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2016 was gloomy; 2017 may get gloomier: The new normal is bitter and disregards truth

2016 was a gloomy year.

Chaos overwhelmed order and noise trumped good sense all through. Propaganda suffocated truth and opinion rode roughshod over facts. At the end of it India appeared to have finally settled into the new normal.

Welcome to the post-truth age. And goodbye the old world obsessed with morality.

What is the defining feature of the new normal? It has to be obfuscation of and disregard for truth. It rides on the brute power of propaganda and not-so-subtle manipulation of mass opinion. Truth is no more simple black and white; it is imbued with many shades and ambiguities. Innuendos, insinuations and disinformation designed to be malicious and address the lowest common denominator play a role to cloud it.

Representational image.

Representational image.

India was angrier, bitter and more cynical than ever the whole of the year, thanks to the crudity in the air. The hate talk, the unbridled combativeness and expression of acrimony is likely to continue through the next year and beyond. The rise and rise of the emotion-driven, and sometimes irrational, Right is one reason why. The failure of those in the ideological Left and the middle to develop a convincing counter-argument to them is another. But the worst is the inability of the ordinary Indian to keep himself insulated from political developments and study the reality around dispassionately.

The new normal is characterised by low trust and the tendency of players, political and otherwise, to exploit the trust gap through calculated lies and half-truths spread among people. Lies are what remained in full play in 2016. Every allegation against every political leader in the media and elsewhere was falsehood. The choice of the word ‘lie’ is deliberate. Over the last two-and-half years we have been hearing of scandals and involvement of political biggies in them. Television channels produce irrefutable proof every other day. How come none of the accused is in jail so far? How come Robert Vadra‘s land deals make it to headlines every couple of months yet he is not even in the court once? Obviously, we were being fed untruth all along or someone wanted to keep us distracted from our many existential problems.

The worst part is, we as a people have started enjoying the lies, elevated them to some kind of mass entertainment. The spicier it is the better. Obviously, we don’t give a damn. We have made truth irrelevant to our lives and facts redundant.

In the process we have diminished ourselves morally. In the post-truth age morality, private, public and institutional has taken a dip. It was evident the way we bought propaganda peddled by politicians on both sides of the ideological divide with a conniving media with unrelenting relish and happily became part of their political wars. We forgot that the idea of India was bigger than any ideology or leader. It is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The diminishing of institutions of public trust is a dimension of the new normal. So when the judiciary passes a verdict it is no more accepted as sacrosanct; when the Army says it conducted surgical strikes there are as many doubters as believers and when the Reserve Bank of India offers facts on demonetisation, there is suspicion. The police no more inspires respect. Government, run by politicians as they are, has always been low on credibility. How does a democracy function when all its institutions lack vigour and the social capital called trust? We were too busy asserting ourselves over others to notice the damage to the institutions and with them the sense of order.

Yes, 2016 was gloomy. 2017 promises to be no better.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:29 IST

Madras High Court judge raises doubts on Jayalalithaa’s death, wants health records made public

There couldn’t have been a better timing for the Madras High Court to raise questions on the mysterious conditions under which former Tamil Nadu chief minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam head, J Jayalalithaa passed away earlier this month.

A file image of new AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala with J Jayalalithaa's body. PTI

A file image of new AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala with J Jayalalithaa’s body. PTI

On the day the AIADMK appointed Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala as the next general secretary of the party, a post held by Jayalalithaa before her death, the high court observed that there are many unanswered questions surrounding her death and that the details of it should be made public.

Expressing doubts over the circumstances leading to death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister, a Madras High Court judge indicated that he may order exhumation of the body after a plea before the court sought a probe by an inquiry commission or a fact-finding committee.

According to ANI, Justice Vaidyalingam, who was heading a two-judge vacation bench, pointed at the doubts raised by the media and said that the mysterious conditions under which she died should be probed.

His observations came when the bench, also comprising Justice V Parthiban, was hearing the PIL filed by an AIADMK worker PA Joseph seeking an inquiry commission or a fact-finding committee to probe the circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa.

“After the demise, everybody has a right to question. I personally have a doubt,” Justice Vaidyalingam remarked adding, “”One day it was told that she is walking, another day you said that she will come out and suddenly what happened. Even with regard to the health of late  Chief Minister MGR, video was released,” Justice Vaidyanathan said.

When a special mention was made before the bench by senior counsel KM Vijayan who argued on the plea, Advocate General Muthukumaraswamy said there is no mystery in the death.
Justice Vaidyanathan asked the AG, “What is that you say. Right to live is a Fundamental Right. Public should know what has happened.” “Even relations were not allowed to see and they are also
not before the court now. I personally find in case if I have doubt I may order exhumation of the body of deceased and you have not told anything when she was alive,” the judge said.

Turning to counsel J Madanagopala Rao, who appeared on behalf of Union Government, the Judge said: “You went there. You have not reported anything. You know everything. But not reported anything for the reasons best known to you. You kept quiet.” The bench said, “We also saw in newspapers that the chief minister was recovering, and that she was eating, signing papers and even conducting meetings. And then suddenly she was dead.”

“At least after her death now, the truth should be revealed,” the bench added.

The bench then recorded the acceptance of notice by counsel for Union Government on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministries of Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs and CBI and posted the matter for further hearing to 9 January.

According to CNN-News18, the high court judge also asked why her body was buried and not exhumed. The bench, it said, has issued a notice to the prime minister, Central Bureau of Investigation and the Apollo Hospital, where Jayalalithaa was being treated regarding the same.

The PIL had sought a commission comprising retired Supreme Court judges to look into “questionable incidents”, including Jayalalithaa’s sudden hospitalisation, reported recovery and the cardiac arrest resulting in her death on 5 December.

The PIL listed the sequence of events since Jayalalithaa’s admission to Apollo Hospitals here on 22 September and claimed that the “secrecy” preceding her death gave rise to “grave doubts” in the minds of the people.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 12:23 IST

Prakash Javadekar backs CBSE Class X board exams, says partial implementation unfair

New Delhi: Supporting the CBSE governing body’s move to make the Class X Board exams compulsory from 2018, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday said it was discriminatory to allow seven lakh students to opt out of the board exams when nearly two crore others were taking them.

Interacting with journalists in Delhi, he said the HRD Ministry will take forward the recommendations made by the CBSE governing body.

He said there are around two crore students across the country who complete their Class X education every year. Out of these, 1.93 crore students take the exams conducted by different boards, whereas seven lakhs opt out of it. This kind of discrimination is not proper, Javadekar said.

File image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. ReutersFile image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. Reuters

File image of Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. Reuters

He said that there had been popular demand from many schools, parents and education bodies to have a system where there is board exams for all.

CBSE students at present have the option to choose between Board exams and school-based exams in Class X, but on Tuesday the CBSE governing body decided to make the Board exams compulsory for all students from academic session 2017-18.

“We will duly consider it and pass it so that from March, 2018 we will have Board examination for all. Because it was an anomaly in a way. You cannot have discrimination like that,” Javadekar said.

He also said that the HRD Ministry had circulated a Cabinet note for inter-ministerial consultations to various ministries on the proposed changes in ‘No Detention’ policy under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

He said that while it has been decided to introduce exams from Class VI, the HRD Ministry wants a system where the students do not have to waste their entire year.

According to sources, the ministry has proposed that there should be a provision for re-examination in case a student cannot clear the exam in the first attempt so that he or she can be promoted.

Responding to questions on the CBSE’s decision to recommend to the HRD ministry that the three language formula should be extended to Classes IX and X from the current VI to VIII, Javadekar dismissed as baseless apprehensions that the government intends to force students to study any particular language.

The HRD Minister said the ‘Vittiya Saksharta Abhiyan’ of his ministry was getting “a very emphatic response” and that nearly one-and-a-half lakhs volunteers had joined the move to promote digital transactions.

Responding to a question on allegations levelled by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Javadekar said there is no need to responded to “false and baseless statements made by frustrated leaders”.

Taking a jibe at Rahul, he claimed the rug has actually got pulled off the feet of those leaders who wanted to bring an earthquake.

Javadekar also honoured a team of his ministry officials after his ministry’s website was adjudged as one of the best among government departments

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 22:21 IST

Disability Bill only legislation passed this session

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The only silver lining in an otherwise uneventful Parliament session came in the form of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016, which saw its passage in the Lok Sabha on Friday. Only the President’s nod is left for the Bill’s legislative finality.Congress MP, KC Venugopal, while supporting the Bill, raised the issue of decreased reservations. He asked the government why the quota for the disabled from the 2014 bill introduced by UPA minister Mallikarjun Kharge which was fixed at 5% was decreased to 4% in the 2016 Bill.TMC MP Saugata Roy further said that that the District Advisory Boards, proposed under the Bill, should also have representatives of the people. BJD MP Tathagata Satpathy, while supporting the Bill, stressed on the changing of the name to “differently-abled” and on the need of better research to bring in prosthetics that connects to the nerves of the user. TSP MP K Kavitha, on her part, brought to notice the need to focus reservations for disabled women, while supporting and lauding the Bill.Soon after the Bill was passed, a gathering of the differently-abled reached the residence of minister Thawarchand Gehlot to break into a celebration of sorts. “I am thankful for all the esteemed politicians in the Parliament who came together to help us pass the Bill, in order to benefit some of the most marginalised people in the society,” he said, adding the his government has brought in battery-run wheelchairs for the disabled, and unique identity cards.Avnish Kumar Awasthi, joint secretary with the department of persons with disabilities at the social justice ministry, says that while one struggle was over, another is to begin. “We need to work on the rules now, in which will try to include some of the key recommendations of the Standing Committee that were not adapted in the Bill,” said Awasthi.The 2016 bill has adopted over 119 amendments, including 59 recommendations from the standing committee, and partially agreeing to over 7 recommendations.The Bill brings in an increase of over 1% in reservations for the disabled in government jobs from the existing 3%, and of over 2% in educational institutions from the existing 3%. The Bill also makes education for disabled children between the age of six to 18 years free. The Bill also mandates jailtime between six months to five years years for several offences, including assaulting, insulting, intimidating, and denying food to a disabled person, sexually assaulting a disabled woman, or for performing a medical procedure on a disabled woman without her consent which may lead to the termination of pregnancy.The Bill recognises, for the first time, sign language as an official mode of communication, and now makes it mandatory for live functions on TV to carry subtitles.

CBSE Class 10 exams will be mandatory from 2017-18: Prakash Javadekar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The CBSE Board would meet at the end of this month and a resolution is set to be passed to make class X board exams compulsory for all its students from next academic session, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has said.The minister also said the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD) is working on an amendment to the Right to Education Act (RTE), and a proposal has been approved by the Law Ministry that would come to the Cabinet in a week or two. “This month there will be a CBSE Board meeting, in which there will be a resolution (for compulsory class X board exams). “So, I am very sure, from academic session 2017-18, Board examination will be mandatory for all students,” Javadekar told PTI.The minister also asserted that it was “unfair” that 23 million students in the country were taking various examinations -state boards and CBSE- and yet two million were not. Under the present norms, CBSE students can choose between the Board exam or a school based examination. On RTE amendment, he said once it is approved by the Cabinet, it will go to Parliament. “Even if it is referred to a Standing Committee, I hope by April, we will have an amendment which will allow states to take a call on whether to have detention or no detention,” Javadekar said.Presently, the ‘No Detention’ provision under the RTE Act does not allow students to be failed or detained till class VIII. The states will be given freedom to choose between having examination for classes V and VIII, Javadekar said. “But we are also simultaneously saying that if you take it and somebody’s detained, he should not lose one year. There should be a supplementary exam two months after and then he again joins the next batch. So that he does not lose a year but there is accountability for the student also,” the HRD minister said. “We don’t want to create exam oriented pressure on students but there has to be a challenge mode,” he said.

Up to states to make national anthem compulsory in govt schools: Bihar Minister

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre does not propose to make singing of the national anthem mandatory in all government and government-aided schools, and it is up to the states to take necessary action for observance of provisions of the RTE Act and Constitution concerning the same, Lok Sabha was informed on Monday.Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Upendra Kushwaha made a statement in Lok Sabha when he was asked whether the Centre proposes to make singing of the national anthem mandatory in all government and government- aided schools. “No, Madam,” Kushwaha said, addressing the Speaker.Citing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, Kushwaha said it provides for free and compulsory education to every child of age 6 to 14 in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education in all states and UTs except Jammu and Kashmir.Section 29(2)(a) of the RTE Act provides that the academic authority, while laying down the curriculum and the evaluation procedure under sub-section (1), shall take into consideration conformity with the values enshrined in the Constitution. “Further, Article 51-A (a) of the Constitution of India mentions that it shall be the duty of the every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem. As education is in the concurrent list and a majority of schools are under the jurisdiction of the state governments and UT administrations, it is for them to take necessary action for observance of the above provisions of the RTE Act and the Constitution of India,” he said.

Access to playfields mandatory for schools, says government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Access to playfields and engagement of physical education instructor has been made a mandatory requirement for all schools under the Right to Education Act, government told the Lok Sabha on Thursday.Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel said government recognises the role of sports and physical education in the holistic development of children and youth in the country. “As part of this policy, the government has made access to play fields and engagement of physical education instructor a mandatory requirement for all schools under the Right to Education Act,” he said during Question Hour.The Minister said the CBSE places special importance on co-scholastic areas which includes sports and physical fitness and it is expected that the state education boards would also emulate the CBSE example in due course.Goel said a scheme called ‘Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports’ is being implemented by the Sports Ministry as a central sector scheme from the current financial (2016-17). The scheme provides for holding of annual sports competitions in two age group – (i) under 14 and (ii) under 17 all over the country to encourage mass participation of both boys and girls in sports in both urban and rural areas and identification of talented sportspersons through competitions and creation of sports infrastructure facilities, he said.

National Yoga Policy: Supreme Court asks Centre to take decision on its framing

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to take a decision within three months on pleas seeking framing of a national yoga policy and making yoga compulsory for students of Class I-VIII across the country.

Representational image of a yoga asana. Photo courtesy Martin Louis/FreeimagesRepresentational image of a yoga asana. Photo courtesy Martin Louis/Freeimages

Representational image of a yoga asana. Photo courtesy Martin Louis/Freeimages

A bench headed by Justice MB Lokur asked the Centre to treat the petitions filed on the issue as a representation and take a decision.

The court was hearing the pleas filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson and J C Seth on the issue. Upadhyay has sought a direction to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, NCERT, NCTE and CBSE to “provide standard textbooks of ‘yoga and health education’ for students of Class I-VIII keeping in spirit various fundamental rights such as right to life, education and equality.”

‘Right to health’ is an integral part of right to life under the Article 21, it said, noting that it includes protection of health and is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity.

“State has an obligation to provide health facilities to all the citizens, especially to children and adolescents.

In a welfare state, it is obligation of the State to ensure the creation and sustenance of conditions congenial to good health,” the plea has said. It said that right to health cannot be secured without providing ‘yoga and health education’ to all children or framing a ‘national yoga policy’ to promote and propagate it.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 12:49 IST

Supreme Court asks Centre to take a decision on framing national yoga

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court asked the Centre to take a decision within three months on pleas seeking framing of a national yoga policy and making yoga compulsory for students of Class I-VIII across the country.A bench headed by Justice M B Lokur asked the Centre to treat the petitions filed on the issue as a representation and take a decision. The court was hearing the pleas filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson and JC Seth on the issue.Upadhyay has sought a direction to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, NCERT, NCTE and CBSE to “provide standard textbooks of ‘yoga and health education’ for students of Class I-VIII keeping in spirit various fundamental rights such as right to life, education and equality.”‘Right to health’ is an integral part of right to life under the Article 21, it said, noting that it includes protection of health and is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity.”State has an obligation to provide health facilities to all the citizens, especially to children and adolescents. In a welfare state, it is obligation of the State to ensure the creation and sustenance of conditions congenial to good health,” the plea has said.It said that right to health cannot be secured without providing ‘yoga and health education’ to all children or framing a ‘national yoga policy’ to promote and propagate it.

NIA gives Zakir Naik two more worries: sister Nailah and IS link

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what could only mean more trouble for Zakir Naik, the National Investigation agency (NIA) has claimed to have found a link between the Islamic televangelist and a person held for intending to join the Islamic State (IS) in 2015. The arrested individual, identified as Abu Anas, had claimed that he had received a scholarship from Naik’s organisation last year.This, however, is not the only new development in the NIA-led probe against Naik and Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), an organisation headed by the Islamic preacher and now banned by the government. According to NIA, five private companies, in which Naik’s sister Nailah Naushad Noorani is designated as director and additional director, too have come under the scanner after the agency found “connections” between the companies and IRF.”The investigation has revealed that the proscribed IRF has close connections with Harmony Media, Longlast Constructions, Right Property Solutions, Majestic Perfumes and Alpha Lubricants. Documents pertaining to inflow and outflow of foreign and domestic funding, which have been recovered during search operations, are being scrutinised,” NIA spokesperson Alok Mittal said on Tuesday.According to company records, Nailah is designated as additional director Longlast Constructions and Right Property Solutions with the appointment date set to March 12, 2013. She was appointed as director in Harmony Media the very next day. Furthermore, Nailah was appointed as director in Majestic Perfumes and Alpha Lubricants on May 22, 2015.While the private companies allegedly involved in suspected transactions with IRF may soon fall under the ambit of NIA probe, the revelation about Abu Anas, a software engineer and resident of Tonk, Rajasthan is no good news for the televangelist. Anas, 25, was arrested by the NIA in January 2016 for allegedly planning to go to Syria to fight along with IS.”The investigation has also revealed that Abu Anas had received Rs 80,000 from the proscribed IRF as scholarship in October 2015. Anas had planned to go to Syria to fight along with IS in the same period. He was arrested by the NIA in January 2016,” Mittal added.Agency sources told DNA that Anas had also taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh from a private bank with an intention to fly to Syria and this was after he was allegedly successful in sending two Indian recruits to Syria in early 2015.The two Hyderabad-based youth were identified as Arshad Ayub and Mohammed Kadeer.The agency on Tuesday said that it conducted search in one more premise of Naik, taking the number of raids conducted since last week to 20. “These premises are connected to the proscribed IRF and/or its trustees. During the search operations, video tapes and DVDs of Naik’s public speeches, documents related to property and investment, financial transactions, foreign and domestic funding of the proscribed IRF as well as its associated companies, and electronic storage devices have been recovered,” said Mittal.

India opposes UN resolution on moratorium on death penalty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has opposed a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it goes against Indian statutory law and the sovereign right of every country to determine their own legal system. But it supported an amendment reaffirming sovereign right to develop domestic legal systems.India’s representative Mayank Joshi said every state had a sovereign right to determine its own legal system, which was why he had voted for the amendment. But the counsellor at India’s UN Mission said he had voted against the resolution “because it contravened statutory law in India.” The resolution was, however, adopted with 115 votes in favour to 38 against, with 31 abstentions following an “intense discussion,” said a statement on the UN website. The amendment was passed by 76 votes in favour, 72 against, 26 abstentions.Explaining India’s stance on the issues, Joshi said: “In India, the death penalty is exercised in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous as to shock the conscience of society.” He said Indian law provides for “all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing by an independent court, the presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for the defence, and the right to review by a higher court”. He said the resolution “sought to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.” “My delegation therefore, has voted against the resolution as a whole as it goes against Indian statutory law,” he said.Death sentences in India must also be confirmed by a superior court and an accused has the right to appeal to a High Court or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of India has adopted guidelines on clemency and the treatment of death row prisoners and that “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” constituted new mitigating factors to be considered by courts in commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment, he added.The President of India in all cases, and the Governors of States under their respective jurisdictions, have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence. In the past 12 years, only three executions – all of them of terrorists – have been carried out in India.

Demonetisation: Indelible ink to be applied on right hand to avoid confusion during by-polls

Puducherry: The district election authorities in Puducherry have asked the banks and post offices to ensure that they applied the indelible ink mark on the right hand index finger of those seeking to exchange the scrapped currency notes, to avoid any confusion during the by-poll to Nellithope assembly segment.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

District Election Officer, Satyendra Singh Dursawat in a release on Thursday said, the banks and post offices in Puducherry have been asked to apply the indelible ink mark on the right hand index finger of their customers.

If the ink is applied on the left hand index finger of the customers, and when they turn up at the polling booths to cast their vote, it might be mistaken for the one applied already at the booths.

As a result, genuine voters would be deprived of their right to vote, he said.

The Election Commission has mandated that the voters of Nellithope constituency should get their left hand index finger marked with indelible ink while exercising their franchise on 19 November.

Hence, the voters should also make it clear to the bank staff that the ink mark should be applied on their right hand index finger as they were to vote in the by-election, he added.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 10:45 IST

DNA Exclusive: Look who’s censoring the Censor Board

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani continues courting controversy over the indiscriminate chopping off scenes in films, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is embroiled in over a hundred court cases, more than half of which accuse the Board of being too “liberal”.”While we categorise and clear films after the recommended cuts are implemented, several cases are filed against us for allowing content which people feel should not be cleared. With our limited staff, fighting these cases hampers our routine work,” a CBFC official said.According to data received by DNA from the CBFC under the Right to Information Act, the film certification body is currently fighting as many as 143 cases filed by obscure socio-religious organisations and also by individual activists from across the country, championing “decency” in film content.The data also reveals that several cases have also been filed against issues, which don’t come under the purview of the CBFC. In February this year, a case was filed against the Board in the Delhi High Court by an organisation calling itself Meri Awaz Suno alleging that it allowed “obscene” content in the Sunny Leone film Mastizaade to be passed. Officials say that this was after the film had been cleared by the CBFC as an Adult category film, with as many as 381 cuts.Similarly, another case was filed against the CBFC by an organisation calling itself Raksha Jyoti Foundation at the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Board officials say the organisation had accused them of being been too “liberal” in clearing the films Mastizaade and Kya Kool Hai Hum 3. According to the RTI, the latter film had been cleared after 150 cuts.Ironically, Board officials say that many of these petitioners file such cases before the film’s release so as to make it a hit. “If the film loses money at the box office, they lose interest in the case, and do not pursue it further,” an official said.It is not just charges of “vulgarity” and “obscenity” alone that cause organisations to file cases against the CBFC.An organisation calling itself Dharmaprachar Sabha recently filed a case seeking suspension of the film Singham Returns as they claimed it hurt “the religious sentiments of Hindus.” Other instances include a case filed by Jamiat Ulama e Maharashtra at the Bombay High Court to stay the release of the film Ya Rab, and another against the film Santa Banta Pvt Ltd by Punjabi Cultural Heritage Board; both films were apparently hurting the religious sentiments of the communities.Officials told DNA that the Board will soon be having a separate legal cell, with two lawyers, to deal exclusively with such cases. “The plan has been approved by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry and will come up in the next few weeks,” an official said.

Indelible ink to identify those who’ve made withdrawals

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government will ink fingers of people queuing up to exchange notes, just as in elections, to identify people who exchange notes multiple times, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das told news persons on Tuesday.A ministry official elaborated that plans are afoot to put a small mark of indelible ink on the right hand finger of those exchanging Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for new ones from Wednesday to prevent crowding at banks.”Ideally, the ink mark should have been put on the left hand as is done when a person casts his vote. But with by-elections due in some states, it has been decided to put the ink mark on the right hand,” he said.The government is also closely monitoring the Jan Dhan accounts with deposits above Rs 50,000 following reports that many were using the accounts – opened by mostly the poor – to park illegal incomes. He also rubbished rumours that the pink colour on the Rs 2,000 note was running. He said all genuine currency, including Rs 100 notes, would bleed some colour because of the nature of the ink. “When you rub a piece of cotton with a note, if it doesn’t leave some colour, it is a sign that the note is fake.”In the meantime, the currency shortage continued to hit the common man forcing many to stand in serpentine queues. The government said they are augmenting supplies so that people could get enough cash for their needs. Banks in Mumbai also began dispensing notes in denomination of Rs 500 besides the Rs 2,000. Many ATMs are also expected to be recalibrated by the week-end.

JNU missing student: Teachers threaten VC of legal action for video-recording meeting

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JNU Teachers Association have threatened the university Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar of legal action for violating their right to privacy by video-recording his meeting with the teachers over missing student Najeeb Ahmed.”Members of JNUTA met you and other university officials to discuss continued disappearance of Najeeb and the action taken in this regard. Personnel from JNU security office were recording the entire proceedings of the meeting. JNUTA was surprised at their presence and this act of recording proceedings without taking prior consent from us. Prior to this no meetings have been video-graphed to ensure that people speak as individuals freely since it encourages free discussion and resolution of issues,” a letter sent by the association to the VC said.Citing the act to be a violation under various sections of Right to Privacy Act and Information Technology Act, the teachers have said that the university administration is legally liable to take prior written consent from all participants before making video recordings of private meetings.”We demand that the unedited footage of the meeting be immediately shared with all participants and the university should adopt a data privacy policy clearly laying down purpose limitation, security of data, rights of access, restrictions on transfer of data,” JNUTA said.”It may be noted that in event of the unauthorised disclosure of the video recording, we reserve the right to seek legal remedies,” it added.Najeeb (27), a student of School of Biotechnology and a native of Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, went missing on October 15 following an on-campus scuffle allegedly with the members of ABVP the night before. JNU students and teachers have been leading a movement alleging inaction on administration and Delhi Police’s part in tracing the missing student.

SC to hear PIL for making ‘Yoga’ compulsory for students

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court would next week hear a plea seeking framing of a ‘National Yoga Policy’ and making ‘Yoga’ compulsory for students of Class I-VIII across the country.A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao has agreed to hear on November 7 the PIL that seeks inclusion of Yoga as a compulsory subject in the curriculum on grounds including that its “secular” and right to health was an integral part of right to life. The plea, filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson, has sought a direction to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, NCERT, NCTE and the CBSE to “provide standard textbooks of ‘Yoga and Health Education’ for students of Class I-VIII keeping in spirit various fundamental rights such as right to life, education and equality.”‘Right to Health’ is an integral part of Right to Life under the Article 21. It includes protection, prevention and cure of the health and is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity.”State has a obligation to provide health facilities to all the citizens, especially to children and adolescents. In a Welfare State, it is obligation of the State to ensure the creation and sustaining of conditions congenial to good health,” the plea said. It said that right to health cannot be secured without providing ‘Yoga and Health Education’ to all children or framing a ‘National Yoga Policy’ to promote and propagate it.”There are about 20 crore children, throughout the country, studying in primary and junior classes at the cost of public exchequer. Yoga should be taught to them as a compulsory subject as per National Curriculum Framework 2005, notified under Section 7(6) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009…”, it said.It also sought a direction to the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Social Justice and Empowerment to declare ‘First Sunday’ of every month as ‘Health Day’ on the lines of ‘Polio Day’ to make the people aware about health- hazards and health-hygiene.” The plea also said that a court at California had held that “yoga is secular”.

What was need to convert ‘triple talaq’ into UCC in affidavit, asks ex-member of NCW

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Criticising the Central Government for politicising the ‘triple talaq’ issue, former member of the national Commission for Women (NCW) Shamina Shafiq on Monday said it is a very serious matter for the Muslim women, but it is unfortunate that the Centre has given a different dimension to the petition.”The ‘triple talaq’ is very serious matter for the Muslim women and it could not be denied that this is a problem, because it is a problem. However, it is unfortunate that the Central Government has given a different dimension to the petition. What was the need to convert it into the Uniform Civil Code (UCC),? she sought to know.Speaking to ANI, Shafiq said, “If the government was serious to find out the solution to the problems of the Muslim women then the court was enough to take stock of the situation and give its comments on it.”Calling upon the Muslim Personal Law Board to come forward to find a solution to this pressing problem, she said, “The Personal Board should come forward in this matter to find out a solution to the problem. The law board should accept that ‘triple talaq’ is a problem of the Muslim women and should workout a solution. They will have to find a solution because this matter is not going to stop here. Earlier, the situation was different, but today there is media, globalisation, and Internet, and we know what is happening in other countries of the world.”She further said it is very unfortunate that some Muslim went to the court and not just speaking for themselves but they are speaking for thousands and thousands such women who are living in the fear of ‘triple talaq’.”This position is unnecessarily being politicised and being put under the UCC. The UCC is a different issue and needs to be seen separately,” she added.Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday urged people not to confuse the issue of triple talaq with the UCC as the issue with regard to the constitutional validity of triple talaq is istinct from the UCC.Suggesting that personal laws are subjected to time to time amendments, he said irrespective of whether the UCC is today possible or otherwise, a pertinent question arises with regard to reforms within the personal laws of various communities.In his official Facebook page, Jaitley wrote that government’s stand on triple talaq issue is clear that personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant and the institution of triple talaq will have to be judged on the yardstick of equality and the Right to Live with Dignity.He said the Government’s affidavit in the triple talaq case recognises this evolution. The Finance Minister statement follows the ‘s recent decision to initiated an exercise on revision and reform of family laws.On October 7, the Law Commission of India had issued a 16-point questionnaire, seeking public response on the various aspects of the UCC.

Personal laws have to be consitutionally compilant: Arun Jaitley on ‘triple talaq’ debate

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid the ongoing debate over ‘Triple Talaq’, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the government is of the clear view that personal laws should be constitutionally compliant and in conformity with norms of gender equality and the right to live with dignity.In a Facebook post titled “Triple Talaq and the Government s Affidavit”, he said that governments in the past have shied from taking a categorical stand that personal laws must comply with Fundamental Rights but the present one has taken a clear position on the issue.”Personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant and the institution of Triple Talaq, therefore, will have to be judged on the yardstick of equality and the Right to Live with Dignity. Needless to say that the same yardstick would be applicable to all other personal laws,” he said. Observing that the constitutional validity of ‘Triple Talaq’ is distinct from the Uniform Civil Code, he said as of today, the issue before the Supreme Court is only with regard to the constitutional validity of Triple Talaq.In its affidavit in Supreme Court on October 7, the Law Ministry argued that polygamy and Triple Talaq should be done away with, and said that such practices “cannot be regarded as essential or integral part of the religion”.”The academic debate with regard to the Uniform Civil Code can go on before the Law Commission. The question to be answered is that assuming that each community has its separate personal law, should not those personal laws be constitutionally compliant?” Jaitley said.He said there is a fundamental distinction between religious practices, rituals and civil rights. “Religious functions associated with birth, adoption, succession, marriage, death, can all be conducted through rituals and customs as per existing religious practices.”Should rights emanating from birth, adoption, succession, marriage, divorce etc. be guided by religion or by constitutional guarantees? Can there be inequality or compromise with human dignity in any of these matters?” Jaitley said.Some people may hold a conservative, if not obsolete, view that personal laws need not be constitutionally compliant, he said, adding “the Government’s view is clear.Personal laws have to be constitutionally compliant…”.Jaitley said the constitutional framers had expressed a hope in the Directive Principles of State Policy that the State would endeavour to have a Uniform Civil Law and on more than one occasion, the Supreme Court has enquired from the government its stand on the issue. “Governments have repeatedly told both the Court and Parliament that personal laws are ordinarily amended after detailed consultations with affected stakeholders,” he said. As regards the Uniform Civil Code, the Law Commission has initiated an academic exercise to elicit views of public on the issue.”This academic exercise by the Law Commission is only a continuation of the debate in this country ever since Constituent Assembly had expressed the hope that the State would endeavour to have a Uniform Civil Code,” he said.”Irrespective of whether the Uniform Civil Code is today possible or otherwise, a pertinent question arises with regard to reforms within the personal laws of various communities,” he said.Jaitley said that Jawaharlal Nehru’s government had brought about major reforms to the Hindu Personal Laws through legislative changes and more recently Manmohan Singh’s government came up with legislative changes with regard to gender equality in the Hindu Undivided Family.Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, after active consultations with stakeholders, amended the provisions of marriage and divorce relating to the Christian community in order to bring about the gender equality, he added.”Reforming the personal laws, even if there is no uniformity, is an ongoing process. With passage of time, several provisions became obsolete, archaic and even got rusted. Governments, legislatures and communities have to respond to the need for a change,” Jaitley said. As communities have progressed, there is a greater realisation with regard to gender equality. “Additionally, all citizens, more particularly women, have a right to live with dignity. Should personal laws which impact the life of every citizen be in conformity with these constitutional values of equality and the Right to Live with dignity? “A conservative view found judicial support over six decades ago that personal laws could be inconsistent with personal guarantees. Today it may be difficult to sustain that proposition. The government’s affidavit in the triple talaq case recognises this evolution,” Jaitley explained. He said there is a fundamental distinction between religious practices, rituals and civil rights.On September 2, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told the Supreme Court that personal laws of a community cannot be “re-written” in the name of social reforms and opposed pleas on issues including alleged gender discrimination faced by Muslim women in divorce cases. AIMPLB, in its counter affidavit filed in the apex court, had said the contentious issue relating to Muslim practices of polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala are matters of “legislative policy” and cannot be interfered with. The AIMPLB has also decided to boycott of Law Commission’s questionnaire on the Uniform Civil Code.

New real estate rules have builders quaking in their boots

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ahead of the October 31 deadline, final touches are being given to the rules for the Real Estate Regulatory Authority Act that will govern the state’s real estate and housing sector. “Over the past few months, we have had extensive discussions with all the stakeholders, and most of their concerns have been addressed. The rules will first be released in the public domain and it will come into effect after their objections and suggestions are looked into and discussed,” said Shreekant Singh, Principal Housing Secretary of Maharashtra, adding that RERA at its core is a pro-consumer law and protects the interests of the consumer and that it will lay a good foundation for the entire sector. “We need transformation and cleansing,” said Singh while addressing top developers on Friday at a seminar organised by industry-body—National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO).The cleansing that Singh hinted at is already underway with many developers quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing stiff punishment for non-compliance of RERA rules, including the prospect of imprisonment for three years. “Our next generation doesn’t want to do this business. They have come from Wharton and Harvard, not to be at the mercy of such laws,” said Ashok Mohnani of Ekta World, adding that though RERA will eventually be good for the industry, the terms and period of its introduction is certain to bring huge pain to the developer fraternity.Legal luminary Parimal Shroff put the situation in perspective. “These are stressful times, and the liquidity situation has not been so bad in the past 40 years. There’s no faith in the system and people don’t trust under-construction projects, sometimes for no fault of the developer,” said Shroff, adding that if RERA comes into effect when the industry is undergoing such a rough time, it may well be the death knell for many developers. “If not a grinding halt, RERA’s introduction will bring the real estate sector to a standstill during the initial adjustment period,” said Shroff.Right to Information or Right to Extortion?While approvals are faster to come by, unscrupulous elements are causing huge delays in real estate projects by filing RTI queries with the intention of extracting money from developers. “Blackmailers in the guise of activists are a menace to the business,” said a leading developer at the seminar, adding that even after being in the right with all the permissions and approvals, the builders buckle under their pressure to avoid the huge costs associated with delays due to litigations.Another developer revealed that it is the modus operandi of ‘activists’ to harass developers by repeatedly filing bogus complaints to various departments, courts, etc., and attempting to stall a project any which way. “These persons continue such harassment techniques till the time the developer is tired of explaining his genuineness to every forum, and agrees to pay off to such persons,” said the developer.

Over 40 per cent schools without playground, electricity: DISE report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to latest government statistics, every two in five elementary schools in India don’t have playground and power connection, two of the 10 basic norms mandated under the Right to Education Act (RTE).The initial findings of the latest pan-India survey (called as District Information System for Education or DISE) released this week highlights such a sorry state of affairs of world’s largest education system. The survey covered 1.5 million elementary schools in 680 districts across the states catering to 19 crore children.With 40 per cent educational institutions, private and government both, having zero outdoor sports facilities, one can imagine the scale and magnitude of the sports talent India is losing every year. The revelations also cast aspersions over physical fitness of crores of children in the country which is aggressively campaigning for Yoga and Surya Namaskar across the world.Bihar appears to be worst in the country, where only one-third schools in the state have playground and less than 8 per cent have electricity, say records. West Bengal also cuts a sorry figure with only 40 per cent schools offering playground and less than 13 per cent have electricity, finds the DISE survey conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA).Almost all the schools in Gujarat have electricity suggesting better classroom conditions for the kids and teachers compared to their counterparts in most states, but many of them are not able to play outdoors. One in every four schools in Gujarat don’t have playground.Maharashtra which has over one lakh elementary schools catering to 1.6 crore pupils appears to be far better than many states. Over 87 per cent institutions in the state do have playground and 94 per cent have power too.Punjab stands out in the survey, suggesting more focus on sports and physical well-being of the children apart from education. An overwhelming 97 per cent schools in the state have playground facility and 99.9 per cent have electricity as well.The analysis of last few years’ data also suggests that schools have improved fast over the years, bridging gap of separate toilet facilities, drinking water and pupil-teacher ratio and ramp for specially-abled. However, acquiring playground, constructing boundary wall, power connection and computers has remained slow, owing to physical and financial constraints.A recent study of Indian parliamentary panel has suggested that even for those children who participate in games, the sports are not their first career choice because of high risk, uncertainty and low rewards.When it comes to spending on sportspersons, India is much below. The US spends a whopping Rs22 a day per person, the UK spends 50 paise and Jamaica 19 paise. India invests just 3 paise per person each day.”Several schools in Mumbai including BMC schools don’t have playground. The kids are supposed to exercise inside the classroom. One can imagine the kind of physical fitness such students have,” said Ramesh Joshi, president of BMC school teachers Association.”While medal winning countries focus on early training, high technology, state-of-the-art equipment, sports medicine, we are not even allowing such a large number of kids to play. Lack of sports not only compromises on their growth and fitness, physically and mentally both, but they also lose out on other crucial life skills such as team building, leadership, managing their own anger and failures and communication skill,” said a former hockey player.Students-teachers ratio has improved a lot over last 10 yearsIn India2005-062010-112014-152015-16Student classroom ratio percentage39312727Schools with drinking water83939699Schools with girls toilet37608796Schools with computers10192526Schools with boundary wall50556465(Source: DISE 2015-16 India flash statistics)

Right to information: What 11 years of the RTI Act of 2005 have done for India

It was on this day 11 years back that one of the most important laws in India fully came into force. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has helped expose some of the most infamous scams in the history of India.

The RTI Act mandates timely response to a request for information from a public authority.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The history of the RTI Act goes back to the enactment of Freedom of Information Act, 2002, whose objective was to promote transparency and accountability. Because the government wanted the act to be made more effective, it was repealed and the Right to Information Bill, 2004 was passed by the Parliament in May, 2005.

This received the president’s assent on 15 June, 2005. The RTI Act was notified in the Gazette of India on 21 June, 2005 and it became fully operational on 12 October the same year.

Since then, the RTI Act has been used to fight corruption and has exposed deep-rooted graft in India. For example, the RTI applications filed by activists Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 exposed the infamous Adarsh Housing society scam, which eventually led to the resignation of the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.

That RTI application revealed that flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, a 31-storey building, which was originally meant to provide residence for war widows and veterans, were used to house politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives.

In the 2G scam, in which the then Telecom Minister A Raja undercharged mobile phone companies for frequency allocation licenses and caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Indian government, an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Agrawal revealed that Raja had a “15-minute-long” meeting with then solicitor-general Goolam E Vahanvati in December 2007 after which a “brief note was prepared and handed over to the minister”, but the minutes of the meeting were not recorded, stated this report in The Huffington Post.

The RTI Act was also used to expose corruption after the Commonwealth Games scam, in which the corrupt deals by politician Suresh Kalmadi embarrassed the nation. The report said that an RTI application filed by non-profit Housing and Land Rights Network showed that the then Delhi government had diverted Rs 744 crore from social welfare projects for Dalits to the Commonwealth Games from 2005-06 to 2010-11.

In 2007, the RTI request filed by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an NGO, revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people living below the poverty line by the public distribution system in Assam, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In 2008, an RTI application by a Punjab-based NGO revealed that heads of the local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society had used money intended for the victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills.

A PTI report published in July 2016 said that an RTI query showed that only 12 members of the Maharashtra Cabinet have declared their assets and liabilities details as per Central governments code of conduct for ministers. Another one filed by social activist Anil Galgali showed that as many as 118 complaints of sexual harassment were filed at the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) between 2013 and July this year.

An RTI query filed by Child Rights and You (CRY) revealed in May this year that twenty-two children go missing in the national capital everyday with most of them being boys aged upto 12 years.

Needless to say, the importance of the RTI Act can never be overstated.

There are, however, some problems with the RTI Act, the most important one being that the huge number of RTI queries filed makes it difficult for public authorities to respond to them in a timely manner. A 2014 study conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) revealed that over 1.75 crore RTI applications have been filed from 2005 to July 2014.

According to this report in The New Indian Express, there has also been a ten-fold increase in the number of RTI applications to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) between 2006-07 and 2014-15, said the CHRI study. The number of RTI applications per day to the PMO increased from 3 in 2006-07 to 35 in 2014-15.

Add to this the fact that a lot of the RTI queries filed are frivolous and we have a real problem.

For example, after the PMO website released a list of RTI queries about PM Modi, it was revealed that one of the RTI queries was the following: “What is the speed of internet of Wi-Fi in the PMO?”

Another one went like this: “Has the Principal Secretary to PM, Shri Nripendra Misra, ever taken his subordinates, in the Prime Minister’s office, on a picnic?”

And if you thought you had seen the most ridiculous RTI queries, consider this one: “Enclose all the proper records and documents which show that the present Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi is The Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister.”

The RTI Act is one of the most crucial tools that we have as citizens. We should not misuse this freedom for petty jokes.

With inputs from agencies

Jain teen dies after 68-day fast: Time for govt to send strong message against such acts of abuse

Last week, a thirteen-year-old girl collapsed and fell into a coma in Hyderabad after finishing a sixty-eight-day fast. The girl was observing Chaturmas on the advise of a Chennai-based priest. This advise was supposed to help the family recover from business losses.

She was not alone in being victim to the lacunas in law that allow for parents to use religion as a means to engage in what would otherwise be termed as child abuse. Deprive a child of food and water for 68 days and it’s child abuse. Call it fasting in the name of religion and suddenly it becomes socially and legally tolerable in most parts of India. And Jainism is not alone in its co-option of children into religious causes.

In India, every year during Muharram, many Shia families take their children along in the processions. In many cases, the children join the procession and hurt themselves or are hurt in the process. Actions by such parents without the cover of it being a religious obligation would almost always invite criminal prosecution. However, as these are religious activities, they are given a pass.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Last year, shocking revelations about Female Genital Mutilation amongst certain Muslim communities in India were published by the Hindustan Times. As per the article, over 80 percent of Bhroa women experience Female Genital Mutilation during their childhood and this is done with full consent of the parents involved. The response from the religious sect was a re-affirmation of the obligation to conduct FGM under the religion but required that local laws be respected in the process. India does not yet have laws that ban Female Genital Mutilation and so the practice continues.

In some shrines in Karnataka and Maharashtra, there is a practice of throwing babies from the roof of a shrine to be caught below. This religious practice is followed in order to give the child good luck and a long life. An accident though in one such situation, could cause death to the infant. However, despite this being recorded and there being public knowledge of such a practice, there have been no news of parents being arrested for participating in it. Merely an enquiry by the National Commission on child rights. If I were to toss someone’s baby off a building to be caught by someone below, I would be arrested for trying to do so. The law criminalises negligent acts that could cause death. In fact, I would be guilty of culpable homicide. However, if I am a parent doing the same in fulfilment of a religious obligation, I may not be arrested by the police.

The Gajan festival in West Bengal also involves children who are made to participate. They are often made to wear a variety of dresses, paint and pierce their body and have religious godmen walk over them as a part of the ritual. All of this is done legally with there being no law preventing children from participating in acts like this.

Lastly, there are a variety of religious schools (Vedpatshalas, Gurukuls, Madrassas and Seminaries) where children from a very young age are sent to train in the ways of the priesthood. These schools are Government recognised and parents can enrol their children here instead of ordinary schools. Often it is found that these schools do not offer a complimentary secular curriculum that is in line with those prescribed by other state examination boards. A child’s right to a full education can be written off in the name of religion by a parent sending their child to one such school.

Minor children are often asked to participate in religious activities and while the law considers their age for many purposes, but in most cases (except child marriage laws) it doesn’t recognise their minority for the purpose of religious rites, and there comes the problem with what this 13-year-old’s parents, family members and priests did to her.

A 13-year-old, who can’t contract, consent, buy a mobile connection on her own or even take a day off from school without parental permission, was made to fast for sixty-eight days under the supervision of everyone around her and the parent’s freely justify it as though it was “her choice”. What if the 13-year-old had decided that she wanted to stop schooling and move to the jungle and live like Tarzan? Would the parent’s have been so accommodating of her choice?

“We did not hide anything. Everyone knew Aradhana was fasting. They came and took selfies with her. Now some people are pointing fingers at us for allowing her to fast for 68 days” said her grandfather.

It’s quite clear that the 13-year-old parent’s found it appropriate to include fasting as a part of their religious instruction to the minor. As do many other parents who allow their children to participate in dangerous rituals like the ones illustrated above. The law needs to step in at the point where a parent’s move to religiously instruct their child is no longer in the best interest of the child.

This is not to say that there should be no religious instruction at all that can be given to the minor. Article 14 on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”), to which India is a state party, recognises the right of children to receive religious instruction quite explicitly. It says:

Article 14

1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

However, 14(3) allows the Government to create limitations in the interest of public safety, order, health or morals. This is similar to the provisions of Article 25(1) of our own Constitution which says this:

Subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are, equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right, freely to profess, practise and propagate religion“.

These religious freedoms, enjoyed by parents and children, can be restricted if the State feels that it is in the interests of public order or morality. The CRC in India is implemented by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights whose purpose is to ensure that India’s laws and policies are in conformity with the CRC.

Article 19 of the CRC places the following obligation on India:

Article 19

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

Therefore, Central Government has a duty to ensure that there is protection for children to ensure that incidents like this do not occur. However, legislation in this regard and aspect is deeply lacking and what’s clear from the fact that every year there are children who are injured as a result of participating in the activities described above (not comprehensive) and incidents like the one in Hyderabad, this lacuna needs to be filled.

The Government needs to ensure, that there are mechanisms by which such incidents can be prevented. Magistrates can be empowered to issue directions to stop religious activities where there is a chance for children to be hurt and police permission for such activities should ideally come with strings attached that prevent children from participating. It is incumbent upon the National Commission for Child Rights to propose such legislation to ensure that a parent’s religious sensibilities do not override the fundamental protections that a minor has under the Constitution. This includes the Right to Life, the Right to a Childhood and the Right to Protection of their Person.

This year the Supreme Court refused to interfere with a Bombay High Court order that prohibited minors from participating in the ‘Dahi Handi’” festival. The Court had reasoned that the activity was dangerous and had the potential to cause injury and therefore, along with placing a cap on the height of the pyramid, the Court confirmed the Bombay High Court’s decision to prevent minors from participating in the event. This is a welcome step in the right direction, one hopes that other festivals also see minors being excluded from participation. Minors by virtue of their minority are not in a position to consent to these activities, and it is incumbent on the State to step into the shoes of the parent in order to protect the minor.

Coming back to the incident in question. The girl’s family have been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to Murder. In my view, these charges can and should also be upped to include Murder as it falls within the Fourth provision to Section 300 of the Penal Code, which says that Culpable Homicide is Murder if:

If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.

The State needs to send a strong message that acts like this will not be tolerated by charging people who commit them with the maximum force of the law. Further, persons who visited the child and encouraged her to go on the fast should also be charged with abetting the offence, including the priest from Chennai who advised the family to engage in this course of religious activity. By extension, parents who allow their children to participate in activities like the one’s described above should also be prosecuted.

It is shocking that a society found it normal that a thirteen-year-old was undertaking a fast. Minors should not be allowed to participate in actions that have the potential to cause them permanent or temporary physical or psychological harm. Even with the consent of parents for whatever, the religious justification, a well-ordered society, founded on decency and pubic morality, cannot allow for 13-year-olds to fast to death; and should not permit children to fast during Ramadan; or injure themselves during Muharram, stand on a risky human pyramid, be tossed of buildings and let themselves being walked over by priests.

The Government also should not allow parents to send their children to train as priests unless the State can ensure and guarantee that their formal education will not suffer. There should be amendments to the Right to Education Act to ensure this. Ideally, upon graduation, these students also be made to sit the School Leaving Examination offered by the State Boards. The State has an obligation wherein concerns the welfare of the minor and allowing for religion to have a nearly unrestrained rein in overriding the interest of the minor is a matter of grave public urgency.

Religious instruction is fine as long as no child gets hurt. The minute a child is hurt, the full weight of the law must fall on parent or guardian who allowed for the child to be hurt, irrespective of religion. An urban school going 13-year-old died in the year 2016 in India as a family priest told her that fasting for sixty-eight days would bring her family good luck. It is a shame that this happened in a country. This must give us reason to pause and reconsider our laws on the protection of children.

Kashmir can never be ‘integral part of India’; dispute a ‘failure of the UN’, says Pak envoy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hitting back at Pakistan for again raising the Kashmir issue at the UN, India termed the country as a “fly by-night operator” saying Islamabad “flagrantly” misuses the forum of the world body for its “territorial aggrandisement”. Exercising the Right of Reply, Minister in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN, Srinivas Prasad, strongly rejected remarks made by Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, in which she had said that the non-implementation of UN Security Council resolutions for a plebiscite in Kashmir is the “most persistent” failure of the UN.”We are constrained to take the floor to exercise our Right of Reply because we have just heard one country Pakistan make reference to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in a rather self-serving and disingenuous attempt to bring an extraneous issue to this committee,” Prasad said during the General Debate of the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee here on Friday.Rejecting Lodhi’s comments entirely, Prasad said “Pakistan, acting like a fly by-night operator, has attempted to flagrantly misuse the forum provided by the Committee for its territorial aggrandisement”. He asserted that Kashmir is not on the agenda of the committee, which is focussed on decolonisation and “non-self governing territories”. Lodhi raking up the Kashmir issue in the committee that focuses on decolonisation reflects yet another failed attempt to bring the issue on the agenda of this Committee, he said. “The issue is rightly not on the agenda of the Committee which looks after the non-self governing territories,” Prasad said adding Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. He said “Pakistan will be well advised not to disrespect the intelligence of the Committee and abide by its agenda”.Raising the Kashmir issue again at the UN, Lodhi had said the decolonisation agenda of the UN will remain “incomplete” without resolution of the Kashmir dispute, which is among the oldest items on the UN’s agenda. She claimed for over six decades, the UN Security Council resolutions promising a plebiscite under UN auspices to allow the Kashmiri people to determine their destiny, have not been implemented. “This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations,” she said adding that generation after generation of Kashmiris has only seen “broken promises and brutal oppression”.Claiming that Jammu and Kashmir “never was and can never be” an integral part of India, she said it is a disputed territory, the final status of which has yet to be determined in accordance with resolutions of the UN Security Council.Lodhi claimed the Kashmiris have risen again in unison against occupation through the “ongoing indigenous uprising”. She alleged that Indian forces have injured thousands of Kashmiris, calling it “the worst form of state terrorism and a war crime, which India has perpetrated by its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir for decades”. Lodhi said the UN has a moral responsibility to people suffering under colonial domination and foreign occupation. “There is an urgent need to bring the work on this unfinished agenda to closure and eliminate the last remaining vestiges of colonialism. We hope that we will be able to achieve this shared goal sooner rather than later,” she said.

Guilty to martyr? Dadri accused’s coffin draped with tricolour redefines idea of ‘heroism’

Indian hyper-nationalism is a strange two-faced beast. It can spring into ferocious life at the merest hint of an “insult” to our national honour, and it can be complicit in an assault on a proud national emblem.

Consider this. On Tuesday, Ravi Sisodia, one of the accused in the infamous lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh last year, died of respiratory and renal failure. Sisodia, who had been in police custody since his arrest, was being treated at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital. When his body reached his village Bisada in Dadri on Thursday, however, the villagers claimed that he had been killed by his jailers. They said he was a “martyr” and had died protecting Hindu values (read: participated in murderous cow vigilantism). Then they wrapped his coffin in the national flag and refused to cremate him.

Akhlaq's family. File photo. ReutersAkhlaq's family. File photo. Reuters

Akhlaq’s family. File photo. Reuters

It was a bizarre spectacle. Here was a man who was charged with being part of the mob that killed an elderly Muslim man on the suspicion that he had stored and consumed beef. It was an abominable crime that convulsed the nation last year. Sisodia had been denied bail, no doubt because the evidence against him was considerable. His guilt may not have been proven in a court of law as yet, but he was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a national hero. Yet, his coffin was draped with the national flag — an honour we reserve for our national heroes or our martyrs, who give their lives protecting the country.

Given the alacrity with which the guardians of our national pride swing into violent action, this ought to have triggered immediate cries of protest. The tricolour draped on the coffin of a murder accused? Didn’t that bring dishonour to our national flag? Didn’t that merit swift retribution against those who committed such an outrage?

After all, the blood lust of nationalist zealots has been aroused by lesser affronts to the national flag. In 2007, Shiv Sainiks went on a rampage after actress and host Mandira Bedi appeared on the World Cup cricket final telecast wearing a sari that had the tricolour printed at the bottom. That the sari had prints of the flags of all the countries participating in the tournament was ignored. Bajrang Dal activists burnt Bedi’s effigy and Rajeev Kathuria, a leader of the right-wing outfit, demanded that designer Puneet Nanda’s hands be cut off so he could never commit such a terrible crime again. A case was also filed against Bedi and Nanda in Jaipur under the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act.

In 2008, tennis star Sania Mirza too fell foul of those who keep an eagle eye out for any discredit to our national flag. Mirza had apparently pointed her feet towards the tricolour at a function and hence, was lambasted for having demeaned and denigrated it.

Then what explains the silence over the national flag adorning the coffin of a man charged with killing a fellow Indian for no reason other than what he may or may not have eaten? Why is it that the volatile nationalist mob has not spoken a word about the national flag being besmirched this time? There was heavy police presence in Bisada on Thursday as tension mounted, and Sisodia’s kin demanded that his death be “avenged” and that Jaan Mohammad, the slain Akhlaq’s brother, be arrested in the cow slaughter case. Right wing groups, ever ready to erupt over real and perceived affronts to national pride, were there too. But no one saw it fit to demand that the tricolour be removed from the coffin, because the deceased had neither served the nation nor died for it.

In truth, along with national honour, the idea of heroism itself is getting redefined in this era of hyper-nationalism. In these surreal times, a cow vigilante, who kills in the name of protecting Hindu values, may be hailed as a hero; gonzo journalists whipping up war hysteria on television night after night might be celebrated as icons; heroes of the world of celluloid who want to essay roles of characters belonging to a different religion may be debarred from doing so.

This week the Shiv Sena prevented actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui from participating in a Ram Leela show in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. We may soon see a time when a Shah Rukh or an Aamir will be told to stick to roles of Muslim characters. The days of a Salman Khan doing the role of a hanuman-bhakt Bajrangi Bhaijaan on a mission of love across the border may be over.

That sounds like an extreme scenario. But conflating nationalism with the dictates of a bigoted few could bring forth all manner of travesties of the true spirit of our nation. Thursday’s events at Bisada are a reminder of that.

Pakistan ‘dysfunctional state’; message on J&K should be ‘loud and clear’: India hits back

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The message that Kashmir is an integral part of India should be ‘loud and clear’, India on Monday told Pakistan, calling it a ‘dysfunctional state’ that commits atrocities on its own people and preaches about tolerance, democracy and human rights.Responding to Pakistan’s Right of Reply (RoR), India also asked Pakistan if it can clarify how terror safe havens continue to flourish on its soil despite getting billions of dollars in anti-terrorism aid.Pakistan’s envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi, exercising the RoR to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s address to the UN General Assembly here yesterday, earlier said Pakistan rejects “all the baseless allegations” made by her and asserted that Kashmir never was and can never be an integral part of India.She called Kashmir a “disputed territory, the final status of which has yet to be determined in accordance with several resolutions of the UN Security Council”.First Secretary in the Indian Mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir, in India’s Right of Reply to Lodhi’s remarks, said that it appears that the Pakistani envoy “did not hear clearly what our Minister of External Affairs stated during her address earlier today”.Quoting Swaraj that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, and will always continue to do so, Gambhir said “we hope that the message is loud and clear”.In the RoR, Lodhi claimed that the attack on the Indian Army base in Uri, particularly its timing, has all the ‘hallmarks of an operation designed’ to divert attention from India’s ‘atrocities’ in Kashmir.”The international community is well aware that several such incidents have been staged in the past to serve India’s tactical and propaganda objectives,” she said, adding that India is utilising the Uri incident to blame Pakistan for the current Kashmiri uprising and divert attention from its ‘brutal’ occupation.Gambhir, who had given India’s strong RoR to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s UN General Assembly address, said the world heard from Pakistan “the views of a dysfunctional state” which builds atrocity upon atrocity on its own people, preaching about values of tolerance, democracy and human rights.”We reject entirely these sermons,” she said.Gambhir said that the Pakistani envoy was making “a fanciful and misleading presentation” in her RoR on the situation in the Kashmir, in yet another attempt to divert international attention from her country’s continued sponsorship of terrorism.Gambhir said Pakistan is not answering questions that are being posed to it by the international community such as how is it that terror sanctuaries and safe havens in her country continue to flourish despite the Pakistan army’s “much-vaunted counter terrorism operations, and the billions of dollars of international counter terrorism aid it obtains”.”Can the representative of Pakistan confirm that they do not use terrorist proxies and export terrorism as a matter of state policy?”Can the representative of Pakistan deny that Pakistan had assured in 2004 that it would not allow its territories, or territories under its control, to be used for terror attacks against India? And can the representative of Pakistan deny that it has failed to honour that assurance given at the highest level?” Gambhir asked.India questioned whether the representative of Pakistan will deny that the armed forces of her country committed one of the most extensive and heinous genocides in human history in 1971.”Will the representative of Pakistan deny that its armed forces have used air strikes and artillery against its own people repeatedly. Will the representative of Pakistan explain why is it that Pakistan’s civil society is being silenced by the plethora of heavily armed militias that go by names such as ‘Jaish’ or Army, ‘Lashkar’ or Army, ‘Sipah’ or Soldiers and ‘Harkat’ or Armed movement,” Gambhir said.Responding to Swaraj’s call that nations who do not join the global strategy to fight terrorism should be isolated, Lodhi said India’s government is “delusional” if it believes that it can “isolate” any country.”It is India itself, which because of its war crimes in Kashmir and elsewhere, and because of its warmongering, is likely to be isolated in the international community,” she said.The Pakistani envoy said Swaraj’s statement reflects the “deceit and hostility” of the Indian government towards Pakistan.”These allegations are designed principally to deflect global attention from the brutalities being perpetrated by India’s over half a million occupation force against innocent and unarmed Kashmiri children, women and men in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” Lodhi said.In an RoR exercised after Sharif’s address to the UNGA, India had accused Pakistan of committing war crimes by using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.Lodhi in her RoR said the call for freedom of the Kashmiri people has been met with Indian brutality.”This is the worst form of state terrorism, a war crime, that India has continued to perpetrate in the situation of foreign occupation in Jammu and Kashmir for the past many decades,” she said, adding that Pakistan demands a full and impartial investigation of the Indian ‘atrocities and massive human rights violations’ in Kashmir.”We ask that India accept the investigation proposed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and allow them access for the purpose,” she said.In response to Swaraj’s reference to Pakistani national Bahadur Ali who was arrested in Kashmir, Lodhi said the recently captured “Indian spy, an intelligence officer,” Kulbhushan Yadav, has “confessed” to India’s support to such terrorist and subversive activities particularly in Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.”Indeed, it was Kulbhushan, who was financing, arming and supporting individuals and entities listed under the UN sanctions regime,” Lodhi said.She said India’s “policy of interference” in Pakistan, especially its attempt to destabilise Balochistan, are now on record.”This is blatant violation of the principles of the UN Charter,” she said.Lodhi blamed India for suspending talks with Pakistan more than a year ago, saying New Delhi has refused to resume them despite repeated offers from Pakistan and advice from the international community.

Message on Jammu and Kashmir should be loud and clear to Pakistan: India

United Nations: The message that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India should be “loud and clear” to Pakistan, India on Monday asserted and asked whether it can clarify how terror safe havens continue to flourish on its soil despite billions of dollars of anti-terrorism aid it gets.

In its ‘Right of Reply’, India also rejected the “fanciful and misleading” remarks by the Pakistani envoy to the UN.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi earlier exercised the Right of Reply to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s UNGA address, saying Swaraj’s remarks were a “litany of falsehoods” about Pakistan and a “travesty of facts and history”.

Lodhi said Jammu and Kashmir can never be an integral part of India and is a “disputed territory”, the final status of which has yet to be determined in accordance with several resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Responding to Pakistan’s RoR, India reaffirmed that Kashmir is and always will be an integral part of India.

“…It appears that the distinguished representative of Pakistan did not hear clearly what our Minister of External Affairs stated during her address earlier today,” First Secretary in the Indian Mission to the UN Eenam Gambhir said, exercising India’s Right of Reply to Lodhi’s remarks.

Quoting from Swaraj’s address, Gambhir said Jammu and Kashmir is India’s integral part and will always remain so.

“We hope that the message is loud and clear,” she said.

Gambhir said India rejects “entirely” Lodhi’s “sermons”, calling her remarks “the views of a dysfunctional state which builds atrocity upon atrocity on its own people, preaching about values of tolerance, democracy and human rights.”

Through the RoR, India slammed Pakistan for making a “fanciful and misleading” presentation on the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, saying Lodhi’s remarks aim to divert the attention from Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror and do not answer questions posed by the world community.

“Can the representative of Pakistan clarify how is it that terror sanctuaries and safe havens in her country continue to flourish despite the Pakistan army’s much-vaunted counter terrorism operations, and the billions of dollars of international counter terrorism aid it obtains?”

“Can the representative of Pakistan confirm that they do not use terrorist proxies and export terrorism as a matter of state policy?” Gambhir said, adding that can the Pakistani envoy deny that her country had assured in 2004 that it would not allow its territories, or territories under its control,to be used for terror attacks against India?

“And can the representative of Pakistan deny that it has failed to honour that assurance given at the highest level?” Gambhir said.

She also questioned whether the Pakistani representative will deny the armed forces of her country committed one of the most extensive and heinous genocides in human history in 1971.

“Will the representative of Pakistan deny that its armed forces have used airstrikes and artillery against its own people repeatedly? Will (she) explain why is it that Pakistan’s civil society is being silenced by the plethora of heavily armed militias that go by names such as ‘Jaish’ or Army, ‘Lashkar’ or Army, ‘Sipah’ or Soldiers and ‘Harkat’ or Armed movement?” Gambhir said.

In her Right of Reply, Lodhi said the Uri attacks were “staged” to “divert” attention from the situation in Kashmir.

“The attack on the Indian Army base in Uri, particularly its timing, has all the hallmarks of an operation designed to divert attention” from the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, she said.

She accused India of “utilising” the Uri incident to blame Pakistan for the current Kashmiri uprising.

“India’s government is delusional if it believes that it can ‘isolate’ any country. It is India itself, which because of its war crimes in Kashmir and elsewhere, and because of its warmongering, is likely to be isolated in the international community,” Lodhi said.

The Pakistani envoy said Swaraj’s statement reflects the “deceit and hostility” of the Indian government towards Pakistan.

In a Right of Reply exercised post Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address to the UNGA, India had accused Islamabad of committing war crimes by using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Lodhi in her Right of Reply said the call for “freedom” of the Kashmiri people has been met with “Indian brutality” and demanded an impartial investigation into the rights violations in Kashmir.

In response to Swaraj’s reference to Pakistani national Bahadur Ali, arrested in Kashmir, Lodhi said the recently captured “Indian spy, an intelligence officer” Kulbhushan Jadhav, has “confessed” to India’s support to such terrorist and subversive activities particularly in Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“Indeed, it was Kulbhushan, who was financing, arming and supporting individuals and entities listed under the UN sanctions regime,” Lodhi said.

She said India’s “policy of interference” in Pakistan and attempt to destabilise Balochistan are now on record. “This is blatant violation of the principles of the UN Charter.”

Lodhi blamed India for suspending talks with Pakistan more than a year ago, saying New Delhi has refused to resume them despite repeated offers from Pakistan and advice from the international community.

“The latest offer was made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan from the rostrum of this very Assembly. But let us be clear, talks are no favour to Pakistan. They are in the interest of both India and Pakistan and the people of our two countries.

“Let me reiterate that Pakistan is ready and willing for serious and result-oriented talks with India, especially to resolve the longstanding core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, which is imperative for durable peace, stability and development in the region.”

In a second Right of Reply, Pakistan reiterated that Kashmir remains an internationally-recognised disputed territory.

Gambhir responded by saying that Pakistan has yet again “chosen to stay silent” on the tough questions.

“This is what we have come to expect from Pakistan – deception, deceit and denial. The world still waits their response,” Gambhir said.

Post Uri attack, can PM Narendra Modi make ‘bhakts’ re-imagine him as the leader of the country?

The country’s bizarre fascination for the word ‘strong’ is going strong. Count the number of times it comes on your television screen, particularly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes a statement, and you realise the fascination borders on the pathological. The response to his speech in Kozhikode is a case in point. His supporters expected him to be all fury and revenge over Uri, but he surprised them with a mature and sober prime minister-like speech. It didn’t exude raw aggression; it spelled out firm intention in a measured way. Most channels interpreted it as ‘strong’ warning to Pakistan even though both ‘strong’ and ‘warning’ were less than conspicuous in the actual speech.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

This is a problem Modi would find difficult to get rid of. His supporters, bhakts to be more exact, accustomed to a crude notion of strength – it involves expression of muscularity in word and action – would find it hard to digest when he behaves like a statesman or someone who is a regular at high tables across the world. Modi himself, who launched himself in national politics with loads of brashness, juxtaposing himself with a ‘weak’ Manmohan Singh, is partly to blame for the situation.

He built very unrealistic expectations. He made all complex challenges of history and legacy look frivolous and the faithful took it hook, line and sinker with no all disbelief suspended. But to be fair to him, he has been trying to live down that image over the last two years; the speech at Kozhikode being the latest example. The only problem is that the bhakt crowd won’t let go of it. For them it would be tantamount to betrayal if he turned out different from how they perceive him to be.

So, how do they perceive him? Well, Modi has been all things to all people. But to the true bhakt, he is many persons rolled into one. Here we go:

The comic book superhero: Whenever the world is in distress, the superhero shall fly in and all trouble would vanish in a jiffy. We don’t know how he would do it but we know he would, quick and all by himself. Be it the attack at Pathankot or Uri, or problems with the economy or society, the superhero – read Modi –has all the quick-fixes. Being the force that he is, isn’t it easy for him? Two years on, as he faces a rather disillusioned crowd, the prime minister has to take some blame himself. He understood his enemies but he failed to assess the stupidity of his bhakts. If only at some point he had told them that prime ministers and superheroes are different creatures.

The friendly neighbourhood goon: Modi takes no-nonsense, and he is always game for a good fight, and he fears none. In the face of terrorist attacks he won’t be a sissy like people before him. He would give it back to Pakistan real hard, then and there. He won’t balk even if it’s China or any country for that matter. He would overawe everyone with power. Ah! How Modi would like to tell the bhakts that this is not how civilised countries function. A local goon’s power is all about physicality and intimidation; countries, particularly democracies like ours, have to function at a more cerebral level. Obviously, the bhakts took the 56-inch chest claim too seriously.

He is like us, one of us: The deep attachment of bhakts to Modi needs no overstating. It stems from the fact that they see him as an extension of themselves, in every way negative or positive. The bhakt never had a chance express hatred towards a whole of things. He hates Muslims, he hates beef-eaters, he hates liberals, he hates seculars, he hates intellectuals, he hates who he thinks are anti-nationals, and of course, he hates Pakistan. For some reason, he came to believe that in Modi he had a perfect like-minded leader. While the intellectuals of the Indian Right would insist that political rivals gave him that kind of a negative image, the reality is it is the bhakts who would like to see him in that image, nothing beyond. Vision and statesmanship can go to hell.

The real challenge for the prime minister now is to convince this lot to re-imagine him as the leader of the country. He has to tell them that the notion of being strong is different for a prime minister than it is for the man on the street. His party would do well to tone down and be more realistic about his image. After the Uri attack, Modi and the party have been admirably dignified. The sense of calm and unhurriedness displayed by the government behoves a country aspiring to be in the global big league.

It may be difficult to change the bhakt though.

Autonomy for good institutions, heavy regulation for non-performing ones: Javadekar’s stick-and-carrot policy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre is planning to give autonomy to “good” universities and make them ‘innovation hubs’ while impose heavy regulation on “non-performing” institutes, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday. “Universities that encourage innovation would be given support by the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aim is to have innovation hubs across the country,” he said here. “We will support good universities by giving autonomy and reduce regulation, while universities that are not performing well would be heavily regulated. The government would, however, extend support to upgrade those,” Javadekar said.He was speaking after launching ‘OceanNet’, developed by Amrita University, that enables connectivity to fishermen in the sea. It was inaugurated on the eve of the 63th birthday celebrations of spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi at Amirtapuri near here. Asserting that the country can make progress only through innovation, Javadekar said the Centre could come up with plans of partnerships between universities and industries to encourage innovations.Praising ‘OceanNet’, the Union HRD minister said, “It is my duty and responsibility to support this type of ventures.” The communication system would provide a permanent solution to several issues faced by fishermen at sea. It would also help them and the Coast Guard to thwart any attempt by terrorist to sneak into the country through sea, he said.Highlighting the need to improve quality of education, Javadekar sought co-operation of all for the purpose, saying, “Education has no political agenda. It is a national agenda and not that of Left or Right.”

Who is prepared for a ‘zombie apocalypse’?

A document asking about Indian government contingency plans to tackle a zombie apocalypse goes viral.

One in three corruption cases against central govt officials probed by CBI ends in acquittal

By Rakesh Dubbudu, Factly.in

One in every three corruption-related cases against officials of the central government since 2006, investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with trial complete, resulted in the acquittal of officials, according to this report by data journalism site Factly, based on data released to the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) in August 2016.

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The cases were filed under The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act), which deals with corruption by government servants. The amendments to the Act are yet to be ratified by parliament.

More than 7,000 corruption-related cases disposed since 2006

Between 2006 and June 2016, the CBI completed investigation in 7,217 cases under the PC Act. Of these, 3,615 (50.1%) ended in prosecution; 2,178 (30.2%) ended in prosecution as well as regular departmental action (RDA), while 636 cases (8.8%) ended in only RDA. As many as 671 cases (9.3%) were closed without any action.

Source: Lok Sabha; Data as of June 2016

The highest number of cases were investigated in 2008 (933), followed by 2007 (916). The least number of cases were investigated in 2010 (467).

Source: Lok Sabha; Data as of June 2016

More than 32% cases ended in acquittal

Since 2006, trial was complete in 6,533 cases under the PC Act where the investigation was done by the CBI. As many as 4,054 cases (62.1%) ended in conviction of the accused, while 2,095 cases (32.1%) ended in acquittal.

Source: Lok Sabha; Data as of June 2016

The highest number of cases were disposed in 2013 (921 cases), followed by 865 in 2012. The least number of cases were disposed in 2008 (369)–the same year that saw the most cases being investigated.

Prosecution sanction still an issue

As per the PC Act, the relevant government has to sanction the prosecution of the official when an investigating agency such as the CBI recommends prosecution. Though the government is supposed to take a decision on sanction of prosecution within a period of three months, many such cases remain pending for sanction from the government even after four months.

(Dubbudu has been working on issues related to the Right to Information for a decade. He is a data/information enthusiast & is passionate about governance/policy issues. Factly.in is dedicated to making public data meaningful.)

Chikungunya outbreak: Ajay Maken terms Satyendar Jain insensitive for calling the disease ‘non-fatal’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid debate over whether chikungunya can lead to death, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken on Sunday said Health Minister Satyendar Jain’s statement that people cannot die of chikungunya “shows his insensitivity and ignorance”. Jain has been reiterating that “as per medical literature chikungunya cannot cause death, and has accused media of spreading panic.””At a time when people are dying of chikungunya, the statement by the health minister that people cannot die of chikungunya shows his insensitivity and ignorance,” Maken said while launching a fogging drive by Delhi Pradesh Traders Congress here.At least 15 fatalities have been reported at various hospitals due to chikungunya complications, including a 22-year-old girl who died of a cardiac arrest triggered by chikungunya complications at Hindu Rao Hospital.”According to the 2015 report of WHO (World Health Organisation), 191 people in North America and South America had died of chikungunya,” Maken said, and asked, “whether people should reject the report of one of the key members of the UNO (United Nations Organisation) like the WHO, which said that people have died of chikungunya in America.” Doctors say that chikungunya is not a life-threatening disease in general, but in rare cases leads to complications that prove fatal, especially in children and elderly persons.The committee set up by the Delhi government to review cases of death attributed to dengue and chikungunya complications has “ruled out” chikungunya as the primary cause of fatality and said it was “co-morbid conditions” in its patients which led to their deaths.Taking pot-shots at the Kejriwal government, Maken said over 30 lives have already been claimed by chikungunya and dengue, and crowded hospitals in Delhi are “putting 3-4 people on one bed”. He alleged that the condition of the mohalla clinics was “equally bad” as these clinics open only for four hours daily, and doctors and medicines have become “scarce” there.Hitting out at the AAP government, Maken said the Delhi government has “woefully failed” to provide health care to the people at this critical time, which is a “violation of the Right to Life”, guaranteed in the Constitution. Delhi government, however, has asserted that adequate measures were in place, and “people should not panic”.

Disclose details of land ordinance by President: Central Information Commission tells govt

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered making public all records, including copies of file notings, related to the promulgation of land ordinance by President Pranab Mukherjee.Exercising his right to information (RTI), Venkatesh Nayak had in January last year sought from the President’s secretariat photo copies of all materials on the basis of which the President had promulgated the land ordinance and the relevant file notings.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The application was then transferred to the Department of Land Resources (DoLA), which said the requisite information was not available with it. The query was also forwarded to the legislative department of the central government. However, the legislative department said the information sought falls under the administrative ambit of the Ministry of Rural Development and records relating to the promulgation of the ordinance would be available with DoLA.Aggrieved over denial of information, he filed an appeal with the CIC in May last year. In the course of hearing last week, Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava cited a response by the legislative department and said the records relating to the promulgation of the ordinance would be available with the department of land resources. In view of this, the Commission directs the respondent (DoLA) to provide information sought to the complainant within a period of four weeks, he said.The Centre had promulgated land ordinance for the first time in December 2014. It was repromulgated twice — in March and May-end last year — as the government could not get a law passed. In March this year, the NDA government had decided not to repromulgate the ordinance yet again apparently due to stiff opposition from the opposition on the issue.A Joint Committee of Parliament is examining the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015. It has been asked to submit its report by the last day of the first week of the Monsoon Session, 2016. It seeks to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, to enable the government exempt select categories of projects from the requirement of social impact assessment, restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land, and consent for public-private partnership projects.

No retired judge was appointed to the posts of IC or CIC: Centre

No retired judge has been appointed as chief or member in the Central Information Commission (CIC) for the past four years despite the fact that five had applied and one was shortlisted, the RTI reply given to activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal said.Section 12 (5) of the Right to Information Act (RTI), says the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC) shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Justices Brijendra Mohan Sinha (retired) from Allahabad High Court had applied for the post of Information Commissioner (IC) in 2013 whereas Zaki Ullah Khan (retired) had applied for the post of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in 2014, according to the reply, provided to Agrawal by Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances and Pensions on June 13.Retired Justice Sheo Kumar Singh from the same high court had also put an application for the post of CIC in the same year. In addition, Brojendra Prasad Katakey (retired) judge of Guwahati High Court had aspired for the post of IC in CIC in 2014 and former Justice Ravi R Tripathi from Gujarat High Court had applied for the post of IC and Chief IC in CIC in 2015.Without mentioning the reasons, the government has said that although Justice Tripathi was shortlisted, he was not selected for any of the posts.The government also refused to provide detailed bio-data of Justice Tripathi citing the Act has exempted the department from providing such information as it is personal in nature.In his application under the RTI Act last month, activist Agrawal had sought complete information on the retired and/or existing judges of high courts and/or Supreme Court ever having applied or being selected for the posts of Information Commissioner/Chief Information Commissioner at Central Information Commission ever since information may be available on record.Agrawal said the RTI Act had come to force in 2005 and since the inception of Central Information Commission, no person with judicial background has been selected.

Fortis doctors operate upon youth’s left leg instead of right, DMC takes cognisance

In an alleged case of medical negligence, doctors at a private hospital here have wrongly operated upon the left leg of a 24-year-old youth instead of the injured right leg.The Delhi Medical Council has taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and initiated an enquiry into it.Ravi Rai, a resident of Ashok Vihar, injured his right leg after he fell down from stairs on Sunday. He was rushed to Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh and underwent tests including CT-scan and X-Ray following which the doctors said that Ravi has suffered a fracture and that his condition was serious.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Doctors told us that there was a fracture in the ankle of his right leg and that they need to do surgery to insert pins in his ankle for support.”Trusting them we agreed for the surgery. But later, when our son gained consciousness, we realised that instead of the right leg, his left leg which was perfectly fine was operated,” said Ramkaran Rai, father of the patient.Meanwhile, the hospital issued a statement saying, “Patient safety is of paramount importance to us. We are deeply concerned and are looking into the matter and will take appropriate action as deemed necessary.”Ravi, a CA student, has been shifted to another hospital for further treatment.”We have also complained to the police. And we will also approach Medical Council of India (MCI) and Delhi Medical Association (DMA) for justice. How can they operate left leg when the injury is on the right leg? This is grave negligence,” the father said.Delhi Medical Council Registrar Girish Tyagi said “we have taken suo motu cognisance. We will investigate the matter and take appropriate action.”

Delhi University rejects another RTI query over PM Modi’s degree

The University of Delhi has once again rejected right to information (RTI) query seeking details about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree.Citing ‘privacy’ reasons, the University of Delhi (DU) has rejected the query, reported IANS. The RTI query was filed by Delhi-based lawyer Mohd Irsad.According to PTI, in its reply to the RTI query, the University reportedly said it has the right to maintain the privacy of every student and the information can only be disclosed to the student concerned.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The varsity said the applicant can approach the Appellate Authority of DU’s School of Open Learning within a month from the day the reply was issued.Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that media reports claiming DU has blocked an RTI query seeking details of Modi’s BA degree ‘deepen the mystery’ surrounding his educational qualifications.He contended DU ‘cannot reject’ information sought under the Right To Information Act by a city-based lawyer and the university should write to the Prime Minister to seek his permission for releasing the documents.”This deepens the mystery around PM’s degree. If DU feels that it is private info then under RTI Act, DU shud write to PM n seek his permission. DU can’t reject (sic),” he tweeted.Kejriwal also recalled BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had defended Modi when the controversy erupted over his alleged fake degrees, saying the documents were “genuine and anyone could take it from DU”.”What? But why? Didn’t Amit shah n Jaitley ji say that degree was genuine and anyone cud take it from DU?(sic)” he asked on Twitter. (With inputs from agency)

SC to hear plea to release ‘normal’ patients from mental hospital post-vacation

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to accord an urgent hearing to a plea seeking release of male and female patients who are fit for discharge from a mental hospital in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.

A vacation bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and L Nageswara Rao said there was no urgency and the matter could be taken up after the summer break of the apex court this month end.

Supreme Court of India. ReutersSupreme Court of India. Reuters

Representative image. Reuters

During the hearing, the bench also asked petitioner advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal why he had not approached the High Court in this regard.

Bansal said he had approached the apex court as there were around 60 patients in Mental Hospital, Bareilly, who are normal and fit for discharge, and among them were several who were from different states including Kerala.

The bench listed the matter for hearing after summer vacation which ends on 28 June.

In his plea, the petitioner said he had filed applications under Right to Information Act in three mental
hospitals of Uttar Pradesh seeking information about the patients who are normal and fit for discharge.

He claimed to have taken legal interviews of some of the patients admitted in the Bareilly hospital and found these persons to be as normal as other human beings and wished to live free.

“That this court in its various judgments had observed that the Right to Life includes ‘right to live with dignity’ and in the present case the patients who are absolutely normal are forced to live with the mentally ill persons since last many years and hence their fundamental rights are infringed by the Respondents,” the plea said.

It said that the “inability of the government to provide social security to such persons is also questionable and thus needs urgent intervention from this court.”

The plea said the living conditions of female and male patients who were absolutely normal, along with the mentally ill patients, was “totally unsatisfactory”, “unethical” and “unconstitutional” and infringed the fundamental rights of the individual.

It sought direction to the Uttar Pradesh government and the hospitals to make arrangements to shift the patients who are normal and fit for discharge from the hospital to any other secure place like old age homes.

Mumbai: Only 6.67% of complaints being probed by ACB, reveals RTI

The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) (Mumbai range) has started open and discreet enquiries in only 6.67% of the total complaints it has received from January 2013 to March 2016. This information was provided under the Right to Information Act.The ACB mainly probes officers against whom complaints of corruption have been filed. As per the details provided, the ACB received 7,675 complaints in the period of January 2013 to March 2016. Of the total complaints received, it ordered open and discreet enquiries in only 512 cases.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Though none of those cases that were started were closed without any action, FIRs were registered in only seven of the cases. The total number of open and discreet enquiries in the same period that are still pending — those in which any kind of enquiry is yet to start — stood at 236. The RTI application was filed by Charni Road-based Jeetendra Ghadge.In his application, Ghadge had sought to know the enquiry details, the assets details filed by the officers, the names of officers who were suspended and details of officers who were transferred out of the ACB before their tenures were over.While details of those who were suspended and those who did not file their assets details was not provided, the public information officer said that 12 officers — mainly police inspectors — were transferred before their tenure was over. Almost all were transferred within a year of being appointed, with one officer transferred in as little as seven days.”A total of 7,675 complaints clearly means that there is a serious problem of corruption in Mumbai and people are filing complaints. Unfortunately, the ACB is indulging in burking (avoiding registering cases) and only media-hyped cases get registered. This is the main reason why there is no fear of the ACB among junior-level officals,” said Ghadge.When dna contacted Satish Mathur, director general of the ACB, he said: “Off the cuff, I cannot say. You ask the people who are here.” Keshav Patil, additional commissioner of police (Mumbai range), did not answer dna’s calls.

Respect Pahlaj Nihalani, rename the film ‘Udta Land of Five Rivers’

This is a lopsided debate. Freedom of speech and expression is not a one-way street. Everybody has rights and freedoms, so does Pahlaj Nihalani, our Sanskari Censor Board chief who has now kicked up a big storm in Bollywood because Udta Punjab can’t pass muster, his muster. Let’s not get cross with him, let’s not swear at him, we know for sure that’s not going to get us far with him. So, let’s try to understand him. Look at things from his point of view. Maybe if we respect his rights he’ll respect ours. Here’s a list of eight rights of Nihalani we must protect. Feel free to add to this list. The more we understand him, the faster we do it, the better for Bollywood.Pahlaj-2Pahlaj-2

1) Right to cut: Pretty self-explanatory, although whether or not this includes giving people a quick haircut has yet to be decided.

2) Right to be offended: It doesn’t matter if the rest of the nation finds something funny, moving or thought-provoking (God forbid). If Nihalani doesn’t like it, it’s gone.

3) Right to be sanskari: So what if it’s a film about a British man working for a South African company in Venezuela, he better not be seen doing things that go against Indian culture.

4) Right to not hear gaalis: Seriously, you need us to explain this? What the @#$K is wrong with you?

5) Right to euphemism: Nihalani is not Arnab Goswami, he doesn’t like things ‘direct’. So what’s the big deal? Why can’t Anurag Kashyap be a little more accommodative? Like why can’t he rename the film Udta Land of Five Rivers?

6) Right to logical thinking: Udta Punjab! Does that sound like a film about Punjab’s drug problem or its rapid economic growth? And you think Nihalani is illogical?

7) Right to improve his grades: Nihalani made “B” grade movies and is now granting “A” grade to movies he doesn’t understand. Net-net he’s improved, right?

8) Right to bite the hand that feeds him: He was brought out of oblivion by this government and his job is make to them look good. But each time he opens his mouth and we can’t make up our minds on who’s looking sillier, he or his masters, isn’t that a matter between them? What’s your problem?

NEET becomes the 21st ordinance issued by Modi govt

The ordinance to keep state education boards out of the common medical entrance test for this year is the 21st promulgated by the Narendra Modi government, with the most controversial being the one to amend the land acquisition law.In its very first Cabinet meeting, the government, which came to power in May, 2014, recommended issuing two ordinance — one to amend the TRAI Act to allow Nripendra Mishra take over as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and the other to amend the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act for transfer of a cluster of villages for the Polavaram project.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Both the ordinances were issued on May 28, 2014.Besides the two, the government had issued a total of five ordinances in 2014, including the one to amend the Land Acquisition law of 2013. The ordinance envisaged procuring land for industrial corridors, rural infrastructure, defence and housing.The ordinance to amend the The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act passed by the previous UPA government was promulgated and repromulgated on three occasions following which the government gave up the ordinance route and went for a statutory order.The Bill to amend the land law is pending before a Joint Committee of Parliament.The other ordinances promulgated in 2014 were the Coal Mines (special provisions) — issued twice — the one on Textile Undertakings and another to amend the Insurance laws.In 2015, a total of 10 ordinances were promulgated, including the one to amend land law which was issued twice on April 3 and May 30 respectively. The other ordinances issued in 2015 included the one to amend the Citizenship Act to merge Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes, by which PIOs will also get life-long Indian visa.Another ordinance was aimed at amending the Motor Vehicles Act to bring e-carts and e-rickshaws under the ambit of the law.This year, the ordinance to amend the Enemy Property Act was promulgated twice. It sought to amend a 48-year-old law to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.In a rare development, the Budget session of Parliament was prorogued on March 29 to enable the government to issue an Ordinance to authorise expenditure beyond April 1 in the Centrally-ruled Uttarakhand in view of the political crisis in the state.A bill to replace the Uttarakhand Appropriation Ordinance was later passed by Parliament.

Parliament won’t function if Rahul, Sonia and other leaders targeted with ‘false cases’: Kapil Sibal

Congress leader Kapil Sibal accused BJP of targeting its leaders by lodging false cases against them and said Parliament will not function if this continues. On claims by BJP that it would get the key GST Bill passed in Parliament in its next session, he dubbed the Modi government as a “majoritarian” government which can get anything done, “sometimes by threats and sometimes with love”. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Parliament will run when you do the right politics and do the right things to take the country forward,” he said at a conclave of TV news channel News24. Accusing the Modi dispensation of indulging in vendetta politics, he said “when they were in the opposition, they never allowed Parliament to function for the last ten years. In the last two years what they were doing, we never did like that. We never lodged false cases against their leaders, never targeted them.” Sibal said what BJP is doing is to target Sonia Gandhi and then target Rahul, besides other senior Congress leaders like P Chidambaram, Bhupinder Hooda, Harish Rawat, Virbhadra Singh and Ashok Chavan. “Then they will lodge false cases against them. If you do like this and your slogan is Congress-mukt India, then Parliament will not function. Because, Parliament will only run when you do the right politics and do the right things to take the country forward,” he said in reply to a question on why Congress did not allow Parliament to function.Asked if “surgery” is required in Congress after recent assembly poll debacle, the former Union Minister said if the country has to move forward ‘surgery’ has to be carried out. “For the country to move forward, there should be surgery everywhere. Change takes place with thought and with debate. I am sure my party will certainly have that debate,” he said. To a question on the Ishrat Jehan encounter killing case, the Congress leader asked “was CBI speaking a lie? Was the magisterial probe false?” He also attacked the Modi government of making “false promises” and said if one crore jobs are created “I will certainly back them. But the question is why do you tell a lie to people”?

Euthanasia debate: All you need to know about how other countries dealt with ‘right to die’

One of the first countries that decided to promote the cause euthanasia was Switzerland. The Swiss Criminal Code, which became effective on 1 January 1942, penalizes assistance in suicide out of selfish motives. If no ulterior are given, no offence is done.

That could also explain why the first organisation that decided to promote assisted suicide for the terribly distressed – often ailing on account of an incurable painful existence – was in this country. Dignitas is a Swiss group – founded in 1998 —  helping those with terminal illness and severe physical and mental illnesses to die, assisted by qualified doctors and nurses.

When Dignitas began promoting the concept of assisted suicides, there was a hue and cry.  Many people claimed that  permitting such an organisation to exist would open the floodgates to suicides and crimes.  However, the record of the past two decades shows that this has not been the case, though Dignitas welcomes patients from anywhere in the world. To date, it has helped 2127 people to die since its inception (see chart). More details about Dignitas can be found at here.

Screen shot 2016-05-17 at 5.40.49 PMScreen shot 2016-05-17 at 5.40.49 PMDignitas provides assisted suicide for people provided that they are of sound judgement and submit to an in-depth medical report prepared by a doctor that establishes the patient’s condition, as required by Swiss courts.

A person who wishes to die meets several Dignitas personnel, in addition to an independent doctor, for a private consultation. The independent doctor assesses the evidence provided by the patient and is met on two separate occasions, with a time gap between each of the consultations. Legally admissible proof that the person wishes to die is also created, in the form of a signed affidavit, countersigned by independent witnesses. In cases where a person is physically unable to sign a document, a short video film of the person is made in which they are asked to confirm their identity, that they wish to die, and that their decision is made of their own free will, without any form of persuasion. This evidence of informed consent remains private and is preserved only for use in any possible legal dispute.

During the past two decades, more countries have opted for end-of-life laws and solutions. Many more countries have allowed what is often referred to as Advance directive or Living will.

The Living Will allows a person to state in advance that he should not be put on life support systems should the need ever arise.  It is based on the simple logic that any person has the right to decide whether he wants to be operated upon or not, even to be treated or not.  The living will can even specify the types of treatment that the patient would be willing to permit for himself. This is because a doctor cannot administer to a patient any treatment (medical and/or surgical) without the patient’s informed consent. The patient is fully within his rights to refuse the treatment, even if this refusal can result in death.

If a person has that right when he is in full possession of his mental faculties, why should he not be allowed to exercise the same right for himself (not for others) should he lose his mental faculties or is in a vegetative state when he is unable to express himself.

It is based on the simple logic that any person has the right to decide whether he wants to be operated upon or not, even to be treated or not.

An Advance Directive can either be in the form of a Living Will, or it can be as a power of attorney drawn in favour of someone the patient trusts – a doctor, friend or a relative to decide on the course of treatment the patient might have wanted if he were in full possession of his mental faculties and his ability to communicate his wishes. That person or persons can jointly or severally instruct the doctor or the hospital about what should be done with the patient.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In both cases, the doctor is granted immunity from the decisions taken, or the course of treatment followed.

Most developed countries accept the legal sanctity of this Advance Directive, or the Living Will or both.  But they have yet to be given legal status in India.  However, the Supreme Court is currently hearing petitions which seek to give the Living Will a legal status in this country.

Doctor assisted euthanasia is different from giving legal status to a Living ill.  In this case a doctor, or a group of doctors, advises a person, on the best way to end his or her life. Switzerland allows it, and during the past two decades some other countries have also introduced legislation and rules to permit this under very strict conditions.  Here is the list.

The Netherlands made this effective from 1 April, 2002. The legislation, called the ‘Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act’ (Wet toetsing levensbeëindiging op verzoek en hulp bij zelfdodin, WTL) regulates the ending of life on explicit request by the individual (voluntary euthanasia) as well as accompanied suicide.  

Almost immediately thereafter came Belgium. It permits and regulates the ending of life by physicians on request by the individual who wishes to end life. The law became effective on 22 September, 2002.  This piece of legislation is supplemented by a law on patient’s rights and a regulation on palliative care. Luxembourg introduced a law on this subject with effect from 16 March 2009.  It allowed for palliative care, patient’s advance directive and assistance in dying, as well as a law on assisted suicide.

The battle in the US to allow assisted suicide has been fierce.  The first state to introduce such a law was the State of Oregon. In 1998, the ‘Death with Dignity Act’ came into force. It regulates physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who have a life-expectancy of not more than 6 months. 

The US soon had another champion for assisted suicide the State of Washington. Since 2008, a similar law exists like the one in the US-State of Oregon, also called ‘Death with Dignity Act’. 

A third US state soon followed the other two – the State of Vermont. The Parliament of Vermont supported, “an act relating to patient choice and control at the end of life” and approved a law similar to the “Death with Dignity Act” in the US-States Oregon and Washington. The law offers terminally ill competent individuals a procedure which allows them a self-determined end of life by ingestion of medication provided by a physician. But the Act was implemented only partially.  The legislation dealing with “death with dignity” and immunity for physicians is expected to come into force by 1 July 2016 ( HYPERLINK “” n _blankWebsite of the Department of Health, with text of the law, forms, etc.  Then a fourth US state joined in – California. On 5 October, 2015 physicians assisted suicide for the terminally ill became legal through the End of Life Option Act. 

The fifth US state to join the ranks was the State of Montana. It legalised physician-assisted-suicide through a single-case Court decision: On 31 December 2009, the Supreme Court of Montana ruled that, under the Constitution of Montana, Article II, paragraph 4 and 10, terminally ill Robert Baxter had the right to a dignified death and at the same time that his physician had the right to being protected from prosecution. Even though the right to physician assisted dying was not guaranteed by the Constitution of Montana, such assistance, taking into consideration court cases and the law, was not in conflict with public interests and therefore not illegal. The decision was done by 5 : 2.  After Montana, New Mexico is another State which, in theory, legalised physician-assisted suicide through a single case Court decision: New Mexico State law provides a fundamental right to a terminally ill, competent patient to choose a physician’s aid in getting prescription medications that will allow a peaceful death.

Two years ago it was the turn of Canada.  One of its provinces Québec, introduced a bill on 5 June, 2014, which allowed for: An Act respecting end-of-life care. The purpose of the Bill was to ensure that end-of-life patients are provided care that is respectful of their dignity and their autonomy and to recognise the primacy of wishes expressed freely and clearly with respect to end-of-life care.

Australia flirted with the idea.  It introduced a bill for end-of-life but later withdrew it.

All eyes are now on India to see which way it decides.  But more on this in the next part.

(Disclosure: The author is a senior journalist with Firstpost and is also Hon. Secretary of the Society for the Right to Die with Dignity)

The Firstpost series on Euthanasia will include more anecdotes and views.

Part I: Relieving a human life from agony is not Himsa

In Part III, find out what India must do about the Euthanasia bill. 

Over 65 IPS officers didn’t file immovable property returns in 2015

Over 65 IPS officers in the state have not filed their immovable property returns in 2015. The figure is higher compared to 2014, when 58 IPS officers did not file their returns, but lesser than 2013, when 97 officers did not.The details were provided by the home department, after Pune-based Vihar Durve filed a Right To Information (RTI) application. The details are also available on the home ministry’s website.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In his application, Durve had sought details of officers who are yet to file their immovable property returns. IPS officers who have not submitted their returns are denied vigilance clearance for promotion, empanelment and other nominations for training and awards.”They should put such details online. When we break traffic rules, they instantly fine us. When such powerful people disobey law, should they be punished or not? When people at high posts do not obey law, and are not answerable to the law, how will the system work?” said Durve.

Never mind the platypus: Is academic freedom an endangered species?

Consider a platitude: Academia is a bastion of godless Commie pot-smoking degenerates, seeking to indoctrinate the rest of civil society in its horrifying Sodom-and-Gomorratic ways.

The great American conservative William F Buckley, Jr levelled this charge over sixty years ago in God and Man at Yale, which, subtitled as it was (The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom‘), fired the opening salvo in what has come to be a treasured bugbear of the right-wing everywhere, much like the pompous uncle everyone loves to hate. Since then, the very idea of academic freedom has been systematically and often elegantly parenthesised as some sort of leftist conspiracy. So it was in Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (itself subtitled How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students), and so it is in much public discourse today.

Recall, for instance, the statement issued on 17 November last year by 46 “eminent historians, archaeologists and scholars” against so-called “Leftist” intellectuals — those blinkered unfortunates mired in an abhorrent mélange of “Marxist historiography and leftist ideology, with a few borrowings from postmodernism, the Annales School, Subaltern and other studies” (is there a diploma course in Other Studies yet, one wonders) — railing against “a well-orchestrated campaign to create a bogeyman and cry wolf.” And, earlier this year, Sanjeev Sanyal’s linguistically intemperate guest column in The Week excoriated “the Left paralysis” in our intellectual life, echoing the 17 November statement’s view of an organised onslaught on all that is not Left in the life of our collective mind.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

Indeed, Sanyal goes so far as to brand this onslaught a “systematic ‘ethnic cleansing’ of all non-Left thinkers since the 1950s,” thereby opening a gaping semiotic wound in an already-fraught minefield of ideas and ways of behavior. With its echoes of serious, visceral violence — remember the genocidal rape of the Yugoslav Wars, anyone? — “ethnic cleansing” assumes a darker implication in the context of namby-pamby academic wars; in a disingenuous sleight of hand, Sanyal extends the language of persecution to create an illusion of solidarity between massively disparate groups of supposedly oppressed minorities. Disgruntled “non-Left” academics are suddenly united with bodies in mass graves in Srebrenica, and the righteous indignation of the masses is lovingly lubricated.

For all its regurgitated bile and almost complete lack of evidence, Sanyal’s column does manage to stumble past a certain insight. “(E)ven those advocating change,” he writes, “end up using language and frameworks derived from the Left.” This is important, for it expresses an awareness of the power of language to craft reality. “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words,” the cyberpunk writer Philip K Dick once said, and his desiccated corpse is probably grinning a maggot-eaten grin somewhere today. Words like “sickular” and “anti-national” (and, most amusing of all, the “intellectual tyranny” of the Left) are bandied about with gay abandon, and simply calling it a “systematic cleansing” seems to make it so.

Yet, in my experience, it is typically the conservative Right that is systematic and well-organised — go to any university campus in any American town, and it’s usually the campus Republicans who are organised and ‘with it,’ the campus Democrats who are trying to pull in funds at the last minute (the real Left in the US — the Green Party, the Socialists etc — will probably be lucky if they can find their party banners in time for fundraisers). The BJP’s organisational juggernaut during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaigns is another case in point. Not only is there no real evidence for a systematic cleansing of the “non-Left” in academia over the years (indeed, there is much evidence to the contrary; one need only hark back to Germany during the Nazis), one also greatly doubts whether those in the hallowed corridors of academe are even capable of being systematic, as the clutter in any university office should prove. Ragtag bunches of students shouting slogans usually lose out in the organisational wars to well-coordinated groups of ABVP supporters trying to jump police barricades wielding sticks masquerading as flags.

And yet, for all its fulminations against the ivory towers of academe, Sanyal’s column — and, for that matter, many others like it (including this one, on this very website) — is not incorrect in one respect. The academy does indeed lean left (there is, if not a mountain, then at least a very substantial hill of evidence for this), just as the military-industrial complex or religious institutions (and even medical doctors, it would seem) lean right the world over. This often results in the popular tendency, as Daniel Klein, Professor of Economics at George Mason University points out, to “see academe as this vast apparatus of leftist groupthink.” But this hardly leads to a collective drinking of the Kool Aid, as Neil Gross makes evident in Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? Using data analyses, interviews and experimentation, Gross concludes that, while a majority of academics lean left, it has relatively little effect on how or what they teach. There is little evidence of ideological indoctrination in institutes of higher learning. So much for the intellectual tyranny of the Left.

Gross’ book is, of course, about North American academia. But his broader implications are very relevant today in India (and much of the third world in general). “During periods of significant economic downturn, and significant rise of inequality,” he writes, a leftward shift is hardly surprising, especially given that in academia, “radicalism is still a live possibility.” The right-wing’s attempt to overhaul the higher education system and eviscerate spaces of difference (in both behaviour and thought) rests on the assumption of a failure of the state-run school system, and becomes more urgent as a way to distract from real problems – smoke and mirrors to cauterise a populace into thinking the only thing wrong with the country is the smell of reefer and the sight of used condoms on campus. Why think of our jobless growth and our impending demographic disaster (whereby the proportion of jobs in the unorganised sector, without regular salaries and social service benefits, is set to rise to 93 percent by next year) when we can jail students for, essentially, rudeness and insensitivity (and, perhaps, bad hygiene)?

So the Right’s solution is to discredit the long tradition of fairly decent (of course, not without its own problems) state-run higher education in our country, and insidiously replace it with what the literary scholar Jeffrey J Williams calls “the post-welfare state university.” Private competition, we are told, will be good for education. And it will, but only to a certain extent, and only for a certain class of people. To gauge the true cost of such corporatised academic capitalism, one need look no further than the American model, which shifted from a post-Second World War‘Great Society’ in which tuition costs were low and publicly subsidised — therefore paid for collectively — to the present privatised scenario in which the cost of higher education is borne individually — every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost!

In addition to most college students being slowly crushed under the insurmountable burden of student loans, this privatisation of higher education has also led, writes Williams, to “the push for research to bring in corporate funds or lead directly to commercial patents, the morphing of administration to a CEO class detached rather than arising from faculty, the casualisation of a majority of faculty in part-time, adjunct, or term positions, and the pressure on students, working long hours as well as taking loans to pay tuition.” Enough to make our political and economic elites quiver with impending pleasure.

And so we hear calls for a balancing of the scales in the ideological furniture of the university campus (“Note that I am not advocating that the overwhelming dominance of the Left should be replaced by a similar dominance of the Right. However, a healthy debate requires that some sort of balance is restored,” as Sanyal reasonably points out). This is both seemingly practical and ultimately dangerous. The overt and eventually hollow stance of bipartisan objectivity in our national news media, for instance, in the wake of a Foxification of our news channels, seems to suggest that all stories must have two, and only two, opposing and equally meritorious sides. You’re either with us or you’re against us. And somehow, a balance between these two sides will lead to a sort of magical utopian ideal.

Instead, it sculpts what the journalist and media critic Jay Rosen calls “the view from nowhere” — a flaccid middle ground which keeps everyone happy, including journalists, advertisers and publishers. For Rosen, this supposedly “balanced” perspective frequently “places the journalist between polarised extremes, and calls that neither-nor position ‘impartial’… it’s an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy.” The arbitrarily-assigned value of a “healthy” debate, the idea of balance has also invaded the non-Right — note, for instance, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart’s frequent calls for bipartisan balanced debate over the years. I doubt I’ll hold my breath for the day we demand such a balance in our military, our temples and our CEOs.

In his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, the historian Richard Hofstadter defined anti-intellectualism as a “resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimise the value of that life.” The state-run university has come to stand for all that is threatening to our new idea of Indianness, the last citadel of complexity and marginally-independent thought.

In spite of our cultural and political (though not our commercial and economic) distaste for the American way of life, we seem to not realise that we too have become Americans – we demand easy answers to difficult questions, and we are now scared of complexity in our public discourse, preferring the simplicities of, as Frank Zappa once put it, “unrefined commerce, wild superstition and religious fanaticism.” The gradually tumescent inequalities in our society have made large swathes of the population increasingly incredulous of the supposed elitism of the academy, culminating in the large-scale resentment of what Hofstadter called “the constant insinuation of the intellectual as expert in public affairs.”

This has led to a faith in a technocratic intelligence that is seen as being opposed to intellectualism.

Sanyal concludes his essay by professing a similar faith — “I am no fan of the argumentative Indian; much prefer the Indian who gets things done.” This utilitarian belief in the mainstream, so in thrall with what Hofstadter termed “the mystique of practicality,” manifests itself today in the violence of party workers who claim to be part of a vidyarthi parishad that is against scholarship and all the ideas that genuine scholarship implies.

The author is a godless degenerate academic. He is based in Kolkata, a city famous for godless degenerate academics

Going by vote share and his crushing of Congress, Modi’s a success: The Aakar Patel column

This month, Narendra Modi completes his first two years as prime minister of India.

Let’s have a look at how he has performed. He won the general election impressively, on the strength of his personality and his record. So let us start there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Political record: Modi is and remains our most popular politician by far. The aura he had two years ago, he retains. Every opinion poll in the last years has shown his popularity at around 70 percent. This is what Americans call approval rating, and 70 percent is an incredibly high number. Particularly because opinion polling in India has become accurate in the last decade so this number is believable. Modi may be assisted by the fact that his rival Rahul Gandhi is not charismatic or competent, and that regional leaders like Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal do not have a large enough stage to project their talents. But even with this admission, it must be accepted that Modi has a credibility with Indians as nobody else has.

The Bharatiya Janata Party lost state elections in Delhi and Bihar but its march towards dominance and the Congress’s march towards irrelevance continues under Modi.

Economy: I was in conversation with P Chidambaram a few days ago, at an event to launch his book on his time in opposition. I asked him whether his analysis on Modi’s economic policies was not overly harsh. Even if the data on exports and manufacturing and companies’ profitability was grim, as he has been writing it is, surely two years is too little a span of time to judge Modi on economic performance? That is what I asked. No, Chidambaram said, it is 40 percent of the term.

It is fair to say that here the government has promised more than it has delivered. The breakout phase into double digit growth, more jobs, an escape from ‘socialist’ schemes like NREGA and Aadhar that Modi promised has not come. Indeed, he has embraced some of the policies he promised to end. I still believe that though the numbers indicate otherwise, Modi must be given time, at least another year if not 18 months, to show whether he has made a difference economically.

Corruption: This was one of the items on which the 2014 election was fought. It is said that Modi has either ended big ticket corruption in the Central government or news of it has not yet come out. As in Gujarat, he has been personally involved in this issue. I have known businessmen in Gujarat who have had to face corruption demands from those lower down, because it is impossible for one individual, however well-meaning, to change centuries of a culture. However, just as in Gujarat, I know Modi regularly calls people to ask if they are facing a problem from his ministers and bureaucrats, and he asks them to inform him if they are. He is active and well-meaning.

Legislation and governance: The role of a Central govenrnment is primarily to make new law. Governance, in the way we understand the word, meaning controlling the structure of the state, is secondary. I say this because any Union government governs India through a few hundred IAS officers. Given the smallness of the apparatus, it is not possible for there to be much difference in the governance performance of one party over another.

On legislation, it is not easy to name successes because a theme is missing. If we look at the Manmohan Singh government’s legislative focus, we can identity the following: Right to Information, Right to Food, Aadhar, Direct Benefits Transfer, Right to Education, Right to Work and so on. There is a clear narrative here: these laws are aimed at the poor.

Modi’s record lacks such focus. Perhaps this will emerge in time, but for now it does not exist. ‘Make in India’ and ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ are not legislative initiatives but slogans.

Foreign policy: It is strange that here there is a wide difference between the perception of amateurs and experts. Those who have been attracted to the spectacle of Modi’s first year have been impressed. The prime minister held many glittering events in foreign capitals where thousands of Indians gathered to cheer him. This was seen as a foreign policy success, though it was not. The truth, and experts admit it, is that Modi’s highly personalised diplomacy has been a failure. On Pakistan we have no policy that anyone can explain coherently. Modi’s record has been to talk, not-talk, embrace, sulk, fire back, blame, invite over, set conditions, remove conditions randomly. I hope he changes this because it shows India’s foreign policy as not being serious. On China also, Modi’s hope that his charm would be the magic ingredient turned out to be naive.

Overall: If we return to the first point, popularity, we should admit that Modi’s term has so far been a success. Electoral popularity is the only currency of success in democracies. It doesn’t really matter ultimately what individual commentators say or write about Modi. So long as he continues the BJP’s march towards greater voteshare, a bigger geographic spread and a crushing of the Comgress, he is a success.

JU fracas over film: Left’s most blatant display of intellectual tyranny

There are two parts to the development that took place in Kolkata’s Jadavpur University on Friday over the screening of Vivek Agnihotri’s film Buddha In A Traffic Jam.

One, it is the regressive Left’s one of the most blatant displays of intellectual tyranny. Two, it is also a manifestation of the turf war that is taking place right now between the Right, which has political power but lacks the intellectual heft and Left, which shall not cede an inch of space from the last vestiges of its still considerable power — the citadels of illiberalism that our Universities have become.

Both are inextricably linked but I shall come to the second point in a bit.

First let us focus attention on the neat way in which the totalitarian Left has managed to sell itself as the “liberal voice” in India. It has done so by appropriating the century-old struggle of liberal thinking and exploiting that for the political purpose of stifling criticism of its fascist ways. The Left has successfully turned the rules of liberal thinking over its head.

This seems almost a Houdini act. How did the Left get away by such blatant subversion? This became possible because it tightly controls the supply line of thought.

As in Satyajit Ray’s Hirak Raja’r Deshe, every student who enrolls to study in the hallowed halls of our academic institutions must undergo a ‘magaj dholai‘ (brainwashing) first so that they sing paeans in favour of Hirak Raja. The Indian Left has for long been enjoying state patronage and has an iron grip on academia. It also ‘boasts’ of a protracted history of being viciously intolerant towards contrary viewpoints.

Economist Sanjeev Sanyal has written in a recent column: “Ethnic cleansing of all non-Left thinkers since the 1950s…the result of the systematic cleansing was that there were no non-Left academics remaining in the social sciences field in India by the early 1990s.”

Students at a protest in Jadavpur University in February 2016. ReutersStudents at a protest in Jadavpur University in February 2016. Reuters

Students at a protest in Jadavpur University in February 2016. Reuters

So the rules of the game are clear. The Left can stop screening of movies, label false charges, censure thoughts, ban books, kick authors out of India and yet if anyone accuses them of intolerance, the accusers are charged with intolerance instead.

In the political sphere, the Left has inflicted blood-curdling violence on its opposition. In West Bengal alone, political murders when it was at the helm for over three decades run well over 55000.

The Left can call for an Afzal Guru to emerge from every home, but Baba Ramdev has no right to address students in JNU. The Left can screen Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, but when Buddha In A Traffic Jam is sought to be screened (with due permission, mind you) the movie is first denied consent and then even the unofficial screening is disrupted.

“We do not welcome anybody who preaches violence and preaches the Hindu fundamentalist thought in the context of present day India where divisive politics is dividing the people,” NDTV quotes Priyasmita, a JU student, as saying.

“We feel if such propaganda is allowed there will be fascist mobilisation within the campus,” said another protester.

So a film (It is doubtful whether they have even bothered to watch it) becomes a propaganda when it fails to conform with the Left’s doctrine. And how to prevent a movie from triggering ‘fascist mobilization within campus’? By denying it permission, taking away its director Vivek Agnihotri’s freedom of expression. But for this skullduggery, the Left won’t be called fascists though. No sir! They are living embodiments of free-thinking in India.

It is indeed tiresome to repeat again and again the charges of hypocrisy and selective outrage against the Left. It says everything that needs to be said about our civil society’s (once again, tightly controlled) commitment to the principles of liberalism. In order to dismantle the bulwark of this Left ecosystem, the Right now seeks to make inroads. Now I come to the second part of the issue.

ABVP-linked Think India had sought permission for Agnihotri’s movie, a political satire against radical fundamentalism, to be screened in a JU auditorium. “We received a confirmation on May 3. But on May 5, a letter signed by the Alumni Association’s secretary, Sipra Patra, stated that the screening wouldn’t be allowed,” research scholar Sumit Mazumdar was quoted, as saying in a Times of India report.

What was the official reason? It could violate “model code of conduct prevailing due to state election”. Incidentally, the last phase of state election of held on 5 May. Surely a more imaginative reason could have been given?

On Friday, when Agnihotri arrived on the campus adamant that he would screen his film, Left-leaning student unions at the university surrounded his car. The filmmaker claimed he was gheraoed and manhandled.

As Think India then proceeded to project the film on open air inside the JU premises with a white bedsheet as “screen”, Leftist student organizations FAS and DSF students then begun a parallel screening of Nakul Singh Sawhney’s Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai.

Soon, the simmering tension escalated into full-blown fisticuffs. FAS and DSF students claimed two of their members had been molested by outsiders and held four persons captive. Think India members, however, countered the allegation, claiming they had been assaulted while leaving the ground.

“Several of our members were beaten up. Two of them were seriously injured and have been admitted to KPC Medical College. Four of our members are still being held captive by JU students on the basis of false allegations,“ ABVP national executive member Indranil Khan told Times of India.

The situation then went fully out of hand with the JU VC having to rush in and mediate thrice before the captive students were released. In between, BJP leader Roopa Ganguly rushed to the campus and it led to even more hostility from both ends.

Late reports suggest JU authorities have filed a police complaint against four outsiders — three of them ABVP activists — for allegedly molesting female students, a claim denied by Ganguly.

How did the University react? By claiming that it had nothing to do with denial of permission for the movie. JU VC Suranjan Das said “he had no role to play in it”.

It can be safely said that this won’t be the last time such turf wars in our Universities shall take place. And it also won’t be the last time that our social commentators and civil society shall indulge in selective applications of their principles of free speech.

Tamil Nadu Elections 2016: AIADMK offers a freebie fest; read the full manifesto here

As soon as Jayalalithaa announced her manifesto for the AIADMK, many people were rejoicing because it was filled with freebies. Right from free electricity and mobiles to free laptops and Internet, the AIADMK manifesto reads like a dream for the have-nots.On May 5, AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa revealed what she planned to do for the people of Tamil Nadu this time round if she is voted back into power. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even in 2011, the AIADMK offered various freebies to the people. Jayalalithaa had then announced four grams of gold, in addition to Rs 25,000 as marriage assistance (Rs 50,000 and four grams of gold for beneficiaries with a diploma or degree), six months of maternity leave plus Rs12,000 assistance and bank loan to a maximum of Rs10 lakh linked with 25 per cent subsidy component for self-help groups. She had also promised three cents of land for the landless poor so they can build houses. A school student was given four sets of uniforms and a pair of shoes free of cost while those in college got a free laptop. She also announced scholarships ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 from higher secondary school students. 20 kg rice was promised free of cost to all family cardholders and 20 litres of purified drinking water a month to all below poverty line families.
ALSO READ Tamil Nadu Elections 2016: Phones, electricity, loans, wi-fi and other freebies galore in AIADMK manifestoIn 2016, Jayalalithaa has gone a step further and included more freebies especially for farmers’ and women. Read the full AIADMK manifesto for Tamil Nadu here.

Non-Maharashtra beef gets Bombay High Court clearance

Possessing and consuming beef is no longer a crime in Maharashtra.In a significant judgment, the Bombay High Court, on Friday, struck down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef. The court, however, upheld the ban on slaughter in the state.The bench said these sections infringe upon a person’s right to privacy, guaranteed under Article 21 (Right to Life and Liberty) of the Constitution. It said, “The state cannot control what a citizen does in his house, which is his own castle, provided he is not doing something which is contrary to law.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Further, classifying the inclusion of right to privacy to being an integral part of Article 21, the court said, “As far as the choice of eating food of the citizens is concerned, the citizens are required to be let alone, especially when the food of their choice is not injurious to health. As observed earlier, even a right to sleep is held as a part of right to privacy. The state cannot make an intrusion into his home and prevent a citizen from possessing and eating food of his choice. A citizen has a right to lead a meaningful life within the four corners of his house as well as outside his house.”A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S C Gupte said only “conscious possession” of bulls/bullocks, slaughtered in the state, will be held as an offence. However, the authorities will not be able to straight away prosecute anyone found in possession of beef until it is proved that it was slaughtered in Maharashtra. Also, the onus on proving the same rests on state.The court also upheld ban on sale and slaughter of bulls/bullocks in Maharashtra, stating that the state’s objective in doing so is in “public interest”.Under the Amended Act of 1976, which was granted the President’s assent on March 4, 2015, the government had banned slaughter of cow/bulls and bullocks and possession and consumption of their meat. The objective was to preserve cattle for their undeniable utility in agriculture and drought sectors.As per law, sale of protected animals for slaughter attracted a five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine and possession of meat of bull or bullock attracted a one-year jail or Rs 2,000 fine, or both.The high court order came on a bunch of petitions, filed by film-makers, advocates, NGOs, businessmen, social workers etc. Former advocate general Shrihari Aney, opposing the petitions, had argued that the words right to eat, when equated with the words like the right to sleep, breathe or drink carry a specific emphasis. They are concerned with the right of every person to have access to food in order to nourish his body and sustain his life. It cannot be stretched by any means to cover the right to choose a particular kind of food. Therefore, the right to eat cannot be extended to mean that the right to eat beef is a fundamental right.What amended sections meant5B. No person shall purchase, sell or otherwise dispose of or offer to purchase, sell or otherwise dispose of any cow, bull or bullock of any cow, bull or bullock for slaughter or knowing or having reason to believe that such cow, bull or bullock shall be slaughtered.5C. Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, no person being in force, no person shall have in his possession flesh have in his possession flesh of any cow, bulk or bullock slaughtered in contravention of the provisions of this Act.5D: No Person shall have in his possession flesh of any cow, bull/bullock slaughtered outside the state of Maharashtra.

Adarsh scam: Activist decry political leaders for criticising RTI Act

Activists in the state have slammed the leaders who have criticised the Right To Information (RTI) Act, which led to the unearthing of a series of scams, including the Adarsh housing scam. Reportedly, Sawajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal had said that the transparency law was passed under “the US pressure”.Protesting the statement, former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “I am surprised that no one in the Parliament objected to Naresh Agarwal when he said that the RTI Act was passed under the US pressure. It was derogatory to the Parliament and a privilege motion should have been moved against him.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Besides Agarwal, Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which was instrumental in passing of the landmark Act, also criticised it. From Congress, which has often called it its flagship Act, Rajiv Shukla has slammed the provision. Patel was reported to have said that any panwadi or chaiwalla was misusing the Act. RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu, however, said, “The Act was passed through people’s movement. Any person talking against it is talking against the people of India.”Echoing the sentiment, Gandhi said, “The only people who are getting intimidated are citizens from the government machinery. When the government says that the officers are intimidated, they should give some proof. The truth is that a lot of RTI activists are being threatened or murdered. Let them come out with such truth about the government officers. They want to muzzle RTI because it is exposing them.”Activists also said that people had to resort to filing RTI applications because the government was failing to provide suo motu details. “They talk of blackmailers. Who gets blackmailed?” questioned Gandhi. “In any case, misdeeds of powerful people need to be known. What is wrong if a chaiwalla or a panwadi is unearthing them?” he rued.

Congress targets PM Modi over degree row, calls govt ‘habitual offender’

Congress on Saturday took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue of his educational qualification saying his government was a “habitual offender” on the matter.”If the Prime Minister himself is seeking to hide his educational qualifications, then how could common man have the confidence to use the RTI as a tool to fight corruption,” party’s chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said when asked about the CIC’s direction to universities in Delhi and Gujarat to provide proper responses to RTI applications seeking details of education qualification of the Prime Minister.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Recalling the degree row in which HRD Minister Smriti Irani was involved, he noted that a court case is also on in the matter. He said there is also controversy over the degree of Minister of State of HRD Ram Shankar Katheria.Insisting that the Congress respected the Prime Minister despite being his opponent, Surjewala, however, said if the Prime Minister “himself hides his degrees, then how could be the Right to Information be defended”. He said that not only should the Prime Minister make public his educational qualifications, but he should also “act against those in the PMO who attempted to malign him by not giving the information”. He alleged that other BJP leaders too have “misled” on their educational qualifications and that they were “habitual offenders”.Surjewala’s remarks came close on the heels of the Central Information Commission giving direction to the universities of Delhi and Gujarat to provide proper responses to RTI applications seeking details of education qualification of the Prime Minister.The CIC’s order came a day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote a letter to CIC saying he does not object to government records about him being made public and wondered why the Commission wants to “hide” information on Modi’s educational qualification.

Undemocratic systems of governance creating hindrances for developing nations: India tells UN

United Nations: India on Monday said persisting “undemocratic systems” of international governance are creating hindrances for effective participation of developing countries in global decision-making processes, as it expressed disappointment that its repeated calls for a conducive environment has met with resistance.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The global development divide of today can trace its origins in an array of historical injustices that have somehow never completely disappeared from the equation,” Permanent Representative of India to the UN in Geneva Ajit Kumar said at a session of the Working Group on the Right To Development.

Kumar said the global divide is “evident” on Monday in the “persisting undemocratic systems” of international governance where effective participation of developing countries in international decision-making is paved with all kinds of obstacles.

“In this regard, our repeated calls for a conducive international environment as well attempts towards greater acceptance and operationalisation of the right to development at the international level have only yielded disappointment and resistance,” he said.

Kumar called for “strong political will” and “genuine commitment” of the international community to make the right to development a “working reality”.

Kumar stressed that the challenge of guaranteeing human rights becomes nearly impossible to tackle in the face of unmet human needs.

“There seems to be a tacit acknowledgement of this fact in the plethora of internationally agreed declarations, resolutions, decisions and norms on the issue of right to development, however, when it comes to allocation of adequate time and resources to this issue, our collective endeavour at the various UN fora leaves much to be desired,” he said.

The deliberations in all multilateral fora as well decades of experience of the ground realities have established that any lasting progress towards fulfilling the right to development require equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level, apart from the national level policies.

He reiterated the centrality of the right to development in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, saying this would require mainstreaming of the right to development in the policies and operational activities of the UN and its various agencies, funds and programs.

Oxygen cylinder explodes onboard INS Nireekshak, diver loses leg

A Navy diver’s leg had to be amputated while two other sailors were injured on Saturday after an oxygen cylinder exploded on INS Nireekshak.The explosion took place while a diving bailout bottle, a small 12-inch oxygen bottle which is carried by divers in their diving helmet, was being charged, a Navy official said.He said that such an incident has never happened in history of the Indian Navy. “The explosion happened while the crew was working on the deck of the ship,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Right leg of the diver has been amputated from just above the knee. Two other sailors received splinter injuries in the stomach region and legs.The report said that the injured are recuperating in the hospital and their condition is said to be stable.The inquiry has been ordered into the incident.(More details awaited)

Sabarimala temple row: Gender equality is a constitutional message, says SC

New Delhi: Gender equality is a “constitutional message” and the ban on entry of women of a particular age group in the historic Sabarimala temple cannot be claimed as a right to manage religious affairs by its management, the Supreme Court said on Monday.

“Gender equality is a constitutional message and they (temple management) cannot say that this (banning women) comes under their right to manage religious affairs,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.

The bench, also comprising Justices V Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph, reiterated that it would test the “so-called” customary practice under the provisions of the Constitution.

At the outset, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for NGO ‘Happy to Bleed’ which is seeking women’s entry into the historic shrine in Kerala, said the law was meant for “removal of social ills” and constitutional principles would prevail over discriminatory customs and beliefs.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The ban on entry of women cannot be said to be part of the right to manage a public religious places like temple,” she said and referred to various judgements to buttress her arguments.

The right to enter a public temple is available to all Hindus irrespective of gender, she said, adding that any custom, belief or even law could be termed “void” if they do not conform to the constitutional principles.

During the hearing when Jaising started dealing with the aspect that the deity at Sabarimala is “celibate” and “brahmachari”, the bench asked her not to get into it.

“They (Travancore Devaswom Board) rely on customs, tradition and philosophy and you rely on Constitution. Let us not get into the nature of deity…,” the court said, adding it would examine whether any custom is protected by any law.

The court is hearing a PIL, filed by Indian Young Lawyers’ Association (IYLA) seeking entry of women in the Sabarimala temple, located on a hill-top in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta District.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said “the practice, which keeps women away and prevents them from worshipping the deity of the shrine because of their biology, is derogatory and detrimental to their dignity”.

During the hearing, the bench, referring to the belief that the deity at Sabarimala is celibate, asked, “If the deity says I don’t want to see you, why compel him? If he doesn’t want to be pleased, why compel him to be pleased?”.

“The deity saying so is the belief of the persons who are managing the shrine,” Ramachandran said.

The hearing in the case would resume on 22 April.

Earlier, the apex court had said that denying women the right to enter and pray in the historic temple cannot be justified on the basis of traditions which violated constitutional principle.

Jammu and Kashmir: Six killed, 56 injured as bus falls into gorge in Doda

Six persons were killed and 56 others injured when a bus fell into a deep gorge in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, police said.”A bus carrying 62 passengers, on its way to Rehand village in the district, suddenly fell of the cliff into a deep gorge, around 20 kilometers away from the Doda town” Deputy commissioner of Doda, Bhupinder Kumar said. Three persons died on the spot, while three others died on the way to the hospital, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Seven of the 56 injured are in a critical condition, the DC said adding, “We have requested the airforce to provide a helicopter and it is on its way, we will be shifting the seven critically injured to GMC (Government Medical College) Jammu for specialised treatment”.”Right now the priority is to save precious human lives, the enquiry will be conducted to know the exact cause of the mishap,” he said.

HRD plans to rope in NRIs to teach as volunteers

A month-and-a-half after announcing the opening of teaching avenues for volunteer teachers in government schools, the human resource development ministry is looking at the option of roping in NRIs and the Indian diaspora to provide part-time voluntary services in government schools.Government schools are falling short of 9.5 lakh teachers. To narrow down the student-teacher ratio, the ministry is trying to reach voluntary teachers, through a mobile app in collaboration with MyGov.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While critics look at it as a violation of the Right to Education act and a ploy to engage RSS volunteers through the scheme, the ministry says the idea is to make all possible resources available to students and to provide an international level of exposure and new learning tools to underprivileged children.The mobile app which will be available from the first week of April, will have a separate link for NRIs to register themselves in this program. While they will not be involved in day-to-day teaching, the government is looking up to these non-resident volunteers in activities like book reading, recitation, teaching theater, teaching them spellings, grammar, art and craft. “These NRIs will be able to register with us and can contribute when they are in India. They can choose the school from our list and update the concerned school about the activity and their timings,” explained a senior officer of the ministry.Criticising the government’s idea of bringing in foreign volunteers, educationist Anita Rampal accused the government for informalising education and weakening the school education system. “These schemes will only benefit the young people who want to aspire to work in the social sector. They can work in these institutions, flaunt it in their resumes and go abroad to seek jobs in the social sector,” she said.The professor also suggested that instead of getting random national and international volunteers, the government should use its machinery like SCERTs to formally rope in volunteers. “Let those aspiring to volunteer acquire basic training. The states should maintain the data and use their services as and when required,” added Rampal.Besides NRIs, the government is also looking at retired school teachers or other members of the civil society to participate in the program.In a meeting that the HRD minister conducted with its state partners in the month of February, 18 states have agreed to participate in the project. To begin with the ministry will pick up some schools on a pilot basis.Sector experts also feel that instead of looking to untrained NRI volunteers, the states should comply with the RTE act and expedite the process of filling up the vacancies. Under the RTE act all teaching posts were to be filled by 2015. “Instead of focusing on filling in these posts, the government is seeking volunteers. This is defeating the whole concept of RTE,” said Ambrish Rai of the RTE Forum. Rai also questioned the government’s intention of getting affluent NRIs into the picture, when there is a fleet of unemployed educated youth available in the country. “There are young people waiting to get jobs. Why don’t we train them and fill the shortfall? Getting NRIs is no solution to the education problem,” he added.

Aadhaar Bill: Here is how Arun Jaitely justified Lok Sabha’s refusal to adopt proposed amendments

Justifying the Lok Sabha’s turning down the five amendments to the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial, Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Bill 2016 suggested by the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said had the amendments proposed in the Rajya Sabha had been accepted, the encroachment to the Right of Privacy would be much wider.”The Oversight Committee, on issues of national security, would have consisted of either an auditor or an anti-corruption authority, and the Money Bill would have gone beyond the scope of the Money Bill. These lacunae would have pushed the Aadhaar law to the realm of unconstitutionality. Obviously, the Lok Sabha did not agree with the suggestions, and in my view, rightly so,” said the minister.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Explaining the potential ramifications had those five amendments been accepted by the Lower House, Jaitley wrote on his Facebook post, “The 2010 Bill drafted by the UPA had certain provisions in chapter VI, which led to debate. The Bill provided for sharing of identity information with the consent of the Aadhaar number holder, or by an order of any court, or a Competent Authority, disclosing the information on the grounds of ‘National Security’.”The draft Bill was criticised for making provisions, which could compromise an individual’s Right to Privacy, he said, adding: “I have always strongly believed that, notwithstanding the jurisprudential debate on the Right to Privacy, it would be essential to recognize that, Privacy, is an essential aspect of personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.” Why the Lok Sabha did not adopt amendments to the Aadhaar Bill proposed in the Rajya SabhaThe Aadhaar (Targeted…
Arun Jaitley on Friday, March 18, 2016Maintaining that the denial of privacy must, thus, be based on procedure that should be fair, just and reasonable, the minister said, “The 2016 law, therefore, contained stringent provisions both substantially and procedurally with regard to the Right of Privacy.””The core bio-metric information cannot be shared with any person even with the consent of the Aadhaar card holder. The information cannot be unlawfully shared. Instead of permitting any Court to direct production of any such information, only a Court of the District Judge or above has been given the power to order disclosure of information excluding core biometrics,” he said.Stating that ‘National Security’ is the only ground on which a competent authority can share this information, he said, every decision of the competent authority has to be reviewed by a committee comprising the Cabinet Secretary, the Law Secretary and the Secretary, Information Technology, before it is given effect, while the period of the direction of this competent authority has been limited to a maximum of three months.”National Security is a well defined concept. The phrase exists in several legislations and also finds indirect reference in the Constitution in Article 19(2). National security has always been held to be an exception on account of larger public interest, wherein individual’s rights give way to larger public interest,” said the minister. This principle is followed in most advanced liberal democracies; for example, in the United Kingdom, Section 28 of Personal Data Protection Act, 1998 provides that personal data are exempt from the data protection principles on grounds of safeguarding National Security, he said. “The Congress, using its superior numbers in the Rajya Sabha, forced an amendment to replace the words ‘National Security’ with the words ‘Public Emergency or in the interest of public safety’. None of these two phrases are well defined. They are vague and can be elastic. It is also not clear as to how Aadhaar information would have been used in dealing with situations of public emergency or public safety. Certainly, they would have provided a scope much wider for encroaching upon privacy than the words ‘National Security’, which existed in both the 2010 and 2016 law, and would have potentially become the grounds for constitutional challenge at a later date,” he maintained.”The proposed another amendment that the Oversight Committee to review the competent authority’s decision should also comprise either the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) or the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). One is an anti-corruption authority and the other audits the government’s accounts. Both have no nexus whatsoever with the issues of ‘National Security’,” said Jaitley.They, further, proposed to delete Section 57 of the 2016 law, which merely says that if under any other law the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual is permitted, the same law is not being over-ruled, while the proposed amendment wanted all future laws to be over-ruled, said the minister, adding that had a Money Bill started over-ruling future unknown legislations, it would have ceased to be a Money Bill.

Why should you not be considered public authority: CIC asks MP, MLA

Is a legislator a public authority liable to furnish information sought from them under the Right to Information Act? The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued show cause notices to a BJP MP and a Nagaland MLA, in separate cases, seeking their explanation why they should not be declared “public authority” to answer people’s queries under the RTI Act.The Commission has also issued a notice to the BJP President to explain the party’s position, being a public authority.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One of the cases relates to BJP MP from Machhlishahr in Uttar Pradesh Ram Charitra Nishad, who did not furnish his caste certificate as sought by an RTI applicant. “The Commission finds that the information sought is held by Ram Charitra Nishad, MP who thinks it reasonable to give him an opportunity to present his views as to why the Commission should not consider him as public authority and direct him to furnish information,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.Issuing show cause notice to the BJP President, Acharyulu said it is required under principles of natural justice to provide an opportunity to the political party which was declared as ‘Public Authority’ by a full bench decision of Commission dated June 3, 2013, to explain why it should not be directed to give information as sought by the appellant. In the other case related to Nagaland MLA Neiphrezo Keditsu, an RTI applicant had sought from Bangalore-based Rajiv Gandhi University of Health and Sciences, date and year of enrolment for the MBBS course of the legislator who claims to have obtained a degree from the institute.The applicant also sought a certified copy of the MLA’s provisional degree certificate. The applicant submitted that Keditsu has been giving contradictory statements by claiming that he was a doctor at one time while at other time he claims to be a businessman, etc.

BJP the most anti-intellectual party, what is happening in JNU is worrisome: Ramachandra Guha

New Delhi: Noted historian Ramachandra Guha on Tuesday said there is a dearth of right-wing intellectuals in the country as he dismissed RSS as a bunch of “low-level ideologues” and termed BJP as the most “anti-intellectual” party.

He also said what is happening in JNU is “worrisome”.

Ramachandra Guha. Screenshot from YouTube video

Ramachandra Guha. Screenshot from YouTube video

“There is a certain level of truth to the accusation that universities have been colonised by the Left. But that cannot be changed unless the Right throws up better people. You cannot have your principal spokesperson in Anupam Kher, or still less Praveen Togadia, or Smriti Irani. They will only drive our discourse further and further into the mud.

“BJP is sadly the most anti-intellectual party. Unfortunately, RSS were the most profoundly anti-intellectual people. (MS) Golwalkar was a garden-variety bigot. We don’t see people like C Rajagopalachari, who was a profound and complicated thinker,” he said at the Penguin Spring Fever festival in New Delhi.

“Although worrying, the rise of right wing nationalism in the current date is by no means as bad as what happened in the 80s and 90s. It is at the moment geographically confined. UP is worrying because it is a large state that is why the stakes are highest,” he said.

Guha also said that within India, the thought of Hindu fundamentalism was much more terrifying than Islamic fundamentalism, because they are the majority.

“Globally, Islamic terrorism is a very, very dangerous phenomenon and is a danger to the survival of human civilisation. But within India, Hindus are 85 percent. Hindu fundamentalism is much more dangerous than Islamic fundamentalism. I am terrified at the thought of Hindu majoritarianism, because that is what we were not. If India was anything, it was not to be a Hindu Pakistan,” the historian said.

He said religious pluralism was always fragile in India, and stressed on the need to be vigilant against fundamentalists on all sides.

Guha also talked about the rising tendency of people to view scholars as people not very useful to the country, saying that the denunciation of scholarships and universities was “unfortunate”.

“This kind of vulgar denunciation of scholars and scholarships and universities is deeply unfortunate. Though one should not exaggerate how widespread it is, what is happening around JNU is worrisome. I think the attack on our universities is unfortunate and ill-timed,” he said.

“Everyone plays a role in society. I am sure many people in JNU agree that soldiers play a more important role than scholars. In my opinion, teachers and doctors play an important role. Scholars play a role in shaping the national consciousness and understanding,” he added.

PTI

Rahul Gandhi attacks BJP,RSS over poll qualification norms in Haryana and Rajasthan

Signalling a fresh confrontation, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday mounted a fresh attack on the government over making educational qualifications mandatory for contesting Panchayat polls in BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan, accusing BJP and RSS of taking away the right from the poor, dalits and adivasis.”Proud that opposition came together against BJP’s attempt to exclude more than 50% of India’s electorate from the right to contest elections,” Rahul said on Twitter. The Congress Vice President said, “By making edu qualifications mandatory for contesting Panchayat polls, BJP & RSS want to take this right away from the poor, dalits & adivasis”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>His reaction came close on the heels of government facing an embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha, which passed the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address only after an amendment moved by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad was included following a division in which 94 voted for the amendment and 61 against.The amendment regretted that the address did not commit support to rights of all citizens to contest Panchayat elections in the backdrop of a law in Rajasthan and Haryana that made matriculation certificate a criteria for contesting the polls. “The right to contest elections is a basic right of every citizen of India. Our founding fathers fought against the British for this right.”They want to take this right away from all those who have been denied access, exploited & suppressed,” Rahul said in a series of tweets.

Appointments of SC, HC judges not to be brought under RTI: DV Sadananda Gowda

Union Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday said the Centre would not bring the appointments of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.He said the revised draft memorandum of procedure to guide appointments of judges to the apex court and the 24 high courts was in its final stage, and it would be sent to the Chief Justice of India soon. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Gowda said the allocation of E-Courts Phase-II Project in the budget has been increased from Rs. 227 crores to Rs. 286 crores in 2016-17.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The minister said pendency in the apex court has declined from 66,692 cases at the end of the year 2012 to 59,468 as on February 19.Gowda said the pendency in high courts has also declined from around 44 lakh cases at the end of 2012 to 38 lakh as on September last, while the pendency in district and sub-ordinate court cases has declined from 2.68 crore at the end of year 2012 to 2.64 crore at the end of 2014.

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