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Maratha protests: Govt committed to resolve issues, says CM Devendra Fadnavis

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday said his government was committed to resolve the issues being raised by the Maratha community, agitating over reservation demand and punishment for culprits of Kopardi rape and murder case.

“Our government is committed to solve the issue. I assure you that amicable solution will be found out with the help of all,” Fadnavis said.

A file photo of Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

A file photo of Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

The chief minister was addressing a gathering of Mathadi workers in Turbe in neighbouring Navi Mumbai on the occasion of the 83rd birth anniversary of Mathadi leader Late Annasaheb Patil.

“Government’s view is that the Maratha community should get reservation. Hence, even when there is a stay by the court, our government has passed an Act (regarding it). Now, even when the matter is subjudice, evidences are being placed before the courts,” he said.

“We have taken a serious note of the silent morchas. All should come together and help in resolving the issue and hold discussions so that effective legal steps can be taken,” he said.

On Kopardi alleged rape and murder case, he said Ujjwal Nikam has been appointed as senior public prosecutor in the case and expressed confidence that victim’s family will get justice.

A 15-year-old girl, belonging to Maratha community, in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district was allegedly raped and brutally murdered by three Dalit men in July.

The Maratha community, which is pre-dominant in state politics, has been taking out silent marches in various towns  in the state over the last one month, following the Kopardi incident.

Also, community leaders have been demanding scrapping of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, saying it is grossly misused, and also reservations for Marathas in educational institutes and government jobs.

“We are trying hard to empower the Maratha community through employment and entrepreneurship. Our plan is to give job opportunities to 5 lakh Maratha youths,” Fadnavis said.

Meanwhile, he said a committee has been appointed to suggest amendment in Maharashtra Mathadi Hammal & other Manual Workers (Regulation of employment & welfare) Act. The committee will submit its report in next three months.

SC cannot exercise power of pardon vested with President, Governor

The constitutional power of the executive to grant pardon to convicts cannot be exercised by the apex court unless there is a violation of fundamental rights, the Supreme Court held on Wednesday.A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said that Article 32 can only be invoked when there is violation of any fundamental right or in the “realm of public interest litigation”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The argument that when a pardon or remission can be given under Article 72 (by President) or 161 (by Governor) of the Constitution by the constitutional authority, this court can exercise the similar power under Article 32 of the Constitution, is absolutely based on an erroneous premise. Article 32, as has been interpreted and stated by the Constitution Bench and well settled in law, can be only invoked when there is violation of any fundamental right or where the Court takes up certain grievance which falls in the realm of public interest litigation,” the bench said.The observation came on the pleas of some persons convicted under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act who were seeking grant of remission of their 10- year sentence as the relief was not available to them under the New Punjab Jail Manual of 1996.The convicts had said that the relief was denied to them as section 32-A of the NDPS Act bars entitlement to such remission.The apex court said the factual matrix of the case “does not remotely suggest” that there has been violation of any fundamental right of the petitioners and thus, their plea to invoke Article 142 (enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court) of the Constitution, along with Article 32, was “absolutely fallacious”.”The petitioners have invoked the power of this court to grant the benefit of remission in exercise of power under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Speaking plainly, the prayer is totally misconceived,” the bench said and dismissed their petition.

Most Indian women don’t shake hands and dating is ‘not common’ here, says ICCR handbook

The guidelines in a handbook of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) meant for travellers to India has raised a few eyebrows. According to a Times of India report, an updated version of the traveller’s guide and the scholar’s manual released by ICCR aims to give a glimpse into India’s traditions and values, along with tips on what to expect while living in the country. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Educated women have cast aside many customary inhibitions and have come forward in many ways in the past few decades. They will talk to the student when he is introduced to them. The modern Indian woman is traditional in some ways. She may refuse politely if a man asks her out for a film or an outing. Dating is not common in India,” the handbook says. It also says “women do not generally shake hands” in India. Detailing tips on how to survive hostel life in India, the manual goes on to tell international students not to choose rooms that are located next to bathrooms or under the roof. It also warns students about how tough life in hostels can be, what with frequent power cuts and water shortage.The handbook clarifies that accommodation in big cities is as tough for an Indian as it is for foreigners, and that it shouldn’t be taken a sign of ‘unfriendliness’.The manual also describes what to expect during interactions with people in the country. “Indians are generally friendly and informal. Many of them may not wait to be introduced in order to talk to the student. In buses and trains, you may find people eager to talk.”A special advisory for train and bus travel has also been included, “A student need not be surprised should he find that the “first-come-first-served” rule is not being strictly followed, as the habit of forming a queue is not yet fully developed in all places.”The ICCR aims at strengthening India’s cultural relations with other countries and also organises study tours, introductory courses and summer camps for international students.

Supreme Court pulls up state governments and Centre for failing to tackle drought

The Supreme Court said that if state governments maintain an “ostrich-like attitude” towards disasters like drought then the Centre cannot wash off its hands from the constitutional responsibility as the “buck stops” with it in matters concerning common people. “It (Centre) cannot totally wash its hands off on issues pertaining to Article 21 of the Constitution but at the same time, we do not suggest that the authority of the state government to declare a drought or any other similar power is diluted,” a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Union of India has certainly to maintain a delicate and fine balance between federalism and its constitutional responsibility, and that it must do otherwise it is ultimately the common person who will suffer and be in distress because of a situation not of his or her making,” the apex court said while passing a slew of directions on the issue of tackling a drought like situation.The bench said that if Centre and state governments fails to respond to a developing crisis or a crisis in the making then the judiciary “can and must” consider issuing appropriate directions but “a Lakshman rekha” must be drawn.”Surely, if a state government maintains an ostrich-like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India,” the apex court said in its 53-page judgement while citing Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s quote, “The problem is not lack of resources or capability, but the lack of will.” The bench noted that “lack of will” was amply demonstrated in this matter in which states of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana were “hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these states.” The apex court said it was “quite surprised” that neither a National Plan has been drawn nor there is a National Disaster Mitigation Fund even after 10 years of the enforcement of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.”Evidently, anticipating a disaster such as a drought is not yet in the ‘things to do’ list of the Union of India and ad-hoc measures and knee jerk reactions are the order of the day and will continue to be so until the provisions of the Disaster Management Act are faithfully implemented,” it said while directing the Centre to formulate a National Plan “at the very earliest and with immediate concern.” The apex court, which noted that around one-fourth of the total population of the country was affected by drought-like situation, also directed the Centre to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund within three months. (More) PTI MNL ABA SJK RKS VMNThe bench said that the Centre must insist on the use of modern technology for early determination of drought or a drought-like situation. “There is no need to continue with colonial methods and manuals that follow a colonial legacy. It is high time that state governments realize the vast potential of technology and the Government of India should insist on the use of such technology in preparing uniform State Management Plans for a disaster,” it said. It pulled up Bihar and Haryana for their continued denial of having a drought-like situation but said that towards the fag end, Gujarat has admitted the existence of drought in its five districts.”Under the circumstances, it appears to us that there is more than sufficient material to suggest that there is a perceptible threat of a mild or moderate drought in some districts, tehsils, talukas or blocks of Bihar. The unfortunate part of the exercise undertaken by us is that Bihar is in a state of denial,” it said.Regarding Haryana, the bench observed that disparity in the methodology of assessment of drought or a drought-like situation between it and the Centre was “quite stark”.The court said the system followed by Gujarat, which has declared drought in 994 villages last month, in assessing such situation does not meet with approval of manual or guidelines.”The purpose of an early declaration of drought is preventive, but the route taken by Gujarat is palliative and relief centric. Risk assessment and risk management gives way, in Gujarat, to crisis management,” it said.The apex court also said that it was known in October 2015 that several districts in these three states were facing varying degrees of drought “yet, no preparatory steps appear to have been taken to tackle a possible disaster.” The bench said a final decision to declare drought is of the state but the resources available with the Centre can be effectively used to assist the states in having a fresh look into the data and information and to arrive at a correct decision in the interest of affected people.”Maybe the issuance of advisories is an adequate response to an impending crisis but maybe it is not. That is a call that the Government of India will have to take, but whatever view is taken by the Government of India, it must appreciate that as far as a response to a disaster is concerned the approach of the Union of India should be small-minded in certain respects but financially liberal,” it said.While issuing a slew of directions, the apex court asked the Centre to constitute within six months a National Disaster Response Force with its own regular specialist cadre. The court said there was a need to revise the contents of Centre’s drought management manual as several new developments have taken place since it was published in 2009. “We direct that the manual be revised and updated on or before December 31, 2016,” it said adding that humanitarian factors, such as migrations from affected areas, suicides, extreme distress, the plight of women and children, should be kept in mind while updating and revising it.”In the proposed revised and updated Manual as well as in the National Plan, the Union of India must provide for the future in terms of prevention, preparedness and mitigation,” it said.The bench directed the Secretary, Agriculture Ministry, to urgently hold a meeting within a week with the Chief Secretaries of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana to review the apparent drought situation with all the available data.It, however, clarified that other issues raised by the petitioner NGO, Swaraj Abhiyan, would be dealt in subsequent orders as the issues raised were in a sense quite disparate, though linked to the drought situation.The PIL filed by the NGO had alleged that parts of 12 states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.

Maha govt to declare drought in over 29,000 villages

Mumbai: In the wake of acute water shortage in various parts of Maharashtra, the state government has informed the Bombay High Court that it would declare drought in over 29,000 villages in the state and all relief prescribed in the Drought Manual, 2009 would be provided.

The government in its reply to a batch of PILs on water shortage issue, has told the court that it would issue a corrigendum and clarify that wherever reference is made to a ‘drought-like situation’ and ‘drought-affected areas’, the same should be read as ‘drought’.

The affidavit said last week the government was strictly implementing various schemes and taking various measures to mitigate the water scarcity in drought-hit areas and more particularly in Marathwada and Vidharbha regions.

Bombay High Court. News18Bombay High Court. News18

Bombay High Court. News18

The court also took note of the contention of Acting Advocate General Rohit Deoit that it would not be possible for the government to supply drinking water daily to all districts but it would be supplied on a regular basis.

Deo assured the court that potable water would be supplied to all districts affected by drought regularly till the onset of the monsoon.

The government had earlier told the high court, which is hearing the PILs, that it had declared ‘drought-like situation’ in over 29,000 villages in Maharashtra.

One of the petitioners, Sanjay Lakhe Patil had alleged last week that the government has failed to implement the Drought Manual of 2009 as well as the Drought Management Plan, 2005.

He had submitted that the state government has deliberately not declared drought in Maharashtra or in the
actually affected areas.

“This was done in order to ensure that additional relief which is normally given to villages which are declared as drought-hit villages is not given and these villages have been avoided,” Patil had argued.

After perusing the affidavit, the court had noted, “Prima facie we are satisfied that the government has given a serious thought and has considered this issue in detail and is taking immediate steps for the purpose of ensuring that in the month of May and part of June this year all adequate measures as mentioned in the Drought Manual are being undertaken.”

The court posted the petitions for hearing on 24 May to ensure that the government is implementing the provisions under the manual.

Tiny countries object ‘tax have’ tag, India frames exchange protocol

New Delhi: The ‘tax haven’ tag for some tiny countries has touched a raw nerve and they have protested to India and other countries, calling it “offensive”, and even threatened not to cooperate with their black money probe.

Countries take offence to tax haven tag. APCountries take offence to tax haven tag. AP

Countries take offence to tax haven tag. AP

With the countries whose help is being sought to unearth hidden wealth objecting to them being branded as ‘tax havens’, Indian investigating agencies have been asked by the CBDT to shun the term while making legal overseas requests.

Some jurisdictions where Indian investigators have reached in pursuit of their black money probe in the past
include St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean Islands, Isle of Man, Cook Islands, British Virgin Islands, Samoa and Nauru among others.

An official said on Thursday that some of these countries have taken exception to them being dubbed as ‘tax havens’.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the nodal authority in the finance ministry for executing tax information exchange between India and the globe in stash funds probe, has recently issued a directive in this regard.

Its Foreign Tax and Tax Research (FT and TR) wing has framed Exchange of Information (EoI) protocols and it
processes treaties like Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) and Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) to execute such requests.

A recent CBDT communication, accessed by PTI, said the taxman should refrain from using the word “tax haven” as a number of countries “have expressed their displeasure on use of such language (tax haven) and even declined to provide information in certain cases as the language used in the EoI request was found to be offensive”.

The expression “tax haven” is used to indicate a jurisdiction, country or territory where the rate of taxes are
either negligible or extremely low and which have a strict mechanism for financial secrecy and client data protection.

Official sources said while the Board had flagged the issue with the field investigation offices of the IT department when the Manual of EoI was framed some time ago, the word “tax haven” was still being used by investigators in their official dossiers.

They said some small countries, which are important with regard to key probes leading to their shores, had taken up the issue at the global level in general and, in some cases, with India.

CBDT has asked the taxman to refrain from using the word anywhere and at any stage when cooperation is being sought on cases of black money and wealth stashed away abroad by Indians so as to not bring about a situation which “offends” the partner country and thereby creates obstacles in getting good results in such probe cases.

The FT and TR wing is tasked to collect and collate such requests from investigation offices of the IT department and other probe agencies and subsequently send them abroad. The wing operates under various units and is mandated to focus on various parts of the globe.

PTI

Supreme Court stays interim order of suspending appointments of new law officers

After facing embarrassment at the hands of Bombay High Court for “politicising” appointments of new law officers and termination of existing ones before their tenure, the state government has finally got some relief from the Supreme Court that has stayed the interim order of suspending implementation of fresh appointments.Upholding the termination of exiting law officers as “arbitrary and illegal”, the Bombay High Court — in an order passed in December 2015 — had suspended implementation of new appointments. The apex court in an interim order dated January 29, however, has allowed the government to move forward with its process until further orders. The matter is now listed for February 23.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The BJP-led government within five months of coming into power, issued a notice inviting applications from lawyers for making appointments to the posts of additional government pleader/assistant government pleader, additional public prosecutor/assistant public prosecutor, among others, with a clause that announced termination of existing law officers enmass, once the selection process of new ones is completed.”The power of the state government to appoint law officers of their choice cannot be disputed, but discontinuation of engagement of law officers in such manner as in the current case, cannot be supported and shall have to be branded as arbitrary and illegal,” read the order passed by the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court on December 17.The court further added that the appointment in such a post must not be a political one. “The manual states that a political activity by the district government counsel shall be a disqualification to hold the post.”The order also expressed anguish over the fact that in certain cases recommendations are made by the district magistrate having regard to the political affinity of the lawyers to the party in power.”Those who do not have such political affinity although competent are not appointed. Legal Remembrancers Manual clearly forbids appointment of such a lawyer and/or if appointed, removal from his office. The District Judge and the District Magistrate, therefore, are duty bound to see that before any recommendation is not made, or any political affinity.” the order added.According to petitioners (a bunch of public prosecutors), the new government with an intention to install Law officers of their choice decided to remove present law officers ‘enmass’ working in the high court as well as in the subordinate courts. The state government, however, claims that the orders were passed only against those who despite being on government panel filed litigation against the government which amounts to “breach of trust.”