Union Cabinet meet to take up withdrawal of three farm laws for approval; WB CM Mamata Banerji likely to meet PM Modi; In the SC: hearing on Delhi pollution, Zakia Jafri’s plea on clean chit to Narendra Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots case; ISL 2021-22: Bengaluru FC Vs Odisha FC; NASA to launch asteroid defence mission intended to deliberately crash into an asteroid
The union government has listed a bill that would prohibit all private cryptocurrencies but lays the ground for an official digital currency in the upcoming winter session of the parliament, scheduled to begin on Monday (Nov. 29).
The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 seeks to “create a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India,” a bulletin on Lok Sabha’s website said. It did not furnish further details of the bill.
The Reserve Bank of India has been consistently opposed to digital currencies, terming it a threat to the sovereign banking and currency system as well as a potential tool for money laundering.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are decentralised, and do not require an intermediary to issue it, facilitate a transaction, or be promissory of the value — a bank’s role.
That they are designed to be anonymous (or far more anonymous than fiat) also means they can be used to conduct transactions hidden from the regulator’s view.
But cryptocurrency startups, mostly exchanges, have been pushing back against a blanket ban. In March 2020, for instance, they successfully appealed against RBI’s ban on trading in cryptocurrencies at the Supreme Court.
They instead call for guardrails, arguing the technology in itself is progressive.
But by introducing an official digital coin, RBI could make use of the strengths of the technology, while avoiding the pitfalls of anonymity or a “parallel currency”.
China, too, has taken this route, banning all private cryptocurrencies while piloting a digital renminbi.
The centre’s bill would also provide “exceptions to promote the underlying technology” — blockchain. Though coins are its most popular application, blockchain’s tamper proof verification system has utility in many fields.
Global rights groups and UN special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders called for the immediate release of Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was arrested and charged under the anti-terror law UAPA by the National Investigation Agency.
Parvez was arrested late Monday after NIA conducted raids at his home and office of the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), an advocacy, in Srinagar. His phone and laptop were reportedly seized.
He has been charged with raising funds and being a member of or associated with a terrorist organisation as well as under sections of IPC pertaining to criminal conspiracy and waging a war against the state.
JKCCS records cases of human rights violations by security forces and militants in Kashmir. Parvez was awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award in 2006. JKCC was awarded the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2017. Parvez was previously arrested in 2016 under the J&K Public Safety Act, but was freed after 76 days when a court ruled the arrest illegal.
Calls for release:
Norway-based Rafto Foundation said the allegations against Parvez “lack any credibility whatsoever”. “We have worked closely with Khurram Parvez and JKCCS for four years… Their denouncement of political violence has been vehement and absolute,” it said. “This aggressive invasion into and constriction of the space of human rights defenders and their organisations unfortunately fits a pattern of behaviour by the Indian government,” it said.
Amnesty International called it a “yet another example of how anti-terror laws are being misused to criminalise human rights work & stifle dissent in India.”
Human Rights Watch’s Meenakshi Ganguly said “the UAPA is being repeatedly misused to punish human rights activists or others that protest abuses.”
Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur, called the arrest “disturbing”, adding, “he’s not a terrorist, he’s a Human Rights Defender.”
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed Trinamool Congress’ appeal to postpone the contentious municipal elections in Tripura, scheduled for Thursday (Nov. 25), but asked the state to enhance the security arrangements. The Court said postponing elections should be a matter of “last and even extreme recourse”.
Trinamool Congress accuses the state BJP government of failing to curb violence against its candidates, in contempt of a previous court order, issued on November 11, directing the state to ensure rights of political parties are not impeded.
The civic elections have gained significance as Trinamool, high on confidence after the win in the West Bengal polls, is seeking a symbolic win in a state where BJP had gotten nearly 43% votes in the 2018 assembly elections.
The polls also follow incidents of communal violence in the state in which shops, homes and places of worship of Muslims were allegedly vandalised by right-wing mobs in retaliation to violence during Durga Puja festivities in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The court is to hear the matter again on Wednesday.
Over in the capital city of Agartala, Trinamool candidate Gouri Mazumdar has alleged that BJP workers attacked her residence and opened fire. She said the bullet narrowly missed her, and that empty cartridge shells were handed over to the police.
A first: In what is a first in the history of the oil market, India, along with China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to a US proposal on a ‘privately coordinated’ release of their strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) as “an expression of resentment against high oil prices” The decision has kept global crude oil prices subdued below the $80 per barrel mark even on Tuesday, down from over $82 per barrel last week. An earlier such release in 2011 of SPR due to supply disruptions in Libya was coordinated by the International Energy Agency.
U-turn: The decision by New Delhi to accede to Washington’s ‘request’ is surprising since just last week petroleum minister Hardeep Singh Puri had argued against release of SPR for cooling down crude oil prices, saying they weren’t “ever intended for a situation like this” as they were a backup plan for a “force majeure situation” like an earthquake, war or shutting off of supplies. However, India had earlier in August started selling its SPR in order to create space at its storage facilities to commercialise it by leasing it out to third parties.
How much? India has strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) of 38 million barrels — or about 5.33 million tonnes, equivalent to nine days of pre-pandemic oil consumption — of which 5 million barrels of crude oil will be released in the next 7-10 days. Overall, 100-120 million barrels of SPR from all the countries will be released of which the major share — 50 million barrels — will be by the US, according to a statement by White House on Tuesday.
Will it help? Unlikely. That’s because neither is the quantity of SPR released very large — India’s own daily consumption is around 5 million barrels a day — nor is the impact going to last beyond a few weeks at best. Moreover, with OPEC+ countries warning that they will cancel plans to boost their own production if countries release their SPR, any softening of crude oil prices may quickly be negated.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition challenging a proposed change in land use from “recreational” to “residential” to house the new official residences of high dignitaries such as the vice-president and Prime Minister as part of the ambitious Central Vista Project.
This after it had approved the Rs 20,000 crore project — covering a 3 km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate at the heart of Delhi — in January this year.
The latest petition: The challenge by social activist Rajeev Suri was only to the proposed change in land use of Plot 1, which will result in loss of recreational area and open green area for the public.
With about 6 acres of green area proposed to be taken over, the change of open green area to residential area is against public interest, Suri’s counsel argued. He added the prayer was to protect the green areas and alternate sites should be explored by the authorities.
But the court said: “This cannot be the scope of judicial review”, said the three-Judge SC bench, adding that it is the prerogative of the authority concerned and a matter of policy. “Everything can be criticised, but there should be constructive criticism.”
“It’s not (a) private property being created there. There is bound to be greenery around. The plan has already been approved by authorities unless you are alleging malafide in that process,” it added. “Will we start asking the common man now where will the residence of the Vice-President be?”
A short excerpt from Congress MP and ‘Group of 23’ member Manish Tewari’s yet-to-be-released book 10 Flash Points; 20 Years — National Security Situations that Impacted India has put the party in more hot water. He claimed that the Indian government, then helmed by the Congress-led UPA, should have taken stricter action against Pakistan after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
The excerpt:“For a state that has no compunctions in brutally slaughtering hundreds of innocent people, restraint is not a sign of strength; it is perceived as a symbol of weakness … 26/11 was one such time when it just should have been done. It, therefore, is my considered opinion India should have actioned a kinetic response in the days following India’s 9/11.”
Opposition reacts: BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said Tewari’s book confirmed that the “Congress-led UPA government was insensitive, useless and was not even concerned about national security”. The UPA government had put the national security at stake, he alleged.
Cong reacts: Adhir Chowdhury told news agency ANI: “He [Manish Tewari] should be focussing more on China that has captured many of our areas in Ladakh and built villages in Arunachal Pradesh. He is regaining consciousness now. Why has he not talked about it at that time”.
This after: Congress leader Salman Khurshid, courted controversy earlier this month for drawing comparisons between radical Islamic group ISIS and Hindutva, in his book Sunrise Over Ayodhya.
The Kerala High Court (HC) on Tuesday issued a notice to the Centre directing it to file its counter in a petition filed by a Right to Information (RTI) activist challenging the inclusion of PM Narendra Modi’s photograph on the Covid-19 vaccination certificates.
The petitioner argued that since he had paid for his Covid-19 vaccination at a private hospital, depiction of Modi’s image on his vaccination certificate was a violation of his fundamental rights as he was being treated like a captive audience, which, his counsel argued, was against his right of free speech that prohibited forced and compulsory listening. Moreover, he argued, since Modi is the leader of a political party, usage of his photograph on vaccination certificates could affect an individual’s choice of voting.
It may be recalled that earlier this year, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had asked the Central government to remove Modi’s photograph from vaccination certificates issued in the four states and one union territory (UT) that went to polls — West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry. The ECI contended that usage of Modi’s photograph on vaccination certificates issued in poll bound states and UT was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that came into effect on February 26 — a day after the ECI announced the dates for the assembly polls
Maha Vir Chakra. Colonel B Santosh Babu, 37 (in pic), who was killed during the clash with Chinese soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in 2020, was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra on Tuesday for extraordinary courage and leadership, by President Ram Nath Kovind. The President also awarded Vir Chakra to five other Galwan braves who fought off numerically superior Chinese troops on Jun. 15, 2020; four of them were awarded the Vir Chakra posthumously.
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