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Daily Current Affairs 14.07.2020 (Iran Chabahar, Prakash Singh Case)

Daily Current Affairs 14.07.2020 (Iran Chabahar, Prakash Singh Case)

1. SC gives ex-royals right to manage deity’s property

But a panel will administer Padmanabhaswamy temple

NEW DELHI

  • The Supreme Court on Monday held that the erstwhile Travancore royal family is the “human ministrant” or the shebait (manager) of the properties belonging to Sree Padmanabha, chief deity of the famed and fabulously rich Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala.
  • A Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and Indu Malhotra, in a 218-page judgment, brought quietus to a dispute of over a decade on whether the temple and its considerable assets should devolve to the Kerala government following the death of Travancore ruler Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma in July 1991.
  • Arguments were raised both to and fro — senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal for the royals and some devotees represented by a team of advocates of P.B. Suresh, Vipin Nair and Karthik Jayashankar — on whether the 26th Constitutional Amendment, which put an end to privy purses enjoyed by erstwhile rulers, would nudge the temple and properties into the hands of the State. In fact, the Kerala High Court, in 2011, directed the State to take over the temple and exhibit its treasures for public viewing in a museum.
  • Justice Lalit, who wrote the judgment, categorically held that the death of a ruler does not affect the royal family’s shebaitship of the temple. “Shebaitship was always in the royal family and the Ruler represented the unbroken line of shebaits,” the judgment said. Shebaitship does not lapse in favour of the State by principle of escheat (reversion of property to the State).
  • Accepting the royals’ submission that the temple is a “public temple”, the court issued a slew of directions for its transparent administration in the future.
  • It directed the setting up of an administrative committee, with the Thiruvananthapuram district judge as its chairperson. The other members would be a nominee of the trustee (royal family), the chief thanthri of the temple, a nominee of the State and a member nominated by the Union Ministry of Culture. The panel would take care of the daily administration of the temple.
‘privy purse’ The payments of ‘privy purse’ were made to the former rulers under constitutional provisions of Art. 291 and Art. 362. However, it was often questioned as a relic of the colonial past.Privy purse conferred ‘special status’ to ruling class, which continued the British practice of ruler and ruled.It went against the idea of equality enshrined in Preamble and Part 3 of the Constitution.Moreover, ‘privy purse’ was an added economic pressure on a newly born independent nation, that was ridden with poverty, hunger and security challenges.Therefore,the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, argued the case for abolition of privy purse. So, by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of India in 1971, ‘privy purse’ was abolished. The amendment lead to the omission of Articles 291 and 362. Reasons for abolition of ‘privy purse’ The abolition of privy purse was needed because it went against the idea of equal rights for all citizens, as enshrined under fundamental rights of Indian constitution.The concept of rulership, with ‘privy purse’ and special privileges was incompatible with principles of democracy, equality and social justice and it was unrelated to any current functions and social purposes. In order to fulfill the aspiration of socialistic pattern of society and burgeoning economic pressure, due to 1971 refugee crisis from east Pakistan, there was a need for the Government to reduce revenue deficit.
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2. Iran drops India from Chabahar rail project, cites funding delay

IRCON had signed MoU with Iranian Railways in 2016.

NEW DELHI

  • Four years after India and Iran signed an agreement to construct a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the border with Afghanistan, the Iranian government has decided to proceed with the construction on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in funding and starting the project.
  • Last week, Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami inaugurated the track-laying process for the 628 km Chabahar-Zahedan line, which will be extended to Zaranj across the border in Afghanistan. Officials told The Hindu that the entire project would be completed by March 2022, and that Iranian Railways will proceed without India’s assistance, using approximately $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund.
  • The development comes as China finalises a massive 25-year, $400 billion strategic partnership deal with Iran, which could cloud India’s plans.

Trilateral agreement

  • The railway project, which was being discussed between the Iranian Railways and the state-owned Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON), was meant to be part of India’s commitment to the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan to build an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
  • In May 2016, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran to sign the Chabahar agreement with Iranian President Rouhani and Afghanistan President Ghani, IRCON had signed an MoU with the Iranian Rail Ministry.
Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast. Why Chabahar port is crucial for India? The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This will in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
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3. HC warns govt. of suo motu contempt proceedings

It wonders how Home Secretary can head the SPCA in violation of SC orders

CHENNAI

  • The Madras High Court on Monday warned of initiating suo motu contempt of court proceedings against State government officials for having constituted the State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) under the chairmanship of Home Secretary instead of a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge as per court orders.
  • Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha took serious note of the issue while hearing a public interest litigation petition filed in 2014, challenging the validity of Sections 10 and 14(2) of the Tamil Nadu Police Reforms Act of 2013. The case was taken up now in the light of the custodial death of the father-son duo at Sattankulam in Thoothukudi district.

Orders diluted

  • When petitioner’s counsel pointed out that the State government had, by way of legislation, watered down the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh’s case in 2006, the senior judge told a Special Government Pleader (SGP), “You can’t keep diluting court orders like this. Our patience is running out. We will initiate suo motu contempt proceedings.”
  • Further, directing SGP G.K. Muthukumar to ensure that either the Advocate General or an Additional Advocate General represent the State government in the case before them, the judges directed the Registry to list it again on July 20. “If the officials don’t want to understand, then we will speak in their language,” Justice Sundresh said.
  • Advocate Saravanan Dakshinamurthy had filed the PIL petition. He recalled that the Supreme Court had, in 2006, ordered for the constitution of SPCAs headed by retired Supreme Court/High Court judges and district-level police complaints authorities (DPCAs) chaired by retired district judges.
  • In 2007, when it was brought to the notice of the court that some States had not constituted the authorities properly, the Supreme Court issued another direction to ensure that the constitution was in conformity with its orders. Despite those directions and after seven long years, the TN Police Reforms Act was enacted stating that the Home Secretary would chair the SPCA and Collectors would head the DPCAs. After the relevant provisions of the law were put to challenge in the present case, the government counsel accepted notice and obtained adjournments from time to time.
  • When it was listed for hearing on November 15, 2016 before the first Division Bench of the then Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul (now a Supreme Court judge) and Justice R. Mahadevan, the then Additional Advocate General C. Manishankar conceded that there was some merit in the PIL petition and that he would advise the government appropriately.
  • Nevertheless, nothing transpired for about four years until November 14, 2019 when a GO was issued constituting the SPCAs as well as DPCAs in accordance with the Act and not the SC directives, the counsel said and urged the court to strike down the two crucial provisions of the 2013 legislation as unconstitutional.
Prakash Singh and others vs the Union of India (1995) In 1995, Prakash Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh filed a PIL regarding police reforms in India.This led to the government constituting a new committee under the chairmanship of Julio Ribeiro, and the Julio Ribeiro Committee was formed in 1998.This was followed by further committees like Padmanabhaiah, Malimath committee, Soli Sorabjee committee.In 2006, since there were no movements in the direction of reforms, the Supreme Court made the police reforms a mandatory reform to be taken up by the central and state governments. The Seven Directives by Supreme Court (2006) The apex court gave its nearly revolutionary directions in 2006, a decade after Mr. Singh first filed his petition. The states and union territories were directed to comply with seven binding directives that would kick-start reform. 1) Directive One Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to: Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.Lay down broad policy guideline.Evaluate the performance of the state police. 2) Directive Two Ensure that the DGP is appointed through the merit-based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years. 3) Directive Three Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years. 4) Directive Four Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police. 5) Directive Five Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. 6) Directive Six Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct. 7) Directive Seven Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.   After this, 14 states have passed legislation but these were mainly to circumvent the directives but not to implement them. Till today, the government has not shown its commitment to follow the directives of the court in true letter and spirit.

4.Editorial – The club of virus deniers

Leaders who kept the economy open are having to tackle both a severe health and an economic crisis

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has managed the pandemic in the most disastrous manner, has tested positive for COVID-19. In Brazil, COVID-19 has affected more than 18,60,600 people and claimed more than 72,000 lives.
  • Mr. Bolsonaro’s ostrich-like behaviour towards the unprecedented public health crisis has defied logic. His dismissal of the virus as “a little flu”, bragging that people like him who have had an athletic past “have nothing to worry about”, refusal to wear a mask in public until ordered by the judiciary, promotion of unproven medicinal cures for the virus, unwillingness to impose lockdown restrictions, active encouragement of mass rallies, and firing of the Health Minister (whose replacement resigned a month into the job) are all astonishingly cavalier actions. They show that the Brazilian President inhabits a parallel world.

A hall of infamy

  • However, he is not alone. There is a hall of infamy of like-minded world leaders who have deliberately denied or downplayed the dangers posed by the virus. Their callousness is leading to a large number of cases and deaths in their respective countries. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wasted valuable months when the virus was spreading like wildfire and shied away from preventive social distancing measures. He cheerfully insisted on shaking hands in public, then got infected himself, and oversaw a health disaster that the U.K. has not suffered for generations. U.S. President Donald Trump famously said the virus will just disappear; his country has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world. Vice President Rosario Murillo invited Nicaraguans to participate in a ‘Love in times of COVID-19’ walk. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said that drinking vodka and working in fields with a tractor will “heal everyone”. Tanzanian President John Magufuli argued for people to flock to churches as “COVID-19 cannot survive in the body of Jesus”. Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow urged that the use of the word ‘coronavirus’ be censored. These are all heads of government who have more or less replicated the Bolsonaro and Johnson models and plunged their societies into deep tragedy.
  • Although the above listing of leaders has a mix of far-right and far-left populists, their common threat is the politics of extremism. They share comparable traits of mistrusting expert knowledge, stoking suspicion about formal institutions, stirring up their social base of hardcore, die-hard loyalists, cultivating a cult of personality around themselves, and maintaining a self-image as the sole guardians of the interests of the ordinary masses.

Primacy of the economy

  • An oft-observed tendency among the virus-denying leaders is the belief in the primacy of the economy as the be-all and end-all of life which should never get disrupted by “psychosis” about human health or environmental protection. These politicians are short-sighted enough to buy into the false dichotomy between livelihoods and lives, and prioritise the right of the working classes and businesses to work over the right of every citizen to receive healthcare and survive.
  • In an abstract sense, the economy or markets shape society and politics, according to these leaders. But as the virus tears into their countries, it is painfully proving the fallacy of their overly materialistic and inhumane world view.
  • The U.S., Brazil and the U.K., to name a few, have been saddled with the proverbial worst of both worlds — mass casualties from the virus and economic depressions not seen in a century. The club of deniers chased narrow, short-term goals of keeping the economy open and ended up with the double whammy of high cases and deaths and no GDP growth to flaunt.
  • Given how obstinate politicians like Mr. Bolsonaro are, they may never learn from their critical mistakes until booted out of power. History will judge them harshly.
  • Sreeram Chaulia is Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs

5. Virus immunity may disappear within months of recovery: study

In many patients, antibodies do not last more than 90 days

  • Patients who recover from COVID-19 infections may lose their immunity to reinfection within months, according to research released on Monday that experts said could have a “significant” influence on how governments manage the pandemic.
  • In the first study of its kind, a team led by researchers from King’s College London examined the levels of antibodies in more than 90 confirmed virus patients and how they changed over time. Blood tests showed even individuals with only mild COVID-19 symptoms mounted some immune response to the virus.
  • Of the study group, 60% showed a “potent” viral response in the first few weeks after infection. However, after three months only 16.7% had maintained high levels of COVID-19-neutralising antibodies, and after 90 days several patients had no detectable antibodies in their bloodstream.
  • When the body encounters an external danger such as a virus, it mobilises cells to track down and kill the culprit. As it does so, it produces proteins known as antibodies that are programmed to target the specific antigen the body is fighting, like a key cut for a particular lock.

Similar to other viruses

  • As long as someone has enough antibodies, they will be able to snub out new infections, giving them immunity.
  • But Monday’s research suggests immunity cannot be taken for granted and may not last more than a few months, as is true with other viruses such as influenza.
  • Experts said the findings may change how governments plan for the next phase of the pandemic, including how they fund and organise vaccine research and development.
  • “This is an important study that starts to define the longer-term dynamics of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2,” said Lawrence Young, professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Warwick, using the full name of the virus strain.
  • “It further emphasises the need for us to better understand what a protective immune response looks like if we are to develop an effective vaccine,” said Mr. Young, who was not involved in the research.
  • James Gill, an honorary Clinical Lecturer at Warwick Medical School, said the research reiterated the need for everyone to continue taking measures to mitigate the virus spreading, particularly at the start of Europe’s holiday season. “In the same way that these patients were surprised to have antibodies to COVID-19, we should NOT be surprised if any protective benefit is mild, or at least transient,” he said.
  • “Even those with a positive antibody test — especially those who cannot account for where they may have been exposed — should continue to use caution, social distancing and appropriate mask use.”
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