India’s Supreme Court delays hearing citizenship law pleas

Police personnel detain a demonstrator during a protest against the Indian government’s Citizenship Amendment Act in Ahmedabad on December Monday, 16, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 18 December 2019

India’s Supreme Court delays hearing citizenship law pleas

  • Protests and widespread condemnation have been growing against the Citizenship Amendment Act
  • The new law applies to Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday postponed hearing pleas challenging the constitutionality of a new citizenship law that has sparked opposition and massive protests across the country. The court said it would consider the pleas on Jan. 22.
Protests and widespread condemnation have been growing against the Citizenship Amendment Act, with demonstrations erupting in India over the last week.
The new law applies to Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally but can demonstrate religious persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It does not apply to Muslims.
Critics say that the new law is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government’s agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims and that it goes against the spirit of the country’s secular constitution. Modi has defended it as a humanitarian gesture.
Its passage last week follows a contentious citizenship registry process in northeastern India’s Assam state intended to weed out people who entered the country illegally. Nearly 2 million people in Assam were excluded from the list, about half Hindu and half Muslim, and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be considered foreign. India is building a detention center for some of the tens of thousands of people the courts are expected to ultimately determine have entered illegally. Its passage also came as an unprecedented crackdown continued in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority area, which was stripped of special constitutional protections and its statehood in August. Since then, movement and communications have been restricted in the region.
University students across India have been leading a campaign to have the citizenship law overturned.
On Sunday, marches by students at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh descended into chaos when police fired tear gas and beat unarmed protesters with wooden sticks.
Scores of students were injured. Police say they acted with restraint.
The police response to the protests has drawn widespread condemnation. It has also sparked a broader movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Demonstrations have erupted across the country, with thousands rallying in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, authorities tightened security restrictions, implementing a curfew in the northeastern state of Assam, where ongoing protests have disrupted daily life in Gauhati, the state capital. They also restricted assembly in a Muslim neighborhood in New Delhi where demonstrators torched a police booth and several vehicles on Tuesday.

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UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

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UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

  • Human trials of the vaccine will expand to hundreds more people in the “coming weeks.”

LONDON: A leading British scientist has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out across the country as early as the first half of next year.

Professor Robin Shattock leads the team working on Imperial College London’s vaccine, one of the UK’s two most promising research programs. He told Sky News: “We anticipate if everything goes really well, that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

“Assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.”

Shattock also warned that there was “no certainty” that any of the vaccines currently being developed would work, but said the risk of that is “very, very low.”

Imperial College London is now conducting human trials of their vaccine, with 15 volunteers having received it so far. Shattock said this will be ramped up in the “coming weeks” to include another 200 to 300 patients.

“I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we’re pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work,” he said.

Oxford University is also developing a vaccination for Covid-19, in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

While Shattock said he hopes Imperial College London’s vaccine will be available for the whole of the UK in the first half of next year, it is unclear how long it would take for it to be available outside of the country.

The UK, European Union and the US have all invested huge sums into vaccine development, and struck deals with pharmaceutical companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars each to ensure first-in-line access to successful vaccinations.

However, international organizations such as the UN, International Red Crescent and Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders have raised concerns that the world’s poorest countries will be unable to access vaccinations and effective Covid-19 treatments due to rich countries outspending them.