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5 THINGS FIRST

Wimbledon 2021: Euro 2020 quarterfinals (Switzerland vs Spain, Belgium vs Italy); Calcutta HC to examine NHRC report on West Bengal post-poll violence; Singapore tribunal to start hearing Amazon-Future case; Angela Merkel to visit UK

1. In win for India, 9 European nations okay Covishield in ‘green pass’
  • Amid the ongoing tussle between India and the European Union over the ‘green pass’ for Covid vaccines, nine European countries — Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Estonia and Switzerland — have put Covishield on their list of approved vaccines. This means those inoculated with the vaccine will be exempted from travel curbs to these countries.
  • Rewind: This a day after India asked the members of the 27-nation grouping to individually consider allowing Indians who have taken Covishield and Covaxin vaccines.
  • New Delhi also conveyed to the EU member states that it will adopt a policy of reciprocity and exempt European nationals holding the ‘Green Pass’ from mandatory quarantine if its request to recognise Covishield and Covaxin vaccines is heeded to.
  • What’s a ‘green pass’? The European Union’s Digital Covid certificate or ‘Green Pass’ is set to be rolled out on July 1 with an aim to facilitate free movement during the pandemic. Under this framework, persons who have taken vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be exempted from travel restrictions within the EU region.
  • Till now: The EMA had earlier cleared only four vaccines — Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), Moderna, Vaxzervria (AstraZeneca), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) for the green pass.
  • And from Zydus: Hours after seeking emergency use approval for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate from India’s drug regulator, Sharvil Patel, MD, Zydus Cadila said: “We expect to produce 1 crore vaccine doses per month from August onwards and 5 crore doses by December this year. Our target is to produce 10 crore vaccine doses in a year.”
  • Zydus’s Covid vaccine candidate ‘ZyCoV-D’ is a three-dose Covid shot that is the world’s first Plasmid DNA vaccine. It makes use of a portion of the genetic code — DNA or RNA — in the SARS-CoV-2 virus to stimulate an immune response against its spike protein.
2. Akhil Gogoi walks free, flags misuse of UAPA
2. Akhil Gogoi walks free, flags misuse of UAPA
Activist-turned-legislator Akhil Gogoi was set free from incarceration on Thursday after a National Investigation Agency special court acquitted him of all charges in the second of two cases related to the 2019 protest in Assam against the citizenship amendment act. The special court had on June 22 dismissed the first case, saying the “NIA failed to prove their guilt”.

  • The court said: “Protests in a democracy are sometimes seen to take the form of blockades also, even causing inconvenience to citizens. However, it is doubtful whether such blockades for temporary periods, if unaccompanied by any incitement to violence, would constitute a terrorist act within the meaning of Section 15 of the UAPA”
  • Gogoi said: “The court proved these were fake charges that kept me in jail for more than a year and a half.”

Who:

  • An Assamese peasant leader, Gogoi was arrested in December 2019 and charged with sedition, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between groups, as well as charged under the anti-terror law UAPA for allegedly supporting a “terrorist organisation”.
  • In 2020, he formed a political party, Raijor Dal, and won from the Sibsagar constituency in the 2021 Assam assembly election, becoming the first Assamese to win an election from jail without hitting the campaign trail.
  • Gogoi, as the leader of the farmers’ body, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), has been a vocal advocate of land rights of farmers and had been incarcerated multiple times before, both by the administration of BJP and Congress.
3. It is for Parliament to rein in partisan Speakers: SC
3. It is for Parliament to rein in partisan Speakers: SC
  • The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that it was the prerogative of the Parliament to legislate and provide a time frame for adjudication of disqualification petitions against legislators by the Speakers.
  • The court was hearing a PIL that sought a direction to the Speakers and chairpersons of the parliament and legislative assemblies to expeditiously dispose of disqualification petitions. A delay in disqualification goes against the reason of the anti-defection law, the petition had argued.
  • A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy remarked: “How can we make a law providing a time frame for Speakers to decide disqualification petitions? It is a matter for Parliament to deliberate and decide.”

The court had in the past expressed displeasure over the inordinate delay on the part of the speakers to decide such petitions.

  • In January 2020, an SC bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman had fixed a three-month timeline for the Manipur Assembly Speaker to decide a disqualification petition.
  • On November 23, 2019, a bench headed by Justice Ramana, hearing a case against the speaker of Karnataka Assembly, had remarked that “there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral”. Justice Ramana had then also called for the strengthening of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution that seeks to bar horse-trading.
4. Stray dogs have right to food: HC
4. Stray dogs have right to food: HC
  • Stray dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community canines, the Delhi High Court has said in an order that came in a case of dispute between two residents of a locality on the issue of feeding stray dogs.
  • “Community dogs (stray/street dogs) have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs but in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others or cause any harm, hindrance, harassment and nuisance to other individuals or members of the society,” the court said.
  • “We have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination,” it said.
  • The court said street dogs perform the role of community scavengers and also control rodent population in the area thus preventing spread of diseases like leptospirosis and they also provide companionship to those who feed them and act as their stress relievers.
  • The court noted that despite the law prohibiting cruelty to animals including stray dogs, there is an increasing tendency to defy the law.
6. Xi warns foreign powers in belligerent speech
6. Xi warns foreign powers in belligerent speech
Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday delivered a speech high on rhetoric to mark the centenary celebration of the Communist Party of China, and warned foreign powers against “bullying”.

  • “The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us… Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi said, as per the New York Times‘ translation of his speech.
  • Translation by Xinhua, the Chinese agency did not refer to ‘cracked head’ or ‘blood’, instead said: “… will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall… “

Xi extolled the role the party played in uplifting the poor and creating a “moderately prosperous society”, and portrayed a strong nation. Highlights:

  • On policy: “We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us. The Party and the Chinese people will keep moving confidently forward in broad strides along the path that we have chosen for ourselves, and we will make sure the destiny of China’s development and progress remains firmly in our own hands.”
  • On Taiwan: “Resolving the Taiwan question and realising China’s complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the Communist Party of China. It is also a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation.”
  • On PLA: “We will elevate our people’s armed forces to world-class standards so that we are equipped with greater capacity and more reliable means for safeguarding our national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
7. The economy is recovering but…
7. The economy is recovering but…
Unemployment

  • India’s unemployment rate fell in June to 9.19% compared to 11.9% in May, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy said Thursday.
  • As per the CMIE data, while the urban unemployment fell sharply in June at 10.07% compared to 14.73% in May, the rural unemployment rate was lower at 8.75% in June as against 10.63% in May.


Employment

  • “India’s problem is less with the unemployment rate and much more with the labour participation rate (LPR) and the employment rate (ER). The lasting impact of Covid is a much smaller worker participation rate in India,” CMIE said in its weekly analysis.
  • LPR is a measure of how many people are either working or looking for work. ER gives an idea of how many of the people available to work are actually working.
  • Both LPR and ER continue to be much lower than the pre-Covid levels. According to CMIE, the average LPR in 2019-20 was 42.7% but fell to a low of 35.6% in April 2020 before recovering to 41% in August 2020. The ER stood at 39.5% in 2019-20 but fell to 27% in April 2020 before recovering to 38% in September 2020.


Manufacturing

  • The manufacturing activity contracted in June, the first time in 11 months, a private survey showed Thursday.
  • The IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) declined to 48.1 in June from 50.8 in May. An index value above 50 means expansion while a score below 50 denotes contraction.
  • The contraction was due to the strict containment measures, which negatively impacted demand, leading to job losses, and renewed contractions in factory orders, production, exports and quantities of purchases.
8. Chic and baroque converge on grass
8. Chic and baroque converge on grass
  • Eight-time champion Roger Federer was in vintage form in a 7-6(1), 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Richard Gasquet in the second round of the Wimbledon Championship on Friday. The 39-year-old Swiss took a while to find his timing and needed to save three break points in his first service game. But having been pushed into a tiebreak, the 20-time Grand Slam champion flicked the switch and his game began to flow.
  • Second seed Daniil Medvedev, too, exhibited superlative tennis to subdue tenacious Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round. The Russian now has the look of a seasoned Grand Slam contender at the age of 25, having reached his second major final at the Australian Open this February.
  • Also on song was maverick showman Nick Kyrgios, who breezed into the third round with his usual mixture of exuberant shot-making and near-constant chatter as he made light work of Italian Gianluca Mager 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-4. He saved a set point in the first set tiebreak and then roared in approval as he snatched the opener before taking the game away from his 77th-ranked opponent with some superb serving and delightful groundstrokes.
9. Bombay HC upholds sharpshooter’s conviction in Gulshan Kumar murder
9. Bombay HC upholds sharpshooter's conviction in Gulshan Kumar murder
  • Almost 24 years after T-Series music baron Gulshan Kumar (in pic) was gunned down in Mumbai and 19 years after the trial court convicted Abdul Rauf Merchant, an alleged aide of gangster Dawood Ibrahim, the Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld Merchant’s murder conviction. The two-judge bench upheld his life sentence (awarded in 2002) and directed that he get “no remission” after absconding twice.
  • The HC however, partly allowed Merchant’s appeal and set aside his conviction under sections 392 and 397 of the Indian Penal Code for offences of robbery and dacoity with an attempt to cause death or grievous hurt.
  • The court noted that Abdul Rauf Merchant went absconding soon after Kumar’s murder in 1997 and could be arrested only in 2001. Later, he violated the furlough granted to him in 2009 by fleeing to Bangladesh. He was deported to India in 2016, after serving a jail term in Bangladesh for trespassing and possessing a fake passport.
  • The case: Gulshan was gunned down on Aug. 12, 1997, outside a temple in Andheri (W). The police said it was a case of business rivalry. Five years later, a trial court, however, found evidence to convict only Merchant and acquitted 18 of the 19 accused, including Tips owner Ramesh Taurani. More here.
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Britney Spears. A Los Angeles court has denied the music star’s request to eject her father from a guardianship arrangement that gives him control of her affairs. This a week after the singer made an impassioned plea to end the “abusive” conservatorship during which she said she has been medicated to control her behaviour, prohibited from making decisions on friendships or finances and prevented from having a contraceptive implant removed, despite wanting more children.

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

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