January 28th, 2021
Your 10 minute read!
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
1. Govt. conspiracy led to violence: farmers
Farm unions have blamed the violence which took place during their Republic Day tractor parades on a conspiracy hatched by the government with one Punjab union, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu, who has previously been linked to the BJP.
The unions have cancelled their plans to march to Parliament on February 1, but have vowed to continue their agitation in a peaceful manner. Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Srivastava said the unions had not followed the terms laid down for the parades, alleging that the farmer leaders made inflammatory speeches and were involved in the violence.
2. SC stays Bombay HC order in groping case
The Supreme Court stayed a controversial Bombay High Court verdict, which acquitted a man found guilty of assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on the grounds that he groped his victim over her clothes and there was no “skin to skin” contact between them.
A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde, took cognisance instantaneously after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal made a special mention in court, saying the single judge verdict would set a “very dangerous precedent” and cripple the intention of the POCSO Act to punish sexual offenders.
The accused was sentenced to the minimum three years’ imprisonment under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. That was set aside by the High Court and his sentence was reduced to one year under Section 354 (assault of a woman to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code.
“Abuse and outraging the modesty of a child has been a matter of great concern. The POCSO Act was enacted to deal with evil and to impart speedy justice. Special courts were formed. The observations [in the January 19 judgment of the HC] have badly shaken the belief of the petitioners and like-minded people.”
3. Allahabad HC seeks response on farmers’ bond amount
- The Allahabad High Court has sought a response from the Sitapur district administration in Uttar Pradesh on the “exorbitant” amount of personal bonds and sureties asked of farmers, allegedly to prevent them from participating in the ongoing farm protests. A Division Bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Rajeev Singh sought the reply on a PIL plea filed by Lucknow-based social activist Arundhati Dhuru.
4. No protection from arrest for Tandav team
The Supreme Court declined to pass an order to protect the makers and artists of the web series Tandav on Amazon Prime from arrest, even as it agreed to examine their plea to club the FIRs registered against them in various States on the charge of hurting Hindu religious sentiments.
Justice M.R. Shah, on the Bench, said free speech is not absolute and is subject to reasonable restrictions. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the makers have come directly to the SC following the precedent of the Arnab Goswami case where multiple FIRs were filed in different States and the court agreed to club them.
5. SC asks for timeline on appointments
The Supreme Court questioned the government about the delay in clearing Collegium recommendations for judicial appointments to various High Courts. A Bench of Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant asked the Centre if there was a timeline for government clearance of such recommendations.
The Bench noted how recommendations from the High Courts of Bombay and Allahabad dated back to May or June last year. It said 189 proposals for judicial appointments were still pending. The Bench served notice on the High Courts which were not party to the petition filed by Lok Prahari, an NGO, seeking the appointment of additional judges.
6. Owaisi, Viswam file dissent on DNA Bill
Asaddudin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlise-IttehadulMuslimeen (AI-MIM), and CPI leader Binoy Viswam have filed dissent notes to the parliamentary standing committee’s report on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 on the grounds that it does not take into account their concerns over privacy violations. They say if enacted, the Bill will target Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis by way of DNA sample collection and indefinite storage. The fear is that the law could be used for caste or community based profiling.
The Standing Committee on Science and Technology, headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, will meet on February 1 to discuss and adopt the final report. The Bill ran afoul with the standards set in the Puttaswamy and Subramanian Swamy judgments of the Supreme Court.
Mr. Ramesh has countered Mr. Owaisi’s concerns. In a letter to Mr. Owaisi, he said the objective of the Bill was not overarching but limited to the establishment of a regulatory board to regulate the use of DNA technology in consonance with international standards. What is the Bill about? (https://rb.gy/2frmru)
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
1. Covaxin effective against U.K. virus variant, says study
Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been found to neutralise the U.K. variant of the COVID-19 virus with “similar efficiency” as the strain used for making the vaccine and hence “dispels the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape” following vaccination, say results posted on the bioRxiv preprint server.
Preprints are yet to be peer reviewed and published in medical journals. The work was carried out by researchers from ICMR and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad. The sera from people vaccinated with Covaxin were tested against the same strain used for making the vaccine, another strain found in India , and the U.K. variant.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
1. Iran says Israel is waging a ‘psychological war’
A top Iranian official on Wednesday said Israel was waging a “psychological war” after the Jewish state’s Army said new “offensive options” were being drawn up in case they were needed against the Islamic republic.
Mahmoud Vaezi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, also vowed that his country was ready and willing to defend itself. “We have no intention of going to war, but we are serious about defending the country,” he said. Israel, a close U.S. ally, accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies.
2. U.S. issues domestic terror alert
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared a nationwide terrorism alert on Wednesday, citing the potential threat from domestic anti-government extremists opposed to Joe Biden as President.
The National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin said a heightened threat of attack “will persist in the weeks following the successful presidential inauguration,” which took place on January 20. The alert said there had been mounting threats since last year from domestic violent extremists motivated by COVID-19 restrictions, Mr. Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump in the November election, police brutality and illegal immigration.
3. Russia moots West Asia meet as U.S. resets Palestinian ties
Russia backed a Palestinian proposal for a West Asia peace conference, suggesting on Tuesday that it could be held at the ministerial level in spring or summer, as the U.S. said it would move towards renewing ties with the Palestinians under Joe Biden.
The U.S., which sided with Israel under the administration of Donald Trump, said it intended to “restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis”.
“The roughly 10 participants would include Israel, the Palestinians, the four members of the West Asia diplomatic quartet (Russia, the UN, the U.S. and the EU), along with four Arab states – Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
4. Russia gives nod to extend START treaty
Russian lawmakers on Wednesday quickly approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control treaty, an action that comes just days before it’s due to expire. Both houses of Parliament voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years. The Kremlin said it will soon complete the extension procedures.
START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was a bilateral treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. The treaty was signed on 31 July 1991 and entered into force on 5 December 1994.
5. Pak. plans to hold Senate polls through open vote
The Pakistan Cabinet has decided to table a Bill in Parliament to amend the Constitution for holding the Senate elections through open vote. The decision was taken during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“The government wants the (Senate) polls to be held in a transparent manner and without horsetrading. This is why we want Senate polls to be held through an open ballot,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz told the media after the meeting. He said that in the past, money was used in Senate elections and votes were bought making the House election a mockery.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
1. China slams apps ban, urges India to 'correct discriminatory measures'
China on Wednesday called on India “to immediately correct its discriminatory measures” over the decision to extend a ban on 59 Chinese apps. The Indian government recently sent notices to Chinese ﬁrms, informing them that the ban, announced in June, would continue. India had banned the 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, We Chat and UC Browser, citing national security concerns in the wake of the standoﬀ in Ladakh. Another 118 apps were banned in September and 43 more in November.
“These moves [are] in violation of WTO’s non-discriminatory principles and fair competition principles of a market economy and severely damage the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, The Chinese side ﬁrmly opposes them,” said Ji Rong, a spokesperson for the Embassy.
2. High debt burden and stimulus
India’s high government debt could limit its ability to give a ﬁscal stimulus to the economy, Moody’s Investors Service noted in a report on credit conditions in Asia. “In India, a high government debt burden will limit the extent of ﬁscal support, although the government has undertaken a number of measures to improve policy transmission and broader structural reforms,” it pointed out.
Moody’s expects income and social inequality to widen in 2021, while the number of people falling into poverty will rise signiﬁcantly, erasing three to four years’ gains on poverty reduction. The ratings agency said the traditional emphasis on infrastructure spending to support growth may now have to expand to include social spending on health care and pensions.
3. FDI inflows hit $58.37 billion in April-November 2022
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inﬂows into the country hit a record high of $58.37 billion in the ﬁrst eight months of 2020-21, with equity inﬂows of nearly $44 billion, the government said. “FDI equity inﬂow received during April to November 2020 is $43.85 billion. It is the highest ever for ﬁrst eight months of a ﬁnancial year and 37% more compared to the ﬁrst 8 months of 2019-20 [$32.11 billion],” the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade said.
1. Player Profile
- Ankita Raina : Ankita Ravinderkrishan Raina is an Indian professional tennis player and the current Indian No. 1 in both women’s singles and doubles. Raina has won one WTA 125k in doubles, along with 11 singles and 18 doubles titles on the ITF Circuit. She entered the top 200 singles rankings for the first time, becoming only the fifth player representing India to achieve this feat. Raina has also won gold medals in the women's singles and mixed-doubles events at the 2016 South Asian Games, and won a bronze medal in singles at the 2018 Asian Games.
2. Cricket Australia confirms racial abuse at SCG
Cricket Australia (CA) conﬁrmed India’s players were subjected to racial abuse during the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground but cleared six spectators who were taken from their seats and questioned by police at the ground. The cricket board had launched an investigation with the police after Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj complained of hearing racist slurs while ﬁelding near the boundary rope.
“CA conﬁrms that members of the Indian cricket team were subjected to racial abuse,” CA integrity chief Sean Carroll said in a statement. CA said it had submitted its report on the investigation to the International Cricket Council (ICC).
1. Right to Disconnect https://rb.gy/4qwbfs
2. Lessons from Ambedkar's last speech in the Constituent Assembly https://rb.gy/hfukb2
3. The wheels of economic recovery https://rb.gy/rx7c6a
4. Snippets from Bombay High Court's judgement on sexual assault https://rb.gy/wxvhvj
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench