1. Impeachment process of President Trump

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR

President Donald Trump’s impeachment process has entered a new phase. On Wednesday, following a 228-193 vote largely along party lines, the House of Representatives (equivalent to Lok Sabha in India) sent two articles of impeachment to the Senate, and named seven ‘impeachment managers’ who will prosecute the case against the President at the trial.

This is a remarkable moment in the history of the US. Trump is only the third President in more than 230 years to face an impeachment trial in the Senate (equivalent to Rajya Sabha in India). The House, which is controlled by opposition Democrats, impeached him in December. The Senate, where the President’s Republican Party has a majority, will decide whether to convict and remove him from office.

No President has ever been removed by impeachment. Senate trials of Presidents Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1999) ended in acquittals. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote on the articles of impeachment, after his impeachment and conviction appeared inevitable.

What is meant by impeachment?

Under the US constitution, Congress (equivalent to Parliament in India) can remove a President from office before the end of their term if enough lawmakers vote to confirm that the President committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours”. Misdemeanoursm means an abuse of power by a public official in a high position.

What is Trump accused of?

The President was accused of pressuring, in the course of a telephone call, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, to open an inquiry against former Vice President Joe Biden, who could be Trump’s Democratic opponent in the November election. At the time he spoke with Zelensky, Trump had put a personal freeze on more than $391 million of US aid intended for Ukraine’s use against continuing Russian hostility. Without directly mentioning the money, Trump told Zelensky that “the United States has been very very good to Ukraine”, and suggested reciprocity. He then said, “I would like you to do us a favour”, and subsequently brought up Biden and his son Hunter who at one time worked in Ukraine.

The first article of impeachment, “Abuse of power”, sent by the House to the Senate says Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election… through a scheme… that included soliciting… Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection”, and “also sought to pressure… Ukraine… by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations”.

“In so doing,… Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation.”

The second article of impeachment, “Obstruction of Congress”, says Trump “directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with… subpoenas [issued by the House], seeking to “arrogate to himself the right to determine the propriety, scope, and nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own conduct”. In this Trump “acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States”.

Trump impeachment trial: What will happen now?

On Wednesday afternoon, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell accepted the articles of impeachment. The impeachment managers were scheduled to return to the Senate at noon on Thursday (10.30 pm in India) to read aloud the articles of impeachment.

Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6 of the US constitution says, “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice [of the Supreme Court] shall preside”. Upon being summoned by the Senate, Chief Justice John G Roberts will go across from the Supreme Court to the Capitol, and will be sworn in as the presiding officer. This was expected to happen around 2 pm (12.30 am on Friday in India).

Chief Justice Roberts will then administer oaths to all 100 Senators, who will raise their hands and swear to render “impartial justice”, and proceed to sign a book to attest to their oath. Thereafter, the chamber will issue a writ of summons inviting the President to answer the charges brought against him.

On Thursday, the Senate is expected to set specific dates for the receipt of trial briefs from the House impeachment managers and counsel for the President. American media were reporting that the proceedings are then expected to adjourn until Tuesday, when the trial will begin in earnest — with a debate on the rules of the trial, including whether witnesses would be allowed, and opening arguments by both sides.

The trial is expected to continue for two weeks or longer. This means that the President could still be in the dock early next month, when the states of Iowa and New Hampshire will hold the first contests to pick his Democratic opponent.

Will Trump be removed from office?

The possibility of that happening is extremely remote. Not only do the Republicans — who have vowed to acquit him — control the Senate 53-47, under the constitution, “no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present” (Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6). All Republican Representatives voted against the House resolution

to transmit the articles of impeachment. Trump is almost certain to survive. What is of greater interest is how the trial impacts the President’s reelection campaign.

Source: The Indian Express

2. Agreement to settle Bru refugees in Tripura inked

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

Pact to settle Bru tribe community

The Centre, the governments of Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of Bru tribe signed a new agreement to settle the 22-year-old refugee crisis of the community. The over 30,000-strong community that settled in Tripura in the 90s after fleeing ethnic violence in Mizoram will now remain in Tripura, according to the new pact.

What are the details?

Under the new agreement, a package of Rs 600 crore has been earmarked for a period of two years to help settle the refugees in Tripura. This will include free plots of land, Rs 1.5 lakh assistance to build a house, Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit for each family, free ration for two years and Rs 5,000 per month as assistance.

What was attempted in the past?

In 2018, the government signed an agreement with the stakeholders concerned to send all Bru refugees living in camps in Tripura to Mizoram and settle them there. However, despite a government package providing assistance for relocation, only 328 families chose to go to Mizoram.

Source: The Indian Express

3. Suspension of the Internet: What the Rules say, what the SC underlined

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

On January 9, the Supreme Court significantly strengthened checks on the government’s power to shut down the Internet. A major aspect of the verdict relates to the Rules passed in 2017 that outline how and when the government can enforce shutdowns. Before The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules were notified, there were no codified processes to block telecom services and the Internet in the country.

What do the Rules say?

The Rules, issued under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, stipulate that only the Home Secretary of the Union or a state can pass an order, and that the order must include the reasons for the decision. The order should be forwarded to a review committee the day after it is issued, and must be reviewed by the committee within five days to assess its compliance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, under which the government has the power to block the transmission of messages during a public emergency or for public safety.

In the case of the central government, the review committee comprises the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries of the Departments of Legal Affairs and Telecommunications. In the case of states, the committee comprises the Chief Secretary, Secretary, Law or Legal Remembrancer In-Charge, Legal Affairs, and a Secretary to the state government (other than the Home Secretary). In “unavoidable circumstances”, the order can be issued by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above, authorised by the Centre or the state Home Secretary.

Telecom service providers must designate nodal officers to handle such requests.

What laws governed this area before the 2017 Rules were notified?

Internet shutdowns were ordered under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which gives District Magistrates broad powers during dangerous situations. Even after 2017, many local shutdowns are issued under this law. Section 69(A) of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 gives the government powers to block particular websites, not the Internet as a whole.

The Centre has never ordered a nationwide Internet shutdown. Still, India tops the list of Internet shutdowns globally. According to Software Freedom Law Center’s tracker, there have been 381 shutdowns since 2012, 106 of which were in 2019. The ongoing shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in any democratic country.

How did the Rules figure in the Supreme Court case?

Petitioner Vrinda Grover argued that the Internet shutdown in Kashmir was not compliant with the Rules. The Rules require the suspension to be temporary; also, the orders did not provide reasons for the restrictions. The petitioner contended that the order claims a law-and-order danger, as opposed to a public order danger specified in the Rules.

The court said that because the Rules require the order to be in accordance with Section 5(2) of The Telegraph Act, the order must be during a “public emergency” or in the “interest of public safety”. Also, the suspension must be “necessary” and “unavoidable”.

“In furtherance of the same, the State must assess the existence of an alternate less intrusive remedy,” the court said. “Having said so, we may note that the… Suspension Rules have certain gaps, which are required to be considered by the legislature.”

The Bench also said that the State should make the orders freely available, even though the Suspension Rules do not specify this. The Rules also don’t specify a time limitation for the shutdown, the use of “Temporary” in the title notwithstanding. The Bench decided that an indefinite suspension is “impermissible”.

Ultimately, the court ordered the government to review its order, ruling that the freedom of speech and trade on the Internet is a fundamental right.

“Law and technology seldom mix like oil and water. There is a consistent criticism that the development of technology is not met by equivalent movement in the law. In this context, we need to note that the law should imbibe the technological development and accordingly mould its rules so as to cater to the needs of society. Non recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable.”

Source: The Indian Express

4. India to invite Imran Khan for Shanghai Council meet

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan will be invited to participate in the Heads of Government Council meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that will be hosted in India this year, the Ministry of External Affairs said. The invite move came hours after the UN Security Council discussed the situation in Kashmir.

“As per the established practice and procedure within SCO, all eight members of the SCO, four observer states, and other international dialogue partners will be invited to attend the meeting,” said Official Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in response to a question on whether Mr. Khan will be invited for the summit.

Since becoming full-time member of the SCO in 2017, both India and Pakistan have participated in multiple meetings of SCO and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) despite hostilities and tension in Kashmir.

Though his predecessor Nawaz Sharif had visited India in May 2014 for the “mini-SAARC summit”, Mr. Khan has not been invited to India till now.

Source: The Hindu

Q 1. Strength, peace and security are considered to be the pillars of international relations. Elucidate. (UPSC Mains 2017 Question, 10 marks, 150 words).

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