04 May 2021
A) Cannot stop media reports on court observations, says SC.
Media cannot be stopped from reporting oral remarks made by judges during a court hearing. The honest and full reportage of these comments gives the public an insight into whether judges are genuinely applying their minds to resolve a crisis, the Supreme Court told a hurt Election Commission of India (ECI) today. The ECI had complained to the Supreme Court about certain oral comments made by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court. The HC judges had accused the ECI of being solely responsible for the super-spread of Covid-19 through uncontrolled election rallies and campaigning. Instead of patting the EC officials on their backs, the HC judges had said the ECI should be charged with murder. Soon after, a troubled ECI had approached the HC to take back its words and restrain the media from reporting the comments as FIRs for murder were registered against the poll body officials. But the HC had, on April 30, refused to budge, saying there were more pressing issues at hand. They cannot expect the media not to report dialogues. Oral observations are as important as orders… Unfolding of process of judicial thinking is equally of interest to the public, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud addressed the ECI, represented by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi. Public interest is not limited to judgments, but also the raising of questions in a court hearing, the dialogue between the Bar and the Bench. All of these show the public whether there was a genuine application of mind by judges. The Bench said the ECI’s prayer to stop media from reporting the comments from the Bench was simply far-fetched. When Mr. Dwivedi complained that the HC should not have accused another constitutional authority like the ECI of murder, Justice Chandrachud said judges were humans too. Their comments may be borne out of frustration, but were certainly made for the cause of larger public interest. Justice Shah said the ECI should take oral observations of judges in the right spirit.
B) 23 Covid-19 patients die in Karnataka hospital, triggering fears of oxygen shortage
A surge in the deaths of Covid-19 patients in Chamarajanagar in Karnataka has sparked panic among the people regarding oxygen scarcity. Against a daily average of eight to 10 deaths, a total of 23 Covid-19 patients died late on Sunday. All the patients who died were on ventilator and had co-morbidities. The deaths were not necessarily due to oxygen shortage, Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar M.R. Ravi told. Even though he clarified that the deaths were not linked to non-availability of oxygen, Ravi said it was difficult to source oxygen from Mysuru. The suppliers, who were under pressure to meet Mysuru’s requirements, were finding it difficult to ensure regular supply to Chamarajanagar. Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar, who is in charge of Chamarajnagar district, announced has ordered a death audit of the tragedy. In a hurriedly-convened press conference, he said, Not all deaths, which occurred over 24 hours, were due to oxygen shortage. A death audit will reveal the exact cause, he said. However, he admitted that there was a shortage of oxygen to the district and there was a crisis for two hours post mid-night on Sunday. The district, categorised as one of the most backward in Karnataka, is dependent on neighbouring Mysuru for oxygen supply. The minister said that he had requested the Chief Secretary to ensure a regular supply of oxygen to the district.
C) EC official was threatened, will approach courts over Nandigram poll result, says Mamata.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson Mamata Banerjee on Monday said that her party will approach the court on the Nandigram election results. Speaking to journalists outside her residence, Banerjee said that the returning officer for Nandigram was threatened that he could lose his life if he ordered a recounting of the votes for the constituency. While she lost from Nandigram, her party has won 213 of the 292 seats that went to polls in West Bengal. Everywhere there is one result, at one place it is different. Then suddenly the server went slowly for four hours, and then there was load-shedding for forty minutes. They have changed many things, including machines, Banerjee said. She asked what grounds the Election Commission had to refuse a recounting of votes. Anyone can demand recounting of votes. What stake does the Election Commission have to deny re-counting, Banerjee asked. Banerjee also brought to fore a message that the returning officer (RO) had allegedly sent to an acquaintance. In the message, the RO had allegedly said that his life would be in danger if he ordered a recount. Look at the situation. The RO says there is a threat on his life, she said, as she asked a journalist to read out the message loud. The Nandigram Assembly seat had kept both the TMC and the BJP on tenterhooks till late on Sunday evening. After the end of 17 rounds of counting, the ECI website showed that BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari had defeated Banerjee by a margin of 1,956 votes. Meanwhile, TMC supporters continued to protest outside the counting center in Purba Medinipur district. Banerjee said that the EC should ensure that the EVMs used for polling in Nandigram are properly preserved.
D) Election Commission should be disbanded: Congress.
Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, on Monday lashed out at the Election Commission of India (EC) for being ‘partisan’ and asserted that the present poll body should be disbanded as it had betrayed the trust of voters. He also suggested that the Supreme Court should decide the criteria for a person to qualify for the position of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioner (EC). The present Election Commission should be disbanded and the actions of its members probed. The EC has disgraced itself and betrayed the voters’ trust. A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court should decide on the composition, qualifying criteria for the appointment of the CEC and the ECs, and firm guidelines for the conduct of free and fair elections as per the Constitution, Sharma said in a statement, a day after results of Assembly elections to four States and one Union Territory came out. The senior Congress leader said that the conduct of the EC during the recent elections has raised serious concerns and accused the Commission of violating its Constitutional mandate under Article 324 to conduct free and fair polls. Blatantly partisan, its actions in Bengal were shocking and condemnable. There have been instances where it acted as a willing accomplice of the BJP, he said. Sharma said that the EC must be held accountable for fuelling the surge in Covid-19 cases and increasing the suffering of the people by allowing unrestricted mass rallies and violations of COVID protocols.
F) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of reported coronavirus cases from India stood at 2,00,86,109 with the death toll at 2,20,184. As the second wave of coronavirus continues to engulf several parts of the country, the Centre on Monday said some states are showing very early signs of plateauing in daily new cases, while some remain a cause of concern. Addressing a news briefing, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said 13 States, including Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Punjab, are showing early signs of plateauing, while States like Bihar, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal are showing an increasing trend in daily cases. Amid a shortage of medical oxygen in the country, he said the government is exploring the feasibility of converting existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. Chhattisgarh, where 15,583 cases were reported on April 29, recorded 14,087 fresh cases on May 2. Similar was the case with Delhi, Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. He said 12 States had active cases of more than a lakh each. They were Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. The Centre has worked out a tight, new deadline for the ₹20,000 crore Central Vista project, according to which the Prime Minister’s new residence shall be completed by December 2022. The Central Vista projected has been declared an essential service so that construction work can continue uninterrupted even as the national capital remains under lockdown and continues to reel under oxygen shortage amid an alarming surge on new cases of Covid-19.
A) Russia turns to China to make Sputnik V jabs to meet demand.
Russia is turning to multiple Chinese firms to manufacture the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in an effort to speed up production as demand soars for its shot. Russia has announced three deals totaling 260 million doses with Chinese vaccine companies in recent weeks. It’s a decision that could mean quicker access to a shot for countries in Latin America, the West Asia, and Africa that have ordered Russia’s vaccine, as the U.S. and the EU focus mainly on domestic vaccination needs. Earlier, criticism about Russia’s vaccine have been largely quieted by data published in The Lancet that said large-scale testing showed it to be safe, with an efficacy rate of 91%. Yet, experts have questioned whether Russia can fulfill its pledge to countries across the world. While pledging hundreds of millions of doses, it has only delivered a fraction. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry peskov has said demand for Sputnik V significantly exceeds Russia’s domestic production capacity. To boost production, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which bankrolled Sputnik V, has signed agreements with drug makers in India, South Korea, Brazil, Serbia, Turkey, Italy and others. There are few indications, however, that manufacturers abroad, except for those in Belarus and Kazakh. Stan, have made any large amounts of the vaccine so far. Airfinity, a U.K.-based science analytics company, estimates Russia agreed to supply 630 million doses of Sputnik V to over 100 countries, with only 11.5 million doses exported so far.
B) U.S. officials in West Asia to reassure jittery allies over Iran.
Top Biden administration officials and U.S. Senators crisscrossed the West Asia on Monday, seeking to assuage growing unease among Arab partners over America’s re-engagement with Iran and other policy shifts in the region. The trips come as the U.S. and Iran, through intermediaries in Vienna, discuss a return to Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that former President Donald Trump abandoned three years ago. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies, excluded from Obama-era nuclear negotiations, have repeatedly pressed for a seat at the table, insisting that any return to the accord must address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and support for regional proxies. Sen. Chris Coons, a key Biden ally, told reporters in Abu Dhabi that he hoped to allay the sheikhdom’s understandable and legitimate concerns about the return to the landmark deal and to create broader engagement with Gulf partners. Mr. Coons said that close consultation with the UAE about the ongoing talks in Vienna was important, expected and happening, adding that he hopes the Emiratis may not just be notified, but actually help. He did not in any way mean to suggest that there was some deal in the works where the Emiratis would be securing anything, he said. Vienna is the place where the U.S. government is negotiating. Senator Chris Murphy joined the flurry of diplomatic activity in the region this week, jetting to Oman, Qatar and Jordan for dialogue on a political solution to the war in Yemen.