17 November 2020
A) Nitish Kumar sworn in as Bihar CM again.
Nitish Kumar was on 16 November sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the fourth consecutive time, in the presence of top leaders of the NDA, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda. Kumar, who heads the JD(U), was administered the oath of office at Raj Bhavan by Governor Phagu Chauhan a day after he staked claim for the formation of a new government. Along with him, 14 Ministers from all the four NDA constituent parties took oath. Two four-time BJP legislators, Tarkishore Prasad from the Katihar constituency and Renu Devi from Bettiah are said to be the Deputy Chief Ministers. Congratulating Kumar, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Chirag Paswan tweeted that he hoped the government would complete its full term and you (Kumar) would remain NDA’s chief minister. The LJP had put up candidates against the JD(U) in the recent Assembly polls and damaged the latter’s tally of winning seats. Paswan had said that he had fielded candidates against the JD(U) to dethrone Kumar as Chief Minister. The JD(U) could win only 43 seats, while the BJP bagged 74 seats. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress boycotted the swearing-in ceremony, saying, the mandate was against the NDA.
B) SC declines interim bail for Kerala scribe Siddique Kappan.
Less than a week after it granted interim bail to Republic editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the Supreme Court on 16 November has refused to grant interim relief in a habeas corpus plea filed on behalf of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde has sought a response from the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government, and its police chief on the plea made by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) for the release of its secretary Siddique Kappan. It also deferred the hearing of the plea by five days, scheduling it for November 20 after the KUWJ’s lawyer, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, pressed for bail. Kappan, a freelance journalist, was detained along with some others on October 5 while on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, where a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by four men. An FIR against him was registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Kappan is lodged in Mathura jail. The FIR does not have his name in it. There is no reference of an offence against him. But he is in jail since October 5. The magistrate says go to jail. The jail authorities say go to the magistrate. My Lord, this man is a journalist, Sibal submitted. But the CJI responded by advising him to approach the Allahabad High Court for the journalist’s freedom.
C) I&B Ministry asks digital news media to comply with 26% FDI cap.
Four days after it brought digital news portals and video streaming platforms like Netflix under its jurisdiction, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a detailed notification asking companies to comply with the 26% limit on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), sanctioned by the government last year. Prakash Javadekar pointed out that there was no regulatory body for the over-the-top (OTT) platforms and that the government was receiving suggestions on how to regulate its content. The notification reiterates the Union cabinet decision from August last year, imposing a 26% cap on FDI under government route for uploading/streaming of news and current affairs through digital media. This is along the same lines as for the print media. The only major departure is that now even companies which have investment below the 26% cap have to intimate the I&B ministry about the shareholding pattern, along with the names and address of its directors/shareholders. These details have to be submitted within a month’s time. Firms that have more than 26% FDI have been instructed to take necessary steps for bringing down the foreign investment to 26% by October 15, 2021. This serves no purpose. The government is just trying to get more and more levers with which to manipulate the digital media. The spate of notifications that you see are not isolated, it clearly indicates that they want to exert control and this will continue, said Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder of news portal News Laundry.
D) Justice U.U. Lalit recuses from hearing pleas against Andhra CM, govt.
Justice U.U. Lalit of the Supreme Court on 16 November has recused himself from hearing separate writ petitions that sought action against the Andhra Pradesh government and Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy for levelling false, vague and political allegations against Supreme Court judge Justice N.V. Ramana and other High Court judges. The judge, who leads a three-member Bench, withdrew from hearing the case, explaining that he had, as a lawyer, represented some of the parties involved in the case. Justice Lalit is one of the few senior advocates to be directly elevated as a Supreme Court judge in the history of the court. The petitions concern a letter by Reddy addressed to the Chief Justice of India and the subsequent revelation of its contents during a press conference on October 10. Recently, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had refrained from giving his statutory consent to pleas seeking contempt of court action against Reddy and his Principal Advisor Ajeya Kallam. Venugopal had said that it was up to the CJI, who is seized of the letter, to take an appropriate decision. Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, in his contempt plea to Venugopal, had claimed that the decision of a Bench led by Justice Ramana on September 16, directing expeditious completion of pending criminal trials against politicians had spurred Reddy to write the letter. Reddy, the lawyer said, had 31 criminal cases against him.
E) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of reported coronavirus cases from India stood at 88,64,793 with the death toll at 1,30,340. About a fifth (21.84%) of new Covid-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours has been reported from Delhi (95 deaths), overtaking Maharashtra. Delhi has also recorded the second largest surge in new cases and the largest number of recoveries (7,606), said data released by the Union Health Ministry on 16 November. Delhi’s fatalities, along with Maharashtra (60), West Bengal (51), Punjab (30), Kerala and Karnataka (with 21 each), Uttar Pradesh (18) and Odisha (17) accounted up for 79 % of new Covid-19 deaths across the country.
A) After Pfizer, Moderna says its vaccine 94.5% effective.
For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a Covid-19 vaccine candidate: American biotech company Moderna said its vaccine appeared to be 94.5% effective, as per preliminary data from the company’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. had announced that its own Covid-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the US. Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the U.S., by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year’s end. Moderna’s vaccine, created with the National Institutes of Health, is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real vaccination or a dummy shot. On Sunday, an independent monitoring board broke the code to examine 95 infections that were recorded starting two weeks after volunteers’ second dose and discovered all but five illnesses occurred in participants who got the placebo. Moderna acknowledged the protection rate might change as more Covid-19 infections are detected and added to the calculations. Also, it’s too soon to know how long protection lasts. Both cautions apply to Pfizer’s vaccine as well.
B) Sri Lanka to unveil crucial budget.
Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa administration will present its maiden Budget on 17 November, amid a relentless second wave of COVID19 that hit the island nation last month, prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, also the Minister of Finance will unveil the Budget for the year 2021 in Parliament and the final vote after its third reading is scheduled on December e Budget assumes ssignificace, coming amid a devastating global pandemic. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are under enormous strain in the wake of mounting external debt, the government recently repaid $4.2 billion for this year while its export and tourism sectors, and worker remittances from abroad have been severely impacted. The budget comes a year after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa rose to power, promising his voters development and prosperity and at a time when analysts have warned of a GDP contraction of possibly up to 10% a low that the country did not experience even during its civil war years. Meanwhile, the plight of Sri Lanka’s working people has come to the fore. According to Anton Marcus, joint secretary, Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union representing workers from of Sri Lanka’ garment factories some 20,000 workers Of the 300,000 employed companies affiliated to Sri LLank’s Board of Investment have already lost their jobs. There is a fear of even higher rates of joblessness in the coming months. So about 10 major unions have got together and submitted a proposal for an unemployment benefits insurance scheme.