20 November 2020
A) Bihar Education Minister resigns as Opposition raises questions about his tainted past.
Bihar’s new Education Minister Mewalal Choudhury on 19 November has resigned, hours after assuming charge. The Governor accepted his resignation with immediate effect and Building Construction Department Minister Ashok Choudhary was given additional charge of the Education Department. Opposition parties had raised questions over Choudhury’s tainted past and the case filed against him in a corruption case. Choudhury, a two-time JD(U) MLA from Tarapur in Munger district, had on November 16 taken oath as a Minister in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s cabinet. He was later made new Education minister of the State. On 19 November, he assumed charge of the department and went to meet Kumar. The closed-door meeting lasted for an hour and soon afterwards he sent his resignation to the Raj Bhawan. Choudhury, former Vice-Chancellor of the Bihar Agriculture University of Sabour in Bhagalpur district from 2010-2015, was an accused in a recruitment scam involving 167 posts of assistant-cum-junior scientists in the University. An FIR was lodged against him and others at Sabour police station. Some accused persons were arrested but Choudhury secured bail. Chargesheet in the case against me has not been filed yet. It was a false and fabricated case against me and filing an FIR doesn’t mean one is guilty, Choudhury had told media persons on 19 November. However, ever since Choudhary was inducted into the new cabinet, RJD and Congress leaders have been questioning Kumar’s zero tolerance of corruption claim. Meanwhile, former Bihar CM and president of Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) Jitan Ram Manjhi was on Thursday sworn in as the pro-tem Speaker of the State Assembly. A five day inaugural session of the newly constituted State Assembly is scheduled to commence from November 23.
B) Parliamentary panel grills Twitter over Kunal Kamra’s tweets targeting SC, CJI.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection Bill questioned Twitter representatives on why the social media giant did not take down stand-up comic Kunal Kamra’s offensive tweets attacking the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India for granting TV anchor Arnab Goswami reprieve after his arrest in an abetment to suicide case. It is shameful that Twitter is allowing its platform for obscene remarks like the one by stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra against the Supreme Court and the CJI, committee chairperson Meenakshi Lekhi said. Twitter representatives who deposed before the committee reportedly said that there were detailed guidelines laid down for taking down tweets or suspending accounts. In Kamra’s case, specifically, the tweets could not be taken down without court orders. The panel, according to sources, said Twitter’s explanation about suspending accounts and taking down the offensive tweets was found to be inadequate. Meanwhile, Standing Committee Chairman for Information and Technology, Shashi Tharoor has questioned the mandate of the Joint Committee to raise this issue, as it was formed exclusively to deal with issues concerning the Data Protection Bill. Meanwhile, Kamra has stuck to his guns, making it clear that he will not retract any of his tweets and that they speak for themselves.
C) SC restores dismissed PIL challenging validity of Centre’s farm laws.
The Supreme Court on 19 November has restored a PIL, dismissed earlier, that had challenged the constitutional validity of the Centre’s newly enacted three farm laws. The PIL had challenged the laws on the grounds that the Parliament lacked the power to make legislations on the subject as agriculture is a state subject in the Constitution. A Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, on October 12, had issued a notice to the Centre on a batch of petitions against the three contentious farm laws and had sought its reply in four weeks. However, it had dismissed the PIL filed by lawyer M.L. Sharma against these statutes by asking him to approach the High Court instead. They will restore and keep the matter for admission after two weeks, the bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, said when Sharma claimed on 19 November that he couldn’t argue his case on the last date of hearing.
D) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of coronavirus cases reported from India stood at 89,82,768 with the death toll at 1,31,958. The Health Ministry has approved a new category for selection and nomination of candidates from Wards of Covid Warriors under Central pool MBBS/BDS seats for the academic year 2020-21. Five Central pool MBBS seats have been reserved for this category for the year 2020-21, said a release issued by the Ministry. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan on 19 November has announced the government’s decision to introduce a new category called Wards of COVID Warriors in the guidelines for selection and nomination of candidates against Central pool MBBS seats for 2020-21. He said that this move aimed to dignify and honour the noble contribution made by COVID warriors in the treatment and management of Covid-19 patients. The Minister added that the State/Union Territory governments will certify the eligibility for this category. The selection of candidates will be made by the Medical Council Committee (MCC) through online application on the basis of the rank obtained in NEET-2020 conducted by National Testing Agency, said the Ministry. Central pool MBBS seats may be allocated for selection and nomination of the candidates from among the wards of COVID warriors who lost their lives due to Covid-19 or died accidentally while on Covid-19 -related duty. COVID warriors are all public healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact with Covid-19 patients.
A) Pakistan court sentences Hafiz Saeed to 10 years imprisonment in 2 more cases.
Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed was on 19 November has sentenced to 10 years in jail by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan in two more terror cases. Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist on whom the U.S. has placed a $10 million bounty, was arrested on July 17 last year on terror-financing cases. He was sentenced to 11 years in jail by an anti-terrorism court in February this year in two terror-financing cases. He is lodged in Lahore’s high-security Kot Lakhpat jail. The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Lahore on Thursday sentenced four leaders of Jamat-ud-Dawa, including its chief Hafiz Saeed, in two more cases, a court official said. Saeed and his two close aides, Zafar Iqbal and Yahya Mujahid have been sentenced to 10 and a half years each, while JuD chief’s brother-in-law Abdul Rehman Makki was sentenced to six months imprisonment. A total of 41 cases have been registered against the JuD leaders, out of which 24 have been decided, while the rest are pending in the ATC courts. Four cases have been decided against Saeed so far. Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
B) Ethiopia accuses WHO chief of backing defiant Tigray region.
Ethiopia’s government is accusing the head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a fellow Ethiopian, of lobbying neighboring countries to come to the aid of the country’s rebellious Tigray regional government with arms and other support. Ethiopia’s army chief, Gen. Birhanu Jula, asserted to reporters on Wednesday that Ghebreyesus had urged unnamed neighbors to oppose the war and for (the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF) to get arms. The army chief did not provide any evidence to support his claims. The TPLF has been clashing with Ethiopian federal forces for the past two weeks after the country’s prime minister accused the heavily armed regional government of attacking a military base. Each government regards the other as illegal after a months-long falling out amid political reforms. The army chief accused Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian foreign minister when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, of being a member of the TPLF and asked, What do you expect of a person like him?