Current Affair – May 10, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

The Maratha judgement and 102nd Amendmentof the Constitution

  • In the judgment that declared the Maratha reservation unconstitutional, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court dealt with another issue.
  • By a 3:2 majority, it ruled that after the passage of the 102nd Constitution Amendment Act in 2018, the States do not have any power to identify ‘socially and educationally backward’ (SEBC) classes

What does the 102nd Amendment say?

Article 338B

  • The Amendment established a National Commission for Backward Classes by adding Article 338B to the Constitution.
  • The five member Commission was tasked with monitoring safeguards provided for socially and educationally backward classes, giving advice on their socio­economic development, inquiring into complaints and making recommendations, among other functions.
  • Significantly, it was laid down that the Centre and the States shall consult the Commission on all policy matters concerning the SEBCs.

Article 342A

  • The Amendment also added Article 342A, under which the President shall notify a list of SEBCs in relation to each State and Union Territory, in consultation with Governors of the respective States. Once this ‘Central List’ is notified, only Parliament could make inclusions or exclusions in the list by law.
  • This provision is drafted in exactly the same word as the one concerning the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Definition 

  • Further, a definition of ‘SEBCs’ was added to the Constitution — ‘SEBC’ means “such backward classes as are so deemed under Article 342A for the purposes of this Constitution”

How did the Supreme Court reach these conclusions?

  • The bench adopted a literal interpretation of the 102nd Amendment, It cited three main reasons: 
  1. Text was clear that the President alone could notify the list, and subsequent changes could be made only by Parliament by law.
  2. The text was identical to the provisions governing the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the procedure to identify SCs was exactly the same, which led to the conclusion that Parliament intended to “replicate” the same process for backward classes, too.
  3. However, the minority judgement  accepted the Union government’s position that it was never its intention to deprive the States of their powers. They held that the ‘Central List’ was only for use by the Centre in reservations for jobs and institutions under the Union government, and will not apply to States.   A definition clause was added to the effect that only a class found in the list notified by the President under Article 342A was an SEBC. Further, the definition was for “the purposes of the Constitution”, which meant that it was to apply to the Constitution as a whole, including Article 15(4) and Article 16(4), which enable special provisions for backward classes, including reservation in public services, and are also implemented by the States.
  4. It also drew on deliberations before a Rajya Sabha Select Committee that showed that the Centre had rejected suggestions from members who demanded that a specific clause be added saying that States would continue to have the power to identify SEBCs.
However, the minority judgement  accepted the Union government’s position that it was never its intention to deprive the States of their powers. They held that the ‘Central List’ was only for use by the Centre in reservations for jobs and institutions under the Union government, and will not apply to States

What next?

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to notify the list of SEBCs for each State and Union territory, and until it is done, the present State Lists may continue to be in use.
  • The Centre may either comply with this or seek to further amend the Constitution to clarify the position that the 102nd Amendment was not intended to denude the States of their power to identify SEBCs.
Source: The Hindu

National task force and Judicial Intervention

Judicial intervention in response to the Union go­vernment’s response to the health crisis

  • The Supreme Court had ex­pressed its dissatisfaction at the Centre’s earlier “oxygen­for­bed” formula.
  • It formed a 12­member national task force for the ef­fective and transparent allocation of medical oxygen to the States and Union Territories “on a scientific, ration­al and equitable basis”.
  • Making recommendations on augmenting the supply based on present and projected demands and facilitating audits by sub­groups within each State and UT is also part of its remit.
  • The Court has also mandated it to review and suggest measures for en­suring the availability of essential drugs and remedial measures to meet future emergencies during the pan­demic.
  • The national task force has be­come a judicially empowered group that may significantly guide the handling of the health crisis set off by the second pandemic wave.

Concern

  • Several High Courts and the Su­preme Court are examining different aspects of the pandemic response, including availability of beds and oxygen. The trend did raise concerns about the judici­ary encroaching on the executive domain.
  • The allocation of resources based on a formula related to the present and projected requirements of each State is indeed an executive func­tion.

Justification

  • As the daily infection numbers and death toll have acquired frightening levels, the constitu­tional courts felt obliged to take it upon themselves to protect the right to life and good health of the popula­tion.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachudhas clarified that the Court was not usurping the executive’s role, but only wanted to facilitate a dialogue among stakehol­ders. As long as this position is clear, the present inter­vention need not be seen as a dangerous overreach
Source: The Hindu

Sequencing of Pangolin scales

  • Researchers have sequenced 624 Pangolin scales, categorising the two pangolin species.
  • To enforce the appropriate national and in­ternational laws and to track the decline of the Pangolin species, re­searchers of Zoological Sur­vey of India (ZSI), Kolkata, have now developed tools to tell apart the scales of Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).
  • It would help the cause of pangolins.

Pangolins trafficking

  • Pangolins, despite being list­ed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 conti­nue to be the world’s most trafficked mammal.
  • The primary demand for its scales in the making of tradi­tional East Asian medicines has led to an estimated ille­gal trade worth $2.5 billion every year.

About the research

  • Researchers characterised the morphological features and investigated genetic variations between the two spe­cies by sequencing 624 scales of pangolins and comparing the sequences with all eight pangolin species.
  • Based on the size, shape, weight and ridge counts on the scales, the team was able to categorise the two species.
When scales are confiscated, the wildlife officers just weigh and esti­mate how many pangolins might have been killed. This needs revision as the dry weight of the scales from one single mature Chinese pangolin is roughly about 500 to 700 grams. However, in the case of Indian pango­lin it goes upto1.5kg to1.8 kg.   

Significance of research

  • It will be of immense utility for the law enforcement agencies for taking spot decision dur­ing larger seizures.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, an estimate of about 8,95,000 pangolins was trafficked globally, which mainly involved Asian and African pangolins. This has led to a drastic de­cline of the species.
  • Im­portant to develop protocols that can readily identify spe­cies and the number of  indi­viduals poached in sei­zures,”

About Pangolins

  • International Un­ion for Conservation of Nature status: Indian pangolins are endangered and the Chinese pangolins are critically en­dangered. 
  • Though the Chinese pan­golin is distributed mostly in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambo­dia, the northeastern part of India. The population is already li­mited as it has a limited geo­graphical range, low fecun­dity with just one offspring a year. It is also facing pres­sure due to habitat degradation and is prone to local ex­tinction.
Source: The Hindu

Chinese rocket debris

  • Debris from the last stage of China’s Long March rocket that had last month Tianhe fell into the waters of the In­ dian Ocean west of the Mal­dives.
  • The reentry of rocket has been criticised by the Na­tional Aeronautics and Space Administration (NA­ SA) in the U.S. for “failing to meet responsible stan­dards”
  • China had rejected those concerns, saying most of the debris had been burned during reentry and that a fall into international waters was most likely.

Tianhe (Heavenly Harmony) 

  • The Long March5B Y2 rocket launched on April 29 launch from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the island province of Hainan.
  • The Long March­5B Y2 rocket was carrying the Tianhe module. Tianhe is first of three key components for the construction of China’s space station, which will be completed by the end of next year.
  • Tianhe will act “the man­agement and control hub of the space station” which is called Tiangong or Heaven­ly Palace.
  • The space station is only the second after the International Space Sta­tion (ISS).It has been designed with a lifespan of 10 years but could last 15 years, or un­til 2037.
  • The life of the ISS could be extend­ed until 2030, by when one of its members, Russia, has said it would launch its own space station.
Source: The Hindu

Uranium Seizure

  • The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Thursday arrested two persons with 7 kg natural uranium estimated to be worth around Rs 21 crore

Uranium and its uses

  • Uranium occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and water and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals. It has a silvery grey metallic appearance.
  • Uranium is mainly used in nuclear power plants due to its unique nuclear properties.
  • Depleted uranium is also used as shield against radiation in medical processes using radiation therapy and also while transporting radioactive materials. Though itself radioactive, uranium’s high density makes it effective in halting radiation.
  • Its high density also makes it useful as counterweights in aircraft and industrial machinery.
Source: Indian Express

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