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Supreme Court slams another govt bid for online surveillance, this time through UIDAI

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Supreme Court slams another govt bid for online surveillance, this time through UIDAI

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre for an explanation over a tender floated by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for creating a social media wing to counter “negative sentiments” on Aadhaar.

The UIDAI is the government agency which runs the Aadhaar scheme.

“You are trying to do indirectly what we told you cannot do directly,” a top court bench headed by CJI Dipak Misraand also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud observed.

The remarks came from Justice Chandrachud, reported the Economic Times (ET).

The court said the UIDAI’s proposal to hire a social media agency to monitor social media platforms was contrary to its earlier submissions.

“It (monitoring) is directly against the submissions made by the UIDAI during the hearing of the Aadhaar matters,” the bench said, adding that what the UIDAI was proposing was contrary to “what it had argued while seeking validity of Aadhaar”.

The UIDAI, during the hearing of a clutch of petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme, had told the apex court that it did not want to monitor the online activities of citizens holding Aadhaar cards.

The court was hearing a petition moved by a Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA Mohua Moitra, alleging UIDAI has floated a tender to engage a private agency to track activities of people on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and GooglePlus.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Ms Moitra, told the court that the matter has serious implications as it infringes on the fundamental right to privacy of citizens, by the UIDAI.

Earlier this year, the government had to withdraw an earlier attempt to create a social media hub which would have trawled through social media accounts to give inputs to the government on how to “arouse nationalistic sentiments” and “mould public opinion”.

The top court had frowned at the move saying that it was an attempt to create a “surveillance state”. The government had then volunteered to withdraw the proposal inviting bids.

Justice DY Chandrachud, who is part of the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, said that the concerned ministry had issued a notification for creating a media hub to monitorcontent but it was withdrawn last month as per an assurance given by the centre to the Supreme Court.

Now, Moitra has drawn the court’s attention to the UIDAI inviting a fresh bid to create a social media wing. The wing will carry out online surveillance on people’s reactions to Aadhaar and respond appropriately.

The request for proposal (RFP) was floated by the UIDAI on July 18.

“This RFP has identical clauses,” Singhvi pointed out to the court.

“Despite the fact that the constitutional validity of the entire Aadhaar scheme is under challenge and its fate is to be decided by the top court… the respondents have issued the impugned RFP to identify ‘top detractors’ and ‘neutralise negative sentiments,’” her petition said.

“It is therefore clear that the respondents have no respect or regard for the proceedings before this court.” The petition alleged that it was an attempt to infringement of the right to privacy.

“Such an intrusive action on the part of the government, is not only without the authority of law, but brazenly infringes on the fundamental right to freedom of speech. Such an action of the government also violates the right of privacy. The UIDAI has decided to go ahead with the proposal despite the fact that a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar scheme,” said Moitra’s petition.

The court then sought an explanation from Attorney General KKVenugopal on the UIDAI request for proposal. The court will hear the case again on September 11.

The Attorney General for India is requested to assist the court on that day, the bench said.

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PM Modi inaugurates 3 major space infrastructure projects, announces names of astronauts for Gaganyaan mission

The four pilots have been training at the astronaut training facility in Bengaluru.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today revealed the names of four pilots preparing for the country’s historic Gaganyaan human space travel program. Group Captain P Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap, and Wing Commander S Shukla, are the four pilots who are selected for this mission.

The PM also bestowed astronaut wings to the four astronaut-designates.

PM Modi addressed the people there and said, he is happy that today he got the opportunity to meet these astronauts and present them in front of the country. He also congratulated the astronauts on behalf of the entire country. PM Modi also hailed the astronaut as the pride of the country.

Meanwhile, the PM inaugurated three major infrastructure projects of ISRO valued at 1800 crore during his visit to Vikram Sarabhai Space Center in Kerala on Tuesday. PM Narendra Modi is on a two-day visit to the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu starting Tuesday, February 27.

The projects include the PSLV Integration Facility at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, the new Semi-cryogenics Integrated Engine and stage Test facility at ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri, and Trisonic Wind Tunnel at VSSC, Thiruvananthapuram.

Before the inauguration ceremonyISRO chairman S Somanath extended his respects to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a felicitation ceremony held at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram.

The ISRO chairman said, with the support of the honorable Prime Minister, the space sector is undergoing rapid transformation for expansion. He added that the long-term space vision for Amrit Kal had already been announced by the Prime minister. He further added that the vision had been created for Amrit Kal with the space sector as the torch bearer.

After the inauguration ceremony, the Prime Minister is scheduled to address public gatherings in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu. Additionally, he will participate in the program called Creating the Future – Digital Mobility for Automotive MSME Entrepreneurs in Madurai.

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Rahul Gandhi reacts to Hijab controversy, says what a person wears is their responsibility and nobody should decide what they wear

Rahul Gandhi said what a woman wears is her responsibility and it is her decision. He thought nobody should decide what they wear. His comments came after the Congress government in Karnataka allowed students to wear Hijab during competitive exams in October last year.

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Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said that women’s choice of clothing including a hijab should be respected and one should not dictate what a person has to wear. Rahul Gandhi was interacting with female students at the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh during his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

During the interaction a girl mentioned the hijab controversy in Karnataka and asked the Congress leader about his views on the same. He said what a woman wears is her responsibility and it is her decision. He thought nobody should decide what they wear. His comments came after the Congress government in Karnataka allowed students to wear Hijab during competitive exams in October last year.

The issue erupted in Januray 2022 when Muslim students at a government pre-university college in Karnataka’s Udupi were denied entry for wearing hijabs, citing a violation of the college’s uniform policy. The incident has sparked widespread protests and counter-protests across the state.

The then BJP government issued an order that made mandatory for students to wear uniforms in educational institutes. The order banned the wearing of hijabs in these settings. This decision was challenged in court, and on March 15, 2022 the decision was upheld by the Haryana High Court.

The court said wearing a hiujab is not an essential religious practice in Islam and as result it does not fall under the protection of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental right to freely practice one’s religion.

In October 2022, The Supreme Court pronounced a split verdict on the petitions challenging The Karnataka High Court order which refused to overturn a ban on hijabs in educational institutions in the state. The Top court’s split verdict means the issue will be revisited by a larger bench for final decision.In December last year, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced that his government will withdraw the order banning hijab in schools and colleges in the state .   

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Rajya Sabha election: Samajwadi Party leader Manoj Kumar Pandey steps down as Chief Whip, voting underway

Samajwadi Party MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey on Tuesday resigned from the post of party chief whip amid the voting for 10 Rajya Sabha seats.

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In the midst of voting for the Rajya Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party leader and MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey resigned from his position as the party’s chief whip in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on Tuesday.

His resignation from the position was announced barely one day after eight Samajwadi Party MLAs failed to show up for a meeting that the party Chief Akhilesh Yadav had called.

Eight BJP candidates and three Samajwadi Party candidates have applied for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh as the voting has begun.

The main opposition SP and the ruling BJP both have enough members to send seven and three members to the Rajya Sabha, respectively, without opposition. However, since the BJP is fielding an eighth candidate, a competitive race is expected in one of the seats.

The results will be announced by the end of the day.

The BJP has put up seven other candidates which includes, former Union minister RPN Singh, former MP Chaudhary Tejveer Singh, general secretary of the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit Amarpal Maurya, former state minister Sangeeta Balwant (Bind); former MLA Sadhna Singh, and former Agra mayor Naveen Jain.

Actor-turned-MP Jaya Bachchan, former IAS officer Alok Ranjan, and Dalit activist Ramji Lal Suman are the candidates officially nominated by the Samajwadi Party.

In Uttar Pradesh, a candidate needs around 37 first-preference votes to be elected to the Rajya Sabha.

Voting will end at 4 p.m., and counting will start at 5 p.m.

With 252 and 108 members, respectively, the BJP and the SP have the majority of seats in the 403-member state assembly. The SP’s alliance partner, the Congress, holds two seats.

Thirteen seats are held by the BJP ally Apna Dal (Sonelal), six by the NISHAD Party, nine by the RLD, six by the SBSP, two by Jansatta Dal Loktantrik, and one by the BSP. There are presently four open seats.

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