PM Modi to address event marking Lachit Barphukan’s 400th birth anniv in Delhi; Guidelines to counter fake online reviews of products come into effect; In SC: NIA’s plea against bail to Anand Teltumbde in Elgar Parishad case; Filing of nomination for IOA elections from today; FIFA World Cup 2022: Wales Vs Iran, Qatar Vs Senegal, Netherlands Vs Ecuador
The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the “haste” and “tearing hurry” in appointing Arun Goel as Election Commissioner. The Centre vehemently resisted the observations, with Attorney General R Venkataramani saying the whole issue pertaining to the appointment of Goel be looked into in its entirety.
Goel’s appointment: A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph perused the Centre’s original file pertaining to Goel’s appointment as EC, and said, “What kind of evaluation is this? Although, we are not questioning the merits of Arun Goel’s credentials but the process.”
‘Lightning speed’: As the bench questioned the “lightning speed” with which Goel was appointed as an EC, the Centre through Venkataramani vehemently urged the bench not to make observations without looking into the entire issue pertaining to the appointment process.
In 24 hours: The top court said Goel, a 1985-batch IAS officer, got voluntary retirement from service in a single day; his file was cleared by the Law Ministry in a single day; a panel of four names were put up before the prime minister and Goel’s name got the nod from the President within 24 hours.
Bhushan’s intervention: During the hearing, when lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who appeared on behalf of a petitioner, tried to make an argument, the attorney general said, “Please hold your mouth for a while”.
AG’s response: Venkataramani said there is a mechanism and criteria for selection and there cannot be a scenario where the government has to look back at every officer’s track record and ensure that he completes the six-year tenure.
Next CEC: Goel would be in line to be the next CEC after incumbent Rajiv Kumar demits office in February 2025. His total tenure in the poll panel would be of over five years.
The decades-old boundary dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra over Belagavi has once again flared up with Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai training guns at Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis terming his statement on the issue “provocative”.
Fadnavis had said on Wednesday, “No village in Maharashtra will go to Karnataka! The state government will fight strongly in the Supreme Court to get Marathi speaking villages in Karnataka including Belgaum-Karwar-Nipani!”
Both Bommai and Fadnavis are senior leaders of the BJP.
Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde has also maintained that no village of Maharashtra will be allowed to merge with any other state.
Earlier this week, the Shinde government in Maharashtra appointed two ministers to coordinate with its legal team regarding the court case on the dispute, which is set to come up in the Supreme Court. Soon, the Bommai government in Karnataka too deployed a battery of top lawyers, including Mukul Rohatgi and Shyam Diwan, to fight its case.
Bommai earlier claimed that the Panchayats in Jath Taluka in Sangli district of Maharashtra had passed a resolution in the past to merge with Karnataka when there was a severe drought situation and acute drinking water crisis, and the Karnataka government devised schemes to help them by providing water.
Responding to this, Fadnavis said on Wednesday: “These villages had introduced a resolution on the issue of water scarcity in 2012. Presently, none of the villages have introduced any resolution.”
The dispute dates back to the 1960s after the reorganisation of the two states on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim on Belagavi, earlier known as Belgaum, which was part of the Bombay Presidency at the time of independence, on linguistic grounds. Belagavi, bordering Maharashtra, has a significant population of Marathi-speaking people, and has for decades been a bone of contention between the two states. The matter reached the Supreme Court in 2004 and continues to be pending.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said the BJP is committed to bring Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country but only after following all democratic processes and discussions on it.
What is UCC?
UCC calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption.
Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
Since Jan Sangh days
Addressing the Times Now Summit in Delhi, Shah said it has been a promise of BJP since its days of Bhartiya Jan Sangh. “Not only BJP, the Constituent Assembly had also advised the Parliament and states that UCC should come in the country at an opportune time,” he said.
Shah said for any secular country, laws should not be on the basis of religion. “If a nation and states are secular, how can laws be based on religion? For every believer, there should be one law passed by the Parliament or the state assemblies,” he said.
To a question on the need of having anti-conversion laws, Shah said wherever BJP-ruled state governments are there, such laws have been made. “In Gujarat, I can tell you in detail. We have it and we are implementing it strictly as well. It is for state legislatures to decide on it.
What Congress says
Amid BJP’s push for UCC in the country, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram recently said this can’t be implemented by states, but by law of Parliament. “Even a child knows that states cannot implement it, it can be done by Parliament,” he said in Gujarat.
Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot called Sachin Pilot a “gaddar” (traitor) on Thursday. He also said that Pilot cannot replace him as CM, as Pilot had revolted against the Congress in 2020 and tried to topple its government in the state, news agency PTI reported.
Reacting to Gehlot’s comments, Pilot, who walked alongside Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, dismissed allegations against him as “baseless” and told news agency ANI that such comments coming from the veteran Congress leader was “unfortunate”, when the priority should be to unite in the fight against BJP.
Why timing is important
The remarks have further widened the fissures in the Congress party in Rajasthan at a time when the Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by Rahul Gandhi, is set to enter the state. It also comes at a time when several Rajasthan MLAs who are believed to be loyal to Pilot, former deputy CM of Rajasthan, have once again been pushing for him to be appointed the state’s CM.
Damage control: The party later released a statement that said differences between Gehlot and Pilot will be “resolved in a manner that strengthens the Congress party”. Right now, it said, the focus should be on making Bharat Jodo Yatra more “impactful” in the north Indian states.
Anyone but Pilot
Gehlot also said the Congress can replace him with any of its 102 MLAs in Rajasthan except Pilot if the top leadership feels that the prospects of the party would improve in next year’s Assembly polls. Gehlot further said if Pilot had apologised to the MLAs and won them over, things would have been different.
A BJP connection
Gehlot alleged that Union Home Minister Amit Shah was involved in Pilot’s rebellion in 2020, when some Congress MLAs loyal to him were holed up in a Gurugram resort for more than a month and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited them often, claiming that he has proof that an amount of Rs 10 crore was paid to each of those legislators, including Pilot, reported PTI, citing Gehlot’s interview to a news channel.
However, Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Punia has, however, denied the charge that the saffron party was involved in paying money to Congress legislators in 2020 to defect.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said that a concentrated global push for millets is needed as the “three Cs” of climate change, Covid-19 and conflict are impacting food security in some way or the other.
The 3 Cs
The conflict in Ukraine, which is the largest global wheat exporter, led to an escalation in global food prices, speculation, and shortages. There are also growing concerns of climate change that can lower production and also disrupt trade, he said.
The Covid-19 period reminded us of what the pandemic would do to food security, he said. “I think this was not the first pandemic and I am sure this will not be the last one… How do we prepare for food security implications if there are future pandemics?”
Millets are grown in 130 countries, including India, and a concentrated push by these countries for millets would enhance food security, increase self-reliance and global availability, he said.
Helping each other
Speaking at a pre-launch celebration of 2023 as the International Year of Millets, the minister said de-risking the global economy requires more decentralised production and more self-reliance as well as “willingness” on part of the country not only to grow for themselves but to help each other.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday chose Lt Gen Asim Munir, a former head of the country’s spy agency ISI, as the new Army chief to succeed incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa, ending the suspense over the key appointment.
Bajwa’s close aide
Lt Gen Munir has been a close aide of Bajwa, 61, who is scheduled to retire on November 29 after a three-year extension. He has ruled out seeking another extension.
Munir was appointed Military Intelligence director general in early 2017, and in October next year was made the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief.
However, his stint as the top intelligence officer turned out to be the shortest ever, as he was replaced by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid within eight months, on the insistence of then-PM Imran Khan.
There has been extraordinary interest in the appointment of Bajwa’s successor as many believe ousted PM Imran Khan’s long march is linked to the change of command in the Army.
Khan has asked his supporters to gather in Rawalpindi on November 26, two days before Gen Bajwa hands over the baton to the new Army chief.
Who’ll head CJCSC?
Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been picked as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC).
The CJCSC is the highest authority in the hierarchy of the armed forces but the key powers including mobilisation of troops, appointments and transfers lie with the Army chief which makes the person holding the post the most powerful in the military.
“The summary about (appointments) has been sent to the President,” Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted. Both officers have also been promoted to four-star generals.
The power play
The Pakistan Army, which has ruled the South Asian country for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy.
There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading in various regions globally, as Covid-19 led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US public health agency said.
Nine million cases
Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses and is almost entirely preventable through vaccination. In 2021, there were an estimated 9 million cases and 128,000 deaths from measles worldwide. Twenty-two countries experienced large and disruptive outbreaks.
More than 95 percent of measles deaths occur in developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia.
There is no specific treatment for measles, but the two-dose vaccine against it is about 97 percent effective in preventing severe illness and death.
Decline in vaccine coverage, weakened measles surveillance, and continued interruptions and delays in immunisation activities due to Covid-19, as well as persistent large outbreaks in 2022, mean that measles is an imminent threat in every region of the world, read the joint report by WHO and the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.
A record high of nearly 40 million children missed a measles vaccine dose in 2021, making them susceptible to the disease.
Mumbai has recorded 13 new cases of measles and one death related to the disease, taking the infection tally this year so far to 233 and the fatality toll to 12, according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Amid an increase in the number of measles cases, the Centre has asked states to consider administering an additional dose of measles and rubella vaccines to all children aged nine months to five years, in vulnerable areas.
As many as 167 candidates, out of the 788 contesting the 89 seats in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly election on December 1, have criminal cases against them – with 100 of them facing serious charges such as murder and rape, according to a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms on Thursday.
The top three
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting 88 seats out of the total 89 on December 1, tops this list among major political parties in the fray, with 30% of its candidates having criminal cases of serious nature such as murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, among others, as per the report.
Congress is contesting all 89 seats in the first phase and around 20% of its candidates face serious cases.
The ruling BJP is also contesting all seats in the first phase of the election and 12% of its candidates have cases with serious criminal charges registered against them.
In the 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat, 15% of candidates contesting in the first phase had criminal cases against them and 8% had serious criminal cases. This year, 21% candidates contesting in the first phase have criminal cases and 13% have cases with serious charges.
Jama Masjid: The administration of the Old Delhi mosque put up notices outside the main gates banning the entry of ‘girls’, whether alone or in groups. As controversy escalated, the mosque’s Shahi Imam said the order is not applicable to those coming to offer prayers. Delhi LG V K Saxena leter spoke to Shahi Imam Bukhari of Jama Masjid on Thursday and requested him to rescind the order, following which, news agency ANI reported, the Imam agreed to revoke the order, with a condition that visitors should respect the sanctity of the mosque. The issue led to an outrage as people termed the decision regressive and unacceptable. While Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal termed it a violation of women’s rights, National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma called the order “gender-biased” and sent letters to CM Arvind Kejriwal and the ministry of minority affairs.
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta, Abhishek Dey Research: Rajesh Sharma