The Supreme Court Wednesday set aside the Bombay High Court order refusing to grant 90 days extension to Maharashtra Police for filing the chargesheet in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

The apex court, however, said the five rights activists may now seek regular bail in the case as the Mahasrashtra Police has already filed the chargesheet.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had earlier stayed the Bombay High Court order which had set aside the trial court decision to extend time by 90 days for filing the chargesheet by the state police in the case.

The arrested activists had been alleging that they were entitled for grant of default bail in the case as the Mahasrashtra Police did not file the chargesheet within the stipulated 90 days period and moreover, the extension granted by the trial court was bad in law.

The Pune Police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.

The top court had on January 10 reserved its verdict on the Maharashtra government’s appeal challenging the refusal of the Bombay High Court to extend the 90-day limit for filing the chargesheet in the case.

The court had earlier asked as to why the local court at Pune sat on a Sunday to decide the plea of the police seeking extension of time for filing the chargesheet against arrested rights activists.

The court was told that the state police had filed an application seeking extension of time by 90 more days for filing the chargesheet on August 30, 2018. The 90 days period was expiring on September 3.

But, the trial court took up the case for hearing on September 2, a Sunday, and extended the time for filing the chargesheet by another 90 days which disentitled the arrested accused from getting the statutory bail.

The apex court had stayed the Bombay High Court order. The chargesheet has already been filed by the state police before a local court in the case.

The Maharashtra government had on October 25 last year moved the apex court challenging the High Court order.

Prior to this, the top court had refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a SIT for probe into their arrest.

The arrests had followed raids at their residences and offices in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31,2017, which, the police claimed, had led to violence at Bhima Koregaon the next day.

 

Under the UAPA, a chargesheet must be filed within 90 days of arrest. However, the prosecutor can file a report before the trial court, explaining the reasons for the delay and seek more time. If satisfied, the court can extend the time by 90 days.

In the present case, the Pune sessions court had granted the police the additional 90 days, following an application from the investigating officer (IO) and written submissions by an assistant commissioner of police (ACP).

The petition filed in the top court by the state government had said the investigating officer had filed an application in the trial court under his signature giving reasons for extension of time on August 30, 2018.

“On the very same day, the public prosecutor submitted her report/application carving out the grounds for extension of time. The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took signature of the investigating officer. But the HC was carried away by the fact of signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor,” the plea had said.

It had also said that the high court should not have been carried away by the fact of mentioning of names of parties in detail.

 

 

 

 NEW DELHI: Reliance Defence on Tuesday said the "proposed MoU" mentioned in a purported email cited by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his fresh allegations on the Rafale deal was a reference to its cooperation with Airbus Helicopter and had "no connection" with the fighter jet contract. Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "treason" and violating the Official Secrets Act by acting as Anil Ambani's "middleman" in the Rafale jet contract, citing an email to claim the businessman was aware of the deal days before India and France finalised it.

        "Purported email being referred by the Congress Party is regarding the discussion between Airbus and Reliance Defence regarding Civil & Defence Helicopter Programs under 'Make in India'," a Reliance Defence spokesperson said in a statement. Gandhi released to the media an email dated March 28, 2015 purportedly written by Airbus executive Nicolas Chamussy to three recipients with the subject line "Ambani".

       He claimed the email showed Ambani visited then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's office and mentioned an "MoU in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit (to France)".

        "The discussion on proposed MoU was clearly with reference to cooperation between Airbus Helicopter and Reliance. It had no connection whatsoever with Government to Government Agreement between France and India for 36 Rafale aircraft," the Reliance Defence spokesperson said. It is in public domain that Airbus Helicopter has partnered with Mahindra for the Military Helicopter Programme, the spokesperson added.

        "Also, for the record, the MoU for Rafale aircraft was signed between France and India on January 25 2016 and not in April 2015. "From the above, it is evident that the facts are being deliberately twisted and reality being ignored," the company said.

 

Protesters on Saturday showed black flags to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Guwahati for the second consecutive day over the contentious Citizenship Bill even as he attempted to pacify the brewing anger saying the “bill will not harm Assam and Northeast.”

Modi, who is on a two-day visit to the Northeast, addressed a gathering in Changsari in Assam and said, “Citizenship Bill issue is not related only to Northeast or Assam — it is for people who want to live by their faith and for that have to save their lives and escape and come to Maa Bharti. What they had to undergo you can understand when you meet them.”

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to provide Indian citizenship to religious minority from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India even if they do not possess any document. The bill has triggered panic in the Northeast where people have expressed fears that the prospect of citizenship will encourage migration from Bangladesh.

Angered by the Centre’s stance on the bill, protesters took to streets in Assam and waved black flags at Modi when he arrived last night.

Modi, who arrived in Assam Friday evening, was greeted by black flags in at least four different locations. The members of the All Assam Students Union raised slogans like “Joy Aai Axom” (Glory to Mother Assam) as his convoy passed the organisation’s office last night.

This morning, protesters belonging to the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) waived black flags at Modi near Machkhowa area in Guwahati. Minutes later, a group of students showed black flags to the prime minister when his huge convoy was passing through the Gauhati University at Jalukbari area. Members of both the groups were detained, police said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi mounted a double-barreled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS on Thursday, saying the Hindutva outfit wanted to control the country and its institutions from Nagpur through remote control. Addressing the AICC minority convention, Gandhi called Modi a ‘darpok (coward)’ and challenged the PM to a 10-minute debate on issues such as the economy, Rafale deal and national security.

“Constitution is the battlefield on which this election is being fought. RSS wants to run the country from Nagpur. Narendra Modi is the face, Mohan Bhagwat is the remote control,” the Congress chief said while addressing the gathering at Delhi’s JLN Stadium.

Amid shouts of ‘chowkidar hi chor hai’ from the crowd, Gandhi said nowadays fear was writ large on Modi’s face. “I know his (Modi) character after fighting him for five years. He is a coward. When someone stands up to him, he runs away,” he said.

Asserting that the image of PM Modi was “finished”, Gandhi said the Congress had torn to shreds his reputation and credibility. “It used to be said 5 years ago that he will rule for the next 15 years. Congress has torn to shreds his reputation and credibility. He now knows you can’t rule India by dividing people,” the Congress chief said in his speech in Hindi.

Accusing the BJP of trying to drive a wedge between communities, Gandhi listed the contributions of several leaders from the minority community who helped in building the country.

“This country belongs to every individual. It is a fight between two ideologies. The first education minister was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, so today if you raise the topic of education, you must thank him. Vikram Sarabhai, Manmohan Singh, Maneckshaw belonged to the minority community and they are the ones who built this country,” Gandhi said.

Training his guns on the RSS, Gandhi said the organisation was attempting to capture institutions, from the judiciary to the Election Commission. He said the Congress governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh would remove RSS loyalists from the system.

“The institutions in India do not belong to any party, they belong to the country, and to protect them is our responsibility, be it Congress or any other party. They (BJP) think they are above the nation. In three months they will understand that nation is above them,” he said.“The institutions in India do not belong to any party, they belong to the country, and to protect them is our responsibility, be it Congress or any other party. They (BJP) think they are above the nation. In three months they will understand that nation is above them,” he said.

 

The government has refused to share details of the decision-making process on quota for economically weaker section (EWS) citing a clause of the RTI Act that bars disclosure of records of cabinet papers and discussions by ministers.

Venkatesh Nayak, who works as Programme Coordinator, Access to information Programme with NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), had sought details like copy of cabinet note on the matter besides correspondence received from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in this regard. The Centre has implemented 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections of the general category in central government posts and services from February 1, 2019, onwards.

In reply to Nayak’s RTI query, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said the requisite information cannot be provided as it was exempted under Section 8 (1) (i) of the transparency law.

The Section bars disclosure of “cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers”.

However, the same clause, further says “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”.

Nayak said there is no press release about this subject on the website of the Press Information Bureau or the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry. “The government has denied to share the requisite information citing the Section 8 (1) (i) of the RTI Act. However, the exemption relating to cabinet papers- which the officer concerned has quoted in his reply itself permits the disclosure of all the information I had sought, after the matter is complete or over.

“The 10 per cent quota amendment has already come into force. Nevertheless, the officer (who has replied to the applicant) seems to think that the matter is neither complete or over,” Nayak said. He also cited a June 12 decision by the transparency watchdog Central Information Commission (CIC) in which a direction was issued for the government departments to put in public domains all cabinet papers and materials related to bills tabled in Parliament. “I will appeal against the denial of the information,” Nayak said.

According to an order by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, persons who are not covered under the existing scheme of reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and socially and educationally backward classes and whose family has gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh are to be identified as EWSs for the benefit of reservation.

 

Hours after Rahul Gandhi attacked PMO for “parallel negotiations” in Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the charges and said the Congress was “flogging a dead horse.”

In her address in Lok Sabha, Sitharaman rubbished Defence Ministry’s objections to the “parallel negotiations” carried out by the PMO in the Rafale defence deal. “They are flogging a dead horse. Periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference,” Sitharaman told Lok Sabha.

Official documents have revealed that the Defence Ministry protested that the position taken by the PMO was “contradictory to the stand taken by MoD and the negotiating team.”

Referring to the report, Sitharaman accused the newspaper of “not carrying Defence Minister’s reply” to the note. She added that the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had replied to the letter asking the official to remain “calm” as everything was “alright”. “If a newspaper publishes a noting then the ethics of journalism will demand that the newspaper publishes the then Defence Minister’s reply as well,” she said.

Launching an attack at the Congress Sitharaman alleged that UPA chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi used to run the PMO as the National Advisory Council Sonia Gandhi chief. “Was that not interference?” she asked.

Earlier this morning Congress chief Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of a JPC probe in the deal.  “You can investigate any of our members. Launch a probe against Robert Vadra, P Chidambaram or anyone in the party. But investigate Rafale deal,” he told at a press briefing in New Delhi.

Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Delhi on Wednesday for interrogation in a money laundering case. Vadra was accompanied by his wife Priyanka Gandhi, but she left soon afterwards.

The case is linked to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of London-based property worth 1.9 million pounds. Last week, a Delhi court granted Vadra interim bail until February 16 but asked the businessman to join the probe.

Asked about dropping off her husband at the probe agency’s office, Gandhi, who took charge as the Congress general secretary, said, “I stand by my family.”

PTI quoted official sources as saying that Vadra would be put through questions on transactions, purchase and possession of certain immovable assets in London and his statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

This is the first time Vadra has appeared before any probe agency in connection with charges of dubious financial dealings. Vadra had denied these allegations in the past and termed them a political witch hunt against him.

During the hearing for anticipatory bail last week, senior advocate K T S Tulsi, representing Vadra, contended that his client was being “subjected to a farce of criminal prosecution, which actually is beset with nothing except political vendetta”.

Opposing the interim bail, ED’s counsels DP Singh and Nitesh Rana said that during the interrogation of Manoj Arora, an aide of Vadra, it was learnt that kickbacks were received in the 2009 petroleum contract, which was used to buy various properties in London.

The ED submitted that there were other cases, allegedly involving the acquisition of property through money laundering. The council also averred that Vadra possesses six flats abroad.

On December 7, the ED conducted searches in Delhi and Bengaluru and one of the premises searched, according to Vadra’s lawyer Suman Khaitan, was Vadra’s office in Sukhdev Vihar, New Delhi.

 

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