2. NHRC calls for CBI probe, Mamata alleges “vendetta”

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2. NHRC calls for CBI probe, Mamata alleges “vendetta”
2. NHRC calls for CBI probe, Mamata alleges “vendetta”
The National Human Rights Commission’s committee examining the incidents of post-poll violence in West Bengal has recommended that criminal investigations of “grievous offences like murder and rape” be transferred to the CBI since there is a “manifestation of law of ruler instead of rule of law” in the state.

  • “The spatio-temporal expanse of violent incidents in the state of West Bengal reflects the appalling apathy of the state government towards the plight of victims,” the report said.
  • The committee said close to 2,000 complaints were made from 23 districts, of which around 35% were related to murder or homicide and 4% to rape. The percentage of those arrested or still in custody is “abysmally low”, at less than 3%.
  • “Analysis of statements recorded of the victims/complainants, supporting documents… revealed that a large number of criminals, who enjoy state patronage and support, were responsible for abetting, planning, organising and even committing offences in a systematic and widespread manner,” the report states.
  • A five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions over the incidents, had on June 18 asked the NHRC to look into the matter. The committee submitted the report before the court on July 13.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the leaking of the probe report to the media signals “political vendetta” by the committee.

  • Trinamool Congress had previously alleged breach of norms when West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has been at loggerheads with Banerjee, met NHRC chairman in Delhi for a “courtesy meeting”.
  • NHRC is headed by former Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra. In February 2020, months before his retirement, Justice Mishra, speaking at an international conference, termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally”.
5 THINGS FIRST

Schools in Haryana, Puducherry to open partially; SC hearings: UP allowing Kanwar Yatra, delay in release of prisoners after bail and Centre’s plea on new IT rules; PM Modi to meet chief ministers of six states over Covid situation; Bombay HC to hear plea on adopting uniform policy for naming of airports; 44th session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee

1. ‘Is the sedition law necessary?’ asks SC
1. ‘Is the sedition law necessary?’ asks SC
  • Describing the British-era Sedition Law as “colonial”, the Supreme Court on Thursday questioned whether the Centre wanted to “retain it after 75 years of Independence”. The law is a serious threat to the functioning of institutions and holds “enormous power” for misuse with no accountability for the executive, it added.
  • The three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana asked why the government, while taking a number of dated laws off the statute book, “is not looking into this law”. The Centre, through Attorney General KK Venugopal, argued that the law should be retained with “guidelines”.
  • The top court was hearing a plea by former army officer Major-General SG Vombatkere (retd) who challenged the Constitutional validity of section 124 A (sedition) of the IPC on grounds that it causes a “chilling effect” on speech. (The offence is also not bailable.)
  • His plea also prays to quash all complaints under this law. The petition said when the law was upheld in 1962 (in Kedar Nath Yadav versus the State of Bihar), the definition of fundamental rights was different; now it needs a relook.
  • The SC said: “[It] was used by the British and to suppress our freedom. It was used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.”
  • “The use of sedition is like giving a saw to the carpenter to cut a piece of wood and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself. That is the effect of this law.”
  • Prominent cases of late: Climate activist Disha Ravi, Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, Red Fort violence on Republic Day, journalist Vinod Dua, Assamese activist Akhil Gogoi and ex-JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar and nine others, including Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya.
3. WhatsApp banned 2 million Indian accounts in a month
3. WhatsApp banned 2 million Indian accounts in a month
  • Whatsapp banned 2 million Indian accounts during the period from May 15 to June 15 this year, the company said in its first compliance report published as mandated by India’s new IT Rules.
  • The accounts were banned to prevent harmful behaviour and abuse of the platform. It is common for platforms to block accounts that sent spam or bulk messages or are used for phishing attacks.
  • “The abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: at registration; during messaging; and in response to negative feedback, which we receive in the form of user reports and blocks,” the company said.
  • Grievance redressal: WhatsApp received 204 “ban appeals” through the grievance redressal mechanism established by the IT Rules, of which 63 account actions were taken, the report said. It did not clarify how many actual accounts these account actions corresponded to.
  • Also: Facebook on Thursday published an update to its compliance report for the period from May 15 to June 15. Facebook received 646 reports from users through the Indian grievance mechanism, of which it responded to 100% and “provided tools for users to resolve” in 363 cases. While a majority of these were about accounts being hacked, 45 were on bullying and harassment and 18 were on abusive content. Instagram: 36 reports, all responded, 10 resolved (7 hacked, 2 bullying and 1 abusive content).
4. Centre proposes relaxed drone rules
4. Centre proposes relaxed drone rules
The union government has published draft rules to regulate the nascent but promising field of commercial drones, just three months after it notified another set of rules deemed restrictive by manufacturers and startups.

  • The Draft Drone Rules, 2021, is open to public comments till August 5. The final rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules (UAS Rules) that came into force this March.
  • Gone is the requirement for a plethora of approvals, including certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, authorisation of R&D organisation, student remote pilot licence, remote pilot instructor authorisation and drone port authorisation.
  • No pilot licence will be required for nano drones (less than 250 gm), micro drones (250 gm to 2 kg; for non-commercial use), or for R&D.
  • Drones will still require a unique identification number, but operators can self-generate this on a to-be-developed digital sky platform.
  • No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India. Import of drones and drone components will still be regulated.
  • Airspace; Green, yellow and red zones. No flight permission is required up to 400 feet in green zones and up to 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter. Yellow zone is to be reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter. A temporary red zone could be also be declared by an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police or its equivalent

It matters: The draft seeks to strike a balance between security concerns — coming in the wake of the attack at the Jammu IAF airbase — and commercial possibilities of the drone market. The draft here

6. When courts decide bail but govt decides the release
6. When courts decide bail but govt decides the release
  • In view of recent cases of delay in releasing accused from jail after grant of bail by courts, the Supreme Court has taken suo motu cognizance of the issue and a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana will hear the case today.
  • The court will examine what could be done to ensure that the accused are released without delay after grant of bail as it amounts to violation of their rights and also the court orders which normally direct that the accused be released forthwith after fulfilling the conditions.
  • In a case of delay in releasing the accused, the Delhi High Court, after granting bail, had to intervene again before Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha and JNU’s Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal were released from Tihar jail. They were released 48 hours after the bail order.
  • Despite getting bail from the HC, the trio, who had been arrested in May last year under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, had to remain behind bars with Delhi Police raising a red flag on verification of address of the accused and Aadhar cards of the persons who stood surety for them.
  • In another case, the SC granted interim bail to 13 prisoners lodged in Agra Central Jail on July 8 but they were released after 4 days on July 12. The court granted bail to the prisoners who spent around 20 years in prison and were not released despite them being recently declared as juvenile at the time of committing offence.
7. Seven days to go: Games like no other
7. Seven days to go: Games like no other
The 2020 Tokyo Games are to begin in seven days, over 200 days into 2021. The misnomer is apt as these Games are anything but typical.

  • The opening ceremony is on July 23, to be held at the National Stadium in Tokyo. There will be no spectators. It is still not known how many athletes would be participating.
  • The “Parade of Nations”, with flag bearers from each participating nation, will also be scaled-down.
  • Note: Some events begin on July 21, including football and softball.
  • The closing ceremony is on Aug. 8.

The Olympics will feature 33 sports at 339 medal events across 42 venues. The Paralympics will feature 22 sports at 539 medal events across 21 venues.

  • New sports: Baseball/Softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing

Most of these will be behind closed doors.

  • Spectators have been barred from venues in Tokyo and nearby five prefectures. That leaves outlying prefectures of Miyagi, Shizuoka and Ibaraki to hold events with limited spectators.

Olympics Village is as much an integral part of the Games, with athletes and staff from around the world making it an amalgam of cultures and nationalities. But congregation and pandemic don’t mix well.

  • So this time, the stay is limited to five days prior to competition (7 for para-athletes) and they are required to leave the village two days after the events.
  • Daily coronavirus testing and the wearing of masks are mandatory during the stay, and residents are permitted to only travel to places they have outlined in activity plans in advance. (Athletes who have already arrived in Tokyo are put up at various bio-secured hotels.

India is sending 119 athletes — 67 men and 52 women. Despite the chaos of the pandemic, expectations are high this time as many Indian athletes have peaked at the right time.

8. Jaishankar meets Ghani as Taliban onslaught continues
8. Jaishankar meets Ghani as Taliban onslaught continues
  • Foreign minister S. Jaishankar reiterated India’s “support for peace, stability and development of Afghanistan” at a meeting with with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Thursday, even as the Taliban makes rapid progress in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-torn nation. Jaishankar also spoke with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and deputy NSA Liza Sherwood-Randall on “the evolving situation in Afghanistan”.
  • The two-day regional meeting in Tashkent, to discuss “connectivity” in South and Central Asia, has morphed into a high-level gathering of senior U.S., Russian and EU officials to share thoughts on Afghanistan.
  • The ground situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. The Taliban captured the Spin Boldak-Chaman border post on Wednesday, the second most important crossing on the border with Pakistan and a major source of revenue for the Western-backed government in Kabul. Pakistan is said to have closed the border. Kabul Thursday said the government forces have retaken control, but a Taliban spokesperson rejected the claim.
  • A sign of times: The British defence secretary suggested the UK will be willing to work with the Taliban in the event it comes to power in Afghanistan. “Whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK government will engage with it,” Ben Wallace told the Daily Telegraph:
  • Eyes on Doha: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some top Afghan political leaders are expected to fly to Qatar this weekend for talks with the Taliban in Doha. Earlier this week, Jaishankar had called on the militant group to abide by the Moscow format as well as the Doha and Istanbul processes for peaceful settlement of differences.
9. Covid’s broken out in Team India ranks
9. Covid's broken out in Team India ranks
  • The BCCI on Thursday confirmed that two members of the Indian contingent — wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant (in pic) and throwdown specialist Dayanand Garani — have tested positive for Covid-19 and will not be travelling with the rest of the team to Durham.
  • The Indian team will be playing a three-day practice match against County XI at the Emirates Riverside ahead of the five-Test series against England starting August 4 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
  • While Pant had returned a positive test on July 8, Garani tested positive on July 14. Also in quarantine are bowling coach B Arun, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and reserve opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, who were identified as Garani’s close contacts.
  • In accordance with the protocols laid down by Public Health England, all those deemed to be in close contact with the person/s affected needed to be traced and isolated for 10 days. The five will be able to join the rest of the India squad after returning two negative RT-PCR tests.
  • It is understood that Pant has been afflicted by the Delta variant. The 23-year-old was seen attending a Euro 2020 football match last month and had even posted pictures on his social media accounts.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
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Navjot Singh Sidhu. The possible elevation of the Congress MLA as the new Punjab Congress chief as part of the plan by party leadership to work out a peace formula between him and chief minister Amarinder Singh raised political heat in Punjab Congress on Thursday with both Sidhu and Amarinder holding separate meetings with party leaders.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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