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GS: 1

Art and Culture:

Archaeologists find child sacrifice site in Peru(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Archaeologists in Peru have found evidence of the biggest-ever sacrifice of children, uncovering the remains of more than 140 youngsters who were slain alongside 200 llamas as part of a ritual offering some 550 years ago, National Geographic announced in a study

Ancient pre-Columbian people said to have carried out the ritual on top of a cliff facing the ocean

  • The site was located on top of a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean in La Libertad, a northern region where the Chimu civilization arose, an ancient pre-Columbian people who worshipped the moon.
  • The cliff is located just outside the north-western coastal city of Trujillo, Peru’s third largest city which today has 8,00,000 inhabitants
  • The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, which suggest that the victims’ chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart

The team

  • The investigations were carried out by an international team led by National Geographic ’s Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto, of the National University of Trujillo, and John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University in New Orleans
  • The excavations began in 2011 when the team uncovered the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas (camel-like animals) at a 3,500-year-old temple nearby

GS: 2

International Relations:

‘India should get sanctions waiver’(The Hindu)

Context

Mattis seeks changes in anti-Russia law

What has happened?

The Secretary of State should be allowed to grant waiver to countries such as India that will otherwise come under American sanctions under a new law that intends to target Russia, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told lawmakers on Thursday

The issue

  • The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) mandates the U.S. President to impose sanctions on entities that have transactions with Russian defence and intelligence sectors
  • India being a close defence partner of Russia is a potential target of such sanctions, along with some other key American allies such as Vietnam and Turkey
  • The law allows the President to issue waivers under national security considerations. Typically, American punitive laws comes with waiver authority vested in the Secretary of State.
  • Testifying before a Senate panel, Mr. Mattis asked lawmakers to change CAATSA and empower the Secretary of State.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

‘Collegium allotting cases will cause chaos’(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal on Friday differed with a plea by former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan to have a collegium of Supreme Court judges collectively allocate cases in the court rather than leave the entire power in the hands of the Chief Justice of India in his administrative capacity as “master of roster”

Attorney general’s view

  • It will mean judges deciding for themselves which cases they should hear
  • Having a collegium to allocate cases among judges would invite chaos

The Constitution

SC said that plea should be tested on the touchstone of Article 145 (Rules of the court governing its practices and procedures) of the Constitution

The Plea

  • The Supreme Court had earlier agreed to examine a petition filed by Mr. Shanti Bhushan to declare that the authority of the Chief Justice of India as ‘master of roster’ should not be reduced to an absolute, singular and arbitrary power.
  • The Bench had decided to hear the petition despite two separate judgments by the Supreme Court in November 2017 and April 9, 2018 upholding the Chief Justice of India’s complete administrative authority to allocate cases and constitute Benches. Both judgments were pronounced by Benches led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
  • The April 9 verdict called the CJI an “institution in himself”.

Absolute discretion

In his petition, Mr. Bhushan has said such “absolute discretion” cannot be confined in just one man, the Chief Justice of India

Example: In the judges case of 1998 the Supreme Court itself had interpreted the term ‘Chief Justice of India’ to collectively mean the CJI and his four senior-most judges.

What now?

The court reserved Mr. Shanti Bhushan’s plea for final orders.

GS: 3

Economy:

The elephant in the Patent Office(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Patents for trivial improvements on drugs, though statutorily barred, are routinely granted

What has happened?

India hit the headlines when it incorporated certain anti-evergreening provisions such as Sections 3(d), 3(e) and 3(i) into the Patents Act to restrict patentability of a host of secondary patents — essentially alternative forms of already existing patented drugs aimed at further extending their term of protection

The issue

  • Analysis of pharmaceutical patent applications suggests that the IPO is operating at an error rate as high as 72%, which corresponds to all secondary patents granted by the IPO
  • Meaning seven out of 10 patents granted by the IPO are likely granted in error.

Combine and confuse

In the last two decades, the IPO has granted 1,654 secondary patents, of which 91% were directed to formulations, compositions and combinations.

  • Section 3(d): Covers “combinations and other derivatives of known substance”
  • Section 3(e): Covers “substance obtained by a mere admixture resulting only in the aggregation of the properties of the components or a process for producing such substance”
  • If objection is raised

Whenever an objection is raised under these sections, the law requires the applicant to submit efficacy data for the former and demonstrate synergism for the later

  • The key point here

The applicants bypass the stringent requirements under Section 3(d) by presenting their inventions as a composition or combination of known substances and steering away the objection from Section 3(d) to Section 3(e)

  • Why applicants do this?
    • Demonstrating synergy under Section 3(e) is a relatively easier exercise compared to the requirements of efficacy data under Section 3(d), as mandated by the Supreme Court in the Novartis case
    • Section 3(d) is being interpreted narrowly by the courts and the IPO to apply only to a new form of a known substance, and not to combinations and compositions involving known substances.
  • Ajanta Pharma Ltd v. Allergan Inc
    • To remove the applicability of Section 3(d) in cases where combinations are involved, patent applicants rely on the decision of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in Ajanta Pharma Ltd v. Allergan Inc , which also finds mention in the 2014 IPO guidelines for examination of pharmaceutical patent applications
    • A mere passing observation made by the IPAB cannot be considered as a binding authority as such a narrow interpretation of Section 3(d) would defeat the objective of the section.
  • What is needed?

Keeping in mind the widespread practice in the pharmaceutical industry of creating new compositions/combinations, it should be given an expansive meaning to cover combinations with other substances.

Method of treatment

A category that is statutorily barred

  • Section 3(i) of the Act categorically excludes methods of treatments from the purview of patent protection
  • However, though statutorily barred, such patents were granted by clever drafting and legal argument e.g. by merely removing the words “method of treating”

Call for action

  • Recommended a standardised mechanism for examination of patent application
  • As the grant of patents create property-like rights in intangibles, the IPO should steer its focus towards grant of quality patents than on the quantity.

Government Policies and Schemes:

Failed by design(Indian Express)

What has happened?

Insurance companies collected premiums of Rs 22,180 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 24,454 crore in 2017-18, both directly from farmers and as government subsidy, under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

The issue

Low claim payments (under PMFBY) defeats the whole purpose of insurance — which is to provide timely relief against crop loss/damage, so that the farmer can at least repay his bank loans and is not forced to go to the moneylender.

Delay in pay-outs

The 2017 kharif crop’s harvesting was over by December, but farmers have till now got only Rs 402 crore of payments, as against estimated claims of Rs 13,655 crore by state government and Rs 1,759 crore approved by insurance companies

What needs to be done?

  • Center should fund entire premium subsidy
  • The insurance companies can no longer, then, complain about not getting their premium monies, especially states’ share of subsidy, in time
  • The Centre can further link release of subsidy to the states adhering to prescribed operational schedules, including carrying out the requisite number of CCEs (Crop cutting experiments) using remote-sensing technology for smart selection/sampling of fields and capturing survey data using mobile phones with time and date stamping

This will enable faster processing and payment of claims

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