PM Modi to inaugurate cancer hospital in Mohali, Chandigarh; US Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo to visit India; New Bihar govt likely to prove majority in the assembly; NGT hearing on plea on unscientific disposal of bodies near Ganga river; Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to Sri Lanka
Comedy to crime: BJP’s Telangana MLA T Raja Singh last week unsuccessfully tried stalling standup comedian Munawar Faruqui’s show in Hyderabad. Having failed, Singh released a video allegedly making blasphemous remark against Prophet Muhammad, triggering protests demanding his arrest. Singh is now in 14-day judicial custody.
The YouTube video, now taken down, showed Singh accusing Faruqui of insulting Lord Ram and Mother Sita in his comedy shows. Singh uploaded the video saying, “There is reaction to every action”.
FIR and arrest: Activist Wajihudiddin Salman lodged a police complaint alleging that Singh used vulgar language against the Prophet. Singh was booked for promoting enmity between groups using religion.
The BJP suspended Singh and its central disciplinary committee issuing a show-cause notice to him asking him to explain why the party should not expel him by September 2.
Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, the AIMIM chief, upped his ante against BJP saying, “Has it become their official policy that they aren’t satisfied with Nupur Sharma and they are making other MLAs say things?…People can see how much you hate the Prophet.”
Nupur Sharma was suspended and another BJP member expelled for their alleged blasphemous remarks against Prophet Muhammad in May. The punitive action followed massive protests by Muslims. Later, the Supreme Court blamed Sharma’s remarks for communal killings in some parts of the country.
Part-2: The Goshamahal MLA, during his arrest, said, “They removed my video from YouTube. I don’t know what the police are going to do. Once I am released, the second part [of the video] will certainly be uploaded. I am doing it for Sanatan Dharma. I am ready to die for Sanatan Dharma.” More here
Three officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were sacked on Tuesday for the March 9 accidental firing of a Brahmos missile that landed in Pakistan. The weapon, jointly developed by India and Russia, is projected as the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from land, air, sea and undersea platforms.
An official statement said the services of the officers were terminated after a Court of Inquiry (CoI) found that deviation from the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) by them led to the accidental firing of the missile.
Who are they?
Though IAF did not mention the ranks and names of the officials whose services have been terminated, it is learnt that a Group Captain is among the three, according to PTI.
On March 11, the Defence Ministry said the accident was caused by a technical malfunction in the course of the routine maintenance of the missile, adding the government has taken a serious view of the incident.
Following the incident, Pakistan summoned India’s Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad and conveyed its strong protest over the “unprovoked” violation of its airspace by the supersonic “projectile” of Indian origin.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred to a five-judge bench the petitions filed by the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde pertaining to the recent political crisis that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
Why: A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the batch of petitions raise important constitutional issues relating to the 10th schedule of the Constitution pertaining to disqualification, power of the Speaker and Governor and judicial review.
The 10th Schedule of the Constitution provides for the prevention of defection of the elected and nominated members from their political party and contains stringent provisions against defections
The earlier case: The apex court said the proposition of law laid down by the constitution bench in the Nabam Rebia case relating to 10th schedule stands on a contradictory reasoning which requires gap filling to uphold constitutional morality.
Party symbol: On Thursday, the top court directed the Election Commission not to pass any orders on Shinde faction’s plea that it be considered the real Shiv Sena and granted the party’s poll symbol.
Key issues: The constitution bench will look into issues whether notice for removal of Speaker restricts him from continuing with disqualification proceedings, whether a petition under Article 32 or 226 lies against disqualification proceedings, can a court hold that member is deemed to be disqualified by virtue of his/her actions, what is status of proceedings in the House pending disqualification petitions against the members.
On February 24, Russia’s Vladimir Putin ordered invasion of Ukraine leaving tens of thousands dead, displaced millions and sown economic strife across the world over the six months since.
Inflation: The invasion and subsequent sanctions on Russia pushed prices of fertiliser, wheat, metals and energy, triggering a global inflation and food crisis. A global hike in crude oil prices also impacted higher domestic inflation for Indian markets. According to RBI, inflation in FY2022-23 is expected to be 4.5%.
Economic jolts: The International Monetary Fund now forecasts the world’s economy to grow 3.2% this year, down from 6.1% last year. Countries such as Sri Lanka saw its economy collapse and Bangladesh aggravate its economic woes. Europe is facing multiple challenges on economic and energy security fronts.
Banking: The central banks of several countries were forced to increase policy rates to regulate financial conditions and support economic recovery. In India, RBI has revised interest rates for banks to protect the weakening rupee. In August RBI hiked its key lending rate by 50 basis points to 5.40 percent, the highest since 2019 and for the third time since the beginning of the current fiscal year.
Current account deficits and surpluses across countries are widening for a second straight year, after years of narrowing. More here
Casualty: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 5,587 civilian deaths and 7,890 civilian injuries as of August 22. Over 6.6 million people stand displaced.
Ukraine has said its armed forces lost about 9,000 personnel in the war. Russia has not provided such details. But the US intelligence estimates that around 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a petition challenging the grant of remission by the Gujarat government to 11 life convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case. The state’s move has sparked a debate on the issue of such relief in heinous cases.
The petition was filed by CPI (M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revathy Laul and activist Roop Rekha Rani. “We are only challenging the remission and not the Supreme Court order. The Supreme Court order is fine, My Lords. We are challenging the principles on the basis of which remission was granted,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal representing the petitioners said.
The gangrape case
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the 2002 Godhra train burning incident. Among those killed was her three-year-old daughter.
‘Don’t felicitate convicts’
The 11 convicts walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.
It is wrong if a person accused of a crime is “felicitated” and there can be no justification for such an act, Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday. The BJP, whose MLAs were on the Gujarat government- appointed remission committee, faced flak over the release of the convicts and welcome accorded to them.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down one of the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act of 1988, which provides for the punishment of a maximum jail term of three years or a fine or both for those indulging in ‘benami’ transactions. The bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices CT Ravikumar and Hima Kohli said the provision is “manifestly arbitrary”.
Section 3 of the 1988-law deals with “prohibition of benami transactions” and its impugned sub-section (2) says: ”Whoever enters into any benami transaction shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both.”
The verdict came on the appeal of the Centre challenging the Calcutta High Court judgement in which it was held that the amendment made in the 1988 Act in 2016 would be applicable with prospective effect. The 1988 Act was made to prohibit ‘benami’ transactions and the right to recover property that is held to be ‘benami’.
Several businesses were awaiting SC verdict on the 2016-Amendment Act as the amended law expanded the definition of the benami transactions and imposed stiff penalties, and gave it retrospective effect, putting many firms and individuals under the scanner.
The Income Tax Department subsequently issued thousands of notices for cash transfers, property deals for earlier periods under the law. Now, the SC has set aside all such actions.
Conceding that it was a complicated issue, the Supreme Court (SC) noted that it will “have to see what is a freebie and what is welfare” while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by a BJP spokesperson seeking the court’s directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to prohibit political parties from offering freebies during elections.
Court in quandary
Citing the example of a state distributing cycles to the poor and women, which reportedly improved their lifestyle, the SC observed that “the problem is which is freebie and which can be said a beneficiary for the upliftment of a person” as “for a rural poverty stuck person, his livelihood may depend on that small boat or bicycle” which is why “we cannot sit here and argue on this.”
Making it clear that it was “not against any government policy” or “any scheme”, the apex court however added that “tomorrow, if the Government of India makes a law that states should not make freebies…can we say that the government can say whatever and we cannot look into it?” It added that it started looking into the issue of freebies “in the interest of both welfare of people and the economy” which is why “a debate has to take place and a committee has to be made” in order to “see what all of us have to say.”
A dressing down
The SC, while hearing the arguments of the DMK, which has impleaded itself as a party to the case, gave a tongue lashing to the southern regional party over certain comments made by the Tamil Nadu finance minister Dr P Thiaga Rajan of the DMK, asking the party not to “think you are the only wise party.” This, after the DMK submitted that the Centre’s tax holidays and loan waivers to corporate houses should also qualify as freebies.
Rajan, in an interview to NDTV, had questioned the ability of the SC to adjudicate on the issue, asking “since when does any country’s Constitution allow the Supreme Court to decide how public money is spent?” The Chief Justice of India Justice N V Ramana, who’s heading the bench hearing the case, referring to the statements by the state’s finance minister, warned that he also had “a lot of things to say” but was“restraining” himself “because of being the CJI” and the party should not be under the impression that the court was “ignoring all that is being said.”
Not in time: Known for his plain-speaking, Union minister Nitin Gadkari has fired a new shot at his own party’s government: “Time is the most important thing in construction. Time is the biggest capital. The biggest problem is the government is not taking decisions in time.”
Context: Gadkari was speaking at NATCON 2022, an event organised by the Association of Consulting Civil Engineers, Mumbai on Sunday.
Pre-quote: “You can make miracles…and the potential is there…We need to accept good technology, good innovation, good research and successful practices in the world and in the country. We should have alternative materials by which we can reduce costs without compromising on the quality.”
Timing: Last week, Gadkari was dropped from BJP’s highest decision-making body, the parliamentary board, in a rejig aimed at upcoming polls leading up to the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Gadkari’s exit from the board came as a surprise as he is a former BJP president and considered close to RSS.
Contradicting PM Modi? The prime minister has said multiple times that his government crossed big milestones by speeding up the pace of development since 2014. BJP leaders, however, played down Gadkari’s remarks saying he was not referring to any specific government but governments in general.
MoS Home Ajay Mishra Teni, whose son is in jail over allegedly mowing down farmers in UP’s Lakhimpur last year, called farmer leader Rakesh Tikait “do kaudi ka aadmi (a worthless fellow)” and compared protesting farmers as “dogs barking and chasing his car”.
The remarks came a day after thousands of farmers held a day-long protest in New Delhi on Monday, demanding legal guarantee for MSP and cancellation of the new electricity bill.
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