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Beating around the bush: Supreme Court on Centre’s denial on detailed affidavit in Pegasus row




 After the Centre’s denial to file a detailed affidavit clarifying whether Pegasus spyware was used or not, the Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on a batch of petitions seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said the court will pass an interim order in the next few days and told the Centre that beating around the bush would not take the issue anywhere.

“Beating around the bush…we will pass some interim order,” the chief justice told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre.

The Centre informed the bench that it is not going to file a detailed affidavit, after taking time twice to take a decision, whether it will file an affidavit or not on a batch of petitions seeking inquiry into alleged use of spyware Pegasus.

Mehta submitted that government can constitute technical committee of independent domain experts, who can examine the petitioners’ allegations that their phones were affected by Pegasus. Centre said this committee can submit its report to the top court.

The top court pointed at the response of former Minister for Electronics and Information Technology in Parliament in 2019. However, Mehta highlighted a recent statement made by Minister of Railways, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology of India on the floor of the Parliament clarifying the government’s stand.

A battery of senior advocates — Kapil Sibal, Rakesh Dwivedi, Dinesh Dwivedi, Shyam Divan and Meenakshi Arora –representing various petitioners objected to the Centre’s stand on the matter.

Sibal, representing veteran journalist N. Ram, said the government should clarify whether it used Pegasus or not? Sibal added that it is unbelievable that the government said it would not tell the court about the use of spyware.

“We thought government will file a counter affidavit. We are considering some interim order or some other order, we have to pass,” the bench noted during the hearing.

Divan contended that a detailed affidavit should be filed at the level of cabinet secretary. He further added that the government should be concerned if an external agency used the spyware and if it were a government agency, then it was absolutely unconstitutional.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi questioned the credibility of the expert panel formed by the government to examine the issue.

Mehta submitted, “Nobody is denying or disputing. There are sensitive issues involved. We must get to the core issue. Let the expert panel go into it.”

The Chief Justice clarified that the court is also not keen on government disclosing any information which compromises the national security. The bench noted that if government were to file an affidavit, then it would have known “where do we stand on the subject”.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said a retired or sitting judge of the Supreme Court should head the probe, and the government, which is a wrongdoer, cannot be relied upon with the investigation.


Delhi hospital treats 1st case of black fungus in kidney, lungs post-Covid





A 34- years old man from Ghaziabad has been successfully treated for a complicated case of Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, after recovering from Covid infection, doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said here on Monday.

The Mucor had not only penetrated the nasal cavity but also spread to his left lung and the right kidney — reported in medical literature as the first case in the world after Covid infection, the hospital said in a statement.

The patient Ranjeet Kumar Singh presented to the hospital with post-Covid illness, which included breathing difficulties, blood in sputum and high grade fever.

After investigation the doctors were shocked to find that Mucor had not spread from the nasal cavity to his left lung and the right kidney.

“Both the portion of the lung and the kidney had been severely damaged and there was a fear of further spread. Therefore an emergency removal of mucor infected areas was planned,” Dr Ujjwal Parakh, Senior Consultant, Department of Chest Medicine, at SGRH, said in a statement.

Since mucor is a fast spreading disease and could further damage other organs, a part of his left lung and the entire right kidney was removed immediately as a life saving procedure. The complicated surgery lasted for six hours.

“It was a complicated case in which Mucor had penetrated part of the lung and kidney. The involvement of the kidney was total, and the kidney had become non functional. During surgery the fungus was found almost spreading to the liver, and the large intestine. Thus with great difficulty, the kidney could be removed without injuring the adjacent organs,” added Dr Manu Gupta, Consultant, Department of Urology, at the hospital.

Post the surgery, which lasted six hours, Singh was put on oral antifungal medicine for a few weeks.

He was “discharged after 45 days of prolonged anti-fungal therapy. He is doing well now”, Parakh said.

Mucormycosis is labelled as a rare and emerging fungal infection. India always has had the highest reported numbers of mucormycosis in the world, but when coupled with Covid-19 it became a disease of epidemic proportions in several Indian states during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

Till May 19, approximately 5,500 people were affected with Covid-19 Associated Mucormycosis (CAM) in India, resulting in 126 casualties.

India contributed to approximately 71 per cent of the global cases of CAM based on the published literature from December 2019 to the start of April 2021.

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Facebook India appoints ex-IAS officer as Head of Public Policy





Facebook on Monday announced the appointment of Rajiv Aggarwal, a former IAS officer, as the Director of Public Policy to lead important policy development initiatives for the social media giant in India on an agenda that covers user safety, data protection, privacy, inclusion and internet governance.

In this role, Aggarwal will report to Ajit Mohan, Vice President And Managing Director, Facebook India and will be a part of the India leadership team.

“We realise we are deeply immersed in the fabric of India and we have the opportunity to help build a more inclusive and safe internet that benefits everyone in the country. I’m thrilled that Rajiv is joining us to lead the Public Policy team. With his expertise and experience, Rajiv will help further our mission to build transparency, accountability, empowered and safe communities, all of which we recognise as our responsibility,” Mohan said in a statement.

Aggarwal comes with 26 years of experience as an IAS officer. During his tenure as an administrative officer, he steered India’s first ever national policy on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) as Joint Secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (M/o Commerce), and was instrumental in the digital transformation of India’s IP offices.

He has been closely associated with the India-US bilateral trade forum, besides being the country’s lead negotiator on IPRs with other nations.

His last assignment was with Uber, where he was the Head of Public Policy for India and South Asia.

Aggarwal’s appointment comes after a series of senior and leadership recruitments in recent months across marketing, partnerships, communications, and other key verticals demonstrating the company’s expanding charter and commitment to India.

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India logs over 30K Covid cases, 295 deaths in a day





 India’s daily Covid cases continued to cross 30,000 mark for the last few days with 30,256 new cases reported in the last 24 hours, data released on Monday showed.

With 295 deaths registered in the same time span, the total Covid fatality has risen to 4,45,133, the Union health Ministry’s report said.

The fatality rate has remained at 1.33 per cent for the last few days.

The overall active cases in India stands at 3,18,181, which is 0.99 per cent of the total, the lowest since March 2020.

In the same time span, a total of 43,938 Covid-infected patients recovered, pushing the country’s total recoveries to 3,27,15,105. The Covid recovery rate in the last 24 hours remained at 97.72 per cent.

The daily positivity rate was reported at 2.57 per cent, which remained below 3 per cent for the last 21 days, while the weekly positivity rate was at 2.07 per cent, remaining below 3 per cent for the last 87 days, according to IMD.

A total of 55.36 crore (55,36,21,766) Covid samples have been tested so far in the country, out of which 11,77,607 were tested in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry.

Till date, the country has administered 80.95 crore (80,85,68,144) doses of Covid vaccines, out of which 37,78,296 jabs were given in the last 24 hours, the data has showed.

Almost half of India’s Covid cases are being reported from Kerala which recorded 19,653 fresh cases on Sunday. Kerala remained the top affected Covid state in the country, with a positivity rate of over 17 per cent. It also recorded 152 deaths. Maharashtra registered 3,413 new Covid cases on Sunday, as per the Union Health Ministry’s report.

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