10 April 2021
A) Supreme Court refuses to entertain PIL on religious conversions.
The Supreme Court on Friday said people are free to choose their own religion, even as it lashed out at a very, very harmful kind of public interest petition claiming there is mass religious conversion happening by hook or crook across the country. Instead, a Bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman said people have a right under the Constitution to profess, practise and propagate religion. Why should a person above 18 years not choose his religion? What kind of a writ petition is this? We will impose heavy costs on you. Withdraw it or argue and risk the consequences, Justice Nariman asked petitioner-advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. Justice Nariman reminded Upadhyay of the fundamental right under Article 25 of the Constitution to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health. Why do you think there is the word ‘propagate’? Justice Nariman asked the petitioner. Religious conversion is being done through a carrot-and-stick approach, Upadhyay had claimed in his petition. Justice Nariman said every person is the final judge of their own choice of religion or who their life partner should be. Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner. He reminded Upadhyay of the Constitution Bench judgment which upheld inviolability of the right to privacy, equating it with the rights to life, of dignity and liberty. Upadhyay’s petition was dismissed as withdrawn. His plea to approach the Law Commission or the High Court with the plea was expressly not allowed by the Bench.
B) Stop vaccine export, fast track approval of other vaccines, Rahul tells PM Modi in a letter.
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conference with Chief Ministers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking why Covid-19 vaccines were being exported at a time when India is facing vaccine shortage and requesting him to stop all vaccine exports to better meet local demand. Noting that centralisation and individualised propaganda are counter-productive, Gandhi also sought more say for State governments in vaccine procurement and distribution and fast track approval of other vaccines in addition to Covaxin and Covishield. The letter ended with seven specific suggestions, which included providing vaccine suppliers with the necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity, immediate moratorium on vaccine export, fast track approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines, opening up vaccination to anyone who needs it, doubling the Central allocation for vaccine procurement from the current ₹35,000 crore, and providing direct income support to vulnerable sections in the second wave.
C) Rahul lobbying for pharma firms, says Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of lobbying for pharma companies after the latter’s letter to Prime Minister Modi on vaccine shortages, seeking fast track approvals for other vaccine candidates. Gandhi’s letter followed a rather acrimonious exchange of words between the Centre and the Maharashtra government on vaccine shortages and vaccination rates. Prasad’s response to the Congress leader’s letter came in a series of tweets. After failing as a part-time politician, has Rahul Gandhi switched to full time lobbying? First he lobbied for fighter plane companies by trying to derail India’s acquisition programme. Now he is lobbying for pharma companies by asking for arbitrary approvals for foreign vaccines, he tweeted adding that fighting a pandemic wasn’t a one trick game. Fighting a pandemic is not a one trick game. Apart from vaccination, there needs to be adequate focus on testing, tracing & treating. Rahul Gandhi’s problem is that he doesn’t understand all this and his ignorance is compounded by his arrogance, the Minister added. Referring to charges of vaccine shortages, Prasad said Congress-ruled States had a problem with basic commitment towards health care. He should write letters to his party’s governments to stop their vasooli (extortion) ventures & concentrate on administering the lakhs of vaccines they are sitting upon, he said. He also termed Gandhi as attention-seeking and asked why he hadn’t taken the vaccination himself, or whether it was an oversight or he doesn’t want it or has he already taken one in many of his undisclosed trips to foreign locations but doesn’t want to disclose?
D) Gehlot writes to Modi seeking at least 30 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine for Rajasthan.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the stock of coronavirus vaccines in the state will get over in the next two days and urged him to immediately provide at least 30 lakh doses. In a letter to the PM after a video conference with him on Thursday, Gehlot said the state has administered 86,89,770 doses till 7 April. The present stock of vaccine in Rajasthan will finish in the next two days. Therefore, it is requested that at least another 30 lakh doses of vaccine be provided to us immediately so that the momentum that we have built up can be maintained and maximum eligible beneficiaries can be vaccinated at the earliest, he said.
E) Assembly elections 2021: Voter turnout lower in 90% of seats compared to 2016.
Compared to the 2016 Assembly election, turnout decreased in 90% of the 530 seats in the four States where voting for the 2021 State polls took place on April 6. Nearly 86% of the seats in Tamil Nadu, 95% in Kerala, 90% in Assam, and all the seats in Puducherry recorded lower turnout than in 2016. Despite the fall in numbers, 80%-plus voter turnout was recorded in more than 60% of the seats in Assam and Puducherry. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, on the other hand, only 17% and 6% of the seats recorded turnouts more than 80%. In Tamil Nadu, in 6% of the seats, mostly in urban areas, the turnout was less than 60%.
F) Vaccines aimed at curbing severe Covid-19, say experts.
Covid-19 vaccines are not infection-preventing but disease-modifier vaccines, said Samiran Panda, member of the government’s National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC). Dr. Panda was speaking to The Hindu on apprehensions about using a vaccine that isn’t 100% effective in disease prevention. He said both the vaccines now available in India will prevent the asymptomatic stage from moving into symptomatic stage and the symptomatic stage from developing severe disease where one requires intensive care. People aged above 45 years wait to register their name for vaccination at a primary health centre in Kodambakkam, in Chennai on April 9, 2021. The vaccines also help in reducing the number of deaths significantly, he noted. Scientifically, it is proven that the efficacy of both the vaccines available in India is more than 70-80%. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that any vaccine with a 50% efficacy will be useful in a pandemic time. So, people should not be hesitant about taking the vaccine, said Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Shekhar Mande.
G) Civilian was released in exchange for CRPF commando: official.
A civilian was released in exchange for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commando Rakeshwar Singh Minhas, who was abducted by the Maoists after an encounter on April 3 at Tarrem in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, a senior government official said. The civilian, identified as Kunjam Sukka, was released hours before the commando was handed over on Thursday to social activists and a group of journalists who had gone to the Sukma-Bijapur border to secure his release, the official said. However, when asked, Bastar Range Inspector General of Police Sundarraj P. told The Hindu that no civilian was arrested or taken into custody after the encounter. Sundarraj added, Many villagers were asked to help the security forces in retrieving the bodies and put the injured in choppers. They came on their own and stayed at the Tarrem camp. It is possible that one of the villagers returned on his own. Another official, however, said a person was apprehended after the encounter but no charges were pressed against him. On many occasions it happens that after an encounter the Maoists desert their positions and are detained by the security forces. In this case no formal charge was invoked, the official said. D.M Awasthi, Chattisgarh Director General of Police could not be reached for comment. Ganesh Mishra, a Bijapur-based journalist who left with a group of facilitators on April 8 to secure the commando’s release said that no civilian accompanied them. The Maoist leader who released the commando told me that he was being freed without any condition, said Mishra. In 2012, five Maoists were released by the Odisha government to facilitate the release of an abducted MLA, Jhina Hikaka.
H) Deposit compensation for Indian fishermen killed by Italian marines, SC tells Centre.
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to deposit in its account the compensation given by Italy for the kin of two Indian fishermen killed by Italian Marines off the Kerala coast in February 2012. A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said the top court will disburse the compensation to the fishermen’s kin. It said that one week after the compensation is deposited in its account, the top court will hear the Centre’s plea for closure of case against the Italian Marines. During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the victims’ kin have consented for compensation of ₹10 crore above the ex-gratia amount already paid in the case. Mehta added that the Kerala government has told the foreign secretary that it had consulted the victims’ families and they have consented in writing that they have agreed to the compensation.
A) Britain’s Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, passes away.
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth and a leading figure in the British royal family for almost seven decades, has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace said on Friday. The Duke of Edinburgh, as he was officially known, had been by his wife’s side throughout her 69-year reign, the longest in British history, during which time he earned a reputation for a tough, no-nonsense attitude and a propensity for occasional gaffes. It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the palace said in a statement. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss. A Greek prince, he married Elizabeth in 1947. He played a key role in modernising the monarchy in the post-World War Two period, and behind the walls of Buckingham Palace, he was a key figure the Queen could turn to and trust.
B) U.S. Navy conducts exercise in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone without prior consent.
In a rare and unusual public statement, the U.S. Navy announced that it had violated India’s maritime policy by conducting an exercise in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The U.S. Navy said its warship carried out Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in Indian EEZ. USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the LakshadweepIslands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law, the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet said in a statement dated April 7. India requires prior consent for military exercises or maneuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law. This FONOP upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims, the statement said. The US Department of Defence releases FONOP reports every fiscal which show that the U.S. has been regularly conducting FONOPs in Indian EEZ, challenging what it calls are excessive maritime claims. From 2007 onwards till 2017, the U.S. carried out multiple FONOPs every year challenging excessive Indian maritime claims. No FONOP was carried out in 2018 and 2020 and one FONOP in 2019, according to the annual reports. There has been no comment on the incident from the government so far. A South Block official, on condition of anonymity, said it was only for military manoeuvres in our EEZ that we need nations to seek our permission and not if they are simply transiting. And the term ‘military manoeuvres’ is not defined anywhere.