The HINDU Notes – 25th April 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 25th April 2019

πŸ“° SC firm on unearthing ‘larger plot against CJI’

Bench requests CBI, IB, Delhi Police chiefs to seize evidence

•The Supreme Court on Wednesday resolved to “enquire, enquire and enquire” till it gets to the root of whether sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is part of a larger conspiracy hatched by a gang of “disgruntled employees and fixers.”

•A Special Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra entertained an affidavit handed over to it in a sealed cover by a young lawyer, Utsav Singh Bains, who claimed he was enticed with money to frame the Chief Justice in a false case.

‘Crucial evidence’

•Mr. Bains said he had crucial evidence to show that a lobby was at work to bring disrepute to the Chief Justice and the judiciary.

•In its four-page order, the Bench recorded that Mr. Bains named two former apex court employees, Tapan Kumar Chakraborty and Manav Sharma, who were recently dismissed from service for allegedly doctoring a judicial order in a contempt case between Ericsson and businessman Anil Ambani.

•The Bench summoned the CBI Director, Director of the Intelligence Bureau and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to the judges’ chambers at half-past noon. The judges requested the three top officials to seize relevant material supporting Mr. Bains’ affidavit.

•This development comes a day after the court formed a committee of three Supreme Court judges to examine the allegations of sexual harassment raised by a former woman employee against Chief Justice Gogoi.

•The Bench clarified that its proceedings on Mr. Bains’ claims would not ‘supersede’ the in-house enquiry being conducted by the judges’ panel into the woman’s allegations.


•Senior advocate Indira Jaising voiced apprehensions that the judicial proceedings would negate the mandate of the judges’ committee. However, the Bench said the court proceedings had nothing to do with the woman’s claims, but was only confined to the allegations of Mr. Bains.

•“The two enquiries will not prejudice each other. The judges committee is also not empowered to look into a larger conspiracy,” Justice Mishra assured.

•Justice Rohinton Nariman, on the Bench, addressed Ms. Jaising: “We are not hearing anything on what happened on Saturday (April 20) or allegations (by the woman)... We are constituted for a specific purpose. We are looking into only his (Bains) affidavit... So don’t back us into that corner.”

•The court has been in the spotlight after the woman’s affidavit, narrating a train of events leading to her dismissal and alleged victimisation, was sent to 22 Supreme Court judges and published by several news websites on April 20.

•Justice Mishra said Mr. Bains has alleged that a “fixing game is on.”

•“Disgruntled employees have ganged up... The ‘fixing part’ itself is of grave concern. It has no place in the system. He (Bains) has named a fixer. We want to go into the root of the matter... We want to know who these fixers are. They have no right to be part of a judicial system... We cannot allow the denigration of the judiciary. We will enquire and enquire and enquire until we get to the truth, to the root of the matter,” Justice Mishra declared, referring to the affidavit filed by Mr. Bains.

πŸ“° ‘Constitution of J. Bobde panel violates the law’

Women activists write to SC judges

•A wide range of women across disciplines wrote to the judges of the Supreme Court on Wednesday saying the constitution of the in-house committee led by Justice S.A. Bobde to examine the sexual harassment allegations levelled against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was in “complete violation” of the sexual harassment of women at workplace law.

•They said the formation of the committee tilted the balance against the woman who had alleged sexual harassment against the CJI.

•“Justice Bobde has appointed a committee with himself as chair and Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee as members. The constitution of this committee with no external member is in complete violation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013,” the petition said.

•The petition is authored by women scholars, advocates, journalists, writers, activists and civil rights organisations across the country

•Quoting media reports, the petition said the Justice Bobde committee would start hearing on April 26 and had no fixed timeframe to finish the proceedings.

•It would “follow an in-house procedure and will not allow legal representation to either parties. While Mr. Ranjan Gogoi may not need legal representation..

‘Tilting the balance’

•“This is tilting the balance against the complainant, again violating the spirit of the Visakha judgment and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.”

•The petition demanded that “keeping in mind the magnitude of the complaint” a special enquiry committee consisting of credible individuals should be constituted to conduct a thorough enquiry at the earliest and create an atmosphere of transparency and confidence for the complainant woman to depose.

•It said the Chief Justice should “refrain from transacting official duties and responsibilities until the completion of the enquiry”.

•This special enquiry committee should follow the norms of the law and complete its probe within 90 days. The complainant should be allowed legal assistance from lawyer of her choice.

πŸ“° Ghana launches medical drone service

The aircraft are part of an ambitious plan to leapfrog problems of medical access

•Ghana launched a fleet of drones on Wednesday to carry medical supplies to remote areas, with President Nana Akufo-Addo declaring it would become the “world’s largest drone delivery service”.

•The craft are part of an ambitious plan to leapfrog problems of medical access in a country with poor roads.

•“No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need in an emergency,” Mr. Akufo-Addo said in a statement to mark the launch.

•“That’s why Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service,” Mr. Akufo-Addo said. “It represents a major step towards giving everyone in this country universal access to lifesaving medicine.”

•The drones have been flying test runs with blood and vaccines, but the project was officially inaugurated Wednesday at the main drone base in Omenako.

•Omenako is the first of four distribution centres which, when fully operational, will each have 30 drones serving 500 clinics within an 80-kilometre radius.

•Operator Zipline, a U.S.-based company, said the three other sites should be up and running by the end of 2019.

•The drones are planned to ferry 150 different medicines, blood, and vaccines to more than 2,000 clinics serving over 12 million people — roughly 40% of the population.

•Zipline first began delivering blood and medicine in East Africa in 2016, deploying drones in Rwanda, a country dubbed the “land of a thousand hills” where access to many villages by road is difficult.

•Now the company is expanding on the other side of the continent.

•“Millions of people across the world — in both developed and developing countries — die each year because they can’t get the medicine they need when they need it,” said Zipline chief Keller Rinaudo.

πŸ“° Hong Kong leaders jailed over pro-democracy protests

Umbrella Movement had called for free elections

•Four prominent leaders of Hong Kong's democracy movement were jailed on Wednesday for their role in organising mass protests in 2014 that paralysed the city for months and infuriated Beijing.

Body blow

•The prison terms are the latest hammer blow to the city's beleaguered democracy movement which has seen key figures jailed or banned from standing as legislators since their demonstrations shook the city but failed to win any concessions.

•Nine activists were convicted earlier in April of at least one charge in a prosecution that deployed rarely used colonial-era public nuisance laws over their participation in the Umbrella Movement protests, which called for free elections to appoint the city's leader.

•Their trial renewed alarm over shrinking freedoms under an assertive China which has rejected demands by Hong Kong protesters for a greater say in how the financial hub is run.

•Two key leaders of the mass protests — sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, and law professor Benny Tai, 54 — received the longest sentences of 16 months in jail, sparking angry chants from supporters outside.

•The jail terms are the steepest yet for anyone involved in the 79-day protest which vividly illustrated the huge anger — particularly among Hong Kong's youth — over the city's leadership.

πŸ“° Japan apologises to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Victims of ‘Maternity Protection Law’ to get compensation

•Japan’s government apologised Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law, which was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants,” and promised to pay compensation.

•Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims. It came after the Parliament earlier Wednesday enacted legislation to provide redress measures, including 3.2 million yen ($28,600) compensation for each victim.

•An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.

•The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.

•Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his statement issued hours later, said the same problem should never be repeated. “We will do all we can to achieve a society where no one is discriminated against, whether they have illnesses or handicaps, and live together while respecting each other’s personality and individuality.”

•The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.

•The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.

•The plaintiffs are seeking about 30 million yen each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.

•In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses. However, the redress law does not cover those who had to abort their pregnancy, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

•Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.

πŸ“° Indian Army to build tunnels to store ammunition

NHPC being roped in for the purpose

•Indian Army is planning to construct underground tunnels for storage of ammunition along the border with China and Pakistan and Public Sector Undertaking NHPC Limited is being roped in for the purpose, army sources said.

•“Indian Army is in the process of executing pilot projects for construction of semi underground and cavern type ammunition storage construction through NHPC Ltd., for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed in the next few days,” an Army source said on Wednesday.

•Underground storage offers improved safety, easier camouflage from enemy observation and satellite imagery and protection from enemy strikes like those seen during the aerial engagement on February 27, a day after the Balakot air strike when Pakistan Air Force jets targeted Indian army installations along the Line of Control (LoC). Major armies, including China and the U.S., already use underground ammunition storage, a second source observed.

•These tunnels will be built in high altitude areas in the Northern and Eastern borders. Initially, four pilot projects would be taken up at four different locations along the Northern border and in Jammu and Kashmir at a cost of ₹15 crore, the source said. “These are expected to be completed within two years.”

•As the conditions in the caverns are controlled, it ensures better safety of sensitive ammunition minimising accidental explosions. As part of the project, a number of caverns with storage capacity of 200 metric tonnes will be built in mountain folds in identified areas.

•NHPC is being roped in for their technical expertise in the development of tunnels. The source said the Army had earlier tried tunnelling on its own in Sikkim and Tawang, but there were problems of seepage and dampness. It was then decided to bring in NHPC given their experience, the source added.

•The Army had approached NHPC in November 2018 after which the company made detailed presentations on the modalities of executing the project. The four locations for pilot projects have been identified and work will begin once the MoU is signed.

•The Army has debated the idea of underground storage of ammunition for a long time as it has several advantages compared to over ground storage. A range of ammunition used by the Army, ranging from bullets, rockets to anti-tank and surface to air missiles, can be stored in the caverns.

πŸ“° RBI sells entire stake in NHB, Nabard to govt. for ₹ 1,470 cr. in total

With this, the government now holds 100% stake in both these financial institutions

•The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has divested its entire stake held in National Housing Bank (NHB), the regulator for housing finance companies, and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to the government, which now holds 100% in these entities.

•The transactions were completed on February 26 (Nabard) and March 19 (NHB).

•RBI had 100% shareholding in NHB, which was divested for ₹1,450 crore.

•The Nabard stake was divested in two phases — RBI had 72.5% stake in Nabard amounting to ₹1,450 crore, out of which 71.5%, worth ₹1,430 crore was divested in October 2010 and the residual shareholding was divested on February 26 this year for ₹20 crore.

•“Divestment of RBI’s stake in NABARD and NHB has its basis in the recommendation of Narasimham Committee II and the Discussion Paper prepared by RBI on Harmonizing the Role and Operations of Development Financials Institutions and Banks,” the Reserve Bank of India said.

πŸ“° China to build moon station in ‘about 10 years’

•Beijing plans to send a manned mission to the moon and to build a research station there within the next decade, state media reported Wednesday, citing a top space official.

•China aims to achieve space superpower status and took a major step towards that goal when it became the first nation to land a rover on the far side of the moon in January.

•It now plans to build a scientific research station on the moon’s south pole within the next 10 years, China National Space Administration head Zhang Kejian said during a speech marking “Space Day”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

•He also added that Beijing plans to launch a Mars probe by 2020 and confirmed that a fourth lunar probe, the Chang’e-5, will be launched by the end of the year.

•Originally scheduled to collect moon samples in the second half of 2017, the Chang’e-5 was delayed after its planned carrier, the powerful Long March 5 Y2 rocket, failed during a separate launch in July 2017.

•China on Wednesday also announced its Long March-5B rocket will make its maiden flight in the first half of 2020, carrying the core parts of a planned space station.

•The Tiangong — or “Heavenly Palace” — will go into orbit in 2022, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

•It is set to replace the International Space Station — a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan — which is due to be retired in 2024.

•Beijing last week also said it would launch an asteroid exploration mission and invited collaborators to place their experiments on the probe.

•The current Chang’e-4 moon lander carried equipment from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

•China now spends more on its civil and military space programmes than do Russia and Japan, and is second only to the United States. Although opaque, its 2017 budget was estimated at $8.4 billion by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

πŸ“° Magic milk: fighting infections with a clue from the echidna

Scientists find novel way of tackling antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains

•Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research - Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) here have isolated an anti-microbial protein found in the milk of an egg-laying mammal. The protein promises to serve as an alternative to antibiotics used on livestock.

•Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, are unique egg-laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea.

•Their young hatch from eggs at a very early stage of development and depend completely on mother’s milk. But the mammary glands of the echidnas are devoid of nipples, forcing the young ones to lick milk from the mother’s body surface and potentially making them vulnerable to micro-organisms.

•However, nature protects its own. The milk of the echidna has a protein that can puncture the cell membranes of multiple bacterial species, thus destroying the source of infection. Scientist Satish Kumar from the research team said that there are ways to produce the protein in large quantities using E. coli. It can then be used to fight infections.

•The scientist pointed out that there is a rise of superbugs due to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics by the animal husbandry industry to raise livestock.

•The superbugs can cause mastitis, an infection of the mammary gland, in dairy animals.

•Dr. Kumar’s team has been able to show that the protein from echidna milk is effective against mastitis-causing bacteria.

•The research was published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes, said CSIR-CCMB director Rakesh Mishra. “These studies give us novel approaches to fighting infectious diseases taking clues from nature. They are the best way forward in this emerging scenario of increased infectious disease burden and resistance to current treatments,” he said.