Apex Court Notes 'Vicious Cycle' in Cases Against Zubair; National Symbol Issue is About Politics, Not Aesthetics
India cronier than ever, mall namaz deliberate mischief, rising joblessness among educated, Japanese encephalitis in Assam, Karthika VK shortlisted for Prix Voltaire, bird flies in Air India cockpit
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
July 18, 2022
“We direct that no precipitative action whatsoever be taken against [Mohammed Zubair'] in 5 FIRs without [our] leave, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud ordered as it issued notice on the Alt News co-founder’s petition alleging systematic harassment by the Uttar Pradesh government and the quashing of six cases filed against him. He is under custody in one of those while the remaining five could have been activated any time – most likely sequentially – to keep him jail in the event that he gets bail. “Contents of all FIRs seem to be similar. What seems to be happening is, as he gets bail in one case, he is remanded in another. This vicious cycle is continuing,” the bench observed when Zubair’s lawyer sought an urgent hearing. This ‘cycle’ also has a tech component: BJP-linked trolls weaponised Twitter — and the law — to send him to jail in bogus cases. This video explains how.
It is exactly a year since an international investigation revealed that the phones of human rights activist, lawyers, journalists and politicians in 10 countries including India had been infected with Pegasus spyware. The findings were particularly damaging because NSO Group of Israel, the firm which marketed Pegasus, was mandated to sell only to governments. A year later, Israel continues to evade scrutiny but in India, the committee set up by the Supreme Court, headed by Justice RV Raveendran, is likely to submit its final report this month, perhaps as early as July 20. The use of Pegasus in India is political dynamite because the targeting of opposition leaders at election tine invites comparisons with Watergate while the targeting of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case has further undermined the government’s already dubious evidence in the matter.
Customers must pay 5% GST on pre-packed, labelled food items like atta, paneer and curd, besides hospital rooms with rent above Rs 5,000 from today. Hotel rooms with a tariff of up to Rs 1,000/day, and maps and charts including atlases will attract 12% GST, while 18% GST will be levied on tetrapacks and fees charged by banks for the issue of cheques (loose or in book form). Here is what Modi had said about taxes on food when GST was brought in.
The Prayagraj district administration in UP has invoked the draconian National Security Act against activist Javed Mohammed in a case related to violence in the city on June 10, during protests against disparaging remarks made by suspended NJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma about Prophet Muhammad. The police arrested Javed on June 11 and demolished his home the next day. The NSA is designed to hold people for up to a year when there is otherwise no evidence to justify their arrest.
A viral video of people seemingly offering namaz at the Lulu Mall in Lucknow may be deliberate mischief to malign the mall and cause enmity and hatred between communities and also embarrass the mall’s Muslim owner. CCTV footage shows eight men entering the mall. Apparently not real shoppers, they hurry to find a suitable spot. They tried the basement, the ground floor and the first floor, but security guards intervened . On the second floor, which was relatively less crowded, six of them immediately sat down to offer namaz while the other two got busy recording videos and taking photographs. While it takes seven to eight minutes to complete the namaz, these men did a rush job in 18 seconds flat. Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Rajesh Kumar Shrivastava conceded that the footage made it clear that the men had no clue about the ritual. He hoped they would be arrested soon. Responding to claims by right wing Hindutva groups that 70% of its staff are Muslim, the mall said in a press release that this was not so and that over 80% of the staff are Hindu.
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Arguing for bail, an advocate appearing for some of those accused in the 2016 Una case in which four Dalit youths were flogged for skinning a dead cow told the Gujarat High Court that the cow vigilantes thought the people skinning the animals were from a minority community. The judge reprimanded the lawyer, telling him “it was not a welcome argument”.
Opposition parties have named former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Margaret Alva as their joint candidate for the upcoming vice presidential election. The decision was announced yesterday after several Opposition parties met at Sharad Pawar’s residence. Her nomination comes a day after the BJP announced West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as its VP candidate. Alva served as governor of Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. In the Rajya Sabha, the 80-year-old has served as a Union minister for various departments. The electoral college comprises MPs from both houses so Dhankar will sail through.
Parliament’s Monsoon session started today. Yesterday, the PM was missing from the all-party meet to discuss the session. The Opposition termed the absence “as usual” and the Congress also asked if his absence wasn’t “unparliamentary”?
After two devastating waves of floods, Assam is battling an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis. According to the National Health Mission, 27 have lost their lives to the disease in July 1-16. Altogether, 169 cases were reported during the period. Acute Encephalitis Syndrome or AES also claimed the lives of 16 this year.
Nearly all Covid restrictions have been lifted but the Centre is not conducting the national census ― which was not halted even at the height of World War II ― possibly because it wants to revamp the process. Proposed amendments to the Registration of Birth and Death Act, 1969, which will enable a dynamic census register with nearly real-time updating of all demographic data, are key to the changes proposed. This may be used to update the National Population Register, electoral rolls, Aadhaar, ration card, passport and driving licence databases. Despite the pandemic, the US, the UK and Bangladesh have completed their census exercise in 2021 and 2022.
The government has called an all-party meeting on Tuesday on the Sri Lankan crisis, which will be addressed by Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar. During a meeting of parties convened on Sunday ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the DMK and AIADMK demanded intervention in the neighbouring country, which is facing a debilitating economic crisis.
Violent protests rocked Chinnasalem in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi over the death of a Class 12 student. In a tweet, CM MK Stalin said that the situation was “deplorable” and that those behind the death will be punished. On Wednesday, July 13, the student was found dead at her hostel at Kaniyamoor Sakthi Matriculation School near Chinnasalem. The police found a note in her room which alleged that two teachers “tortured” her. Since then, the girl’s family and other students have been protesting. On Sunday, the protests turned violent as hundreds joined in, clashed with police and broke through barricades. Fifteen school buses and a police van were torched, and visuals also show protesters ramming tractors into school buses. A few school buildings and vehicles were also set on fire.
All Nagaland lawmakers on Saturday urged the Prime Minister and Home Minister to