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26th April – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Explained: 47 years of a judgment that upheld basic structure
  2. Why pathogens travel in search of a host?
  3. What is the impact of Donald Trump’s immigration ban?

EXPLAINED: 47 YEARS OF A JUDGMENT THAT UPHELD BASIC STRUCTURE

Focus: GS-II Polity, Governance

Introduction

  • Exactly 47 years ago, the Supreme Court passed its landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, considered among the most significant constitutional cases in India’s judicial history.
  • By a 7-6 verdict, a 13-judge Constitution Bench ruled that the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution is inviolable, and could not be amended by Parliament. The basic structure doctrine has since been regarded as a tenet of Indian constitutional law.

Amending the Constitution

  • The Constitution of a country is the fundamental law of the land. It is based on this document that all other laws are made and enforced. Under some Constitutions, certain parts are immune from amendments, and are given a special status compared to other provisions.
  • Since the Indian Constitution was first adopted, debates have raged as to the extent of power that Parliament should have to amend key provisions.
  • In the early years of Independence, the Supreme Court conceded absolute power to Parliament in amending the Constitution, as was seen in the verdicts in Shankari Prasad (1951) and Sajjan Singh (1965).
  • The reason for this is believed to be that in those initial years, the apex court had reposed faith in the wisdom of the then political leadership, when leading freedom fighters were serving as Members of Parliament.
  • In subsequent years, as the Constitution kept being amended at will to suit the interests of the ruling dispensation, the Supreme Court in Golaknath (1967) held that Parliament’s amending power could not touch Fundamental Rights, and this power would be only with a Constituent Assembly.

The tussle between Parliament and the Judiciary

  • In the early 1970s, the government of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had enacted major amendments to the Constitution (the 24th, 25th, 26th and 29th) to get over the judgments of the Supreme Court in RC Cooper (1970), Madhavrao Scindia (1970) and the earlier mentioned Golaknath.
  • In RC Cooper, the court had struck down Indira Gandhi’s bank nationalisation policy, and in Madhavrao Scindia it had annulled the abolition of privy purses of former rulers.
  • All the four amendments, as well as the Golaknath judgment, came under challenge in the Kesavananda Bharati case– where relief was sought by the religious figure Swami Kesavananda Bharati against the Kerala government vis-à-vis two state land reform laws.
  • Since Golaknath was decided by eleven judges, a larger bench was required to test its correctness, and thus 13 judges formed the Kesavananda bench.

The judgment in Kesavananda Bharati

  • The Constitutional Bench, whose members shared serious ideological differences, ruled by 7-6 verdict that Parliament should be restrained from altering the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution.
  • The court held that under Article 368, which provides Parliament amending powers, something must remain of the original Constitution that the new amendment would change.
  • The court did not define the ‘basic structure’, and only listed a few principles — federalism, secularism, democracy — as being its part. Since then, the court has been adding new features to this concept.

‘Basic structure’ since Kesavananda

  • The ‘basic structure’ doctrine has since been interpreted to include the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, Independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of powers, federalism, secularism, sovereign democratic republic, the parliamentary system of government, the principle of free and fair elections, welfare state, etc.
  • An example of its application is SR Bommai (1994), when the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of BJP governments by the President following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, invoking a threat to secularism by these governments.
  • Critics of the doctrine have called it undemocratic, since unelected judges can strike down a constitutional amendment. At the same time, its proponents have hailed the concept as a safety valve against majoritarianism and authoritarianism.

-Source: Indian Express


WHY PATHOGENS TRAVEL IN SEARCH OF A HOST?

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • Research shows that the host of the COVID-19 virus was definitely an animal, and that the most variable part of the coronavirus genome in humans — the receptor-binding domain (RBD) in the spike protein — could have occurred in an animal host before the transfer to humans, or natural selection happened in humans after the zoonotic transfer.
  • Given the similarity of SARS-CoV-2 to bat SARS-CoV-like coronaviruses, it is likely that bats serve as reservoir hosts for its progenitor.
  • Malayan pangolins illegally imported into Guangdong province, contain coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2.
  • The research paper also said that analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus

What are zoonoses?

  • A zoonosis is any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans.
  • The issue of pathogens crossing species to cause diseases is not a new concept. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 60% of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and about 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature.
  • Emerging pathogens are more likely to be viruses, than any other kind — bacteria, parasites, fungi — and are more likely to have a broad host range.
  • All SARS-CoV-2 genomes sequenced so far have the genomic features described, and are thus derived from a common ancestor that had them too.
  • As well as being a public health problem, many of the major zoonotic diseases prevent the efficient production of food of animal origin and create obstacles to international trade in animal products.

Why are human beings at risk?

  • The inevitable interaction between humans and livestock with wildlife exposes the human species to the risk of spillover of potential pathogens.
  • For many zoonotic diseases or zoonoses, livestock serve as an epidemiological bridge between wildlife and human infections.
  • Among zoonoses that emerged or re-emerged recently, the UNEP counts Ebola, bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and COVID-19.

Why are zoonotic diseases prevalent according to UNEP?

  • The UNEP is also very clear that the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence are changes in the environment, usually as a result of human activities ranging from land use change; changes in animals or human hosts; and changes in pathogens, which are programmed to survive, and in the process exploit multiple hosts.
  • For instance, bat-associated viruses emerged due to the loss of habitats, it argues. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was reportedly the result of forest losses leading to closer contacts between wildlife and human settlements; the emergence of avian influenza was linked to intensive poultry farming; and the Nipah virus was linked to the intensification of pig farming and fruit production in Malaysia.
  • Human-induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions that favour particular hosts, vectors, and/or pathogens.
  • Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans.”
  • Changes in weather patterns, and extreme weather events affect the distribution areas of disease, pathogens and pests.
  • Also, changes in human behaviour, including travel, conflicts, migration, wildlife trade, urbanisation, and dietary and medical preferences, can result in disease emergence, according to researchers at the UNEP.

What about the plant kingdom?

  • he current COVID-19 pandemic underscores how unprepared we humans are in fighting zoonotic diseases: pathogens that originate in wildlife and jump to humans.
  • Human immune systems are equally unprepared for drug-resistant diseases that jump from plants to humans.
  • As we work to control and treat the current pandemic, we must simultaneously be thinking one step ahead — how we can avoid other pandemics in the future, without disrupting our food supply.

What is ‘One Health’?

  • ‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
  • The areas of work in which a ‘One Health’ approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses, and combating antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat). The concept helps practitioners understand disease determinants, manage risks and optimise interventions.
  • Climate scientists argue and epidemiologists agree that ‘One Health’ is a key principle for the control of zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety and vector-borne diseases.

Way forward- What lies ahead?

  • It is clear is that it will be difficult to predict, with current tools, where the next outbreak will come from or when it will be.
  • Growing evidence suggests that outbreaks or epidemic diseases may become more frequent as changes continue to have an impact on the ecosystem.
  • But doing nothing will only let these pathogens flourish, jump hosts and make a terrible assault on humans.
  • The UNEP calls for strong global stewardship of nature and bio-diversity.
  • Additionally, developing sharper, reliable early warning systems (for diseases), and a ‘One Health’ approach may be the guides for the road ahead.

-Source: The Hindu


WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF DONALD TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION BAN?

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

United States President Donald Trump announced on 20th April 2020, that he would be using an executive order to suspend legal immigration into the U.S. for 60 days. The White House has indicated that the time limit could be extended depending on conditions on the ground.

The immediate context of his proposal is the teetering U.S. economy, which, like many others across the world, has ground to a virtual halt in the face of the pandemic.

What does it mean for visa applicants?

  1. The order is not expected to halt visa processing for many thousands of temporary employees, including a sizeable number of Indian nationals in the H-1B skilled worker category; agricultural workers classified under the H-2A visa; and seasonal workers, who fall into the H-2B category.
  2. Second, according to the White House, the policy will also likely carve out exemptions for certain categories of essential workers, including those in health care and who have a critical role to play in fighting the pandemic.
  3. Third, exemptions are also being made for those who seek to immigrate via their immediate relatives. This includes spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens applying for green cards, or permanent residency. Also, those who have already been granted permanent residence will not be impacted by this executive order.
  4. Fourth, members of the armed forces, those who are immigrating for law enforcement reasons and are already in the pipeline, and those on the EB-5 programme, which requires individuals to invest at least $500,000 in U.S. real estate projects, will be considered.
  5. Beyond these exemptions, there is a broader question of how many jobs that could potentially be taken by incoming immigrants will be saved for out-of-work U.S. workers.

Could there be any impact on skilled workers from India?

  • So far as skilled workers seeking the H-1B visa are concerned, U.S. visa issuance in all countries, not only in India, has ground to a halt.
  • This has left many H-1B visa-seekers in the lurch in India, and that could have an economically debilitating impact on the Indian IT and Information Technology Enabled Service (ITeS) sectors.
  • However, this derives more from the overall impact of the pandemic, and not from Mr. Trump’s immigration ban.

-Source: The Hindu

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