Sedition Stayed, But Censors Have Many Laws to Satisfy Jailing Impulse; Most of India’s Poor Are Rural SC/ST
RBI burns forex to fight for rupee across markets, power outlook remains forbidding, ‘poll-winning rations’ aren’t being delivered in UP, and what exactly is Amit Shah drinking?
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
May 11, 2022
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has set in abeyance the operation of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which covers sedition, until the government re-examines the provision. No fresh FIRs can be filed, and all detenus being proceeded against or convicted under the law must be released. All proceedings by the judiciary and the courts under the section must be held in abeyance. The decision is being hailed as “historic” and a “victory”, but it is an interim order.
Some 25 sedition cases were filed during the anti-CAA protests, 22 after the Hathras gang rape, and 27 after the Pulwama incident. In all, 96% of sedition cases filed against 405 Indians over 10 years were registered after 2014. See Article-14’s exhaustive sedition database for details. Sedition has been liberally used by the BJP to contain dissent. In 2019, the party, including PM Modi, had viciously attacked the Opposition Congress for its election promise to do away with the dark law. That is why the government’s volte face on Monday, and its willingness to re-examine the provision of Section 124A, carried no credibility.
In today’s hearing, too, the Solicitor General had made the government’s position clear: don’t tinker with the law, and trust the courts to weed out instances of misuse. In short, maintain the status quo, so that inconvenient people can be charged with sedition as usual and the tardiness of the law delivers punishment enough.
Speaking at the CILRAP conference in Italy on ‘Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence’, Justice Madan Lokur, formerly of the Supreme Court, said, “He [Deepak Tyagi alias Yati Narsinghanand] is violating bail conditions by giving hate speeches but no action taken. There’s a dichotomy of action where police take action if they feel like it…”
The Delhi High Court today delivered a split verdict on petitions seeking the criminalisation of marital rape, with Justice Rajiv Shakhder agreeing that the exception granted to husbands by Article 375 – which deals with rape – is unconstitutional. The other judge on the bench, Justice Hari Shankar, disagreed. The matter may now go to a larger bench. Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to examine if a man can be tried for raping his wife despite the immunity provided to husbands under the Indian Penal Code.
BJP trouble-starter Sangeet Som raised a controversy when he said that the Gyanvapi Mosque, adjacent to the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, would be demolished like the Babri Masjid was 30 years ago. Som was an accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots case. Yesterday, Hindu right wing extremists sat in protest outside Delhi’s Qutub Minar, demanding that the 12th century minaret’s name be changed to Vishnu Stambh. They chanted the Hanuman Chalisa outside the monument, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The Delhi Police later detained 44 for not seeking permission for the protest.
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The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka reacted to rumours circulating in sections of the media and social media that certain political persons and their families have fled to India, and dismissed them as “fake”. In its first reaction to days of violence that led to the resignation of Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, the government made no mention of the Rajapaksa government.
The RBI is estimated to have sold $500-$700 million yesterday in the spot market to defend the rupee from falling below the 77.50 mark against the dollar, reports Business Standard. Dealers said the central bank intervened across spot, futures and the NDF (non-deliverable forward) markets, to discourage investors from switching to safe haven assets.
The Department of Commerce has identified 102 priority items that are imported in sizable volumes or whose imports have increased ― electricals, metals, chemicals, petroleum products, precious and semi-precious stones, lithium ion batteries, plastics and textiles, comprising 58.67% of overall inbound shipments. Officials yesterday met industry representatives to seek ways to boost domestic production of some of them, but refused to call it an import substitution strategy, because there is no bar on inbound shipments.
Ahead of the Quad summit in Tokyo, the Biden administration hopes that Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s assertiveness have shaken India out of its hesitation to align with the US. Washington has already deepened security ties with New Delhi and regards it as a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific, reports South China Morning Post.
PTI reports that India’s outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) has nearly halved to $3.39 billion in April on an annual basis, according to the RBI. It was $6.71 billion in April 2021, but only $3.44 billion in March 2022.
Two pilots and two cabin crew members have been suspended for three years for failing pre-flight alcohol tests between January 1 and April 30, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said. In total, nine pilots and 32 crew members flunked.
The government’s target to have 20% ethanol blended in petrol by 2025 could affect food security, but neither drastically reduce emissions nor deliver energy security.
The Straits Times has in-depth coverage of landfills in India bursting into flames.
Amit Shah drinks water worth Rs 850 per bottle, the BJP-run Goa government’s conservation minister said yesterday. Minister Naik has lobbied for the export of rainwater accumulated in Goa to the Gulf countries in exchange for fuel.
It is Saadat Hasan Manto’s birth anniversary today. Author Mohammad Hanif marks the day in Punjabi.
Elon Musk and his supermodel mother Maye Musk are talking about past family trips to the Taj Mahal. In 1954, Elon Musk’s grandparents flew to the Taj Mahal from South Africa, en route to Australia. Apparently, they’re the only people to ever to fly to the Taj in a single-engine propeller plane, without a radio or GPS.
Most of India’s poor are rural SC/ST, confirms NFHS
A vast chunk of India’s poor, defined by household assets and consumption, are from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and live in rural India or in a handful of eastern and Northeastern states, shows the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report released last week. The 2019-21 report has used a wealth index, a measure of living standards based on households’ ownership of items like TVs