Daily Current Affairs : 21st & 22nd November 2021

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Transfer of Judges
  2. Compulsory and Voluntary Licensing
  3. Swacch survikshan Award
  4. Draft Electricity Amendment Bill
  5. Educational Disruption and Gender Quality
  6. Democracy Summit
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . Transfer of Judges


Context : 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.

What does the Constitution say on the transfer of judges?

  • 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.

What is the Supreme Court’s view on the issue?

  • 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 emphasised 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.

What is the current procedure for transfers?

  • 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.

2 . Compulsory Licensing


Context : The agreement signed between the Medicines Patent Pool and the two pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer appear to be making it easy to access COVID-19 antiviral drugs molnupiravir and Paxlovid, respectively.

About the issue

  • Voluntary license that will be handed out by the two companies to generic drug producers in low- and middle-income countries excludes many countries that are categorised upper middle-income.
  • Voluntary license will exclude India from even supplying raw materials (active pharmaceutical ingredients) to generic manufacturers in upper middle-income countries, thus compromising their options for securing affordable access.
  • As per Medicines Patent Pool listing, India is categorised as a lower middle-income country, and so will be able to produce and make available both Merck’s and Pfizer’s antivirals for use in India.
  • Countries like Brazil, which can manufacture the drugs but will have to pay a higher price to access them as it is an upper middle-income country
  • Compulsory licensing route is still open for these countries

Voluntary License.

  • A voluntary license is an authorization given by the patent holder to a generic company, allowing it to produce the patented article, such as a medicine, as if it were a generic.
  • The license usually sets quality requirements and defines the markets in which the licensee can sell the product.
  • The decision to grant a voluntary license, and the terms therein, can be tailored to account for many factors, including the nature of the epidemic/disease, social factors, economic considerations and the capacity of the licensee to meet and maintain quality standards for the product.

What is Compulsory Licensing

  • Compulsory licensing is when a government allows someone else to produce a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner or plans to use the patent-protected invention itself. It is one of the flexibilities in the field of patent protection included in the WTO’s agreement on intellectual property — the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement. It is mainly provided in the Pharmaceutical sector
  • Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health confirms that countries are free to determine the grounds for granting compulsory licences, and to determine what constitutes a national emergency.
  • The patent owner still has rights over the patent, including a right to be paid for copies of the products made under the compulsory licence.

Compulsory Licensing in India

  • Compulsory licences are granted according to the provisions of the Patents Act, 1970 and the term ‘Mandatory Licence’ is not used under the Act.
  • Till date, one Compulsory Licence has been granted by the Controller of Patents under Section 84 of the Patents Act 1970 to M/s. NATCO Pharma for Indian Patent No. 215758 (Carboxyaryl substituted diphenyl ureas) which was granted to M/s. Bayer Corporation
  • The drug covered under this patent is “Sorafenibtosylate” and sold under the brand name “NEXAVAR”isused for the treatment of kidney and liver cancer.

Section Pertaining to the Compulsory License in India

Section 84 (1)

(1) At any time after the expiration of three years from the date of the grant of a patent, any person interested may make an application to the Controller for grant of compulsory licence on patent on any of the following grounds, namely:—

  • (a) that the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention have not been satisfied, or
  • (b) that the patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price, or
  • (c) that the patented invention is not worked in the territory of India.

Section 92

  • Further, compulsory licenses can also be issued suo motu by the Controller under section 92, pursuant to a notification issued by the Central Government if there is either a “national emergency” or “extreme urgency” or in cases of “public non-commercial use”.
  • The Controller takes into account some more factors like the nature of the invention, the capability of the applicant to use the product for public benefit and the reasonability, but the ultimate discretion lies with him to grant the compulsory license. Even after a compulsory license is granted to a third party, the patent owner still has rights over the patent, including a right to be paid for copies of the products made under the compulsory licence.

3 . Swacch Surveekshan Awards


Context : Indore was on Saturday ranked the cleanest city for the fifth consecutive year by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in its annual cleanliness ranking.

Details of the Ranking

  • The Swachh Survekshan Awards, 2021 handed out by President Ram Nath Kovind included the cleanest State honour for Chhattisgarh for the third time, in the category of States with more than 100 urban local bodies.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, won the award for the cleanest “Ganga city”.
  • Among cities, Indore was ranked first Surat and Vijayawada secured the second and third place, respectively.
  • Of States with over 100 urban local bodies (ULBs), Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh were ranked second and third respectively.
  • Jharkhand was judged the cleanest State with less than 100 ULBs, followed by Haryana and Goa.
  • Among cities with population over 1 lakh, Indore, Surat, Vijayawada, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Ambikapur, Tirupati, Pune, Noida and Ujjain were the top 10, in that order. Lucknow stood at 25 out of such cities. Of cities with population less than 1 lakh, Maharashtra’s Vita was the cleanest, followed by Lonavala and Sasvad.
  • The New Delhi Municipal Council’s area was ranked the cleanest in the category of cities with 1-3 lakh population.
  • Noida was named the cleanest among medium-sized cities, that is with 3 lakh to 10 lakh population. Among the big cities with population of 10 lakh to 40 lakh, Navi Mumbai was ranked the cleanest.
  • The Ministry said the survey was carried out in 4,320 cities over 28 days, where feedback from 4.2 crore persons was recorded.

About Swachh Survekshan

  • Swachh Survekshan is an annual survey of cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation in cities and towns across India.
  • It was launched as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which aimed to make India clean and free of open defecation by 2nd October 2019.
  • The first survey was undertaken in 2016 and covered 73 cities; by 2020 the survey had grown to cover 4242 cities and was said to be the largest cleanliness survey in the world.
  • In a bid to scale up the coverage of the ranking exercise and encourage towns and cities to actively implement mission initiatives in a timely and innovative manner, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) is now in the process of conducting the sixth edition of the survey to rank all cities under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) with Quality Council of India (QCI) as its implementation partner.

Objectives

  • The objective of the survey is to encourage large scale citizen participation, ensure sustainability of initiatives taken towards garbage free and open defecation free cities, provide credible outcomes which would be validated by third party certification, institutionalize existing systems through online processes and create awareness amongst all sections of society about the importance of working together towards making towns and cities more habitable and sustainable.
  • Additionally, the survey also intends to foster a spirit of healthy competition amongst towns and cities to improve their service delivery to citizens and move towards creating cleaner cities.

How cities are Ranked

  • Part 1 Service Level Progress (SLP) : Data provided by ULBs
  • Part 2 Certification – Based on GFC Star rating, ODF+/ODF++/Water+
  • Based on GFC Star rating, ODF+/ODF++/Water+ 5 components – Feedback, engagement, experience, Swachhta app, Innovation
  • Final Score : Cities are ranked based on marks obtained from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

4 . Draft Electricity Amendment Bill


Context : Bill proposes certain amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003.

About the Bill

  • The bill was brought out to make the sector consumer-centric, promote ease of doing business, and promote ideals of good governance, namely, transparency, and accountability. All this, while ensuring the sustainability of power sector and promoting green energy. This bill has been in news since early 2020.

New amendments

  • The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 seeks to propose amendments to the Electricity Act 2003. The 2003 Act governs the power sector structure and policy. It recommends the generation, distribution, transmission, trading and use of electricity. Further, it also sets rules and regulations for regulatory authorities in the state and central departments of the power sector. The first few amendments introduced to the Act were in 2014. 
  • The 2020 amendment Bill has proposed the setting up of a National Selection Committee instead of a separate selection panel for the appointment of state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs). 
  • It also seeks to establish an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA), which will enforce a performance of contracts in sale, purchase and transmission of power, and proposes Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), a scheme launched in 2013 aiming to transfer subsidies directly into the beneficiaries’ accounts. 
  • This amendment proposes tariff- and subsidy-related measures, which aim to ease the financial health of discoms, which are mostly state-owned. 
  • It further advocates a renewable energy approach and has appointed the central government in conjunction with state governments to prepare for a National Renewable Energy Policy “for promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources”.

Issues for Farmers

  • The farmer would have to pay for the electricity subsidy and will be reimbursed by the government at a future date. However, this shift-in-subsidy burden has brought about insecurity in the farming community. The farmers are sceptical about accepting this model due to previous bad experiences regarding timely subsidy repayment.
  • Farmers are sceptical about government prompt repayment as promised. The additional expenses to pay first and then await reimbursement seems unfair to the farmer groups. The farmer feels powerless against the large electricity producers and suppliers and view the DBT proposal as an outright threat to their economic stability.

5 . Educational Disruption and Gender Quality


Context : Educational disruption due to prolonged closure of schools across the globe will not only have alarming effects on learning loss but also poses threat to gender equality, a new study by UNESCO has pointed out.

Details of the study

  • The global study, titled “When schools shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures”, brings to the fore that girls and boys, young women and men were affected differently by school closures, depending on the context.
  • “At the peak of the pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures. Not only did they lose access to education, but also to the myriad benefits of attending school, at an unparalleled scale
  • Drawing on evidence from about 90 countries and in-depth data collected in local communities, the report shows that gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate in and benefit from remote learning.
  • “In poorer contexts, girls’ time to learn was constrained by increased household chores.
  • Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities.
  • Girls faced difficulties in engaging in digital remote learning modalities in many contexts because of limited access to Internet-enabled devices, a lack of digital skills and cultural norms restricting their use of technological devices,” the report said.
  • The study pointed out that digital gender-divide was already a concern before the COVID-19 crisis.

6 . Democracy Summit


Context : Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to take part in U.S. President Joseph Biden’s “Summit for Democracy”, officials said, confirming that the Government has received an invitation for him to take part in the conference in virtual format on December 9 and 10.

About the Summit

  • On December 9-10, 2021, President Biden will host a virtual summit for leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector.
  • The summit will focus on challenges and opportunities facing democracies and will provide a platform for leaders to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.
  • For the United States, the summit will offer an opportunity to listen, learn, and engage with a diverse range of actors whose support and commitment is critical for global democratic renewal.
  • It will also showcase one of democracy’s unique strengths: the ability to acknowledge its imperfections and confront them openly and transparently, so that we may, as the United States Constitution puts it, “form a more perfect union.”
  • The White House has outlined three key themes: “Defending against authoritarianism”, “Addressing and fighting corruption”, and “Advancing respect for human rights”.

7 . Facts for Prelims


HomoSEP (“homogeniser of septic tanks”)

  • A group from Mechanical Engineering Department and Center 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.
  • HomoSEP has a shaft attached to blades that can open like an inverted umbrella when introduced into a septic tank. This is helpful as the openings of the septic tanks are small and the tank interiors are bigger. The sludge inside a septic tank contains faecal matter that has thickened like hard clay and settled at the bottom. This needs to be shredded and homogenised, so that it can be sucked out and the septic tank cleaned. The whirring blades of the robot achieve precisely this.
  • Latest version of the robot is a lightweight model that can be attached to a tractor and wheeled off to remote and inaccessible areas. The robot is attached to the axis of the tractor and can be run using the power from the tractor’s engine. When needed, it can be detached from the tractor.

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