Pique and petulance: On Sudha Bharadwaj’s bail and NIA’s appeal

In filing a quick appeal against the grant of statutory bail to lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, the NIA has displayed nothing but pique and petulance over a well-reasoned order of the Bombay High Court. The bail order itself is a much-delayed relief, considering that the right to ‘default bail’ had accrued to her as early as January 2019, on completing 90 days in prison and when there was neither a charge sheet nor a lawful order extending the time limit for filing it from 90 to 180 days. The High Court is right in concluding that the Sessions Court had no jurisdiction to grant such an extension, and subsequently take cognisance of the charge sheet filed in February 2019, when a duly constituted Special Court under the NIA Act was already functioning in Pune. Further, the court has given the benefit of default bail — an indefeasible right under Section 167(2) Cr.P.C. that arises when the investigating agency fails to submit its final report within the stipulated period — only to Ms.

Corridors of death: On elephant deaths on tracks

The death of five elephants, four of them cows, caused by trains colliding with them, and all within a week, has again highlighted the gaps in efforts to reduce man-animal conflicts in the country. On November 26, the first accident occurred near Madukkarai in Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu that has seen many an elephant death on a rail track stretch that extends up to Kanjikode, Kerala. The second accident was near Jagiroad in Assam’s Morigaon district, four days later. Both accidents were at night. Elephant deaths in railway accidents are not new in India. A reply by the Project Elephant division of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in May to a set of RTI questions highlighted reasons other than natural causes as having led to the killing of 1,160 elephants over 11 years ending December 2020; 741 deaths were due to electrocution; railway accidents accounted for 186 cases; poaching 169 and poisoning 64. The pattern of train accidents involving elephants has

Limited gains: On Omicron risk

If China was severely criticised for keeping the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak that began in November 2019 shrouded in secrecy and for sharing the genetic sequence on a public database only on January 12, 2020, countries that are transparent and quick in sharing vital information are not rewarded but are punished. After the first infection by a new variant — it has 32 mutations in the spike protein alone — was confirmed from a specimen collected on November 9, Botswana and South Africa diligently posted its genetic sequence on the public database, on November 23. Instead, the travel bans now imposed on South Africa and a few other African countries are not only incongruous but can actually be counterproductive. Such rash decisions disincentivise countries from promptly reporting and sharing vital data with huge public health implications, particularly during the pandemic. The demonstration by Botswana and South Africa of their capability to quickly detect new variants through superior


Births and rights: On laws on reproductive rights

A Bill that the government of the land intends to make law, cannot be exclusivist at the very outset; and at least, with the time of passage, it is imperative that it loses its biases. It cannot exclude certain categories of citizens from the benefits and rights that the law seeks to confer upon the people of the country. And, that is what the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020, that was passed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, has done, by excluding two categories — LGBTQIA+ and single men. Undoubtedly, the time has indeed come for such a Bill; for government intervention to regulate the field of fertility treatments, and by seeking to establish a national registry and registration authority for all clinics and medical professionals in the segment, it will fill a vacuum. The Bill has provisions to protect the rights of the donors, the commissioning couple and the children born out of ART, to grant and withdraw licences for clinics and banks depending on performance


Point of disorder: On suspension of MPs

The suspension of 12 Opposition Members of Parliament from the Rajya Sabha for the entire winter session of Parliament, evidently an extreme step by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, has turned the spotlight on the use of disruption of proceedings as a parliamentary tactic. The Government and the Opposition should try and work a way out of this situation, but that may not resolve the underlying affliction of perennial conflict between the two sides. A guiding principle of parliamentary proceedings is that the majority, i.e. the Government, will have its way, and the minority, the Opposition, will have its say. This principle has been observed in its violation in India for several years now. As the principal Opposition in the years leading up to 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) so disrupted Parliament that a majority government was rendered dysfunctional for years; since 2014, in power, the BJP has tinkered with parliamentary processes in a way that the Opposition has been pinned down.

Road to recovery: On sustaining growth

Protect, don’t pander: On suppression of free speech

Sweden’s fresh start: On Stockholm’s first ever woman PM

Scale up supplies: On Omicron variant

Questionable criterion: On EWS quota income limit

Shore up the lifeline: On rural jobs scheme

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