28TH OCTOBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Debate over Plasma Therapy

News: Recently published findings on convalescent plasma therapy on Covid-19 patients have triggered a debate over its efficacy. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been considering dropping the plasma therapy from the national guidelines as it found that convalescent plasma was ineffective in arresting Covid-19.

What is plasma therapy?

  • Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. Convalescent plasma, extracted from the blood of patients recovering from an infection, is a source of antibodies against the infection. The therapy involves using their plasma to help others recover.
  • For Covid-19,this has been one of the treatment options. The donor would have to be a documented case of Covid-19 and healthy for 28 days since the last symptoms.

Findings:

  • The trial results indicate that there was no difference in the 28-day mortality(estimates of deaths in the 28 days after entering the hospital for a specific condition) or progression of Covid-19 from moderate to severe in patients treated with CP along with basic standard care compared to basic standard care alone.
  • While the use of CP seemed to improve the resolution of shortness of breath and fatigue in patients with moderate Covid-19, this did not translate into a reduction in 28-day mortality or progression to severe disease.

Way forward:

  • Covid care is individualised care. Use of the right drugs in the right patient does work. Experts say use of convalescent therapy has saved some lives but concerns have been raised by the PLACID trial.
  • Therefore, the potential harms of the non-immune components of convalescent plasma should be rigorously investigated, only donor plasma with detectable titers of neutralizing antibodies should be given to trial participants, to ensure that the potential for benefit exists for all intervention arm patients.

2. Live Streaming of Courts

News: Recently, the Gujarat High Court has become the first Court to live stream judicial proceedings on YouTube channel. Attorney General of India has pushed for live-streaming court proceedings to make hearings accessible to all. But CJI sounded a cautionary note, saying it was susceptible to “abuses.”

Live Streaming of Court:

  • All the Courts have been functioning through video conferencing throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and even after that. Advocates, the parties, victims, corpses etc. all are participating in the court proceedings during the course of the hearing through video conferencing.
  • Also, in the model video conferencing rules as prescribed by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court, it has been provided that the public will be allowed to view the hearing conducted through video conferencing.
  • The Supreme Court in Swapnil Tripathi v Supreme Court of India (2018) has ruled in favour of opening up the apex court through live-streaming.
  • It held that the live streaming proceedings is part of the right to access justice under Article 21 of the Constitution. However, the judgment has remained unimplemented. The e-Court Mission Mode Project was conceptualized with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.

Benefits

  • A live stream would help litigants follow the proceedings in their case and also assess their lawyers’ performance. People from far-flung States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not have to travel all the way to the national capital for a day’s hearing.
  • It would keep a check on lawyers’ conduct inside the courtrooms. With the entire country watching them, there would be fewer interruptions, raised voices and adjournments from the lawyers.
  • Live-streaming will bring transparency and access to justice.

Issues with live-courts

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) of the Department of Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice have tabled its report on the functioning of Virtual Courts and Digitization of Justice Delivery in Parliament.
  • Following are the four key considerations and recommendations of the committee as far as mainstreaming of virtual courts is concerned:
  1. The question of access:
  • A large number of litigants and advocates lack internet connectivity and requisite infrastructure and means to participate in virtual hearings and the process. This has serious implications.
  • The obvious one being that a large chunk of our citizenry is vulnerable to being excluded from the process of justice delivery owing to factors beyond their control.
  • The committee also opined that the judiciary considers solutions such as mobile video conferencing facilities to allow for meaningful participation from those living in remote geographies.
  1. The degree of comfort:
  • A highly underrated but equally consequential factor is whether everyone, even if access to reliable internet connectivity is universal, is comfortable and well versed with the new tools and mediums of justice delivery.
  • Big, well-to-do law firms and advocates in urban areas would face no issues as compared to those participants in rural areas given the digital divide.
  1. The idea of open courts itself:
  • Virtual courts allegedly threaten the constitutionality of Court proceedings and undermine the importance of Rule of law which forms a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Expressing concern over the opaqueness of such hearings, critics state that virtual courts are antithetical to the open court system given the limited access that they allow for.
  1. The question of Privacy and Data Security:
  • This is where the report makes some interesting and innovative suggestions vital to the performance of any digital justice delivery mechanism.
  • It also took note of the fact that most virtual court proceedings in India currently take place using third-party software or platforms and a few of them have already been rejected earlier on grounds of being unsafe to use.
  • The committee noted how courts across the world have had instances of intrusion and data privacy or security concerns while adapting to an entirely virtual mode of conducting hearings.

Still, digital records are necessary

  • Litigants depend on the information provided by lawyers about what has transpired during the course of hearings. When the description of cases is accurate and comprehensive; it serves the course of open justice.
  • Again, if a report on a judicial hearing is inaccurate, it impedes the public’s right to know.

Some successful examples

  • Internationally, constitutional court proceedings are recorded in some form or the other. In Australia, proceedings are recorded and posted on the high court’s website. Proceedings of the Supreme Courts of Brazil, Canada, England and Germany are broadcast live.
  • The Supreme Court of the US does not permit video recording, but oral arguments are recorded, transcribed, and available publicly. And democracies aside, in China, court proceedings are live-streamed from trial courts up to the Supreme People’s Court of China.

Various moves for accessibility

  • Over the last few years, the Supreme Court has taken steps to make justice more accessible. The Court started providing vernacular translations of its judgments.
  • Non-accredited journalists were permitted to live-tweet court proceedings. During the lockdown, journalists have been permitted to view virtual court proceedings in real-time.

Way forward

  • There should be live-streaming cases of constitutional and national importance as a pilot project, including Constitution Bench cases. Matrimonial cases and those involving national security could be excluded.

3. World Polio Day

News: October 24 is observed as World Polio Day. World Polio Day was established by Rotary International on 24th October to celebrate the birth of Jonas Salk, who developed a vaccine against poliomyelitis.

What is Polio?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines polio or poliomyelitis as “a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.”
  • Transmission: The virus is transmitted by person-to-person, spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

Details:

  • In the last three decades, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative(GPEI), led by national governments and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has been monitoring the disease situation globally.
  • As per the WHO, since 1980, the cases of wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99.9% as a result of vaccination efforts made around the world.

Polio Eradication:

  • For a country to be declared polio-free, the wild transmission of all three kinds of Polioviruses has to be stopped. For eradication, cases of both wild and vaccine-derived polio infection have to be reduced to zero.
  • Eradication of a disease refers to the complete and permanent worldwide reduction to zero new cases through deliberate efforts. If a disease has been eradicated, no further control measures are required.
  • However, elimination of a disease refers to reduction to zero or a very low defined target rate of new cases in a defined geographical area. It requires continued measures to prevent re-establishment of disease transmission.

Polio outbreaks:

  • In 2019,polio outbreaks were recorded in the Philippines, Malaysia, Ghana, Myanmar, China, Cameroon, Indonesia and Iran, which were mostly vaccine-derived in which a rare strain of the virus genetically mutated from the strain in the vaccine.
  • According to the WHO, if the oral vaccine-virus is excreted and allowed to circulate in an unimmunised or under-immunised population for at least 12 months, it can mutate to cause infections.
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two countries that are the last stronghold of the wild poliovirus.

Polio in India:

  • India received polio-free certification by the WHO in 2014,after three years of zero cases. This achievement has been spurred by the successful pulse polio campaign in which all children were administered polio drops. The last case due to wild poliovirus in the country was detected on 13th January 2011.

4. Circular Economy

News: Atal Innovation Mission (AIM- an initiative set up by NITI Aayog), in association with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), will organise a two-day hackathon on circular economy, ‘India-Australia Circular Economy Hackathon (I-ACE)’, in December 2020. The idea of I-ACE was conceived during a virtual summit on 4th June, 2020, between the Indian and Australian prime ministers, exploring innovative ways to boost the circular economy in India and Australia.

Circular Economy

  • It is an economy where products are designed for durability, reuse and recyclability and thus almost everything gets reused, remanufactured, and recycled into a raw material or used as a source of energy.
  • It includes 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle),Refurbishment, Recover, and Repairing of materials.
  • If a person is planning to discard his/her mobile, it can be given to someone else (i.e. giving the mobile second life-Reuse), rather than throwing it just like that.
  • Once the mobile reaches its end of life, it can be ensured that everything embedded in it, aluminum, copper, plastic etc. should be brought back to production cycle so that the circle of the economy gets completed.
  • Response to the Linear Process: Many countries follow a linear process in which raw materials are taken from the environment, turned into new products which are then disposed of after use.

Benefits:

For Industry:

  • Fulfills the need for raw materials: The output produced by industries in a circular economy comes back to the industries in the form of input, for example, when parts of a mobile will be segregated, copper and aluminum will become raw materials for some industries.
  • Efficient utilization of resources: This helps industries in earning cash profits equivalent to 3-5% of their turnover. Ultimately, QCDF (Quality, Cost, Delivery, and Flexibility) and sustainability level of industries get improved.

For Environment:

  • Problem of disposal of wastegets solved as in a circular economy, waste is converted into raw materials.
  • Also solves the problem of air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution.

For Consumers:

  • Cost-Effective: The products in the circular economy are more cost effective for consumers as they tend to be more efficient, besides having a longer shelf life.
  • Efficient Products: Increased Efficiency leads to a reduction in the cost of maintenance as well as that of disposal, which otherwise a consumer has to incur in a huge amount.
  • Global Response: Germany and Japan have used it as a binding principle for reorganizing its economy, whereas China even has a law on it (Circular Economy Promotion Law).
  • Further, the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations Member States in 2015, include many related ambitions.

Circular Economy and India

  • India is already on its path to the circular economy. Initiatives of the National Productivity Council (NPC) and government show that. NPC is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. Productivity Week 2019 Theme was ‘Circular Economy for Productivity and Sustainability’.
  • ‘Digital India’ Program contains a significant component of the recycling of electronic wastes. Swachh Bharat Mission is also about making wealth out of wastes. India has a huge potential for reuse and recycling as only around 20% of the total waste generated goes into the recycling process.
  • Manufacturing Sector, especially MSMEs can help a lot in transformation towards a circular economy. The sector should ‘DECIDE’ i.e.
  • Designing processes for refurbishment and easy cycling.
  • Educating masses on Circular Economy and its benefits.
  • Collaborative Models for smooth implementation of Circular Economy.
  • Innovating Products for circularity.
  • Digitization for transparency, virtualization, dematerialization, and feedback driven intelligence for saving resources.
  • Energy-Efficient for environmental sustainability.