Same-Sex Marriage, Bilkis Hearings Open to Sparring; SC Will Hear Plea for Independent Inquiry into Atiq’s Killing
WTO rules against India in IT tariffs dispute, Adani scandal now part of folklore, Apple store opens in Mumbai, Russian firm to make 120 Vande Bharat trains, caste in Canada, Sikh portrait moves UK
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Snapshot of the day
April 18, 2023
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea seeking an independent probe into the killing of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf at Prayagraj while they were in police custody, PTI reported. A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud took note of the submissions of advocate Vishal Tiwari, who mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing. The matter is listed for April 24. The plea has also sought an inquiry into the 183 encounters that have taken place in Uttar Pradesh since 2017.
The state government, whose police stood and watched two high-profile prisoners being shot under their nose, has woken up and ordered three investigations in two days while moving to enhance the security of jittery government members.
Did the Atiq Ahmed’s 2008 vote as an MP help the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government win a confidence motion in parliament? This claim has been circulating on social media but here is what actually transpired:
Hearings on ‘same sex marriage’ matter began in the Supreme Court today to jousting between CJI DY Chandrachud, who heads a five-judge bench, and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. When Mehta put forward the government’s view that in the Special Marriage Act “the legislative intent throughout has been relationship between a biological male and a biological female," the CJI said it was the notion of an “absolute” male or female that the court intended to examine. Mehta’s response – "Biological man means biological man, there is no notion" – drew a prompt rejoinder from Chief Justice Chandrachud:
"There is no absolute concept of a man or an absolute concept of a woman at all. It's not the question of what your genitals are. It's far more complex, that's the point. So even when Special Marriage Act says man and woman, the very notion of a man and a woman is not an absolute based on genitals."
Elsewhere at the Supreme Court, the Union and Gujarat governments appear unwilling to share documentation related to the grant of remission to Bilkis Bano’s gang-rapists, setting the stage for another confrontation. At Tuesday’s hearing, the government indicated it will seek a review of the order asking it to submit all the relevant files.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces further questions over the financial interests of his wife, Akshata Murty, after a standards investigation was launched into a potential breach of transparency rules relating to Sunak’s links to a childcare firm in which Murty is an investor. According to the Guardian, opposition parties said the investigation by Daniel Greenberg, parliament’s commissioner for standards, was a sign sleaze had returned to No. 10 – and it will be a third propriety investigation into Sunak, who has been fined by police for breaching Covid rules and for not wearing a seatbelt. Murty, meanwhile lost $61 million as shares in Infosys, a company co-founded by her father, NR Narayana Murthy, took a nosedive on Monday.
India has been found to have broken international trade laws in a dispute with the European Union, Japan, and Taiwan over import taxes on IT equipment, according to a World Trade Organisation panel’s report released on Monday. The panel said: “We recommend that India bring such measures into compliance with its obligations.” India's decision to impose import taxes ranging from 7.5% to 20% on a variety of IT items, including integrated circuits, mobile phones and component parts, was challenged by the EU in 2019. Similar complaints were made in the same year by Japan and Taiwan.
Giving an “up-to-date snapshot” of Adani Group’s financial health, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the group’s pile of debt increased almost 21% over the past year and the proportion held by global banks rose to nearly a third. According to investigations carried out by the agency, 29% of Adani Group’s borrowings were with global international banks at the end of March – a category that didn’t feature on the group’s list of creditors seven years ago. Yet the data also showed that “a metric for its ability to pay off its debts improved”.
The California police have arrested 17 people in connection with a number of shootings that took place in gurdwaras in Stockton, Sacramento, and in other places recently. They also seized weapons, including AK-47s and machine guns, during raids carried out at over 20 places, PTI quoted California officials as saying. The officials also said two of the arrested people are part of a mafia and are wanted in India for a number of murders. Citing local reports, Hindustan Times said at least four of the arrested are Indian passport holders.
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The British government has placed an export ban on a portrait by Anglo-Hungarian painter Philip de Laszlo of two Indian soldiers who fought in World War I.
The unfinished portrait, estimated to be worth £650,000, features cavalry officers Risaldar Jagat Singh and Risaldar Man Singh, who served as junior troop leaders in the British Indian Army’s expeditionary force and were reportedly killed in battle at Somme. “This wonderful and sensitive portrait captures an important moment in our history as soldiers were drawn from across the globe to help fight in the trenches of the First World War,” a UK release says.
Apple chief Tim Cook inaugurated the company’s first India store in Mumbai on Tuesday. Located at the Jio World Centre in BKC, it is a flagship retail outlet. The tech giant will follow this up with another store in Delhi’s Saket, on Thursday. Two Apple stores in two days is unprecedented in more ways than one and underlines how important India has become as a market for Apple. The company could not open a store in India earlier because of regulatory restrictions around single-brand retail. So far it had stores operated by Indian partners like Imagine and Future World.
Royal Challengers Bangalore batter Virat Kohli has been fined 10% of his match fee for breaching the Indian Premier League code of conduct during the team's eight-run loss to Chennai Super Kings on Monday, PTI reported. An IPL statement said Kohli had breached the rules under Article 2.2 of the IPL Code of Conduct. Although the statement did not go into the details of the incident that attracted the code of conduct violation, it could have been due to the former RCB skipper's over-the-top celebration following CSK middle-order batter Shivam Dube’s dismissal off the bowling of Wayne Parnell on Monday.
Russia’s Transmashholding (TMH) has won a $6.5 billion contract to produce 120 trains for India. According to TMH chief Kirill Lipa, the company won an international tender to build, supply and service 120 16-car long-distance Vande Bharat electric trains for the government-owned Indian Railways.
Delegates from 30 countries, a notable exception being China, will attend an international conference on Buddhism that will be held in Delhi on April 20 and 21. The Dalai Lama is also unlikely to attend. Over 170 delegates from countries, including Mexico, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Japan, and 150 from India are to participate.
India’s wholesale inflation rate dipped to 1.34% in March, with manufactured products prices falling nearly 0.8% from a year ago when overall wholesale inflation was at 14.5%. In February 2023, inflation measured by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) stood at a 25-month low of 3.85%. While the Wholesale Food Index saw a slight reduction from the 2.8% uptick in February to 2.3% in March, primary articles inflation eased from 3.3% to 2.4%, while fuel and power inflation cooled from 14.8% to 9% over the same period.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the Varanasi district collector to convene a meeting in order to provide “congenial” working conditions for Muslim worshippers’ “wuzu” (ritual ablution) at the Gyanvapi mosque complex.
As part of a makeover for G20, Delhi is bracing for a “beautification drive”, risking the future of the poor who have been staying on the streets for more than two decades. As with other victims of the Vishwaguru’s leadership, silence is prescribed:
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