QBullet: UP Lokayukta Scandal, Malda Tension Continues & More

QBullet: The Quint’s compilation of news headlines from across the country.

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India
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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav seems to be picking and choosing his own Lokayukta. (Photo: PTI)

1. Names of 30 Dead Judges Suggested for UP Lokayukta

Embroiled in drama and politics, Uttar Pradesh hasn’t managed to appoint the state Lokayukta in over a year. The Supreme Court intervened, and chose Justice (Retd) Virendra Singh, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court, from a list of names sent by the SP government for the post.

Reacting to the appointment, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud of Allahabad High Court protested, and wrote to Governor Ram Naik about the inclusion of Justice Virendra Singh’s name in the list sent to the Supreme Court. He said this was done despite his objections and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s assurance that Singh would not be on the panel.

The Lokayukta is chosen by a selection committee that comprises the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of the High Court.

The selection process was decidedly fishy, according to documents accessed by The Indian Express. For example:

When Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Leader of Opposition Swami Prasad Maurya met on 28 January 2015 to consider a name for Lokayukta, the list before them included at least 30 dead judges. The oldest among them had retired in 1951.

Read the full story here.

2. Mamata Govt Stops BJP, CPM Fact-Finding Teams from Visiting Malda

BJP and CPM fact-finding teams were denied permission by the West Bengal Trinamool Congress government to visit violence-hit Kaliachak in Malda. The Magmata’s government’s decision triggered a spat with the parties. The former alleged that the saffron outfits were trying to communalise the situation ahead of the election.

The Trinamool government is denying permission to BJP and CPM fact-finding teams to visit Malda. (Photo: ANI screengrab)
The Trinamool government is denying permission to BJP and CPM fact-finding teams to visit Malda. (Photo: ANI screengrab)

A team of BJP MPs which arrived in Malda early on Monday morning was turned back from the railway station itself, drawing a sharp attack from the party which accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of playing “vote bank” politics and said it will take the matter to the President. The party said it would request Union home minister Rajnath Singh to order a high-level probe into the prevailing situation in the area.

Report in The Times of India

Hours later, a CPM team headed by MP and politburo member Mohammed Salim was also prevented from reaching Kaliachak.

3. Jogi Versus Baghel Has Become Tape Versus Tape

Controversies within the Chattisgarh Congress are deepening. The state President Bhupesh Baghel expelled MLA Amit Jogi and demanded action against his father, following the possibility that financial inducements could have been offered to another Congress candidate to withdraw his candidature in the 2014 Antagarh assembly by-election. Now, another purported tape has surfaced.

File photo of Congress MLA for Marwahi, Amit Jogi. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/amitjogi">@amitjogi</a>)
File photo of Congress MLA for Marwahi, Amit Jogi. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@amitjogi)

Firoz Siddiqui, a former Jogi loyalist who last week retracted his admission that the voice in the purported conversations was his, released a tape Monday of another conversation he had with Baghel in which the latter asked him to hand over the recordings regarding Antagarh to The Indian Express.

Report in The Indian Express

4. High Court Won’t Meddle, Odd-Even to Run Till 15 Jan

The AAP government has been given the opportunity to see the odd-even restriction on private cars to its conclusion. The scheme will have its full 15-day trial. The High Court has rejected a dozen PILs for lifting the restriction.

“The power of judicial review cannot be extended to determine the correctness of such a policy decision or to find out whether there could be more appropriate or better alternatives for reducing the alarming levels of air pollution in Delhi,” a Bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath ruled.

Report in The Tribune

The Bench has also ruled that the High Court’s interference was unwarranted, as it was only a 15-day pilot project to assess the impact on air pollution. It acknowledged that the restriction was inconvenient, but a Supreme Court ruling in 2002 exempted government policies from judicial review.

5. With Only 72 Hours to Go, No Clarity on Talks with Pakistan

With the proposed talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan just 72 hours away, there was still little clarity over the meeting planned in Islamabad.

The fate of the NSA-level talks between the two countries is unclear. (Photo: Reuters)
The fate of the NSA-level talks between the two countries is unclear. (Photo: Reuters)

The highest echelons of the Indian government seem unsure, despite reports that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered a joint investigation team (JIT) — comprising officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI) — to probe leads and follow up on the information provided by India on the Pathankot airbase attack.

Reports said Pakistani authorities carried out raids in Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahwalpur. Among the places raided was the house of Ashfaq Ahmed, brother-in-law of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, named as one of the handlers of the terrorists.

Report in The Hindu

6. Supreme Court Set to Hear Plea Against Jallikattu

The Animal Welfare Board and 12 others have challenged the Centre’s decision to allow holding of jallikattu (taming the bull) in Tamil Nadu The Supreme Court agreed to hear these petitions on Tuesday thereby putting a question mark on the euphoria created in the state over jallikattu.

Headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur a three-judge bench directed the matter to be listed before an appropriate bench after hearing senior counsel KK Venugopal, Anand Grover and others who made a mention about the urgency as jallikattu is slated to begin this week during Pongal.

All petitions have asked for the Central government’s notification of 7 January 2016, permitting the use of bulls in jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, and bullock cart races elsewhere in the country, to be struck down. The grievance of the petitioners is that this notification has the effect of squarely violating the judgment.

Report in the Asian Age

7. SC For Separate Law to Deal With Child Rape

In a strong statement condemning the current spate of sexual crimes against children, the Supreme Court has said that crimes against children was an indication of the abysmal depths to which society is falling.

Rape of infants and children below 10 years was nothing but brutal perversion. The Supreme Court has asked Parliament to enact a separate law to address rape and to ensure harsh punishment.

This is the first time the Supreme Court has distinguished infants and children below 10 from the general description of “minors” given by law to anyone below the age of 18. A Bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, said Parliament had to separately define the word “child” in terms of rape.

Report in The Hindu

8. SC Refuses to Limit Power to Hear Appeals Against Any Court

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to limit its power to entertain appeals against any court or tribunal order. It disposed of the first of 29 constitution bench matters it is hearing.

“In our opinion, no effort should be made to limit powers under Article 136 (of the Constitution),” said a five-judge bench.

Article 136 allows citizens to file so-called special leave petitions (SLPs) to appeal before the Supreme Court against any “judgement, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India”. It is up to the apex court to decide whether it wants to hear an appeal or not.

Report in the Livemint

9. This Land, This Nation

Mehdi Hasan, who interviewed Ram Madhav on Al Jazeera last month, seemed to have been surprised by the map of Akhand Bharat that he had seen during his visit to the RSS’ Nagpur office. However, Akhand Bharat is one of the mainstays of Hindu nationalism, writes Christophe Jaffrelot for The Indian Express.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh passed many resolutions that showed its attachment to this core issue. In 1953, its all-India general council declared: “We, therefore, reaffirm our faith in one and united India and pledge ourselves to renewed efforts for the fulfilment of this ideal of Akhand Bharat”. In 1965, the same body expressed its hope that one day “India and Pakistan will be united to form Akhand Bharat”.

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