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Arunachal Pradesh to have BJP govt as 33 MLAs led by Pema Khandu join party

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh has taken a positive turn for the BJP as 33 MLAs of the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh (PPA) have joined the party on Saturday.The MLAs were led by Pema Khandu who was on Thursday suspended from PPA among 10 other members.The 33 MLAs joined the BJP after a meeting today. Arunachal Pradesh now has a BJP government as the party has 2/3rd majority. The PPA, which had total 43 MLAs, had on Thursday midnight temporarily suspended Khandu, deputy chief minister Chhowna Mein and five other MLAs from the primary membership of the party for their alleged “anti-party activities”. It later suspended four other members. A total of eleven MLAs were suspended till now.The Pema Khandu government had claimed on Friday support of 49 of the 60 MLAs on Saturday , including 35 of Peoples Party of Arunachal (PPA) legislators, a day after he was suspended from his own party.Government spokesperson Bamang Felix had claimed that 35 out of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed their faith and allegiance in the leadership of Khandu. “We have support of 49 MLAs including 35 PPA, 12 BJP along with one associate BJP member and one independent,” he claimed at a press conference here. Arunachal has been battling political instability since December last year when Congress dissidents revolted against former chief minister Nabam Tuki.After a series of dramatic developments, which included a special session held at a hotel to vote out Tuki, Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became chief minister in February with the help of 11 BJP lawmakersThe Congress then moved Supreme Court, which turned the clock back and restored Tuki’s government. But Tuki was out within days as he did not enjoy a majority in the 60-member assembly. Pul, who insisted that he be reinstated as chief minister, was left alone in the last minute when lawmakers supposedly backing him shifted their loyalties to Khandu. Pul committed suicide in August and a month later, Khandu walked out of Congress with 42 lawmakers and joined the PPA.

RBI’s refusal of details sheer arrogance, sets dangerous precedent: Activist Shailesh Gandhi

The most shocking aspect of the decision to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes by NDA government is the lack of transparency. The government and the RBI, the monetary authority, have not yet revealed the exact reason why the decision was taken or even about the current status of the economy and cash supply. There have even not been regular press releases or statements from the authorities through out the last 51 days.

The country’s central bank remained silent in the initial days of the demonetisation when the citizens had a harrowing time with cash crunch at banks and ATMs coupled with long queues that also led to even a few deaths of senior citizens. The role of the Reserve Bank of India and its new governor Urjit Patel has come for severe criticism.

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook pageShailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi’s Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi, former Information Commissioner with the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, filed a complaint with the CIC over the RBI’s refusal to answer queries under Right to Information Act by a non-disclosure policy put up on its site on November 30. In a conversation with Firspost, Gandhi explains why the RBI is on the course to setting a dangerous precedent by its refusal to answer queries and setting up its list under its non-disclosure policy which goes against the exemptions laid under the RTI Act, passed by the Supreme Court.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Your take on RBI’s unwillingness to respond to RTI queries.

This is sheer arrogance on the part of the RBI. Almost everyone in power dislikes transparency for themselves, be it the courts, bureaucrats, the RBI and even the media for that matter. Arrogance weighs with everyone who will say that in theory the RTI is good but when asked to release information, will remark: I am not corrupt. I am honest and clean and why should any ordinary citizen question me. Even the honest dislike the RTI and are happy to tell others to be transparent. It takes time to get used to being questions. It is 11 years since the RTI Act came into force.

What the RBI is doing by refusing to answer queries under RTI is denying citizens their fundamental rights. There are ten exemptions under the RTI. These do not include what the RBI is stating as exemption for itself. The central bank has also not given any reason for its actual rejection to the questions posed to it under the RTI.

Our RTI Act is the best in the world and we now rank at number 4 in terms of provisions of law and at 66 with regard to implementation. The Act is grossly misrepresented. The courts also have not been very enthusiastic about it.

You have filed a case against RBI’s refusal with the CIC

Yes, I have filed a complaint with the CIC on 16 December that the RBI is arbitrarily claiming exemption and have spread the net very wide in the garb of following the law and are actually defying the law. I did that because the RBI could set a bad precedent which is dangerous that could lead other public authorities to follow it, which could lead to increase in the load on the CIC. Everyone will compile their own non-disclosure list like the RBI has done and the CIC will not be able to penalise them. I hope the Supreme Court and the CIC takes cognisance of it.

The RBI has in its Disclosure Policy on its site on 30 November said that the list of information which shall not be given is justified by the proclamation that: ‘While compiling the ( nondisclosure) list, it has been the Bank’s endeavour to attain the objectives of the RTI Act, without jeopardizing the financial stability and economic interests of the State.’ Effectively it means that RBI arrogates to itself the right to lay down exemptions to disclosure of information in line with the objectives of the Act. This is the sole prerogative of Parliament which has provided the exemptions to disclosure in Section 8 and 9 of the RTI Act. The RBI’s disclosure policy is actually a non-disclosure. They are the masters and the judges themselves.

What are the 10 areas that are exempted under the RTI Act?

1) To give information, disclosures which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; 2) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court; 3) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; 4) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 5) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 6) information received in confidence from foreign government; 7) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; 8) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; 9) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed; 10) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

When Supreme Court orders are not being adhered to by the RBI, can no action be taken on the institution?

When you defy SC orders, the CIC cannot do anything. The commission has the authority and power to say that the list you put up is too wide ranging and can’t be accepted. That’s all.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 12:24 IST

Maharashtra govt to shut down liquor shops on national, state highways

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra government will implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of December 15 that directed all the states to shut down all liquor shops and vends on national and state highways.State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cited the rising number of deaths in road accidents in the state while stating that the liquor shops on state and national highways will be closed. “Maximum number of deaths due to road accidents were due to drunken driving. The SC verdict effectively means that 12,967 liquor shops in the state that fall within the 500 meter radius will have to shut down after March 31, 2017,” he said.Asked about the contention of the liquor lobby about revenue loss, Mungantiwar said, “anyway they are not in the business of selling holy water.”The minister also said that the Maharashtra government was prepared to incur the loss in its revenue and will implement the order of the apex court. “Out of the total 16,856 deaths in 2015-16, 13,212 deaths were road accident deaths and again out of that maximum of them were due to drunken driving,” Mungantiwar claimed.Meanwhile, officials said due to demonetization, the department anticipates a 4.88% decline in revenue between December 1 to 20.As per State Excise departments data, the department had fixed the revenue income out of liquor for 2016 at Rs 15,343.96 crore.The department had posted a revenue income of Rs 1,024.57 crore in November 2015, whereas the revenue income in November this year was Rs 1,027.35 crore, a rise of 0.27 per cent, shows the data. As per the data, between December 1 to December 20, 2015, the department posted a revenue income of Rs 670.25 crore, while the revenue for the same corresponding period this December stands at Rs 637.57 crore, a deficit of 4.88 per cent.Out of the total 12,967 liquor shops that will face closure after March 31, 2017, Pune district has maximum of 3,932 establishments, officials said. Of these 2,499 are in Nagpur, 2,225 in Kolhapur, , 2,224 in Aurangabad, 1,480 in Konkan region and 1,347 in Nashik district, they said.There are a total of 24,572 country liquor, wine shops, permit rooms, clubs, beer shops, beer and wine serving outlets in the state, said officials.According to them, the government has also directed its Superintendents of State Excise not to approve One Day temporary licenses (FL-4) to clubs that come within the radius of 500 meters from the boundaries of national, state highways and service roads.

Maharashtra: Govt to shut down liquor shops on national, state highways, says prepared to incur losses

Mumbai: Maharashtra government will implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of 15 December that directed all the states to shut down all liquor shops and vends on national and state highways.

State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cited the rising number of deaths in road accidents in the state while stating that the liquor shops on state and national highways will be closed.

“Maximum number of deaths due to road accidents were due to drunken driving. The SC verdict effectively means that 12,967 liquor shops in the state that fall within the 500 meter radius will have to shut down after March 31, 2017,” he told reporters in Mumbai.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Asked about the contention of the liquor lobby about revenue loss, Mungantiwar said, “anyway they are not in the business of selling holy water.”

The minister also said that the Maharashtra government was prepared to incur the loss in its revenue and will implement the order of the apex court.

“Out of the total 16,856 deaths in 2015-16, 13,212 deaths were road accident deaths and again out of that maximum of them were due to drunken driving,” Mungantiwar claimed. Meanwhile, officials said due to demonetisation, the department anticipates a 4.88 per cent decline in revenue between 1to 20 December.

As per State Excise departments data, the department had fixed the revenue income out of liquor for 2016 at Rs 15,343.96 crore.

The department had posted a revenue income of Rs 1,024.57 crore in November 2015, whereas the revenue income in November this year was Rs 1,027.35 crore, a rise of 0.27 per cent, shows the data.

As per the data, between 1 December to 20 December, 2015, the department posted a revenue income of Rs 670.25 crore, while the revenue for the same corresponding period this December stands at Rs 637.57 crore, a deficit of 4.88 percent.

Out of the total 12,967 liquor shops that will face closure after March 31, 2017, Pune district has maximum of 3,932 establishments, officials said. Of these 2,499 are in Nagpur, 2,225 in Kolhapur, , 2,224 in Aurangabad, 1,480 in Konkan region and 1,347 in Nashik district, they said.

There are a total of 24,572 country liquor, wine shops, permit rooms, clubs, beer shops, beer and wine serving outlets in the state, said officials.

According to them, the government has also directed its Superintendents of State Excise not to approve One Day temporary licenses (FL-4) to clubs that come within the radius of 500 meters from the boundaries of national, state highways and service roads.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 22:18 IST

Struggling since four years, Nirbhaya’s parents await justice

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The parents of December 16 gang-rape victim on Thursday expressed their anguish over the country’s justice system and said it is extremely unfortunate that tough legal action has not yet been initiated against the convicts despite four years after the incident.”We have been struggling for four years, but still the convicts are alive,” said Asha Devi, the victim’s mother, while hoping that the Supreme Court would very soon pronounce a favourable judgement.She also expressed her ire at the BJP-led NDA Government for renaming the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ as ‘Sakhi’.”It was announced that Nirbhaya crisis centre would be set up in every district with the funds collected so far, but now we get to know that the name of this fund has been changed to Sakhi,” she added.She urged Union Women and Child Development Minister Meneka Gandhi not to change the name of this fund named in honour of her daughter.”I will not get anything from the crisis centre, but the government by doing so is actually suppressing the voices of the rape victims. I want to ask the government why the name ‘Nirbhaya’ has been removed,” she said.The victim’s mother further called for a change in mindset to ensure that such unfortunate incident never ever takes place with any ‘Nirbhaya’.”We all must join hands to bring a change in society for the better. We all must learn to respect women,” she added.

Suspended MP Sasikala Pushpa has no right to enter party office: AIADMK

Wed, 28 Dec 2016-06:47pm , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) on Wednesday said that suspended MP Sasikala Pushpa is not a member of their party and has no right to enter its office.”She (Sasikala Pushpa) is no more in AIADMK. What right does she have to come to the party office?” said AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi.Earlier in the day, Pushpa’s lawyer was attacked by party cadre.The incident took place when four lawyers of Pushpa’s team had gone to the AIADMK headquarters to submit a letter.Pushpa who filed a petition in Supreme Court, demanding a probe into the death of J Jayalalithaa, had earlier said that A proper inquiry should be done as the people of the state want to know the actual reason behind the death of the former Tamil Nadu chief minister.
ALSO READ Watch: Suspended AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa’s lawyer attacked outside party officePushpa filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court earlier on Sunday, urging it to order for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the death.

‘Sahara-Birla’ papers: Why is PM shying away from independent probe, asks Sheila Dikshit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Toeing the party line, Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi wondering why he was shying away from an independent probe into the ‘Sahara-Birla’ papers relating to pay-offs, days after her comments questioning autheticity of the documents put Congress on the backfoot.The Congress’ CM candidate in Uttar Pradesh also debunked speculation that she was distancing herself from the campaigning in the poll-bound state in the wake of the controversy.”Why is @PMOIndia shying from an independent and a thorough probe into the #BirlaSaharaPapers?,” Dikshit tweeted.Dikshit, whose name allegedly figured in the ‘Sahara diaries’ along with many other politicians, had trashed it, putting party Vice President Rahul Gandhi in a tight spot as he had charged Modi with taking money from corporate houses based on the document.”I have said what I had to. The ball is in the court of the @PMOIndia & others now. Will he respond and come out clean? #SaharaBirlaDiaries (sic),” Dikshit said in another tweet.With BJP targeting it following Dikshit’s comments, Congress maintained that it wanted an independent and thorough probe into the “Sahara diaries” corruption issue.There was speculation that Dikshit may not remain Congress’ chief ministerial face in Uttar Pradesh following the controversy.Rejecting the speculations, Dikshit also junked reports that she has suspended her scheduled programmes in Aligarh.”I am amused to see ‘Sheila distances herself from UP’ speculation in media. Aligarh was not on my schedule. I will be in Barabanki tomorrow,” she said.The former Delhi Chief Minister’s name purportedly figured in the list that Congress had put out in a tweet two days back as proof of its allegations against Modi which upset her.On Sunday reacting strongly to the allegations, Dikshit had vehemently denied any wrongdoings calling the charges “all hearsay”. He had said the Supreme Court had already made observations on the diaries, comments that appeared similar to BJP’s argument in defending Modi.

UP polls: Sheila Dikshit ‘amused’ to see speculations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday rubbished reports suggesting that she has withdrawn her name as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.The former Delhi chief minister said that she was amused to see speculations that she has distanced herself from the Uttar Pradesh polls.Meanwhile, Dikshit also threw light on her upcoming visits to various places in the politically crucial state in the run up to the assembly polls. “Aligarh was not on my schedule. I will be in Barabanki tomorrow,” Dikshit tweeted.Earlier, it was reported that the former Delhi chief minister may withdraw her candidature after her name appeared on the Sahara list.The report said that Dikshit is unhappy with her name being surfaced in the recent Sahara diary leaks and Twitter fiasco following the same.With Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over ‘ Sahara diaries’ bribery issue, a controversy erupted after the grand old party put out a list linked to it on Twitter in which a reference to Dikshit also allegedly figured.ikshit strongly denied the charges and trashed the documents, saying the Supreme Court has already made its observations on them.

Jessica Lall case: AAP government to take a call on Manu Sharma’s parole

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the AAP government to decide in three days the parole plea of Manu Sharma, undergoing life term for killing model Jessica Lall in 1999. “The government of National Capital Territory of Delhi is directed to dispose of the application/representation of the petitioner (Sharma) within three days from the date of receipt of this order,” Justice Pratibha Rani said.The court said the order passed by the government should be communicated immediately to the petitioner and his counsel through the jail superintendent. The direction came on plea by Sharma, who sought three months’ parole to enable him appear for LLB second semester exams from December 31, attend his Personal Contact Programme and re-establish social ties.Advocate Amit Sahni, appearing for Sharma, said three month was required as the convict has to appear before the Registrar in Chandigarh on January 19 next year for registration of his marriage. Sahni said the government has not yet taken any decision on the application since October this year.Additional Standing Counsel Sanjay Lao, appearing for the government, then said the application filed by the petitioner seeking parole shall be disposed of expeditiously. The court noted that the parole application was sent to the competent authority only on December 7, which has not yet been decided.The convict, who has been given parole six times since September 2009, has completed a post-graduate diploma in Human Rights and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s in Law course from Annamalai University, Chennai.Sharma, son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, was awarded life imprisonment by the high court in December 2006 for killing Jessica Lall in 1999. The trial court had acquitted him, but the Delhi High Court had reversed it and the Supreme Court had upheld the life sentence in April 2010. Lall was shot dead by Sharma after she had refused to serve him liquor at the Tamarind Court restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani at Qutub Colonnade in South Delhi’s Mehrauli on the night of April 30, 1999.

National Herald case: After setback in Delhi Court, Swamy to move SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy on Monday said that he would file an appeal in the Supreme Court in connection with the National Herald case.Swamy’s assertion came after a Delhi Court dismissed his plea seeking documents from the Congress Party in connection with this case. “I will appeal to the Supreme Court on Patiala House Court’s order. The law is very clear that I am entitled to ask the court and summon the documents in possession of certain institutions,” he said.Rejecting Swamy’s plea, the Patiala House Court earlier in the day observed that the order was passed without giving any notice or opportunity of hearing to the opposite side. The court also directed Swamy to move the trial court again with a similar plea. Swamy alleged that the National Herald took lots of benefits from the then government.Swamy has accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi of allegedly conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs. 50 lakh through which Young Indian obtained the right to recover Rs. 90.25 crore that the Associated Journals Ltd owed to the grand old party. Besides the Congress president and her son, party leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda and Young Indian are accused in this case.The court has now put up the matter on February 10 for pre-charge proceedings.On Swamy’s plea, the trial court in its January 11 and March 11 orders had sought documents from Ministries of Finance and Urban Development, Department of Corporate Affairs and Income Tax Department and 2010-11 balance sheet of the Congress party in the case, which were submitted by the INC and AJL on April 8. However on July 12, Delhi High Court had set aside both the orders of the trial court saying they were passed in a “casual manner” and “without application of mind”.Swamy then filed a fresh application before the trial court seeking summoning of certain documents while the Congress leaders and AJL sought the return of documents including its balance sheet, which had been submitted in the court. In this application, Swamy had sought documents relating to a loan given by the Congress to the AJL, the holding firm of the National Herald, saying these were necessary for the purpose of trial.During the hearing on December 9, the counsel appearing for the accused had told the court that Swamy was seeking a “fishing and roving enquiry” in the case by calling for documents from the party and the AJL as he wanted to make out a “new case” against them. Swamy, however, had termed the allegation as baseless and said his demand was legitimate.The court had on June 26, 2014, summoned Sonia, Rahul, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda as accused in the case besides YI. It had on December 19, 2015, granted bail to Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to summons. Pitroda was granted bail on February 20 when he had appeared in the court. Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned for alleged offences under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

Sabarimala temple row: Activist Trupti Desai won’t be allowed inside, says Kerala govt

Sabarimala (Kerala): The Kerala government on Monday said that the entry of Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai will not be allowed in the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, even as the activist plans to lead 100 odd women to the famous hill shrine.

There are restrictions for the entry of women between 10-50 years of age in the temple.

Trupti Desai. PTI file image

Trupti Desai. PTI file image

“The Sabarimala temple is administered by Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and its traditions and rules are applicable to everyone,” Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters in Sabarimala.

“The matter with regard to entry of women of all age groups is already before the supreme court. There will be no change in the tradition and customs,” until a decision is taken by the supreme court, he said.

The CPM-led LDF government’s stand comes after it had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court last month informing that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple.

Trupti Desai had recently stated that she would be visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple next month with 100 odd activists and there was no change in her plans.

Desai had earlier campaigned for the entry of women at the Shani Shingnapur, Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple and Haji Ali dargah.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 16:52 IST

Aamir Khan wins Dangal: Jingoism loses to Indians who don’t tolerate intolerance

It doesn’t need a genius to know who won the Dangal between Aamir Khan and the trolls who wanted his film boycotted. Numbers speak for themselves: In only the first three days, the film has grossed Rs 100 crore and become the year’s biggest hit after Sultan.

The impact of the film could be compared to Geeta Phogat’s dhobi paat — when the rival is lifted, swung in the air and then slammed like wet cloth on the mat — on those who wanted to teach the actor a lesson by boycotting the film. Hopefully, they will have realised that India doesn’t tolerate such intolerance.

Nobody would have missed the irony of Dangal. In a theatre where we watched the film first-day-first-show — the standard response to any call for a ban or boycott — the loudest cheers and slogans (some actually chanted Bharat Mata ki Jai) are triggered by the camera panning to Aamir’s face as the National Anthem is played in the climactic moments of the film.

Jana Gana Mana, courtesy the Supreme Court’s decision — is played twice in the film. Before the film’s beginning, when the National Anthem is played, it is seen merely as a duty imposed on an audience that needs to learn the virtues of nationalism and patriotism. But, when it coincides with Aamir’s triumph and elation, the audience reacts spontaneously, stands up in rapt attention, exults with both pride and joy felt by Aamir. In those few seconds alone, the pseudo-nationalists would have died a million deaths watching an actor they had branded anti-national lead the collective rush of love and respect for the country.

Aamir Khan during the shooting of Dangal.

Aamir Khan during the shooting of Dangal.

But then, this essentially is the real India — liberal, tolerant and patron of cinema that is loyal to just one ideology — entertainment. It is an antithesis to the bias, bigotry and hate peddled on social media by a few in the name of bogus nationalism.

This is not the first Dangal Aamir, and by extension the India he represents, has won. Social media campaigns based on chest-thumping jingoism and barely-concealed religious biases have always been given the dhobi-paat by real India (as against the handful carrying carry out their jihad through keypads).

Aamir’s PK was the biggest hit of 2014 even as the Hindutva brigade railed against it for “targetting and mocking” their religion. Snapdeal, whose boycott was sought by twitter jihadis because of its association with Aamir, grew in the aftermath of the onslaught. On Diwali, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil made pots of money in spite of calls for a ban and boycott. Chinese products continue to fly off the shelves even when keyboard-nationalists fly into a rage.

Why does the boycott brigade often lose the Dangal? The simplest explanation is that they are just an irrelevant fringe that sometimes entertains and sometimes irritates. But nothing more than that. To quote poet Rahat Indori:

Khilaaf hain, to hone do, jaan thori hai,

Ye sab dhuaan hai, koi aasman thori hai

(If they are opposed to you, let them be, they are just smoke, not the sky.)

There are other reasons too. It is difficult to sustain hate for too long. Indians don’t like to be told what to do in the name of various isms. Love for cinema and its stars transcends politics. And, obviously, social media jihadis get exposed and then buried under their own contradictions, like supporting construction of a mammoth statue that costs crore and simultaneously asking others to not spend Rs 200 on Dangal because that money can feed some poor.

Sometimes it is difficult to not pity those seeking a ban or pleading for a boycott. They do it in the name of self-respect, in the name of Hindutva, in the name of patriotism, for the sake of Malda, Bengal, soldiers, to teach Pakistan a lesson…almost anything. Bas, boycott kar de, Baba!

The success of Dangal shows India is indeed large-hearted and charitable. But, it gives its love, respect and, even hard-earned money, only to those who deserve it, not those who demand it as a token of acceptance of their misguided agendas.

Boycott calls, in the end, turn out to be haanikarak for those pleading for it.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 14:59 IST

Sheila Dixit junks Sahara documents: BJP takes on Rahul Gandhi for ‘fabricated’ claims

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday questioned Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s intent after former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit junked the documents related to ‘Sahara diaries’ bribery issue and said this clearly indicates that whatever he speaks is lie and fabricated.”Everyone knows that Sheila Dikshit is a trusted person of the Gandhi family and if she has refuted and she has very clearly stated that there is no truth in it the fact is now open to everyone to see that what the intent of Mr Rahul Gandhi was and what he is up to,” BJP leader Zafar Islam said. “That is why I am saying again and again that people of India do not pay attention to Rahul Gandhi because it is all lie and all fabricated and always far far away from truth,” he added.With the Congress vice-president targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over ‘Sahara diaries’ bribery issue, a controversy erupted after the grand old party put out a list linked to it on Twitter in which a reference to Dikshit also allegedly figured. Dikshit, who is the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, strongly denied the charges and trashed the documents, saying the Supreme Court has already made its observations on them.

New Delhi: Court acquits two men of charges of waging war against country

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A city court has acquitted two persons of charges of waging war against the country in an over ten-year-old case registered by Delhi Police which had claimed that they were members of a banned militant outfit.Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh absolved Bihar residents, Irshad Ali and Maurif Qamar, who were allegedly picked up by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in 2005.The case was later transferred to CBI following directions of the Delhi High Court. After probing the matter, CBI had filed a closure report in the case claiming that the two men were informers of the special cell and Intelligence Bureau.According to the FIR, the police apprehended Ali and Qamar from Mukarba Chowk bus stand in north west Delhi on February 9, 2006. It was alleged that both were members of banned outfit Al-Badr and were carrying arms and ammunition including pistols, live cartridges and detonators.Thereafter, an FIR under section including 121 (waging war against Government of India) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, and under several provisions of the Explosive Substance Act and the Arms Act was registered.The accused, however, approached the high court and sought a CBI inquiry in the case alleging that both were illegally picked up by Delhi Police in December 2005 from the city and that they were the informers of the agency’s special cell and Intelligence Bureau, advocate Sufian Siddiqui, the counsel for the accused, said.The high court directed a CBI probe in the matter and the agency filed a closure report.The trial court, however, rejected the CBI’s report against which the accused again approached the high court. The high court asked the city court to consider CBI’s report.The special cell, however, had approached the Supreme Court against the high court order. The apex court in December 2012 directed the trial court to take the call and, if needed, ask the agency for re investigation in the matter.The trial court then ordered framing of charges without considering CBI’s closure report, the counsel said.The accused again approached the high court challenging the city court order for trial in the case. Thereafter, the high court again asked the trial court to consider all the aspects before passing the order which has now resulted into the acquittal of the accused. The accused were on bail since July 2009.

D-day for politicians? SC to hear plea seeking cancellation of exemption to political parties under IT Act

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court said it would next month hear a plea seeking quashing of a provision of the Income Tax (IT) Act on tax exemption to political parties on receiving voluntary contributions. A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and L Nageswara Rao said there was no urgency in hearing the plea as the law has been in force for over 50 years and added that it would take it up on January 11. “You are challenging a provision of the IT Act which is there since 1960s. What is the urgency? Let the matter come up before the court after vacations. This Act is going on for over 50 years,” the bench told petitioner advocate M L Sharma.Sharma urged the court to hear the matter today itself and claimed that on December 16, the government had declared that no investigation will be carried out against political parties’ accounts on deposit of old demonetised notes as per the tax exemption given under section 13A of the IT Act.He said old currency notes were being deposited in the accounts of political parties and “the problem is that they would withdraw the money”.The bench then said “what is going to happen in the next one week? Let the matter come up for hearing on January 11”.In his plea, the petitioner has claimed that political parties registered with Election Commission of India are 100 per cent exempt from paying income tax under section 13A of the IT Act, 1961, so long as they file their tax returns every assessment year along with their audited accounts, income or expenditure details and balance sheet.He has sought a direction to the CBI to register a case and investigate fundings and deposits in the accounts of political parties in demonetised currency notes.Besides, the petitioner has also sought quashing of a provision of the Representation of the People Act 1951 which relates to “special provisions in the case of certain elections”.

Lalu calls Narendra Modi ‘Uncle Podger’, lends support to Rahul Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>RJD chief Lalu Prasad demanded the Prime Minister reply to charges of alleged corruption against him levelled by Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, even as he compared Narendra Modi to ‘Uncle Podger’ for “messing up economy” by his demonetization move. Demanding the charges be probed under supervision of the Supreme Court, the RJD chief said, “The allegations levelled by Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi of receiving huge money is even a bigger quake than talked about. He gave details of sum of money with dates on which payments were made.” “The Prime Minister should reply to the accusation and if the allegations are wrong why does not he file a defamation suit against Rahul Gandhi?” he said. “The Prime Minister should announce a high-level probe under supervision of the Supreme Court into the allegations,” he added.Launching a blistering attack on the Prime Minister for “ill-planned” demonetization, Prasad mockingly described Narendra Modi as ‘Uncle Podger’– a bumbling character from Jerome K Jerome’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’– for “messing up economy” and “pushing it towards anarchy”. “Demonetization has flopped and those raising voice of people over anarchy caused by it are termed as traitors,” he said as a retort to PM’s comment on rivals at Varanasi.Prasad whose party has already announced a dharna against scrapping of notes in district headquarters of Bihar on December 28 said later a rally would be held at Gandhi Maidan in Patna. He said he would tour the state before the rally.
ALSO READ Rahul Gandhi is now trying to be new Kejriwal: BJPPrasad claimed support of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and said Kumar has also dismissed plea of converting the country into cashless society. “Nitish Kumar has said he would review demonetization after December 30…there is no difference in the grand alliance…we are strongly united,,” Prasad, whose party RJD is running coalition government with JD(U) and Congress in Bihar, said. He also supported Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s assertions that “only 5-6 big families close to PM are eating into the wealth of the country”. The RJD chief said the PM had sought 50 days from people for ending the problems caused after demonetization out of which only few days are left now. “This (demonetization) would also end up as ‘jumla’ like promise to give Rs 15-20 lakh to every citizen out of black money brought back home from abroad,” he said.

BJP hits back at Rahul Gandhi for ‘pro-rich’ jibe, says UPA gave loans worth Rs 36.5 lakh crore

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hitting back after Rahul Gandhi’s “pro-rich” jibe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP alleged on Thursday that the UPA government had showered business houses with concessions and loans worth over Rs 36.5 lakh crore which the government is working to recover now. It also rejected the Congress vice president’s corruption charge against Modi, claiming even the Supreme Court had not taken note of the allegations, earlier levelled by his “political guru” Arvind Kejriwal.At a press conference soon after Gandhi’s rally in Uttar Pradesh, BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said these allegations against Modi date back to 2013 when Gandhi was “super prime minister” and the then UPA government could find nothing despite agencies like CBI, ED and I-T working under it.Seeking to turn the tables on Gandhi over his constant efforts to paint Modi as a “pro-corporate and pro-rich”, he cited RBI figures released soon after BJP came to power in 2014 to claim that debts of Gautam Adani, Anil Ambani, Shashi and Ravi Ruia, and Sunil Mittal were Rs 72,632 crore, Rs 1.13 lakh cr, Rs 98,412 cr and Rs 57,744 cr respectively. “Rahul Gandhi has been accusing us of being pro-corporate. He should tell people why and on whose behest the UPA government let these industrialists run so much of debt…. It showered business houses with concessions and loans running into Rs 36.5 lakh crore. All these debts Modi is trying to recover,” Sharma said.He also alleged that the UPA government ensured that liquor baron Vijay Mallya was given a loan of Rs 1,500 crore despite having defaulted on bank payments.

Rahul Gandhi is now trying to be new Kejriwal: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday took a jibe at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over his allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he is now competing with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal just to be relevant in the media.BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli also took potshots at Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav for backing Gandhi. “Look at the jungle raj earlier in Lalu Yadav’s regime and its return now. If he supports Rahul Gandhi then Rahul should think about it. Whether this is the kind of support he relishes because his politics has also undertaken a turn,” Kohli said.”He is now trying to be the new Kejriwal, any kind of allegation, nothing to do with evidence, no substantiation. Just make an allegation and be relevant in the media. His competition with Kejriwal is as who will occupy the top spot of this kind of politics. He is happy with Lalu Yadav’s support on his issues then it is good for him,” he said.Another BJP leader Sambit Patra also mocked Gandhi, saying the latter is making desperate attempts to become the supreme power within the Congress Party. “One has to remember that the Supreme Court is supreme and Rahul Gandhi is smaller than that. Rahul Gandhi is maybe trying to become the supreme power within the Congress Party (and) even in that he has not succeeded,” Patra said.”The Supreme Court has categorically observed that the papers provided by him are not authentic. The people of this country are intelligent, they know the Supreme Court is to be respected and not Rahul Gandhi,” he added.Earlier in the day, the RJD chief backed Gandhi’s assertion that corporates paid crores as bribes to Prime Minister Modi in 2013-14 and demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the same.Lalu said that Prime Minister Modi, who is now completely trapped, owes an explanation to the nation. “Rahul Gandhi has alleged Aditya Birla and Sahara Group had given Rs 40 crores to Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister is completely trapped and now he will have to give an explanation. If any BJP spokesperson comes up with justification on his behalf then that would be unfair,” he added.The RJD chief further stated that the Congress vice-president wouldn’t have made such allegations against the Prime Minister without any proof. “Without proof, Rahul Gandhi won’t say this…or any leader won’t accuse the Prime Minister of this. It proves that the Prime Minister was involved in corruption. I demand a Supreme Court-monitored probe in this regard,” he added.Speaking in Gujarat’s Mehsana on Wednesday, Gandhi alleged that in the records with the Income Tax, there were notings of Sahara officials’ claims that they paid Prime Minister Modi nine times between October 2013 and February 2014 and that the total amount was Rs 40 crore.He also alleged that according to documents with the IT department, the Birla Group too paid Rs 12 crore to the Prime Minister.Seeking an independent inquiry, Gandhi said that he was raising the issue “on behalf of the country”.

A world of highs, and terrible lows

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“Aye maalik tere bande hum,aise ho hamaare karam,neki par chalein, aur badee se tale,taaki hanste hue nikale dam”The plaintive notes echo in the winter night as Hasina sings softly. Dressed in nothing but a torn kurta and salwar in Delhi’s Kashmere Gate, she sniffs a rag soaked in ‘solution’, a substance that drives her life and leaves her doubled up in painful abdominal cramps when she doesn’t get it.Hasina, one of thousands of homeless drug addicts in the national capital, is only 15. Her story ­is a tragic pointer to the alarming fact that 20 per cent of addicts in India are under 21, according to government estimates, and that urgent interventions are needed to help them save their lives.Originally from Bawana district in Uttar Pradesh, Hasina is the third of six siblings, all of whom still live in the village with her mother. Four years ago, when she was only 11, Hasina boarded a train with her ‘best friend’ and came to Delhi. Both lived on the streets for a couple of days before her friend disappeared.Her companion these days is her husband Vishnu, a labourer with wedding contractors who she had confided in when she found herself alone. The couple wants to have children but Hasina, still a child herself, knows that she has a drug problem and that it’s just not possible.She says she can go without food, but not without her daily dose of ‘solution’. She was introduced to drugs by her friends on the streets and has been sniffing ever since she found the ‘magical’ (‘jadui’ as she puts it) world of high.‘Solution’ is a chemical vulcanising fluid used to repair tyre-tube patches. The tube declares clearly, “avoid prolonged or repeated contact with skin or breathing of vapour”, and warns that it should be sold in bulk. But it is readily available and is much in demand amongst children who cannot afford more serious drugs. A tube costs Rs 50 and a cloth piece soaked in ‘solution’ from another kid costs only Rs 10 — just what we give them when they beg at red-lights.Many stories“Ismein itna dum hai, poora tent jalaa sakta hai (This stuff is so powerful that it can burn the entire tent),” pipes in another child at Loha Pul, Kashmere Gate, as he breathes into a cloth in his hand. Of the estimated 4,500 addicts in the area, 100 are children.Seven-year-old Hajikul can’t remember the last time he was sober. He ran away from his home in Delhi’s JJ Colony. “Gham hai to pee raha hun,” (I take drugs because I’m depressed),” he says with the philosophical air of someone thrice his age. He has been sent to a drug-rehabilitation centre twice, but the pain and nightmares of the withdrawal process make him leave the place every time.Nightmares are common among drug users. In Freud’s theory of dreams, dreams/nightmares are the fulfilment of unacceptable wish. Thus, it can be that these nightmares are hints which may prompt an increased desire to drugs. Kids are more prone to these nightmares and scared, they go back to using drugs.Hajikul and his partner, Salman, go home every time they feel the need to stay away from drugs. But the crippling stomach pains, loose-motions, dizziness and vomiting bring them back to the life they have now come to terms with.Cold turkeyCold turkey is the abrupt termination of substance dependence and the resulting painful experience. In his book Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts, impressively describes ‘cold turkey’, a process Hajikul, Salman and a few have tried, but failed.“Think about every time in your life that you’ve ever been afraid, really afraid. Someone sneaks up behind you when you think you’re alone, and shouts to frighten you. The gang of thugs closes in around you. You fall from a great height in a dream, or you stand on the very edge of a steep cliff. Someone holds you under water and you feel the breath gone, and you scramble, fight, and claw your way to the surface. You lose control of the car and see the wall rushing into your soundless shout. Then add them all up, all those chest-tightening terrors, and feel them all at once, all at the same time, hour after hour, and day after day. And think of every pain you’ve ever known, the burn with hot oil, the sharp sliver of glass, the broken bone, the gravel rash when you fell on the rough road in winter, the headache and the earache and the toothache. Then add them all up, all those groin-squeezing, stomach-tensing shrieks of pain, and feel them all at once, hour after hour and day after day. Then think of every anguish you’ve ever known. Remember death of a loved one. Remember a lover’s rejection. Recall your feelings of failure and shame and unspeakably bitter remorse. And add them all up, all the heart-stabbing griefs and miseries, and feel them all at once hour after hour, and day after day. That’s cold turkey.”Injectable tooIf some like Hasina and Hajikul sniff their way into oblivion, others like 12-year-old Mohammad Qasim inject themselves. Wearing a jacket double his size, he sits stroking his hand to inject a needle in his veins. He was introduced to Amvil injection by a fellow addict to ease the pain after he developed painful sores on his legs. He has been injecting himself since he was seven. Both his arms have needle marks.Qasim has seen people his age and older die here in the streets. “Mera dost Akash mar gaya injection lagate hue. Maine uske syringe se injection lagaya (My friend Akash died while putting an injection. I have used his syringe for an injection)”, says Qasim, who does not mind stealing injections from or near dead-bodies who die of overdose. Drug overdose is common and one or two unidentified bodies are found in the area each day.Not surprisingly, several people have acquired HIV. ‘Addnok’ tablets, distributed by NGOs to stop the urge to get high, are crushed and mixed with the Amvil ‘solution’ and taken as a strong intravenous drug. The used syringes have led to an increased risk of HIV among adults as well as children. For better effect, some of them have started to inject needles in their genitals.“We manage to send children to rehab centres after a lot of effort but they run away from there. The problem is not making them leave drugs for a few days, the problem is what to do afterwards? Their families don’t accept them and their life on the streets makes them go back to drugs,” said Gurfran who works with the NGO Aman Biradri. “We receive HIV cases too. These are passed on to the NACO (National Aids Control Organisation). I’ve seen kids as young as four years addicted to ‘solution’ and injections. In most cases, their parents make them sniff ‘solution’ in order to use them for begging (so they can carry the high/sleeping child in their laps)”Cops in the area do not go near these addicts, an official admitted. “They are in huge numbers and we know about their diseases. Sometimes, they use syringes as their weapons.”In his child rights petition filed in 2014, Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi asked the government to act on the issue of child drug abuse. Moving on the petition, the Supreme Court on December 14 ordered the Central government to come up with a national action plan to control drug abuse among people under 21 in the next six months. While the government thinks of a plan to deal with the problem, the young minds of India are busy finding ways to get high.“Ye andhera ghanaa cha raha, tera insaan ghabara raha.” Hasina’s singing haunts. But are the authorities listening?

Cyrus Mistry’s charges of weak governance mischievous: Tata Sons

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tata Sons on Wednesday rebutted ousted chairman Cyrus P Mistry’s allegations of weak corporate governance at India’s largest conglomerate, calling it amalgam of half-truths and untruths.Reached for comments on Mistry’s claim in a petition before National Company Law Tribunal that the governance framework at Tata Sons is weak, a Tata Sons spokesperson expressed “surprise” at the assertion.”It is mischievous on the part of any Tata Sons executive to suggest the lack of a strong governance framework at Tata Sons, more so someone who has been associated with the company as a director since 2006. One can only call these allegations as an amalgam of half-truths and untruths,” he said.Stating that a strong governance framework exists at Tata Sons, the spokesperson said: “In line with the Tata Group’s ethos, Tata Sons has always gone over and beyond the requirement of the law on matters of corporate governance. In fact, over the years we have reinforced this formal governance framework.” He added that in 2012-13, the Tata Sons board and Mistry had given their explicit approval to an amended governance framework involving Tata Trusts and Tata Sons.”Mr Mistry willingly participated in this process and his entire family shareholding in Tata Sons voted upon to effect these amendments,” he said. Tata Sons were advised on this by Justice BN Srikrishna and former Attorney General of Maharashtra Darius Khambatta and the spokesperson said Mistry was himself present in several meetings on this matter. “We reiterate Mr Cyrus Mistry and his family holdings in 2013 had fully supported and approved the governance framework that is embodied in the Articles of Association of Tata Sons,” he added.Mistry, who was abruptly removed as chairman of Tata Group’s holding company on October 24, yesterday filed a petition before NCLT seeking replacement of Tata Son’s current board and appointment of a retired Supreme Court judge as non-executive chairman. In a statement yesterday, Tata Sons had reiterated that it has followed the highest standards of corporate governance in its operations and views the petition filed by Mistry’s companies as an unfortunate outcome of the situation arising from his complete disregard of the ethos of the Tata Group and Jamsetji Tata.Despite Mistry’s recent assertions that it is not a personal issue, it is evident that it always has been for him a personal issue which reflects his deep animosity towards Ratan N Tata, said the statement.

Odd-even cannot be implemented in one day, will happen after adequate preparations: Delhi govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government made it clear on Tuesday that the third phase of odd-even scheme will only happen in the city with prior adequate preparations and awareness to the people as Transport Minister Satyendar Jain conveyed it in the NCR Planning Board meeting chaired by Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu.Jain has asked the Centre to give the city administration sufficient time before asking it to implement the next round of car-rationing scheme as part of anti-pollution emergency measures. The main focus of the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) meeting was on the rising pollution level in the city.Earlier this month, the Centre had submitted in the Supreme Court its action plan to tackle the menace of air pollution and recommended slew of measures including ban on construction activities and implementation of odd-even scheme in the national capital. “In the NCR Planning Board meeting, I have requested the Centre to give us sufficient time before implementing the odd-even scheme so that we can sensitise people and generate awareness among the masses about it.”I have no objection on the next round of odd-even scheme. If Centre today says that odd-even will be implemented tomorrow, it cannot happen in one day. We need sufficient time before implementing the scheme,” Jain told reporters here.The minister also urged the central government to think about the livelihood of lakhs of labourers before banning construction activities as it has come to the notice that due to this move, labourers go to their native villages. “When the construction activities were recently banned in Delhi, most of labourers had gone to their villages. In view of this, I have requested the Union Minister to consider about their livelihood before taking any such decision,” he added.Jain said that during the meeting the report of IIT Kanpur on the city’s air pollution was also discussed, according to which there should be ban on power plants within radius of 300 km of Delhi. Apart from this, the report has also recommended controlling dust pollution through vacuum cleaning. “I raised both the issues in meeting and the Union Minister assured us to look into into,” Jain said, adding he also highlighted the delay in completion of three Urban Extension Roads being constructed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA).”There has already been a delay in completing these roads built in Outer Delhi. DDA has been constructing them for 15 years, but it is yet to complete them. “I have requested the Union Urban Development Minister to direct the agency to construct it as soon as possible so that there is no traffic congestion in Delhi,” he said.The Delhi government has also requested the Centre to construct Eastern and Western peripheral expressways at the earliest so that non-destined vehicles do not enter the city.

1995 Tandoor murder case: Convict seeks parole, Delhi HC seeks response from govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi High Court sought the response of Delhi government on Tuesday, on a plea filed by former youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma, who is undergoing life term in the 1995 sensational Tandoor murder case, seeking parole for a period of six months to take care of his ailing parents.Justice Vipin Sanghi issued notice to the government and directed it to respond by January 25 on Sharma’s plea in which he has also challenged the November 28 order of Delhi government rejecting his application for regular parole. In his application, Sharma has claimed that his plea for regular parole was rejected by the government on “false and fictitious” ground and the authorities did not appreciate the fact that he was eligible for grant of parole.”Respondent (state) has failed to appreciate that the petitioner (Sharma) has already undergone more than 20 years in custody and six months have already elapsed from the date of termination of the previous parole,” the application, filed through advocate Amit Sahni, said.Sharma has said that his parole application should have been allowed by the authorities “considering the health and age of his parents” as he is the only son to look after them and has never misused the concession of parole or furlough granted to him earlier.Sharma had shot his wife Naina Sahni with his licensed revolver on the night of July 2, 1995, taken her body to a restaurant, chopped it into pieces and tried to burn them in the restaurant’s oven, leading the case to be popularly called the ‘Tandoor murder case’. The Supreme Court had commuted to life imprisonment the death penalty awarded to Sharma by a trial court in 2003 and upheld by the High Court in 2007, saying the murder was the outcome of “strained personal relationship” and the convict was “not a confirmed criminal”.While reducing the sentence awarded to him, the apex court had said that “life sentence is for the whole of remaining life of Sharma subject to remission granted by the appropriate government under the Code of Criminal Procedure.”

Delhi HC to hear Arvind Kejriwal’s plea on Feb 16 in defamation case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi High Court on Tuesday decided to hear Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea seeking quashing of a defamation complaint filed against him by former Union Minister Kapil Sibal’s lawyer son Amit Sibal in February.Kejriwal’s counsel referred to the November 17 order of the Supreme Court, which had remanded the matter back to the Delhi High Court asking it to decide on the plea, and told Justice I S Mehta that the high court would now have to hear the matter on merits.”Now the high court will have to hear the matter on merits and decide the issue,” Kejriwal’s counsel said after which the court directed that the matter be listed for hearing on February 16 next year. The counsel also informed the court that trial in the matter was going on before the trial court.The apex court, while remanding back the matter to the high court to decide the plea of Kejriwal and others seeking discharge in the case, had made it clear that the trial court proceedings in the defamation complaint would continue.The clarification regarding continuance of the trial court proceedings was made when Sibal’s lawyer had expressed apprehension that Kejriwal and others may use the order for remanding the case back to the high court to seek a stay on the pending proceedings before the Patiala House courts in New Delhi.Amit Sibal had filed the defamation complaint against Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan for alleging conflict of interest on his part.The high court had in its order on January 16, 2014 asked the trial court to consider the pleas of Kejriwal and others seeking discharge from the defamation case. It had also refused to quash the defamation proceedings against them.Kejriwal had held a press conference on May 15, 2013, alleging conflict of interest on part of Sibal, saying he had appeared in the court for a telecom firm when his father was the communications minister. Following the accusation, Amit Sibal had filed the defamation complaint. The trial court had then issued summonses to them on July 24, 2013.

SC to examine whether courts can add ‘rigorous’ to life terms

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Can the word ‘rigorous’ be added by courts when they award life imprisonment? The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the question whether courts are statutorily empowered to make life imprisonments tougher for the convicts by adding “rigorous” (harsh) to life sentence as the law does not provide for this.A bench headed by Justice P C Ghose considered a submission which said that neither the penal provision dealing with the offence of murder, nor the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provide that the term “rigorous” can be added by courts while awarding life sentence to convicts.”Let notice be issued in the matter limited to the question whether life imprisonment could be coupled with the condition that such imprisonment has to be rigorous imprisonment, returnable after four weeks,” the bench, also comprising Justice U U Lalit, said.Senior advocate Parmanand Katara, appearing for convict Ram Kumar Sivare, who has been awarded rigorous life term in a murder case, has contended that the judgement pronounced by the courts below was “unconstitutional and ultra-vires” as penal and procedural laws do not empower them to qualify the life sentence with the term “rigorous”.”The award of rigorous life imprisonment by the lower court and the Chattisgarh High Court is violative of Article 21 (protection of life and liberty) and 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution,” the lawyer said.The apex court was hearing the appeal filed by Sivare, who is serving rigorous life term at a Chattisgarh jail, challenging the High Court verdict in a murder case.The High Court had upheld the trial court judgement convicting and awarding life term to Sivare and Bhuneshwar Prasad for stabbing to death one Anil Bhoyar on January 5, 2010 near a government hospital in Durg district of Chattisgarh following a tiff over a minor issue.The trial court had acquitted the third accused Manoj, which was upheld by the High Court.

Madras HC’s order declaring Sharia courts illegal is a start; Supreme Court must follow suit

The Madras High Court order of 19 December that declared Sharia courts functioning from mosques across Tamil Nadu as illegal is of far-reaching consequences. The court said, “If a place of worship — whether it be temple, mosque or church — is used for purposes other than prayers, and more specifically to create extra-constitutional forums, certainly the authorities are duty-bound to take action against them.” The order, delivered by a bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar, shows a ray of hope for the Indian republic because India has recently seen the birth of parallel courts being run by Islamic groups — many of them funded by Saudi money.

This might also be the first time that the higher judiciary has made it clear that “extra-constitutional forums” like Sharia courts are illegal and unacceptable. The order came on a petition challenging the extra-constitutional role of Chennai-based Makka Masjid Shariat Council, which has been engaged in administering justice in Muslim family disputes. The high court order also clarifies that mosques, churches and temples can only be used as a place of worship — a point with which no religious group should have any disagreement. The order is not specific to Muslims and empowers police and administrative officials in Tamil Nadu to close down any extra-constitutional court whether run by Muslims, Christians or Hindus.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, it is not clear if the 19 December order applies only to those Sharia courts that function from mosques, or also to those which operate from madrassas and non-religious places. A large number of Sharia courts — managed by imams (prayer leaders) and Islamic scholars associated with mosques, madrassas and religious organisations — operate from places that are not mosques. Therefore, there will be a need for further legal clarification on this subject. Otherwise, these Sharia courts in Tamil Nadu will simply move away from the mosques to non-religious places in order to skirt the high court order.

In July 2014, the Supreme Court of India had declared that the Sharia courts run by Islamic clerics have no legal basis, and their orders are not binding and can be challenged in a court of law. The Supreme Court order effectively meant that government officials and police officers are free to close down extra-constitutional institutions like Sharia courts. However, the Madras High Court order is clear in that it makes the operation of Sharia courts illegal. But this order applies on to the state of Tamil Nadu. Ultimately, the Supreme Court too will need to deliver such a clear judgment that outlaws parallel courts across the country.

As the world is witnessing the rise of jihadi groups worldwide, India too has seen the emergence of radicalisation among Muslim youths in favour of the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. India is at present surrounded by two countries where jihadi forces are strong: Bangladesh and Pakistan. Within India, a number of new Islamic organisations and NGOs are being formed whose funding comes from Saudi Arabia and other West Asian countries. Between 2011 and 2014, around 25,000 Wahhabi preachers reportedly visited India.To counter jihadism, both courts and government officials in India need to have a clear thinking that the modern Indian State cannot allow a parallel legal system to continue to function in the country.

In this context, it is a matter of concern that a number of Islamic clerics and religious organisations are running Sharia courts across the country. Such courts are known by many names such as Dar-ul-Qaza (House of Justice) and Dar-ul-Ifta (House of Fatwas). They deliver fatwas that are supposed to be juristic opinions but carry more weight than the law. Almost all major religious groups, mosques and madrassas such as Darul Uloom Deoband run such parallel Sharia courts.

Two Islamist organisations engaged in running aparallel Sharia-based legal system are prominent: the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan (BMMA), both of which run Sharia courts. While the role of AIMPLB in running Sharia courts and promoting an orthodox version of Islam across India is well known, the BMMA has got some legitimacy in the press for the reason that it is opposed to the practice of instant triple talaq. Due to this, BMMA is seen as a legitimate organisation by women’s rights groups but for all practical purposes, it is a Sharia group out to promote the same religious orthodoxies that its male counterparts in the AIMPLB do. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan announced last July that it is training 30 women judges in Quranic law.

India is a hugely diverse country that was divided in 1947 in the name of religion, not by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is to the credit of the framers of the Indian Constitution that they did not come under the influence of the communal nature of the Partition, and despite the Muslim-Hindu bloodshed that was raging at the time, delivered an authentic secular Constitution to the people of India. The Madras High Court order reminds us that Indians must not accept parallel courts and religious organisations like the AIMPLB and the BMMA which ultimately sow the seeds of partition from the country’s mainstream.

The author is a former BBC journalist and is presently executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:55 IST

Supreme Court bats for rights of incest rape survivors

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reporting incest rape is a difficult task, especially because of the societal stigma surrounding it. In case the survivor is a child, as clinical psychologists and psychiatrists point out, reporting rape becomes all the more onerous. It is called the child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, as lucidly described by Roland C Summit it in this article. The survivor often ends up putting all the blame on herself, and the courts buy that version. By the time she is able to come to terms with the treatment meted out to her, it’s too late — the courts have already acquitted the offender and are mostly reluctant to order a retrial or even reopen the case. Journalist Pinki Virani’s book Bitter Chocolate narrates in detail certain decisions of courts which have followed this tragic trajectory.However, in a recent decision — State of Himachal Pradesh v Sanjay Kumar @Sunny (Criminal Appeal Number 1231 of 2016) — the Supreme Court has ruled that in such cases, the courts below must follow a survivor-centric approach and not go by the hoary “proof beyond reasonable doubt” standard. Overturning a decision of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, the apex court went by the trial court’s decision of convicting the accused only on the basis of the testimony of the survivor.Since Article 141 of the Constitution mandates that Supreme Court judgements are the law of the land, this particular decision marks a watershed moment in India’s rape trial and sentencing jurisprudence, which, as many feminist and legal scholars have proved, is pockmarked with arbitrariness, victim-blaming and misogynistic stereotyping.Facts of the case(WARNING: Graphic details follow)A nine-year-old girl visits her grandparents during her winter vacations. Once she is there, an uncle lures her into a remote room, gags her mouth, undresses her, and rapes her. Not only does he gag her so that her screams go unheard, but he also threatens to kill her if she narrates or reports his dastardly act to anyone. The survivor falls unconscious, and when she regains consciousness, she finds herself alone in the room, and silently put on her garments. And remains silent.After a fortnight, the uncle repeats the same act, and again, during the survivor’s second visit, he commits rape again. Intimidated and ashamed, the girl remains silent.But after 2-3 years, when she suffers from acute stomach ache, the child is compelled to confide in her mother. Her parents immediately go to the police station and lodge an FIR for rape.The prosecution cross-examined as many as 12 witnesses, but the Supreme Court declined to repose faith in the witnesses put forward by the accused.The Defence Case, RebuffedThe accused’s defence lawyers put forth two strands of arguments— one, that the prosecutrix was being used as a pawn by her parents in order to settle a family feud. Two, that because she had complained of the alleged incident after three years, it was clearly a case of premeditated afterthought.But the court refused to believe this. It held that the survivor’s silence and hiding of the blood-stained garments was on account of the stigma and threats she would face if she opened her mouth. She was also scared of and scarred by the death threats.Instead, the court relied upon the unimpeachable medical evidence, which stated that:“prosecutrix was forcefully raped by the respondent and as a result of that her hymen was ruptured and her external anal sphincter was also torn. Even internal sphincter was not continence. She found that the anal sphincter of the prosecutrix was not functioning properly. In the opinion of the examining doctor, on account of injury to the prosecutrix’s anal sphincter, she might be a sufferer throughout her life.”Moreover, the apex court also relied upon the fact that a child of the tender age of nine would be extremely reluctant to disclose what was done to her, especially when threatened with death.The Crux of the RulingPerpetrators of child sexual abuse go out of their way to pin all the blame on the child, and more often than not, the courts are taken in by such pernicious alibi. But not so in this case. Here, the Supreme Court relied upon concrete medical evidence, psychological factors, and factors which took into account the totality of the case’s circumstances.Reasons enough to hail this ruling as a victory over those who sexually prey on children.

President Mukherjee clears appointment of Justice JS Khehar as next CJI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, who led the five-judge constitution bench in the Supreme Court which had struck down the controversial NJAC Act for appointment of judges, was appointed as the next Chief Justice of India on Monday. Sources in the government said President Pranab Mukherjee has cleared his name and the notification is being issued shortly.A copy of the notification will be formally handed over to Justice Khehar by a senior Justice Department official on Tuesday morning, the sources said. He will be the 44th Chief Justice of India. CJI TS Thakur had earlier this month recommended the name of Justice Khehar, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, to be his successor. He will take oath of office on January 4.Justice Khehar, 64, will be the first Chief Justice from the Sikh community. CJI Thakur demits office on January 3. Justice Khehar will hold the tenure for over seven months till August 27 next.Besides heading the bench in NJAC matter, Justice Khehar has also headed a bench which had set aside the imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh in January. He was a part of the bench which sent Sahara chief Subrata Roy to jail while hearing the matter relating to the refund of money invested by people in his two companies.Justice Khehar also headed a bench which recently gave a significant verdict holding that the principal of ‘equal pay for equal work’ has to be made applicable to those engaged as daily wagers, casual and contractual employees who perform the same duties as the regulars.While the turf war between the judiciary and the executive over the appointment of judges for higher judiciary has intensified, Justice Khehar on the occasion of Constitution Day on November 26 had responded to the tirade from Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi by saying the judiciary was working within its “lakshmanrekha”. “Judiciary is mandated to shield all persons, citizens and non-citizens alike, against discrimination and abuse of State power. Liberty, equality and dignity of citizen have flourished substantially in India due to the pro-active role of judiciary in the country,” he had said.

Expelled AIADMK MP moves SC for CBI probe into Jayalalithaa’s death

Sun, 18 Dec 2016-07:00pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa has moved the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe or a judicial investigation by an apex court judge into the death of J Jayalalithaa.In her petition, Pushpa has alleged that Jayalalithaa’s death was “suspicious” as her actual medical condition was not disclosed, no one was allowed to visit her, her funeral photographs showed embalming marks and everything from her hospitalisation to her death “was kept under wraps”. The Rajya Sabha MP has sought directions to the Centre, the Tamil Nadu government and Apollo Hospital, where Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, to disclose details of her health report and treatment in a sealed cover to the apex court.A similar plea was filed this week in the apex court by Tamil Nadu Telugu Yuva Sakthi claiming that doubts have been raised over the circumstances of the AIADMK leader’s death and her medical reports needed to be examined by experts.

Demonetization: Will chalk out strategy to counter PM Modi’s ‘farzi’-cal strike, says Lalu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dubbing demonetization as a ‘furzical (fake) strike’, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav on Sunday said after a meeting of various political parties, they will chalk out a future course of action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘big failure’.”The Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said before the parliamentary election that black money will come back and Rs.15 lakh will be deposited in every bank account, but nothing has happened. We can see that he has failed in every step,” Yadav told ANI.”Demonetization is a big failure of the Modi Government, and so, it is not a surgical strike on black money, but rather a ‘furzical’ strike,” he added.Speaking about the strategy to counter demonetization, Yadav told ANI, “After a meeting of various political parties, we will chalk out a future course of action against the Modi government.”The government’s decision to demonetize notes has drawn flak from all political parties.On Saturday, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said at a rally in Belgaum, Karnataka, “As there is a man-made disaster, similarly demonetization is a Modi- made disaster.”He further said that Prime Minister Modi had attacked the economy by announcing demonetization.”More than 100 people have died because of demonetization drive and PM Modi is responsible for it,” Rahul said, adding that the Modi government has been attacking the poor for the last two-and-a-half years.”Nothing will happen in 50 days. The Prime Minister will give your money to rich. Modi wants to waive off bank loans,” he added.National Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar said “We went and met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other officials to request them to allow deposit of old notes in district banks but got no answer.””Later, we moved the Supreme Court, and, I am happy that the apex court has ordered district banks to accept old notes. Also new currency must be made available to district banks so that they can lend loans to farmers,” he added.”Now that the Kharif season is completed and soon the Rabi season would commence, banks would need enough currency to dispense loans. If the banks don’t have enough money to dispense, what the farmers will do, where will they go,” he added.Pawar further said that demonetization is an attempt to disrupt the entire channel of banking and the farmers would be the worst affected.

Will file PIL in SC on decision to exempt parties from tax on old notes: Kanhaiya Kumar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar has criticised the Central government’s decision to exempt political parties from income tax on old notes deposited by them in banks, saying that a PIL will be filed in this regard in Supreme Court.An online petition has been circulated for signatures of people opposing the government decision and soon a PIL will be filed at Supreme Court after due consultation with lawyers, Kanhaiya said. “We are contacting lawyers and we are going to file a PIL for revoking the exemption from IT scrutiny to political parties for deposits in old notes in the face of demonetization. We have already started taking signatures on an online petition regarding this,” he said.The Central government yesterday said political parties depositing old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in their accounts will be exempt from income tax. Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that deposits in bank accounts of political parties are not to be taxed. “If it is a deposit in the account of a political party, they are exempt. But if it is deposited in an individual’s account then that information will come into our radar. If the individual is putting money in his own account, then we will get information,” he said.The online petition addressed to the Chief Justice of India opposed this move as “patently unfair” to the citizenry of the country. “Given the extraordinary nature of this measure (demonetization) which has affected every citizen and business’s financial autonomy and brought their records under scrutiny; the exemption granted to political parties from any scrutiny from income tax authorities whatsoever in this regard, seems patently unfair to the citizenry,” the petition read.

Is rape sentencing in India a joke? Judgments based on stereotypes have played pathetically important part

By Ila Ananya

In 1983, the Supreme Court (SC) delivered what it considered a progressive, gender-sensitive judgment in Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai versus State of Gujarat. The case involved the sexual abuse of two 10-year-old girls — one of whom had been raped — by their friend’s father in Gandhinagar. It became a landmark judgment when the SC declared (much to everyone’s surprise after its horrifying acquittal of the accused in the Mathura rape case) that the survivor’s sole testimony was enough to convict the accused.

This judgment would have actually been an important one had the SC stopped here. Instead, evidently feeling the need to justify its decision, it went on to explain why it believed that an Indian woman (as opposed to women from the “western world”) wouldn’t falsely accuse someone of rape. Predictably, and among other things, the court said that Indian women would not want to admit “any incident which is likely to affect her chastity had ever occurred”. It said this would mean risking the loss of “love and respect of her own husband and near relatives”, that she would be ostracised, and that “she would have to brave the whole world”. Perhaps it was unintentional, but with this, the SC successfully constructed the stereotype of the rape survivor.

This and other soul-crushing factors about the legal system makes Mrinal Satish’s new book absolutely mandatory reading for those interested in justice for victims of sexual violence.

Mrinal Satish, Associate Professor of Law, and Executive Director of Centre for Constitutional Law, Policy and Governance at the National Law University, Delhi, strongly argues in his latest book that such stereotypes have not only influenced the prosecution of rape cases, but also their sentencing. His book, Discretion, Discrimination and the Rule of Law: Reforming Rape Sentencing in India, looks at sentencing by High Courts (HC) and the SC in more than 800 rape cases between 1984 and 2009. It provides solid evidence for what we have suspected all along — that rapes by acquaintances rather than by strangers invite lighter sentences; that courts impose lower sentences on defendants when the raped woman is unmarried and sexually active; or that the absence of injuries on her results in a lower sentence on the defendant.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Keeping the SC’s Bharwada judgment in mind, Satish argues that the sentencing stage of a rape case is further impacted by the same stereotypes that influenced it during its prosecution stage — where virginity is considered to be of utmost importance to a woman.

“The most surprising finding was the extent of impact that medical examination had on the adjudication process,” says Satish about his findings. In cases where the two-finger test was performed, or where the woman’s sexual history had been considered in court, sexually active, unmarried women saw lighter sentences being imposed on the accused. In his book, Satish then goes on to give the example of the SC noting the “pitiable” state (“there is no monsoon season in her life,” in the court’s words) of the rape survivor who remained unmarried in the case of Madan Gopal Kakkad versus Naval Dubey. According to Satish, men who had raped unmarried virgins got higher sentences because the courts considered the survivor’s loss of virginity an irreparable damage.

Another stereotype that Satish points to in his book is the perception of the survivor’s protestations. An infuriating example of a rather singular approach to consent is the SC’s acquittal of the two policemen accused in the Mathura rape case. It was pointed out that because the 16-year-old had not raised an alarm and there were no marks of injury on her body, she was a “liar” habituated to sexual intercourse. The data, argues Satish, can be seen as the absence of injuries leading to lighter sentences — all of which the Delhi HC conveniently ignored in the case Mohd. Habib vs. State, when it acquitted the accused because he didn’t have any injury marks on his penis, even though the 7-year-old child he had raped had injuries on her body.

In August 2015, RAHAT, a programme that provides socio-legal support for rape survivors, published a report according to which, in a whopping 91 percent of cases, the rapists were known people, as opposed to the 9 per cent of cases where the accused were strangers. While these figures themselves take some time to sink in, looking at them in the light of Satish’s findings becomes even more depressing. As Satish writes, “Literature on rape suggests that juries and judges consider rape by a stranger as being the most traumatic form of rape.” It’s no wonder then that known people, whether relatives or neighbours (it was sometimes even assumed that the rape survivor and accused were in a relationship even if the former stated otherwise), all got lower sentences than strangers did.

Such prejudicial sentencing has arguably led to India’s high rates of sentence reversals when the convictions were challenged in higher courts. In many cases, these sentence reversals often were even below the minimum sentence. A court has the right to impose a sentence lower than the minimum if it has “adequate and special reasons” for doing so, a reasoning that is implemented in as vague a manner as it sounds.

In his book, Satish provides us with statistics that put all of this into perspective — on appeal, HCs have overturned guilty verdicts in 44 per cent of rape cases, and 37 per cent of gang rape cases. The SC has also overturned guilty verdicts given by Trial Courts in 36 per cent of the cases, and have overturned guilty verdicts given by HCs in 53 per cent of the cases (in cases of gang rape, this number is at 48 per cent).

The solution, as Satish suggests, is to develop a consistent policy for sentencing in India, perhaps by setting up a body to do just this. In most cases, along with the rape stereotypes at play, the courts consider other mitigating factors — even those like the defendant losing his employment because of the conviction — that really don’t need to be taken into consideration in his sentencing. The existence of a body that drafts sentencing guidelines could ensure that these “unwarranted disparities”, as Satish calls them, can be done away with to a large extent, if not entirely.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 17:15 IST

AgustaWestland scam: Court sends ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi, two others to jail till 30 December

New Delhi: Former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi was on Saturday sent to judicial custody till 30 December after CBI said he was not required for further custodial interrogation in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.

Special CBI judge Arvind Kumar also sent Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan, co-accused in the case related to procurement of 12 VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA 2 regime, to jail after the probe agency did not seek their further custody.

Former IAF chief SP Tyagi. PTIFormer IAF chief SP Tyagi. PTI

Former IAF chief SP Tyagi. PTI

After the agency’s submission, all the three accused moved their bail applications, which will be heard on 21 December as the CBI sought time to reply to the applications.

During the proceedings, the counsel appearing for Tyagi submitted before the court that the Italian top court had
ordered retrial of ex-Finmeccanica executives in VVIP chopper scam case, which makes CBI’s stand weak in the current case.

The court, however, said it will take up the matter on next date of hearing on 21 December.

The court had on 14 December extended the CBI remand of Tyagi and the two others by three days after CBI had said it was a “very serious” case requiring interrogation to unearth larger conspiracy as “interest of the nation was compromised”.

The agency had earlier submitted in the court: “It is a very high-profile case and we need proper material. One part of the crime was committed in India while various other angles are in foreign land.”

Tyagi’s counsel had told the court that he was “a decorated war hero of the nation” and “CBI, which was termed
as ‘a caged parrot’ by the Supreme Court, is trying to tarnish his image”.

Earlier, Tyagi’s counsel had claimed that the decision to procure VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland was a “collective” one and Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) was also a part of it.

CBI had alleged that Tyagi had “abused his official position” and when he was the Air Chief Marshal, he had made
huge investments in land and other properties and had not disclosed the source his income.

It was also alleged that Khaitan was the “brain” behind how the bribe money reached India and several firms through which the money travelled came into existence and Sanjeev was known to alleged European middleman Carlo Gerosa.

The 71-year old Tyagi, who had retired in 2007, his cousin Sanjeev and Khaitan were arrested on 9 December by the agency in connection with the case.

The CBI had also claimed that alleged European middleman Guido Haschke’s statement, which was received through LR
(Letter Rogatory), proved that he was assured by Sanjeev Tyagi that the latter’s brother was going to be Air Chief Marshal.

The accused persons, however, had alleged that the “CBI was trying to extract the confession using force”.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 16:50 IST

This winter Delhi will see a rapid rise in pollution, says executive director of CSE

Public health emergencies of the previous century, such as cholera, malaria and TB have all been tackled with antibiotics and vaccines. But what about the biggest public health emergency of contemporary times? That’s the pollution in the air we breathe which has reached unprecedented life-threatening levels — recall Delhi’s situation post-Diwali — yet we are not prepared to deal with it. It may worsen with the advancing winter.

However, things may change with the notification that the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is soon going to issue to Delhi-NCR, and subsequently to other states, on implementation of Graded Response Action Plan. That is a system based on the Air Quality Index (AQI), designed to take effective steps to combat public health emergencies due to pollution.

To decode the plan and understand its efficacy, Debobrat Ghose of Firstpost speaks to Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (Research and Advocacy) and head, air pollution and clean transportation programme at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), one of the stakeholders in the planning process.

Firstpost: What’s the Graded Response Action Plan all about?

Answer: Last week, the Supreme Court directed the MoEF to notify the graded response action plan for Delhi-NCR and once it’s notified, the government has to implement it at the earliest. The plan prepared jointly by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), CSE and others, charts a detailed strategy on what kind of action is needed for a certain level of pollution defined by the AQI. There are various categories of pollution — moderate, poor, very poor, severe and above that, the emergency level. The actions listed in the poor category need to be implemented throughout the year. But during months when weather conditions turn more adverse, there is need for greater scrutiny of enforcement. It’s the first-of-its-kind measure to be implemented in India. This will slow down the peaking up of the pollution level.

It’ll also catalyse long-term action because the kind of measures they have listed as per the levels of pollution would help us to get better results. Besides, it’ll also help us put in place more systemic solutions urgently needed to give benefits of sustained quality air throughout the year.

FP: What kind of actions has been recommended in the plan vis-à-vis the levels of pollution?

A: Based on AQI that shows air pollution levels — from moderate to severe — various measures have been recommended like shutting down of brick kilns and coal-based power plants; maximizing generation of power from existing natural gas based plants; mechanized cleaning of roads and sprinkling of water; stopping the use of diesel and kerosene generator sets; stopping construction activities, and entry of truck traffic into Delhi (except essential goods); removing polluting vehicles from the road; putting an end to burning of wastes and garbage, etc.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh SharmaAnumita Roy Chowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh Sharma

Anumita Roychowdhury. Photo courtesy: Naresh Sharma

FP: Immediately after Diwali, Delhi witnessed an emergency like situation due to high-level of air pollution. But, again with the advent of winter, the air quality has begun to deteriorate.

A: During winter due to calm and cool weather condition, air gets trapped close to ground level and along with it pollution already present in the city also gets trapped. This winter too, we are witnessing this situation of rapid building up of pollution. We are going to see several episodes of smog and this condition will prevail till mid-February. This happens due to this severe anti-cyclone situation. There will be ups and downs, with the pollution level hitting the severe level continuously.

FP: What steps need to be taken to prevent this onslaught of pollution?

A: We should have the winter plan in place where emergency measures should be implemented with absolute stringency. The implementation of graded response action plan will ensure that if weather condition is adverse, pollution in air doesn’t get worse. The measures mentioned in each category need to be strictly followed.

FP: What factors aggravate the pollution level in Delhi-NCR?

A: Vehicular pollution, burning of waste and garbage, construction debris, emissions from coal-based power plants, dust, burning of crop stubble, etc are the major culprits. However, stubble burning is a temporary phenomenon, because it takes place during October and November, before the new crop.

FP: Where have we faulted and what needs to be done?

A: In the area of public transport system, we’ve really slipped a lot, because except Metro rail, no investment has been made in this sector. Now, the priority should be to have an integrated public transport system, where Metro system and highly improved bus system are integrated physically and through a common ticketing system. Simultaneously, a well organized para-transit system needs to be in place, supported by a good walking and cycling infrastructure. Odd-even scheme is an emergency measure and can’t be a permanent solution.

Besides Delhi-NCR, other states too have to follow the same template of the action plan with absolute stringency, because things aren’t happening in a systematic manner. When a plan gets delayed, we lose momentum. We have to be extremely careful – even post-winter — to keep momentum going by adopting all measures—short term, medium term and long term.

FP: Delhi children are being deprived of a carefree childhood due to this pollution…

Very true! There is one death per hour due to air pollution; lungs of every third child are impaired. They are being recommended indoor activity and are discouraged from outdoor activities when pollution is severe.

FP: Delhi’s pollution can’t be seen in isolation. To contain it, active cooperation from states and central agencies is needed. Is there any common authority to deal with inter-state issues and enforcement related to pollution control?

A: No, there is not. Rather it’s not required as MoEF and CPCB are already there as central agencies to supervise the whole process and then the state governments should implement measures. The CPCB has to take the lead as the most legitimate body.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 13:25 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: Modi’s jibe at Congress over demonetization, Pentagon asks China to release its drone; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. NDA govt did what Congress should have done in 1971: Narendra ModiPM uses the BJP parliamentary party meeting platform to take on the Opposition on demonetization, an issue which had stalled the Winter Session. Read more.2. It is clearly marked as ours’: US asks China to return seized drone immediatelyChina seized US underwater drone in South China Sea. Read more.3. Rahul Gandhi’s ‘bomb’ explodes: Why the Opposition split ahead of meeting with PM ModiOpposition parties accused Rahul of breaking an understanding by going alone to meet the PM and fixing an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee in his own name. Read more.4. Demonetization: Supreme Court says it will not ‘interfere’ in govt’s decisionThe SC’s order came in response to a petition filed on November 10, against the government’s November 8 announcement of demonetizing Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Read more.5. IND vs ENG: Kohli as good as Ajinkya Rahane in slips – R SridharThe value of Ajinkya Rahane in slips for the spinners is realised when he is absent from the team. Read more.

SC fiat to Centre, states to properly implement SC/ST Act

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court has directed the Centre and state governments to strictly enforce provisions of the law while asking other competent authorities to discharge their duties to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to attain the constitutional goal of equality for all citizens. The apex court delivered the judgement after holding that there has been a failure on the part of authorities concerned in complying with the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Rules due to which the “laudable object” of it is defeated by their “indifferent attitude”.”The constitutional goal of equality for all the citizens of this country can be achieved only when the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are protected. The abundant material on record proves that the authorities concerned are guilty of not enforcing the provisions of the Act. The travails of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes continue unabated,” a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said. “We are satisfied that the central government and state governments should be directed to strictly enforce the provisions of the Act and we do so,” the bench, also comprising justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said.Further, the bench directed the concerned national commissions to discharge their duties to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It requested the National Legal Services Authority to formulate appropriate schemes to spread awareness and provide free legal aid to members of SCs and STs. “We have carefully examined the material on record and we are of the opinion that there has been a failure on the part of the concerned authorities in complying with the provisions of the Act and rules. The laudable object with which the Act had been made is defeated by the indifferent attitude of the authorities,” it said.”It is true that the state governments are responsible for carrying out the provisions of the Act as contended by the counsel for the Union of India. At the same time, the central government has an important role to play in ensuring the compliance of the provisions of the Act,” the bench said.It passed the verdict on a petition filed by National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, which was aggrieved by the “non-implementation” of the provisions of the Act and had sought directions for forthwith setting up special officers, nodal officers and protection cell as required under the Act. It had also sought directions for competent authorities to identify and notify atrocity-prone areas and to take appropriate action in accordance with law immediately and also to frame a rehabilitation package forthwith.

Watch: ‘Congress puts party’s interest before that of country,’ says PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accusing Congress of putting its interests above the country’s, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tore into the Oppposition on Friday, saying unlike earlier when opposition parties stalled Parliament against scams, Congress- led parties are now doing so against government’s steps to curb black money and corruption.He also targeted the Left, accusing them of compromising with their ideology as he recalled comments of late communist leaders Jyotirmay Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet in support of demonetization to hit out at them for siding with Congress. With the Winter Session turning out be a virtual washout following political impasse over demonetization, Modi projected criticism of the decision by rival parties as an evidence of their support for the “dishonest and corrupt”.In his address at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, he also attacked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had called demonetization “organised plunder and legalised loot”. Modi quoted his comments made in 1991 to say that he once used “language of threat” against tax evaders but his voice has completely changed now. “Why? Because he is worried about his party not country,” Modi said of Singh.The Prime Minister also cited the Supreme Court’s observations against the UPA government over lack of action against black money to make his point. “In our country, ruckus in Parliament or not letting it function had happened earlier too. It was a little longer this time. But there is an essential difference. Earlier, ruckus and disruptions happened because of massive scams and graft and the opposition would unite and fight on the principle of honesty. This is the first time when treasury benches have taken a step against corruption and many in the Opposition have come together to support the dishonest,” he said.Political values have fallen so much that opposition parties are brazenly speaking in favour of the dishonest, something that used to be done earlier secretively, he said. Amid reports that continuing hardships faced by the masses in withdrawing money from banks and ATMs have dented the early public support for the measure, Modi told party leaders that they have to fight to rid the country of corruption and black money with confidence.He asked them to popularise the government’s thrust on digital transactions as a “way of life”, saying those who are aware of the exercise should be made to use it.Noting that the Wanchoo Committee in 1971 had recommended demonetization, he cited a book to say that when the then Finance Minister YB Chavan went to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and supported the exercise, she asked, “Only one question. Are no elections to be fought by the Congress party?” “Tell me,” Modi wondered, “if the party is bigger or the country,” as he accused Congress of putting its interests before the country’s. BJP puts the country’s interests before the party’s, he said.Painting Congress as a votary of corruption, he said it had made a law against benami assets in 1988 but never notified it or framed rules and regulations, ensuring that the legislation never came into force. Though Congress followed by the Left were at the receiving end of his scathing attack, the Prime Minister made few references to regional parties like SP, BSP and TMC which have been targeting him over the decision. Lamenting the lack of debate in Parliament, Modi said it would be good had the government’s critics shown strength to start a discussion on merit.He also expressed gratitude to Odisha and Bihar chief ministers Navin Patnaik and Nitish Kumar for their “open support” to the demonetization decision despite their ideological differences with BJP. The decision to declare Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes as invalid is an important step in his government’s fight against black money but is not the final destination, he said. If the middle class is to be rid of exploitation and the poor to be restored their rights, then “courageous decisions” will have to be taken to remove black money and corruption, he added.His government, Modi asserted, will take action against benami transactions and then Congress will again shout that it is a “very hasty” decision. He told party MPs that it is their primary responsibility to push digital transactions and suggested that demonetization was a part of the gamut of decisions he has planned in this regard to curb black money. “We do not think in parts. There is a full scale design. It is only that we show our cards gradually,” he said, reiterating that people’s woes will gradually begin to ease out after 50 days since demonetization was announced.Facing criticism that a slew of measures taken by his government will give unbridled power to bureaucracy, he said he would not allow ‘afsarshahi’ (rule of bureaucrats) and has asked authorities to do no “postmortem” of people’s transactions prior to November 8 when the note ban decision was taken as they shift to the digital mode.Referring to reward schemes announced by the government as “Christmas gift” to customers and traders shifting to online platforms, he asked party leaders to promote them. Quoting ‘Chanakya Niti’, he said light-heartedly that the money collected through unfair means goes waste in the 11th year, a reference to the UPA’s 10-year-rule before he took office.On a day that marks the anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation, Modi also targeted the opposition over its remarks on the army’s surgical strikes. The Opposition in 1971-72 did not seek evidence of the army’s valour unlike that of today, he said.

SC’s ban on liquor vindicates Bihar govt’s prohibition decision: Nitish Kumar

Madhepura: Hailing the Supreme Court order to ban all liquor shops on national and state highways across the country, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday said it vindicated prohibition decision in Bihar.

“The apex court order banning all liquor shops within 500 metre radius of national as well as state highways has vindicated our decision to implement total prohibition in Bihar,” Kumar said addressing ‘Chetna Sabha’ in Madhepura as part of his ‘Nishchay yatra’.

“I had suggested Union Surface Transport minister Nitin Gadkari earlier that prohibition would help control accidents on national highways and now Supreme Court has given an order on this,” the JD(U) chief said.

He was addressing the meeting as part of the fourth phase of his ‘Nishchay Yatra’ to take feedback from people on the effectiveness of the prohibition as well as preparation for implementation of “Seven Resolves” of development.

File photo of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

File photo of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

Kumar, who has taken to prohibition on a war footing, highlighted positive impacts of liquor ban in the state since April by way of hike in consumption of milk, sweets, garments and furniture among others.

The chief minister said to check illegal transportation of alcohol from far-off Haryana and neighbouring states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Nepal, police should prepare a dossier of those engaged in liquor trade before prohibition.

“Garland persons who have shifted to other profession from liquor trade and catch those still involved in the business surreptitiously,” he said.

Kumar, accompanied by ministerial colleagues Bijendra Prasad Yadav and Chandresekhar, exhorted women to keep a tab on those who still manage to buy liquor illegally and inform concerned officials for action.

He also asked them to be vigilant to see that habitual drinkers have not shifted to equally harmful dry intoxicants like opium.

Kumar mentioned beneficial programmes under the “Seven Resolves” adopted as “sushasan” (good governance) which included beneficiary schemes for youths, providing electricity connection, sewage, drinking water and toilet to every household in the state.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 16:24 IST

SC order vindicates prohibition decision: Nitish Kumar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hailing the Supreme Court order to ban all liquor shops on national and state highways across the country, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday said it vindicated prohibition decision in the state.”The apex court order banning all liquor shops within 500 metre radius of national as well state highways has vindicated our decision to implement total prohibition in Bihar,” Kumar said addressing ‘Chetna Sabha’ here as part of his ‘Nishchay yatra’. “I had suggested Union Surface Transport minister Nitin Gadkari earlier that prohibition would help control accidents on national highways and now Supreme Court has given an order on this,” the JD(U) chief said. He was addressing the meeting as part of the fourth phase of his ‘Nishchay Yatra’ to take feedback from people on the effectiveness of the prohibition as well as preparation for implementation of “Seven Resolves” of development. Kumar, who has taken the prohibition in a mission mode, highlighted positive impacts of liquor ban in the state since April by way of hike in consumption of milk, sweets, garments and furniture among others.The chief minister said to check illegal transportation of alcohol from far-off Haryana and neighbouring states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Nepal, police should prepare a dossier of those engaged in liquor trade before prohibition. “Garland persons who have shifted to other profession from liquor trade and catch those still involved in the business surreptitiously,” he said.Kumar, accompanied by ministerial colleagues Bijendra Prasad Yadav and Chandresekhar, exhorted women to keep a tab on those who still manage to buy liquor illegally and inform concerned officials for action.He also asked them to be vigilant to see that habitual drinkers have not shifted to equally harmful dry intoxicants like opium.Kumar mentioned beneficial programmes under the “Seven Resolves” adopted as “sushasan” (good governance) which included beneficiary schemes for youths, providing electricity connection, sewage, drinking water and toilet to every household in the state.

Demonetization | Fulfil commitment of Rs 24,000 withdrawal per week: SC to govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court has refused to extend the use of demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in government utility centres like hospitals, railway tickets etc. It has asked the government to fulfil the commitment of Rs 24,000 withdrawal per week to the extent possible. All matters pertaining to various HCs have been stayed. The apex court also said that it won’t interfere in the government’s decision and would refer petitions challenging November 8 notification on demonetization to five-judge Constitution bench by framing nine questions for adjudication. The bench will explore constitutionality of the demonetization.The Supreme Court also accepted the assurance of AG that Rs 8,000 crore collected by district cooperative banks between November 11 to 14 will be allowed to be exchanged. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal had said earlier today that the use of demonetized Rs 500 notes has come to an end and some order needed to be passed.On Thursday, the court had said that the Centre should adhere to its notification that allowed withdrawal of Rs 24,000 per week from bank accounts after demonetization of high-value currency notes.

Rakesh Asthana’s appointment as acting CBI director not illegal: Centre to SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as acting director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was not illegal or contrary to the apex court’s judgement.Centre told the court that the curtailment of service of senior IPS officer RK Dutta at CBI was as per the law governing the probe agency. It also informed the court that the process to select a regular CBI director was on and the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition may meet this month.The Supreme Court was hearing the plea filed regarding the Asthana’s appointment. The plea, filed by NGO Common Cause, has alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely malafide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.The PIL contends that after Anil Sharma’s term as the CBI director came to end on December 2, and it was incumbent upon the government to convene a meeting comprising of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief of Justice of India for the appointment of a new director.”However, the government took a series of steps in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Rakesh Asthana was given the charge as CBI Director,” the petition stated.Listing these steps, it said that just two days before incumbent Director Anil Sinha was to step down on December 2, 2016, Special Director RK Dutta was transferred to the Home Ministry by creating a post of Special Secretary, upgrading by two layers, the post of the joint secretary. The PIL says that this was done to hamper the chances of Dutta stepping into the shoes of Sinha as he was number two in the hierarchy of the investigating agency.The petition stated that the Central Government did not convene meeting of the selection committee even though it was fully aware that Sharma was going to demit the office of CBI. “This deliberate dereliction was in complete violation of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, as amended by the Lokpal Act, 2013,” it stated.Asthana had earlier held several important positions in Gujarat Police. He was also part of a Special Investigative Team (SIT) set up by the Gujarat Government to probe the Godhra train burning case.The petition alleges that the government wanted to appoint its own choice as interim CBI Director “even if it meant bypassing the statutory law, the norms of propriety, and the directions contained in the Vineet Narain’s judgement.””The judgment in Vineet Narain’s case had clearly held that the tenure of CBI Director would be two years. This was to ensure that there is no ad-hocism in the appointment and functioning of the CBI Director,” the petition states. “Therefore, the petitioner submits that the government must be directed to comply with the mandate of the law and call for the meeting of the selection committee as per the DSPE Act, 1946 as amended by Lokpal Act, 2013,” the petition added. The Supreme Court will resume hearing on the matter on January 17, 2017.With inputs from ANI/PTI.

SC to hear plea of murder-accused DU professor Nandini Sundar today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday will hear the plea filed by Delhi University Professor Nandini Sundar, who has been named as an accused in the alleged murder of a tribal person in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.The Chhattisgarh government had earlier assured the Supreme Court that it will not arrest Sundar. The state government told this to the apex court division bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur and also comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel while replying to the plea filed by Sundar.While telling the court that no coercive action would be taken against Sundar, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the state would submit to the court its report in a sealed cover before the next date of hearing on November 15.Earlier, refuting charges of murder Nandini Sundar said it was part of the state police’s vendetta against all researchers, journalists, lawyers and activists who have been critical of their fake encounters and mass gang rapes, adding that she would take up the matter legally. “It’s part of the Chhattisgarh Police’s vendetta against all researchers, journalists, lawyers, activists who have been critical of their fake encounters, their mass gang rapes of women and the complete lawlessness of the police. This FIR against us is absurd. We haven’t even been to the area for five months. We will be taking it up legally,” Sundar said.Sundar and 10 others have been booked for the murder of a tribal in Sukma. Sundar has been named in a complaint by the wife of Shamnath Baghel, who was killed by Maoists last Friday in his village in Maoist-hit Bastar.Baghel had been leading a campaign against Maoist activities since April and had recently formed the ‘Tangiya (axe) group’.Baghel and other villagers had in May lodged a complaint against Sundar and others for allegedly inciting tribals against the police.

SC downs shutters on liquor stores along highways

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move to curb the menace of drunken driving, the Supreme Court banned liquor shops along national and state highways on Thursday. Stressing the importance and the need to improve road safety, a bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur further ordered that no liquor shops can operate or been seen within 500 metres of the highways.Liquor shops that are functional have been allowed to operate till April 1, 2017, however, licenses will be not be renewed or issued post March 31, 2017. The bench has ordered the chief secretaries of all the states to chalk out a plan to enforce the ban in consultation with excise and municipal officials.The SC gave this directive in response to a PIL filed by the NGO Arrive Safe. According to the NGO, around 1.42 lakh people were killed in road accidents, a majority of which were caused by drunk driving. The NGO claimed that the easy availability of liquor along highways was one of the main reasons for the road accidents.While reserving its order on December 7, the apex court had then expressed its concern over the fatalities reported every year in road mishaps, and indicated that it may direct the closure of liquor vends on national and state highways across the nation. The bench had also stated that it would direct the removal of the signages indicating their location. This move, the bench said was for the safety and security of the commuters on the highways who got “distracted” by seeing the shops and causing accidents.Expressed his unhappiness at the states’ inaction to curb the rising number of shops, Justice Thakur said, “We would not like any vends on national highways, state highways, advertisements, or signage about the availability of liquor shops. We will direct all highway authorities to remove all sign boards. It should be absolutely free from any distraction or attractions. It should not be visible. Visibility is the first temptation.”The bench pointed out that instead of curbing the number of shops, states had increased the number of licenses issued. Lashing out at the Central government for not doing anything concrete for the last 10 years, the court said it was forced to “step in.”The ban order came when the apex court was hearing petitions challenging various high court orders that disapproved the sale of liquor on highways. However, not all states were in the favour of the ban. Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab were in the forefront of voicing their opposition to the ban.The court heavily came down on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vends are under or near it. “Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society,” the bench had said.The court also criticised Punjab for defending the interest of the liquor lobby saying, “You are acting like a mouthpiece for the liquor lobby by defending the policy.” The advocate representing Punjab appealed to the bench that also comprised of the CJI along with Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageshwar Rao, that the ban should be made effective from April 1, 2017 to avoid a loss of Rs. 1,000 crore to the exchequer.To the Jammu and Kashmir government, the apex court had said “You can start a door delivery of liquor,” in response to their argument that if the vends are away from the highway, people would have problems accessing them due to the terrains.Dry states (and union territories) in IndiaGujaratBiharNagalandLakhswadeepKerela (partial ban)State Actions against AlcoholRecently deceased Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha shut down 500 liquor stores on May 23, the first day of her fourth term as Chief Minister.In Bihar, the government issued a notification where those consuming alcohol could be jailed for up to seven years and fined by Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on banning alcohol consumption.

Vyapam case: SC asks CBI to file CFSL report before trial court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> CBI was directed by the Supreme Court to file the forensic report regarding electronic evidence which was examined by CFSL in connection with the Vyapam scam before the trial court. The apex court also directed CBI to file the remaining over 30 charge sheets in connection with the scam within three months. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana said that all the allegations and counter-allegations can be raised before the trial court and there is no need for it to go into the CFSL report filed by CBI in a sealed cover.While disposing of the pleas including that of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, the bench said that it will not take into consideration the remarks made by the high court against him. It also directed the trial court to decide the Vyapam cases as soon as possible. The bench told senior advocate Vivek Tankha that these were the prayers in the plea filed by Singh, which now stand addressed as CBI has now filed the CFSL report.”If there are any further grievances with regard to trial of the cases, they can be raised before the subortinate courts,” the bench said.The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions including one filed by Digvijaya Singh seeking monitoring of the probe into all cases arising out of the Vyapam scam. The scam relates to alleged irregularities in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, which holds exams for positions like medical officers, constables, teachers and auditors for government departments.The apex court had in July last year ordered a CBI probe into all Vyapam scam cases and alleged deaths of people related to the scam.The Madhya Pradesh government had given its consent to shifting of the investigation from the Special Investiation Team (SIT) and the Special Task Force (STF) to CBI. Singh and whistleblowers — Ashish Kumar Chaturvedi, Prashant Pandey and Dr Anand Rai– had moved the apex court seeking a CBI probe under its supervision. The multi-crore rupees professional examination scam, involves several high-profile professionals, politicians and bureaucrats as accused.

No intention to discriminate but must ensure uniformity: SC on barring IAF personnel from sporting beards

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> IAF personnel cannot sport a beard on religious grounds, the Supreme Court said making it clear that policies on personal appearance are “not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs” but to “ensure uniformity and discipline” which are indispensable to every armed force.The apex court observed that for the effective functioning of a large combat force, the members must bond together by a sense of espirit-de-corps, “without distinctions of caste, creed, colour or religion” and while on duty, every member of the Indian Air Force is required to wear uniform and not display any sign distinguishing one from another.”Regulations and policies in regard to personal appearance are not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs nor do they have the effect of doing so. Their object and purpose is to ensure uniformity, cohesiveness, discipline and order which are indispensable to the air force, as indeed to every armed force of the Union,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said while dismissing appeals of two Muslim personnel of IAF.Airmen Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed had challenged dismissal of their plea by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in which they had sought setting aside of the air force order directing them to shave off their beard. By an August 26, 2005 communication, the personnel were informed that under the current policy of the air force dated February 24, 2003 and July 9, 2003 an airman was not permitted to have a beard on religious grounds.The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said there was no merit in the appeals as they were unable to show that their case falls within the ambit of Regulation 425(b) which says “personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting of the hair or shaving of the face of its members will be permitted to grow hair or retain beard”.”In the circumstances, the commanding officer was acting within his jurisdiction in the interest of maintaining discipline of the air force. The appellant having been enrolled as a member of the air force was necessarily required to abide by the discipline of the force,” the court said.

Hike in salaries of Supreme Court, High Court judges expected soon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Supreme Court and high court judges may soon get a fatter pay packet as the government is likely to bring a bill in this regard in the next session of Parliament. Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had recently written to the government seeking a hike in salaries of Supreme Court and high court judges.Sources in the government said the issue is under active consideration and a bill to amend The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act may come up in the Budget session of Parliament which may begin in the first week of February next.While the sources refused to share details of the quantum of hike sought by the CJI, they said to affect the pay hike, the Act has to amended. As the Winter session of Parliament is coming to an end on Friday, they said the bill would now come up in the Budget session. A Supreme Court judge at present gets Rs 1.5 lakh a month in hand after all deductions from salary and allowances. The CJI gets a higher amount than this, while the judges of the high court get a lesser amount. This amount does not include the rent-free residences provided to the judges while they are in service.After the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, the matter was already under the consideration of the government.

IAF officers can’t grow beard on religious grounds: SC dismisses two Muslim men’s pleas

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that personnel working in the Indian Air Force cannot sport a beard based on religious grounds.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that the Centre’s decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting beard does not infringe upon the fundamental rights.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The bench also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao dismissed the pleas filed by two Muslim personnel of IAF who had challenged the dismissal of their pleas by the Delhi High Court.

The apex court verdict came on two petitions filed separately by two personnel, Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed, challenging the IAF authorities’ “confidential” order dated 24 February, 2003, prohibiting Muslim personnel from sporting a beard.

Zubair in his petition had contended that the order was in contravention of fundamental fights of the citizen and also a government letter issued through the Ministry of Home Affairs on 18 July,1990.

The said letter of the home minister permitted the uniformed Muslim/Sikh personnel to sport beard on religious grounds, provided prior permission was sought from the authorities, he said.

The Centre had said that the IAF order was in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force and it also has security implications.

It had said that these policies are secular in character and have not been framed to govern the conduct of air force personnel of any particular religion.

The Centre has earlier told the court that IAF is undoubtedly a secular force having due regard for all religions and it is imperative that its personnel are guided by a sense of brotherhood without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or religion.

The petitioners had challenged the IAF order by way of a writ petition before the Delhi High Court and a single judge, citing certain Muslim religious texts, took the view that sporting beard was not compulsory and hence dismissed the plea.

They then approached a division bench which had also concurred with the order of the single judge and dismissed the plea following which the appeals were filed in the apex court.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 15:31 IST

IAF officers can’t grow beard on religious grounds: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday held that personnel working in the Indian Air Force cannot sport a beard based on religious grounds.A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said that the Centre’s decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting beard does not infringe upon the fundamental rights.The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao dismissed the pleas filed by two Muslim personnel of IAF who had challenged the dismissal of their pleas by the Delhi High Court.The apex court verdict came on two petitions filed separately by two personnel, Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed, challenging the IAF authorities’ “confidential” order dated February 24, 2003, prohibiting Muslim personnel from sporting a beard.Zubair in his petition had contended that the order was in contravention of fundamental fights of the citizen and also a government letter issued through the Ministry of Home on July 18,1990.The said letter of the home minister permitted the uniformed Muslim/Sikh personnel to sport beard on religious grounds, provided prior permission was sought from the authorities, he said.The Centre had said that the IAF order was in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force and it also has security implications.It had said that these policies are secular in character and have not been framed to govern the conduct of air force personnel of any particular religion.The Centre has earlier told the court that IAF is undoubtedly a secular force having due regard for all religions and it is imperative that its personnel are guided by a sense of brotherhood without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or religion.The petitioners had challenged the IAF order by way of a writ petition before the Delhi High Court and a single judge, citing certain Muslim religious texts, took the view that sporting beard was not compulsory and hence dismissed the plea.They then approached a division bench which had also concurred with the order of the single judge and dismissed the plea following which the appeals were filed in the apex court.

Supreme Court directs ban on sale of liquor on all National Highways

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on Thursday directed to ban liquor on all National Highways. The apex court in its order said all the licenses of liquor shops in and around the National Highways in all the states would be closed.

A week ago, concerned about the over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, the Supreme Court said it may direct closure of liquor shops on national and state highways across the country, besides removal of signages indicating their location.

The apex court, while reserving verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways, came down heavily on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vend are under or near it.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society,” the bench headed by Thakur had said earlier.

Reminding the state government of its constitutional obligation to prohibit liquor sale, the bench, had said, “You are speaking the langauge of liquor vendors. Is this your endeavour to seek prohibition? Nearly 1.5 lakh people die every year. We are asking you to do something for the general public.”

The bench also expressed its unhappiness over alleged inaction by various states in removing liquor shops alongside roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities. It said that revenue generation cannot be a “valid reason” for a state or a Union Territory to give licence for liquor shops on highways and the authorities should adopt a positive attitude to remove the menace.

The court also rapped the Centre for not doing anything concrete leading it to “step in”. “The Government of India is now saying that the liquor shops (on the national and state highways) should be removed. For the last 10 years, nothing has happened and that is why we have stepped in,” the bench said.

Earlier, the court had sought the response from the Centre, states and Union Territories on the pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 11:19 IST

Want assurance that pellet guns will not be used indiscriminately: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Wednesday said pellet guns should not be used “indiscriminately” for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir and be resorted to only after “proper application of mind” by the authorities.A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur issued notices to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government while seeking their replies on a plea alleging “excessive” use of pellet guns in the state. The apex court also sought assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on the issue and asked him to submit copy of the report submitted by the Expert Committee constituted for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns.”Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is requested to assist this Court and to place on record a copy of the report, if any, submitted by the Expert Committee, constituted by the Government of India in terms of its Office Memorandum/Order dated July 26, 2016… Needful be done within six weeks from today,” the bench also comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud said while posting the matter for hearing on January 30. “All that we want is an assurance that pellet guns will not be used indiscriminately or excessively in the state and will be resorted to after proper application of mind,” the bench observed.The court was hearing an appeal filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association against the High Court order seeking stay on use of pellet guns as a large number of people had been killed or injured due to its use. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had on September 22 rejected the plea seeking a ban on use of pellet guns on the ground that the Centre had already constituted a Committee of Experts through its Memorandum dated July 26, 2016 for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.Taking note of the statement, the High Court had disposed of the petition, saying that no further direction was required since the matter was being looked at by the Centre. The High Court Bar Association challenged the order, contending that High Court should not have disposed the petition and instead waited or called for the report of the expert committee. The High Court had also declined to accept the plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns and those who actually fired them.It had also directed the authorities concerned to ensure that all the injured are extended adequate medical treatment by specialists for whatever injury they sustain.

2013-14 raids: SC seeks relevant material to go into plea seeking SIT probe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that it is not going to entertain the plea of an NGO seeking SIT probe into alleged recovery of documents by the IT department in connection with raids on two business houses unless it comes out with firm and relevant material.The apex court said there was difficulty in going into the petition which deals with high functionaries as it was not supported by even a smallest material. The court was hearing an application filed by NGO Common Cause seeking constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe “incriminating” evidence and details of “unaccounted” cash recovered allegedly during the raids by the Income Tax department and CBI on the two companies in 2013- 2014.The NGO had alleged that the documents seized by CBI in its search operation in Mumbai reportedly revealed massive bribery of politicians and officials of various ministries over several years.However, a bench comprising Justices JS Khehar and Arun Mishra, which during the last hearing on November 25 had asked the NGO to come out with relevant material, said that despite giving a definite date for hearing there is no material placed on record to support the allegations in the petition.The bench said it does not want to keep the matter pending and asked the NGO to come out with firm material on the matter on December 16. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said it was unreasonable for the court to deal with the matter in such a manner and not to give further date for supplying the relevant documents.The bench responded saying “it is not unreasonable as you are dealing with very high functionaries”.”You bring very firm and very clear material. You bring it, we have no difficulty,” the bench said. When Bhushan said the court was forcing him to bring the relevant material within two days, the bench said, “yes, it is not unreasonable as you are just casting aspersions”. An agitated Bhushan said that he was not casting any aspersions.The bench asked him to lower his pitch and said “we have a settled proposition that you have to give us a material”.When Bhushan questioned the hurriedness in which the court wants to deal with the matter, the bench told him that it is very difficult for a person to function against whom aspersion is made.”There is no difficulty if you bring the material. It is only today’s midnight oil that you have to burn,” the bench said while posting the matter for December 16.

Curb rising drugs, alcohol abuse in children: SC to Centre

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to put in place within six months a national action plan to curb the rising drugs and alcohol abuse cases among school children, observing they are encouraged to become “drug peddlers once they get addicted”.A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and D Y Chandrachud also asked the Centre to conduct a national survey on the substance and alcohol abuse and use of psychotropic substances among children in schools across the country.Issuing a slew of directions, the bench observed “Children are encouraged to become drug peddlers once they are addicted (to drugs).”The bench also favoured a re-look on the curriculum to make school children aware about substance abuse and its ill-effects.The directions were passed on a 2014 PIL filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi.The NGO, in its plea, had sought a direction to formulate a national action plan for children on drugs and substance abuse including all issues of identification, investigation, recovery, counselling and rehabilitation.It had also sought creation of model syllabus on ill- effects of drugs and substance abuse.The NGO, represented by senior advocate H S Phoolka, had sought setting up of rehabilitation and de-addiction centres in each district of the country with a special wing for children.

PIL in SC seeking CBI probe in Jayalalithaa’s death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Chennai-based NGO has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI probe in the death of Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, ANI reported.The NGO has also demanded access to the medical documents of the former chief minister.68-year-old Jayalalithaa, who fondly known as ‘Amma’ suffered a cardiac arrest on December 4, and passed away the next day. She was hospitalised since September 22, 2016.At least 470 persons reportedly died of “shock” after the demise of AIADMK party supremo. The party has also announced a relief of Rs 3 lakh each to the families.Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet has decided to recommend late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa for ‘Bharat Ratna’, the highest civilian honour of the country, and to propose to the Centre to install her life-size bronze statue in Parliament complex.

Supreme Court likely to pass Uphaar fire tragedy order today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court is likely to pass an order on the plea filed by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) against Sushil and Gopal Ansal in the June 13, 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy case in Green Park locality here on Wednesday.Hearing the case on December 6, the apex court issued a notice to Ansal brothers on the plea of AVUT, seeking an order to restrain them from flying abroad and fixed December 14 as the date for next hearing.Real estate barons Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal gave an undertaking to the apex court that they would not leave India till it commences hearing on the plea of the victims’ association of the 1997 Uphaar fire tragedy seeking review of its 2015 verdict.The apex court had in 2015 said that the real estate barons were required to serve two years jail term if they failed to pay Rs. 30 crore each as fine in the matter.A bench headed by Justice JS Khehar on Monday asked counsel representing Ansals to give an undertaking that his clients will not leave the country till the apex court hears the review plea in the case. Senior advocate K T S Tulsi, appearing for AVUT, said Ansals may flee the country and an order be passed to restrain them. The court then sought an undertaking which was given by the counsel on behalf of the Ansals.In 2015, an apex court bench headed by Justice AR Dave decided to hear in an open court the petitions filed by the CBI and AVUT seeking review of the 2015 verdict. Following the judgment, the Ansals had deposited the amount.As many as 59 people were killed at Uphaar Cinema due to asphyxiation and stampede after a fire broke out when an overheated generator exploded in the building’s basement during the screening of blockbuster ‘Border’ on June 13, 1997.

Sedition, hate speech laws are being revised, says Law Commission chief

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move that is likely to trigger intense political debate, the Law Commission is working actively on revising existing laws related to the controversial offences of sedition and hate speech.Law Commission Chairman Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan told DNA, “The biggest job we have right now is revision of criminal law. We are revising chapters related to sedition and hate speech.”The commission is working on providing an exact definition for sedition and hate speech—the laws on which are often misused in the name of nationalism.A source in the commission, on condition of anonymity, said, “We are presently in a dilemma as to what exactly constitutes hate speech and when can a person be booked for sedition. These are no specific guidelines on them. In fact there are contradictory judgments from the Supreme Court on the definition of sedition and hate speech. The commission has realized the problem and has prioritized working on these two laws.”Section 124 (a) of IPC which relates to sedition had come under focus after the JNU row in which three students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University were arrested for allegedly raising anti-national slogans.Section 153 of IPC, dealing with hate speech came to the fore, in 2015 when BJP leader Subramanian Swamy challenged the constitutional validity of the section in the Supreme Court. Swamy approached the apex court after he was booked in a hate speech case for writing a book which allegedly promotes enmity between two communities.Critics of sedition law have even demanding scrapping of the law by calling it a “draconian law”. Over the years, the governments have been accused of abusing the law for targeting people who speak against the government. Earlier this year, even the government had admitted in Parliament that the definition of sedition is “very wide”.Justice Chauhan said the commission received a special reference for consideration of the law on sedition from the government while the reference for consideration of the law on hate speech had come from the apex court.He said that the commission has had several discussions with stakeholders to discuss problems related the two laws. Sources said that the commission recently had a high-level meeting with officials of the Bureau of police research and development in this regard.In November, the commission organised a conference on the two laws in which many judges—both retired and sitting, senior lawyers, and academicians participated. Some of the attendees of the conference were Justice Multa Gupta, former chairman of law commission Justice AP Shah, senior advocates Indira Jaising and Pinky Anand.Justice Chauhan said that many stakeholders have sent written suggestions to the commission on revising these two laws, adding that commission is examining those suggestions and will soon come out with a report on revising the two laws.It is worth pointing out that in May 2014, Justice Chauhan, then judge at Supreme Court, had himself sent a referral to the then Law Commission to define the expression of “hate speech” and make recommendations to Parliament to strengthen the Election Commission to curb the menace of “hate speeches”.However, nothing much happened in this regard and things started moving forward only after Justice Chauhan himself took over the charge of Commission in March, this year.According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2015 alone, 424 cases were registered and 888 people were arrested under sections of 153 IPC. If the government and Parliament decide to go by the Law Commission’s revised version of these laws, the misuse of these laws would certainly come down.

Prevention of Corruption Act: Watered down version will make scamsters look like saints

It might be fashionable to beat one’s chest in public about corruption, and undertake financial lynching pogroms like the demonetisation scheme, but in reality, much of the government’s back room activity, drafted by the powerful and highly corrupt IAS lobby, continues to prioritise protecting — or even empowering — the corrupt.

A strong whiff of this comes from the NDA government’s decision to back the passage of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Bill, 2013, a ludicrously whittled down version of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, which has been carefully designed to make the accused in the 2G, CWG, Coalgate and AgustaWestland scams look like saints.

Offences defined by the existing Act fall into three broad categories: Trap cases in which corrupt public servants, middlemen, etc, are caught red-handed taking bribes; abuse of official position which targets corruption at higher places; and disproportionate assets.

Accused in big ticket corruption scandals like AgustaWestland scam may now have an easier time. Reuters file imageAccused in big ticket corruption scandals like AgustaWestland scam may now have an easier time. Reuters file image

Accused in big ticket corruption scandals like AgustaWestland scam may now have an easier time. Reuters file image

The proposed amendments, which have been cleared by a Rajya Sabha select committee on the PC Act, severely limit the probability of corrupt public servants being caught taking bribes red handed, restrict the capacity of investigating agencies to prosecute corrupt public servants accused of owning disproportionate assets, and severely dilute the offence of abuse of official position. As a result, senior government officials will have fewer chances of getting caught or being punished.

It further emasculates the Lokpal Act, which is supposed to fight corruption at higher levels. However, if acts of commission and omission by senior government officials are sought to be blatantly decriminalised through these proposed amendments, what can the Lokpal be expected to do?

What is most curious is how the entire Rajya Sabha committee, including Members of Parliament of varying political colour — who are often heard lending high decibel disapproval towards big corruption in the media — have consented to this damning piece of legislation.

The committee on corruption:

Corruption committeeCorruption committee

The most damning feature of the PC Bill:

The biggest giveaway of the real intent behind the redrafting of the PC Act is the deletion of Section 13(1)(d) in its entirety, despite it being the only provision which made senior government officials liable for criminal action in a multitude of big ticket corruption scandals like Bofors, 2G spectrum, CWG, Coalgate, AgustaWestland, etc. This section defines ‘Abuse of Official Position’ under the overall category of ‘Criminal misconduct by a public servant’.

It’s inexplicable that the entire section has been deleted, despite the fact that criticism from the bureaucracy has been limited to sub-clause (iii) relating to “public interest”: A public servant is said to commit the offense of criminal misconduct, if he, while holding office as a public servant, obtains for any person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest.

Although even criticism of this sub-clause is misplaced, considering that data shows that not many public servants have actually been charged on this count. Maximum cases involving ‘Abuse of Official Position’ have been registered under the first two sub-clauses of section 13(1)(d), which have attracted no dispute. And yet, strangely, the bill proposes to delete all three sub-clauses, ie the entire Section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act.

The government’s likely defence will be that Section 13(1)(d) has been merged with Section 7, not deleted. The argument is specious considering that the expanded Section 7 of the new bill relates to the offence of direct bribing (like bribing a traffic policeman, revenue official or junior engineer). The bigger offense of ‘Abuse of Official Position’ has been relegated to a small clause, hanging weakly to Section 7 by the slender rope of Explanation 2 Clause (i).

Explanations in law are meant to clear doubts, not to define substantive offences. Merging a bigger offence like a sub-clause with a smaller one is like clubbing murder (Section 302 IPC) with causing hurt/injury (Section 323 IPC). The move affords multiple complications without any gains whatsoever.

Presently, in order to prove abuse of official position (criminal misconduct) as defined in Section 13(1)(d), of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, all that an investigating officer has to do is to prove violation of legal provisions, rules, guidelines or procedures and resultant undue pecuniary advantage accrued to anyone, including a third party (not necessarily the accused himself). There is no need to prove any bribery or direct quid pro quo in the transaction. This provision was inserted to deal with corruption in high places, where a public servant may receive illegal gratification in a clandestine manner (off-shore transactions or non-monetary considerations, like a better posting, post-retirement benefits, etc).

Delinking acts of abuse of official position (criminal misconduct) from Section 13, and clubbing it with Section 7 (bribery) only serves to place the additional burden of proving bribery or direct quid pro quo on the investigating officer.

Further, the amendments have purportedly been introduced for the purpose of compliance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Article 19 of the UNCAC relating to “Abuse of Functions” is the same as “Criminal Misconduct” as defined under Section 13(1)(d). Deletion of this provision, therefore, is in violation of the UNCAC as well.

Multiple getaway options scripted for the corrupt:

Section 7 (Public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act) has been completely rephrased under the guise of drafting a “comprehensive definition of bribery”. The inherent danger in changing the language is that it opens it up to fresh legal interpretation, which had been settled though several court judgements over the years.

Sections 8, 9 and 10 (Offences relating to public servant(s) being bribed; to bribing a public servant; and bribing a public servant by a commercial organisation, respectively) were all deleted on grounds that these are covered under the new definition of bribery.

The existing Sections 8 and 9 are very important provisions in the PC Act, as they are meant to penalise middlemen who act as conduits for dishonest civil servants. Since middlemen are rampant in most public offices, taking bribes from them was made a substantive offence. The proposed amendments ensure that these undesirable elements are only dealt with indirectly, under Section 12, which deals with abetment. This will also make it harder to deal with the menace of touts.

In summary, no effective substitutes for these three offences are spelled out in the proposed bill, especially Section 10, since while abetment of an offence is an offence, the abetment of abetment is not.

Section 11 (Public servant obtaining a valuable thing without consideration from person concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant) has also been deleted without providing any substitute, contrary to claims made in the statement of objects and reasons. Therefore, corruption/misconduct of this nature will now only be dealt with under the conduct rules, which have long become defunct, with no action taken for violations despite detailed media exposes, as in the case of NABARD’s former chairman, Prakash Bakshi.

The proposed Bill extends the benefit of Section 19 (previous sanction necessary for prosecution) to retired public servants as well. In addition, it makes seeking of prosecution sanction by private persons more difficult by putting in a requirement of a court order to that effect. This is aimed at discouraging anti-corruption crusaders from petitioning the government seeking prosecution sanction against political bigwigs.

If the new bill is enacted, disproportionate assets (DA) cases, which are already hard to prove, will be hit harder vide two major changes:

  1. In addition to proving disproportion (excess assets acquired by the public servant over known sources of his income over a period of time), the investigator will now also have to prove that the said disproportion is on account of “intentional enrichment by the public servant in an illicit manner”.
  2.  The term “known sources of income” in the existing act is very specific and means income received from any lawful source, and such receipt has been intimated in accordance with the provisions of any law, rules or orders for the time being applicable to a public servant.

However, the new Bill restricts this definition of “known sources of income” only to income received from any lawful source. This permits the accused public servant to claim lawful income from a variety of sources which he may not even have intimated to the government as per conduct rules and amounts going back to pre-1988 days, which saw a large number of acquittals in DA cases. The PC Act, 1988, had brought in the requirement of aforesaid intimation to prevent unscrupulous public servants from claiming incomes from sundry sources.

On account of these two changes, the investigation of DA cases and framing of charges may become more difficult, leading to the conviction rate dipping drastically.

Deleting Section 24 of the PC Act (Statement by bribe giver not to subject him to prosecution) provides protection to bribe givers against prosecution if they make a statement against an accused public servant, carries serious consequences for trap cases.

In trap cases, complainants are actually required to bribe the public servant to enable the investigating officer to catch him red-handed. The statement of the complainant in court is crucial to securing conviction of the accused public servant. With Section 24 gone, complainants might hesitate to come forward and depose against bribe seekers, as the moment they make a statement stating that they actually bribed the public servant, they expose themselves to prosecution under Section 8.

The fresh protection added vide the proviso to Section 8 requires evidence of “being compelled to give a bribe”, which is not going to be easy. It will further provide a handle to the defence to bully the complainant. Therefore, protection under Section 24 should have been continued in trap cases. This is particularly important in view of Article 33 of the UNCAC, which required signatory states to provide protection to reporting persons.

A new Chapter IV-A is being inserted in the act, to provide for attachment of property of tainted public servants using the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 1944. This provision is redundant, since it is not new and it already applies to offences under the PC Act. The biggest constraint with the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 1944, is that the investigating officer needs to seek prior approval of the state or central government, as the case may be, before moving an application in the court for attachment of property. As a result, its provisions could rarely be used by investigating agencies, since the approval of the government is hard to come by. A similar fate awaits this.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, also has provisions for attachment of property. However, under the PMLA, prior approval of the government before filing application for the attachment of property is not needed. Additionally, officers of the rank of deputy director in the Enforcement Directorate are empowered to issue the order of provisional attachment. In the case of the revised PC Act, the order of attachment will be issued by the special judge, who being independent of the investigating agency, is expected to take a more objective view. Retaining the rider of taking prior approval of the central/state government, therefore, carries no justification whatsoever.

Fixing of a time limit for according prosecution sanction vide Section 19 is a welcome step, albeit half-hearted, given that no provision for “deemed sanction” has been made in case the competent authority delays decision making beyond four months.

The proposed Section 17A (earlier known as single directive, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Vineet Narain case and later brought back as Section 6A of the DSPE Act, which was also annulled by the Supreme Court in 2014), severely curtails the powers of the investigating agencies and bars them from looking into the role of public servants without prior permission of the government. Evidence cannot be gathered without a preliminary enquiry and unless there is evidence to establish a prima facie case, the government will not be able to give prior permission. This Catch 22 situation works in favour of corrupt babus.

While the time limit for according prosecution sanction has been fixed at a maximum of four months, no such deadline has been fixed for prior permission under Section 17A.

Doubtful political intent:

Even with the right laws, the list of failures in reigning in corruption in India and elsewhere is far longer than the successes. The Modi government’s decision to allow the passage of the Prevention of Corruption Bill, 2013, a ludicrously watered down version of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, casts a shadow on its real intent and long term vision on reigning in corruption.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Before this, the Black Money Act and the GST Bill were were also found to be wanting, with their effectiveness or efficiency in nailing the corrupt, or even with correcting the existing anomalies in alarming variance with the advertised objectives of the government.

Transparency in government functioning, which is key to eliminating corruption, has also not been addressed, which is evident from its handling of the coal auctions nor the rot in the financial sector, presided over by the Reserve Band of India through its opaque CDR cell and inaction over other consumer unfriendly schemes, like the force-selling of life insurance policies by the State Bank of India.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 16:35 IST

Anthem vigilantes thrash cine-goers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Less than a month after the Supreme Court directed cinema halls across the country to play the National Anthem in theatres, a youth and two students were allegedly beaten up in a theatre in Chennai for not standing up when the National Anthem was being played.According to media reports, the incident took place in Kasi Theatre in Ashok Nagar, where the National Anthem was played and seven to eight people reportedly remained seated. During the interval, one Vijayakumar grabbed Viji, a freelance movie reviewer, by the collar and demanded why he did not stand up for the Anthem. In an argument that ensued, 20 people ganged up and rained blows on Viji and two women Sabaritha and Shreela. “We were harassed and manhandled by the men. They issued life threats and assaulted us. We did not have any intention to show disrespect,” Shreela, told the reporters.28-year-old Vijayakumar who is accused of assaulting them claimed that the group of eight were taking selfies, clapping and whistling when the anthem was played. “Angered by this, along with around twenty others in the theatre, I questioned the group during the interval. And a verbal fight erupted. Immediately the manager from the theatre pacified us and we continued watching the movie along with a security guard,” Vijayakumar told. The victims also alleged that none from the audience came to the rescue.“People must feel this is my country and this is my motherland,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy had said while stressing that it was the duty of every citizen of the country to show respect to the national anthem and the flag.

Kerala: Six people arrested for not standing during national anthem, later released

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During one of the screenings of International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala on Monday evening, six men between the age of age group of 25-30 and a 52-year-old man refused to stand for the national anthem.At the screening of an Egyptian movie at the Kannakakunnu Nishagandhi Auditorium, an open air theatre, the national anthem was played as per Supreme Court’s November 30 order. However, according to the police report these men did not budge even when they were requested to stand by the policemen present at the hall. According to a NDTV report, IFFK organisers and Director of Chalachitra Academy also asked them to stand, but they refused.Thus, a police case was filed against them and they arrested. However, they were later released on bail. In another incident that took place in in Kasi Theatre in Chennai, a youth and two students were beaten up in a theatre for not standing up when the national anthem was being played.
ALSO READ Chennai: Three youths beaten up for not standing during national anthem in theatreAccording to the Supreme Court order of November 30, all movie theatres must play the anthem before screenings and everyone must stand. There was amendment added to it later wherein the theatre management was asked to shut the door, but not bolt it when the anthem is playing.

DNA Evening Must Reads: Live updates of Cyclone Vardah; Kohli’s men clinch India v/s England series; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Cyclone Vardah Live: Chennai airport services suspended till 9 pm; 2 killed in Tamil Nadu, 8000 evacuatedTwo persons were killed as heavy rains accompanied by high velocity winds pounded the city and coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu ​on Monday due to severe cyclonic storm “Vardah” which began making landfall near Chennai, disrupting land and air transport and throwing normal life out of gear. Follow the live updates here.2. Chennai: Three youths beaten up for not standing during national anthem in theatreLess than a month after the Supreme Court directed cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem in theatres, a youth and two students were allegedly beaten up in a theatre in Chennai for not standing up when the national anthem was being played. Read more here.3. Turkey: ‘Death toll in twin bombing has risen to 44,’ says Health MinisterThe death toll from the Istanbul twin bombings near a major football stadium has risen to 44, Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag said on Monday. The late Saturday attacks saw a car bomb explode outside the home stadium of football giants Besiktas and less than a minute later, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a group of police at a nearby park. Read more here.4. No action initiated to cancel Axis Bank’s licence: RBILast week the bank had suspended 19 officials for their alleged involvement in illegal activity post demonetization. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had also arrested two managers of Axis Bank’s Kashmere Gate branch in New Delhi and seized Rs 3.5 crore in cash. Read more here.5. India v/s England: Ashwin takes 6 wickets again as Kohli’s men clinch series with 3-0 leadOff-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up six wickets in England’s second innings as India cruised to victory in the fourth test at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday to wrap up the five-match series with a game to spare. Read more here.

Three youths assaulted in Chennai theatre for taking selfies during National Anthem

Three youths were allegedly beaten up by moviegoers for not standing up when the National Anthem was being played in a Chennai theatre on Sunday, The Times of India reported.

The incident comes on the backdrop of Supreme Court’s 30 November order which made it mandatory for everyone in a cinema hall to stand for the National Anthem before the commencement of a film.

Representational image. Getty

Representational image. Getty Images

The incident took place in Kasi Theatre in Chennai’s Ashok Nagar. According to The Times of India report, violence broke out during the interval of a Tamil film, Chennai 28-II. Twenty men assaulted three students, including two women, who were part of a seven-member group. They were allegedly taking selfies while the national anthem was being played, the report added.

The scuffle took place after a group of moviegoers objected to the group taking selfies during the National Anthem was being played. Based on the complaint from Vijayakumar, who objected to the behaviour of the youths, filed a police complaint under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and the Indian Penal Code, The Hindu reported.

Meanwhile, a group of moviegoers filed a separate complaint against those who manhandled and threatened the seven people. Both the groups were later interrogated by police, the report added.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 14:20 IST