Newsletter Sept 29, 2018




In another historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Friday lifted the age-old restriction on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years into the famous Sabarimala Temple of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala, holding that it violated women’s right to equality.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra declared the restriction on women unconstitutional, saying the gender discriminatory practice was not an “essential religious practice” and violated rights of Hindu women.

In all, there were four verdicts. The first one was by CJI Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar, while the second and third ones by Justice Rohinton F Nariman and Justice DY Chandrachud concurred with the CJI’s verdict. The last one was the dissenting verdict by Justice Indu Malhotra — the lone woman on the Constitution Bench.

The majority declared that the Sabarimala Temple and the devotees of Lord Ayyappa were not a religious denomination and hence not entitled to protection under Article 26 of the Constitution, which gives a fundamental right to a religious denomination to manage and follow its religious rites, rituals and practices. The majority also said the practice in question was a patriarchal religious practice.

In her well-argued strong dissenting verdict, Justice Malhotra disagreed with most of the findings of the majority and declared that the temple and Lord Ayyappa’s devotees constituted a religious denomination and were entitled to protection under Article 26. She said it was not for courts to determine which religious practices were to be struck down, except when there was an issue of social evil like ‘Sati’.



After stressing that an “environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation”, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj walked out of an informal meeting of SAARC foreign ministers in New York, which was taking place on the sidelines of the UNGA on Friday. Indian government sources said Swaraj had another engagement, and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale was present at the meeting after she left.

Swaraj told the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting, “An environment of peace and security is essential for regional cooperation to progress and achieve economic development and prosperity of our people. The number of threats and incidents that endanger South Asia are on the rise. Terrorism remains the single largest threat to peace and stability in our region, and indeed in the world. It is necessary that we eliminate the scourge of terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination, and end the ecosystem of its support.”

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in turn pointed a finger at India. “What is the way to move forward? We have to decide the next step — I have no hesitation in saying that in the way of SAARC’s progress and success and in the region’s connectivity and prosperity, there is only one obstacle and one attitude. The attitude of one nation is making the spirit of SAARC and the spirit of the founding fathers of SAARC unfulfilled and unsuccessful,” he said, in a veiled reference to India.



 Inaugurating an event to mark the second anniversary of the surgical strikes across the LoC, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that the armed forces had “adequately punished” those wanting to spread terror and proved to the world that India will not tolerate terrorists.

“Indian armed forces proved to this world that there is a very clear way in which we will show our strength to say that we shall not tolerate terrorists coming in the garb of intruders and creating havoc at our borders or at least hoping to create,” Sitharaman said at the inauguration of the three-day event at Boat Club opposite India Gate, in New Delhi. She added that the armed forces had shown that for the “cowardly” act of attacking sleeping soldiers at Uri, “India shall not sit and watch the whole thing”, and “proved” to them that such acts “shall not go unpunished”. All the terrorists pads, she said, were cleared “and those who were wanting to spread terror have been adequately punished”.

The minister said she had come straight from Jodhpur, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his respects at the Martyrs Memorial “to mark today as the beginning of Parakram Parv”.



In a jolt to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), one of its founding leaders Tariq Anwar on Friday quit the party and the Lok Sabha and party’s general secretary Munaf Hakim from Maharashtra announced his resignation from the primary membership of the party.

The resignations came following party chief Sharad Pawar’s TV interview purportedly praising PM Narendra Modi.

Hakim said it was “difficult to defend the party image after Pawar’s support for Modi on the Rafale issue. On Wednesday, Pawar told a channel that people did not have doubts over Modi’s intentions in the deal. He further hit out at the Opposition for demanding technical details of the aircraft.

Pawar’s remarks which came just weeks after his call for a united Opposition to take on the BJP in 2019 left the Congress stunned.



 On Friday, in a 2-1 verdict, the bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, comprising of Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Chandrachud refused to interfere with the arrest of the five activists and rejected the demand for a court-monitored probe in the matter. The apex court further directed that the activists, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Gautam Navlakha would remain under house arrest for four additional weeks. However, the three-judge bench said they could move the trial court for relief. Rejecting the petition seeking the immediate release of the activists, the bench said the arrests were not due to “dissent and differences in ideology”.

Striking a dissent note with the majority judgment, Justice D Y Chandrachud Friday said the arrest of five activists in the Elgaar Parishad case was an attempt by the State to muzzle dissent, and dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy. He added their arrests warranted for a “court-monitored probe” and liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five activists is allowed without proper investigation. He lashed out at Maharashtra police for holding a press meet and distributing the letter related to the case to the media. Further, he stated that the letters allegedly written by activist Sudha Bharadwaj were flashed on TV channels and the police selectively disclosing the details of the probe to the media “casts a cloud on the fair probe.”

Justice Chandrachud said the petition was genuine. He also said this was a fit case for appointing a Special Investigation Team (SIT) monitored by the apex court. Citing a case of wrongful arrest of scientist Nambi Narayan in ISRO spy case, Justice Chandrachud said the top court must step in when an investigation appears to be unfair.






 A Republican-led committee approved President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court on Friday but moderate Republican Senator Jeff Flake called for an FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the judge before a final Senate vote.

Flake’s dramatic intervention means a final Senate vote on the nomination could be delayed for up to a week so that the possible FBI investigation can be completed, if Republican Senate leaders agree to his demand. Democrats have called for an FBI probe, but Republicans had opposed the move.

The committee, with tempers flaring on both sides, met the day after a jarring and emotional hearing into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh that gripped the country, with a university professor named Christine Blasey Ford accusing him of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

The full Senate must confirm SC appointments. It remained unclear if Republicans have the votes to confirm Kavanaugh on the Senate floor. Republicans hold a slim Senate 51-49 majority, making the votes of two other so-far undecided Republican moderates crucial: Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.



 Canada’s parliament has voted unanimously to effectively strip Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship over the Rohingya crisis.

Ottawa had given the longdetained democracy advocate and Nobel laureate the rare honour in 2007. On Thursday, a spokesperson cited Suu Kyi’s “persistent refusal to denounce the Rohingya genocide” for the withdrawal of the Canadian honour. Honorary Canadian citizenship has only been granted to five others including the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela.






 On the day India marked two years of the surgical strike against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, outgoing Border Security Force Director General K K Sharma, referring to the September 18 killing of BSF head constable Narender Singh by a Pakistan border action team, said “we have taken sufficient action along the LoC to avenge the death of our soldier”.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi Friday, the BSF chief did not go into details of the “sufficient action”. And in Muzaffarnagar, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh too said: “Something has happened, I won’t say what… just two-three days ago.”

In a video uploaded by NDTV on its website, Rajnath Singh can be heard saying: “Kuchh hua hai. Main bataunga nahin. Batlaya bhi nahin. Hua hai, aur theek-thaak hua hai. Vishwas rakhna, theek-thaak hua hai 2-3 din pehle… aur aage bhi dekhiyega kya hoga (Something has happened, I won’t say what. Didn’t declare it. It has happened, it has gone well. Have faith, it has gone well, just two-three days ago… see what happens ahead).”



The Centre on Friday questioned the Supreme Court for reportedly terming some Manipur Police personnel “murderers”, saying it has “completely shaken” the morale of armed forces and securitymen operating in insurgency-hit areas.

The government told a Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that they supported the applications filed by some Manipur Police personnel seeking recusal of the Bench from hearing the Manipur fake encounter cases in which the CBI’s special investigation team (SIT) is carrying out a probe.

The petitioners, however, challenged the government’s contention, saying this was an attempt to “overawe” the court, which should not recuse from hearing the matter.

The court, which is hearing a PIL seeking a probe into 1,528 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur, had on July 14 last year constituted an SIT of the CBI and ordered lodging of FIRs and investigating them.

Besides the policemen, over 300 army personnel have approached the top court challenging registration of FIRs against them for operations in Manipur and J&K, where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is in force.

“I have instructions from the Union of India that we are supporting these petitions (seeking recusal of Bench). So far as armed forces in Manipur are concerned, they are having difficult time fighting insurgency,” Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Bench.

He said the reported remarks by the Bench that “murderers” were walking freely has “shaken” the morale of armed forces and police personnel as they were sacrificing their lives but facing the prospect of being awarded death penalty for the alleged offence of murder.

The Bench, however, said the oral remarks by the Bench during the hearing on July 30 were not “designed or directed” against any individual as it happened during the discussion in the court with the CBI Director.



Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu on Friday stressed that “English mind”, not the language, was an illness and that the country should be proud of its rich heritage. The observations came in the backdrop of certain comments attributed to him. A section of the media had quoted Naidu as saying “English is an illness left behind by the British” during a Hindi Day event in New Delhi earlier this month.

“I was speaking about protecting and encouraging the mother tongue and some section of the media reported that I had said English was (an) illness. English is not (an) illness, but English mind is, which we have inherited from the Britishers,” he said, addressing the fourth convocation of the National Institute of Technology, Goa.

“Family members should try to converse in their mother tongue. We say good morning even if it is good or bad. The way is to say ‘namaskar’…it is our ‘sanskar’… it comes from heart,” he added.



The country’s apex consumer commission, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), has ordered a government-owned insurance company to pay Rs 2 lakh compensation for denying claims to the mother of a motorcyclist who was killed while driving the vehicle that was registered in her name.

NCDRC also slammed the firm for its subjective interpretation of “owner-driver” condition in the insurance document and has asked it to end the ambiguity within three months. The compensation will be over and above the assured claim of Rs 1 lakh.

A two-member bench upheld the district forum and UP State Consumer Commission order, which had directed United India Insurance Company to pay Rs 1 lakh claim to the parents of Shobhit Kumar of Mainpuri, who had died in an accident in December 2004. He was driving a motorcycle insured with the company, which included personal accident insurance cover.

Sobhit’s mother had paid additional premium of Rs 50 towards personal accident cover of “owner-driver”. After the state commission dismissed the plea, the company filed a revision petition in the NCDRC. While it was established that the vehicle had valid insurance, the driver had a valid licence and he was driving it with his mother’s consent, the company had maintained the phrase “ownerdriver” in terms and conditions meant the policy covered only the owner as driver Terming the company’s claim as an “unfair trade practice”, NCDRC said, if the term “owner-driver” was meant to construe only the owner was driving, the same should have been unambiguously stated in the insurance policy.



Facebook announced Friday that up to 50 million accounts were breached in a security flaw exploited by hackers. The large social network said it learned this week of the attack that allowed hackers to steal “access tokens,” the equivalent of digital keys that enable them to access their accounts.

“We’ve fixed the vulnerability and informed law enforcement.” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said engineers discovered the breach on Tuesday, and patched it on Thursday night.

“We don’t know if any accounts were actually misused,” Zuckerberg said. “This is a serious issue.” As a precaution, Facebook is temporarily taking down the “view as” feature — described as a privacy tool to let user see how their own profiles would look to other people.

“We face constant attacks from people who want to take over accounts or steal information around the world,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.



 India beat Bangladesh by three wickets with no balls to spare to win the

2018 Asia Cup. In what turned out to be a riveting final, India’s win was orchestrated by some gritty batting from the lower middle order. Defending a target of 223, Bangladesh managed to get rid of Shikhar Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu early in the innings. They then dismissed Rohit Sharma just as the Indian captain started looking dangerous. While Bangladesh kept picking wickets at regular intervals after that, carefully constructed partnerships like the one between veterans Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni, ended in India ending the match with their noses ever so slightly ahead.

A severely hamstrung Kedar Jadhav ran the most defining single of his short international career – on the last ball of the match. Jadhav had initially retired hurt after pulling his right hamstring  but came back when it mattered the most.

He came in the 48th over with India still needing 11 runs. With six runs needed off the last over, Jadhav and Kuldeep Yadav kept their cool against Mahmudullah, taking three singles and a double off the first five balls.

The part-time off-spinner drifted the final delivery onto Jadhav’s legs as it brushed his pads for a leg-bye to ensure India maintained their supremacy in the continent.

Put in to bat first, Bangladesh openers Liton Das (121 off 117) and Mehedy Hasan Miraz razed the Indian bowlers in the first 20 overs to put up a 120-run partnership. Liton was the man who went after the bowlers and he reached his half-century in just 33 balls. But the rest of the Bangladesh batsmen simply failed to turn up after that.



 Saina Nehwal went down fighting in three games against former world champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the quarterfinals of the Korea Open in Seoul yesterday. Saina’s defeat drew the curtains on India’s campaign at the World Tour Super 500 tournament.

The fifth-seeded Indian squandered four match points to go down 21-15 15-21 20-22 to the third-seeded Okuhara in a match that lasted almost an hour. It was Saina’s third successive defeat to the Japanese player.



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 A healthy appetite for righteousness, kept in due control by good manners, is an excellent thing; but to hunger and thirst after it is often merely a symptom of spiritual diabetes. – C. D. Broad



A young boy was looking through the family album and asked his  mother, ‘Who’s this guy on the beach with you, with all the muscles and curly hair?’

‘That’s your father.’ said the mother.

The boy seemed astonished as he said to his mom, ‘Then who’s that old baldheaded fat man that lives with us now?’

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