chennai l friday l december 3, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 32 l late city EDITION 164 proposals on appointing HC judges in consideration Law minister informs Parliament about the judge-selection process conducted by the Supreme Court collegium and govt 406 judge vacancies in high courts Huge Case backlog in lower judiciary A total of 164 proposals on appointing high court judges are at different stages of consideration, Kiren Rijiju said in response to a Rajya Sabha question. High courts have a vacancy of 406 judges while the apex court has one. This year, nine apex court judges and 118 high court judges were appointed. Currently, no high court has a woman Chief Justice | P9 ■ ■ Of the proposals to appoint HC judges, 55 have been either remitted or returned on SC collegium’s advice to HCs this year While 70,038 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, 56,42,858 are pending in the various high courts. In the lower judiciary, a staggering 3,79,42,466 cases are pending, according to Rijiju 1,098 combined Sanctioned strength of judges in 25 high courts 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 a bumpy year First cases of Omicron found in India Brace forcars, houses to ahead as what we know 1 2 Medical practitioner, 46, from Bengaluru with no history of travel tested positive on November 22 Was in home isolation after complaining of tiredness, body ache, mild fever Govt traced his 13 primary and 205 secondary contacts and found that five of them tested positive South African man, 66, tested positive on November 20 at the the Bengaluru International Airport He had been isolated in a hotel and his symptoms were not severe, authorities said Contact-tracing done. His 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts tested negative. He flew out for Dubai later that month Both men were doubly vaccinated 373 cases of Omicron found in 29 nations so far The variant also has three mutations in the furin cleavage site, which increases SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. However, it is still unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants Both detected in Bengaluru after genomic sequencing; mask up, but don’t panic, says govt; concern over community transmission C h e ta n a B e l a g e r e @ Bengaluru The country’s first Omicron cases were recorded in Karnataka on Thursday, and one of the two cases is a local from Bengaluru with no international travel history . Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, said the 46year-old doctor, the local case of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, is a resident of Bommanahalli, Bengaluru. The doctor was in home isolation for two days after testing positive and, on November 25, was admitted to a private hospital. After three days of treatment, he was discharged on November 27. Authorities in the state have expressed fears of community spread of the variant as the doctor had no travel history and five of his contacts have also tested positive for Covid-19. Their genomic sequencing reports are awaited. The announcement of the two Omicron cases was made by the Union health ministry at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. Lav Agarwal, the ministry’s joint secretary, called for calm and strict surveillance. “There is no reason Gloves are off as Cong hits back at Mamata Ric h a S h a r m a @ New Delhi With West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee making pointed attacks on the Congress, the latter began giving it back in equal measure, with the charge led by its young leaders to start with. From calling Congress incompetent to saying there is no UPA, Mamata has been vocal in her criticism so as to wrest the Opposition leadership space. At her recent meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, she is learnt to have floated the idea of regional parties forming an Opposition alliance and making seat arrangements for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, while bringing the Congress to the table after the polls, sources said. Separately, her strategist Prashant Kishor took a swipe at Congress leader Rahul Gan- dhi, calling for democratically electing the Opposition leadership, adding it was not the “divine right of an individual”. Congress leaders this newspaper spoke to said the party will drop its restraint and take on the Trinamool based on facts, though seniors would stay out for now. The counterattack has already begun with party MPs Manickam Tagore, Sayeed Naeer Hussain and others saying Mamata has no business commenting on the UPA. A senior leader said the Congress is the principal opposition party with around 20% vote share in the 2019 elections. “The Trinamool Congress is limited to Bengal. They went chest thumping in Tripura but we saw the results in the local body polls. Goa Assembly results would further clear the air,” the leader said. to panic, but we need to be monitoring the situation and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.” Meanwhile, the civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP) tested 13 of the doctor’s primary contacts, mostly his family and healthcare workers, as well as 205 secondary contacts. It found that two of the primary contacts and three secondary ones tested positive for the coronavirus. The other case is a South African national, who left India on November 27 for Dubai. He arrived at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) from Dubai on November 20 with a RT-PCR negative report from South Africa and was screened and tested at KIA on arrival. He then checked into a hotel and his test came back positive. The 66-year-old was found to be asymptomatic and was advised to self-isolate at the hotel. On November 22, his samples were sent for genomic sequencing through the BBMP The pa. tient took another test at a private lab on November 23 and the result was negative. His 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts are asymptomatic and tested negative. cost a lot more in 2022 ARSHAD KHAN @ New Delhi Passengers arrive from Singapore at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Thursday | PTI symptoms different from that of Delta? State govt tells hosps to gear up Extreme tiredness and body pain The Tamil Nadu Health Department has instructed all the government medical college hospitals to set aside at least 150 beds each for exclusively treating cases of the Omicron variant. Hospitals were also told to ready drugs, IV fluids, oxygen points, oxygen cylinders, and concentrators No loss of smell or taste While WHO says the symptoms of Omicron are not different, South African doctors say most Omicron patients have mild issues, such as extreme tiredness, body pain, besides sore throat, dry coughs and fever. Loss of taste or smell & low oxygen was typical of Delta Jab-o-meter NATIONWIDE dec 01 dec 02 tamil nadu dec 01 dec 02 Dec 01 71,55,049 doses Dec 02 66,21,382 doses Fresh cases 8,954 9,765 Recoveries 10,204 8,548 Deaths 267 477 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths Take your shot Total: 1,25,65,96,957 718 751 11 715 748 12 KL CM writes to Stalin, flags Mullaiperiyar fears E x p r e s s N e w s S e r ic e @ Chennai/T’Puram Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart MK Stalin, saying people living downstream of the Mullaiperiyar dam are living in fear, and Tamil Nadu, which owns and maintains the dam, should open the shutters only in the daytime, and after a sufficient warning. The letter came amid concerns from Kerala that the dam’s shutters were opened early on Thursday without sufficient warning. But J Sam Irvin, Executive Engineer (WRD) of Periyar dam, denied this. “Though we exchanged information on water discharge from Periyar dam through the Theni dis- trict administration to the Idukki district administration, they didn’t take precautionary measures to face the four per cent discharge from Periyar dam. But they are blaming the Tamil Nadu government,” he said. In his letter, Vijayan said shutters VI to V8 o f t h e d a m we re opened at 3 am on Thursday. “Sufficient warning was not given before substantial discharge of 6,413 cusecs, which was subsequently increased to 8,017 cusecs at 4 am by opening all 10 shutters,” he wrote. Responding to a query from an MP in the Lok Sabha, Bisheshwar Tudu, Minister of State, Jal Shakti Ministry , said that the Kerala and Tamil Nadu gover nments must come to a mutual agreement, to get environmental clearance from the Union ministry . The minister pointed out that a Supreme Court-appointed panel concluded that Mullaiperiyar dam is safe. “Commissioning or de-commissioning of dams owned by State governments is exclusively within the purview of the dam-owning State,” he added. No new dam without consensus: Centre The Union government informed Parliament that the construction of a new dam replacing the Mullaiperiyar dam would only be possible after a consensus is reached between Tamil Nadu and Kerala With commodity prices showing no signs of abating, year 2022 is going two be costlier on many fronts — especially if you were planning to buy a new car or a house. India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki on Thursday said it would increase vehicle prices from January to offset the impact of the rise in raw material costs. It is a common practice for automakers to go for a price hike of 2-4% in January every year. However this year, buyers will feel the pinch more as most leading automakers have gone for at least three price hikes in the past one year. For example, Maruti had increased the prices of its vehicles by 1.4% in January 2021, 1.6% in April and then again in September by 1.9% — taking the total quantum of increase to 4.9%. Sources said Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Hyundai will issue similar announcements soon. Luxury automakers Mercedes Benz and Audi have already announced price hikes of 2% and 3%, respectively from January 2022. , MSIL’s senior executive director (marketing and sales) Shashank Srivastava had recently said the firm would be forced to hike vehicle prices with steel, aluminium, copper, plastic and precious metals becoming costlier. Steel prices, which stood at `38 per kg last April-May, shot up to `77 a kg this year. Similarly aluminium , which was available for $1,700- Cement price to touch `400 per bag: Crisil The retail price of cement, which has risen `10-15 per bag pan-India since August, is likely to swell by another `15-20 over the next few months, ratings agency Crisil said in a report on Thursday. The price could touch an alltime high of `400 per bag this fiscal due to costly inputs such as coal and diesel, it added 1,800 a tonne last year, now costs $2,700-2,800 per tonne. If unchecked, this surge in metal prices, along with a surge in cement prices, is going to jack up property prices as well. “Housing developers’ profit margins are already wafer-thin and the rising inflationary trend of basic input costs such as cement, steel and labour is a real challenge… Future price hikes seem inevitable,” said Prashant Thakur, director & head of research at Anarock Group. Real estate industry body Credai had recently estimated housing prices to jump 10-15% in view of rising costs of construction raw materials. Blue turns brown With a huge quantity of sewage being flushed into the sea during the recent rains, the blue has turned a brownish hue, at Marina in Chennai on Thursday | P Jawahar WITH THIS ISSUE CHENNAI’S BEST WEEKEND GUIDE 32 PAGES, INCLUDING 16 OF INDULGE (TABLOID) AIADMK wastes no time, to pick leaders on Dec 7 SC sets 24-hr deadline for Encroaching properties in TN to lose their value solution to Delhi pollution T M u r u g a n a n d h a m @ Chennai K a n u S a r d a @ New Delhi The AIADMK on Thursday announced elections to the posts of coordinator and joint coordinator on December 7. This comes a day after the party amended its bylaws, enabling primary members to elect a pair of leaders to these posts by casting a single vote. The party has also announced the schedule for the first phase of the organisational elections, to be held between December 13 and 23 for electing office-bearers at all levels, including wards, panchayat unions, towns, town panchayats, and corporations. Nominations for the posts of coordinator and joint coordinator of the party are to be filed between Friday and Saturday (December 4). Former ministers C Ponnaiyan and Pollachi V Jayaraman will be the election commissioners. Continued on: P4 Hinting that it might create a task force to monitor pollution control measures, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave 24 hours to the Centre to take action to check the rising air pollution in Delhi-NCR. “We are giving you 24 hours’ time. We want you to take a hard look at this and come up with a solution with seriousness. We will take this up tomorrow morning. You update us about the steps, otherwise we will pass directions,” a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. “In an emergency situation, you have to work in emerg e n t w ay s. S u p p o s e t h e temperature goes up in fever, what can be done to control it?” the CJI said. Mehta said he will respond after speaking with the minis- B AN B USELV AN @ Chennai ter. “We are not averse to this and the highest functionaries are equally worried,” he said. The bench, which has been very critical of the bureaucracy for its lack of planning to deal with the air pollution, said: “You have to take steps. We can’t infuse creativity in your bureaucracy .” The SC also pulled up the Delhi government for reopening schools and exposing children to air pollution. “You have implemented work from home for adults. So, parents work from home, but children have to go to school. What is this?” asked the bench, which also comprised judges D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant. “We are looking at this aggressively You told us schools . are closed but it is not so. Threeto-four-year-old children are being made to go to school. If you want orders, we will appoint someone,” the bench said. The sale of land and properties on waterbodies, waterways, and water catchment areas is expected to be hit severely across Tamil Nadu, as the Registration Department recently reduced the value of these land parcels to zero. The government’s decision is likely to particularly affect hundreds of landowners in Chennai, Kanchee puram, Chengalpattu, and Tiruvallur districts as waterways and catchment areas of more than 50 lakes here have been con- verted into residential properties worth crores of rupees. When contacted, officials from the Water Resources and Revenue departments told TNIE there is no data showing how much land on waterbodies is owned by private persons. “A list of survey numbers identified as waterbodies have apartments, multi-storey buildings, government offices, and industries. The value of these properties will be reduced to z ero in the Re gistration records,” the official added. Officials from Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram districts said there is no clarity on whether the value of properties on waterbodies that were reclassified and assigned to private persons four to five decades ago would also be reduced to zero. “A list of survey numbers of waterbodies, waterways and catchment areas was prepared and given to the Registration Department to block the sale of the land to prevent further exploitation,” said an official from the Water Resources Department. While most of the encroached portion of waterbodies is categorised as Neernilai (waterbody) poramboke, pattas were issued for a chunk of them between 1980 and 1997 by various wings of the Revenue and Land Administration departments in Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts. Besides, CMDA approved the change of land classification to facilitate construction. EXPRESS READ Ex-TNPCB chief, under DVAC probe, found dead OPEC+ decision to boost oil output jolts prices Maha govt suspends Mumbai’s ex-top cop Quarantine for players, shorter SA tour likely Chennai: Former TNPCB chairman AV Venkatachalam, who was being probed by the DVAC in a corruption case, allegedly killed himself at his house in Velachery on Thursday. No suicide note was found | P3 Oil prices fell on Thursday as OPEC+ decided to keep on increasing crude output. Brent, the international benchmark, dropped 2% before recovering, as expectations were that oil output increases would be paused | P12 Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Thursday suspended former Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh, who faces extortion charges. Singh had also accused a former home minister of corruption | P10 Chennai: India’s tour to South Africa could be delayed due to concerns over Omicorn. Though BCCI is committed to full tour, officials are not ruling out a shorter tour after it emerged India players have to quarantine on arrival | P15
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