KOCHI l wednesday l february 24, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 18 l LATE city EDITION Facebook kisses and makes up with Australian govt Last-minute face-saving compromise The social media giant said talks were held with the Australian government to amend the proposed media bargaining laws New law likely to be passed this week According to reports, the face-saving compromise will see Facebook as well as internet search giant Google plunge tens of millions of dollars into the struggling local news sector. In return, the US digital firms will not be subjected to mandatory payments that could cost them vastly more and create what they see as an alarming global precedent ■ ■ ■ Facebook had blocked news feed in Australia last week following dispute on paying news organisations for sharing content Inadvertently, some government pages and announcements on Covid-19 were blocked too, drawing backlash Australian Parliament is expected to pass the law this week $28 bn Facebook’s revenue in the October-december 2020 quarter CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI Proof sketchy, court shows the bail Disha Says people can’t be arrested just because they disagree with govt policies; invoking sedition to massage egos not done K a nu S a r d a @ New Delhi A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to 22-year-old climate change activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested in connection with the toolkit case, citing scanty and sketchy investigation. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana said, “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies. The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments.” The 18-page bail order said, “Even our founding fathers accorded due respect to divergence of opinion by recognising the freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right.” Shortly after bail was granted, another judge, Pankaj Sharma, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of the Patiala House Court, disposed of a Delhi Police application seeking Disha’s extended Cong swept out by BJP in Guj local body polls Sud h i r Su r ya w a n s h i A listless Congress found itself whipped by the electorate in Gujarat, as results of the local body polls came in on Tuesday . While there was no surprise in the BJP sweeping the municipal corporation elections, the Congress was forced to cede a part of its opposition space to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and to a lesser extent to Asaduddin Owaisi’s Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen. Of the six municipal corporations that went to polls, the Congress drew a blank in Surat and trailed way behind the BJP in the other five. In contrast, the AAP won 27 seats in Surat while the BJP got 93 of the 120 that were up for grabs. In the Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation, out of 192 seats, the BJP was way ahead of the Congress, while MIM opened account with 7 seats. In the Jamnagar Municipal Corporation, the BJP won 50 while Congress got 11 and the BSP 3. In Bhavnagar, Vadodara and Rajkot municipal corporations, the Congress could not even reach double figures, winning 8, 7 and 4 respectively as against , the BJP’s 44, 69 and 68. The Congress has been out of power in the Gujarat for 25 years. In the 2017 state polls un- der Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, it gave the BJP a scare, scoring 87 as against the BJP’s 96 in a 182-member Assembly. Subsequent defections weakened the party and reduced it to 61. The Gujarat blow comes a day after the Congress lost power in Puducherry According to . an analyst, consecutive Congress losses in all major elections has forced people to look for an alternative. “In 2017, peo- BJP workers celebrate after winning civic body elections in Ahmedabad | PTI ple of Gujarat wanted to vote out BJP but the Congress failed , to capitalise on it. Continuingnfighting in its Gujarat unit, too, is a factor in the poor performance,” he added. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the verdict. “Thank you Gujarat! Results... clearly show the unwavering faith people have towards politics of development and good governance,” he tweeted. | P9 Disha Ravi (C) arrives at Patiala House Court, in Delhi on Tuesday | Shekhar Yadav custody. The police had sought four more days of custody . While citing a couplet from Rig Veda, which says ‘let noble thoughts come to me from all directions,’ the judge said, “Difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies. An aware and assertive citizenry , in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy .” Expressing concern over the sketchy probe, th court said, “Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on Rahul Gandhi launches UDF’s election campaign by criticising Left govt over recent issues Wayanad MP alleges BJP, LDF engaging in match-fixing in gold smuggling case ‘IF CPM, YOU CAN SMUGGLE GOLD BY SITTING IN CMO’ CONGRESS leader Rahul Gandhi launched the UDF’s election campaign in the state capital on Tuesday by coming down heavily on the LDF government over the recent allegations and issues and, noticeably, by singling out the chief minister’s office. Rahul mentioned “nepotism” while highlighting the raging protest by the job aspirants figuring in the PSC rank list and said they are being overlooked for recruiting CPM loyalists through the back door. Kerala boasts the most number of qualified youths and it needs to be asked why they are not getting jobs, he said. “If you hold the CPM flag, you can do gold smuggling by sitting even in the CMO. If you are with the LDF, you are guaranteed to get all the jobs. Or else, you will have to go on a hunger strike. But the chief minister will not budge to hold talks with the protestors even if they die,” Rahul told a sea of supporters gathered at the Shankhumukham beach for the culmination event of the Aishwarya Kerala Yatra led by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala. Rahul dwelled on the deep-sea fishing deal controversy and said the fishermen’s livelihood is going to be affected. Rahul, who criticised the LDF’s government’s manifesto saying that nothing has gone right for the people but only for the Left organisations, added the UDF’s manifesto will be “a guarantee”. “We are asking thousands and thousands of people what they want. You are telling us what we Assembly polls: EC to hold meeting today New Delhi: The Election Commission will hold a meeting on Wednesday to finalise the poll schedule for five states — Kerala, Assam, West Bengal, TN and Puducherry. The number of polling booths may go up this time owing to the Covid situation. 27th If you hold the CPM flag, you can do gold smuggling by sitting even in the CMO. If you are with the LDF, you are guaranteed to get all the jobs. Or else, you will have to go on a hunger strike. Rahul Gandhi The apex court adjourned to April 6 the hearing of the appeal filed by CBI challenging the acquittal of CM Pinarayi Vijayan and two others in the scam. It’s the 27th time the SC is adjourning the case following CBI’s request seeking time to argue the matter in detail. P5 18 pages, including 4 pages of KOCHI Express In a major setback for Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, the country’s Supreme Court has reinstated Parliament, which was dissolved in December last year. In a landmark ruling on Tuesday A five-member Constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher annulled the Oli government’s ‘unconstitutional’ decision to dissolve the 275-member lower house of Parliament. The court 1 PSC issue govt priority With assembly polls in sight, the government is making efforts to end the stalemate over the PSC job aspirants’ indefinite fast. On Tuesday, various department heads submitted the lists of existing vacancies to the chief secretary. P7 also ordered the government to summon the House session within the next 13 days. Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 after President Bidya Dev Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of PM Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party . In his letter recommending House dissolution, Oli said he controlled 64% majority in the Thank you @RahulGandhi for being the voice of UDF. Gratitude for lending voice for the youth, fishermen and all Keralites who are suffering due to the misrule of CPM. Ramesh Chennithala 2 Latin church critical of govt Rahul Gandhi, MP, greets Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala at the valedictory function of Congress’ Aishwarya Kerala Yatra at Shanghumukham in T’Puram on Tuesday. Former CM Oommen Chandy, MPs Rajmohan Unnithan and AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, and KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran are seen | B P DEEPU should do. You will see the best manifesto which would make you proud. There will be no line that will say that it will destroy the lives of the fishermen, farmers or the organisation. It is going to be the commitment towards the people of Kerala. It won’t be a hollow word, but a guarantee,” added Rahul. While criticising the Centre’s farm laws, the Wayanad MP opined the aim of the Central government was to destroy the agriculture sector and deny justice to the farmers. He also alleged the BJP and Motor strike on Mar 2 against fuel prices T’Puram: Trade unions and owners in the transport sector will stage a dawn-to-dusk motor strike on March 2 in protest against the rising fuel prices. The protesters said the hike has impacted the motor industry and would result in inflation. Blow to Oli as Nepal SC revives House E x p r e s s ne w s Se r v i c e elsewhere E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ T’Puram express read ADJOURNMENT OF snc LAVALIN CASE record, I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘Bail’ against a 22-yearold young lady, with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society and send her to jail.” , He also said the police are in the process of collecting more evidence and so they cannot be allowed to further restrict the liberty of a citizen on the basis of propitious anticipations. “The resistance to bail plea seems to be more ornamental in nature,” said the judge. | P9 House and the country needed a fresh mandate of the people to ensure stability . Oli’s move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, also a co-chair of the ruling party . As many as 13 writ petitions including the one by the ruling party’s Chief Whip Dev Prasad Gurung were filed in the apex court seeking the restoration of the lower house parliament. LDF governments of engaging in “match-fixing” in the gold smuggling case and asked why the CBI and Enforcement Directorate probes on the CMO have been slow. “I know how the BJP attacks me 24 hours if I attack them. If the BJP is going slow (against Pinarayi Vijayan), then there is only one reason. You can figure that out,” Rahul said. Earlier, Chennithala said the “sons of the sea” will never pardon Pinarayi. He also expressed his indelible support behind the fisherfolk. | P7 Despite the state government cancelling a deepsea fishing deal, the Latin Catholic Church has come out with sharp criticism of the deal as it could affect the livelihood of fishermen in the state. P4 3 ‘BJP’s tactics won’t succeed’ The BJP need not nurse the ambition of weaning away LDF MLAs in Kerala similar to the way it was doing with Congress MLAs in other parts of the country and forming a government here, said CPM acting state secretary A Vijayaraghavan. Sabarimala and anti-conversion laws likely in BJP manifesto A N I L S @T’Puram CLOSE on the heels of the UDF promising to bring in a legislation to protect the customs of the Sabarimala hill shrine if voted to power, the BJP is planning to propose a law regarding the administration of the state’s temples — including Sabarimala — in its election manifesto. Besides the promise of freeing the administration of Sabarimala from political interference, the saffron party is likely to include a slew of other legislations such as prevention of religious conversion through marriage, appointments of last grade servants and reclamation of temple assets. “The party has already indicated it would introduce an Uttar Pradeshmodel law to prevent conversion under the guise of marriage,” sources said, adding the party might hold discussions with Church leaders in this regard. “There are plans to bring in an ordinance mandating that all last grade appointments to government, quasi-government bodies, public sector units and universities under the PSC should be made from the existing rank list. As the last grade comprises unskilled workers, appointments can be made from this list,” said K S Radhakrishnan, convener of the manifesto committee. Another legislation on reclaiming the movable and immovable properties of the state’s temples is also on the ● More on P4 cards. CM writes to PM on K’taka border curbs Surge in cases not due to new Covid variants: Govt E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi CHIEF Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his urgent intervention to address the hardships faced by people after Karnataka imposed restrictions on entry of people from Kerala. The curbs were put in place in the wake of a spike in Covid cases in the state. Pinarayi said the restrictions were against the Union government’s instructions barring any state from preventing interstate travel. The CM said several people including students, patients going for medical treatment and trucks carrying essential commodities were put through undue hardships at the state borders.| P7 The Centre on Tuesday clarified that the recent spurt in Covid-19 cases in some states is not due to the mutated versions of the coronavirus. “Based on information available to us, yes these variants are there but there’s no reason to believe that these are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala,” said V K Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog. Paul, who also heads the national Covid-19 task force, added two variants of SARS CoV 2 — N440K and E484K — have been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Tel- @ T’Puram Su m i Su k a n ya D u t ta angana. Kerala has 38% of the total active cases of the country while Maharashtra has 37%. The other states showing an upward trend in daily Covid-19 cases are Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. So far, 200 cases of the UK variant, six cases of the South African variant and one case of Brazilian variant of SARS CoV 2 have been found out of the 3,500-genome sequencing carried out in India since December. At least five states in India have reported a gradual rise in active Covid cases over the past several days. The active cases in the country have crawled up to over 1.5 lakh after touching a low of 1.3 lakh cases earlier this month.
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