1.SC to step in if Nirbhaya convicts are not hanged on March 20
The Supreme Court has clarified that it will step in if the death sentences of the four Nirbhaya case convicts get delayed beyond March. The court has set up March 23 as the date if the executions do not happen, where it will decide on the government’s appeal to hang them separately.
The executions for the four convicted in the 2012 Nirbhaya rape and murder case have been getting deferred for the last year over due processes. In the last three months, all four filed for their mercy pleas separately, in a bid to delay their hangings.
The 3-judge bench, led by Justice R Banumathi assured the government, which was apprehensive that one of the convicts may come with a new plea to delay their executions on March 20. He told the convicts’ lawyer to be prepared on March 23, as the court would not entertainment any pleas for adjournment. It will decide on the government’s appeal to hang them separately on that date (if the execution gets delayed).
2.EPF interest rate now 8.5%
The Central Board of Trustees for the Employees’ Provident Fund have decided to reduce EPF interest rates for salaried employees by about 0.15% (from 8.65% to 8.5%). The board, chaired by Minister for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar, took the move for EPF members’ accounts for 2019-20.
The board also ratified the restoration of normal pensions after 15 years from the date of commutation - this will benefit about 6.3 lakh pensioners who had opted for commutation on or before September 25, 2008.
It will also empanel the Jammu and Kashmir Bank as one which can collect EPF dues in J&K.
3.USCIRF hears witnesses on NRC, CAA
The independent, bipartisan federal government commission, US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), discussed the recent situations in India and Myanmar at a hearing. The hearing was focussed on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
The USCIRF’s hearing is another instance of the Modi government’s record for human rights, equal protection and rule of law from the US congress and parts of the US administration. Though it has no legal outcome, the panel’s results will treated as highlights for international scrutiny.
The panel of witnesses who spoke at the hearing included Ashutosh Varshney, a Brown University professor and author, Aman Wadud, a human rights lawyer from Assam and Azeem Ibrahim, an author and director at the Center for Global Policy and Naomi Kikoler, a director at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Kikoler pointed out that denying citizenship to certain groups can be seen as a signal to carry out physical attacks on them. Varshney said whether the NRC came into question or not, it created “an enabling atmosphere for violence”.
“Once you say a particular community is not fully Indian or its Indian-ness is in grave doubt, you begin to marginalise them in politics and you begin to generate a certain discourse against them in politics… about their loyalty, about their commitment to the nation…the way they raise their children, the way they marry.”
In response, Raveesh Kumar, the official MEA spokesperson said, “…these are sensitive times and at this point of time irresponsible comments that are selective and not based on facts will do more damage and we expect and urge them to not make such comments. Focus at this point in time is on restoring normalcy.”
4.Nirav’s riches fetch Rs. 53.4 crore at auction held by ED
The Enforcement Directorate auctioned 15 paintings of fugitive businessman Nirav Modi and his wife, Ami Modi. They did this in an open auction for over 112 items, including paintings, sculptures, cars, luxury watches and bags, were auctioned for Rs. 53.4 crore across two days.
The live auction featured works by Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Sher-Gil’s Boys with Lemons , dated 1935, which was sold for Rs. 15.68 crore, and M.F. Husain’s Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12 that fetched Rs. 13.44 crore. “It’s a world record for Husain,” said Dinesh Vazirani, auctioneer and co-founder of Saffronart, which conducted the bidding.
The absconding businessman’s Rolls-Royce Ghost was sold for Rs. 1.68 crore. Luxury watches dominated the auction with a Girard-Perregaux wristwatch being sold for Rs. 95.2 lakh, Audemars Grande Complication wristwatch for Rs. 78.4 lakh and Patek Philippe’s gold and diamond wristwatch for Rs. 72.8 lakh.
5.Coronavirus leaves 290 mn students out of school
Almost 300 million students worldwide are now facing weeks at home, with Italy and India joining ranks of countries who have shut schools over the COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak has killed over 3,200 people and infected more than 95,000 people in 80 countries and territories.
The outbreak, which began from the Wuhan region in China, led to the country quarantining entire cities, shutting factories and schools. It, however, quickly surfaced beyond China’s borders. Currently, the US state of California has declared an emergency (US has had 11 deaths so far), Switzerland, Bosnia, South Africa have all reported cases and India’s count for infected patients is at 30.
The school closures worldwide, according to UNESCO, has impacted 290.5 million children. Currently 12 countries have closed down schools, including India in the state of New Delhi. Italy has ordered schools and universities shut till March 15, while Japan has cancelled all classes till early April. Schools are also shut in Iran, which has had 107 deaths so far.
UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said “the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education”.
6.Pib - Pragyan Conclave 2020: Indian Army’s International
The Pragyan Conclave 2020, which saw deliberations on future warfare, ended with two days of sessions by the Indian defence elite.
Organised by independent think tank CLAWS, it saw two panel discussions on “Transformation in the Battlespaces” and “Hybrid/Subconventional Warfare”, exploring challenges in Grey Zone environment, urban warfare, non-state actors and the role of technology and social media in these operations.
International and national domain experts from defence, the three Services, Central Armed Police Forces, leading Think Tanks & Academic Institutions of the country together analysed the dynamics of future warfare.
7.CBDT issues FAQs on Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Scheme, 2020
In a bid to clear the air on Direct Taxes, he government has passed the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 (hereinafter called Vivad se Vishwas). This aims to reduce pending income tax litigation, generate timely revenue and benefit taxpayers by clearing the air around direct taxation issues and queries.
The FAQs list contains clarifications on the scope/eligibility, calculation of disputed tax, procedure related to payment of disputed tax and consequential benefits to the declarant. They are available at
8.PIB - COVID-19 :Update from government
Till now, 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been detected in the country. Of these, 3 from Kerala have recovered and have been discharged. There are 3 from Delhi (2 with travel history from Italy, and one with travel history of Iran); 6 contacts of the first Delhi Case with travel history of Italy; 1 from Telangana with history of Dubai travel and Singapore contact; 16 Italians and one driver who was with the Italian tourist group.
In addition, the earlier two suspected cases from Telangana have tested negative at NIV, Pune. Also, the 14 Italian cases, and all the Indian patients are stable and being monitored.
A total 6,49,452 passengers have been screened at the airports till date from 6550 flights. In addition, there are 29607 persons who are under the IDSP community surveillance and contact tracing.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has mandated universal screening from March 4 and has begun the exercise at most airports. They have inducted staffers from different states to aid in the exercise. It has also decided to involve district collectors and States to form rapid response teams at the district, block and village levels. They will also rope in the private sector to help with COVID-19 management.
India is also asking travellers from/having visited Italy or the Republic of Korea to bring COVID-19 negative certificates from designated labs authorized by the health authorities of these countries, as a precursor of entry into India.