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Archives for : October2018

Adani’s Mundra Project Reprieve From Expert Panel Hinges On One Word

The Supreme Court will decide if Adani’s Gujarat project violated the terms of its environment clearance. A panel headed by Sunita Narain has submitted a report on the matter.

A view of the Adani Port Special Economic Zone in Mundra. Image for representational purposes only.

A view of the Adani Port Special Economic Zone in Mundra. Image for representational purposes only.

NEW DELHI—The Adani Group did not violate conditions of environment clearance (EC) by carrying out construction activities over a “sand hill” located within the premises of its commercial port at Mundra in Gujarat, a five-member expert committee led by environmentalist Sunita Narain has said in a report submitted to the Supreme Court.

The court is yet to adjudicate on the report’s findings.

In 2013, in a separate matter, the same expert committee found “incontrovertible evidence” that the Adani port project at Mundra had not complied with the conditions of its environmental clearance.

In 2018, the panel prepared the report at the direction of the Supreme Court in response to a petition filed by Mundra resident Pravinsingh Bhurabha Chauhan.

In his petition, Chauhan claimed that a “sand dune” named Mor Dhuva had been damaged by an Adani Group company—the Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ)— while constructing the port.

Damaging the dune, the petition said, was in violation of the terms of the clearance granted by the Union environment ministry, which specifically states that “sand dunes, corals, mangroves, if any, on the site shall not be disturbed in any way”.

“Dhuva” is a Gujarati word used to refer to the sandy natural features in the Kutch region. The precise legal definition of a dhuva, specifically Mor Dhuva—as sand dune, or sandy hill—will decide if APSEZ has violated the terms of its environment clearance or not.

Chauhan’s petition also contends that the Gujarat state forest department facilitated the transfer of Mor Dhuva to the company by wrongfully including the sandy feature as part of the forest land that was to be legally transferred to the APSEZ.

The precise legal definition of a dhuva, specifically Mor Dhuva—as sand dune, or sandy hill—will decide if APSEZ has violated the terms of its environment clearance or not.

The expert committee’s report has said Adani did not violate EC conditions because it concluded that: a) Mor Dhuva is a sandy hill, not a sand dune, and b) the forest department did not wrongly measure the land transferred to Adani.

HuffPost India has reached out to Narain, the lead author of the report, and the Adani Group, and will update this story once they respond.

Naran Gadhavi of the Kheti Vikas Seva Trust—who has filed several legal cases against the Adani Group in recent years and was one of the people the expert committee met during its field visit to Mundra — told HuffPost India that he was “disappointed” and “dissatisfied” with the committee’s report.

On his part, petitioner Chauhan repeated his claim from the petition that “Mor Dhuva is a sand dune” and stated that his counsel will prove this in court.

Dune or hill?

The expert committee report, submitted in January 2018, relies on two methods to arrive at a conclusion about the sandy structure, or “dhuva”: a field visit to the site of the port project and an evaluation of maps submitted by the Adani Group and the petitioner.

Following its field survey, the panel said there are five dhuvas in and around the port—Bharadi Mata Dhuva, Vekhri Dhuva, Bet Dhuva and another unnamed Dhuva contiguous with the controversial Mor Dhuva—that once comprised part of a reserve forest called the Mundra mangrove forest.

To understand what a dhuva is, the committee studied ‘undisturbed’ and ‘pristine’ dhuvas in the area rather than the remains of the Mor Dhuva

All of these were in the charge of the state forest department until the APSEZ took possession of Mor Dhuva and changed its land use from forest to non-forest and carried out dredging, reclamation and construction activities.

To understand what a dhuva is, the committee studied the ‘undisturbed’ and ‘pristine’ dhuvas in the area rather than the remains of the Mor Dhuva. After studying the other four dhuvas, the committee concluded that “Dhuva is not synonymous with shifting sand dune. Instead it is the term for the geomorphological area between the sea and the land. It can be broadly said that the Dhuva’s geomorphological features are sand hills with vegetation.”

Map versus Map

The committee also studied two sets of maps of the region: A Coastal Zone Management Plan map, verified by the Gujarat government, and submitted to the committee by the Adani group—which does not mention the presence of a sand dune. And a topological map, or toposheet, prepared by the Survey of India and submitted by the petitioner—which, he says, clearly indicates the presence of a sand dune.

After considering both maps, the committee said the Survey of India map was “ambiguous” and chose to rely on the CZMP plan (submitted by the Adani group) which does not mention the dune.

The expert committee thus concluded that it could not be proved that the Adani group “violated EC conditions in terms of its change of land use in Mor Dhuva”.

“In our view there is no ‘ambiguity’ in the toposheet submitted by us as in the given series, all maps employ the same reference point, scale, projection, conventional symbols, signs and colours,” the petitioner’s counsel, advocate Shilpa Chohan, told HuffPost India in an email . “The conventional symbol for sand features is clearly depicted in the toposheet submitted by us before the Committee as well as Supreme Court of India and as such there is no ambiguity.”

Allotment issues

Chauhan, the petitioner, has also accused the Gujarat forest department of facilitating the transfer of Mor Dhuva to the Adani Group by wrongfully measuring forest land legally allotted to Mundra port. He has made this claim based on replies received from the forest department to his Right To Information (RTI) applications. According to him, the replies clearly state that there are various sand dunes in the area including Mor Dhuva and no permission has been given to “break” them.

On comparing the two sets of documents, the expert committee concluded that “there is no evidence to show that Mor Dhuva was not part of the allotment” to Adani

To examine this allegation, the committee perused the forest department’s replies to Chauhan’s RTI applications as well as the documents supplied by the department to the expert committee. Among other things, the forest department submitted the lease agreement between the Gujarat government and the Adani group company for the forest land.

On comparing the two sets of documents, the expert committee concluded that “there is no evidence to show that Mor Dhuva was not part of the allotment” to Adani and that the land when handed over “was given in excess”.

Advocate Chohan disagreed with the expert committee’s findings and said in her email responses to HuffPost India‘s questions, “(The) RTI reply dated 05.09.2017 by the Forest Department, Bhuj which forms part of record of the committee and the Hon’ble Supreme Court confirms that the sand dunes in the area includes Mor Dhuva.”

Further, she also said that, “The maps submitted by M/s Adani seeking forest clearance which are part of the record of the Committee and Hon’ble Supreme Court itself depicts the Mor Dhuva to be outside the boundary of the forestland for which forest clearance was sought. We will be making our submissions on this aspect for consideration of Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

Interestingly, though, the expert committee report also states that the forest department provided RTI replies to the contrary to Chauhan. Analysing both sets of documents, it remarked that the contrasting replies by the department was either a case of “extremely shoddy and careless work” or a “disregard for answering such queries with any degree of seriousness”.

Case history

The Narain-led expert committee was first asked to study the APSEZ in Mundra in September 2012 by the environment ministry. The controversial project was mired in allegations of widespread violations of environmental norms.

The committee, consisting of Narain, Ramesh Ramachandran, Director, National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, and Anthony Gnanamuthu, Lalit Kapur and Ajay Mehrotra of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, submitted its first report to the then environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan in April 2013.

The 2013 report found “incontrovertible evidence of violation of EC condition and non-compliance” by APSEZ Ltd. The port project caused “massive ecological changes with adverse impacts”, it observed.

Specifically, the 2013 report mentioned destruction of mangroves, problems in management of fly ash utilization and disposal, absence of monitoring of groundwater which had turned saline, among other things.

The 2013 report found “incontrovertible evidence of violation of EC condition and non-compliance” by APSEZ Ltd

The expert committee examined three more issues not mentioned in its Terms of Reference: fishermen’s livelihood and access to fishing grounds, village common land and cumulative impacts of power plants and port projects.

The report also recommended “remedial measures” for “effective deterrence for non-compliance” with the EC conditions. They were: setting up an Environment Restoration Fund that is one percent of the project cost or Rs 200 crore, “whichever is higher”; and cancellation of EC for north port, which is part of the overall project.

The 2013 report, however, made no mention of the leveling of sand dunes. In 2015, Chauhan filed a petition on the matter of Mor Dhuva in the apex court. In October 2017, the court asked the expert committee to submit another report.

The committee submitted its second report—on the matter of sand dunes—in January 2018 but this was distributed to all the concerned parties only in mid-September.

The case last came up in the SC on 14 September 2018. The court has asked it to be listed after four weeks since then.

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UN Human Rights Council adopts landmark declaration of peasants’ rights

If approved by UN member states next month, the declaration will help farmers legally challenge agricultural policies, as well as the broader policy directions such as austerity and ‘free-trade’

Peasants will be able to approach courts using the provisions of the declaration if it is adopted. UN Human Rights Council adopts landmark declaration of peasants' rights

Peasants will be able to approach courts using the provisions of the declaration if it is adopted.

After almost two decades of ceaseless peasant struggles across the world, coordinated by global movements such as the Via Campesina (the peasant way), the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) finally adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas on September 28.

If adopted by a final vote by UN member states next month, this will be an unprecedented recognition of peasant rights in international law, using which organized farmers, agricultural laborers, cattle rearers, and even hunter gatherers can legally challenge agricultural policies, as well as the broader policy directions such as austerity and ‘free-trade’.

For decades now, states across the world have been pursuing neoliberal economic policies, as a result of which the peasantry has been suffering a continuous squeeze on their real-incomes. They have been dispossessed of their land and access to natural resources, disenfranchised from the seed breeding and food production processes, and targeted with violence when they resist in an organized manner.

“The violations of peasants’ rights are on the rise because of the implementation of neoliberal policies promoted by the World Trade Organisation, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), other institutions and many governments in the North as well as in the South. The WTO and FTAs force the opening of markets and prevent countries from protecting and supporting their domestic agriculture. They push.. the deregulation in the agriculture sector,” the Via Campesina stated in its 2008 Declaration of Rights of Peasants – Women and Men, which was placed before the Human Rights Council the same year.

Without naming policies or institutions, the UNHRC’s declaration nevertheless acknowledges this attrition suffered by the class which comprises almost half the world’s population, and concedes to them all the rights demanded by the Via Campesina in its declaration.

Some of these include the right to organize and freedom from violent suppression, the right to breed and exchange seeds, the right to influence national policies that affect peasants, as well as the right to choose what is to be grown and by what methods. The declaration, once in force as a law, will strengthen the peasantry’s ability to resist such policies by leveraging international law in appropriate courts.

This declaration, after being placed before the 3rd Committee session at the UN General Assembly this month, will be voted on in November. “Once adopted, the UN Declaration will become a powerful tool for peasants and other people working in rural areas to seek justice and favourable national policies around food, agriculture, seeds and land keeping in mind the interests of millions of rural food producers comprising all genders and youth,” the Via Campesina said in a statement.

Incidentally, many developed countries, including Germany, Belgium, Iceland, Japan, South Korea and Spain abstained from voting while the UK, Hungary and Australia voted against adopting the declaration at the UNHRC session. Brazil too abstained from voting.

However, the support of the developing countries helped carry the motion with 33 votes in favor, 11 abstentions and 3 against.

The resistance to the adoption of this declaration by most developed countries is understandable, as the rights stipulated in it will directly affect the profits of transnational corporations, most of which are based in these countries.

The declaration states peasants shall have the “Right to save, use, exchange and sell their farm-saved seed or propagating material,” adding, “States shall recognize the rights of peasants to rely either on their own seeds or on other locally available seeds of their choice, and to decide on the crops and species that they wish to grow.”

Further, the declaration also makes it an obligation on the state to actively “support peasant seed systems, and promote the use of peasant seeds and agrobiodiversity”. This will directly affect the profits of many giants like Germany-based Bayer, which has now acquired Monsanto. The profit strategy of companies like these includes lobbying states, especially in Africa and South Asia, to confer intellectual property rights on its genetically-modified seeds . This enables these corporates to criminalize breeding and exchange of seeds by farmers, leaving them dependent on the firms for the most basic necessity for farming.

A major source of accumulation of wealth for numerous large manufacturing industries, predominantly based in developed countries, has been the grabbing of land, water and other resources from the peasants in developing countries, using state-sanction.

The declaration seeks to protect peasants from what academics call accumulation by dispossession. It states, “Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to be protected against arbitrary and unlawful displacement from their land or place of habitual residence, or from other natural resources used in their activities and necessary for the enjoyment of adequate living conditions.”

In order safeguard this right, “States shall incorporate protections against displacement into domestic legislation…. States shall prohibit arbitrary and unlawful forced eviction, the destruction of agricultural areas and the confiscation or expropriation of land and other natural resources.”

By asserting that “Peasants and other people working in rural areas have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies,” the declaration seeks to limit the influence that Western states, armed with IMF and World Bank policies, have had in shaping the national development policies.

By deeming “adequate standard of living”, basic income security, access to health and to “means of production.. including production tools, technical assistance, credit, insurance and other financial services” as a “right” of the peasantry, the declaration obliges states to undertake large-scale public expenditure, directly contradicting the IMF’s neoliberal diktat of austerity.

The declaration mandates that, “before adopting and implementing legislation and policies, international agreements and other decision-making processes that may affect the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with peasants.. through their own representative institutions.. and [respond] to their contributions.” This can prove key in the resistance to free trade agreements.

Further, by stipulating agrarian reforms to reduce land concentration, the declaration has adopted a radical language, a victory for those who have been campaigning for such a measure for years. “This has been a long tough path but as peasants, as people who have seen the worst of poverty and neglect, we are tough too and we never give up”, Elizabeth Mpofu, the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina said.

“Once the resolution is adopted at the UN General Assembly in New York, we will take the message of the Declaration to our people back home, and elaborate its significance and how it could strengthen our struggles against privatization, criminalization and more. ..It will enable us to demand better policies and laws that will take into account the rural realities of the developing world” said Henry Saragih, the chairperson of the Indonesian Peasant Union.

UN Human Rights Council adopts landmark declaration of peasants’ rights

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Rajasthan- Muslim Youth lynched for fishing near temple #WTFnews


Azhar Khan, 22, was lynched for fishing near a temple in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan on 17th September 2018. (Photo – The Indian Express)


JAIPUR — Despite the Supreme Court expressing serious concern over and issuing strong directives to check mob lynching, the incidence of this nature has continued unabated. The latest victim of mob lynching is 22-year-old Azhar Khan – he was beaten to death by a mob for fishing near a temple in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh district. The BJP-ruled Rajasthan has earned notoriety for lynching in the name of faith in the last few years.

Just two days back, the Supreme Court had directed all state governments to implement its 17th July directives to check mob lynching.

The youth who worked as a conductor in a private bus and was youngest among four siblings had gone to fishing along with some friends near a temple on the banks of Ruparel river in Chittorgarh’s Kheri village. Some guards from a nearby farmhouse raised an alarm leading to the gathering of villagers in large number. While Shahnawaz Khan (23), Naushad Khan (47) and Anwar Khan (41) were able to flee, Azhar was caught by the villagers. He was brutally beaten by the mob. The incident took place on 17th September. The injured youth was taken to Udaipur hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on 22nd September.

His uncle Riyaz Khan registered an FIR on the same day. “Parsoli station house officer Praveen Singh Tuesday said that they had detained some men for questioning, but gave no more details”, says Hindustan Times.

“No arrests have been made yet, and the police said the cause of assault was yet to be ascertained,” says The Indian Express.

In the last four years, dozens of people have been lynched by mob in the name of faith – over suspicion of cow slaughter, cow smuggling and beef consumption. Most of the incidents have occurred in the BJP-ruled states including Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam.

Rajasthan, in particular, has earned notoriety for mob lynching by cow vigilantes. In Alwar district of the state, several incidents of lynching have occurred. On 20th July this year, Akbar or Rakbar Khan was lynched over suspicion of cattle smuggling. In November last year, one Umar Khan was lynched on the same suspicion. In April that year, Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Haryana was lynched here.

List Of Incidents Of Lynching Even After 17th July SC Verdict:

Since 17th July 2018 when the Supreme Court passed a long judgement against mob lynching and cow vigilantism, around one dozen incidents of lynching have occurred in different parts of the country. Below is a list of some of these incidents:

— Akbar or Rakbar Khan was lynched over suspicion of cattle smuggling in Alwar district of Rajasthan on 20th July.

— A mentally-challenged woman was lynched on suspicion of child lifting in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh on 22nd July.

— 22-year-old Ajmal Vahoniya was beaten to death by a mob on suspicion of mobile theft in Dahod district of Gujarat on 28th July.

— 52-year-old Farooq Shiekh Hussain was lynched in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh Saturday on 31st July.

— A 25-year-old man was beaten to death by a mob over suspicion of cow theft in Palwal district of Haryana on 2nd August.

— 20-year-old Shahrukh Khan was lynched by a mob over suspicion of cattle theft attempt in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh on 23rd August.

— A retired policeman Abdul Samad Khan, 70, was beaten to death by a group of people allegedly over a property dispute in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh on 3rdSeptember.

— MBA graduate Farooq Khan, 26, was lynched by a mob on suspicion of vehicle theft in Manipur on 14th September. 


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As Justice Chandrachud Calls Aadhaar Law ‘Unconstitutional’, Government Increases Use Of Controversial Short Cut

Mumbai: “The passing of Aadhaar Act as a money bill is a fraud on the Constitution,” said Justice DY Chandrachud in his dissenting judgement on the 2016 Aadhaar Act on September 26, 2018. “If a Constitution has to survive political aggrandisement, notions of power and authority must give compliance to rule of law.”

With two sessions still to go (the 2018 winter session and the 2019-20 budget session), the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19) has already passed 9% more “money bills” than the 15th (2009-14). Money bills are meant to clear government expenses and taxation and are easily passed by ruling-party majority in the lower house, the Lok Sabha, instead of greater debate in and scrutiny by both houses of Parliament.

Over the years, it appears that the Lok Sabha has favoured the use of money bills; 21% more money bills were passed than ordinary bills between May 2004 and September 2018–indicating that bills have been introduced and passed solely by the Lok Sabha (Rajya Sabha can only discuss money bills, but does not need to pass them), according to our analysis of parliamentary data.

The 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09) passed 173 bills, of which 51% were money bills (89 of 173 bills).

Since the current session of the Lok Sabha was convened, it has passed 208 bills, a 20% increase since the 14th Lok Sabha. Money bills were 35% (72 of 208) of the bills passed.

Laws that took the short cut

Here are some other laws, besides Aadhaar, that took the controversial “money bill” short cut:

1) The government amended the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), 1976–which earlier barred political parties from receiving foreign funding–through an amendment in the Finance Bill, 2016, to permit funding of non-government organisations by foreign companies and changed the definition of “foreign companies”.

Subsequently, the government amended the FCRA again to push back the date of commencement to 1976, rendering all donations received after 1976 legitimate, The Hindureported on February 3, 2018. This move benefits the two major political parties of India, the Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party. The parties were pulled up by the Delhi High Court in 2014 for violating the FCRA by accepting donations from the UK based Vedanta group. With this amendment, the parties have managed to evade legal issues.

2) The Finance Act, 2017,  amended the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, to allow the issuance of electoral bonds from any scheduled bank to donate funds to political parties listed under Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.

Electoral bonds were introduced to encourage transparency in the way political parties are funded by ensuring a cap in payment by cash of Rs 2,000. Anything above that requires donation through electoral bonds and cheques.

The electoral bonds, similar to promissory notes, do not bear the name of the donor or any other detail by which the donor can be identified. Details of the political party encashing it can not be accessed, according to this press release by the Ministry of Finance.

Electoral bonds, along with an amendment that allows loss-making companies to donate funds to the parties, could lead to the creation of shell companies (see here and here).

3) In a move to reform existing tribunals (parallel to the traditional court systems but related to disputes on specific issues; for example, the National Green Tribunal adjudicates environmental disputes), eight tribunals were to be merged with existing tribunals.

The newly framed rules under the Finance Act, 2017, shifted the authority to appoint the heads of the tribunals to the central government. This move has evoked six separate notices from the High Courts of GujaratMadrasPunjabHaryana and Bombay and the Supreme Court, as provisions in the amendment are unrelated to tax-based issues.

At least 25 out of 40 amendments introduced in the Finance Act, 2017, were unrelated to government revenue and taxation, Bloomberg-Quint reported on March 23,2017.

What is a money bill?

Such a bill “only” deals with all or any of the following matters under Article 110(1) of the Indian constitution:

    1. Imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;
    1. Regulation of the borrowing of money or guarantee given by the Government of India, or the amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken by the Government of India;
    1. Access to the Consolidated Fund or the Contingency Fund of India for payment or withdrawal;
    1. Appropriation of money out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
    1. Declaration of any expense charged on the Consolidated Fund of India and the increase, if any.
    1. The receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a State;
    1. Any matter incidental to any of the matters specified in sub-clauses (a) to (f).

What is the difference between a finance bill and a money bill?

Finance bills are similar to money bills in the sense that it has provisions related to tax, expenditure and that may contain matters specified in Article 110 (1). A money bill specifically centres its identity around the provisions (a) to (g) and is certified by the Speaker as such.

A financial bill becomes a money bill only when it carries the Speaker’s certification as a money bill. Bills that are not certified by the Speaker are:

    1. Bills that contain any of the matters specified in Article 110, but do not contain only those matters Article 117 (1);
    1. Ordinary bills that contain provisions involving expenditure from the Consolidated Fund, according to Article 117 (3).

Why a money bills is easy to pass

An ordinary bill usually goes through three hurdles before becoming a law. In the Lok Sabha (if introduced first in the Lok Sabha), the bill is debated and amendments are suggested. After the bill is passed, it is moved to the Rajya Sabha for another round of debate and voting. The bill finally goes to the President for approval, after which it becomes an Act, or law, and is published in the official gazette.

A money bill, however, does not have to go through these processes. The Lok Sabha has the sole authority to introduce a money bill, which must be certified by the speaker as a “money bill”. Article 110 (3) of the constitution states that “if any question arises whether a bill is a money bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final”.

Once passed, the bill is handed over to the Rajya Sabha. The upper house has the bill for 14 days, and its contribution is restricted to recommending amendments, which may or may not be accepted by the Lok Sabha. In case the bill is not sent back to the Lok Sabha in 14 days, the bill is deemed passed by both houses.

In the cases of the Finance Act 2017 and the Aadhaar Act 2016, recommendations that were suggested by the Rajya Sabha on March 29, 2017 and March 16, 2016, respectively were rejected by the Lok Sabha both times.

“Bicameralism is a founding value of our democracy,” said Justice Chandrachud in his judgment.

Invoking the Constitution, his judgement–which dissented with the majority opinion by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AM Khanwilkar, AS Sikri and Ashok Bhushan–criticised the introduction and passing of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill, as it did not qualify as a money bill under Article 110 (1) of the constitution, making it “plainly unconstitutional”.

“The Lok Sabha is not entrusted with the entire authority of Parliament. The Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha and the President together constitute the Parliament of India,” his judgement further said.

In the 2018 budget session, the Lok Sabha passed two bills and 218 amendments without debate in thirty minutes on March 13, 2018, after the Speaker exercised the ‘guillotine’, which refers to voting on tabled bills and amendments by a voice vote without debate, IndiaSpend reported on March 14, 2018. Both bills were money bills–the Finance Bill, 2018, and the Appropriation Bill, 2018–and less than a second was spent on each matter tabled to be discussed.

The final stage in the passing of a money bill is the assent of the President. While the Constitution does not allow the money bill to be sent back to the lower house by the President, the assent to a money bill can be withheld by the President. Even as 72 money bills have been passed by the current Lok Sabha, only 62 have been accepted by the President.

The Aadhaar judgement noted previous instances where a money bill was considered exempt from judicial review.

The certification of a bill as a money bill is not just a matter of procedure in Parliament, the Court observed. If any illegality was detected and if the decision had breached constitutional provisions, then the decision (of the Speaker) is subject to judicial review, the court declared.

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Open Petition To President of India , In Solidarity with Dr Prasad Pannian of Kerala

Hon’ble President of India & Visitor, Central University of Kerala

Image result for Dr Prasad Pannian

Honourable President Shri Ram Nath Kovind,

Instances of assault on academic and intellectual freedom have become the order of the day in present day India, the latest being the disciplinary action taken against Dr. Prasad Pannian, Associate Professor and Head, Department of English & Comparative Literature, Central University of Kerala, Kasaragod, Kerala. Dr. Pannian was removed from his position as Head of the Department of English & Comparative Literature on 07.09.2018. CUK administration’s highhandedness is evidenced by the fact that Dr Pannian was not given any opportunity to explain/clarify before being suspended. The flouting of procedure and principles of natural justice in this instance for “violating the service rules” (under CCS Rules 1964 that are not at all relevant to academic institutions) also point out to  a larger crisis in academic administration.

Dr Prasad Pannian is targeted for his unflinching support to a Dalit student who was jailed for many days over a very minor incident in the University.  Dr. Pannian’s criticism of the highhandedness of the University administration in awarding disproportionate punishment to the student and criminalising his life in a Facebook post earned him the wrath of the University authorities. A reputed young scholar, Dr Pannian has earned his name in critical humanities with his book titled Edward Said and the Question of Subjectivity, published by Palgrave Macmillan, New York (2016). He has, among other recognitions,  recently won the prestigious Edward Said Fellowship (2018-19) instituted by the Heyman Centre for Humanities at the University of Columbia in the City of New York.  We consider the disciplinary action taken against Dr. Pannian as an infringement on his fundamental right to freedom of expression as an individual and as a teacher.  Therefore, we condemn the punishment and oppose unequivocally the targeting of a reputed scholar.

Established as one of the fifteen Central Universities under ‘The Central Universities Act, 2009’, CUK is envisaged as an institution that would develop into a major center of higher learning and research in a relatively backward region of Kerala. Academics like Dr. Pannian would be very central to the future of the Central University of Kerala, Kasargod with his scholarship, sense of social justice and humanitarian values. However, such positive hopes are belied when we note with great dismay how promising academics are targeted, punished and forced to remain silent.

Therefore, we, the undersigned academics request the Visitor of the University, Shri. Ram Nath Kovind, Honourable President of India, to urgently intervene in the matter and direct the University administration under Prof G Gopakumar, Vice Chancellor, CUK to drop all disciplinary proceedings and action against Dr. Prasad Pannian. We stand in solidarity with Dr. Prasad Pannian and request you to revoke all disciplinary action against him.


Sanal Mohan, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University

Sachin N, University of Delhi

P K Yasser Arafath, University of Delhi`


This petition ahs been sigend by mroe than 1000  citizens of India

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Why Has Modi Govt Made Reliance Health Insurance Mandatory For J&K Employees?

After scrapping monthly medical allowance, staff across categories are being charged the same amount of premium for buying insurance from Anil Ambani’s Reliance.
Reliance Health Insurance
Image Courtesy: Catchnews

The Modi government seems to be going out of its way to help fill the dwindling coffers of Anil Ambani’s Reliance group — as is most recently being alleged in the Rafale scam.

Now, the Centre has made it mandatory for all state government employees in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) to buy health insurance from Reliance General Insurance Company Limited. What is even worse, the government has scrapped the monthly medical allowance paid to state government employees.

The governor’s administration in J&K announced the Group Mediclaim Insurance Policy for all state employees and pensioners on September 20.

It said “the policy has been tied up” with Reliance General Insurance — instead of a government-owned insurance company, as one would expect at least from a government scheme meant for state employees.

“The policy has been tied up with M/s Reliance General Insurance Company Limited on annual premium of Rs 8,777 and Rs 22, 229 (for employees and pensioners, respectively),” said the order by the J&K Government.

“The policy is mandatory for all the state government employees (Gazetted as well as Non-gazetted), State Universities, Commissions, Autonomous Bodies and PSUs,” it added.

However, the policy will be optional for pensioners, accredited journalists, and other categories of employees.

The policy will provide health insurance coverage of up to Rs 6 lakh per employee/pensioner per annum along with his/her five dependent family members on floater basis.

Ensuring a Market For Reliance’s New Foray?

On September 18, two days before the J&K order was issued, Anil Ambani’s Reliance officially announced that it was setting up a standalone health insurance company, Reliance Health Insurance — separate from Reliance General Insurance.

This new company dedicated to health insurance — set to become a burgeoning market, what with Modi’s Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme — is expected to become operational by early next year, within this financial year itself.

As for the health insurance policy in J&K, it came into effect on October 1, for a year — and is extendable annually for three years, based on “satisfactory performance” of the insurer, as Principal Secretary Finance Navin K Choudhary said, according to PTI.

So is the Modi government already securing J&K as a market for the upcoming Reliance Health Insurance — which is why it has made the policy mandatory for all serving state employees?

Premium Unfair, Allowance Scrapped

What’s more, the insurance premium (as mentioned above) is Rs 8,777 annually for all employees — across categories and levels.

So, from a Class-IV employee, such as a peon, to officers in the Kashmir Administration Service (KAS), all would pay the same amount of money as premium — which would be mandatorily deducted from their salaries.

Never mind that the salary paid to a peon is a pittance compared with what is paid to a KAS officer, for example.

And employees in the state have objected to the order. As reported by local publication Daily Excelsior, the Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) has opposed the premium as “unfair, unjustified and unacceptable”.

Speaking to Newsclick, Shyam Prasad Kesar, state treasurer of the J&K unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said,

“State employees of J&K used to get a medical allowance of Rs 300 per month, which has been stopped. This used to give workers some relief in their smaller expenses on medicines and visits to doctors. In fact, employees had been demanding that the medical allowance be enhanced to Rs 1,000,” said Kesar.

“But with health insurance, employees would only be able to claim it for inpatient treatment, once they are admitted in hospital, not for the regular expenses of outpatient care,” he added.

He said the fact that this scheme has been made been mandatory  is problematic, because there are some employees who have already taken health insurance policies. “This will result in double payment of premium for such employees. Therefore, this policy should have been kept optional,” he said.

As for the same premium being charged from employees across categories, Kesar said it was not just “grossly unjust” but “discriminatory”.

“How can the government impose the same premium for all? This means that employees who get paid Rs 20,000 as well as those getting paid Rs 1.5 lakh have to pay Rs 8,777. When the salary is not the same, on what basis is the premium being deducted from the salary the same?” he said.

“This is absolutely discriminatory. The government should have considered the salary of employees across categories and fixed the premium in a graded manner, at the least.”

Kesar also said it was a “tragedy” that the annual premium for pensioners was as high as Rs 22,229.

“First, the government goes with a private insurance companies, which are known to be unreliable. As anyone can tell in current times, corporate houses cannot be trusted. And then the government puts this burden on lesser paid employees, while scrapping the monthly medical allowance.”

Reliance Favoured Over Others?

The same Daily Excelsior report said that according to the EJAC members, the state government had held a meeting regarding this Mediclaim policy between employees’ representatives and the representatives of ICICI Bank “under the chairmanship of (Principal Secretary Finance) Naveen Choudhary”.

The EJAC said that with ICICI Bank, the annual premium was fixed at around Rs 5,300 while giving the same amount of insurance cover — but that “now a deal has been struck with Reliance Insurance with more than 65% increase annual premium that is Rs 8,770 of Reliance Insurance from Rs 5,300 of ICICI Bank, we smell a rat in it.”

“It is just to benefit a particular company that government employees are being made scapegoats” the EJAC members said, according to the report.

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India – 7 Haryana cops booked for rape of minor, mother #Vaw


Police have registered a case against the 18 accused under relevant sections of IPC and Pocso Act

The girl and her mother were raped for almost two months in a village near Kaithal’s Kalayat town

The accused are yet to be arrested


KAITHAL: Haryana Policebooked 18 persons, including seven police personnel, on Wednesday for allegedly repeatedly raping a minor girl and her mother for almost two months between July and September this year in a village near Kalayat town of Kaithaldistrict.

Kaithal superintendent of police (SP) Astha Modi told TOI the case had been registered against seven policemenand11others,including a sarpanch and a former sarpanch, on the basis of the survivor’s complaint on October 2 under Sections 376 D (gang rape), 323 (punishment for voluntary causing hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement), 384 (punishment for extortion), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.

Seven police personnel booked in the case have been identified as assistant sub-inspectors (ASI) Shamsher Singh, Roshan Lal and Dhanpati, exempted ASI Bajir Singh, head constable Randeep and constables Dilavar and Isham Singh.

The other 11 accused are Birbal, Surjeet, Mehar Singh, Balvinder, Rajesh, Chanderbhan, Ramdhari, Devender, Chanderbhan Singh, Sonu and Gulab Singh.

“The survivor alleged ASI Shamsher Singh had raped her and her mother at their house multiple times while rest of the accused were standing outside and supported him.

However, no arrest has been made so far in this case,” the SP added.

When contacted, the main accused, ASI Shamsher Singh said all the allegations levelled by the survivor were baseless. He said, “The girl’s father is an advocate and she is hatching a conspiracy at his behest to defame me and others.”

About three months ago, the minor survivor had registered a case of molestation against her father who was lodged in the jail, SP Modi said. The matter was sorted out when the survivor gave a written statement that the allegations she had levelled against her father were not true.

At the time, the survivor had told the police that prominent persons of her village had prevented her and her mother from approaching the police against her father.

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HC fines 3 UP docs ₹5,000 each for poor handwriting


Tales of poor handwriting of doctors are not at all uncommon, but a court in Uttar Pradesh has put that on record now.

A Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court has imposed Rs 5,000 penalty each on three doctors in separate cases for their illegible handwriting.

In the three criminal cases that came up for hearing last week, the injury report of the victims issued by hospitals from Sitapur, Unnao and Gonda district hospitals were “not readable” because the handwriting of the doctors who had issued them were “very poor”.

The bench considered it an obstruction in the court work and summoned the three doctors — Dr TP Jaiswal of Unnao, Dr PK Goel of Sitapur and Dr Ashish Saxena of Gonda. A bench of Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Sanjay Harkauli admonished them and asked them to deposit Rs 5,000 penalty in the court’s library. The doctors pleaded they erred in writing legible prescriptions as they were overburdened.

The court further directed principal secretary (home), principal secretary (medical & health) and director general (medical & health) to ensure that in the future medico reports are prepared in “easy language and legible handwriting”. It also suggested that such reports should be typed using a computer.

“The medico-legal report, if given clearly, can either endorse the incident as given by the eyewitnesses or can disprove the incident to a great extent. This is possible only if a detailed and clear medico-legal report is furnished by the doctors, with complete responsibility,” the bench observed.

It added, “The medical reports, however, are written in such shabby handwriting that they are not readable and decipherable by advocates or judges. It is to be considered that the medico-legal reports and post-mortem reports are prepared to assist the persons involved in dispensation of criminal justice. If such a report is readable by medical practitioners only, it shall not serve the purpose for which it is made.”

The court reminded the doctors of a circular issued by UP director general (medical & health) in November 2012 which stipulated doctors to prepare medico-legal reports in readable form.

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RSS calls for review of SC ruling on Sabarimala

New Delhi:

The RSS has called for a review of the Supreme Court’s recent verdict allowing entry of women of 10 to 50 years of age into the Sabarimala Temple in “defiance of the traditions” followed by the legendary shrine.

In the Sangh’s first response to the verdict, its general secretary Suresh (Bhaiyyaji) Joshi said while the SC’s order needed to be honoured, the temple’s tradition and popular sentiments cannot be overlooked. “In the case of Sabarimala Devasthanam also, it is an issue of a local temple tradition and faith to which sentiments of millions of devotees, including women, are attached. These sentiments of devotees cannot be ignored,” said Joshi who is number two in the Sangh hierarchy. His statement comes against the backdrop of gathering protests in Kerala.

Joshi criticised the Kerala government for moving to implement the SC verdict and expressed support for those, particularly women, who have taken to streets in parts of the state to protest the verdict. “Unfortunately, the Kerala government has taken steps to implement the judgement with immediate effect without taking the sentiments of devotees into consideration. There is an obvious reaction to the same by the devotees, especially women, who are protesting against the forceful breaking of the tradition,” he said.

“While the SC judgement should be respected, RSS calls upon all stakeholders, including spiritual and community leaders to come together to address the issue, availing judicial options also. They must convey their concerns on the right of worship in a manner which best suits their faith and devotion, to the authorities in a peaceful manner,” said the RSS leader.

He suggested that a “judicial option” be considered in the matter so that “sentiments of devotees” are not overlooked.

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Maharashtra – SC/ST cases in state rose after ’16, shows data given to House panel


Crime against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Maharashtra has shown an uptick in the period between 2015 and 2018, according to data compiled on the eve of a House committee’s visit to the state capital.

On an average, around 400 cases of crime against scheduled caste members and 140 against scheduled tribe members are registered in Maharashtra annually. Registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, these range from rape and murder to grievous hurt and arson.

A breakup (see graphic) shows a rise in rape cases between 2016 and 2017. While rape cases involving SC women increased from 220 to 230, those involving ST women rose from 86 to 113. Overall, crimes against SC persons rose from 397 to 414, while against ST persons from 128 to 151 between 2016 and 2017.

Data for 2018 is available till August. If a projection is to be made for the last four months, it can be seen that total cases under various heads will cross the 2017 numbers.

Activists, however, say the figures are under-reported. The data was compiled ahead of a visit to Mumbai by the House panel for the welfare of SC/STs on Monday and at a time when the provision of an immediate arrest in the event of a complaint under the SC/ST act is still being debated in the courts.

Commenting on the data presented to the panel, social activist Dr Nitin Lata Waman said the state has failed to safeguard the rights of marginalized people. “The police see it as an additional burden and many cases go unregistered under the stringent Atrocities Act.” “Such violence is a manifestation of the failure to maintain social positions and jealousy towards so-called lower social groups, who are trying to cope with historic inequality, and trying to earn social acceptance and recognition,” Dr Waman said. Kavita Ware, an activist working among tribals, said state agencies conduct research and offer measures, “but sadly, it all remains only on paper and no follow-up action is taken.”


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