06 May 2021
A) Maratha quota law unconstitutional, rules Supreme Court.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously declared a Maharashtra law which provides reservation benefits to the Maratha community, taking the quota limit in the State in excess of 50%, as unconstitutional. The Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, found there was no exceptional circumstances or extraordinary situation in Maharashtra that required the Maharashtra government to break the 50% ceiling limit to bestow quota benefits on the Maratha community. The Supreme Court struck down the findings of the Justice N.G. Gaikwad Commission, which had led to the enactment of the Maratha quota law, and set aside the Bombay High Court judgment that had validated the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018. The High Court had, in June 2019, reduced the quantum of reservation for Marathas from the 16% recommended by the Gaikwad Commission to 12% in education and 13% in employment. The Supreme Court concluded that even the reduced percentages of reservation granted by the High Court were ultra vires. In fact, the Supreme Court held that a separate reservation for the Maratha community violates Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (due process of law). Most notably, the Supreme Court declined to re-visit its 1992 Indira Sawhney judgment, which had fixed the reservation limit at 50%. We don’t find any substance to revisit the Indira Sawhney judgment or referring it to a larger bench. The judgment has been upheld by at least four Constitution Benches, Justice Ashok Bhushan said, reading from his lead opinion on the question of validity of the Maratha quota law.
B) SC asks Centre, Delhi govt to learn from Maharashtra and BMC how to manage oxygen supply.
The Supreme Court on May 5 ordered the Centre to burn the midnight oil and prepare a comprehensive plan for the supply of 700 MT of life-saving oxygen to Delhi on a daily basis. The plan, which has to be handed over to the court in the form of a tabulated chart at 10.30 a.m. on May 6, should identify the sources of supply of oxygen to Delhi, and the provisions for transport and logistical arrangements, including distribution points for oxygen. The court orally urged Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, to comply with the April 30 order of the Supreme Court and ensure that Delhi received 700 MT oxygen by May 5 midnight. According to the Centre, Delhi had received 351 MT of oxygen till noon. The Bench, however, stayed a Delhi High Court order initiating contempt action against the Centre’s officers for the continued shortfall in the supply of oxygen to Delhi, which is battling a devastating second wave of Covid-19. Hauling officers up for contempt will not bring oxygen to Delhi, Justice Chandrachud reasoned. Contempt is when something is done absolutely willfully. This is a national crisis, nobody can dispute that the Centre has not done anything. But still what is your plan for distribution and assessment of requirement of oxygen? Justice Shah asked Mehta. The court asked the Centre and the Delhi government officials to get the help of Maharashtra government and consult with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, especially its Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal. The court asked the Centre to take a leaf from Maharashtra’s successful management of oxygen supply and creation of storage tanks when the active caseload was up to 92,000 in Mumbai. Mehta agreed there was nothing wrong for the Centre to consult the municipal body.
C) Third wave of pandemic is inevitable, says principal scientific advisor.
VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor, while addressing the media during the Health Ministry’s briefing said that a third wave was inevitable in the country. The second wave was expected, he said, while adding that a third wave was inevitable. We have to be prepared and vaccine updates are needed, he said. He said it is vital that people persisted with Covid-appropriate behaviour as the virus-variants don’t change their fundamental behaviour. He said the vaccines were effective as of now. Meanwhile, Lav Agarwal, Joint Health Secretary, said that Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Gujarat have recorded a dip in daily cases recorded. However, an increase in the number of daily cases was noted in States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab, among others. The Joint Health Secretary noted the rise in cases in cities like Bengaluru, Ernakulam, Kannur and Kanpur among others as alarming.
D) Covid-19 scare at G7 meeting after two members of Jaishankar’s delegation test positive.
The Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers’ meeting in London was hit by a Covid-19 scare on Wednesday when India’s foreign minister and his entire team said they were self-isolating after two delegation members tested positive. Britain is hosting the three-day meeting the first such G-7 event in two years which has been heavily billed as a chance to restart face-to-face diplomacy and an opportunity for the West to show a united front against threats from China and Russia. India is attending the G7 as a guest and had been due to take part in meetings on Tuesday evening and throughout Wednesday. Was made aware of exposure to possible Covid positive cases, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Twitter. As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, he decided to conduct his engagements in the virtual mode. That will be the case with the G7 Meeting today as well. The meeting is a precursor to the main G7 summit due to take place at a rural English resort in June, with U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders set to attend. A British official confirmed the two positive tests and said the entire Indian delegation was self-isolating. British rules require a 10-day self-isolation period. The Indian delegation had not yet attended the main summit venue at Lancaster House, and so meetings scheduled for Wednesday went ahead as planned. Asked if, in light of the positive tests, it had been a mistake to hold the summit in person, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, I think it’s very important to try to continue as much business as you can as a government. Johnson said he would speak with Jaishankar later on Wednesday by Zoom. Jaishankar was pictured meeting British interior minister Priti Patel on Tuesday, although Patel did not have to self-isolate because the meeting had been held in line with existing rules. Both were wearing masks in the photograph. India is not a G7 member but was invited by Britain to this week’s summit, along with Australia, South Africa and South Korea.
E) Mamata sworn in Chief Minister for third time.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson Mamata Banerjee was on May 5 sworn in as the Chief Minister of West Bengal. She was administered the oath of office by Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. She has assumed the office of Chief Minister for the third time in a row. The TMC had won 213 seats in the 294-member Assembly in the recent election. The party’s vote share was also at an all-time high of 47.9 %. TMC legislators had unanimously elected Banerjee as leader. She want to thank all the people of the State, ‘Maa, Maati Manus’ of West Bengal. There were many in the country and across the world whose eyes were on West Bengal, she said after being sworn in. Banerjee said that her first priority would be to contain the Covid-19 crisis. She also appealed for peace and ending the post-poll violence. I will appeal to all political parties to maintain peace. Take proper care that there is no violence. West Bengal does not like violence, and I do not support violence, she said.
A) ‘U.S. to send vaccines to other countries by July 4’
U.S. President Joe Biden said countries that receive U.S. vaccines will receive them by July 4 India and Brazil are likely on this list. His comments were made during remarks he delivered on Tuesday afternoon, updating the public on his administration’s vaccination programme achievements. The U.S., which entered into an agreement with Canada and Mexico in March to share 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said last week that another 10 million doses would become available in the coming weeks, followed by a further 50 million by the end of June. India expects to receive the largest share of the 60 million doses, Reuters had reported last week. They’re sending a lot of the precursors. So they are doing a lot for India, Mr. Biden said in response to a question on what criteria were being used to decide which countries (India, Brazil were specifically cited in the question) got the vaccine. With regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they have sent that vaccine to Canada and to Mexico and to other countries we are talking to now, Mr. Biden said, adding he had spoken to a head of state on Tuesday and was not prepared to announce which other countries would be getting the vaccine. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said five of six shipments of assistance had already reached India and that more flights are on the way, with a total of over $100 million in assistance, including rapid tests, oxygen cylinders and concentrators and masks. They have also sent 2.5 million N-95 masks and we have an additional 12.5 million N-95 masks available, should that request come from the Indian government, Ms. Psaki said.
B) EU unveils plan to cut dependency on China.
The European Union (EU) unveiled on Wednesday a plan to cut its dependency on Chinese and other foreign suppliers in six strategic areas like raw materials, pharmaceutical ingredients and semiconductors after the pandemicinduced economic slump. 317 products The 27-nation bloc outlined the urgency of the task citing Europe’s reliance on China for about half of 137 products used in sensitive ecosystems, mainly raw materials, pharmaceuticals and other products key to its green and digital goals. The updated industrial strategy plan was devised after the COVID-19 pandemic showed bottlenecks in supply chain and the executive European Commission plans to conduct in-depth reviews of supply chains in raw materials, batteries, active pharmaceutical ingredients, hydrogen, semiconductors and cloud and edge technologies, to decide how to deal with them. Today’s updated Industrial Strategy is about making sure our industries are equipped to drive the digital and green transformations of our economy while ensuring the competitiveness of our industries, also in the context of the recovery from the coronavirus crisis, European Commission VicePresident Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.