ISSUE: GENOME MAPPING
WHY IN NEWS?
On Friday, The Indian Express reported that the government has given clearance to an ambitious gene-mapping project, estimated to be worth Rs 238 crore.
What does genome-mapping tell us?
According to the Human Genome Project, there are estimated to be over 20,500 human genes. Genome refers to an organism’s complete set of DNA, which includes all its genes and mapping these genes simply means finding out the location of these genes in a chromosome.
In humans, each cell consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46 chromosomes, which means that for 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell, there are roughly 20,500 genes located on them. Some of the genes are lined up in a row on each chromosome, while others are lined up quite close to one another and this arrangement might affect the way they are inherited. For example, if the genes are placed sufficiently close together, there is a probability that they get inherited as a pair.
Genome mapping, therefore, essentially means figuring out the location of a specific gene on a particular region of the chromosome and also determining the location of and relative distances between other genes on that chromosome.
Significantly, genome mapping enables scientists to gather evidence if a disease transmitted from the parent to the child is linked to one or more genes. Furthermore, mapping also helps in determining the particular chromosome which contains that gene and the location of that gene in the chromosome.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), genome maps have been used to find out genes that are responsible for relatively rare, single-gene inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Genetic maps may also point out scientists to the genes that play a role in more common disorders and diseases such as asthma, cancer and heart disease among others. For instance, in a series of papers published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, researchers from several international institutions mapped the handful of genes whose mutation causes several different kinds of cancers.
According to the Genome News Network, unlike conventional geographical maps, genome maps are one-dimensional, much like the DNA molecules that make up the genome.
ISSUE: PUNISHING THE HATE SPEECH
WHY IN NEWS?
Twelve days of campaigning for elections to the Delhi Assembly have come to an end. Most Indians were, no doubt, waiting for the culmination of this campaign in which the development debate was overshadowed by hate mongering and outpouring of communal vitriol.
These offences violate not only the MCC but also the Representation of People Act (1951) and Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The very first section of the MCC lays down the following:
Part I (1): “ No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.” (Emphasis mine, throughout the article).
(2): “…Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.”
The Representation of the People Act (1951) categorically defines the above two as corrupt practices in Section 123 (3A) and Section 123 (4) respectively. With hate speech, the Act goes a step further and prescribes punitive measures in Section 125: “Promoting enmity between classes in connection with election — Any person who in connection with an election under this Act promotes or attempts to promote on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, feelings of enmity or hatred, between different classes of the citizens of India shall be punishable, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
It is important to note that Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code has a similar provision: “Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. Whoever (a) by words …or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race…caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious … groups or castes or communities, or (b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious … groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, or (c) … whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
Historically, the EC has always taken simultaneous action under the Model Code of Conduct and the other two provisions. While the MCC produces instant results, the penal provisions involve endless judicial processes. Not taking action under the IPC encouraged the worthies like Parvesh Sahib Singh Varma to commit a repeat offence of indulging in a vitriolic diatribe against the Delhi CM for which the EC indicted him a second time within a week. That such small-time leaders repeatedly defy the Commission should be a matter of concern. The answer also lies with the EC.