SC stays implementation of new farm laws for now; to form panel to resolve conflict

Agencies
January 12, 2021

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New Delhi, Jan 12: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended implementation of the new farm laws until further orders and said it will form a committee to hold talks with all stakeholders, after hearing petitions challenging the agriculture reforms.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, has asked all parties to recommend names for forming the committee.  The bench has decided to set up a four-member committee to look into farmers' grievances. It will comprise of agriculture economist Ashok Gulati, international policy head Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, Shivkeri Sangathna's Anil Dhanvat, and BKU's president Bhupinder Singh Maan.

The top court asserted that it has the power to suspend the contentious legislation to solve the problem and no power can prevent it from making a committee to resolve the impasse on new farm laws.

The top court is inclined to pass an order that all protestors be moved to one common site. Senior advocate Vikas Singh recommended either Ramlila Maidan or Boat Club for this purpose. The court has also decided to serve notices to all farm unions on a Delhi police application that wants a ban on proposed tractor rally by farmers on January 26.

Advocate AP Singh, appearing for one of the farm unions said that his clients have agreed that no elders, women or children will participate in the protests. Chief Justice Bobde said he will take this assurance on record for all protesting unions.

Senior advocates Colin Gonsalves, Dushyant Dave and advocates Prashant Bhushan, HS Phoolka who represent the bulk of farmer unions haven't joined the hearing yet. The Chief Justice and lawyers in favour of the farm laws are repeatedly wondering why Dave, Gonsalves, Phoolka and Bhushan aren't joining the hearing as the four had assured the court yesterday that they will discuss yesterday's proceedings with their clients and revert to the court.

The top court sought the cooperation of farmers' unions, and said that "those who genuinely want resolution, will go to the committee". 

"This is not politics. There is a difference between politics and judiciary and you will have to cooperate", the court asserted to farmer unions.

A note released by the umbrella body Samyukt Kisan Morcha late last night clarified that protesting farmers will not participate in any committee proceedings as proposed by the top court. "While all organisations welcome the suggestions of the honourable Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the farm laws, they are collectively and individually not willing to participate in any proceedings before a committee," it said.

The government also told the apex court that Khalistanis have infiltrated farmer protests. The Attorney General said that he will file an affidavit, with IB reports, detailing the involvement of Khalistanis and other banned outfits in farmer protests.

The top court heard a clutch of pleas opposing the contentious agriculture reforms yesterday. A bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, said during the hearing that orders on issues concerning the farm laws and farmers' protest will be delivered in parts. 

The matter pertaining to the farm laws was listed for January 12, 2021, as per information uploaded on the website after the hearing, as negotiations between the Centre and farmer leaders remain at a standstill. 

The bench, which also comprised of justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, expressed disapproval over the manner by which the three recent farm laws were passed by Parliament.

"We don't know whether you are part of the solution or part of the problem", the Supreme Court said to the Centre during the proceedings on Monday. 

It also indicated amply that it may go to the extent of staying the implementation of the contentious farm laws and refused to grant extra time to the Centre to explore the possibility of amicable solution saying it has already granted the government a “long rope”. It reiterated the possibility of setting up a committee to resolve the issue. 

Protesting farmers have been camping out at Delhi borders since November, demanding a complete repeal of the new laws. Bhog Singh Mansa, president of Indian Farmers Union (Mansa), said a stay on the laws is "no big deal".
"A stay is not a solution. We are here to get these laws scrapped completely... the government has in a way already agreed to scrap the laws when it said it is willing to incorporate as many amendments as farmers want," he said.

"We appeal to the Supreme Court to terminate these laws as these are not valid constitutionally," Mansa said, adding the protest will continue till the "the laws are not repealed or the BJP government completes its tenure".

The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on January 7 headed nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws while the farmer leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their "ghar waapsi will happen only after law waapsi".

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Agencies
January 13,2021

Petrol touches new high of Rs 84.45 in Delhi, crosses Rs 91 mark in Mumbai  - cnbctv18.com

New Delhi, Jan 13: Petrol price on Wednesday touched a new high of Rs 84.45 per litre in the national capital after state-owned fuel retailers hiked prices after a five-day hiatus.

Petrol and diesel prices were hiked by 25 paise per litre each, according to a price notification from oil marketing companies.

In Delhi, petrol now costs Rs 84.45 per litre and diesel is priced at Rs 74.63. In Mumbai, petrol comes for Rs 91.07 a litre and diesel for Rs 81.34.

This is the highest ever price of petrol in Delhi, while diesel is at a record high in Mumbai.

State-owned fuel retailers -- Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) -- had on January 6, resumed daily price revision after nearly a month-long hiatus.

Rates were hiked on two consecutive days - totalling 49 paise for petrol and 51 paise for diesel - before they hit a pause button again.

The price increase cycle resumed after international oil prices rose for the seventh day. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was up 1.3 per cent at USD 53.88 a barrel, while Brent crude was up 79 cents at USD 57.37.

Both benchmarks are trading at the highest since February, before the coronavirus outbreak in China began spreading across the world, forcing lockdowns that shaved off demand.

Petrol price had scaled to an all-time high of Rs 84.20 per litre on January 7.

The previous highest ever rate of Rs 84 a litre for petrol in Delhi was touched on October 4, 2018. On that day, diesel too had scaled to an all-time high of Rs 75.45 a litre.

The government had responded to that situation by cutting excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.50 per litre in a bid to ease inflationary pressure and boost consumer confidence. Alongside, state-owned fuel retailers cut prices by another Re 1 a litre, which they recouped later.

The highest level for petrol in Mumbai was on October 4, 2018, when it was Rs 91.34.

Though petrol and diesel rates are to be revised on a daily basis in line with benchmark international price and foreign exchange, government-controlled fuel retailers have been moderating rates since the pandemic broke out.

This after they adjusted a Rs 13 per litre hike in excise duty on petrol and Rs 15 a litre on diesel, against a decrease in the retail selling price that was warranted by crude oil prices falling to an average of USD 19 per barrel in April.

Excise duty totals Rs 32.98 per litre in petrol and Rs 31.83 in diesel. VAT in Delhi totals to Rs 19.32 a litre on petrol and Rs 10.85 on diesel.

Since May 2020, petrol price has risen by Rs 14.79 per litre and diesel by Rs 12.34 a litre, price notifications of oil companies showed.

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News Network
January 24,2021

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What appears like a replica of a Bollywood film ‘Nayak’ in real life, a 20-year-old girl from Uttarakhand was made the chief minister of the state for one day. She is also the state’s first woman chief minister.

Hailing from Haridwar, Shrishti Goswami was made CM of the state to mark the National Girl Child Day on January 24.

Goswami, a student of B.Sc agriculture at a Roorkee-based institution, was chosen for the post after she was elected as the CM of ‘Bal Vidhan Sabha’ (Children’s State Assembly) in May 2018, an event organised by the state commission for protection of child rights and to help children understand the democratic system of the country.

As the CM of the state, Goswami is set to review the development work carried out in Uttarakhand, according to reports. Officers of 12 department would give five-minute presentations to her on their respective departmental plans and progress.

“I wholeheartedly thank CM Trivendra Singh Rawat for allowing me to become CM of Uttarakhand for one day. On January 24, the National Girl Child Day, officials from various departments will make five-minute-long presentations before me. I will give them suggestions, particularly on the issues related to girl-child safety,” Goswami said.

Earlier, Goswami represented India at the Girls International Leadership summit held in Thailand in 2019. She also said that she would want to give her inputs to the government on the agriculture sector in her stint as CM.

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Agencies
January 14,2021

Government tells WhatsApp to provide details regarding breach of security

New Delhi, Jan 14: WhatsApp, earlier in the month, released revised terms of service and user privacy policy to its messenger app subscribers. The company said the users must comply with the new change or else they are free to uninstall the application.

WhatsApp clarified that the one-to-one and group chat with friends and family are fully encrypted, but said that the conversation between the users and business/shop owner on the messenger app may be used by its parent company Facebook and subsidiaries for marketing ads and promote its services.

This apparently angered users and lead to the mass migration of subscribers from WhatsApp to rival messenger apps. In the last three days alone, millions of users shifted their base to Telegram and Signal.

Now, the Indian government has stepped in to see if WhatsApp's revised terms of service violate the user-privacy of the citizens and also may seek an explanation from the Facebook-owned company, reported The Times of India.

It has come to light that WhatsApp has a different version of terms of service with the European Union, where all conversation on the messenger is encrypted by default in all types of communication including people-to-business chat. It won't share any data with Facebook or any other sister firms.

Even Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma highlighted the double standards of WhatsApp and slammed the company on Twitter.

How long we will be taken for granted by such blatant double standards ?
Self claimed ad claiming respect of our privacy v/s actual policy.

For India 🇮🇳 For Europe 🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/bT45XwvsO1

— Vijay Shekhar Sharma (@vijayshekhar) January 13, 2021

It remains to be seen what steps the Indian government will take to see if there is any loophole in WhatsApp's terms of service and if there is, rectify it. 

Also, it would be great if the company confirm that the user privacy policy introduced in India is on par with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. 

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