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We cannot stop things from happening, Chief Justice Bobde says on the riots

Hushed up: Trinamool Congress MPs staging a demonstration outside Parliament on Monday against the recent violence in north-east Delhi. R.V. Moorthy

Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde on Monday orally said courts were not “equipped” to handle palpable “pressure” being created to somehow step in and prevent violence in Delhi.

“We are not saying people should die. But this kind of pressure we are not equipped to handle. We cannot stop things from happening. We cannot prevent anything… We feel a kind of pressure on us... We cannot handle that. It is as if the court is responsible,” he remarked. Courts came into the picture only after an incident happened, he explained.

The observations came when senior advocate Colin Gonsalves made a mentioning before him to urgently intervene and pass directions to arrest those delivering hate speeches and to prevent the spread of violence.

Mr. Gonsalves was appearing for Maharashtra resident Shaikh Mujtaba Farooq and nine others from Delhi. The petitioners said they were attacked by mobs while peacefully protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Chief Justice Bobde agreed to hear their case on Wednesday (March 4).

Mr. Gonsalves alleged that five or six prominent people were going about instigating violence. “At least 10 to 11 people are dying everyday. Last night, five or seven people died,” he submitted. The court should either take up the case in the afternoon or latest by Tuesday, he said.

‘Long adjournments’

He said despite the deaths of people, a Delhi High Court Bench, led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel, had “very disappointingly” adjourned the next hearing in the case by six weeks. Earlier, the same High Court had adjourned a case for fair inquiry into the Jamia violence by several weeks, he submitted.

Such long adjournments allowed these human rights cases to stagnate and gave the government elbow room, he stated.

But Chief Justice Bobde said the courts could not handle such pressure.

“There are many things Your Lordships cannot handle, but we are here to help you... People are dying every day,” Mr. Gonsalves responded.

Kin, acquaintances to be screened

Two more cases of COVID-19 — one in Delhi and another in Telangana — have been reported in the country, taking the total number of positive cases to five, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

According to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, the person from Delhi had travelled to Italy, while the other one has a recent travel history to Dubai.

“Both the patients had self-reported after they developed symptoms. They tested positive. They are stable and being closely monitored. We are now contacting their family and others who have come in contact with them to ensure that the virus is contained and any case is picked up at the earliest,” he said.

The infected person in Delhi had self-reported at the RML Hospital here after returning to India, while the one in Telangana had initially gone to a private hospital and then was referred to a government hospital. There are now reports of an Italian tourist in India showing symptoms of the infection. The Health Ministry has maintained that he has not been confirmed for the virus and that a sample has been sent to NIV, Pune.

Minister of Health (State) Ashwini Choubey said 15 laboratories were working and 19 more would be set up.

Comparing it to the release of a delayed film, Jaishankar says gains of past 18 years should be protected

S. Jaishankar

Likening the U.S.-Taliban agreement at Doha to the long-awaited release of a film, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Monday that India was “watching the space” closely to ensure that gains of the past two decades were not lost. “[The agreement] has been talked about for so long it is almost like finally seeing Pakeezah after 17 trailers,” Mr. Jaishankar said, referring to the 1972 Hindi film which took 15 years to complete.

“How it plays out, only time will tell…This is not the Afghanistan of 2001. To the United States and the West, our message is that the achievements of the last 18 years should be protected and not jeopardised.”

Concerns not addressed

While India has raised concerns over the future of democracy, human rights, women’s rights and other achievements made in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban regime was last defeated, the issues were not addressed in the agreement between the U.S. and Taliban signed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 29. The agreement provides a timetable for withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 and an intra-Afghan dialogue in March 2020.

Speaking at the Centre for Policy Research’s “Dialogue 2020”, in conversation with former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Mr. Jaishankar said he believed the “real negotiations” would begin only now — a possible reference to the intra-Afghan dialogue due to begin on March 10, as well as a Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue facilitated by Washington on securing borders and ending terror safe havens.

“How cohesive are the various players... does the Taliban join the democratic set-up, or will the democratic set-up have to adjust to the Taliban... We are all watching this space,” he said. India stopped short of welcoming the U.S.-Taliban and U.S. -Afghanistan agreements announced on Saturday, texts of which were widely distributed in the media. According to a Ministry statement, India “noted that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan... has welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements.”

Registrar-General asks States to give top priority to survey and the NPR

The Registrar-General of India has asked all States to “give highest importance, attention and time” to the Census and National Population Register (NPR) work as “the foundations of the statistics of the country” depend on them.

In a 14-page letter dated January 29 and addressed to the Directors of Census Operations (DCOs) in the States, Registrar-General and Census Commissioner Vivek Joshi said, “The district-level officials must be reminded of the importance of the census work and must ensure that a clear message is sent to the officers in charge to give the highest importance and attention (as well to devote sufficient time) for the House Listing and NPR work, on the results of which depend the foundations of the statistics of the country.”

The decennial census exercise will be conducted in two phases — house listing and housing census from April to September 2020, and population enumeration from February 9 to 28, 2021.

The Centre has proposed that the next phase of the NPR be conducted with the first phase of the census. On Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government kick-started the process — the Census-NPR exercise will be conducted in the State from May 16 to June 30.

According to Citizenship Rules 2003, the NPR is the first step towards compilation of the NRC, though the government informed Parliament on February 4 that “till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).”

N.S. Pandey, Uttar Pradesh DCO, told The Hindu: “There are 34 questions in the census proforma and 14 questions in the NPR. The NPR is only being updated, no new register is being created. Giving Aadhaar details [for the NPR] is voluntary.” The “pretest”, or trial NPR form, collected details from 30 lakh respondents last year on 21 parameters, seeking details of “place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence” along with other information such as Aadhar (optional), voter ID card, mobile phone and driving licence numbers. In 2010 and 2015, NPR collected details on 14 parameters.

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