APRIL 27, Saturday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

Supreme Court gives RBI ‘last chance’ to alter disclosure policy

Supreme Court gives RBI ‘last chance’ to alter disclosure policy

‘Existing guidelines contrary to 2015 ruling on sharing information under RTI Act’

Legal Correspondent, NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Friday gave the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) “a last opportunity” to withdraw a November 2016 Disclosure Policy to the extent to which it stonewalls revelation of every other kind of information under the Right to Information Act, including the list of wilful defaulters and annual inspection reports.

A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M.R. Shah found the policy of the central bank to be directly contrary to the court’s judgment of December 2015 that the RBI could not withhold information sought under the RTI Act.

The Bench was hearing contempt petitions filed against the RBI for not complying with the 2015 judgment.

“We give them a last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy in so far as it contains exemptions which are contrary to the directions issued by this court,” Justice Rao said, giving an ultimatum in the 12-page verdict.

The 2015 judgment had rejected the RBI’s argument that it could refuse information sought under the RTI Act on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest.

‘No fiduciary ties’

The court had observed that there was “no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the financial institutions”.

It had reminded the RBI that it had the statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public at large, the depositors, the economy and the banking sector. “This court was also of the opinion that the RBI should act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass the individual banks,” Justice Rao wrote.

17% jump in The Hindu’s readership

17% jump in The Hindu’s readership

Retains No. 2 position among English newspapers

Lalatendu Mishra

At a time when digital reading is growing rapidly in India, the print edition of The Hindu has also sharply increased its readership in the latest Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2019 Q1 as compared to IRS 2017, indicating the growing popularity of the newspaper.

In this readership survey conducted by Nielsen for the Media Research Users Council (MRUC), the findings of which were released on Friday, The Hindu has maintained its number 2 position among all English language newspapers in the country.

As per data released by the MRUC, The Hindu had an all-India readership of 62,26,000 in the IRS 2019 Q1 as compared to the total readership of 53,00,000 in IRS 2017, up 17%. In terms of average issue readership (read yesterday), it increased its numbers from 15,68,000 to 16,35,000, up 4.27%.

As per the IRS, the overall readership of all daily publications increased by 1.8 crore to 42.5 crore since IRS 2017. Magazines also reported increased readership of 8.7 crore, which is 90 lakh more than the numbers in the last survey.

Online newspaper readership has grown 5% on an all-India basis. Active Internet users have grown significantly and now constitute 24% of the total universe.

Among English daily newspapers, The Times of India retained its number one position, followed by The Hindu and The Economic Times.

Let Bobde panel finish probe first, says ex-judge Patnaik

Let Bobde panel finish probe first, says ex-judge Patnaik

He has been tasked with examining ‘larger plot’ against CJI

Krishnadas Rajagopal

A.K. Patnaik


Justice A.K. Patnaik, the retired Supreme Court judge appointed by the court to check a lawyer’s claim of a “larger conspiracy” against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said on Friday that he would not begin his assignment until the in-house inquiry into a former court staffer’s complaint of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice was completed.

The former judge said a scrutiny of the conspiracy claim could wait as he was not on a deadline.

“I am not going to start until the in-house inquiry is over. If you see the Supreme Court order [of April 25], I have not been given a time limit, like 15 or 20 days, to complete my assignment… I think to avoid any clash with the Justice Bobde Committee inquiry, I will wait for them to finish… Let that be over,” Justice Patnaik told The Hindu on the phone.

Own decision

The decision to wait seems to be Justice Patnaik’s own as there is no specific direction from the court. On the other hand, the Special Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, which appointed Justice Patnaik on April 25, said a probe into the “larger plot” would not queer the inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint.

Despite the Bench’s assurances, Justice Patnaik pushed the pause button so the complainant would have no reason to fear prejudice.

The priority, Justice Patnaik said, is now the in-house inquiry into her complaint. The Justice Bobde panel, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, heard the complainant on April 26.

Justice Patnaik’s words address apprehensions in legal and public quarters that a “parallel” probe may jeopardise whatever defence the woman may put up before the Justice Bobde Committee.

* Nation

Communal divide to the fore in Asansol

Communal divide to the fore in Asansol

‘City of Brotherhood’ still bears the scars of last year’s riots during Ram Navami

Shiv Sahay Singh

Sitting MP Babul Supriyo (top) and TMC’s Moon Moon Sen campaigning in Asansol LS constituency.Special Arrangement


For a city with a centuries-old history of mining coal and producing steel, a gate at the entrance to Asansol, describing it as the “City of Brotherhood”, was scarcely noticed by residents and passers-by until a few years ago. However, after March 2018, the message put up by the city’s civic body is not only hard to miss but also presents the paradox the city is grappling with.

In March 2018, Asansol burnt in hatred. Over 26 years after the city witnessed a divide along communal lines post-Babri Masjid demolition, the city appeared to be divided again. People were killed and prohibitory orders remained imposed for weeks as riots broke out over processions during Ram Navami. As the constituency gears up for polls on April 29, 2019, the fault lines of the communal divide seem more pronounced.

Days before the polls, Trinamool Congress nominee Sreemati Dev Varma (Moon Moon Sen) had several events lined up earlier this week on Monday. At a crossing on the Domohani Road in Ward No. 31 of the Asansol Municipal Corporation, the 65-year-old actor made a brief speech to a crowd of a few hundred, largely comprising women and children.

“The sound of azan from your mosque is the same as that of shlokas from the Gita,” she began. “Will you vote for those who want to divide us,” she asked in an apparent reference to the BJP.

Ms. Sen, who represented Bankura Lok Sabha seat in 2014, had no hesitation in telling the audience that she is not familiar with Asansol and was contesting as per the wishes of her party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Her speech was replete with references to her mother, Bengali screen legend Suchitra Sen. Asked about her chances here, Ms. Sen’s reply reflected the wit of a politician: “Ask me what are the chances of Mamata Banerjee becoming Prime Minister and I will tell you its cent per cent.”

Challenges galore

The arithmetic of the last Assembly polls, held three years ago, may be with the TMC — it had won five of the seven seats in the Asansol LS constituency. But there are other challenges for the party. A TMC MP from Kolkata admitted that prime among them was of keeping the party’s flock together. This was one of the reasons why an outsider was given the ticket.

Defending the seat is Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo. The singer-turned-politician’s greatest weapon this election is a song that has already courted a lot of controversy. Beyond the open coal mines of Raniganj where people can be seen carrying coal — mostly smuggled from the mines — on bicycles and their heads under the scorching sun, Mr. Supriyo is in the midst of a very busy campaign. As his convoy passes through Pandabeshwar, his supporters distribute booklets on the work he has done in the past five years, with his song playing in the background. Refuting the Election Commission’s reservations about the song, Mr. Supriyo expressed happiness at the over one lakh views it had notched on the Internet. “Why will you vote for Moon Moon Sen who is asking for votes in the name of her dead mother? What about the living and their problems?” he told a small gathering. While reminding people to play his song, the MP also raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ during his campaign.

Corruption from coal and freedom to allow religious processions found echoes in the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addressed the public meeting at Polo Grounds in Asansol the very next day (Tuesday). Just on the other side of the railway tracks, where the Prime Minister addressed the public meeting, Noorani Masjid and its adjoining areas still bear the scars of last year’s violence. “There was an unfortunate incident last year. What happened then should not recur any time in the future,” said Maulana Imdadullah Rashidi, referring to the riots. The cleric’s 16-year-old son was killed in the riots but he defused the situation with love, threatening to leave the city if members of the community targeted others.

Another flare-up

Earlier this month, a communal flare-up was also reported at Barakat in Asansol over a Ram Navami procession when authorities had to intervene, make arrests and suspend Internet services in the area.

Imam Rashidi tried to downplay the incident. “There were some rumours in Barakat. Everything is quiet now. Elections will come and go. Asansol needs to, and will return to, where it was before 2018,” he said, his voice reflecting the same sanity and reason he had put forth a year ago.

For Imam Rashidi, Asansol is really the city of brotherhood. “We are brothers living together here for centuries. Those who are used to hate will never realise what brotherhood means,” he said.

Supreme Court stays Jaya panel proceedings

Supreme Court stays Jaya panel proceedings

Seeks T.N. government’s response

Krishnadas Rajagopal

A. Arumughaswamy


The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the proceedings of the Justice (retired) A. Arumughaswamy Commission, inquiring into the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, on a plea by Apollo Hospitals that the panel’s functioning was “replete with bias”.

Instead of conducting an impartial inquiry, the Commission had converted itself into an adversary, Apollo Hospitals told a Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. The Bench acknowledged submissions made by senior advocate Aryama Sundaram and advocate Rohini Musa that the proceedings before the inquiry panel were causing “grave prejudice” to the hospital’s reputation.

Mr. Sundaram informed the court that the Commission had taken to filing applications “on its own behalf before itself”. These applications filed by the panel to itself alleged that the hospital had shown negligence in the treatment of Jayalalithaa, who died on December 5, 2016.

Apollo Hospitals submitted that the Commission, instead of conducting an impartial probe, had filed a plea wherein it had alleged “criminal intent” on the part of the hospital and its doctors. Mr. Sundaram submitted that the panel had even asked for the medical reports of former Tamil Nadu CM M.G. Ramachandran, who died in 1987.

Senior advocate K.V. Vishwanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, urged the court to not stay the Commission’s proceedings at this point. However, the Bench refused to oblige the State and proceeded to freeze the inquiry.

Apollo Hospitals submitted that medical reports about the circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa were released in March 2017 to end speculation. Subsequently, the State had appointed the inquiry commission on September 25, 2017.

* Editorial 1

Lessons from a military encounter

Lessons from a military encounter

Why New Delhi and Islamabad must keep lines of communication open at all times

Happymon Jacob


Talking to one’s adversary in the midst of a war, a limited war or even hostility is often viewed as undesirable in the public mind. However, the lesson from the long history of warfare and India’s own experience in dealing with past crises is that talking to one’s adversaries is a crucial requirement for de-escalation and for bringing the two sides back from the brink. Such talks are often done discreetly and soberly via the ‘back channel’, away from media attention and focussed on de-escalation, meeting the aims behind the war-talk and achieving an honourable exit from the tussle.

In this regard, it is important to ask, how did Indian and Pakistani decision-makers fare in the end-February military encounter that the two sides found themselves in the middle of after the Pulwama terror strike? Going by the information that is currently available in open sources, and conversations with analysts in India and Pakistan, I would say that there were hardly any pre-existing/dedicated channels of communication between the two countries; the ones that were in place were not put to use; and very little bilateral conversation actually took place to de-escalate the crisis. That should be of great concern to us. Therefore, the military stand-off that followed the Indian Air Force strikes on Balakot, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, should encourage the two sides to urgently put in place dedicated bilateral conflict de-escalation mechanisms, in the absence of which the two nuclear-armed countries could potentially head towards an undesirable, inadvertent and unintended conflict with unpredictable outcomes.

It must be kept in mind that there is nothing to guarantee that military crises can be finely calibrated and controlled by central decision-makers — they cannot be. For instance, what would have been the nature of the escalation had the ordnance fired by the Pakistan Air Force actually hit forward military installations such as a Division HQ of the Indian Army in Kashmir and involved casualties?

Communication breakdown

The conversation at the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) level, the highest military contact that currently exists between India and Pakistan and which has often played a de-escalatory role, was not activated during the crisis. Unlike previous years, since Pakistan did not have a National Security Adviser (NSA) or an equivalent official, there were no NSA-level talks either. The two High Commissioners, unsurprisingly but disturbingly, were called back to their home countries for consultations. If anything, it is during crisis periods that envoys should stay put in their respective High Commissions to find ways of defusing tensions and relaying messages and options back to their governments. Curiously, India and Pakistan chose to do the exact opposite.

More significantly, there were apparently no back-channel contacts between India and Pakistan during the February crisis. During the Kargil conflict, on the other hand, politically appointed interlocutors had conducted discreet discussions on de-escalatory measures between the two sides. For the most part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) -I and II governments, there was an established mechanism of backchannel conversations by special envoys appointed by the respective Prime Ministers. The current Bharatiya Janata Party-led government decided to discontinue that time-tested and useful practice.

Against this background, it was puzzling that none of these tried, tested and somewhat successful mechanisms was used by the two sides. Did the government in New Delhi, for instance, want to keep decision-making and messaging during the crisis too close to its chest to ensure maximum political mileage from it?

Given the lack of abundant options for crisis communication, the two sides had to innovate on a war footing. Media reports have suggested that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chiefs had communicated with each other about what might happen had the Indian pilot not been released by Pakistan, among other things, something the Indian NSA also conveyed to Pakistan via the U.S. Parleys between the intelligence chiefs is an unlikely channel and contacts between them, while useful during crises, would not be able to achieve as much as between politically-empowered interlocutors. In any case, serving spymasters aren’t perhaps best placed for conflict de-escalation.

The fact that there were fears in Pakistan that India was preparing to launch missiles at its territory and that the Pakistani concerns about a possible Indian attack have not disappeared in Pakistan also goes to show the poor state of crisis communication between the nuclear rivals.

It is not difficult to understand why India chose not to communicate with Pakistan in an effective and officially authorised manner. Doing so would have taken away the political utility of the ‘teaching Pakistan a lesson’ rhetoric: how can India be seen to be talking to Pakistan at any level (except perhaps to threaten) when it is avenging the deaths of its solders? But even such a calculation shouldn’t have prevented India, I would argue, from making high-level de-escalatory contacts with Pakistan, for doing so is nothing but wise statecraft. Not doing so allows domestic political calculations to trump the diktats of statecraft.

Too many third parties

When the hostile parties do not talk to de-escalate, others tend to step in. February and early March witnessed a slew of efforts by third parties to ensure that India and Pakistan de-escalate from the nuclear brink. The Americans, Chinese, Russians, Saudis, Emiratis were all involved one way or another in defusing the tensions between the two countries. During earlier crises, Washington was the only mediator, but this time around, thanks to the tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan and the rise of other prominent actors in the region, there were several interested parties in the fray, each with its own agenda. Not only does the involvement of several parties make the situation more chaotic, it could potentially lead to more miscommunication and mismanagement.

Here’s the problem then. On the one hand, there was very little crisis negotiation between the principal parties to the conflict — India and Pakistan. On the other, there were several third parties who jumped into the fray for mediation, and it seemed as if both the sides were happily outsourcing their crisis management to third parties with differing agendas and motives. Outsourcing conflict management to third parties, especially in the absence of one’s own mechanisms, is a recipe for disaster.

Reinstate backchannel talks

One of the biggest takeaways from the February crisis is the need to reinstate/re-establish high-level backchannel contacts with interlocutors in Pakistan, whether Islamabad or Rawalpindi. This is a lesson from various India-Pakistan crises, be it the backchannel through the 1999 Kargil conflict and the 2001-2002 crisis, discreet negotiations between the two sides preceding the 2003 ceasefire agreement and the post-Mumbai escalation.

This is also a lesson the two Cold War rivals had learnt, that they had to keep talking to each other through the worst years of their rivalry. As a matter of fact, it took the Cuban Missile Crisis to convince the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to negotiate arms control, discuss crisis management and put in place confidence-building measures, notwithstanding the state of their relationship. Remember, the Cold War also had domestic political implications especially for the U.S., but that didn’t prevent them from instituting conflict-management measures.

Happymon Jacob teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and is the author of ‘Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics’

Competing for the best

Competing for the best

India’s ability to attract global faculty hinges on dramatic changes in its higher education structure

Getty Imageschipstudio/Getty Images

Philip G. Altbach & Eldho Mathews

The flow of academics, for decades, has been from India to other countries. One can find top Indian talent, for example, at many American universities. They include the dean of the Harvard Business School and the dean of Harvard College, and a number of university presidents as well as professors in many fields. This flow of talent has heavily impacted the availability of highly qualified academics in Indian universities. To counter this “brain drain” and to quickly improve top Indian institutions, the Narendra Modi government introduced flagship programmes such as the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), Visiting Advanced Joint Research Faculty Scheme (VAJRA), and Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC). It was reported recently that there are just 40 foreign teachers at all of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) — 1% of the total faculty of 5,400 — despite the government’s goal to attract 20% international faculty at higher education institutions such as the IITs. This is despite the fact that internationalisation in general and the appointment of global staff is central to the new ‘Institutions of Eminence’ programme. The goal is even more lofty after the IIT Council, last year, recommended the recruitment of foreign faculty on a tenure basis. The Graded Autonomy Regulations of the University Grants Commission also now allows the highest performing universities to hire up to 20% foreign faculty on tenure basis.

It is virtually impossible for India to attract large numbers of international professors of high standing and ability without dramatic changes in many aspects of the existing governance structure in higher education. Dramatically enhanced funding would also be required.

The talent pool

There are two kinds of international academics to be considered. The first category is accomplished senior professors — these would be very difficult to lure to India. Established in their careers, with attractive international salaries, and often with family and other obligations, they are embedded both in their universities and locales. The other group are younger scholars who may have fewer ties to universities and societies, and are thus more mobile. Further, some, depending on their disciplines, may have difficulty in locating a permanent academic job at home due to a tight academic job market. They also will not add to the immediate prestige of the Indian university which hires them since they do not have an established reputation. However, they can provide quality teaching, research and they often bring a useful international perspective.

The main possibilities for mobility are academics of Indian origin (non-resident Indians) who have successful careers abroad and who might be attracted back. The major recent initiative of the Indian government, GIAN, has been successful in attracting many academics of Indian origin from different countries for shorter durations. However, the experiences of two prominent universities sponsored by Indian and other regional governments — the South Asian University in Delhi and Nalanda in Bihar — show that offering higher salaries with exemption from taxation has not been very successful in attracting senior faculty of foreign origin.

In some ways, the best Indian universities would require a kind of “cultural revolution” to join the ranks of global world-class universities — and to be able to lure top faculty. The structural and practical realities of Indian universities make them generally unattractive to academic talent from abroad. A few examples indicate some of the challenges.

Scales of salary

Indian academic salaries are not globally competitive, even taking into account variations in living costs. In the U.S., senior academics at research universities typically earn around ₹8,970,000 and up annually, and those at top universities can earn ₹13,800,000 or more. The average salary for a full-time academic is ₹5,037,000, with those in high demand fields in the sciences, business and others earning significantly more. In comparison, the total emoluments offered to a professor in an IIT located in one of the Indian metro cities, in accordance with the latest Pay Commission’s minimum pay scale with house rent allowance is around ₹2,640,000. China, which is also actively luring top international faculty to its research universities, is offering salaries of ₹6,900,000 or more along with additional research funding.

International faculty cannot be offered long-term appointments in Indian public institutions. A five-year contract is all that is available. Thus, there is little job security.

Obtaining research funding is difficult and the resources available, by international standards, are quite limited.

On the other hand, a few ‘elite’ private universities such as O.P. Jindal, Azim Premji, Ashoka, Shiv Nadar, Ahmedabad, Krea, and the management institute Indian School of Business have adopted different strategies; for instance, ranging from attracting foreign nationals, to Indians who studied at prestigious foreign universities to their institutions by offering higher salaries and other benefits than are available to local hires. The faculty diversity of O.P. Jindal Global University, for example, stands out among these with 71 full-time foreign faculty from 32 countries. The key motivation for hiring foreign faculty at all these institutions is to improve international competitiveness and secure positions in global rankings, which in turn would also attract more motivated students.

These new private institutions with, by Indian standards, considerable resources have proved that it is possible to attract foreign faculty, at least those with an Indian ethnic background. But the challenges faced by public institutions, even those of as high quality as the IITs and the best universities, seem insurmountable, at least in the context of the current Indian higher education environment and bureaucratic and legal framework.

Philip G. Altbach is research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College, U.S. Eldho Mathews is an independent higher education researcher based in New Delhi

Parallel probes

Parallel probes

According priority to inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint is a welcome move

It is reassuring that there will be no parallel inquiries into the two sets of allegations that have rocked the Supreme Court. Justice (retired) A.K. Patnaik, who has been tasked with probing an alleged conspiracy against the Chief Justice of India, has made the right decision by choosing to wait for the end of the in-house inquiry into a former woman employee’s complaint of sexual harassment by the CJI and subsequent victimisation, before starting his work. The court constituted two inquiries to deal with the situation following the complaint against the CJI. A three-judge Bench, passing orders on a matter concerning the independence of the judiciary, appointed Justice Patnaik to investigate the affidavits filed by Utsav Singh Bains, an advocate, who has alleged a larger conspiracy against the CJI involving disgruntled court employees and other ‘fixers’. On the administrative side, an in-house committee headed by Justice S.A. Bobde will look into the complaint of the dismissed woman court assistant. The Bench emphasised that the probe into the alleged plot would not impinge on the harassment complaint. However, it was obvious that it would not be possible for such parallel proceedings to be independent of each other. Mr. Bains has alleged he was offered up to ₹1.50 crore by someone to file a false complaint against the CJI. It would have been well nigh impossible to verify the claim without examining if the intermediaries had any nexus with the complainant.

Clearly, the complaint of sexual harassment should get priority. It is only if the complaint is found to be false that there will be a case to probe whether it was part of a plot to malign the CJI, or a conspiracy. It is unfortunate that the composition of the in-house committee became a controversy. There was concern that there was only one woman member, and the complainant raised the issue of the proximity of one of its members, Justice N.V. Ramana, with the CJI. He has now recused himself to make way for another woman judge. The episode has highlighted the lacuna in the in-house procedure the judges have adopted. There is no provision to deal with a situation where the CJI is the subject of a complaint. Also, the idea of the inquiry being wholly ‘in-house’ is in conflict with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which envisages the presence of an external member. Despite this shortcoming, the committee should try to ensure a fair hearing for the former employee. The dignity and institutional integrity of the judiciary will be better served by probing the veracity of her charge, rather than by pursuing evidence for sweeping claims that “the rich and the powerful” are trying to run the courts.

Backstop option

Backstop option

Brexit modalities are putting pressure on the fragile peace in Northern Ireland

Journalist Lyra McKee’s gruesome murder in Londonderry last week has brought into focus the fragile Irish peace process, more than 20 years after Britain and Ireland signed the historic Good Friday accord. The attack, carried out by the so-called New IRA, opposed to the 1998 deal, also underscores the political stalemate following the collapse of power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland. McKee, 29, a freelance journalist and author, rose to prominence through her work on the victims of three decades of The Troubles. In March, authorities held the New IRA, established in 2012, responsible for sending parcel bombs to transport hubs in London and a university in Scotland. In January, it owned up a car bomb explosion at a Londonderry court, a sign of renewed militant activity, soon after the U.K. Parliament rejected the government’s withdrawal deal from the EU over disagreements on the border with the Republic of Ireland. The so-called Irish backstop is designed to ensure – until an alternative is found – that Britain remains in a customs union with the EU, so as to protect the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The absence of customs checkpoints in the region over two decades has been critical to protecting the peace, and maintaining the status quo is a paramount demand notwithstanding Britain’s eventual exit from the EU. But champions of a hard Brexit are hostile to the backstop, which they fear will tie Britain permanently in a customs union and deny London the freedom to strike trade agreements with third countries. The issue has divided Dublin and London, as also the Leave and Remain camps within Britain’s principal political parties.

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Assembly, responsible for the exercise of devolved authority in the region, has remained in suspended animation since 2017. Northern Ireland’s two main parties, the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party and the Sinn Féin, the Irish republican party, are divided on several issues of governance. This has lent credence to the view that the 1998 accord has merely managed sectarian divisions rather than cement relations between communities. The DUP, which props up the Conservative government in London, has consistently opposed the backstop, despite the promise it holds to protect the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But the party could yet play a constructive part in breaking the Brexit stalemate by backing Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. This prospect has gained strength following the Conservative hardliners’ suggestion that they could support Ms. May’s deal if the DUP were also to come on board. A meeting of minds on this question would save the U.K. from the grave danger of crashing out of the EU without an agreement. It would equally guarantee peace in Northern Ireland.

* Editorial 2

The long wait for safety

The long wait for safety

A year after the launch of the Safe Cities programme, not much headway has been made in making cities safer for women. Jagriti Chandra and Hemani Bhandari report how late disbursal of funds and election time restrictions have slowed down the whole process

”Helpline 1090 in Uttar Pradesh was launched to prevent atrocities against women.” Rajeev BhattRajeev Bhatt

Anchal Yadav, 18, finds the daily one hour commute by share autorickshaw to her college in Lucknow familiar, yet daunting. Every day, the rickshaw is chock-a-block with passengers. Anchal curls into a ball, using her arms to protect herself from any unwelcome touch, and keeps her bag on her lap. When she returns home in the afternoon from college, Anchal says she is wary of walking down the deserted street near her house. Public transport is poor in Uttar Pradesh’s capital. For women like Anchal, the autorickshaw is the best mode of transport and often the only one. Going to college is not just a routine, it is an exercise in staying alert — every day, all the time.

Down south, in Bengaluru, Jyothi Ramesh, 20, is equally familiar with this exhaustion. She says the journey late evening to the nearest bus stop from the factory where she works is nerve-racking. She is thankful to have found a colleague who goes in the same direction and often rides with her.

Traversing India’s cities is not just difficult for college girls and working women, but also for policewomen. Sheetal, 21, is a young woman in khaki. A constable with the Delhi police, she works night shifts. As part of the Police Control Room (PCR) unit, she is among the first responders to crimes in her area. Yet, Sheetal’s parents cannot stop worrying about her safety when she travels to and from work. Her phone buzzes through the night with calls from home. She puts her mobile phone on silent mode, as taking personal calls on duty is frowned upon.

A watershed moment

Following the horrific gang rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 and the public outcry that followed it, the United Progressive Alliance-2 government set up the Nirbhaya Fund, named after the victim as she was referred to by the media, to ensure the safety of women across the country, with an initial corpus of ₹1,000 crore. The fund was announced at the fag end of that government’s term, and so little was spent from it. Over six years, the amount increased to ₹3,600 crore, but reports emerged that the money was not being used. Faced with severe criticism for this, the National Democratic Alliance government approved in March 2018 ₹2,919 crore from this corpus for the Safe Cities programme for eight major cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Lucknow — for three years. The Centre and the States share the expenses for the scheme (60:40). The amount given by the Central government is ₹2,016.50 crore.

The Centre invited proposals from the Director Generals of Police (DGP) of these eight cities as well as from Municipal Commissioners. The Hindu tracked the status of implementation of the Safe Cities programme in six of the eight cities and found that not a single penny had been spent by the local administrations despite funds being released by the Centre. The police in many cities said that tendering for works proposed by them under the programme (such as installation of CCTV cameras, PCR vans, e-toilets and pink patrol bikes and cars) will begin only after the Lok Sabha election is over. In Delhi, senior officials drew a blank when asked about the execution of the scheme.

Public pressure forced both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress to give more primacy to women’s safety in their 2014 manifestos, but that is not the case this time. Despite the BJP’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme, which aims to “prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination, ensure survival and protection of the girl child, and ensure education of girls”, and the Congress’s plan to develop a Citizens’ Charter for Women’s Safety and Security, the promise to fight against gender violence is drowned in the din of claims and counter-claims by political parties this election season. Further, it is clear that both the BJP and the Congress look at women’s safety only through the prism of criminal investigation — the BJP talks about ‘forensic facilities’ and ‘fast-track courts’, and the Congress proposes a ‘separate investigative agency’ for heinous crimes against women. The focus on making public spaces safe and accessible for women like Anchal, Jyothi and Sheetal through sustained campaigns is entirely absent.

In Lucknow, call helpline 1090

It is 4 p.m. and the control room in Lucknow is abuzz with the sounds of ceaseless typing, phones ringing, and calls being answered. Women police constables wearing headphones lend a patient ear to complaints from women on the other end of the line, type out complaints, and submit them online for further action.

The call centre is not far from the U.P. Police Headquarters. The ‘Women Power Helpline 1090’ was launched to ensure that police help is only a phone call away. Victims don’t need to go to the police station to file a complaint. The requirement to file an FIR, too, has been dispensed with in order to encourage women to break their silence without fear of reprisal, often from their own families.

As many as 45 women constables have been tasked with answering complaints about lewd phone calls, online abuse, stalking and sexual harassment. The helpline, which was launched in 2012, registers about 730 complaints a day. Once a complaint is filed, a male constable calls the offender and rebukes him for his misdemeanour, warns him of police action and, in rare cases when this is insufficient, books him for a crime. The grievance is considered resolved only after following up with the victim over 45 days.

“We tell the offender that he is being put on the police radar; that if he doesn’t change, there will be legal action. So, it is both reformatory and punitive. But when there are incidents that require immediate action, say a case of rape, we lodge an FIR immediately,” says Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police O.P. Singh.

The data collected from calls made to the helpline offer an insight into the State. The most number of complaints come from Lucknow, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Gorakhpur. Data from 2018 show that 53% of women who called the helpline were non-working women. Thirty-four per cent of the calls came from college students. More than 70% of the complaints were about lewd phone calls. Incidents of cyber-harassment increased by four times in 2018 from the previous year.

The U.P. police plans to double the capability of this unique initiative under the Safe Cities programme and add 40 more computer terminals, says Singh. The Central government has approved ₹194 crore for Lucknow from the Nirbhaya Fund. Proposals also include integrating 1090 with another helpline, UP 100 (the Uttar Pradesh Police Emergency Management System); setting up an integrated control room linked to 1,500 CCTVs; pink outposts for facilitating easy filing of complaints by women; 100 pink patrol scooters, 100 pink SUVs, 74 pink toilets, and public transport buses that are GPS-enabled and equipped with panic buttons and CCTV cameras. A Data Analytics centre at the 1090 call centre has also been proposed. Singh says the Centre disbursed the entire sum in three tranches by January, but work on these projects will commence only some time this year. He says the 1090 helpline and other measures have helped the U.P. police combat crimes against women, and that there was a 7% fall in rape cases in 2018 from 2017.

Richa Rastogi, a local women’s rights activist, voices concern over these insular efforts, however. She points to the need to look at women’s safety beyond violent crimes in public spaces. “A safe city must have provisions for shelter homes for women who have escaped from violent marriages and sometimes from their own parents who want to get them married without their consent. There is also a need to deploy protection officers mandated under the Domestic Violence Act,” says Rastogi who works with Humsafar, an NGO supporting survivors of gender-based violence. She adds that an earlier initiative to introduce pink autos in the city failed as they were mostly operated and used by men. “We need to have women drivers. This will ensure women’s empowerment and make women commuters feel safe,” she says.

Women cops in the capital city

It’s 10 p.m. on a Saturday in the capital city. Sheetal, Manisha and Sarika (names changed), all constables, are circling New Delhi’s Connaught Place in a PCR van. They have a 12-hour shift. Their task is to be the first responders to calls made to the police in the area. They often intervene in drunken brawls, rescue intoxicated men lying on the streets, and sometimes face the ire of victims of theft.

They may be with the police, but their parents worry about their safety as they travel long distances from their homes on the outskirts of the city to report for work. “We travel alone, often at night. Though we are police officers, parents will always be parents. Sometimes, I get calls every half an hour on my way home,” says Manisha, who lives in Haryana’s Bahadurgarh. Manisha takes two buses, a metro and an autorickshaw to reach work.

Although these women have heard stories of discrimination by their male counterparts, they haven’t had any unpleasant encounters since they joined the force in February, they say. “We have had meetings in which we have been told that we can inform our seniors or any officer in case someone misbehaves with us,” says Sarika.

The city police says its women officers patrol outside schools and colleges to ensure that women students are safe. “All the Station House Officers are directed to increase patrolling in winter as the streets are more lonely then and visibility is low. Police booths and facilitation desks are also provided at identifiable places in crowded areas,” says Geeta Rani Verma, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Police Unit for Women and Children).

The Delhi police was sanctioned ₹663.67 crore under the scheme. It was also the only city to receive 100% funding from the Centre. The Delhi police plans to procure hi-tech ‘field devices’ for enhanced real-time responses to crimes in the city; have dedicated women safety patrol vans equipped with dashboards for viewing live feeds from CCTV cameras across the city; and GPS tracking facilities. However, despite the scheme being approved more than a year ago, a senior official seems to know little about it.

Plans afoot in Chennai

Rajalakshmi, a working woman who frequently travels on the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) between Chepauk and Velachery in Chennai, says it is unsafe to travel in the city late in the day. The MRTS stations are sprawling, dark, unutilised spaces. “It is an ordeal to reach the platform. I have to cross empty, dark spaces inside the station to reach it. A policeman or a security guard in the station is a rare sight. I know of women who are frequently harassed on running trains and in dark corners of the stations too,” she says. Rajalakshmi’s fear is not unfounded. In 2016, Chennai was gripped by horror when a 24-year-old Infosys employee was hacked to death at a busy railway station in broad daylight. In January this year, a woman was molested at the Taramani MRTS station by railway staff.

The Chennai Corporation and police have an elaborate plan to augment the infrastructure in the city to ensure safety of women. The local body plans to have 617 ‘safe zone clusters’ in places considered crime hotspots and where surveillance cameras and street lights are to be installed. These safe clusters will cover 19 bus stands, 10 colleges, 70 schools, seven shopping malls, seven IT parks and 56 railway stations as well as markets and places of worship. As many as 500 e-toilets for women are to be set up in public places and 30 mobile toilets for women police staff on bandobust duty at the cost of ₹27.77 crore. The city police also plans to conduct a GIS-based heat map of areas of crime against women that is to be integrated with notification services on mobile applications. A 24×7 emergency app to track women in distress and a helpline service for women are on the cards, officials claim. The total amount sanctioned to the city under the Safe Cities project is ₹426 crore.

But all these are only on paper.

“Once the elections are over, we will call for tenders,” says an official on the condition of anonymity.

SHE teams in Hyderabad

Among the initiatives Hyderabad has already undertaken to ensure that women are safe, the police counts its SHE teams as a success. The aim of the SHE teams is to curb ‘eveteasing’ in all aspects and in all places. In the last four and a half years, the SHE teams in Hyderabad have received 12,000 petitions. But these teams mostly have male officers.

Speaking of how complaints reach them, Shikha Goel, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crimes and SIT), Hyderabad, says women use social media often nowadays. “They trust this medium and we respond promptly,” she says.

But SHE teams are not the only answer. Seven months after the Centre allocated ₹282 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund to the city administration under the Safe Cities programme, the money lies unused. A senior police officer says that in October 2018, the Centre released its share of ₹112.8 crore, but the 40% share from the State government has not come yet. “Once the funds are released from the State government, we will work on various projects related to women’s safety, including the installation of CCTV cameras at hotspots and in public transport,” the officer says.

Eyes on the street

The Bengaluru police launched pink Hoysalas, or patrolling vehicles, to exclusively address women and child safety issues. But Dona Fernandes of Vimochana, a women’s rights organisation, says that these pink Hoysalas are often used for other policing jobs. Although this was started as a service that would have exclusive women patrolling staff, many of the Hoysalas are run by male police personnel, she says.

The City Police Commissioner, T. Suneel Kumar, says that a ₹667 crore proposal for the Safe Cities programme is yet to be implemented. “The Karnataka government has received funds from the Central government, but we will carry out the project once the code of conduct for the elections comes to an end,” he says.

The Centre allocated ₹252 crore to Mumbai for the Safe Cities programme and the Maharashtra Cabinet approved the installation of 1,600 CCTV cameras across the metropolis. Senior officials say they have so far not submitted a single bill to the Centre under the scheme and it would take at least another two months for work to begin.

While the plan to place Mumbai under the watch of a CCTV network had been in the works for several years, the project was made fully functional only in 2016, with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis inaugurating 4,717 cameras covering 1,510 spots in the city. The feed from the cameras is viewed in real time at the Mumbai Police Control Room, enabling the police to keep an eye on law and order. The same feed is also beamed live to offices of senior officers like the Commissioner of Police and the Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order).

Beyond technology

But is safety merely about having more eyes on the streets?

“An overemphasis on technology and policing will enhance security, but not necessarily make cities safer for women or enhance their access to public spaces,” says Kalpana Viswanath, co-founder of Safetipin, a mobile app that provides safety scores of different localities to its users. Viswanath is among the members of the committee headed by the Home Secretary to guide the formulation of the Safe Cities programme. She is also the chairperson of Jagori, an NGO that conducted a safety audit of Delhi in 2005-06. The study highlighted threats to women’s safety such as poor lighting in public spaces and broken pavements that force women to walk on the roads and render them vulnerable to verbal and sexual abuse by men on bikes and in cars. The audit also pointed out how women felt safer in areas that were populated by hawkers and vegetable-sellers late in the evening.

“Besides policing, we need to look at urban planning and designing gender-friendly spaces. We need to effect a change in cultural and social norms through campaigns. I am really surprised that none of these cities wants to spend money on a campaign,” she says. “Globally, wherever cities have made significant changes, it has been because of the municipal authorities. Whether it is New York, London, Bogota, or Seoul, it is because the mayoral system has been strengthened. For cities we must ask for stronger local bodies.”

Conversations with police officials across cities show that it is not only the State authorities, but also the civic authorities who have a role to play in securing the safety of women in public places.

With inputs from R. Sivaraman, Abhinay Deshpande, Tanu Kulkarni and Sharad Vyas

* Foreign

‘Anti-Muslim riots a possible trigger’

‘Anti-Muslim riots a possible trigger’

Sri Lankan officials believe that communal tensions could have motivated the Easter attacks suspects

Meera Srinivasan

Keeping vigil: A soldier stands guard in front of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on Friday, following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.AFP


The spate of anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka in recent years could have been a reason for more youth to turn radical and mobilise, according to a top Sri Lankan military intelligence source.

“While screening records of conversations among the suspects, we found references to the communal tensions in the recent past. They have spoken of the need to retaliate. We believe those tensions could have been a motivation,” the source, playing a key role in the investigations, told The Hindu on Friday. While authorities are probing different angles to the suspects’ possible links to the Islamic State, which has claimed the attacks, they are simultaneously examining the youths’ local context and environment that may have contributed to their veering into a radical path.

The official, who asked not to be named, was referring to the incidents in March 2018 around Kandy city in the Central Province, when violent mobs of reportedly Sinhalese youth identified and attacked several Muslim-owned shops. Rows of shops were set ablaze. At least two Muslims were reported dead in the violence, while shop owners reported losses to the tune of millions. Despite locals alerting the police, little action was taken to contain the violence or damage, Muslim people and community leaders complained at that time.

Old fears

Even as he strongly condemned the “cowardly and barbaric” Easter attacks, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Raulff Hakeem urged citizens to be mindful of “agents of disharmony and destabilisation”, and not to fall prey to “sinister designs”.

For many like him, the attacks instantly sparked fears of a backlash, amid fresh memories of targeted attacks in Kandy, just a year ago, and other anti-Muslim attacks in recent years, led and backed by hard-line Sinhala Buddhist groups, particularly the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and its militant monk-leader Gnanasara Thero.

Three years ago

The trend began around 2012, barely three years after the Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the LTTE, bringing the country’s three decade-long war to an end. Reactionary groups among Sinhala Buddhists campaigned against the Hijab and then sought a ban on Halal certification, forcing shops to stop selling meat labelled according to Islamic guidelines. A few Muslim-owned chains were attacked. In 2014, mobs attacked homes and properties of Muslims living in the southern town of Aluthgama. Ensuing clashes claimed at least four lives. To many, it seemed that Muslims — who make up about 10% of Sri Lanka’s population — had emerged a new adversary to hard-line sections of the majority Sinhala-Buddhists. The Muslims had not retaliated in any of those instances.

Treading cautiously

That is perhaps why some in Sri Lanka are treading this moment, following the ghastly attacks carried out by a radical Islamist organisation, rather cautiously.

Several Christian leaders, including the Archbishop of Sri Lanka Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who have vehemently condemned the attacks have simultaneously called for peace and calm, often explicitly making a distinction between “brothers” in the Muslim community and the attackers. Appreciating the vulnerability of the Muslim community, in the wake of attacks they have faced in the past few years, some leaders are repeatedly pointing to the community’s own disapproval of a section’s radicalisation or violence. Tamil National Leader M.A. Sumanthiran told parliament earlier this week that “the Muslim people, to their credit, have repeatedly complained about these miscreants” to authorities, but to no avail.

Religious and civil society organisations too are repeatedly calling for solidarity among different communities. The Women’s Coalition for Disaster Management in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Batticaloa district has said: “We have to work together in order to prevent the already strained ethnic relations from growing into full blown splits between communities that have always coexisted in our region.”

A statement by Jaffna-based Christians across denominations said: “We will never place any responsibility on our brothers and sisters of any community for the dastardly and cruel acts of a few.”

BRI has entered a new era of transparency: Xi

BRI has entered a new era of transparency: Xi

‘China will work with others to write new global trade rules’

Atul Aneja

President Xi Jinping proposing a toast during the welcome banquet for leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum.AFPNICOLAS ASFOURI

China on Friday announced that the financial model for funding projects under its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had been revamped, countering criticism that its mega-connectivity undertaking was opening “debt traps” for enhancing its geopolitical influence.
“We have also formulated guiding principles of financing the development of the Belt and Road and published debt sustainability framework for participating countries to provide guidance for BRI financing cooperation,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his keynote address at the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF).
Mr. Xi’s opening remarks highlighted the subtext of rivalry with the U.S. in setting the global agenda. In the presence of 37 country heads, chief of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres, as well as representatives of scores of nations, he docked the BRI with a new phase of globalisation, anchored by China and its partners.
India has decided to skip the BRF in opposition to the BRI’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). New Delhi has noted that it is an infringement of its sovereignty.
Mr. Xi stressed that China “will work with others” to write new rules of international trade within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Rules and credibility underpin the effective functioning of the international governance system. China is an active supporter and participant of the WTO and will work with others to develop international economic and trade rules of higher standard.”
China has been accused of funding unsustainable projects under BRI, which could be leveraged for extending Beijing’s political influence in geopolitically sensitive countries such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which skirt important shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean.
Zero tolerance
But countering the charge of China having a hidden agenda, Mr. Xi said: “In pursuing Belt and Road cooperation, everything should be done in a transparent way. We should have zero tolerance for corruption”.
He added: “We also need to ensure the commercial and fiscal sustainability of all projects so that they will achieve the intended goals as planned.”
Mr. Xi stressed that the BRI projects would encourage participation by multilateral and national financial institutions and encourage joint ventures in third countries. They would seek the involvement of “multiple stake holders”, for projects pursuing a “people-centered” approach focused on “job creation” and countering poverty.
Lending scheme
“We will continue to make a good use of the Belt and Road special lending scheme, the Silk Road Fund and various special investment funds, develop Silk Road themed bonds and support the multilateral cooperation centre for development finance in its operation,” he said.
The BRI, he said, would pursue “high quality” schemes attuned to “international rules and standards” covering the procurement, tendering and bidding processes.
Unveiled in 2013, the BRI is a giant land and maritime connectivity project, driven to revive the Ancient Silk Road. It covers Eurasia and Africa, building a network of expressways. Ahead of the BRF, Italy has become the first G-7 country to formally join the BRI.
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China, Russia pose threat to U.S.: FBI

China, Russia pose threat to U.S.: FBI

Agency chief describes China as most significant ‘intelligence collection’ threat

Sriram Lakshman

Christopher Wray


FBI Director Christopher Wray described China as the most significant “intelligence collection” threat. His comments were made at a discussion at the offices of the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank.

“No country poses a broader more severe intelligence collection threat than China,” Mr. Wray said, adding he was seeing increased instances of “blended threats”, a combination of cybercrimes and espionage. “Economic espionage dominates our counter-intelligence programme today.”

“China has pioneered a societal approach to stealing innovation in any way it can from a wide array of businesses, universities and organisations. They’re doing it through Chinese intelligence services, their state-owned enterprises, through ostensibly ‘private’ companies, through graduate students, through researchers, through a variety of actors all working on behalf of China,” Mr. Wray said.

On Thursday, the U.S Trade Representative said it was keeping China on a ‘priority watch list’ of countries that are of significant concern to the U.S. in terms of their inadequate protection of IP. China’s IP laws are a contentious topic and have featured in the trade talks between the two countries. The U.S. is also aggressively working with allies in trying to keep China out of dominating the building of global 5G network infrastructure such as by taking action against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Russian interference

Mr. Wray described Russia as a “very significant” threat in response to a question on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s characterisation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as “sweeping and systematic”.

“I think everybody has their own adjectives… I do think Russia poses a very significant counter-intelligence threat, certainly in the cyber arena, certainly [in] what we call the ‘malign foreign influence territory’, certainly in their presence of intelligence officers in this country,” he said.

Mr. Wray is a Trump appointee and his comments are in contrast with those from several senior administration officials, who have tended to play down the role of Russian influence on the campaign.

Mr. Wray said malign foreign influence has continued “pretty much unabated” through the use of fake news, propaganda, false personas to sow divisiveness and undermine Americans’ faith in democracy. This was in response to a question on the scale and nature of the foreign influence threat between the 2016 presidential election and 2018 midterm elections.

However, Mr. Wray said there was no material impact or interference with election or campaign infrastructure in 2018.

On the Sri Lanka bombings of Easter Sunday, Mr. Wray said the FBI had sent personnel over to assist in the investigation to work with its partners in Sri Lanka. “You always hear this phrase about ‘connecting the dots’ in the terrorist arena, but a lot of the terrorist plots of today are more compact, involving fewer people, less complicated attacks, shorter period of time, which means fewer dots to connect in the first place.”

U.K. court extends Nirav Modi’s remand

U.K. court extends Nirav Modi’s remand

To remain in custody till the next hearing in the extradition case on May 24

Vidya Ram

Mr. Modi has been remanded in HM Wandsworth, one of Europe’s largest prisons.


Diamond merchant Nirav Modi will remain in custody till the next hearing in the extradition proceedings against him on May 24 as his legal team failed to make a further application for bail before the court in London.

During the brief procedural hearing on Friday, Mr. Modi — the main accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud case — appeared by a video link from Wandsworth Prison in south London.

Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate of Westminster Court, set May 24 for the next procedural hearing (Mr. Modi has to be produced before the court every four weeks) and May 30 for the first case management hearing, for which Mr. Modi will be brought in person.

There was no further attempt to push for bail, following the unsuccessful application made before Judge Arbuthnot in March, at which the prosecution accused Mr. Modi of threatening to kill a witness and destroying evidence in an effort to curtail his case. Judge Arbuthnot had accepted the arguments, saying she was denying bail because of the risk he would fail to surrender to the court and his lack of community ties.

No time limit

Mr. Modi would have been entitled to make a third bail application if there had been a substantial change in circumstances for the application. However, no such application was made during the hearing. Mr. Modi has also so far failed to lodge an appeal at the High Court, which would have provided another avenue for him to attempt to gain bail. There is no time limit on this application though.

Mr. Modi has been remanded in HM Wandsworth, one of Europe’s largest and most overcrowded prisons. His case took an unexpected turn in March, after police arrested him following a tip-off by an Indian-origin clerk at a bank in central London. He had recognised Mr. Modi following the wave of publicity around the case. Mr. Modi’s legal team had been in touch with the Metropolitan Police’s Extradition Unit to arrange for him to hand himself over voluntarily by appointment the following week.

Last year, the inspectorate of prisons in the U.K. published a scathing inspection report on conditions in the prison in which it warned about issues ranging from the availability of illicit drugs to overcrowded conditions.