;
- and thirdly, that the Chief Justice of India had the right and duty to elicit and ascertain further facts from the judge concerned or others.
- In S.P. Gupta vs. President of India (1981), also known as the ‘Judges’ Transfer Case’ and, later, the First Judges Case, the Supreme Court once again had an opportunity to consider the issue.
- Among other issues, it had to consider the validity of the transfer of two Chief Justices as well as a circular from the Law Minister proposing that additional judges in all High Courts may be asked for their consent to be appointed as permanent judges in any other High Court, and to name three preferences.
- The Minister’s reasoning was that such transfers would promote national integration and help avoid parochial tendencies bred by caste, kinship and other local links and affiliations.
- The majority ruled that consultation with the Chief Justice did not mean ‘concurrence’ with respect to appointments.
- In effect, it emphasized the primacy of the executive in the matter of appointments and transfers.
- However, this position was overruled in the ‘Second Judges Case’ (1993).
- The opinion of the Chief Justice of India, formed after taking into the account the views of senior-most judges, was to have primacy. Since then, appointments are being made by the Collegium.
- As one of the points made by the ‘Second Judges Case’ was that the opinion of the Chief Justice of India ought to mean the views of a plurality of judges, the concept of a ‘Collegium of Judges’ came into being.
- In the collegium era, the proposal for transferring a High Court judge, including a Chief Justice, should be initiated by the Chief Justice of India, “whose opinion in this regard is determinative”.
- The consent of the judge is not required. “All transfers are to be made in public interest, i.e., for promoting better administration of justice throughout the country.”
- For transferring a judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India should take the views of the Chief Justice of the court concerned, as well as the Chief Justice of the court to which the transfer is taking place.
- The Chief Justice of India should also take into account the views of one or more Supreme Court judges who are in a position to offer their views in the process of deciding whether a proposed transfer should take place.
- “In the case of transfer of a Chief Justice, only the views of one or more knowledgeable Supreme Court judges need to be taken into account.”
- The views should all be expressed in writing, and they should be considered by the Chief Justice of India and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, which means, the full Collegium of five.
- The recommendation is sent to the Union Law Minister who should submit the relevant papers to the Prime Minister.
- The Prime Minister then advises the President on approving the transfer.
Coal usage under scrutiny
- Coal is used to meet over 70% of India’s electricity needs. Most of this coal comes from domestic mines. In FY 2020-21, India produced 716 million tonnes of coal, compared with 431 million tonnes a decade ago.
- Since FY 2018-19, domestic production has stagnated and has been unable to meet the rising domestic demand, leading to a rise in imports.
- Most of the country’s coal production is limited to Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh with a total production of over 550 million tonnes, contributing to over 75% of the country’s total coal production.
- The Prime Minister promised to increase non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, meet 50% energy needs from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes in a decade.
- According to an estimate by the Centre for Science and Environment, the promise to reduce emissions by 1 billion tonnes means that India would need to reduce its carbon output by 22% by 2030.
- India now meets about 12% of its electricity needs from renewable sources, and increasing it to 50% by 2030 will be difficult.
- While some renewable energy sources like solar are cheap, they are unreliable because of the intermittency problem.
- They thus require the use of storage batteries, which adds to the cost.
- It should be noted that many low-income countries with low savings may not even possess the capital required to invest in renewable energy.
- Further, the damage that coal causes to commonly owned resources like the environment is not factored into its cost.
- It has argued that adopting stringent steps to reduce carbon emissions can drag down growth and affect efforts to reduce poverty.
- It should also be noted that per capita carbon emissions of countries such as India and China are still lower than those of many developed countries.
- According to World Bank data of 2018, India produces 1.8 metric tonnes of carbon emissions per capita against 15.2 metric tonnes produced by the U.S.
- Experts believe India’s commitment to phase down coal and become carbon neutral may actually be a rather generous commitment than what developed countries have committed themselves to.
‘Swachh Survekshan’ awards
- In the annual ‘Swachh Survekshan’ awards, Indore was ranked the cleanest city for the fifth year, followed by Surat and Vijayawada.
- Chhattisgarh was the cleanest State, for the third time, in the category of ‘States with more than 100 urban local bodies.
- The metrics (cities) were garbage disposal, open defecation-free ratings, functionality and maintenance of community toilets and safe management of faecal sludge.
- The ‘Survekshan’ awards have a wide range of categories that segregates cities based on their population.
- Along with a category such as ‘States with over 100 urban local bodies (ULB),’ where Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh were ranked second and third, respectively, there was also a top ranker for ‘State with less than 100 ULBs’ where Jharkhand was judged the cleanest.
- Then there was a category for a ‘Ganga’ city and separate population wise categories.
- This year there was a novel ‘Prerak Daaur Samman’ that saw Indore, Surat, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi Municipal Council and Tirupati categorised as ‘divya’ (platinum). They were assessed for solid waste management.
Scrutiny of parliament
- Under Article 123 of the Constitution the President can legislate on a matter when there is great urgency in the nature of an emergency and the sitting of Parliament is quite some time away.
- Farm laws which make radical changes in the farm sector and affect the life of farmers in very significant ways do not have the kind of urgency which necessitates immediate legislation through the ordinances.
- A proper parliamentary scrutiny of pieces of legislation is the best guarantee that sectoral interest will not jeopardise basic national interest.
- Protection of farmers is an essential part of national interest.
- So, in any future legislation on farmers it is absolutely necessary to involve the systems of Parliament fully so that a balanced approach emerges.
- We must not forget that the farm Bills were not referred to either the standing committee or a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament as has been the practice earlier.
- House rules have vested the discretion in the presiding officers in the matter of referring the Bills to committees.
- No reasoned decisions of the presiding officers for not referring them are available.
- Since detailed examination of Bills by committees result in better laws, the presiding officers may, in public interest, refer all Bills to the committees with few exceptions.
Evidence based policy
- When evidence-based policymaking becomes the cornerstone of good governance, it is difficult to overstate the importance of reliable and timely public data.
- Such data have a direct bearing on the state’s capability to design and implement programmes effectively.
- Among the emerging economies, India is credited to have a relatively robust public data system generated through its decennial Census and yearly sample surveys on specific themes.
- The coverage and reporting of Census data have vastly improved since independence.
- One, despite having adopted latest data processing technologies, there has been a growing delay, sometimes by years, in the release of the collected data.
- The second is the issue of comparability. In recent years, the government introduced changes to the estimation of GDP that made comparisons over time impossible.
- Third, there has been a slippage in the conduct of sample surveys.
- In the absence of timely and reliable public data, users are increasingly relying on data provided through large-scale surveys conducted by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
Sri Lanka revoke ban on fertilizer
- Sri Lanka abandoned its quest to become the world’s first completely organic farming nation on Sunday, announcing it would immediately lift an import ban on pesticides and other agricultural inputs.
- The island country has been in the grips of a severe economic crisis, with a lack of foreign exchange triggering shortages of food, crude oil and other essential goods
- “Considering the need to ensure food security, we have taken this decision,
- The policy was introduced after a massive hit to the cash-strapped island’s economy in the wake of COVID-19, with tourism earnings and foreign worker remittances drastically falling.
- Authorities attempted to save foreign exchange by last year banning a host of imported goods, including some food and spices.