PEGASUS SNOOPING SCANDAL: GOVT NOT KEEN ON ANY ADDITIONAL AFFIDAVIT, SC TO PASS AN INTERIM ORDER SOON
The Supreme Court on Monday said it will pass an interim order on petitions seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into alleged snooping on politicians, journalists and activists using Pegasus spyware. “Hearing is concluded. Order is reserved,” a Bench led by CJI NV Ramana said after hearing arguments from various parties on the issue.
The development came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the govt didn’t want to file any additional affidavit to publicly clarify if Pegasus spyware was used for snooping or not even as he maintained that the Centre had nothing to hide.
As Mehta insisted that the matter should be examined by a panel of experts and the report should be submitted to the top court and then the court could decide if the report would be put in the public domain or not, the Bench said such a decision would not take the issue anywhere. “Mr Mehta, you have been beating around the bush and that’s not the question here,” the Bench told the Solicitor General.
Mehta said if there was a rethinking in the govt on filing a detailed affidavit he would bring it to the court’s notice. “We are reserving orders. We will pass an interim order. It will take two-three days. If you have some re-thinking on this, you can mention the matter before us,” the Bench told the Solicitor General.
On Mehta citing national security as a reason for not making it public, the Bench said, “We are not interested to know about national interest issues… but we are only on the allegations that some software was used to snoop on certain citizens like lawyers etc. We wanted to know if it was and if it’s permissible under law.”
MODI GOES TO U.S. THIS MONTH, TO ATTEND QUAD MEET AND UN GEN ASSEMBLY
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to the US to attend the first in-person Quad leaders summit on September 24. He will also address the UN General Assembly in New York on September 25.
The White House announced on Monday night that “US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will host the first-ever Quad Leaders Summit at the White House on September 24. President Biden is looking forward to welcoming to the White House Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.”
“The Quad Leaders will be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combatting COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said.
This will be Modi’s first in-person meeting with Biden. The two have met virtually on at least three occasions – the Quad summit in March, the climate change summit in April, and the G-7 summit in June this year.
Modi last visited the US in September 2019, when then US President Donald Trump had addressed the Howdy Modi event – the Prime Minister’s “abki baar Trump sarkar” line had not gone down well with the Democratic party’s establishment. Two years since, it will be an effort to reach out to the Democratic establishment.
AGRICULTURE LAND RECORDS INTEGRATED WITH CENTRE’S E-PORTAL BY ALL BUT 3 STATES
Land records have been integrated with the Centre’s e-portal by most states, barring three, the govt on Monday said, adding that the procurement in the Kharif Marketing Season 2021-22 will be according to the new mechanism.
Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said most of the procuring states, barring Assam, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, are ready and have integrated digital land records with the nodal procurement agency FCI.
“Most States are in complete readiness,” he said, adding that every State wants farmers to benefit from the procurement process.
Cross-checking land records before the procurement will ensure that the MSP reaches farmers and not traders, Pandey said asserting that the new mechanism is in the interest of farmers. He also said the crop cultivated by farmers, whether in their own land or rented property, will be procured by the govt. “It is not necessary for farmers to own the land, if they have cultivated any land the crop will be procured,” he said.
KEY COVID NUMBERS
Current Active Cases Countrywide: 3,55,226
New Cases in last 24 hours: 24,473
Recovered in last 24 hours: 39,943
Change in no. of Active cases in last 24 hours: -15,810
No. of deaths in last 24 hours (Total Covid Deaths so far): 340 (4,43,247)
Daily Tests (Sunday): 12,08,247
Daily Positivity Rate (Proportion of Positives among total Tested): 2.6%
Percentage of Population Vaccinated (At Least One Dose / Two Doses): 42.4% / 13.4%
INDIA PITCHES FOR UN ROLE, WARY OF DIRECT AID TO KABUL TO AVERT FOOD CRISES
The global community has promised to be generous to the needs of the Afghan people but had reservations about providing aid directly to the Taliban.
Speaking at a UN conference called by its Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday to address the critical humanitarian needs of Afghans, many participants including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar pointed out the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance providers are accorded direct access to Afghanistan. The situation in the country, dire because of an ongoing drought, has worsened after the Taliban takeover.
“Once relief materials reach that country, the world will naturally expect a non-discriminatory distribution of humanitarian assistance across all sections of the Afghan society. Only the UN has the capacity to monitor such endeavours and reassure donors,” underlined Jaishankar while refraining from announcing an immediate grant. Jaishankar wanted the immediate normalisation of regular commercial operations at Kabul airport so that it becomes the basis for regular flow of relief material.
While several speakers at the UN announced donations in response to a UN Flash Appeal seeking $606 million for the rest of the year to bring relief to 1.1 crore Afghans, it was not clear whether this aid will be disbursed immediately or subject to conditions of fair distribution to all parts of the country.
NO EVIDENCE THAT STAYING LONGER IN AF WOULD HAVE MADE ANY DIFFERENCE: BLINKEN
US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Monday vigorously defended the decision of the Biden administration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, which has resulted in the Taliban recapturing power in the war-torn country and the collapse of the US-backed democratically elected regime. “There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan govt any more resilient or self-sustaining. If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment, and training did not suffice, why would another year, or five, or 10, make a difference?” Blinken told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan.
Referring to the agreement signed by the previous Trump administration with the Taliban last February, Blinken said that in January 2021, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 9/11 — and the US had the smallest number of troops on the ground since 2001. As a result, upon taking office, President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it. “Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s assault on Afghanistan would have commenced,” he said. That would have required sending substantially more US forces into Afghanistan to defend ourselves and prevent a Taliban takeover, taking casualties — and with at best the prospect of restoring a stalemate and remaining stuck in Afghanistan, under fire, indefinitely, he said.
Blinken said there is nothing that strategic competitors like China and Russia — or adversaries like Iran and North Korea — would have liked more than for the US to remain bogged down in Afghanistan.
TN ASSEMBLY OKAYS BILL TO EXEMPT STATE FROM NEET
The Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday adopted a Bill to dispense with the National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET) and provide for admission to medical courses based on Class XII marks to ensure social justice.
The Bills adopted in 2017 for the same purpose during the AIADMK regime did not get the President's assent.
The Bill's passage comes against the backdrop of the suicide of a medical aspirant fearing outcome of the national test he was to take and the incident echoed in the House, with the main opposition AIADMK targeting the govt.
Chief minister M K Stalin introduced the Bill and all parties, including the main opposition AIADMK and its ally PMK, besides others like Congress, supported it and it was passed by a voice vote. Only BJP staged a walkout, protesting against the govt move.
FEW TAKERS FOR J&K DOMICILE OFFER, GOVT EXTENDS DEADLINE, SENDS TEAMS TO CAMPS TO REGISTER
There seem to be few takers for the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s offer of domicile certificates to former residents who, or their ancestors, moved out of the erstwhile state years ago, provided they register with the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) at Jammu. The administration has now extended the scheme, announced on May 16, 2020, with a deadline to apply within one year, to May 15, 2022.
J&K saw large-scale exodus of the migrant Pandit community, apart from Sikhs, around the time militancy began in the late 1980s. The administration hoped they would avail the offer, which would make it easier for them to own land, as well as get jobs and educational opportunities in the Union territory.
ANIL VIJ SLAMS AMARINDER FOR URGING AGITATING FARMERS TO SHIFT OUT OF PUNJAB
Hitting out at Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh's statement urging the agitating farmers to shift out of Punjab, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij on Monday called the remark 'irresponsible' and said that it proves that he instigated the farmers.
Taking to Twitter Vij said, "Amarinder Singh ji telling farmers to do whatever they want in Haryana or Delhi and don't do it in Punjab is a very irresponsible statement."
Notably, at an event in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh had said that farmers should desist from holding protests in a state which 'stood like a rock' with them in favour of their legitimate issues against farm laws passed by the BJP led Central Govt and 'thrusted it upon them unilaterally' even without taking into their confidence. "The ongoing protests at 113 places in Punjab by the farmers are not at all in the interests of the state, and has considerably impacted its economic development," he said while hoping that his request would be acceded by the farmers on agitation.
OSCAR FERNANDES, LONG-TIME RAJIV GANDHI AIDE AND 9-TERM MP, DIES AT 80
Veteran Congressman and sitting Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka Oscar Fernandes passed away on Monday, after more than four decades of active political and parliamentary life.
He was 80.
Born in Karnataka’s Udupi, Fernandes began his political career as member, municipal council, Udupi, in 1972 and went on to become a first time Lok Sabha MP in 1980. He was a nine-term MP (five terms in Lok Sabha and four in RS).
Considered close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Fernandes served in varied ministerial capacities under the UPA regime graduating from minister of state in UPA 1 to cabinet rank in UPA 2, handling road transport and highways and labour portfolios.
STERLITE FIRING IS SCAR ON DEMOCRACY: MADRAS HIGH COURT
The First Bench of the Madras High Court Monday directed the authorities concerned to drop all cases registered against protesters involved in the anti-Sterlite agitation, which had ended in police firing that killed 13 people in May 2018.
In oral observations, the Bench, including Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice T S Sivagnanam, said the firing was a scar on Indian democracy and should not be forgotten.
Urging the State to ensure there was no repeat of such an incident, the Bench observed that while the protest might not have been legal or legitimate, citizens could not be fired at on behalf of a corporate body. In its order, the court asked the govt to “go the extra mile” and “be seen to be with the families”.
“The matter should be brought to its logical end, as expeditiously as possible, to give a meaningful closure to the matter and the circumstances in which firing had to be resorted to against unarmed citizens must come out in the report,” the court said.
COVID-19: BOOSTER SHOT NOT APPROPRIATE AT THIS STAGE OF THE PANDEMIC: LANCET
Even for the Delta variant, vaccine efficacy against severe Covid-19 is so high that booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic, an expert review by an international group of scientists, including some from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has concluded.
The review, published in The Lancet on Monday, summarises currently available evidence from randomised controlled trials and observational studies published in peer-reviewed journals and preprint servers.
“Taken as a whole, currently available studies do not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, which is the primary goal of vaccination. The limited supply of these vaccines will save most lives if made available to people who are at appreciable risk of serious disease. Even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated. If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants,” said lead author Dr Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, WHO.
NEW BILL COULD HELP INDIANS GET US GREEN CARD BY PAYING SUPPLEMENTAL FEE
Millions of people stuck for years in the employment-based Green Card backlog in the US, including a sizable number of Indians, can hope for a lawful permanent residency in America by paying a supplemental fee if a new House bill is passed into law.
The move, if included in the reconciliation package and passed into law, is expected to help thousands of Indian IT professionals who are currently stuck in an agonising Green Card backlog.
According to the committee print released by the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration, an employment-based immigrant applicant with a “priority date that is more than 2 years before” can adjust to permanent residence without numerical limits by paying a “supplemental fee of USD 5,000.”
For a family-based immigrant who is sponsored by a US citizen and with a “priority date that is more than 2 years before”, the fee for getting a Green Card would be USD 2,500.
The supplement fee would be USD 1,500 if an applicant’s priority date is not within two years but they are required to be present in the country, according to the committee print. This fee would be in addition to any administrative processing fee paid by the applicant.
Before becoming law, the provisions would have to pass the Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives and the Senate and be signed by the president.
KOHLI MAY STEP DOWN AS INDIA'S WHITE BALL CAPTAIN AFTER T20 WORLD CUP
Virat Kohli is likely to quit as India's limited overs captain after the T20 World Cup in UAE in October-November as he wants to concentrate on his batting. 'Current captain Virat Kohli is likely to step down as the white ball (ODI & T20s) captain after the T20 World Cup in October-November, paving the way for Rohit Sharma to take up the responsibility,' said a report in the Times of India.
BCCI sources told Times of India that Kohli, 32, is learned to have taken the call to share leadership responsibilities with Rohit. "Virat himself will make the announcement. He is of the view that he needs to concentrate on his batting and go back to becoming what he's always been -- the best batsman in the world," the source said.
Kohli's below-par record as captain in the ICC events has been a cause of concern for the BCCI, while Rohit has led Mumbai Indians to five IPL titles.
INDIANS REFUSED TO PLAY DUE TO COVID FEAR, SHASTRI DIDN’T SEEK OK FOR BOOK LAUNCH: GANGULY
The Indian men’s cricket team led by Virat Kohli refused to take the field for the fifth and final Test against England due to Covid fears, but the players cannot be blamed for their decision, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has said.
In an interview, Ganguly initially declined to comment on whether it was appropriate for India head coach Ravi Shastri’s book launch event to take place prior to the fourth Test, and then stated that “no permission was sought” from the BCCI for the event.
“The players were devastated when they came to know that physio (Yogesh Parmar) had tested positive for Covid-19. They feared they must have contracted the disease and were dead scared. It’s not easy staying in a bubble. Of course, you have to respect their feelings,” Ganguly elaborated.
Parmar’s positive test came days after head coach Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R. Sridhar all tested positive, leaving the Indian players without the services of most of their senior coaching staff.
Shastri had defended his decision to attend his own book launch with Kohli, citing the lifting of Covid restrictions by Prime Minister Boris Johnson throughout the UK since July.
While saying that “no permission was sought”, Ganguly also backed Shastri’s decision, clarifying that the BCCI will not take any action against the head coach. “How long can you stay confined to your hotel rooms? Can you stay locked at your home day in and day out? You can’t be restricted to a life where you go from the hotel to the ground and return to the hotel. This is humanly not possible,” Ganguly said.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Much of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they've started. - David Allen
I can't stand cheap people. It makes me real mad when someone says something like, 'Hey, when are you going to pay me that $100 you owe me?' or 'Do you have the $50 you borrowed?' Man, quit being so cheap!