The HINDU Notes – 04th February 2020 - VISION

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Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 04th February 2020

📰 Operation Vanilla brings island closer

Navy’s help to Madagascar is followed by a visit by its Defence Minister

•India’s flood relief mission to Madagascar will be followed up this week with the island’s Defence Minister Rakotonirina Leon Jean Richard visiting Lucknow and Delhi from Tuesday — the first such high-level trip since Delhi incorporated the island off the coast of Africa into the “Indian Ocean Region (IOR)”.

•Mr. Richard is expected to discuss implementing a memoradum of understanding on defence cooperation signed during President Ramnath Kovind’s visit to Antananarivo in March 2018. The Minister will travel first to Lucknow to attend the Defexpo, and later attend the India-Africa Defence Ministers’ conference in Delhi, and hold a bilateral meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday.

Strategic capability

•Mr. Richard will discuss the devastation in Madagascar due to flooding after a cyclone and heavy rain in the island’s north-west left at least 31 dead and affected nearly 1,00,000 people.

•Last week, the Indian Navy conducted “Operation Vanilla”, with INS Airavat delivering relief material such as food, clothing, medicines and water. Officials said the humanitarian gesture by New Delhi also showcased India’s strategic capabilities in the furthermost islands of the IOR.

•“ INS Airavat delivers relief supplies to cyclone-hit Madagascar. SAGAR Policy at work — India as an early responder,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted about the operation on Sunday, referring to India’s policy of “Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)” for IOR islands.

•The SAGAR concept was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015, during his visit to Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands. At the time, Madagascar, Comoros and the French island of Reunion were a part of the East and South Africa Division at the External Affairs Ministry.

Reworked approach

•However, recently the Ministry decided to include the three islands as part of the IOR (Indian Ocean Region) desk along with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles. In a December 16 circular on the decision, it said the incorporation of the “Vanilla islands” as they are called, reflected “the growing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Islands within the framework of Indo-Pacific”.

•Last October, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan travelled to the Reunion islands and met the leaders of all the “Vanilla islands” as well.

•The inclusion of the region in the IOR signals the government’s increasing level of comfort with the “Indo-Pacific” concept that describes the entire neighbourhood from the coast of Africa to the U.S. west coast.

•In one of many changes effected last week to the Ministry’s organisational structure, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla decided to club the entire Indian Ocean Region and the Southern and Indo-Pacific Divisions under one Additional Secretary (Indo-Pacific).

•According to officials, the specific outcomes from Mr. Richard’s visit are still being finalised, but that the effort would be to offer Madagascar strategic cooperation similar to what is currently shared with other IOR countries.

•The Indian Navy undertakes Joint EEZ patrols with Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, which have all joined India’s coastal radar chain network.

📰 SC to frame issues for 9-judge Bench hearing religious rights

CJI acknowledges objection to wider review post-Sabarimala is a ‘formidable point’

•Renowned jurist and senior advocate Fali Nariman has objected to the manner in which the Supreme Court turned a review of the Sabarimala case into an opportunity to set up a nine-judge Bench and examine whether certain essential religious practices of various faiths, including Islam and Zoroastrianism, should be constitutionally protected.

•“Are you saying that when hearing the review of one judgment [Sabarimala in this case], we cannot refer such larger questions to a larger Bench?” Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde, heading the Bench, asked Mr. Nariman on Monday.

•“Yes, that is absolutely right. It will be outside your jurisdiction to do that,” Mr. Nariman replied emphatically.

•The CJI observed orally that Mr. Nariman had a “formidable point there”.

•He, however, said the Bench would not “abort the hearing” now.

•The objections raised by Mr. Nariman would be framed as an “issue” to be decided by the Bench. It would convene on Thursday to fix the dates of the hearings that would start next week. The CJI clarified that the nine judges would confer and frame the issues for hearing.

PIL petitions

•Senior advocate K. Parasaran countered Mr. Nariman, saying that the Sabarimala case had its genesis in public interest litigation petitions. It was not an in personam (affecting a specific person) litigation.

•In a case emanating from a PIL petition, there is no restraint on a constitutional court in extending the scope or questions to be examined, he argued.

•The Sabarimala case review by a five-judge Bench, led by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, took a curious turn on November 14 last. The Bench sidestepped the task of reviewing the September 2018 judgment, which declared the prohibition on the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple as discriminatory.

•Instead, the Bench referred seven questions, including whether essential religious practices should be afforded constitutional protection under Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs), to a larger Bench.

•Further, the Review Bench tagged other pending cases on the prohibition of Muslim women from entering mosques, female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras and the ban on Parsi women who married inter-faith from entering the fire temple to the reference.

•Chief Justice Bobde, when he succeeded Justice Gogoi, promptly set up the nine-judge Bench to decide this reference.

•On Monday, Mr. Nariman argued that the Gogoi Bench had no business to either drag other cases into the reference or frame such “larger issues” when its sole mandate was to simply review the Sabarimala verdict.

📰 nCoV outbreak declared a State calamity in Kerala

Third case confirmed in Kasaragod; 84 under treatment

•A third case of 2019-nCoV has been confirmed in the State, this time in Kasaragod district, again from a student in Wuhan University who had returned to his home district after the global alert was sounded on the epidemic recently.

•Health officials said on Monday that the timeline of the return of this male student matched those of the other two students from Wuhan who had earlier tested positive.

•“He reached his home district on January 24 and later approached the local health authorities when he developed slight flu-like symptoms. He was in isolation at the Kanhangad District Hospital when his sample results confirmed him to be positive for nCoV,” State Nodal Officer for Public Health Emergencies Amar Fettle said.

•The patient had only mild illness and is currently stable, he added.

•His close relatives are already under isolation and the painstaking process of contact-tracing is on.

GoM set up

•Meanwhile, a high-level group of Ministers has been constituted on the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review management of the outbreak.

•Confirming the third case of the nCoV infection in a student who returned recently to Kasaragod from Wuhan, the Union Health Ministry said, “The in isolation in the hospital. The patient is stable and is being closely monitored.”

•Meanwhile, five people, who were shifted to the Army’s Base hospital from a quarantine facility in Manesar after showing symptoms of cough and cold, have tested negative for nCoV. The five were among the 247 persons evacuated from the Hubei province in China. The symptoms of the coronavirus infection start with fever and dry cough followed by breathing problems, according to doctors.

Intensive surveillance

•The Kerala Health Department has taken adequate preparatory measures and framed detailed guidelines as soon as the WHO issued a global health alert and this helped the State respond appropriately when nCoV struck, Health Minister K.K. Shylaja said in the State Assembly.

•The Health Department’s disease surveillance teams are now trying to get an estimate of the exact number of students who have returned to Kerala from Wuhan.

📰 Towards cooperative federalism

Not every State-Union disagreement is the same and the Union must develop newer conventions to foster cooperation

•As of January 28, the Chief Ministers of at least 11 States have expressed their unwillingness to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Two of these States, West Bengal and Kerala, have stayed all work on the National Population Register (NPR), which is the foundational register from which the NRC will be built. Furthermore, the Punjab Legislative Assembly passed a resolution seeking amendments to the NPR form to ensure that it does not seek data that may be used for verification of citizenship.

The NRC’s human cost

•The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, provide for the process by which taluk level officers will prepare a National Register of Indian Citizens after filtering Indian citizens from the NPR — a register enumerating all residents in the country, by family. The process is arduous and ridden with wide discretion. It involves, after the enumeration, procedures for citizenship verification and scrutiny, objections and appeals. Officers may identify citizens and even whole families as “doubtful” without any just cause and demand evidence of their citizenship. The rules also permit any person to object to the inclusion of a name in the draft register. This is not a case of weaponising citizenship; it is weaponising citizens against one another. The human cost of such an exercise will be immeasurable.

Constitutional governance

•State governments have sufficient grounds to be concerned about the validity of the NPR. However, they are not empowered to hold the Union down to its obligations under the Constitution. The drafters of the Constitution were more anxious to give the Union Government the power to bring errant States in line with the Constitution. For example, Article 355 enjoins the Union to “... ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”. Acting under its fiduciary duty towards the Constitution and the people of the State, the Union may also temporarily, and for restoring constitutional governance in a State, declare President’s rule in the State under Article 356.

•No equivalent power rests in the hands of States to hold the Union Government to the Constitution. When State governments raised concerns about the NPR, the Union insisted that States are under a constitutional duty to implement laws passed by Parliament — a position that a superficial reading of the Constitution may support. A duty to obey all laws passed by Parliament is premised on an unbridled deference to the Union Government to correctly understand and implement the Constitution while passing laws. However, nowhere in the Constitution is there any suggestion that the Union has the final say as to what is “constitutional”.

•Government is a human enterprise. It is wholly possible that a government may work the Constitution impermissibly, which Dr. B.R. Ambedkar reckoned with in saying “however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it happen to be a bad lot”. One safeguard against bad actors lies in the oath. All constitutional actors — State and Union legislators, State and Union governments and judges in the higher judiciary — are duty-bound to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India” by way of their oath.

•The oath of constitutional functionaries of States is to be understood in light of Article 1 of the Constitution, which locates India’s identity as a “Union of States”. Therefore, States, and by extension their legislatures and governments, are indispensable to working the Constitution of India. As the Supreme Court of India recognised in the landmark S.R. Bommai judgment, States are not mere “appendages” of the Centre. After all, what sets Union Territories apart from States is the exclusive and distinct legislative and administrative competences of the States, to be acted on through their three organs of government. Thus, they cannot be reduced to mere administrative agencies entrusted with enforcing Parliament’s laws without any application of mind.

•Among the exclusively delineated areas of legislative and executive competence of States is the power and responsibility of public order and police. The NPR-NRC exercise is likely to place an undue burden on every single citizen of India. Compelling the most marginalised Indians to prove their citizenship under an arbitrary and obscure process is likely to cause widespread challenges to law and order. The Union, in compelling States to implement the NPR by ignoring the widespread dissent against it will be interfering with these exclusive powers of States. States, therefore, are entitled to more deference than mere reminders of their duty to obey Central laws.

Restricting cooperation

•This is not to say that States have a “right to defy” the Union. The Constitution bars States from “impeding” the Union’s work and rightly requires them to comply with central laws. However, constitutional functionaries in States cannot be compelled to defy their oaths and enforce laws that are contrary to their good faith interpretation of the Constitution.

•In abiding by their oaths, States may require the Union to find a constitutional way to fulfil its purported objective, by withholding cooperation in a federal scheme. New institutional norms can play an important role on this front. India is not the first democracy that has seen States restrict cooperation to the federal government on contentious issues.

•In the United States, States and cities have limited their cooperation on federal anti-immigration policies and anti-gun ownership legislation. In contrast, there are also examples of countries that have strengthened federalism by actively including the provinces or states in national policy. For example, immigration laws in Australia and Canada empower provinces to nominate immigrants seeking to settle within their territory.

•In these examples, there is a lesson for India. The Union government can include States in how decisions are made and enforced, or it can depend on archaic emergency provisions to enforce its will. Not every disagreement between States and the Union is the same, and the Union must develop newer conventions to foster cooperation.

📰 What Brexit means for the EU and its partners

It does not affect the core of the European Union; the EU project will be taken forward by the 27 Member States

•On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union. We lost a member of our family. It was a sad moment for us, for European citizens — and, indeed, for many British citizens.

•Nevertheless, we have always respected the sovereign decision of 52% of the British electorate, and we now look forward to starting a new chapter in our relations.

A structured exit

•Emotions aside, February 1 turned out to be historic but also undramatic. This is largely thanks to the Withdrawal Agreement that we negotiated with the U.K., which enabled us to secure “an orderly Brexit”. One that, at least for now, minimises disruption for our citizens, businesses, public administrations, as well as for our international partners.

•Under this agreement, the EU and the U.K. agreed on a transition period, until the end of 2020 at least, during which the U.K. will continue to participate in the EU’s Customs Union and in the Single Market, and to apply EU law, even if it is no longer a Member State. During this period, the U.K. will also continue to abide by the international agreements of the EU, as we made clear in a note verbale to our international partners.

Element of continuity

•So, with the transition period in place, there is a degree of continuity. This was not easy given the magnitude of the task. By leaving the Union, the U.K. automatically, mechanically, legally, leaves hundreds of international agreements concluded by or on behalf of the Union, to the benefit of its Member States, on topics as different as trade, aviation, fisheries or civil nuclear cooperation.

•We now have to build a new partnership between the EU and the U.K. That work will start in a few weeks as soon as the EU 27 Member States have approved the negotiating mandate proposed by the European Commission, setting out our terms and ambitions for achieving the closest possible partnership with a country which will remain our ally, our partner and our friend.

Shared and deep links

•The EU and the U.K. are bound by history, by geography, culture, shared values and principles and a strong belief in rules-based multilateralism. Our future partnership will reflect these links and shared beliefs. We want to go well beyond trade and keep working together on security and defence, areas where the U.K. has experiences and assets that are best used as part of a common effort. In a world of big challenges and change, of turmoil and transition, we must consult each other and cooperate, bilaterally and in key regional and global fora, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the G20.

•It is perhaps a cliché but the basic truth is that today’s global challenges — from climate change, to cybercrime, terrorism or inequality — require collective responses. The more the U.K. is able to work in lockstep with the EU and together with partners around the world, the greater our chances of addressing these challenges effectively.

•At the very core of the EU project is the idea that we are stronger together; that pooling our resources and initiatives is the best way of achieving common goals. Brexit does not change this, and we will continue to take this project forward as 27.

•Together, the 27 Member States will continue to form a single market of 450 million citizens and more than 20 million businesses. Together, we remain the largest trading bloc in the world. Together, at 27, we are still the world’s largest development aid donor.

•Our partners can be sure that we will stay true to an ambitious, outward-looking agenda — be it on trade and investment, on climate action and digital, on connectivity, on security and counter-terrorism, on human rights and democracy, or on defence and foreign policy.

•We will continue to live up to our commitments. We will continue to stand by the agreements that link us to our international partners and we will continue to develop multilateral cooperation frameworks around the world.

•The European Union will continue to be a partner you can trust. A steadfast defender of rules-based multilateralism, working with our partners to make the world more secure and fair.