The News Editorial Analysis 5th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 5th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 5th Dec 2021

Researchers document 43,118 butterflies

Their presence in Dakshina Kannada indicates ecological health of habitat

A team of researchers from Mangalore University, in collaboration with other two institutes, has identified and documented 43,118 butterflies (individuals) belonging to 175 species in Dakshina Kannada. Of them, 22 species are habitat-specific.The butterflies were identified at eight heterogeneous landscapes ranging from coastal sand dunes to agricultural fields to botanical gardens to semi-evergreen forests on the foothills of the Western Ghats.The team comprised M.S. Mustak, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Zoology, Mangalore University, and Deepak Naik, a Ph.D. student at Mangalore University. The study, over two years, was done in collaboration with Shyam Prasad Rao, a researcher at Yenepoya Deemed to be University, Mangaluru, and Krishnamegh Kunte, a researcher from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru.“Using indicator value analysis, 22 habitat-specific and several shared indicator species were identified. The study also documented larval host plants, and over 283 habitat-specific host-butterfly species pair interactions,” Mr. Mustak told The Hindu.Their research paper, a study on the abundance and habitat preference of butterflies of the Western Ghats, has now been accepted for publication by the international Journal of Insect Conservation, a publication devoted to the conservation of insects and related invertebrates.

‘Easily conserved’

The researchers said that butterfly communities indicate the type and state of a habitat, and can easily be conserved by the restoration of habitats with diverse host plants. They have great public appeal, are easy to work with, and are indicators of a healthy ecosystem, they said.

Packed agenda awaits Putin in short visit

The News Editorial Analysis 5th Dec 2021

Big defence deals, S-400 missile defence systems and Afghanistan lined up for discussions

Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s December 6 visit, India and Russia appear to differ on the Indo-Pacific region and its various dimensions.President Putin will pay a short visit on Monday evening and return after attending the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the bilateral focus is expected to be on the ongoing delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems and big-ticket defence agreements.Russia’s position on India’s Quad initiative with the U.S., Australia and Japan and the idea of “Indo-Pacific” was countered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on November 26 during the Russia-India-China (RIC) meeting where he favoured the “Asia-Pacific” which he described as more “inclusive”. The “Indo-Pacific”, according to Mr. Lavrov, is an unequal partnership.Mr. Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu will arrive here on Sunday to participate in the first “2+2” meeting with their counterparts S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh.

Issue-based cooperation

Informed sources indicated that India considers both Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific structures are meant for “issue-based cooperation”. They said Moscow had been appreciative of India’s demand to maintain “open and inclusive” sea channels which will also benefit the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor that is aimed at connecting Russia’s far east with India.

The coming months will witness increased cooperation to boost industrial activities in the region from where 11 Governors are expected to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat summit in January.The ghlight of Monday’s visit will be the ongoing delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems that have increased the chances of India coming under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). India has however maintained that its defence procurement policy is guided by “strategic autonomy” which prioritises national security interests.Both sides are expected to seal several defence deals on Monday which is being described as the “Day of Russia”. An agreement to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles will be a high point of the day.Both sides are also expected to sign the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS) which will make Russia the seventh country that India has similar agreements with. Another important agreement may be the over 10-year defence cooperation. The Igla-S shoulder-fired missiles may also come up for discussion.The discussion is expected to focus on Afghanistan and other “hotspots” where tense situation prevails.

Spill over of terrorism

India’s concern about spill over of terrorism from Afghanistan and Pakistan is expected to feature in this section. However, it is not clear if the tension along the Line of Actual Control with China will come up for discussion.

Russia has maintained a cautious position throughout the Sino-India tension starting with the Galwan clashes of June, 2020 and the delivery of S-400 systems is expected to help India establish strategic balance in the region. President Putin’s visit is taking place against the backdrop of a worsening COVID-19 crisis in Russia which has mobilised its military along the border with Ukraine for a possible armed confrontation.

SC condemns red tape in sexual harassment cases

Don’t make process a punishment for victims, court says

The right against sexual harassment at workplace is part of the fundamental right to a dignified life and it takes a lot of courage for a subordinate to overcome the fear to speak up against a lewd superior, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said the courts should not be “hyper-technical” while dealing with sexual harassment cases, and be aware of the odds that a survivor has to overcome to bring to light the sexual misconduct.“It is important to be mindful of the power dynamics that are mired in sexual harassment at the workplace. There are several considerations and deterrents that a subordinate aggrieved of sexual harassment has to face when they consider reporting sexual misconduct of their superior,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.The judgment highlighted a rising trend of invalidation of proceedings inquiring into sexual misconduct on “hyper-technical interpretations of the applicable service rules”.At times, court turns the legal process into a punishment in cases under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.The case involved an appeal filed against the Calcutta High Court decision to quash a sexual harassment proceeding initiated on the complaint of a Border Security Force constable against his superior.

Study finds mechanism of blood clots after giving Oxford vaccine

The rare adverse effect can follow vaccination using chimpanzee adenovirus Y25, human adenovirus type 26, and human adenovirus type 5

A multi-institutional study published on December 1 in the journal Science Advances has revealed for the first time the mechanism responsible for blood clots arising from thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) following vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine. Thrombocytopenia syndrome causes low platelet count. A low number of platelets – blood cells that help prevent blood loss when vessels are damaged – can result in no symptoms or can lead to an increased risk of bleeding or, in some cases, clotting.

Rare adverse effect

Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome is a very rare serious adverse effect following vaccination using chimpanzee adenovirus Y25 (ChAdOx1), human adenovirus type 26 (HAdV-D26), and human adenovirus type 5 (HAdV-C5).In June 2021, scientists from Germany and Norway reported that antibodies that activated the platelets, a blood component involved in clotting, were seen in young people who developed the clots after vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine. But the precise mechanism behind it was not known then.AstraZeneca vaccine and the Indian counterpart Covishield use the chimpanzee adenovirus Y25, while Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses the human adenovirus type 26. The Sputnik vaccine uses both human adenovirus type 26 and human adenovirus type 5 as vectors to ferry the spike protein into certain cells. The researchers found that all three adenoviruses used in a few COVID-19 vaccines as vectors bind to platelet factor 4 (PF4). They found that adenoviruses form stable complexes with PF4.

Misplaced immunity

According to an Arizona University release, in very rare cases, the viral vector may enter the bloodstream and bind to PF4, where the immune system then views this complex as foreign. The scientists believe this misplaced immunity could result in the release of antibodies against PF4, which bind to and activate platelets, causing them to cluster together and triggering blood clots in a very small number of people after the vaccine is administered.

They used state-of-the-art computational simulations to demonstrate an electrostatic interaction mechanism between platelet factor 4 (PF4) and the viral vector used in the AstraZeneca vaccine. They determined the structure of the viral vector used in AstraZeneca vaccine to carry out the computational simulation. In addition, the researchers also confirmed it through in vitro studies involving cell-based experiments and surface plasmon resonance.

“Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) only happens in extremely rare cases because a chain of complex events needs to take place to trigger this ultra-rare side-effect. Our data confirms PF4 (platelet factor 4) can bind to adenoviruses, an important step in unravelling the mechanism underlying VITT. Establishing a mechanism could help to prevent and treat this disorder,” Dr. Alan Parker, an expert in the use of adenoviruses for medical applications from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said in the release.

“We hope our findings can be used to better understand the rare side-effects of these new vaccines – and potentially to design new and improved vaccines to turn the tide on this global pandemic,” he added.The scientists believe that the specific interaction between the fibre knob protein of the adenovirus and platelet factor 4 (PF4), and the manner the complex is presented to the immune system might prompt the immune system to see it as foreign and release of antibodies against this complex.

Electrostatics in action

One of the ways the fibre knob protein of the adenovirus and platelet factor 4 tightly bind is through electrostatic interactions. The group showed that the fibre knob protein is mostly electronegative across approximately 90% of its surface, interrupted in interhexon spaces, where the surface potential rises. On the other hand, the platelet factor 4 (PF4) has a strong electropositive surface potential. This makes the fibre knob protein attract other positively charged molecules, particularly the platelet factor 4 (PF4) to its surface.

They found that the human adenovirus type 26 (HAdV-D26) has an overall electronegative surface potential but less strong than chimpanzee adenovirus used in AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We demonstrate that this interaction is not specific to chimpanzee adenovirus Y25 (ChAdOx1) fibre knob protein and that platelet factor 4 forms interactions with Ad5 and Ad26 with similar affinity. We also observed that heparin reduces the ability of platelet factor 4 (PF4) to associate with chimpanzee adenovirus fibre knob protein,” they write.

The human adenovirus type 26 has also been implicated in TTS at a similar frequency to chimpanzee adenovirus Y25 (ChAdOx1) on a per dose basis. Using a previously published model of Ad26, the researchers performed simulations for ChAdOx1 and observed that platelet factor 4 (PF4) contacted Ad26 less frequently than ChAdOx1. But further studies are needed with Ad26 before reaching any conclusions, they note.

Using heparin

“Current clinical guidance from the World Health Organization advises against the use of heparin in the treatment of TTS. Although our data suggest that heparin may inhibit the proposed interaction between ChAdOx1 and PF4, it does not provide any insights as to the effect of heparin on patients after they develop symptoms or its behaviour in the wider biological context. Therefore, it is important to continue to adhere to current clinical guidance pending further studies on the role of heparin in TTS,” they write.

“With a better understanding of the mechanism by which PF4 and adenoviruses interact there is an opportunity to engineer the shell of the vaccine, the capsid, to prevent this interaction with PF4. Modifying ChAdOx1 to reduce the negative charge may reduce the chance of causing thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome,” Dr. Alexander T. Baker from Arizona University says in the release.

Was Omicron designated a variant of concern in haste?

It was termed a VOC three days after genome sequence data was posted

 The World Health Organization designated the newly identified SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.529 with a whooping 32 mutations in the spike protein alone a variant of concern and named it ‘Omicron’, making it the 13th lineage to receive a Greek letter under its nomenclature system.The Greek letter nomenclature of variants was introduced by the WHO in 2021 as a uniform system of naming variants of interest and concern. This nomenclature system unifies the different systems of nomenclature that have existed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. These largely include the scientific names assigned by GISAID, the largest open-access global database of genome sequences and related data of SARS-CoV-2, Nextstrain, which provides a phylogenetic context of the genome sequences available in the public domain, and Pango, a network of researchers for dynamically identifying and naming lineages of SARS-CoV-2.

Bypassing stages

With the designation of Omicron as a variant under monitoring and further as a vaariant of concern (VOC) within a short span of two days, the WHO bypassed the stage of initially designating it as a variant of interest (VOI), which is a significant departure from the precedence followed for other variants of concern in the past.For context, while the designation of Delta took about six weeks from the reporting of the lineage to the Pango network to the designation of the lineage as a VOC, Omicron was designated within a week of detection of the lineage (B.1.1.529). Delta, in contrast, was first designated a VOI in April this year and was further upgraded to a VOC on May 11, taking into consideration the emerging evidence on the transmissibility, epidemiological correlations from India as well as experimental evidence from across the globe. Omicron, in contrast, was designated as a variant under monitoring on November 24 and was classified as a VOC two days later.The rapid pace at which WHO designated Omicron a VOC was a decision that did not come out of haste but was based on concrete scientific evidence which came early from Africa, although further efforts for evaluating the variant shall continue to gain more evidence. The timely detection of Omicron is predominantly attributable to the routine genome sequencing efforts of Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA), an elaborate genomic and epidemiological surveillance network in South Africa comprising over 10 laboratories and academic institutions having a rich experience of having dealt with previous waves of COVID-19, including the detection of the VOC Beta late in 2020.

Three factors

Typically, a variant is designated a VOC if it has evidence that supports one of the three possible factors – increase in transmissibility or a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, or decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures including vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.The early evidence for Omicron suggested a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, along with possible increase in transmissibility and decreased effectiveness of vaccines. The detection of the variant epidemiologically coincided with an outbreak and a further uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in Gauteng, South Africa, which was previously affected by the Delta wave and was expected to have high community immunity. There were multiple instances of fully vaccinated cases, including where a booster dose had been received. This suggested that the variant poses a higher risk of reinfection and vaccination breakthrough.In contrast with the previous VOCs, a significant corpus of datasets having functional annotations of mutations in the virus based on evidence gathered from in-depth experiments from across the world is now available to help gain a deeper understanding of mutations in the context of transmission, immune escape and impact on current diagnostic tools and therapeutics.Of the 32 mutations identified in the Spike protein, a significant large number were associated with immune escape, cell entry as well as better binding to the human receptor proteins. Early structural analysis was also suggestive of better binding to the host receptors, which provided added confidence in the preliminary assessments. The early reports of a number of Omicron cases from different countries in Europe also suggested that the variant was indeed spreading fast. Apart from this, scientific evidence gathered, lessons learnt and wisdom gained while dealing with the previously designated VOCs – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta also helped in the assessment.

Convergence of evidence

The rapid designation of Omicron as a VOC is therefore the convergence of a number of factors, scientific evidence of all the above-mentioned factors. A cluster of genome sequencing originating from Botswana, South Africa, as well as a traveller from Hong Kong, all met the eyes of researchers in South Africa, which led to the designation of the cluster as the lineage B.1.1.529 by the Pango network.While a part of the world prepares itself to combat the new variant with booster doses of vaccines and augmented healthcare preparedness, it is a grim reality that a large number in another part of the world are yet to receive their first dose of vaccine. The emergence of Omicron is thus a reminder that the virus will continue to evolve and prevail as long as a large part of the population lacks vaccines. The world should be reminded of the researchers in Africa, where under 7% of the population is currently vaccinated, who worked in not the best of infrastructure, funding and support systems that the world can offer, but have faithfully contributed to presenting with evidence that allows the world to be better prepared to handle the next wave.It is thus a shame that the healthcare workers in Africa would have to grapple with an upcoming wave of infection without access to vaccines, therapeutics and support essential for combating the new variant. With the emergence of Omicron as a variant of concern, that we may lose many of our brave African frontline warriors, for want of vaccines to the very threat they helped alert the world should indeed be a concern.

Detecting Omicron

Can the threatening new variant of SARS-CoV-2 be identified quickly?

The story so far: The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been confirmed in India and in at least 30 other countries by the World Health Organization (WHO). While the variant can only be reliably confirmed with genome sequencing, the WHO has also recommended that certain commonly used COVID-19 detection tests, with ‘S-gene dropout’ capabilities, can be used to quickly screen for an Omicron infection.

What is the S-gene drop out?

Tests usually look for three target genes related to parts of the virus: S (spike), N2 (nucleocapsid or inner area) and E (envelope or outer shell). The S-gene refers to the gene that codes for the spike protein, or the most distinctive part of the coronavirus. The SARS-CoV-2, like many other coronaviruses, has key protein-regions that define its structure: The envelope protein (E), thenucleocapsid protein(N), the membrane protein (M) and the spike protein (S). To accurately identify the virus, diagnostic tests are made that can identify characteristic genes that make these proteins. To maintain the balance between cost, turn-around time and efficiency, makers of diagnostic kits usually target 1-3 genes on these regions. The SARS-CoV-2 virus incidentally has one of the largest genomes in the coronavirus family. One popular kit, called the TaqPath COVID-19 assays, identifies three gene targets from three regions one of which is the S region to confirm or rule out the presence of the coronavirus. Some versions of the coronavirus, notably B.1.1.7, known as the Alpha variant, and the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529), have characteristic amino acids missing on the S protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.When tests designed to look for the ‘S’ gene encounter these coronaviruses with the missing amino acids, they show up as negative for the S gene and this is called the S Gene Targeted Failure or popularly S-gene drop out. Despite the negative ‘S’, the test will return positive in case of the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus because the genes on the ‘E’ and ‘N’ will likely signal a match. Some parts of the coronavirus are more conserved, or don’t change too much, and make for more reliable test targets. The spike protein can change a lot—the coronavirus is continually evolving, trying to adapt to antibodies created from vaccines or prior infections—and tests too must keep changing to find appropriate targets.

How is this useful in the case of Omicron?

The WHO declared Omicron as a variant of concern, practically the highest level of risk that it attributes to specific variants. It noted that several labs from around the world indicated that for “one widely used PCR test”, one of the three target genes is not detected and this therefore could be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant had been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.The WHO appeared to be referencing the TaqPath test but this by no means is the most widely used test in India. A challenge with RT-PCR tests is that companies often don’t reveal what primers, or chemical tools, they employ to look for specific viral genes. Therefore, it is hard to determine which test is best for certain variants and which can fail. “The TaqPath is one of the few that looks for three genes whereas India’s official rules are that they must only be equipped to detect at least two,” said a genome scientist, who declined to be identified. “Their test is a useful surrogate and a quick fix. Other variants and mutations can also cause a dropout and it is possible that the TaqPath doesn’t pick it up.” If a person manifests symptoms and is returning positive on a RT-PCR test, that also returns negative on the S gene, then it’s a sign that the sample ought to be sent for a genome scan.

India only scans a small percentage of positive samples to ascertain genomes and so a test that throws up intriguing results such as an S-gene dropout, may be prioritised for a more thorough genome scan.

What is the most reliable way to check for the new variant?

The Union Health Ministry has stated that all of the standardised RT-PCR tests coupled with genome sequencing are effective at detecting Omicron. While factors such as clinical symptoms and viral loads help in determining the virus, a variant can only be confirmed by genome sequencing which means waiting for a day or even weeks depending on available facilities.

What is the debate on the Dam Safety Bill?

The story so far: The Dam Safety Bill, 2019, which provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams across the country, and has been debated for decades, finally got the nod of the Rajya Sabha on Thursday (December 2), after a four-hour discussion. In August 2019, the Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha.

Why is a law on dam safety required?

India ranks third globally with 5,745 large dams in operation. According to the National Register of Large Dams prepared in June 2019 by the Central Dam Safety Organisation (CDSO) in the Central Water Commission (CWC), 67 dams were built prior to the 20th century and 1,039 dams during the first 70 years of the 20th century. For stakeholders of the water sector, ageing of dams in the country has been a matter of concern. Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told the Rajya Sabha that since 1979, there were 42 instances of dam failure, the latest being Annamayya reservoir in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh that led to the death of at least 20 people in November 2021.Even though the CWC, along with the CDSO, has been functioning as the apex body to advise States on issues of dam safety, there is no specific Central law that governs the subject, given the situation that the ownership of dams and their maintenance predominantly falls in the purview of the States. In July 1986, a panel of experts recommended to the Centre that a legislation be framed. In 2007, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal Assemblies passed resolutions empowering Parliament to come up with a law on dam safety, under Article 252. Since 2010, different versions of the Bill were introduced.

What does the legislation seek to do?

The Bill covers those dams having the height of over 15 metres and between 10 and 15 metres with certain stipulations. It seeks to create two national institutions — National Committee on Dam Safety to evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations, and the National Dam Safety Authority to implement policies and address unresolved issues between two States. The legislation also envisages the formation of State Dam Safety Organisations and State Committees on Dam Safety. Dam owners will be held responsible for construction, operation, maintenance and supervision of dams.

Why has the Bill become contentious?

In the last 10 years, several States, including Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha, opposed the legislation on the ground that it encroached upon the sovereignty of States to manage their dams. Critics also raised the constitutional validity of the legislation in the light of water being a State subject. The silence on the payment of compensation to people affected by dam projects was cited as another shortcoming.Tamil Nadu has all along been a critic of the legislation as it fears that it will lose its hold over four of its dams, which are located in Kerala. The dams include Mullaperiyar, whose structural stability and safety are being debated for over 40 years, and Parambikulam, an important reservoir that caters to irrigation requirements of the western districts of Tamil Nadu including Coimbatore.Taking a cue from the 2011 report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources to invoke Entry 56 of the Union List, the Centre framed the legislation, declaring that “it is expedient in public interest that the Union should take under its control the regulation of uniform dam safety procedure for specified dams.” In his speech in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Mr. Shekhawat contended that Entry 17 of the State List (dealing with “water”) was no bar for the Union to frame a law on the subjectHowever, the PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, opined that even then, “it is unclear how Parliament would have the jurisdiction to frame a law for dams on rivers where the river and its valley are entirely within a State.” Another point adduced in support of the legislation is that inter-State basins cover 92% of the country’s area and most of the dams, making the Centre competent to enact such a law.

What is the way forward?

Given the sentiments expressed by a number of parties, including the AIADMK, an ally of the BJP, on the Bill, the Centre can hold talks with the States to allay their fears and frame rules suitably for legislation.

When can an individual get statutory bail?

Why was lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj given bail, but the co-accused denied the same relief?

The story so far: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has approached the Supreme Court against a Bombay High Court order granting bail to advocate and activist Sudha Bharadwaj. In its bail order, the court has asked the NIA Court to decide the conditions for her release on December 8. While she was given ‘default bail’, eight others were denied the benefit in the same case. The case highlights the nuances involved in a court determining the circumstances in which statutory bail is granted or denied, even though it is generally considered “an indefeasible right”.

What is default bail?

Also known as statutory bail, this is a right to bail that accrues when the police fail to complete investigation within a specified period in respect of a person in judicial custody. This is enshrined in Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure where it is not possible for the police to complete an investigation in 24 hours, the police produce the suspect in court and seek orders for either police or judicial custody. This section concerns the total period up to which a person may be remanded in custody prior to filing of charge sheet.

For most offences, the police have 60 days to complete the investigation and file a final report before the court. However, where the offence attracts death sentence or life imprisonment, or a jail term of not less than 10 years, the period available is 90 days. In other words, a magistrate cannot authorise a person’s judicial remand beyond the 60-or 90-day limit.At the end of this period, if the investigation is not complete, the court shall release the person “if he is prepared to and does furnish bail”.

How does the provision vary for special laws?

The 60- or 90-day limit is only for ordinary penal law. Special enactments allow greater latitude to the police for completing the probe. In the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, the period is 180 days. However, in cases involving substances in commercial quantity, the period may be extended up to one year. This extension beyond 180 days can be granted only on a report by the Public Prosecutor indicating the progress made in the investigation and giving reasons to keep the accused in continued detention.In the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the default limit is 90 days only. The court may grant an extension of another 90 days, if it is satisfied with a report by the Public Prosecutor showing the progress made in the investigation and giving reasons to keep the accused in further custody. These provisions show that the extension of time is not automatic but requires a judicial order.

What are the laid-down principles on this aspect?

Default or statutory bail is a right, regardless of the nature of the crime. The stipulated period within which the charge sheet has to be filed begins from the day the accused is remanded for the first time. It includes days undergone in both police and judicial custody, but not days spent in house-arrest. A requirement for the grant of statutory bail is that the right should be claimed by the person in custody. If the charge sheet is not filed within the stipulated period, but there is no application for bail under Section 167(2), there is no automatic bail. In general, the right to bail on the investigation agency’s default is considered an ‘indefeasible right’, but it should be availed of at the appropriate time.

What happened in Sudha Bharadwaj’s case?

In the Bhima Koregaon case, which is under UAPA, the prosecution got the 90-day limit extended to 180 days. Ms. Bharadwaj completed 90 days in prison in January 2019, but the charge sheet was filed only in February. Meanwhile, she had applied for default bail on the ground that the extension given by a Sessions Court earlier was without jurisdiction. The court agreed that only a Special Court could have authorised the extension beyond 90 days. Therefore, she was entitled to statutory bail. However, eight others, who had argued that the court order taking cognisance of the charge sheet was defective, but did not specifically seek default bail, were not given the same relief.


The News Editorial Analysis December 4 2021

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