09 April 2021
A) Survey the Gyanvapi Mosque near Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Varanasi court tells ASI
A local court in Varanasi on Thursday directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque compound adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to find out whether it was a superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure. The court also directed the Director General of the ASI to constitute a five-member committee of experts, two out of whom should preferably belong to the minority community. The committee would trace as to whether any Hindu temple ever existed before the mosque in question was built or superimposed or added upon at the disputed site, said senior civil judge fast track court Ashutosh Tiwari in his order. The court said the committee would be entitled to enter every portion of the religious structure situated at the disputed site but shall first resort to only Ground Penetrating Radar or Geo-Radiology System or both to satisfy itself whether any excavation or extraction work is needed at any portion of the religious structure. The order came on a petition demanding the restoration of the land on which the mosque stands to the Hindus, on the grounds that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had pulled down parts of the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple to build the mosque.
B) SC refuses to grant relief in petition challenging detention of Rohingya refugees in Jammu and their deportation to Myanmar.
The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to order the release of the Rohingya detained in Jammu, and also refused to protect them from being forcibly deported back to their country of origin. It, however, ruled that the deportation would have to be as per proper procedure. A Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde said it was not possible to agree with the plea of Mohammad Salimullah, a member of the Rohingya community represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl d’Souza, to release the detained Rohingya refugees immediately and direct the Union Territory government and the Ministry of Home Affairs to expeditiously grant refugee identification cards through the FRRO for the Rohingyas in the informal camps. However, the CJI, who pronounced the order, made it clear to the authorities that the Rohingyas in Jammu shall not be deported until the procedure is followed. The direction is in response to a request by Salimullah to direct the Centre to refrain from implementing any orders on deporting the refugees detained in the sub-jail in Jammu. In the previous hearing, before the court reserved the case for orders, the court had maintained a non-committal tone when its judicial conscience was tapped by Bhushan about the atrocities the Rohingyas may face on deportation back to Myanmar. The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, had said the Rohingya who had fled persecution in Myanmar to India were deported back only after the government of that country confirmed their nationality. They are illegal immigrants. We are in touch with Myanmar. Once Myanmar confirms their nationality, they are deported, Mehta had said, explaining the deportation procedure. In India, no legislation has been passed that specifically refers to refugees. Hence, the Rohingya refugees are often clubbed with the class of illegal immigrants deported by the government under the Foreigners Act 1946 and the Foreigners Order 1948. This is coupled with discrimination against the Rohingya, who are largely Muslim refugees. Legally, however, a refugee is a special category of immigrant and cannot be clubbed with an illegal immigrant.
C) SC dismisses pleas of Maharashtra and Anil Deshmukh against CBI probe.
The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a blow to the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in Maharashtra and former State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh by refusing their pleas to quash a CBI probe into allegations of corruption levelled against Deshmukh by transferred Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh. A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta upheld the Bombay High Court order for a CBI probe, saying the dramatis personae Deshmukh and Singh involved and the seriousness of the allegations require investigation by an independent agency. It is a matter of public confidence, Justice Kaul observed. Both the Maharashtra government and Deshmukh had appealed to the Supreme Court against the Bombay HC order for a preliminary enquiry by CBI into the contents of Singh’s allegations against Deshmukh. Allegations are extremely serious and things have got curiouser and curiouser. You see, both were heading their respective institutions when things went wrong between them. One was a Home Minister and the other one is of the senior-most police officers. This is not an everyday issue. These are two persons who closely worked with each other until they fell apart. So, an independent agency should enquire. The High Court is right, Justice Kaul told Maharashtra counsel, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi. Singhvi argued that Deshmukh had resigned within hours of the HC order. The basis of the HC order for a CBI probe was no longer there. But he was the Home Minister when the HC passed the order. It was after that, he resigned. He was clinging to his office, Justice Gupta reacted. Why should a suspect be heard before registration of an FIR? Justice Gupta responded. Sibal replied that the allegations in the letter were hearsay and not admissible as evidence. The letter says Waze told somebody, who told Bhujbal, who told someone who told me. He (Singh) had no personal knowledge about the allegations he made in the letter. How can a CBI enquiry be ordered on the basis of baseless allegations? Sibal asked. Sibal said Singh was collecting evidence on March 16, knowing that he would be transferred out soon. Mr. Sibal, that is why the court has ordered a preliminary enquiry, to find out whether there is evidence at all. This is a serious matter concerning a Home Minister and a senior police officer, Justice Kaul replied.
D) Rename night curfew as ‘Corona curfew’, says Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a virtual meeting with the Chief Ministers of various States and Union Territories on Thursday on the developing Covid-19 situation in the country. He suggested that April 11 to 14 can be observed as ‘Tika (vaccination) Utsav’ for Covid-19 vaccination. They must concentrate on micro-containment zones. In places where night curfew has been imposed, he would urge to use the word ‘Corona Curfew’ to continue alertness about coronavirus. It will be better to start curfew timing from 9pm or 10pm till 5am or 6am, Modi said. Noting that people and administration both seem to have become casual, he called on everyone to get back to combating the coronavirus on a war footing.
E) Delhi High Court issues notice to Centre, EC on plea for compulsory masking during poll campaigns.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday issued notice to the Centre and the Election Commission (EC) on a plea seeking action against leaders, campaigners and candidates not following the mandatory use of face masks during the ongoing Assembly elections in various States and Union Territories. A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh gave the order on an application filed by Vikram Singh, chairman of the think tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) and former Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh. The Bench has posted the case for further hearing on April 30. The Assembly elections in Kerala, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry are scheduled to be held in various phases between March 27 and April 29. Advocate Virag Gupta, appearing for Singh, stated that despite various orders and guidelines, election campaigning was going on in full swing, without any regard to Covid-19 regulations. Reportedly, before the end of the first phase of campaigning in Assam and West Bengal, over 40 road shows and rallies had been organised by major political parties. At the same time, 59,117 fresh cases of Covid-19 were recorded in India on 25.03.2021, which is the highest in the last 159 days, the application said. It said the biggest casualty during the pandemic was the rule of law itself, as strict action was being taken against commoners, but hardly any action against politicians. Incidentally, this plea comes a day after the Delhi High Court ruled that wearing a mask is compulsory even if a person is driving alone in a private vehicle.
F) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of reported coronavirus cases from India stood at 1,30,42,847 with the death toll at 1,68,941. The Tamil Nadu government will reintroduce multiple restrictions from April 10 to tackle the steady increase in cases across the State, according to a Government Order issued on Thursday. The restrictions have been brought back as campaigning for the State Assembly elections and the voting has been completed in the State. The State recorded 27,743 active cases as on April 7, the government said. The major restrictions include a ban on international flights (except those allowed by the Ministry of Home Affairs), temple festivals and religious events, on small traders at Koyambedu wholesale market, and on small retail traders in all the districts. There will be no relaxations in containment zones and they will be under total lockdown.
A) New Zealand bans travellers from India.
New Zealand on Thursday suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks following a high number of positive coronavirus cases arriving from the South Asian country. The move comes after New Zealand recorded 23 new cases of Covid-19 among fresh arrivals, of which 17 were from India. They are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference in Auckland. India is battling a deadly second wave of Covid-19 with daily infections this week passing the peak of the first wave seen last September. The suspension will start from 1600 local time on April 11 and will be in place until April 28. During this time the government will look at risk management measures to resume travel. He want to emphasise that while arrivals of COVID from India has prompted this measure, we are looking at how we manage high risk points of departure generally. This is not a country-specific risk assessment, Ardern said. New Zealand has virtually eliminated the virus within its borders, and has not reported any community transmission locally for about 40 days.
B) U.S. commits to withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.
The U.S. on Wednesday committed to move remaining forces from Iraq, although the two sides did not set a timeline in what would be the second withdrawal since the 2003 invasion. The first “strategic dialogue with Iraq under U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration comes as Iranian linked Shiite paramilitary groups fire rockets nearly daily at bases with foreign troops in hopes of forcing a U.S. exit. The two nations agreed in a videoconference led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein that Iraqi forces were ready to take on more responsibility. The parties confirmed that the mission of U.S. and coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks, a joint statement said. Iraq’s national security advisor, Qassem al-Araji, promised efforts to protect foreign forces and confirmed that the United States would move ahead with a pull-out. The American side promised to withdraw an important number of its troops from Iraq, he said.
C) U.K. to set up E43 million fund for migrants from Hong Kong.
The British government said on Thursday it is setting up a E43 million ($59 million) fund to help migrants from Hong Kong settle in the country as they escape increasing political repression in the former colony. The offer extends to holders of British National (Overseas) passports who have been offered special visas, opening a path to work, residency and eventual citizenship to up to 5 million of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people. The integration programme will provide funding to help arrivals in accessing housing, education and jobs. Around 10% of the funds will go towards establishing 12 virtual welcome hubs across Great Britain and Northern Ireland to coordinate support and give practical advice and assistance, the British Consulate-General said. China has sharply criticised what it labels British abuse of the passports, saying it will no longer recognise them as travel documents or as a form of identification. But most residents also carry Hong Kong or other passports, so it’s not clear what effect that would have. The move delivers on the U.K.’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the U.K. by taking up BN(O) status in 1997, the Consulate-General said in a statement, referring to the year Hong Kong was handed over to China.