Coronavirus: SC seeks status report from Centre on steps taken to prevent migration of workers.

 The Supreme Court on Monday sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken in view of the large-scale migration of labourers from cities to their native villages amid the coronavirus outbreak and the consequent lockdown across the country.

The top court observed that the migration of labourers out of panic and fear is becoming a bigger problem than the coronavirus.

It said the court would not create more confusion by issuing directions on measures that the government is already taking to deal with the issue.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao, which took up two separate PILs filed by advocates Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal on the issue of migration of labourers through video-conferencing, said before passing any direction, it would like to wait for the status report from the Centre.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the migration of labourers needs to be stopped to prevent the spread of the virus and the Centre as well as the states concerned have taken the requisite steps to deal with it.

The bench posted the matters for hearing on Tuesday.

Suspended JK police officer Davinder Singh sent to further custody till Apr 3.

Jammu and Kashmir Police officer Davinder Singh, who was arrested while ferrying two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen terrorists in a vehicle on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway earlier this year, has been sent to further custodial interrogation by a Delhi court till April 3.

Special Judge Ajay Kumar Jain extended Singh’s custody after Delhi Police said that he was required to be confronted with other accused Javed Iqbal, Syed Naveed Mushtaq and Imran Shafi Mir arrested in the case.

Heard the IO (investigating officer) and peruses the record. Police custody is granted for further interrogation and identification of other accomplices and confrontation with other co-accused, the judge said.

The court also directed the police to conduct his medical examination after every 48 hours.

The police sought Singh’s further custody, saying that the confrontation and further interrogation was required to unearth the larger conspiracy and role of the accused, to trace the details of financial transaction, to verify and trace other offenders.

It also told the court that the custody was required to establish the identity of main handler, defence advocate Prashant Prakash said.

Suspended DSP Davinder Singh was suspended from the Jammu and Kashmir Police in January this year.

The Special Cell had brought Davinder Singh to Delhi from Hira Nagar Jail in Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier the court had sent Syed Naveed Mushtaq and others to police custody till April 3 after the police said that he and other co accused were planning to execute terror attacks in Delhi and other parts of the country and targeted killings of protected person.

While seeking Mushtaq’s custody, police had alleged that the accused was commander of Shopian district of Hizbul Mujahiddeen through his handler based in Pakistan.

The police said the accused used to chat with other co-accused and militants through various internet platforms, including darknet chat.

The accused, along with other militants of Hizbul Mujahideen, were planning to execute terror attack in Delhi and other parts of the country and targeted killings of protected persons, police had told the court.

The Delhi Police has filed an FIR under Section 120B of IPC. The FIR said that the youths of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab are being trained for carrying out terrorist activities.

The FIR also mentioned of D Company and Chhota Shakeel. According to the FIR, the Delhi Police Special Cell had received an input that the D Company is funding to pro-Khalistan terrorist organisations in Punjab.

Under this very FIR Davinder Singh was taken in custody.

The Special Cell had also interrogated Davinder Singh regarding the Khalistan angle, police said.

Although Davinder Singh is not named in the FIR, but the Special Cell has some inputs on the basis of which the enquiry will be done carried out and Davinder Singh will be questioned.

Corona Virus : Delhi High Court judge Justice Hima Kohli directs steps to reduce over-crowding in jails.

A high powered committee, headed by a Delhi High Court judge, has directed authorities to take steps like releasing inmates on emergency parole for reducing over-crowding in jails to prevent the spread of coronavirus which has infected 1,071 people in India and claimed 29 lives.

The committee, constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court, deliberated on various means of achieving social distancing and resolved to quarantine fresh inmates who are foreign nationals, isolate those with flu or fever symptoms, conduct regular medical examination of the prisoners, release (those eligible) inmates on emergency parole and to grant special remission of sentence to those who have six months or less jail term left to serve.

The decision by the committee, headed by Delhi High Court judge Justice Hima Kohli, was taken in a meeting held via video conferencing with officials of DG Prisons, Delhi State Legal Services Authority and Home department of the Delhi government.

The meeting was held pursuant to the March 23 direction of the apex court to every state to set up a high powered committee to take measures to reduce population of inmates in the over-crowded jails in the country by determining category of prisoners to be released on parole and interim bail.

In the meeting held by the committee constituted by the Delhi government, it was resolved that the process of granting eight week parole to around 1,500 prisoners, under a newly incorporated provision in the prison rules, would be completed expeditiously.

It was also resolved to relax category of under-trial prisoners (UTPs) who can be released on interim bail to further reduce the jail population, the minutes of the meeting said.

However, UTPs undergoing trial in drug cases where intermediary or large amount of banned substance was recovered, those facing trial for sexual assault of children, rape and acid attacks, foreign nationals, accused in corruption or money laundering cases and those under investigation in terror, anti-national or unlawful activities, would not be considered for any interim bail, the committee resolved.

As personal visits to jails have been cut, the committee resolved that the inmates be allowed to talk to their family through telephone after properly sanitizing the phone.

According to the DG Prisons, in the 16 jails in Delhi which have a total capacity of 10,026 prisoners, there are 17,440 inmates of which 14,355 are UTPs.

During the meeting held on March 28, the prison authority informed the committee that no case of COVID-19 has been detected among the inmates and every nook and corner of the jail campus was being regularly sanitized and cleaned.

Besides that, masks and gloves have been supplied to jail staff and the prisoners and cultural and group activities of inmates have been suspended to avoid mass gathering.

Bar Council of Delhi urges govt to ensure no lawyer thrown out for non-payment of rent

The Bar Council of Delhi on Monday approached the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the Centre, AAP government and police to ensure no advocate is shunted out of rented accommodation due to failure to pay monthly rent amid the lockdown due to coronavirus.

BCD chairman K C Mittal, in the plea, also sought to issue directions to all authorities, identical to the RBI directions, to defer all dues till the time normalcy restores.

“Many advocates staying in Delhi/NCR in rented accommodation are not in a position to pay rent and are likely to be thrown out with their bags and baggage on the roads, which will create more complication. They are helpless and require immediate remedy and redressal, with the help of the government,” the plea said.

It said the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD), with its minimal resources, has decided to provide some initial financial help to such advocates.

The plea said due to the total lockdown, lawyers are not able to earn their livelihood and payment of rent in some cases is not possible.

It referred to the instructions given by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to banks to defer payment of EMIs for home loans, and said it is a step in the right direction.

“It is the duty and responsibility of governments to provide basic necessities, no matter whether the people have lost their jobs or not able to pay rent, or are unemployed, the plea added.

The Centre has announced a 21-day total lockdown till April 14 to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Khalida Begum, Muslim woman donates her savings for Hajj to RSS-affiliate.

A Muslim woman from Jammu and Kashmir has donated her savings of Rs 5 lakh, meant for the Hajj pilgrimage, to the RSS-affiliated ‘Sewa Bharati’ after apparently being “impressed with the welfare work” done by the outfit amid the lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Khalida Begum, 87, who saved Rs 5 lakh for Hajj, was forced to defer her plans for the pilgrimage due to the lockdown.

Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the holiest city of Muslims.

“Khalida Begum ji was impressed with the welfare work done by the Sewa Bharati in Jammu and Kashmir during the tough time the country is passing through due to sudden outbreak of COVID-19 and decided to donate Rs 5 lakh to the organisation,” Arun Anand, head of RSS media wing Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra (IVSK), said.

The woman wants that this money should be used by the community service organisation Sewa Bharati for the poor and the needy in Jammu and Kashmir. She had saved this amount for performing Hajj, plans for which she deferred due to the present situation, Anand said.

“Khalida Begum ji was among the first few women in Jammu and Kashmir who got educated in a convent. She is the daughter-in-law of Colonel Peer Mohd Khan, who was president of the Jana Sangh,” he said.

Jana Sangh was also an associate of RSS and later became the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Anand said despite her age, she had been very active in welfare works for the women and the downtrodden in Jammu and Kashmir. Her son, Farooq Khan, a retired IPS officer, is presently serving as an adviser to the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor.

Meanwhile, since the lockdown was announced, Sewa Bharati volunteers across the country have been providing food and other essential items to the needy. The Sangh-affiliate’s volunteers were seen on Saturday managing crowd and providing food to them at the Anand Vihar bus terminal in Delhi.

No plan to extend 21-day lockdown: Government.

The government on Monday said there was no plan to extend the 21-day lockdown which came intro force on Tuesday midnight.

The Press Information Bureau (PIB) of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting tweeted, saying Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has denied media reports claiming that the government will extend the lockdown.

“There are rumours & media reports, claiming that the Government will extend the #Lockdown21 when it expires. The Cabinet Secretary has denied these reports, and stated that they are baseless,” it said.

The 21-day lockdown is aimed at checking the spread of the coronavirus.

Following the lockdown, there has been a massive exodus of migrant workers from big cities to their villages after being rendered jobless.

EMIs put on hold : big-bang interest rate cut as RBI joins fight against coronavirus.

The RBI on Friday put on hold EMI payments on all term loans for three months and cut interest rate by steepest in more than 11 years as it joined the government effort to rescue a slowing economy that has now got caught in coronavirus whirlwind.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut repo to 4.4 per cent, the lowest in at least 15 years. Also, it reduced the cash reserve ratio maintained by the banks for the first time in over seven years. CRR for all banks was cut by 100 basis points to release Rs 1.37 lakh crore across banking system.

The reverse repo rate was cut by 90 bps to 4 per cent, creating an asymmetrical corridor.

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das predicted a big global recession and said India will not be immune.

It all depends how India responds to the situation, he said.

Global slowdown could make things difficult for India too, despite some help from falling crude prices, Das said, adding food prices may soften even further on record crop production.

Aggregate demand may weaken and ease core inflation further, he noted.

The liquidity measures announced include auction of targeted long-term repo operation of 3 year tenor for total amount of Rs 1 lakh crore at floating rate and accommodation under Marginal Standing Facility to be increased from 2 per cent to 3 per cent of Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) with immediate effect till June 30.

Combined, these three measures will make available a total Rs 3,74,000 crore to the country’s financial system.

After cutting policy rates five times in 2019, the RBI had been on a pause since December in view of high inflation.

The measures announced come a day after the government unveiled a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package of free foodgrains and cash doles to the poor to deal with the economic impact of the unprecedented 21-day nationwide lockdown.

While the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the RBI originally was slated to meet in the first week of April, it was advanced by a week to meet the challenge of coronavirus.

PM seeks nation’s forgiveness for tough decisions and says India will surely defeat coronavirus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought the nation’s forgiveness for imposing a monumental lockdown on the country, but said “we have to win … and we will definitely win the battle” against the unprecedented menace of coronavirus that has claimed 25 lives in India so far.

In his monthly Mann ki Baat radio address to the nation, Modi also praised the front-line workers in the fight against the virus as well as countless workers in the essential services who are ensuring the country doesn’t come to a complete standstill in the 21-day lockdown announced on March 24.

“I seek forgiveness .. I am sure you will forgive me that you had to undergo so much trouble. Some people will say what kind of prime minister is this but these are special circumstances. You had to undergo problems I understand but there is no other way out to fight the coronavirus,” he said. “But this is a battle for life and death.”

“Coronavirus is bent on killing people therefore entire humanity must unite and resolve to eliminate it,” he said in the address that lasted more than 30 minutes and featured two former coronavirus patients and a doctor.

Modi reminded people that “we have to maintain social distance, not emotional and human distance” as he urged people to utilise the time spent at home in re-engaging themselves in old hobbies an reconnecting wit old friends.

SCBA mulls BCI plea to help financially-troubled lawyers in wake of COVID-19.

A day after the Bar Council of India urged the Prime Minister and states to help the financially stressed lawyers in wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Ashok Arora has sought views of the members of the Association on extending financial help for such lawyers.

The contributions thus collected are proposed to be diverted towards the beneficiaries. This could be done without revealing the beneficiary’s identity so as to not hurt anyone’s dignity, Arora said in the message he put out for the SCBA members.

“The BCI would like to make a fervent and urgent request to your good selves to kindly make a provision for providing a minimum subsistence allowance of Rs 20,000 per month for young and not financially well-off advocates, who are staying and practising in the country,” BCI said in a letter addressed to the senior leaders.

Arora has proposed that money can also be collected from senior advocates and as well as from the SCBA funds for this purpose and the recipients names shall be kept confidential.

While this is only a proposal at the moment, Arora has sought the opinion of the members of the SCBA Executive Committee as well as from other members of the Association.

Due to restricted functioning of courts, earning opportunities have ceased for lawyers, who it said earn and live by the day or earnings of the week.

Since the advocate fraternity has no social security benefits and if at all any unforeseeable situation presents itself, many advocates as well as their families would face  difficulties, it added. The top court has been functioning on restricted terms since March 16, to decongest the court and thereby minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus. On March 23, the restricted functioning was further thinned down to skeletal staff required to only hear matters of extreme urgency via video conferencing.

Police takes responsibility of delivering food at every doorstep in West Bengal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that there is a need to ensure that there is no scarcity of food in the wake of coronavirus lockdown.

On Monday, Banerjee had said that her administration is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that citizens are safe from coronavirus.

“The West Bengal Government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure safety & precautions for its citizens in combating COVID-19 efficiently. At this critical juncture, it is only collective efforts & public cooperation which can help fight this menace,” the chief minister had tweeted out.

Banerjee said that for this purpose, all Police stations will take the responsibility to deliver food at doorsteps and the same will be monitored by the District Magistrates and Police Superintendents.

“Please don’t crowd markets, maintain social distance. And please cover your face with something before going outdoors,” Banerjee told media persons on Tuesday.

She said there were adequate supplies in the market, and so there is no need to store anything.

“It is my sincere request to all the fellow citizens to abide by Government guidelines. Until and unless an emergency, please don’t step out of your homes. We will fight this together. Only we can help keep everyone around us safe,” her tweet read.

More than 1,000 people were arrested in Kolkata since Monday evening for violating the lockdown, officials said. Of the nine afflicted with coronavirus in the state, one has died.