Current Affair



1. Context

The United States is getting ready to lift COVID-19 restrictions that have blocked migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum since 2020, a major policy shift with humanitarian and political implications.

2. Migrants blocked at the border under covid rules

  • At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, U.S. health authorities issued Title 42 to allow border agents to rapidly send migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border back to Mexico or other countries.
  • The order was implemented under Republican former President Donald Trump, whose administration sought to greatly curtail both immigration.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time it was needed to stem the spread of COVID-19 in crowded detention settings.
  • Migrants and immigrant advocate organizations sued seeking to lift the order, while Republican states have sued to keep it in place, litigation that is still ongoing.

3. Handling of Title 42

  • U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in January 2021, campaigned on a promise to reverse Trump’s restrictive asylum policies.
  • While Biden moved to end some Trump restrictions, he left Title 42 in place for more than a year, exempting unaccompanied children but allowing U.S. authorities to send hundreds of thousands of migrants, including families, back to Mexico.
  • Since Biden took office, there have been record numbers of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, causing operational and political challenges for his administration.
  • Many have repeatedly crossed after being expelled under Title 42 to nearby Mexican border cities.
  • Mexico, however, had initially only accepted the return of some nationalities, including its own citizens and migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
  • In October, the expulsions were expanded to Venezuelans.
  • Other nationalities have generally been let into the United States to pursue their immigration cases, straining some border cities where many migrants have recently arrived like El Paso, Texas.

3.1. Supreme Court rule on Title 42

  • The CDC announced in April 2022 that it would end Title 42, saying it was no longer needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in light of vaccines and other medical advances.
But a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the termination after a legal Loose soil, tremors, choked drainage: Joshimath alarm bells rang for years challenge brought by a group of two dozen U.S. states with Republican attorneys general who argued that increased migration would saddle their states with costs.
  • In a separate lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups on behalf of migrant families who argue they were harmed by Title 42, a Washington, D.C.-based judge struck down Title 42 on Nov. 15.
  • The judge, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, ruled Title 42 violated federal regulatory law but delayed the effective date of his decision until Dec. 21 to give authorities time to prepare.
  • Following the ruling, a coalition of U.S. states with Republican attorneys general sought to intervene in the lawsuit to keep Title 42 in place, making their case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • In arguments similar to those made in the Louisiana case, the states said that ending Title 42 would “cause an enormous disaster at the border” and leave them shouldering the cost of services for new arrivals.
  • The conservative-leaning Supreme Court ruled in December that the policy should stay in place as they consider the case.

3.2. Expanding Title 42

  • After the Supreme Court ruling, the Biden administration said it would start expelling Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians back to Mexico under Title 42, migrants who previously had been allowed into the United States to pursue their immigration cases.
  • The move builds on a policy launched in October that began expelling Venezuelans but at the same time allowed thousands of migrants from that country to enter by air if they applied from abroad and could demonstrate they had a U.S. sponsor under a new “humanitarian parole” program.

4. Humanitarian parole program

  • Biden’s plan would open that program to additional nationalities and in total accept up to 30,000 migrants per month from the four countries combined.
  • Those who have a U.S. sponsor and meet certain requirements can apply to enter the country legally by air.
  • Previously, human rights groups and immigrant advocates have criticized expanding the nationalities that can be expelled under Title 42, which they say no longer has a basis in public health and continues to limit asylum access.
The humanitarian entry for Venezuelans, and now Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians, will operate similarly to one created following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine that allows Ukrainians with U.S. sponsors to enter and temporarily stay in the United States by applying from outside the country.
  • Tense diplomatic relations between the United States and the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have complicated deportations to those countries.

5. Title 8

  • Deportation, under a statute known as Title 8, is a more formal and drawn out process that can lead to long bars on U.S. re-entry as compared to expulsions that can take just hours under Title 42 and leave no deportation record.
  • Haiti has accepted deportees and migrants expelled under Title 42, but U.S. lawmakers and advocates have criticized the Biden administration for returning people to a country beset by political violence and instability.

For Prelims & Mains

For Prelims: Title 42, Title 8, Humanitarian parole program,  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), covid-19,migrants,
For Mains:
1. What is Title 42 and discuss the imapact of humanitarian parole program on US (250 words)
Source: The Indian Express



The Supreme Court said former Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to ask then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove his majority on the floor of the house was “not justified”, but said it cannot restore his government since he had not faced the floor test. It also said “the Governor was justified in inviting Mr. (Eknath) Shinde to form the government” after Thackeray quit


2. Empowerment of Election Commission to allot political symbols

  • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the ECI to recognise political parties and allot symbols
  • The EC is also the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger. The Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971

3. The Prominence of Election Symbol

  • A standardized symbol assigned to a political party is known as an electoral or election symbol.
  • They are displayed on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), where the voter selects the symbol and votes for the affiliated party, and are utilised by parties during their campaigning.
  • They were created to let illiterate people vote by allowing them to vote without having to read the name of the party.
  • The reservation, allotment and regulation of electoral symbols should be done through a statute of Parliament, namely the Symbol Order, in the 1960s.
  • In response to this suggestion, the ECI stated that the recognition of political parties, as well as the allotment of symbols, is governed by the rules of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  • The Election Commission registers political parties for election purposes and recognises them as national or state parties based on their poll results. The other parties are simply labelled as "registered-unrecognized."
  • Their right to specific rights, such as the allocation of party insignia, the supply of time for political broadcasts on television and radio stations, and access to electoral rolls, is determined by their recognition.
  • Every state party and every national party is given a symbol that is exclusive for their use throughout the states and the country.

3. Allocation of Symbol

  • The party/candidate has to provide a list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list at the time of filing nomination papers.
  • Among them, one symbol is allotted to the party/candidate on a first-come-first-serve basis.
  • When a recognised political party splits, the Election Commission decides on assigning the symbol.

4. Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968:

  • It is an order to provide for specification, reservation, choice and allotment of symbols for the recognition of political parties.
  • It applies to both parliamentary and assembly elections.
  • As per the order a symbol shall be allotted to a contesting candidate by the provisions of this Order and different symbols shall be allotted to different contesting candidates at an election in the same constituency.
  • Classification of Symbols: There are two types of symbols i.e reserved and free.
    • A reserved symbol is a symbol which is reserved for a recognised political party for exclusive allotment to contesting candidates set up by that party.
    • A free symbol is a symbol other than a reserved symbol.
  • Classification of Political Parties: These are either recognised political parties or unrecognised political parties.
    • A recognised political party shall either be a National Party or a State party, the rest are unrecognised parties.
  • Choice of symbols by candidates of National and State Parties and allotment thereof:
    • A national party candidate has to mandatorily use its party symbol.
    • A state party candidate has to mandatorily use its party symbol.
    • No other person is allowed to use a national or state party symbol or national party symbol irrespective of whether that party contesting or not. 
  • It also gives EC power to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party for its failure to observe the Model Code of Conduct or follow lawful directions and instructions of the Commission.


5. Election commission's power in such a dispute

  • On the question of a split in a political party outside the legislature, Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, states: “When the [Election] Commission is satisfied... that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party each of whom claims to be that party the Commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing [their] representatives and the decision of the Commission shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups.” 
  • This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties.
  • For split in registered but unrecognized parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.


6. Procedure of Election Commission in Dealing disputes before 1968

  • Before 1968, the EC issued notifications and executive orders under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. 
  • The most high-profile split of a party before 1968 was that of the Communist Party of India in 1964. 
  • A breakaway group approached the EC in December 1964, urging it to recognise it as CPI(Marxist). 
  • They provided a list of MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal who supported them. 
  • The ECI recognised the faction as CPI(M) after it found that the votes secured by the MPs and MLAs supporting the breakaway group added up to more than 4% in the 3 states. (One of the Conditions to get represented as a state political party)


7. Other methodologies used by Election Commission over symbol disputes

  • In almost all disputes decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates, office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions. 
  • Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organization (because of disputes regarding the list of office-bearers), it fell back on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs


8. Provisions related to the Group which does not get a party symbol
  • The EC then did not recognise the new parties as either state or national parties.
  • It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs was not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties. 
  • The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party — other than the group that got the party symbol — had to register itself as a separate party, and could lay claim to national or state party status only based on its performance in the state or central elections after registration.


1. Context 

THE SUPREME Court  reserved its verdict on petitions seeking legal recognition of same sex marriage, after a hearing lasting 10 days. The top court reiterated that it cannot ask Parliament to make a law or enter the realm of policy making. A five-judge Constitution bench presided by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud was responding to arguments that a mere declaration by the court that same sex couples have the right to marry would not serve the purpose.

2. Petitions

  • The SMA provides a civil form of marriage for couples who cannot marry under their personal law and both the recent pleas seek to recognise same-sex marriage in this Act and not personal laws.
  • The first petition was filed by two men, Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dang, who have been a couple for 10 years.
  • Their petition argued that the SMA was "ultra vires" the Constitution "to the extent it discriminates between same-sex couples and "opposite-sex couples"
  • It stated that the Act denied same-sex couples both "legal rights as well as the social recognition and status" that came from marriage.
  • About 15 legislations which guaranteed the rights of wages, gratuity, adoption, surrogacy and so on were not available to LGBTQ+ citizens.
  • The petitioners emphasised that the SMA "ought to apply to a marriage between any two persons, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation".
  • The other petition was filed by a same-sex couple of 17 years Parth Phiroze Mehrotra and Uday Raj Anand.
  • The recognition of same-sex marriage was only a "sequel" or a continuation of the Navtej Singh Johar Judgement of 2018 (decriminalising homosexuality) and the Puttaswamy judgement of 2017 (affirming the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right).
  •  The petition did not touch on personal laws but only sought to make the 1954 Act "gender-neutral".
Their plea pointed out that while Section 4 of the SMA permitted the solemnisation of marriage between any two persons, a subsequent section placed restrictions.
It said " The use, in Section 4 (C) of the words 'male' and 'female', as well as the use of gendered language such as the terms "husband/wife" and "bride/ bridegroom" in other sections of the Act, limit the access to marriage to a couple comprising one 'male' and one 'female".

3. Similar petitions

  • There are currently a total of nine petitions pending before the High Court of Delhi and Kerala, seeking to recognise same-sex marriages under Acts such as the SMA, the Foreign Marriage Act and codified personal laws.
  • The Supreme Court Bench transferred the various pending issues before High Courts to Supreme Court.

4. Navtej Johar judgment (2018)

  • The five-judge Supreme Court Bench had decriminalised homosexuality and unanimously held that the criminalisation of private consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex under the more than 150-year-old Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional.
  • The judgment had apologised to the LQBTQ+ community for the wrongs of history and had also stated: "Sexual orientation is natural. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is a violation of freedom of speech and expression".
  • Besides decriminalising consensual homosexuality, the judgment also made other important observations. 
  • It noted that homosexuals had the right to live with dignity and were "entitled to the protection of equal laws and are entitled to be treated in society as human beings without any stigma being attached to any of them".
  • It stated that a person's bodily autonomy be constitutionally protected and that sharing intimacy in private with a person of choice formed a part of the individual's right to privacy.
  • CJI Chandrachud also emphasised that the case was not solely about striking down Section 377 but also about the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

5. NALSA vs Union of India judgment (2014)

The Court had said that non-binary individuals were protected under the Constitution and fundamental rights such as equality, non-discrimination, life, freedom and so on could not be restricted to those who were biologically male or female.

6. Government's stand

  • Late last year, while responding to the pleas seeking recognition of same-sex marriages in the Delhi High Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre had said that as per the law, marriage was permissible between a "biological man" and biological woman".
  • He also argued that there were misconceptions about the Navtej Kaur judgment. "It merely decriminalises It does not talk about marriage," Mr Metha had stated.
  • The Counsel of the petitioner had rejected this by saying that while the 2018 judgement did not mention the words "same-sex marriage" the "inevitable conclusion" favoured recognising it.
  • In its affidavit opposing the pleas, the Centre had said: "The acceptance of the institution of marriage between two individuals of the same gender is neither recognised nor accepted in any uncodified personal laws or any codified statutory laws".
  • It also argued against the urgency of the pleas by saying nobody was "dying" in the absence of a marriage certificate.

7. Other countries 

  • A total of 32 countries around the world have legalised same-sex marriages, some through legislation and others through judicial pronouncements.
  • Many countries first recognised same-sex civil unions as the escalator step to recognise homosexual marriage.
Civil unions or partnerships are similar arrangements to marriages which provide legal recognition of unmarried couples of the same or opposite sex to grant them some of the rights that come with marriage such as inheritance, medical benefits, employee benefits to spouses, managing joint taxes and finances and in some cases even adoption.
  • The Netherlands was the first country in 2001 to legalise same-sex marriage by amending one line in its civil marriage law.
  • In some countries, the decriminalisation of homosexuality was not followed for years by the recognition of same-sex marriage, for instance, in the U.S. the former happened in 2003 while the latter was in 2015.
For Prelims & Mains
For Prelims: Same-Sex Marriage, Special Marriage Act,  LGBTQ+ citizens, Navtej Singh Johar Judgement, Puttaswamy judgement, NALSA vs Union of India judgment, 
For Mains:
1.  What is same-sex marriage? Discuss the various issues to legalize same-sex marriage in India. (250 Words)
2.  LGBTQ community “are entitled to the full range of constitutional rights”. Comment (250 Words)
Previous Year Questions:

Which Article of the Constitution of India safeguards one’s right to marry the person of one’s choice? (UPSC 2019)

(a) Article 19

(b) Article 21

(c) Article 25

(d) Article 29

Answer (b)

Source: The Hindu 


1. Context
The Allahabad High Court on Friday (May 12) ordered a “scientific survey”, including carbon dating, of a “Shivling” said to have been found at the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi after setting aside a lower court order on the issue. The order was passed by Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra
Carbon dating is a widely-used method to establish the age of organic materials, things that were once living. Living things have carbon in them in various forms. The dating method is based on the fact that Carbon-14 (C-14), an isotope of carbon with an atomic mass of 14, is radioactive, and decays at a well known rate
3. How it works?
  • The most abundant isotope of carbon in the atmosphere is C-12. A very small amount of C-14 is also present. The ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the atmosphere is almost static, and is known.
  • Plants get their carbon through photosynthesis; animals get it mainly through food. Because plants and animals get their carbon from the atmosphere, they too acquire C-12 and C-14 in roughly the same proportion as is available in the atmosphere.
  • When they die, their interactions with the atmosphere stops. While C-12 is stable, the radioactive C-14 reduces to one half of itself in about 5,730 years  known as its ‘half-life’. The changing ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the remains of a plant or animal after it dies can be measured, and can be used to deduce the approximate time when the organism died.
C-14 carbon dating process — Science Learning Hub

4. About non living things

  • Though extremely effective, carbon dating cannot be applied in all circumstances. It cannot be used to determine the age of non-living things like rocks, for example
  • Also, the age of things that are more than 40,000-50,000 years old cannot be arrived at through carbon dating. This is because after 8-10 cycles of half-lives, the amount of C-14 becomes almost very small and is almost undetectable
  • But there are other methods to calculate the age of inanimate things, many of which are based on the same principle as carbon dating
  • So, instead of carbon, decays of other radioactive elements that might be present in the material become the basis for the dating method.
  • These are known as radiometric dating methods. Many of these involve elements with half-lives of billions of years, which enable scientists to reliably estimate the age of very old objects
  • Two commonly employed methods for dating rocks are potassium-argon dating and uranium-thorium-lead dating
  • The radioactive isotope of potassium decays into argon, and their ratios can give a clue about the age of rocks
  • Uranium and thorium have several radioactive isotopes, and all of them decay into the stable lead atom. The ratios of these elements present in the material can be measured and used to make estimates about age.
  • In some situations, carbon dating can be used indirectly as well. For example, a way in which the age of ice cores in glaciers and polar regions is determined by studying carbon dioxide molecules trapped inside large ice sheets
  • The trapped molecules have no interaction with the outside atmosphere, and are found in the same state as when they were trapped
  • Determining their age gives a rough estimate of the time when the ice sheets were formed.
Source: indianexpress

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