Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 04 February 2023

Senior Puisne judge

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Two names for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court, the Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said in a statement on 31 January 2023 that the collegium had taken into “consideration the seniority of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges…”

What does puisne mean, and who are puisne judges?

  1. The word puisne has French origins, which means “later born” or younger. It is pronounced /’pjuːni/, like “puny”, the English word that means small or undersized.
  2. Puisne is almost always used in the context of judges, and essentially denotes seniority of rank.
  3. The term puisne judge is used in common law countries to refer to judges who are ranked lower in seniority, i.e., any judge other than the Chief Justice of that court.
  4. Common law is the body of law that is created by judges through their written opinions, rather than through statutes or constitutions (statutory law).
  5. Common law, which is used interchangeably with ‘case law’, is based on judicial precedent.
  6. The United Kingdom (UK) and the Commonwealth countries, including India, are common law countries.

Is a “puisne judge” in India the same as in the UK?

  1. In the UK, puisne judges are judges other than those holding distinct titles. The Supreme Court of Judicature Act, 1877 defined a “puisne judge” as any judge of the High Court besides the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of England, and the Master of the Rolls.
  2. In Indiaall judges have the same judicial powers. As the seniormost judge of a court, the Chief Justice has an additional administrative role.
  3. In India, there is a reference to a puisne judge only while considering the order of seniority for appointments, elevations to High Courts, etc., but it does not have a bearing on the exercise of a judge’s judicial power.

 

Measures tribal welfare in Budget 2023

GS Paper - 2 (Welfare Scheme)

In Union Budget 2023, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced some targeted schemes for tribal welfare, ranging from better education to clean drinking water to sanitation. Here is a look at the various announcements.

Facilities for Eklavya Schools

  1. In the next three years, the Centre will recruit 38,800 teachers and support staff for the 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools, serving 3.5 lakh tribal students.
  2. Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) were set up in 1997-98 to impart quality education to ST children in remote areas.
  3. Each school has a capacity of 480 students, catering to students from Class VI to XII.
  4. In addition, wherever the density of ST population “is higher in identified Sub-Districts (90% or more), it is proposed to set up Eklavya Model Day Boarding School (EMDBS) on an experimental basis for providing additional scope for ST Students seeking to avail school education without residential facility.

Eliminating Sickle Cell Anaemia

  1. A Mission to eliminate Sickle Cell Anaemia by 2047 will be launched. It will entail awareness creation, universal screening of 7 crore people in the age group of 0-40 years in affected tribal areas, and counselling through collaborative efforts of central ministries and state governments.
  2. Sickle Cell Anaemia is a genetic condition that causes Red Blood Cells to deform and break down.
  3. Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is widespread among the tribal population in India where about 1 in 86 births among STs have SCD.

Focus on PVTGs

  1. To improve socio-economic conditions of the particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs)Pradhan Mantri PVTG Development Mission will be launched.
  2. This will saturate PVTG families and habitations with basic facilities such as safe housing, clean drinking water and sanitation, improved access to education, health and nutrition, road and telecom connectivity, and sustainable livelihood opportunities.”
  3. An amount of Rs 15,000 crore will be made available to implement the Mission in the next three years under the Development Action Plan for the Scheduled Tribes.

 

Perseverance completes ‘sample depot’

NASA announced on 1 February 2023 that its Perseverance Rover, nicknamed Percy, has completed the first “sample depot on another world” by dropping the tenth and final sample tube. The tube will be part of a depot that will be considered for the return to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return Campaign. The Perseverance Rover completed the sample depot less than six weeks since it began by dropping the first sample on 21 December 2022.

What is the Perseverance Mars Rover?

  1. NASA’s Perseverance is a Mars rover that is about 3 metres long, 2.7 metres wide, and 2.2 metres tall.
  2. It is about the size of a car, but weighs only about 1,025 kilograms with all instruments on board.
  3. Since it has to operate independently on the surface of a plant that is millions of kilometres away, it has parts that are analogous – similar to those found in animals that help them adapt and survive.
  4. For example, its body is a strong structure that protects its “vulnerable insides” and its computers are the brain that processes all the data.
  5. Its eyes and ears are formed by cameras and other instruments that give it information about its environment. Its “legs” are the wheels that allow it to move around.
  6. Perseverance on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on 30 July 2020.
  7. It landed on the surface of Mars on 18 February 2021 along with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

What is NASA’s Perseverance rover looking for?

  1. To put it simply, Perseverance is looking for signs of life on the red planet. Previous missions run by the American space agency have discovered evidence that Mars once had running water before it turned into a frozen desert.
  2. Mars had warmer surface environments that could have supported microbial life in its earlier history.
  3. Perseverance aims to take the next logical step and find out one of the most important questions in the field of astrobiology—whether there are signs of past microbial life on Mars.
  4. In fact, even the location where it landed, the Jezero Crater, has a high potential for hosting biosignatures of past microbial life.
  5. The crater is a 45-kilometre-wide basin located in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
  6. According to NASA, a river flowed into a body of water there around 3.5 billion years ago.
  7. The space agency believes that the ancient river delta could have collected and preserved organic molecules and other signs of microbial life.

How will Perseverance samples be returned?

  1. The Perseverance rover already has on board a host of scientific instruments that will help researchers study the red planet in greater detail than ever before.
  2. This includes the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument that can detect organic matter and minerals, and PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), which can map the chemical composition of rocks and sediments.
  3. Sample Retrieval Lander that would launch to the red planet in 2023, carrying a NASA-led Mars rocket and a pair of small Mars helicopters, kind of like Ingenuity.

 

  1. Deer reservoir of old coronavirus variants

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

new study suggests the alpha and gamma variants of the coronavirus continued to circulate and evolve in white-tailed deer, even after they stopped spreading widely among people.

More about the news:

  1. The findings, which are based on samples collected through December 2021, provide more evidence that deer could be a reservoir of the virus and a potential source of future variants, which could spill back into human populations.

2.   The link between deer and coronavirus:

  1. Previous studies of deer have suggested humans have repeatedly introduced the coronavirus into white-tailed deer populations in the United States and Canada and that deer can spread the virus to one another.
  2. Scientists are not sure how people are passing the virus to deer, but they have speculated that it might happen when people feed deer or deer encounter human trash or waste.
  3. The scale of the risk that infected deer pose to humans remains unclear.
  4. Scientists have documented one case that most likely resulted from deer-to-human transmission in Ontario, and they note that hunters and others who have regular contact with the animals could potentially catch the virus from them.

How was the study conducted?

  1. About 5,500 tissue samples collected from deer killed by hunters in New York State from September through December in 2020 and 2021.
  2. During the 2020 season, just 0.6% of the samples tested positive for the virus, a figure that rose to 21% during the 2021 season.
  3. Genetic sequencing revealed that three variants of concern — alpha, gamma and delta — were all present in deer during the 2021 season.
  4. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that deer hunters take a variety of basic precautions to reduce the risk of infection, including wearing masks while handling game and washing hands thoroughly afterward.

 

CITES Reveals Red Sanders Smuggling

GS Paper - 3 (Environment and Ecology)

There is a clear discrepancy in the reporting of the trade in the endangered species by the exporting and importing countries, says wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC. The CITES trade database has recorded 28 incidents of Red Sanders confiscation, seizure, and specimen from the wild being exported from India, a fact sheet prepared by TRAFFIC, a global wildlife trade monitoring organization has revealed. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments, whose aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, does not threaten the survival of the species.

Illegal Trade

  1. “These consignments were exported to China (53.5%), Hong Kong (25.0%), Singapore (17.8%) and the United States of America (3.5%) from 2016 to 2020”.
  2. Red Sanders Pterocarpussantalinus, or red sandalwood, is an endemic tree species with distribution restricted to the Eastern Ghats of India.
  3. The species found in Andhra Pradesh and growing up to a height of 10 to 15metres, is reported to be one of India’s most exploited tree species, and is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting.
  4. Under the foreign trade policy of India, the import of Red Sanders is prohibited, while export is restricted.
  5. “India reported an export of more than 19,049 tonnes of logs. In comparison, the importing countries reported about 4,610 tonnes of logs, 127 tonnes of sawn wood, 20 tonnes of transformed wood and 980 kg of wood products, clearly indicating a discrepancy in reporting of Red Sander trade.
  6. Recently released communiqué titled “RED SANDERS: Factsheet on India’s Red Sanders in illegal wildlife trade”, China remains the largest importer with more than 13,618 tonnes of the products, followed byHong Kong (5,215 tonnes) and Singapore (216 tonnes).

Red Sanders (Rules and Prohibition)

  1. “Red Sanders is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting. Its heartwood is in demand in both domestic and international markets and is used to make furniture and handicrafts, while the red dye obtained from the wood is used as a colouring agent in textiles and medicines.
  2. Rampant illegal logging has been reported across its range of State,” by TRAFFIC’s India office.
  3. Listed under Schedule IV of The Wildlife Protection Act and Endangered as per IUCN Red List, Red Sanders is a very slow-growing tree species that attains maturity in natural forests after 25-40 years.
  4. It also highlighted the conservation efforts of the species and pointed out that in 2016 the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, was amended via A.P. Act No.15 of 2016, to give special status of protection to Red SandersRed Sanders offences were made cognisable and non-bailable, and the punishments related to it were enhanced.
  5. The publication called declaring the Red Sanders harbouring forests within the species’ geographical range as ‘High Conservation Areas’, to provide an adequate legal framework for protecting the species and its habitat.

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