Freeing Zubair, SC Says ‘Power Of Arrest Must Be Used Sparingly’, Refuses to Infringe on His Freedom of Speech, Protects Him From Copycat FIRs
Despite domestic priorities, RBI must follow US Fed, Delhi HC pools cases against Agnipath for Aug 25, Sino-Indian competition would alter nuclear deterrence, Biscuitwala changes Kansas threading law
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Snapshot of the day
July 20, 2022
Insisting that the power of arrest “must be used sparingly”, and that the Delhi Police has had enough time to pursue investigations, the apex court finds “no reason for the deprivation of personal liberty [of ace fact-checker Mohammed Zubair] to sustain.” Investigations into the matter by the UP Police stand transferred to the Delhi Police, and the Special Investigation Team of the UP Police is disbanded. This direction will apply to future FIRs against Zubair on the basis of the same ‘subject matter’ too. Most significantly, Justice DY Chandrachud rejected a request by the UP authorities to restrain Zubair from tweeting, because it would infringe on his freedom of speech.
It’s a busy day at the Supreme Court, which is hearing several important cases concerning the political crisis in Maharashtra, an AAP plea challenging the postponement of Delhi’s municipal elections and BCCI’s plea to be allowed to alter its constitution to extend the term of office bearers, including Jay Shah and Sourav Ganguly, in contravention of the Lodha Committee recommendations.
The Supreme Court yesterday asked the Delhi High Court to expeditiously scrutinise the validity of the central government’s new Agnipath scheme, and also asked various high courts hearing similar petitions to halt hearings into the matter. “Let us have the benefit of their view,” said a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna, as it allowed three PILs challenging the defence recruitment scheme to be transferred to the Delhi High Court, where several petitions are already pending. Today, the court committed to hear the clubbed matters on August 25.
The Delhi High Court has stayed the Central Consumer Protection Authority’s guidelines preventing hotels and restaurants from adding service tax to the food bill. But it has said that establishments which do so must display the fact prominently on the menu.
Nineteen labourers working on a road near the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh’s Kurung Kumey district have been missing for a fortnight, and now the body of one has been found. The labourers, most of them Muslim, went off on July 5, to celebrate Eid, but there is no trace of them anywhere. The sub-contractor has disappeared, too.
There are plenty of human settlements right next to where India had protested Chinese presence in Doklam, in Bhutan. New satellite images accessed by NDTV indicate that the Chinese village of Pangda, built 9 km east of the Doklam plateau where Indian and Chinese forces faced off in 2017, is now fully inhabited with cars parked at the doorstep of almost every home. Alongside is a neatly marked all-weather carriageway, which cuts 10 km into Bhutanese territory, along the banks of the fast-flowing Amo Chu river. Chinese forces could eventually get access to a strategic ridge in the adjacent Doklam plateau and a direct line of sight to India’s sensitive Siliguri corridor, the narrow sliver of land that connects the Northeastern states with the rest of the country. After the standoff in 2017, India had announced “disengagement” in Doklam plateau but the Chinese troops stayed on in large numbers and built massive military infrastructure. They have now consolidated their position, and many fear that they may do so in eastern Ladakh, too.
Data released by China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) last week showed that trade between China and India would hit $100 billion for the second year running, having touched $57.5 billion in the January-June period. But this trade is heavily tilted in favour of China. While imports from China grew 12.75% in the first two months of the current fiscal, Indian exports to China fell 31% from a year earlier, putting pressure on the trade and current account deficits. The trade deficit with China – import value minus export value – widened to a record $72.9 billion in 2021-22. While China’s share in India’s imports basket eased marginally to 15.34% during FY22 after spiking to 16.53% in the previous fiscal, its share in India’s exports shrank to 5% from 7.26% in FY21.
Farmers remain the nemesis of this government. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has rejected the committee formed by the government on MSP and other issues, and will send no representatives to it. They say “there is no scope to discuss the MSP law in the agenda of this committee full of government representatives and loyalists” as “the apprehensions of SKM about this committee turned out to be true; Morcha cannot have any association with such an anti-farmer committee”. Farmer leaders recalled the statements of committee member Guni Prakash, who had called for the killing of protesting farmers last year.
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The fake ‘namaz’ read at Lucknow’s new LuLu Mall, which was videographed to make trouble, provoked a “backlash” using the Hanuman Chalisa, and a nervous chief minister was forced to make arrests. It’s become a metaphor for the discord and division that is searing India, particularly UP. There can be no ‘safe spaces’ once social divides are provoked and fanned. Meanwhile, a baba went to the mall to try his luck, and push came to shove.
The National Crime Records Bureau does not maintain specific data about the arrest of journalists, the Centre has told the Lok Sabha. The government also said that it doesn’t agree with the World Press Freedom Rankings brought out by Reporters Sans Frontières, where India’s rank has plummeted to 150 out of 180 countries, its worst-ever ranking.
Since 2017, 347 Indians have been killed since 2017 while cleaning sewers and septic tanks, the Union government has accepted. Delhi is among the three worst states, with 42 deaths.
India stubbornly holds the line on under-reporting deaths during the pandemic. The government informed Parliament yesterday that the mathematical modelling approach adopted by the WHO to project excess mortality estimates due to Covid-19 suffers from erroneous assumptions, and India had registered its strong objection to this methodology.
The Wall Street Journal reports that in India’s education technology companies, the bubble is going pop. Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic tech frenzy are facing testing times as subscriptions fall, and market star Byju’s is clearly struggling.
With the GST Council’s decision to impose 5% GST on packaged curd, lassi, buttermilk and foodgrains coming into force, Amul yesterday raised prices of some of these products by Rs 1-4. Other dairies are expected to follow suit. The GST levy will affect the financials of dairy companies by 2-3%, ICICI Securities had noted. There are political implications, too.
Under pressure for levying GST on food items in the midst of runaway food inflation, the BJP has scrambled to accuse the states of taxing foodgrains even in the pre-GST era. But viral memes are making deep cuts.
Facing criticism from passengers, the Railway Ministry has dropped the Rs 50 service charge on morning tea that it had previously levied on travellers who didn’t pre-book it on premium trains. Other meals will continue to cost Rs 50 more if they are not pre-booked. The charges will be applicable on Shatabdi, Duronto, Rajdhani, Tejas and Vande Bharat trains. The move comes after a passenger complained that he had to pay Rs 50 as service charge for a cup of tea costing Rs 20. IRCTC had introduced the levy in 2018.
The attack launched by central agencies on people associated with the Opposition continues unabated. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) yesterday arrested Pankaj Mishra, the political aide of Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, in connection with alleged money laundering in Ranchi. Mishra was arrested after hours of questioning and “searches” at 19 locations linked to him and his aides. Also, ED has summoned Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut today for questioning in the money laundering case linked to re-development of a Mumbai chawl.
India’s shrimp exports have jumped three-fold in the decade to 2020, to about $5bn which makes it the world’s largest exporter by value. Now, the industry has become a test case for whether authorities and producers in a fast-growing farming sector can control the use of antibiotics, reports the Financial Times.
In Lakshadweep, old Modi hand and controversial Lieutenant Governor Praful Patel soldiers on. Locals are stranded as his administration has drastically reduced the number of ships plying there. About 64,000 islanders depend heavily on ships to Kerala for jobs, education and healthcare.
On Monday, the 10th anniversary of the July 2012 violence in the Maruti Suzuki plant in Haryana’s Manesar, industrial workers rallied in thousands to flay the ‘partial’ investigation of the incident. Workers in Haryana’s automotive hub sought “more solidarity” and “joint actions” between the permanent and contractual workforce, as they marched to Gurugram’s Mini Secretariat on Monday evening. Joined by union delegations from major auto plants in the region, the rally was called by the Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS), representing permanent workers’ unions in seven manufacturing facilities associated with the country’s leading carmaker.
India and Namibia are to sign a pact today to relocate over a dozen cheetahs to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in India by August 15. The Asiatic cheetah was driven to extinction in the mid-20th century by the unhealthy attentions of Indian royalty and British officials.
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