Newsletter July 11 2018





A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which Tuesday started hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, was told that the law criminalising same sex relations between consenting adults was a product of Victorian era morality and deserved to be struck down as “unconstitutional”.

During the course of the hearing, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed “you only have to impress on us that if Section 377 was to be enacted today, it would be struck down for violating fundamental rights”.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for one of the petitioners, pointed to the August 2017 privacy judgment by a nine-judge Constitution Bench which ruled that sexual orientation was an essential attribute of privacy. Datar said this would be meaningless unless it included the right to choose one’s partner. “The moment (K S) Puttaswamy (privacy judgment) was pronounced, Section 377 was eclipsed and is liable to be struck down,” he said.

Addressing the bench, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said Section 377 was the product of Victorian era morality. “The position of ancient India was different,” he said, referring to Shikhandi of Mahabharata and the images at Khajuraho.

Datar echoed this when he said there was a time in England when same sex relation was punishable with death.

He said the IPC was not a law made by Parliament, but a pre-constitutional law “based on religious sentiments of the time” and had no scientific basis.

The bench did not agree with Datar’s contention that pre-Independence laws did not enjoy constitutionality. CJI Misra said “if you say IPC does not enjoy constitutionality, it will affect an entire range of laws”. He asked Datar if there “is any ruling of this court that pre-Independence laws will not have the force of the Constitution”.

Datar said: “No, I’m only saying it does not have the will of the Parliament”. He said the LGBTQ community members have been facing persecution and loss of employment because society looked at them differently, mainly because of the 158-year-old law.





The Congress on Tuesday rejected the BJP govt’s “one nation, one election” idea as a “constitutional perversity”, saying it was an empty slogan bereft of logic when judged against the touchstone of the Constitution.

“The proposal sounds good and is well dressed but it is a constitutional farce and perversity, and is antithetical to the core of democracy. It goes against the grain of the basic structure of the Constitution as it denies people the right to elect a govt of their choice when they want and dislodge a govt anytime they don’t want,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Singh said.

The Congress argues that the proposal amounts to pushing India towards a presidential form of govt. “Had the Constitution makers wanted a presidential form why would they have provided for what they did? We ask the BJP, does their proposal respect the will of the people as manifested in the no-confidence motion any time and any day through the elected representatives? Does the proposal not dilute the concept of a no-confidence motion? Does the BJP want India to suffer long spells of President’s rule? And how many amendments to the Constitution does this move require? Has the BJP thought? Let them answer,” Singhvi said.

The Congress trashed the proposal as another slogan from the BJP. “We do not doubt the good intentions of the BJP but the path to hell is paved with good intentions,” Singhvi said.





Delhi is getting buried under mounds of garbage and Mumbai is sinking under water, but the govt is doing nothing, an anguished Supreme Court said yesterday. It slapped fines on 10 states and two UTs for not filing affidavits on their policies for solid waste management strategy.

Expressing its helplessness over the situation, the top court lamented that when the courts intervene, the judges are attacked for judicial activism, and said what can be done when govt of the day does not do anything or acts in an irresponsible manner. A Bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta referred to the recent SC order on the powers of the Delhi govt and the L-G and asked them to inform it by tomorrow (Wednesday) who was responsible for clearing of the three “mountains of garbage” (landfill sites) at Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur in Delhi.

The Bench was annoyed after it was informed that around 13 states and several UTs have not yet formulated their policy for solid waste management strategy. The top court slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Punjab, Lakshadweep and Puducherry for not filing the affidavit despite earlier directions.




Iran on Tuesday indicated withdrawal of all privileges extended to India in bilateral trade, including payments in rupee and long-term credit, if New Delhi cuts back on oil imports from Tehran in the wake of US sanctions on oil trade that will kick in on November 4.

This was stated in as many words by Iran’s deputy ambassador to India, Massoud Rezvanian Rahaghi, while speaking at a seminar on Emerging Challenges and Opportunities in Global Diplomacy and its Impact on Bilateral Relations with India, organised by the All India Minorities Front.

Rahaghi pointed out that certain privileges extended to India by Iran between 2012 and 2015 had helped New Delhi to continue importing oil from Tehran through the sanctions before the Iran Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Place of Action) was signed. He said these measures helped the Indian govt minimise its current account deficit considerably because of rupee-denominated oil imports from Iran and curtailing of foreign exchange outflow.








US President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated conservative Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Judge, a decision that could have far-reaching implications on everything from abortion to guns to immigration and alter the balance of the ideologically divided apex court.

President Trump picked Justice Kavanaugh, a conservative stalwart who has deep ties to the Republican establishment, from an original list of 25 judges, which also included Indian-American judge Amul Thapar.

Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination has set the stage for a bruising confirmation battle as Democrats immediately vowed to oppose the President’s choice of the vacancy created by 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination is Trump’s second appointment to the highest court, potentially allowing him to shape the US for a generation after he demits the White House.

Each of the nine apex court justices holds a lifetime appointment.





The Trump administration is readying tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese imports, ranging from burglar alarms to mackerel, escalating a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proposed 10% tariffs on Tuesday on a list of 6,031 Chinese product lines.

The office will accept public comments and hold hearings on the plan Aug. 20-23 before reaching a decision after Aug. 31, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

Last Friday, the U.S. imposed 25% tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese products, and Beijing responded by hitting the same amount of U.S. imports.

The administration said the new levies are a response to China’s decision to retaliate against the first round of U.S. tariffs.

President Donald Trump has threatened to tax as much as $550 billion in Chinese products an amount that exceeds America’s total imports from China last year.








Rescuers freed the last four of 12 Thai boys and their football coach from deep inside a flooded cave on Tuesday, a successful end to an extraordinarily perilous mission that gripped the world for more than two weeks.

The “Wild Boars” football team, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach got trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the 13 Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Navy SEAL unit, which led the rescue, said. British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber some 4 kilometres inside the Tham Luang cave complex, on Monday last week.

After pondering for days how to get the 13 out, a rescue operation was launched on Sunday when four of the boys were brought out, tethered to rescue divers. Another four were rescued on Monday and the last four boys and the coach were brought out on Tuesday, prompting rounds of spontaneous applause.

Celebrations were tinged with sadness over the loss of a former Thai navy diver who died while on a re-supply mission inside the cave.

The boys were being quarantined from their parents because of the risk of infection and would likely be kept in hospital for a week.

Around 9:40 p.m., Thai officials confirmed that the four-member military team that had stayed with the boys in their cavern for days had also left the cave, together. With that, the rescue operation is officially complete.





Local trains – the lifeline of Mumbai – on Tuesday moved at a snail’s pace because of waterlogging on tracks, holding up lakhs of office-goers and other commuters as rain lashed the city for the fourth consecutive day. A distance usually covered in about an hour took up to five hours in some cases.

Around 2,000 passengers of Mumbai-bound Shatabdi Express and Vadodara Express that got stuck between Nallasopara and Vasai stations because of water-logging on Tuesday morning were rescued by NDRF, police and fire brigade personnel. After buses brought for the rescue broke down, boats were used to ferry the passengers to safety.

Maharashtra education minister Vinod Tawde has asked principals to decide if schools need to be kept open.

The rain also affected Mumbai’s famous tiffin carriers, the dabbawalas, who suspended their services on Tuesday.

The IMD has predicted heavy to very heavy rain till Thursday.





On a day when the Supreme Court is set to continue hearing a batch of pleas seeking scrapping of Section 377 of IPC which criminalises homosexuality, Senior BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy said, “It (homosexuality) is not a normal thing. We cannot celebrate it.”

“It’s against Hindutva. We should invest in medical research to see if it can be cured. The Govt should consider having a seven- or a nine-judge bench,” Swamy said.





A departmental inquiry has been initiated against 2010-batch IAS officer Shah Faesal for his April 22 tweet which said, “Patriarchy+Population+Illiteracy+Alcohol+Porn+Technology+Anarchy = Rapistan!”

Faesal, the former Managing Director of J&K State Power Development Corporation, had topped the civil services exam. He is currently on leave from the state govt and is on a Fulbright scholarship to the US.

On Tuesday, he posted an image of the letter he received by email with a message that read, “Love letter from my boss for my sarcastic tweet against rape-culture in South Asia. The Irony here is that service rules with a colonial spirit are invoked in a democratic India to stifle the freedom of conscience. I’m sharing this to underscore the need for a rule change.”

The letter he posted stated, “The department of personnel and training, Govt of India, a copy of communication along with its enclosures, in which several references have been made by you in which contents are prima facie in contravention of the extant provisions of all India services (service rules).”

The letter states that the Govt of India has asked the J&K General Administration Department to initiate an inquiry into Faesal’s tweets, as he “allegedly failed to maintain absolute honesty and integrity” in discharge of his official duty.

“It’s nothing but bureaucratic over-enthusiasm…I don’t think this warrants any action. Rape is not part of govt policy that criticism of rape would mean criticism of govt policy and invite action,” says Faesal





Elon Musk says his newly made submarine could have worked in the recent rescue mission in Thailand, and he may even deploy it underwater again or in space.

On Tuesday, Musk — who runs Tesla, SpaceX, and the Boring Company, among other things — took to Twitter to dispute a claim from a Thai official that the mini-submarine built by SpaceX and Boring Company engineers was impractical for the rescue of several Thai boys from a flooded cave, even though the same official praised the invention.

And though divers rescued the boys and the capsule was not needed, Musk also said he was confident it could make the entire journey through the cave, based on video footage and talks with the divers.





WhatsApp has finally enabled a feature which will indicate that a certain message has been forwarded, and not created by the sender. “This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else,” the messaging service said in a post.

WhatsApp has been struggling to control the spread of misinformation and fake news on its platform. While this is an issue across social media, it is a more complex problem on WhatsApp as all messages are end-to-end encrypted. Following a strong missive from the Indian govt last week, WhatsApp had responded with a list of features it was rolling out to control the spread of messages that had led to instances of violence across India over the past few week.

Along with more control for group admins, the platform had listed the labelling of messages as one of the features that could help bring down the virality of such posts. It has also announced an award for those researching these issues.

The feature will be available to everyone with the latest supported version of WhatsApp on their phones.

WhatsApp has also been encouraging users to take more control of their privacy setting by blocking unwanted users, deleting and reporting spam as well as by exiting groups were you think the conversations are not what you would have expected it to be.




France qualified for the 2018 World Cup final with a 1-0 win over Belgium in Saint Petersburg. Samuel Umtiti headed in a corner swung in by Antoine Griezmann in the 51st-minute to give France the lead. They managed to shut out Belgium after that and will now face either England or Croatia in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on Sunday.

Didier Deschamps’ side started the match on the backfoot with Belgium hitting them with wave after wave of attacks. The heavily loaded Belgian midfield seemed to overwhelm the French in the early exchanges and the latter were struggling to get a touch on the ball. But they picked up pace and started asking serious questions of their own in the latter half of the first 45 minutes and it was 0-0 at half-time.

Despite all the attacks, it was once again a set-piece that proved decisive with Umtiti’s near-post header giving France the lead.

This was Belgium manager Roberto Martinez’s first competitive defeat as Belgium manager. He said after that match that there he was disappointed that they were done in by a set-piece. “Unfortunately for us the difference was a dead-ball situation. The game was very close, very tight and it was going to be decided by a little bit of luck in front of goal,” he said.



Serena Williams survived a major scare before sealing her 11th Wimbledon semifinal appearance as the seven-time champion hit back to beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 3-6 6-3 6-4. Serena was in danger of a stunning quarterfinal exit after world No. 52 Camila became the first player in this year’s tournament to take a set off the former world No. 1.

But Serena bludgeoned her way out of trouble over the final two sets to stay on course for an eighth All England Club triumph. It was Serena’s 100th career main draw victory on grass.

Jelena Ostapenko became the first Latvian woman to reach a Wimbledon semifinal as the former French Open champion beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 6-4.

Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro earned himself a chance to set the record straight against Rafael Nadal after sealing a place in the Wimbledon quarterfinals on Tuesday. He completed a 7-6(1) 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(5) win over Frenchman Gilles Simon after fading light interrupted their last-16 clash the previous evening with the fifth seed up two sets to one. Del Potro was in danger of being dragged into a fifth set when he squandered four match points, one with a double-fault, at 5-4 having hit back from 1-3 down. He eventually finished off world No. 53 Simon in the match’s third tiebreak to move into his second Wimbledon quarterfinal where twice champion Nadal is waiting.

Men’s Singles Quarter Finals Line up:

R. Federer (1) vs K. Anderson (8)

N. Djokovic (12) vs K. Nishikori (24)

M. Raonic (13) vs J. Isner (9)

J. del Potro (5) vs R. Nadal (2)

Women’s Singles Semi Finals Line up:

J. Görges (13) vs S. Williams (25(

J. Ostapenko (12) vs A. Kerber (11)


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It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. – Tina Fey


“I’ve often been asked, ‘What do you do now that you’re retired?’

“Well…I’m fortunate to have a chemical engineering background and one of the things I enjoy most is converting beer, wine, brandy and whisky into urine. It’s rewarding, uplifting, satisfying and fulfilling. I do it every day and I really enjoy it.”

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