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29th January Current Affairs

SC quashes indefinite suspension of 12 BJP MLAs

(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

The Supreme Court has set aside the Maharashtra Assembly’s decision to suspend 12 legislators of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a one-year period beginning July 5, 2021.

Observations made by the Supreme Court:

Suspension beyond the remainder period of the session of the Assembly was ‘non-est’ in law, substantially unconstitutional and irrational.

The resolution, therefore, is illegal and was “beyond the powers of the assembly”.

Concerns expressed by the court:

Suspension beyond the remainder of that session “would not only be a grossly irrational measure”, but also lead to these leaders’ constituencies remaining unrepresented in the assembly.

It would also impact the democratic setup as a whole by permitting the thin majority government (coalition government) of the day to manipulate the numbers of the opposition party in the house in an undemocratic manner.

Such a move would “not be healthy for democracy as a whole” as “the opposition will not be able to effectively participate in the discussion/debate in the house owing to the constant fear of its members being suspended for a longer period”.

What next?

The MLAs will now be entitled to all consequential benefits after the conclusion of the session in July, last year.

What’s the issue?

The legislators were suspended for a year for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer in the Assembly.

Procedure to be followed for suspension of MLAs:

Under Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules, the power to suspend can only be exercised by the Speaker, and it cannot be put to vote in a resolution.

Rule 53 states that the “Speaker may direct any member who refuses to obey his decision, or whose conduct is, in his opinion, grossly disorderly, to withdraw immediately from the Assembly”.

The member must “absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting”.

Should any member be ordered to withdraw for a second time in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to absent himself “for any period not longer than the remainder of the Session”.

What is gain of function?

(GS-III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights)

In News:

The term ‘gain of function research’ has recently cropped up in the debate about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is Gain-of-function Research?

‘Gain of function’ is a field of research focused on growing generations of microorganisms, under conditions that cause mutations in a virus.

These experiments are termed ‘gain of function’ because they involve manipulating pathogens in a way that they gain an advantage in or through a function, such as increased transmissibility.

Such experiments allow scientists to better predict emerging infectious diseases, and to develop vaccines and therapeutics.

How is it carried out?

Gain of function research may use genetic engineering or serial passaging.

Genetic engineering involves ‘editing’ the genetic code to modify the virus in a way predetermined by the scientists.

Serial passaging involves allowing the pathogen to grow under different circumstances and then observing the changes.

Issues related to the research:

Gain-of-function research involves manipulations that make certain pathogenic microbes more deadly or more transmissible.

There is also ‘loss-of-function’ research, which involves inactivating mutations, resulting in a significant loss of original function, or no function to the pathogen.

Gain-of-function research reportedly carries inherent biosafety and biosecurity risks and is thus referred to as ‘dual-use research of concern’ (DURC).

Serial passaging involves allowing the pathogen to grow under different circumstances and then observing the changes.

Relevance to Covid-19 pandemic:

The discussion around gain of function research came back to focus recently, after a report argued that the possibility of the virus accidentally leaking out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology could not be entirely dismissed.

While scientists had earlier ruled out the possibility of the virus being ‘genetically engineered’, a recent report said serial passaging may have led to the evolution of the virus during an ongoing gain of function research project in the Chinese city.

How is it regulated in India?

All activities related to genetically engineered organisms or cells and hazardous microorganisms and products are regulated as per the “Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989”.

In 2020, the Department of Biotechnology issued guidelines for the establishment of containment facilities, called ‘Biosafety labs’.

The notification provides operational guidance on the containment of biohazards and levels of biosafety that all institutions involved in research, development and handling of these microorganisms must comply with.

Disruptions in Parliament

(GS-II: Separation of powers)

The Supreme Court in its recent judgment has observed that:

A nation aspiring to be a “world leader” should debate on the welfare of its citizens rather than make Parliament a stage to exchange jeers and launch personal attacks on one another.

With the completion of 75 years of Independence and ambitions of becoming a world leader, elected members should at least know that they are expected to show statesmanship and not brinkmanship in the House.

Legislature is the first place where justice is dispensed to the common man through a democratic process.


The order dealt with the year-long suspension of 12 BJP MLAs from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for disorderly conduct.

How often are Disruptions in Parliament?

Disruption is replacing discussion as the foundation of our legislative functioning.

A PRS (PRS Legislative Research) report says during the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14), frequent disruptions of Parliamentary proceedings have resulted in the Lok Sabha working for 61% and Rajya Sabha for 66% of its scheduled time.

Another PRS report said, the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19) lost 16% of its scheduled time to disruptions, better than the 15th Lok Sabha (37%), but worse than the 14th Lok Sabha (13%).

The Rajya Sabha lost 36% of its scheduled time. In the 15th and 14th Lok Sabhas, it had lost 32% and 14% of its scheduled time respectively.

Reasons for Disruption:

  • Discussion on Matters of Controversy and Public Importance.
  • Disruptions May Help Ruling Party Evade Responsibility.
  • Lack of Dedicated Time for Unlisted Discussion.
  • Scarce Resort to Disciplinary Powers.
  • Party Politics.

What needs to be done?

To curb disorder in Parliament there is a need for strict enforcement of code of conduct for MPs and MLAs.

The Chairperson should suspend MPs not following such codes and obstructing the Houses’ business.

The government of the day needs to be more democratic and allow the opposition to put their ideas in free manner.

A “Productivity Meter” could be created which would take into consideration the number of hours that were wasted on disruptions and adjournments and monitor the productivity of the day-to-day working of both Houses of Parliament.

Quota in promotions

(GS-II: Important constitutional amendments)

In News:

The Supreme Court has turned down the Union government’s plea to do away with the requirement of collecting quantifiable data by the Centre and states to determine the representation of people belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) while implementing reservation in promotion.

What’s the case?

The court was hearing a batch of petitions arising out of judgments from 11 high courts, which delivered rulings on various pertinent reservation policies in the last 10 years.

Some of the states from where these judgments arose included Maharashtra, Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab.

Observations made by the supreme court:

State is obligated to collect quantifiable data as per the court’s judgment in M Nagaraj (2006) and Jarnail Singh (2018).

Collection of data has to be for each category of posts for the entire service.

The Central government must determine a time period to revisit the reservation policy after ascertaining the percentage of posts occupied by SCs/STs.

Assessment on the inadequacy of representation of the reserved categories in promotional posts should be left to the states.

Pavitra case:

With the recognition of ‘cadre’ as the unit for collection of quantifiable data, the court has also set aside its earlier judgment in the B.K. Pavithra case.

The 2019 judgment by the Supreme Court in BK Pavitra–II upheld the validity of the 2018 Reservation Act that introduced consequential seniority for SC/STs in Karnataka public employment.

The top court held that Pavitra-II was decided in breach of the constitution bench judgment in Nagaraj’s case in affirming the state’s policy on consequential seniority on the basis of cadre strength.

What constitutes a cadre?

Explaining why ‘cadre’ should be the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data in relation to promotional posts, the court said otherwise the entire exercise of reservation in promotions would be rendered meaningless if data pertaining to the representation of SCs and STs is done with reference to the entire service.

The term ‘cadre’ means the strength of a service or part of a service sanctioned as a separate unit. It is the choice of a State to constitute cadres.

The entire service cannot be considered to be a cadre for the purpose of promotion from one post to a higher post in a different grade.

Promotion is made from one grade to the next higher grade, in relation to which cadres are constituted.

M Nagaraj case:

In 2006, a Constitution bench’s ruling in the M Nagaraj case made it incumbent upon the state to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of a section of people in public employment in addition to maintaining overall administrative efficiency.

The aspect of quantifiable data was endorsed by another Constitution bench by its 2018 ruling in the Jarnail Singh case which also mandated the exclusion of the “creamy layer” before providing for reservation in promotions.

What are the arguments by the union Government?

The Union government pressed for reservation in promotion proportionate to the population of SCs and STs as per a 1995 judgment by the top court in the RK Sabharwal case. It should be left to the Centre and states to decide on promotional avenues for SCs and STs.

Present scenario:

At present, there is a roster system in place in every cadre of the government departments to ascertain the posts required to be filled up by SCs/STs.

The roster system was based on the proportionate population of SCs/STs.

A position in the roster for any reserved group is reached by dividing 100 by the percentage of the quota that the group is entitled to.

Constitutional basis for reservation- Article 335:

Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.