Thursday, June 20, 2024

Mumbai’s great shame


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By Insaf


The Congress government in Maharashtra finds itself embarrassingly on the wrong side of law. Its police action of arresting two girls, Shaheen Dhada and Renu Shrinivas, over their Facebook post questioning Mumbai shutdown after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s funeral has even got the Centre greatly upset. On Thursday last, none other than IT and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal was forced to step in and reacted saying the IT Act should not be used to “throttle dissent”. He held the opinion that sending people under Section 66(A) to judicial custody was not in accordance with the law and could be “illegal.” While Sibal has sought to be cautious and merely said there was need to educate enforcement agencies on how not to misuse the law, the Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju, true to his style has been more forthcoming. In prompt emails shot off to Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan, Katju noted that under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, freedom of speech is a guaranteed fundamental right and that it cannot be taken away. “We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship”, he aptly pointed and demanded that the CM take action against the erring policemen. Importantly, the State can ill-afford not to pay heed. It must realise that the girls’ comments opposing the city’s shutdown reflect the sentiment of most citizens. As a vibrant democracy, the nation must halt in its steps which are already curtailing the citizens space of freedom and expression.

Uttarakhand Grabs Opportunity

Delhi’s mysterious farmhouse shootout has had interesting repercussions in Uttarakhand. The Congress government has promptly grabbed the opportunity to remove the State Minorities Commission’s controversial chairman Sukhdev Singh Namdhari, after he became the main witness in last week’s bizarre shootout, in which liquor baron and real estate magnate Ponty Chaddha and his brother Hardeep were killed. Apparently, an ambitious Namdhari had started forging links with politicians and businessmen over a decade ago and got acquainted with Ponty in the 90s, who is learnt to have been instrumental in his getting the post when the BJP was in power. Besides, he had 14 criminal cases, including murder, registered against him since 1995, of which 12 were cleared by the courts. Fortunately for the Vijay Bahuguna government, the timing has been apt. The BJP Opposition can ill-afford to question Namdhari’s removal, rather it shouldn’t even try.

J&K HC Reopens Case

The Army and Jammu & Kashmir police have reason to lose sleep. The High Court on Wednesday last ordered a CBI inquiry into the ghastly massacre of 19 members of a family in Poonch, way back in 1998. While the J&K police had blamed foreign militants for the tragedy in Silan village of Surnakote, the State Human Rights Commission, which conducted its own investigation had implicated the Army and the police and recommended an inquiry. However, with the State government refusing to pay heed, the families of the victims approached the J&K High Court last year and appealed for re-investigation. With the High Court obliging, the families have a glimmer of hope after gruelling 14 years. They are keeping their fingers crossed that the truth prevails. Will the premier investigating agency deliver and get them justice or come to the aide of the police machinery? Time will tell.

WB Cabinet Reshuffle

Unsuccessful at the Centre, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is putting her house in order and ensuring she keeps her grass-root constituency intact. On Wednesday last, the TMC chief reshuffled her Cabinet by inducting eight fresh faces, stretching it to the maximum strength of 44. This, despite her earlier resolution to keep her Ministry small, to lessen the burden on the State exchequer! Particularly unhappy with the performance of her agriculture and law ministers, she dropped them and inducted two Congress MLAs who had crossed over to the TMC and another three TMC MLAs from the minority community. While the Congress MLAs were finally rewarded, the other three were elevated as ministers to strengthen the party’s grip over the minority vote bank. This apart, Mamata proposes to advance the panchayat polls next year from May to January. Perhaps, the entire exercise is to lessen the gloom in the party that their Didi is making little headway at the national level. For one, the TMC’s no-confidence motion against the Centre on FDI was disallowed in the Lok Sabha for lack of the requisite 50 members. What more is in store, is anybody’s guess.

Bihar Chhath Tragedy

Politics in Bihar doesn’t even spare human tragedies. With 18 people dying in a stampede during the Chhath festival after a makeshift bridge caved in at the Adalatghat on the banks of the Ganga in Patna on Monday last, the Opposition was up in arms trying to gain political mileage. Other than demanding an inquiry into the ‘administrative failure’, RJD chief along with the LJP and Congress were quick in demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on “moral grounds”. However, the latter has to the discomfiture of the victims’ families defended his Government by giving a “clean chit” to the officials entrusted with making Puja arrangements and the makeshift bridge. The CM stated that the bridge collapse did not lead to the tragedy rather it was the stampede which did! Thus, while he has assured that an inquiry will be ordered into the reasons which caused the stampede, it is of no consequence. For, hasn’t he already given the verdict for the benefit of his critics?

Reprieve For TN CM

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha has got a breather. On Wednesday last, the Supreme Court quashed the criminal complaints lodged by the Election Commission following a direction of the Madras High Court, in 2007. However, it asked the High Court to consider afresh the DMK leader C Kuppusamy petition and decide within four months. The case, which goes back to 2001 Assembly elections alleges that Jayalalitha violated the Representation of People’s Act by filing candidature in four constituencies, whereas the law permits only two. As the Returning Officers of the two constituencies did not take action against Jayalalitha, the petitioner approached the HC, which then asked the Election Commission to file the complaints against her. However, on an appeal, the apex court had stayed the proceedings. Jayalalitha’s counsel has pleaded that the HC had not taken into account the two ROs orders that she had not suppressed any fact or made any false declaration. With the HC being asked to consider these decisions, it’s anybody’s guess whether the breather for the CM will be short-lived or for good. (INFA)


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