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The Hindu Editorial


1. The clear message in the Court’s ‘no’ to electoral bonds.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Judiciary UPSC aspirants must grasp the article’s significance as it highlights a landmark Supreme Court verdict impacting electoral transparency and democratic principles.
  • The article discusses the landmark Supreme Court judgment on February 15, 2024, striking down India’s electoral bonds scheme, emphasizing transparency, addressing funding limits, and upholding fundamental rights in democracy.
 Supreme Court Verdict on Electoral Bonds: A Landmark Moment for Democracy Democracy and Transparency:
  • The Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgment on February 15, 2024, striking down the electoral bonds scheme, emphasizing the vital role of transparency in democracy.
  • The electoral bonds scheme, criticized for its lack of transparency, concealed information about political party funding, raising concerns about the influence of corporate houses on the political process.
Removal of Funding Limits:
  • The judgment highlighted the removal of funding limits imposed on corporate houses, emphasizing the global practice of limiting such contributions to prevent undue influence on the government.
  • Earlier restrictions on the percentage of profits a company could donate to political parties were eliminated by the electoral bonds scheme, posing the risk of potential misuse, especially by shell companies.
Curtailing Crony Capitalism:
  • The Supreme Court’s decision is seen as a measure to prevent crony capitalism, where significant financial support to political parties could lead to favorable policies and decisions benefiting donors.
Questionable Amendments and Opaque Processes:
  • The verdict addressed legal concerns, pointing out the questionable amendments made to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act through a Finance Act, allowing scheduled banks to issue electoral bonds. The court declared this amendment unconstitutional.
  • The legal system’s lack of transparency and the introduction of the electoral bonds scheme without proper parliamentary discussions and public consultations were emphasized.
Fundamental Rights Upheld:
  • The judgment declared that all amendments to the Representation of the People Act, Finance Act 2017, and Companies Act 2013 were violative of Articles 19 (right to information) and 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.
  • The court stressed the importance of upholding fundamental rights and preventing arbitrariness in law, signalling a commitment to preserving the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution.
Directive to State Bank of India (SBI):
  • The Supreme Court directed the State Bank of India (SBI), the sole bank handling electoral bonds, to cease issuing them.
  • The SBI is required to submit comprehensive details of all issued electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by March 6, 2024.
  • The ECI, in turn, is mandated to publish this information on its website within two weeks, ensuring transparency in political funding.
Citizen Vigilance and Judicial Review:
  • The judgment underscored the citizens’ role in maintaining vigilance over democratic processes and commended the power of judicial review, emphasizing the significance of the Constitution and those who framed it.
  • The decision serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges related to money in elections and the imperative for continued vigilance to safeguard democracy.
  • In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s verdict on electoral bonds is pivotal for restoring transparency, curbing undue influence, and upholding fundamental rights.
  • The decision marks a significant milestone in safeguarding India’s democratic principles and processes.
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the recent Supreme Court judgment on electoral bonds for ensuring transparency and upholding democratic principles in Indian electoral funding. (150 words/10 m)

2. India must invest in fundamental research to develop reliable drugs.

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health,  GS2 – International Relations UPSC aspirants should grasp the significance of India-EFTA FTA negotiations, focusing on intellectual property rights, pharmaceutical industry dynamics, and global trade implications.
  • The news concerns the potential India-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) agreement, highlighting persistent disputes over intellectual property rights, specifically data exclusivity, impacting India’s pharmaceutical industry and global drug affordability.
 India-EFTA Free Trade Agreement (FTA): Concerns on Intellectual Property Rights  Background and Expectations:
  • Anticipation of a free trade agreement between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is high.
  • Intellectual property rights emerge as a persistent bone of contention in negotiations since 2008.
Pharmaceutical Industry Dynamics:
  • Switzerland and Norway, key EFTA members, host major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies globally.
  • High discovery costs and low generic production costs create tension between innovators and generic-drug firms in the pharmaceutical industry.
Patenting and Compulsory Licensing:
  • Patenting, ensuring exclusive monopolies for drug originators, balanced by governments’ power for ‘compulsory licensing’ to safeguard public health, has historically maintained industry stability.
  • New legal concepts like data exclusivity pose challenges in free trade negotiations, restricting access to clinical-trial data for six years.
Data Exclusivity in Focus:
  • Data exclusivity, present in European countries and various trade agreements, obstructs generic drug production, impacting India’s major drug industry and global drug affordability.
  • Leaked drafts indicate data exclusivity inclusion in FTA negotiations, though India officially rejects it.
India’s Drug Industry Evolution:
  • India’s ascending role in drug manufacturing necessitates investment in an ecosystem for ethical drug trials and original molecule development.
  • India’s capability, demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests a potential shift from the perception that drug development is confined to the West.
Future Imperatives for India:
  • India must enhance investment in fundamental research to foster local drug industry growth and navigate evolving global trade dynamics.
  • Balancing innovation, affordability, and global competitiveness is crucial for India’s sustained leadership in the pharmaceutical sector.
Why India Needs to Invest in Fundamental Drug Research:
  • Increased self-reliance: Currently, India relies heavily on imports for many essential drugs, making it vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions. Investing in fundamental research can help develop domestic capabilities and reduce dependence on foreign sources.
  • Addressing specific healthcare needs: India faces unique public health challenges like infectious diseases and malnutrition. Fundamental research can lead to the development of drugs tailored to these specific needs, improving healthcare outcomes.
  • Boosting innovation and economic growth: A strong foundation in fundamental research fosters a culture of innovation and attracts investment in the pharmaceutical sector. This can create new jobs, generate revenue, and contribute to overall economic development.
  • Building scientific expertise: Investing in research strengthens India’s scientific infrastructure and fosters a skilled workforce. This expertise can be applied not only to drug development but also to other scientific advancements.
  • Global competitiveness: A robust domestic research ecosystem allows India to compete effectively in the global pharmaceutical market. This can lead to increased exports and international recognition for Indian scientific contributions.
Practice Question: Discuss the implications of intellectual property rights, specifically data exclusivity, in the India-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) negotiations, emphasizing its impact on the pharmaceutical industry. (150 words/10 m)

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