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Indian Opposition Moves To Impeach CJI

NEW DELHI, April 20: The opposition parties launched an unprecedented bid to impeach the top judge on Friday, accusing him of failing to protect the independence of the judiciary from executive interference, among other charges.

A petition, backed by lawmakers from seven parties, raised five charges against Chief Justice Dipak Misra, including an accusation he arbitrarily used his power to allot sensitive cases and questioning his conduct in the acquisition of land.

Misra came under a cloud in January when the four next highest-ranking judges in the Supreme Court criticised his distribution of cases and raised concerns about judicial appointments.

The judges said then that the issues involving the Supreme Court's administration were serious enough to prompt them take the unprecedented step of going public with their criticism.

"Democracy can thrive only when our judiciary stands firm, independent of the executive"
Misra was appointed in August and is due to retire in October, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65.

Misra's office told reporters he would not be making any comment on the issue.

The petition to impeach him for "acts of misbehaviour" and misuse of authority was signed by 64 serving members of the upper house of parliament.

They belonged to the main opposition Congress Party, the Communist Party of India and Samajwadi Party - a powerful regional party in the key northern state of Uttar Pradesh - and four other parties.

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, a former senior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government who also chairs the upper house, must now decide whether the petition merits debate.

"We were hoping that the anguish of the judges as reflected in their statements to the press would be addressed," senior Congress party leader Kapil Sibal, a senior lawyer himself, told reporters.

But since the chief justice has failed to set his house in order even after three months, "as representatives of the people, we are entitled to hold the chief justice accountable", Sibal said.

"Democracy can thrive only when our judiciary stands firm, independent of the executive," he added.

A Supreme Court judge can be removed for misbehaviour or incapacity only by an order of the president after winning a majority in both houses of parliament and after obtaining at least two-thirds of votes from the house members in the same session.

Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have a comfortable majority in the lower house, but not in the upper house.

On Thursday, Misra headed a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court that dismissed petitions calling for an investigation into the death of a lower court judge in 2014 when he was presiding over a case against a top political aide to Modi.

Amit Shah, president of the BJP, had been accused of ordering extra judicial killings in 2005 while serving as home minister in the western state of Gujarat.

Shah was discharged by the judge who took over the case after the death of Judge B. Loya, having decided there was no case against the BJP president.

On Friday, the High Court in Gujarat overturned the conviction of a former BJP state minister for her involvement in the worst riots in independent India's history, citing lack of consistency in witness testimonies.

Maya Kodnani was the highest-profile figure to be convicted for the violence in Gujarat 16 years ago. A trial court had found Kodnani and 31 others guilty of murder in 2012 and sentenced her to 27 years in prison. She was released on bail in 2014 for health reasons.

During the riots, activists say up to 2,500 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in retaliation for the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in which 59 people were killed.

Modi had been chief minister of Gujarat at the time, but a special investigation has absolved him of any wrong doing.

4-month baby raped and murdered in India's Indore

INDORE, April 20: A four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area of Indore in the wee hours of Thursday. The infant’s body was found in the basement area of the heritage Shiv Vilas Palace, blood smears on the stairs telling a horror story.

Hardened policemen were nearly moved to tears as they conducted preliminary examination of the ravaged body and carried it away in a little bundle. A suspect, a member of the family, is in custody.

The autopsy report confirmed the savage sexual assault, and said the infant died due to head injuries. SI Trolik Singh Varkade of Sarafa police station has been suspended for dereliction in duty. “The SI failed to inform seniors of the heinous crime in his area,” said DIG Harinarayanachari Mishra.

Rajwada is Indore’s cultural and business nerve centre. The baby’s father sells balloons there and lives nearby. Like the Kathua victim’s family, this baby’s parents too are nomadic.

The baby was sleeping with her family on a porch outside Rajwada, when she was abducted. He took the girl right under the noses of patrolling policemen.

CCTV footage shows a man arriving in a cycle, picking up the girl and moving towards to a commercial complex built on a portion of Shiv Vilas Palace around 4.45am. He is seen returning to the spot alone.

Initially, police detained an acquaintance of the family but cleared him. The arrested suspect is a relative. Police have seized his bloodstained clothes and the cycle.
“Policemen were in the area when the incident took place. But the four-month-old girl was sleeping with other men and women and the perpetrator was one of them. The policemen didn’t know that he was not a family member and had ill intentions,” the DIG said.

The infant’s mother told police that she had woken up around 3am and checked her children. Everyone was safe, she said. They realized she was missing when they woke up around 5.30am

After looking around for some time, they lodged a complaint with Sarafa Police station.
Around 11.30am, the body was found barely 100m behind a statue of Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar, Indore’s legendary 18th Century ruler. It was shop assistant who first identified the baby.

Police found blood all over the basement area, including smears on a staircase leading upstairs to the ground floor. “We have a suspect and are questioning him,” said Mishra. The short post-mortem report indicates that the child died due to the head injury. “It suggests she was sexually assaulted before death,” the DIG said.

Unnao rape case: Accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar sent to 7-day CBI custody

NEW DELHI, April 13: BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is the main accused in the rape of a 17-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao, has been sent to seven-day CBI custody.

The central investigating agency arrested Shashi Singh, who is named in the CBI FIR as an accomplice of Sengar in the rape case. According to the FIR, Singh had allegedly taken the girl to the MLA's residence.

"We support fair investigation. He has been sent to 7-day CBI custody," said Sengar's lawyer.

Yesterday, Sengar was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after a day-long interrogation.

Sengar, an MLA from Bangarmau in Unnao district, was picked up by a team of the CBI in the wee hours of Friday from his residence in Indiranagar from where he was driven to the zonal office of the CBI and interrogated for several hours.

Earlier, the Allahabad high court had directed the CBI to arrest Sengar saying the law and order machinery and officials were directly under his influence.

The victim has alleged that she was raped by the MLA at his residence on June 4, 2017, where she had gone with a relative seeking a job.

In February, the girl's family moved court seeking to include the MLA's name in the rape case. After this move, the victim's father was booked by the police under the arms act on April 3 this year and put in jail on April 5.

Alleging inaction and coercion from powerful people, the victim attempted self-immolation in front of the CM's house on April 8 and the next day, her father died in jail with post-mortem report suggesting serious injuries on his body.
Faced with the embarrassment of its own MLA being involved in the case, the state government had referred the matter to the Centre for CBI probe.


Bullets can’t tell difference, civilians responsible for their deaths at encounter sites: J-K top cop

SRINAGAR, April 12: Civilians thronging encounter sites are responsible for their deaths as bullets don’t distinguish between a stone pelter and a militant, Jammu and Kashmir police chief S P Vaid said on Thursday as he again urged youth to stay away from such places as they were not marriage venues.

Nobody wants civilian deaths and the police and security forces are pained at such incidents, he emphasised.

“We have been appealing to young boys to stay away from encounter sites. A bullet does not distinguish between a stone pelter and a militant. It has a trajectory to hit. They are responsible for their own deaths. They should not come to encounter sites”, Vaid said in a live Twitter question-answer session.

He was replying to a question posed by one Tajamul Wani about civilian deaths in gunfights.

The strong words from the senior officer came a day after four civilians were killed in the crossfire in an encounter in Kulgam district. An Armyman also died in the line of duty while the three militants managed to flee after civilian casualties increased.

“No citizen of India would like any civilian killing. We have been repeatedly requesting people not to come near the encounter sites when bullets fly whether from the militants or from the Army, from paramilitary force and police. They have a trajectory. They will not look for the chest of a particular person. They can hit anybody so it is advisable not to come near the encounter sites,” DGP Vaid said.

It pains me most and pains all the forces when a civilian dies, he added.

“Our effort is not even a single civilian should get hurt, but they have no business to be there. Marriage of the militant is not going on. Why are these boys coming near the militant encounter sites,” he lamented.

Four civilians, and a soldier, were killed on Wednesday in an encounter in Kulgam’s Khudwani village — the latest in a spate of deadly gunfights that threaten to push Kashmir into a spiral of protests for the third straight summer.

Official accounts and news reports show that since the beginning of 2018, 22 civilians were killed in the crossfire during gunfights and protests.

In a bid to reduce civilian interference at encounter sites, the government in January said it could offer amnesty to youth who have been booked in cases of stone pelting.

Responding to a question on the pending FIRs, Vaid said the police had already moved the concerned courts in such cases.

In some of the cases, parents were supposed to come and approach police stations and give an undertaking, he added.

To a question about solution of the Kashmir problem, he said violence was not the answer.

“I personally feel that the gun is not the solution. Everybody concerned including our neighbour (Pakistan), and only way out is to sit together and talk it out and sort it out and gun is not a solution and violence is not a solution”, he said.

Vaid said his most challenging task was post the Burhan Wani episode because as Special DG law and order to deal with the situation.

On the internet blockades, the DGP said “my effort is to minimum disruption of internet. I am totally against it. But let me tell you there is mischief and misuse of it to spread hatred and false propaganda. This is what we want to prevent”.

We want minimum disruption of education of children from Kashmir valley and we will ensure it, he added.

Kathua rape a crime against humanity, can’t go unpunished: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, April 12: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday described the rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua as “unimaginable brutality” that cannot go unpunished, and wondered how anybody can seek to protect the culprits.

He also lashed out at the politics being played over the crime.

“How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil,” he asked, adding that the violence against the child was a crime against humanity.

“It cannot go unpunished,” he said on Twitter.

“What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?” he tweeted.

The minor, who belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community, had disappeared from a spot near her house close to Rasana village in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir on January 10.

A week later, her body was found in the same area.

A Special Investigation Team formed to probe the incident has arrested eight people, including two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and a head constable, who was charged with destroying evidence.

Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal rape and murder.

The city’s bar association has opposed the action against the accused and alleged that minority Dogras were being targeted.

While the local local bar association held a bandh, the Valley saw protests demanding justice for the victim.

Unnao rape survivor demands MLA’s immediate arrest

LUCKNOW, April 12: A 17-year-old girl, who has accused Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of raping her in 2017, said on Thursday the politician should be arrested immediately for her uncle’s safety.

Her comments came after the Uttar Pradesh government said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will decide the course of action against Sengar after he was formally charged in the case late Wednesday.

“We have no objection to the inquiry but he should be arrested first ... Why is he being shielded?” she told reporters.

The girl alleged that her father was roughed up by Atul Singh, the MLA’s brother, and his aides on April 3 and was arrested by the police in evening. He died on April 9, hours after he collapsed in prison where he had been detained.

“I just want their arrest first, then the CBI probe should be done ... If they are out, they will not spare my uncle. When they have already killed my father, what doubt is there?” she was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

“Only when he is arrested, I will be satisfied and I will be able to say that the BJP government is doing justice,” the teenager added.

The girl broke down in tears and lost consciousness after that, the news agency reported.

“I will get justice only if CBI investigates the case with honesty. How will I get justice if they don’t investigate honestly?” she said later.

The state government announced the central agency will investigate the charges against Sengar after allegations that the state police had botched up.

The Allahabad high court on Thursday questioned the Uttar Pradesh government’s approach in handling the case, asking its counsel why Sengar was not arrested even after being charged.

It has also asked the counsel to clarify whether the government would arrest him and sought a reply after lunch.

The FIR against Sengar, who represents the Bangarmau constituency in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, was registered at Makhi police station in Unnao and he was charged with rape, criminal intimidation and kidnapping of a minor girl.

The stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, was also slapped on him under which an accused has to be arrested immediately after a case has been filed.

“Nobody is defending him (Kuldeep Singh Sengar). All we are saying is that we have to hear both sides. Now that the case has been given to the CBI, they will decide on arrest,” the state’s director general of police OP Singh said.

“If any evidence is found, the CBI will take a call if the accused has to be arrested or not,” Singh said at a press conference in Lucknow.

Arvind Kumar, principal secretary (home), said the Uttar Pradesh Police’s special investigation team will handle the case till the central agency takes over.

The officials said Sengar was not booked earlier as the teenager had not mentioned his name in the statement given before the magistrate. They added the case was registered after the girl and her family told the special investigation team, which visited them on Wednesday, that they had not named him so far because they were scared.

They assured that no one will be spared if found guilty and added that action has already been taken against some policemen and doctors for laxity and negligence.

The demands to arrest Sengar grew shriller as social workers and oppostion parties organised protests on Thursday. They questioned the reluctance on the part of the state police to arrest him despite allegations of rape and the registration of the first information report.

The girl, who tried to immolate herself outside chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s house just a day before her 50-year-old father died on Monday, has alleged that she was confined to a hotel room by the district administration, leaving her “without a phone or water and guards at every corner”.

Salman Khan gets bail in poaching case

MUMBAI, April 7: After spending two nights in a Jodhpur jail, actor Salman Khan returned home to a hero's welcome with thousands of fans lined up at the Mumbai airport and outside his Bandra home here on Saturday evening.

Several thousands — ranging from toddlers in arms to youth, elderly men and women, many carrying placards and banners with Salman's pictures — had been waiting after the actor was granted bail by Jodhpur Session Court Judge RK Joshi.

Loud screams of joy went up with frantic waving and clicking of pictures on mobiles as soon as Salman stepped out of the Mumbai airport.

The actor was accompanied by his sisters Alvira and Arpita as well as his personal bodyguard Shera.

Earlier, hundreds of fans outside the Jodhpur Central Jail burst fire crackers as the actor walked out of the prison amid tight security arrangements by police.

The fans, who were carrying garlanded posters of Khan, raised slogans like "Salman zindabad", "Salman tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai". A few fans even chased the actor's cavalcade for some distance. Earlier, they had gathered outside the court and celebrated the grant of bail by bursting crackers.

In his order, District and Sessions Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi also allowed Khan's application for suspension of sentence for a month against his conviction.

Khan, who was lodged in the Jodhpur jail after his sentencing on Thursday, was granted bail on a bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of like amount, defence counsel Mahesh Bora said.

The judge asked the actor to appear before the court after a month on May 7 when it will hear his plea for suspension of sentence. He also directed Khan not to leave the country without the court's permission.

Meanwhile, the Bishnoi community, which reveres the blackbuck, has decided to move the Rajasthan high court challenging the bail granted to Khan, according to Ram Niwas, the secretary of the Bishnoi Tiger Force.

In its 10-page bail order, the court said the trial judge acquitted his Bollywood colleagues Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam and Sonali Bendre and a local, Dushyant Singh, giving them the "benefit of doubt" for the incident.

It also cited the differences in the post-mortem reports of the blackbucks, with the first saying there was no gunshot injury while second stating that the animals were killed by gunshots.

Judge Joshi had observed during the trial that Khan had never misused any condition.

The judge also said Salman was earlier granted bail in the Mathania Ghoda Farm case in which he was sentenced to five years in prison for killing a blackbuck. Later, the high court had acquitted him in the case.

Similarly, he was acquitted by the trial court last year in the Bhawad poaching case in which he was accused of killing two chinkara gazelles, the court said.

It said the high court had also raised suspicion over the recovery of a Gypsy car, pellets and arms from the actor in the two other poaching cases against him.

The judge also said the complaint of lone eyewitness Poonam Chand on October 2, 1998, was submitted to the court by the forest department six days later on October 8.

Earlier in the day, the judge heard the arguments of the prosecution and the defence which lasted about an hour and pronounced the order around 3 pm, a defence counsel said.

Khan's sisters - Alvira and Arpita - were present during the hearing, besides Shera.

The actor was convicted by a trial court and sentenced to five years in prison for killing two blackbucks during the shooting of "Hum Saath Saath Hain" in Kankani village near Jodhpur on the night of October 1, 1998.

In a late night development, an order was issued to transfer Joshi to Sirohi, as part of a reshuffle. He was among 134 judges transferred by the high court registrar general.

The judge had yesterday reserved his decision on Khan's bail plea till today after hearing arguments on the suspension of sentence and the bail application. While defence counsel Bora had argued for Khan's bail in the court yesterday, public prosecutor Pokar Ram Bishnoi had opposed the plea.

After Khan was granted bail, his friends and well-wishers from the film industry expressed their happiness over the decision.

Director of Salman's upcoming film "Race 3" Remo D'Souza said "I am happy that he has got bail. After working with him so closely I have become a huge fan of him not only as an actor but also as a human being."

Amit Shah's remarks equating opposition with animals disrespectful: Rahul Gandhi

KOLAR GOLD FIELDS, April 7: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday slammed BJP chief Amit Shah's remarks equating the opposition parties with animals, alleging that the "disrespectful statement" reflected his "mentality" that considered dalits, tribals, minorities and even his own party leaders "worthless".

"Calling the entire opposition animals...see according to Amit Shah and the basic vision of the BJP RSS - there are only two non-animals in this country. There is Mr Narendra Modi and there is Mr Amit Shah," Gandhi told reporters here.

"Everybody else as far as they are concerned are animals. That's fine, that is the way they look at the world. It is a disrespectful statement, but we don't take what Mr Amit Shah says with too much seriousness," Gandhi said.

Taking a swipe at Shah, the Congress chief said it was the mentality that there were only two or three people in this country "who are worth anything, who understand everything and everybody else is a worthless person".

"It's not only dalits, it's tribals, it's minorities. It doesn't stop there. It's Mr Advani, Mr Manohar Joshi, even Mr Gadkari, it's everybody," he said. "The thing is that the BJP people internally don't have guts to say it to you. They say it to us," Gandhi said.

The Congress president said, "the fact of the matter is between Mr Amit Shah and Mr Modi, they are convinced, there are only two human beings in this country. That's all, that's the reality."

At a rally in Mumbai to mark BJP's foundation day on Friday, Shah had equated opposition parties to 'snakes' and mongoose' and 'dogs' and 'cats', who are seeking to unite despite their inherent differences to take on the BJP in next year's Lok Sabha polls.
Later, Shah said his intention was not to equate opposition parties with animals.

At the rally, Shah had said, "The countdown for 2019 (polls) has begun. Attempts are being made for opposition unity. When huge floods occur, everything is washed away. Only a "vatvriksha (banyan tree) survives and snakes, mongoose, dogs, cats and other animals climb to save themselves from the rising waters."

At a press conference, Shah later said, "What I meant was political parties having no ideological similarities are coming together out of fear of Modi."

BJP MP says govt hasn’t done anything for Dalits in 4 years

NEW DELHI, April 7: Uttar Pradesh BJP parliamentarian Yashwant Singh accused his own government at the Centre of doing nothing in four years for Dalits, as he ratcheted up growing dissent among the scheduled castes after an alleged dilution of a law protecting them.

He said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Dalit MPs like him in the ruling party are victims of atrocities against scheduled castes and it has become difficult for them to answer to the community.

“When I got elected, I met you to request for the passage of the bill to provide reservation in promotion. Several organisations of the community make such pleas to us day and night. But your government has not done a single work for the direct benefit of about 300 million Dalits,” the MP for Nagina constituency wrote.

Singh, a qualified physician from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, said in the letter: “Being a Dalit my capabilities have not been put to use. I only became an MP because of reservation.”

The first-time parliamentarian is the fourth scheduled caste MP from India’s most populous state to red-flag the government on Dalits in less than a week — after Savitri Bai Phule, Chhotelal and Ashok Dohre, representing Bahraich, Roberstganj and Etawah constituencies respectively.

UP has 17 Lok Sabha seats reserved for scheduled castes (SC) and the BJP won all of them in the 2014 parliamentary elections. SCs constitute over 22% of the state’s population.

Singh’s letter signals a growing discomfort among Dalit MPs of the BJP, disturbed with a series of events, that latest being a Supreme Court order that allegedly had whittled down safeguards guaranteed by the SC/ST atrocities act to the marginalised communities. The top court order triggered Dalit nationwide protests, which were marred by violence that led to the death of about a dozen people.

The MPs fear that marginalisation of Dalits could affect the BJP’s prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Singh alleged that courts were chipping away at the rights of Dalits because the community has no representation in the judiciary. “70% of India’s wealth is with 1% of its population, which enjoys patronage of the government,” he wrote.

According to party leaders, the views expressed by the Dalit MPs could mean something else. “Some of them are probably looking for new avenues, fearing that they will be denied tickets in 2019,” said a BJP leader associated with party affairs in UP.

Another leader, who also refused to be identified, said Phule, Dohare and Singh don’t have a BJP background and could be laying the ground to return to “our rival parties”.

A Dalit MP of the BJP, who doesn’t want to be named, said Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati set the cat among the pigeons by supporting arch-rival Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party in the bypolls to the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in UP. “The two makes a formidable opposition in UP,” the parliamentarian said.

The two parties have hinted that they might forge an alliance in 2019, considered a worrying prospect for Dalit MPs of the BJP.

The BSP contested 403 seats in the 2017 assembly elections and polled 1.93 crore votes, while the Samajwadi Party fielded candidates in 311 seats and got 1.90 crore votes. The BJP’s tally was 3.44 crore votes in 384 seats.

Indian Bollywood Star Salman Khan gets 5 years in prison in Blackbuck poaching case

JODHPUR, April 5: Actor Salman Khan was on Thursday sentenced to five years in jail and fined Rs 10, 000 after a Jodhpur court convicted him for killing two blackbucks, an endangered species, in a two-decade-old poaching case.

Fellow actors and co-accused Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari were given the benefit of the doubt and acquitted along with Dushyant Singh, a resident from the area.

Salman was charged with killing the antelopes protected under the Wildlife Protection Act while shooting for the film ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ in 1998.

The trial began in chief judicial magistrate’s court in May 2013. At least 28 witnesses from the prosecution side were produced for examination.

Final arguments in the case were completed in the trial court on March 28, after which chief judicial magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri had reserved the judgment for Thursday.

Salman’s bail plea will come up in the sessions court on Friday.

Thursday’s conviction wasn’t Salman’s first brush with the law. In 2015, the Bombay high court overturned his conviction in a hit-and-run case. He was accused of running over a group of people sleeping on a sidewalk, killing one and injuring four.

Students clash with forces in Kashmir amid protest over death of civilians

SRINAGAR, April 5: Students clashed with security personnel in Kashmir on Thursday after authorities reopened educational institutions after a shutdown following the death of 13 militants, five civilians and three soldiers in gunbattles earlier this week.

Students took on security personnel at different institutes in Srinagar,protesting the five civilian deaths. Scores of female students were among the protestersin the commercial hub of Lal Chowk.

Security personnel fired tear gas to stop students from marching at several colleges. Clashes also erupted in other parts of Kashmir as students hurled rocks at police and paramilitary soldiers. They also burned a police bunker in Srinagar, the news agency reported.

Thursday’s student protests were reminiscent of similar agitation a year ago when sporadic clashes between students and security personnel spread across the Valley after alleged police excess in dealing with students at the Degree College in Pulwama.

The protests came even as chief minister Mehbooba Mufti visited the house of 23-year-old Gowhar Ahmad Rather,who died on Tuesday after being injured in clashes with security forces in Kangan town of Ganderbal district.

“The Chief Minister assured the family members that the guilty found involved in excessive use of force in the incident would be brought to book. She also conveyed her sympathies with the bereaved family,” an official press statement said.

Jammu and Kashmir police on Wednesday suspended a constable and ordered asadepartmentaland magisterial inquiry into Rahter's death.

India's I&B ministry withdraws fake news order

NEW DELHI, April 3: The information and broadcasting ministry on Tuesday withdrew a controversial press release that said journalists found guilty of writing or broadcasting “fake news” would lose their government accreditation.

The move came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns about the order in the wake of protests by journalists and media organizations. The fake news problem will be dealt with by the Press Council of India (PCI), Modi said.

The ministry’s order said journalists found guilty of writing or broadcasting “fake news” will have their accreditation withdrawn for a limited period or permanently, depending on the frequency of violations

The I&B ministry’s press release did not define “fake news” but said complaints would be referred for determination to the Press Council of India (PCI) for violations in print, and to the National Broadcasters Association for violations on TV.

As journalists protested against the press release and “fake news” became the top trend on Twitter Tuesday, Information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani acknowledged the matter had “generated debate”.

In a tweet, she said she was “more than happy” to meet journalists for their suggestions on “fighting fake news”.

Government accreditation for journalists allows them to access ministries and enter restricted buildings or events. A journalist is accredited with the Press Information Bureau of the Centre after she/he has least “five years’ experience as a full-time working journalist.” Freelance journalists need to have 15 years experience and foreign correspondents five years with a valid work visa.

Article 370 in JK is permanent: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, April 3: The Centre asked for and received three weeks time from the Supreme Court on Tuesday to respond to a petition challenging the validity of Article 370 of the Constitution that confers special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, even as the top court said that the issue needs no consideration because a 2016 judgment had settled the issue.

A bench of justices AK Goel and Rohinton Nariman told the petitioner’s lawyer that a 2016 judgement had held Article 370 was not a temporary provision. “The issue is already decided in our judgment where we have said that despite the fact the head note says it’s a temporary provision, it’s not,” Justice Nariman told the petitioner’s counsel, Anil Kumar Jha.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has been consistent in its opinion that Article 370 should be scrapped, although the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government informed Parliament last month that there are currently no plans to do so.

Justice Nariman was part of the bench led by Justice Kurien Joseph that in December 2016 said: “Despite the fact that it is, therefore, stated to be temporary in nature, sub- clause (3) of Article 370 makes it clear that this article shall cease to be operative only from such date as the President may by public notification declare. And this cannot be done under the proviso to Article 370 (3) unless there is a recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State so to do,” the judgement said.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta asked the court to tag Jha’s petition with the those challenging the validity of Article 35A of the Constitution. Added to the constitution through a Presidential order of 1954, Article 35A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to define the state’s permanent residents and their special rights and privileges.

Jammu and Kashmir government counsel, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan and Shoeb Alam objected to this after which Mehta was given time to come back with a formal response.

Even Jha did not support the Centre’s move. “This is only a delaying tactic,” he said.

He added that Justice Joseph and Nariman’s verdict was “per incuriam” (something that has a lack of regard for the law or facts) because it was against the Keshvanand Bharti judgement that evolved and endorsed the basic structure of the Constitution.

The SC had on August 8, 2017 issued notice to the state and the central governments to respond to Jha’s petition challenging an April 2017 order of the Delhi High Court rejecting a plea against Article 370.

The Delhi High Court had on April 11 rejected the petition on the ground that the SC had already dismissed a petition on the issue.

The continuance of Article 370 —- a temporary provision —- even after dissolution of the state’s Constituent Assembly “amounts to fraud on the basic structure of our Constitution” as its Constitution never got the assent of the President or Parliament or the Government of India, the petition argued.

12 militants gunned down in Kashmir; 3 soldiers dead

SRINAGAR, April 1: Two men allegedly involved in abducting and killing 22-year-old army officer Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz last May were among 12 militants killed in three simultaneous gun battles in south Kashmir on Sunday as the Valley saw its deadliest day so far this year, with three army soldiers and four civilians also dying during exchanges of fire.

More than 50 people suffered bullet and pellet injuries in clashes that erupted around the encounter sites, security officials said. The three security operations – at Dragad and Kachdoora in Shopian district, and at Dialgam in Anantnag district – were the biggest counter-insurgency offensive in a single day in recent years, according to officials. All three sites are within a 50-km radius and the fire exchanges that started late on Saturday night continued well into Sunday afternoon.

Two of the three encounter sites saw large-scale clashes between civilians and security forces. Hundreds of civilians tried to march towards Dragad and Kachdoora in an attempt to help the militants escape, police said.

“Encounter concluded. One more terrorist body recovered from Shopian encounter site. In all 12 terrorists neutralised (one more being ascertained), 3 soldiers martyred and 1 terrorist caught alive. It’s unfortunate that stone pelting around encounter site cost 4 civilian deaths,” Jammu and Kashmir director general of police (DGP) SP Vaid tweeted.

General officer commanding (GoC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt Gen AK Bhatt said this was the “biggest” security operation in a long time. “I would not know the numbers before this, but yes, this is a large number of terrorists,” he said.

Among the militants killed at Dragad were Ishfaq Malik and Reyaz Thokar who were allegedly involved in the killing of Lieutenant Fayaz, who was abducted from a wedding at a relative’s house and shot dead in Shopian.

“We have avenged his (Fayaz’s) death,” said Lt Gen Bhatt.

Malik and Thokar were with the homegrown militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen and also Shopian residents, police said.

At Dialgam, a Hizb militant identified as Rouf Khanday was killed after he refused to listen to appeals from police and even his relatives to surrender and opened fire on security forces. There was another militant with Khanday, but he surrendered. Police declined to release the surrendered militant’s name.

aid lauded the effort to reach out to the militants under trying circumstances. “At Dialgam, our senior superintendent of police (SSP) made a special effort, which is unheard of in any other part of the world. He called the family members of the terrorists, got them to talk to both for about 30 minutes to convince them to leave the path of violence, but unfortunately, he (Khanday) did not heed the call of his family.”

The biggest toll was at Dragad, where forces gunned down seven militants — six from the Hizbul Mujahideen and one from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The owner of the house in which the militants were holed up was also killed, police said, but did not clarify the circumstances of his death.

Shopian resident Zubair Ahmad Turray, 24, who had joined militant ranks last year after releasing a video on social media, saying “tyranny” and “illegal detention” led him to become an insurgent, was among those killed at Dragad.

Police said four militants and three soldiers were killed at Kachdoora. Three civilians were also killed at Kachdoora. Police said one of them was caught in crossfire, while the circumstances of the other two deaths were not immediately clear.

Security forces opened fire and lobbed tear-gas shells to disperse protesting civilians. Vaid said 25 people were hit by pellets, while six received bullet injuries. Hospital data, however, showed more than 50 people were injured.


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