The HINDU Notes – 26th April 2019 - VISION

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Friday, April 26, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 26th April 2019

πŸ“° Khasi ‘kingdoms’ to revisit 1947 agreements

Concerns over impact of Citizenship Bill, Central acts prompt rethink

•A federation of 25 Himas or Khasi kingdoms that have a cosmetic existence today, plan to revisit the 1948 agreements that made present-day Meghalaya a part of India.

•The revisiting in consultation with legal experts and academicians is aimed at safeguarding tribal customs and traditions from Central laws in force or could be enacted, such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intends to bring in if voted to power again.

•“Yes, the bill is one of the factors in our move to strengthen the Federation of Khasi States that were ruled by a Syiem (king-like head of a Hima). But things are at an initial stage. We will be holding a series of meetings to come to a conclusion on how best to insulate our customs and traditions from overriding central rules and policies,” PynshngaiΓ± N Syiem, chairman of the Advisory Legal Committee to discuss the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement, told The Hindu from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong on Thursday.

•Mr. Syiem is also the chairman of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.

•The 25 Khasi states had signed the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement with the Dominion of India between December 15, 1947, and March 19, 1948. The conditional treaty with these states was signed by Governor General Chakravarty Rajagopalachari on August 17, 1948.

•The Khasi states, though, did not sign the Instrument of Merger unlike most other states in India.

•“During the British rule, the Khasi domain was divided into the Khasi states and British territories. At that time, the British government had no territorial right on the Khasi states and they had to approach the chiefs of these states if they needed land for any purpose.

•After independence, the British territories became part of the Indian dominion but the Khasi states had to sign documents beginning with the Standstill Agreement that provided a few rights to the states,” Mr Syiem said.

•Though the Constitution has provided self-rule to a considerable extent through tribal councils, there has been an increasing demand for giving more teeth to the Khasi states.

πŸ“° SC appoints ex-judge Patnaik to probe ‘larger conspiracy’ against CJI

Rich and powerful trying to run the court, they are playing with fire, says Justice Arun Mishra

•The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed its former judge, Justice A.K. Patnaik to probe whether a conspiracy is afoot against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.

•Justice Patnaik has been tasked to unearth whether the CJI is the target of a larger intrigue hatched by a powerful lobby of fixers, disgruntled apex court employees and corporate figures to compromise the highest judiciary itself.

•The enquiry would primarily focus on material and affidavits provided by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains that claimed some former staffers of the court, influential peddlers and corporate entities have ganged up against Chief Justice Gogoi to frame him in a false case.

•Justice Patnaik would test Mr. Bains' claim that he was approached by a person called 'Ajay' in early April. He was offered up to Rs. 1.5 crore to file a false case against the CJI. This man, the lawyer said, claimed to be a relative of the former apex court staffer who has levelled sexual harassment allegation against the CJI.

IB, CBI, Delhi Police chiefs to assist

•A Special Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra ordered the chiefs of the CBI, the Intelligence Bureau and the Delhi Police to assist Justice Patnaik, who has to complete his investigation and file a report in a sealed cover before the Bench.

•Incidentally, Justice Patnaik was in the news after a Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi appointed him on October 26, 2018 to supervise the 14-day CVC inquiry into allegations of graft and misconduct against former CBI Director Alok Verma.

•In a passionate outburst of indignation, Justice Mishra said there were rich and powerful people who thought they could bludgeon and blackmail the court into submission, but little did they know that they were playing with fire.

•Justice Mishra's words came at the end of an hour-long hearing into Mr. Bains’ affidavit that said he has proof of a powerful lobby of fixers, some disgruntled employees and corporate figures at work to frame the CJI.

•"This country must know the truth. The Supreme Court cannot be run by money power or political power. When somebody tries to clean up the system, he is killed or maligned. This will stop," Justice Mishra said.

SG asked not to interfere

•The court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta not to interfere when he sought a special investigation team probe into Mr. Bains' allegations.

•“Leave it to us... We want to tell the rich and the powerful of this country that you cannot play with fire... That you are playing with fire when you play with this court... What do the powerful of this country think? That they can run this court?” Justice Mishra's voice boomed across the thickly-packed but silent courtroom.

•Senior advocate Indira Jaising voiced her apprehensions about leaving the probe into Mr. Bains' allegations to the government.

•“Don't provoke us anymore... This is your institution, not ours. We, judges, come and ago. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala and K. Parasaran... But every other day we hear of bench-fixing, every day wrong practices are made in the court... Whenever we start hearing a big case, letters are written... Whenever big cases or big persons are involved, this happens in this court... People are trying to this court, its registry with money power... So many things are going on," Justice Mishra retorted.

Indira Jaising's plea

•Ms. Jaising said as a stakeholder in and officer of the court she urged the Bench to “probe the credentials of this person [Utsav Bains]”. “My Lords have to see if he has come to the court with clean hands,” she said.

•Ms. Jaising also voiced her concern about whether the probe into the ‘larger conspiracy’ would consume the allegations raised by the woman against the CJI. Her allegations were being examined separately by a committee of three apex court judges. “Your Lordships cannot investigate her defence," she submitted.

•Justice Mishra responded, “This Bench will not enquire into her allegations. Our job is to find out if somebody approached Utsav Bains to file a false case; whether they are two former Supreme Court employees or others; whether there are fixers involved; whether a conspiracy was hatched after bench-fixing attempt failed.”

•Justice Mishra, however, added that if the allegations against the woman were proved, then she would seem to have no defence. “”Mr. Bains does not know this Ajay... He may not be a brother of the woman complainant... We do not know what will come out of all this, but we will find out the truth,” he said.

•The case would now be listed after Justice Patnaik files his report in the court.

πŸ“° CJI tears into Assam move on detenus

‘Plan to release foreigners held for over 5 years violates Constitution’

•The Supreme Court on Thursday lashed out at the Assam government's proposal to conditionally release and monitor declared foreigners languishing in its detention centres for over five years, saying the court will not be a party to such a move which is both illegal and violative of the Constitution.

•Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the proposed measure reflects the government's failure to deport declared foreigners.

Official chastised

•“You have no right to continue in office after authoring such an affidavit... This court will not be part to such an unheard of arrangement... You have 900 detainees when lakhs of illegal foreigners have already intermingled with the local population. Most of these foreigners are in the voters’ list and are taking part in the political system of this country... All you have is 900 people kept in sub-human conditions in your detention centres,” Chief Justice Gogoi rebuked Assam Chief Secretary Alok Kumar, who was present in the court.

•The Assam government’s affidavit proposed a measure to release foreigners who have completed five years in dentention centres subject to furnishing a security of Rs. 5 lakh, verification of address, collection of their biometrics, etc.

•“Is this how your government functions? Bonds, biometrics and verification of addresses... Your government has no intention, your government has only hubris,” the Chief Justice told Mr. Kumar. When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the State, tried to intervene, the CJI said the court wanted a response from Mr. Kumar as he had authored the affidavit.

πŸ“° PE, VC investments hit an all-time high

Big deals propel private equity and venture capital investments to $7 bn, more than double of last year

•Private equity and venture capital investments in March 2019 recorded an all-time high of $7 billion, more than twice the value recorded in the same period in the previous year, says EY’s monthly deal tracker.

•While buyouts and private investment in public equity deals remain strong, exits in March 2019 declined by 34% in terms of value on a y-o-y basis.

•Commenting on the PE landscape, Vivek Soni, partner and national leader — Private Equity Services, EY, said the Indian PE/VC industry was off to a very strong start, with $11.4 billion of PE/VC investments in Q1, eclipsing the previous Q1 high (2018) by 37%, on the back of strong investment flows recorded in March 2019 at $7 billion (61% of all investments received in 1Q2019). March 2019 saw hectic deal activity, both in investments and exits in the infrastructure and real estate asset classes.

•With large global buyout, sovereign and pension funds becoming more active investors in the Indian PE/VC sector, there is increasing interest in yield generating assets (roads, pipelines, telecom infrastructure, and commercial real estate). Corporates as well as government bodies are looking to monetise passive assets as seen in the Brookfield-RIL pipeline deal.

•As per the EY deal tracker, one notable exit event in March 2019 was the successful IPO of India’s maiden REIT offering, backed by Embassy / Blackstone consortium.

•This is a ‘Lighthouse Event’ for the Indian real estate private equity sector, which, over the past three to four years, has seen significant amount of PE investment into portfolios of rent generating commercial properties such as office, retail malls and industrial warehousing.


•PE/VC investments in March 2019 were more than twice the value invested in March 2018 ($7 billion in March 2019 vs $3 billion in March 2018) on the back of large deals. March 2019 was the best month ever for PE/VC investments, 30% higher compared to the previous high of $5.4 billion recorded in August 2017.

•Number of deals in March 2019 increased by 44% compared to the same period last year (89 deals in March 2019 vs 62 deals in March 2018).

•There were 13 large deals (deals of value greater than $100 million) aggregating $6 billion in March 2019, compared to four large deals worth $3 billion in March 2018. Brookfield’s $1.9 billion buyout of RIL’s east-west pipeline was the largest deal during the month, as also the largest deal ever in the infrastructure sector.

πŸ“° Tea board discusses ways to boost consumption

Concern over low per capita intake

•In a move that could serve as a wake-up call to the tea industry to improve its marketing techniques, the Tea Board of India hosted a meeting of young entrepreneurs, who narrated innovative ideas to make tea appealing to the youth.

•The speakers were mostly founders of start-ups such as TeaBox, Chai Point and Chaayos.

•Noting that the per capita tea consumption in India was low at 786 grams annually, ITA secretary general Arijit Raha told The Hindu that there was scope for increasing consumption through value-addition. “Through our earlier promotional campaigns on college campuses, we have seen the demand for tea-based drinks,” said Sujit Patra, ITA secretary.

•“In these days, it is important to establish a consumer connect,” Director - Tea Promotion, Tea Board, S. Soundararajan said.

Shift in focus

•Pointing out that increasing domestic demand and exports were crucial, Tea Board Deputy Chairman Arun Kumar Ray indicated that the regulator may shift its focus from output augmentation to market promotion.

•Mr. Ray said that Tea Board was also reviving advisory body Tea Council of India, which will carry out random sampling of tea to ensure compliance with FSSAI norms.

πŸ“° WHO says one in 10 children did not get vaccinated in 2016

Global health body worried about immunisation levels

•Despite immunisation being one of the most successful and cost-effective means to help children grow into healthy adults, worldwide 12.9 million infants — nearly 1 in 10 — did not receive any vaccination in 2016.

•The figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the ongoing immunisation week added that this means infants missed the first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine putting them at serious risk of these potentially fatal diseases.

•What is worrying, says WHO, is the fact that “global vaccination coverage remains at 85%, with no significant changes during the past few years. An additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improves.”

•Over the years, the positive trend “has been the increasing uptake of new and underused vaccines”. In fact, according to WHO in 2017, the number of children immunised – 116.2 million – was the highest-ever reported. Since 2010, 113 countries have introduced new vaccines, and more than 20 million additional children have been vaccinated.

•“But despite gains, all of the targets for disease elimination — including measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus — are behind schedule, and over the last two years, the world has seen multiple outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and various other vaccine-preventable diseases. Most of the children missing out are those living in the poorest, marginalised and conflict-affected communities,” it warned.

•Immunisation prevents illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases including cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus.

•An estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, UNICEF said.

πŸ“° Breaking new ground

The Madras High Court’s recent judgment is truly path-breaking for the LGBTQ community

•A judgment of the Madras High Court, Madurai Bench, has extended enjoyment of civil rights, especially those pertaining to marriage, to transpersons. While this is path-breaking for much of the country, the judgment also opens doors to the larger LGBTQ community for availing civil rights including marriage, succession and inheritance.

•In the judgment delivered in Arunkumar and Sreeja v. Inspector General of Registration and Others (2019), the Madras High Court has held that a properly solemnised marriage between a male and transwoman is valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Registrar of Marriages is bound to register the same. The judgment quotes NALSA v. Union of India (2014), which held that transgender persons have the right to decide their “self-identified gender”.

•The Madurai Bench judgment, however, breaks new ground when it comes to the interpretation of the statutory terms found in the Hindu Marriage Act, especially that of bride. It states that the expression “bride” occurring in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act cannot have a static or immutable meaning. As noted in Justice G.P. Singh’s Principles of Statutory Interpretation, the court is free to apply the current meaning of a statute to present-day conditions.

•The nine-judge Bench in Justice (Retd.) K.S. Puttaswamy made a telling reference to the landmark judgment, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), wherein the U.S. Supreme Court held that the “fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

•The Madurai Bench judgment has revised the legal construction of gender and the conventional interpretation of terms such as “bride” and “bridegroom”. Now, when this is read along with the Supreme Court’s explicit reference to the American court’s guarantee of right to marry to homosexual couples shows that there cannot be a legal bar any more to extending civil rights such as marriage, succession or inheritance to LGBTQ couples who have decided to get married consensually, have married in accordance with the existing laws and are not in violation of any other laws.

•At the preliminary hearings before the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar, the Solicitor General, representing the Government of India, sought the curtailing of the scope of the case to that of the decriminalisation aspect or the constitutional validity of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 alone. The Supreme Court, consequently, did not have an opportunity to examine the bundle of rights that were to naturally arise from the striking down of Section 377. Therefore, in this context, the present judgment is truly path-breaking for the LGBTQ community, which is denied equal protection of laws with regard to civil rights.

πŸ“° ‘Genetically modified brinjal illegally cultivated in Haryana’

It poses biohazard & must be treated seriously, say activists

•Genetically modified (GM) brinjal is being illegally grown in the Fatehabad district of Haryana, according to anti-GM activists. On Thursday, they demanded that the Central and the State regulatory agencies immediately take action to stop the cultivation, investigate the spread of the illegal variety and destroy all such crops, seeds and saplings as dangerous biohazards are entering the food chain.

•Punitive action must be taken against the seed suppliers and the company which developed the GM variety, said the activists warning against a repeat of earlier episodes of illegal spread of GM cotton and soyabean.

•Brinjal has been genetically modified by inserting a protein gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to give protection against certain pests. The result is Bt brinjal, which was developed in India by Maharashtra-based seed company Mahyco.

•It was on the verge of becoming India’s first GM food crop, when the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared it for commercialisation in 2009, before doubts about the long-term impact on consumer health and plant biodiversity led then-Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to slap an indefinite moratorium on the crop.

•When asked about the reports of illegal cultivation of Bt Brinjal in Haryana, a Mahyco spokesperson said the company could not respond until Friday.

•“This is a biohazard contamination, and must be treated seriously,” said Rajinder Chaudhary, an activist with the Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan in Haryana.

πŸ“° Scientists track Indian Ocean’s plastic

•The Indian Ocean is the world’s biggest dumping ground for plastic waste, but where the trash ultimately ends up has remained a mystery, scientists say.

•According to researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA), little research had been done to measure and track plastic waste in the Indian Ocean.

•The team found that the unique characteristics of the southern Indian Ocean pushes floating plastics towards the western side of the ocean, where it leaks past South Africa into the South Atlantic Ocean.

•“Because of the Asian monsoon system, the southeast trade winds in the southern Indian Ocean are stronger than the trade winds in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans,” said Mirjam van der Mheen, a PhD student at UWA.

•In the northern Indian Ocean, the simulations showed that there may be an accumulation in the Bay of Bengal. It is also most likely that floating plastics will ultimately end up on beaches, transported by the reversing monsoon winds and currents, researchers said.

•“Our study shows that the atmospheric and oceanic attributes of the Indian Ocean are different to other ocean basins and that there may not be a concentrated garbage patch,” said Mr. van der Mheen.

πŸ“° Antarctic penguins suffer huge breeding failure

•The second largest Emperor penguin colony in the world has suffered a “catastrophic” breeding failure after nearly all chicks born over three years died as their icy Antarctic habitat shrinks, researchers said on Thursday.

•The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) used satellite imagery to study the behaviour of the Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea due south of Cape Hope, which normally sees up to 25,000 penguin pairs mate each year. They found that in 2016, when abnormally warm and stormy weather broke up the sea-ice on which the penguins normally raise their young, almost all the chicks died.

•This pattern was repeated in 2017 and 2018.

•The BAS said the colony at Halley Bay has “all but disappeared”. “We have been tracking the population of this, and other colonies in the region, for the last decade using very high resolution satellite imagery,” said BAS remote sensing specialist Peter Fretwell.

πŸ“° World’s forests in ‘emergency room’

"It’s death by a thousand cuts — the health of the planet is at stake and band-aid responses are not enough," says a U.S.-based study

•The world lost 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tropical tree cover last year, researchers said on Thursday, warning the planet’s health was at stake.

•It was the fourth highest annual decline since records began in 2001, according to new data from Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite imagery and remote sensing to monitor tree cover losses from Brazil to Ghana.

•“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room,” said Frances Seymour, senior fellow at the U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI), which led the research. “It’s death by a thousand cuts — the health of the planet is at stake and band aid responses are not enough.”

•Mr. Seymour said the data represented “heartbreaking losses in real places,” with indigenous communities most vulnerable to losing their homes and livelihoods through deforestation.

•The loss of huge swathes of forest around the world also has major implications for climate change as they absorb a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally.

•“Forests are our greatest defence against climate change and biodiversity loss, but deforestation is getting worse,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace U.K.

•“Bold action is needed to tackle this global crisis including restoring lost forests. But unless we stop them being destroyed in the first place, we’re just chasing our tail.”

•The study found much of the loss occurred in primary rainforest — mature trees that absorb more carbon and are harder to replace.

•The rate of destruction in 2018 was lower than in the two previous years. It peaked in 2016 when about 17 million hectares of tropical forest were lost due partly to rampant forest fires, according to the WRI.

•The study highlighted new deforestation hotspots, particularly in Africa, where illegal mining, small-scale forest clearing and the expansion of cocoa farms led to an increase in tree loss in countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

•Indonesia was a rare bright spot, with primary forest loss slowing for two years running, after the government imposed a moratorium on forest-clearing.

•Indonesia has the world’s third largest total area of tropical forest and is also the biggest producer of palm oil. Environmentalists blame much of the forest destruction on land clearance for oil-palm plantations.

•“We hope that this is a sign that our policies so far are having an effect,” said Belinda Margono, a director at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

•Last year, leading philanthropists pledged a $459 million commitment to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a Global Climate Action Summit in California.

•But experts said more needed to be done.

•“Deforestation causes more climate pollution than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chief executive of Mighty Earth, a global environmental campaign organisation.

•“It’s vital that we protect the forests that we still have.”