SC refuses Cong plea for counting of VVPAT slips in Guj

SC refuses Cong plea for counting of VVPAT slips in Guj
SC refuses Cong plea for counting of VVPAT slips in Guj

The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea of the Gujarat Congress seeking counting of at least 20 per cent of the paper trail slips manually along with votes cast in the EVMs in each constituency of the state.

It said that the court cannot interfere unless the Election Commission of India’s decision to restrict the EVM- VVPAT paper trail to one booth per constituency is proved “arbitrary”, “illegal” or “malafide”.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud permitted petitioner Mohammad Arif Rajput, a Gujarat Congress leader, to withdraw his plea but granted liberty to file a comprehensive petition later seeking election reforms.

The apex court said that a debate on polls reforms can only take place after the election process in the state is over.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rajput, said that the counting of the slips of the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines along with the votes cast in the electronic voting machines (EVM) count in at least 20 per cent of the booths of each constituency would reassure the people about the fairness of the polls.

The bench then questioned the locus standi of the petitioner and asked Singhvi who he was representing.

The counsel replied that he was a secretary of the main opposition party Congress in Gujarat.

The bench told Singhvi that his client had approached it in his personal capacity and he should have let the party take a bold stand and approach the court.

Singhvi said, “I am an officer bearer of the party in the state.”

The court told the counsel that a candidate has every right to question the vote count before the returning officer.

“This court can’t interfere unless the Election Commission’s decision for a random check pf the EVM-VVPAT paper trail in one booth per constituency is proved arbitrary, illegal or malafide. We cannot discredit the Election Commission’s decision without cogent material,” it said.

After the top court said that it cannot override the EC’s complete discretion to conduct the polls, Singhvi scaled down his demand saying that counting of paper trails in at least ten per cent of the booths per constituency should take place.

The bench said that it had recently rejected a petition challenging the discretionary power of a returning officer under 56(D)(2) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, which confers discretionary power on the returning officer to refuse counting of the VVPAT.

Singhvi again said that counting of the paper trail in a sufficient number will reassure the people about the fairness of the elections through the EVMs.

The court then permitted the petitioner to withdraw his plea but granted liberty to approach it with a comprehensive petition on electoral reforms which could be connected with the VVPAT issue.

( Source – PTI )

SC reserves order on plea challenging appointment of Asthana

SC reserves order on plea challenging appointment of Asthana
SC reserves order on plea challenging appointment of Asthana

The Supreme Court today said it will pass order on November 28 on a plea challenging the appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as a special director of the CBI.

A bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre reserved its verdict after hearing the arguments of petitioner NGO Common Cause and Attorney General K K Vengugopal, who opposed the plea.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said Asthana’s appointment was illegal as his name had surfaced in a diary recovered during a raid conducted by the Income Tax department.

He said the diary showed the name of Asthana as having received an illegal gratification from a company and CBI has recently registered an FIR for money laundering against the accused firm and some public servants.

Attorney General opposed the plea and said the CBI has not named him in the FIR and Asthana has an outstanding career.

He said Asthana, who was earlier an additional director in CBI, was looking after eleven zones and supervising high- profile scams including that of AgustaWestland, Kingfisher, Moin Qureshi and Hassan Ali.

The bench, after hearing the arguments of both the sides, said it will pass the order.

Demanding quashing of Asthana’s appointment, the petitioner has also sought a direction to the Centre to transfer him out of the agency during the pendency of investigation.

It has alleged that the decision to appoint Asthana was “illegal” and “arbitrary”.

The petitioner has claimed that the government and the selection committee had overruled the opinion of the CBI Director while appointing Asthana “in violation of the law”.

While seeking Asthana’s ouster, the plea noted the special director was the second in command in the CBI after the director and supervised almost all important cases being handled by the agency.

( Source – PTI )

SC grants time to Gujarat to apprise it on action against cops in Bilkis Bano case

SC grants time to Gujarat to apprise it on action against cops in Bilkis Bano case
SC grants time to Gujarat to apprise it on action against cops in Bilkis Bano case

The Supreme Court today granted six weeks time to the Gujarat government for apprising it on whether any disciplinary action has been initiated against policemen convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, considered the submission of Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, that some more time be given to get instruction on the authorities concerned in the case.

The bench listed the plea for hearing in the first week of January.

The bench, however, made it clear that the separate plea, seeking enhancement of compensation to be awarded to Bilkis Bano, would be taken up next week for hearing.

The apex court had already granted time, on October 23, to the state government to apprise it whether any departmental action had been initiated or taken against police officers whose conviction was upheld in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case.

The Bombay High Court had on May 4 upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 12 people in the gangrape case, while setting aside the acquittal of seven people including policemen and doctors.

Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped in March, 2002, while she was pregnant, lost seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident.

The bench had convicted seven persons, including five policemen and two doctors, for not performing their duties (sections 218) and tampering of evidence (section 201) under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The convicted policemen and doctors are Narpat Singh, Idris Abdul Saiyed, Bikabhai Patel, Ramsingh Bhabhor, Sombhai Gori, Arun Kumar Prasad (doctor) and Sangeeta Kumar Prasad (doctor).

A special court had on January 21, 2008, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men in the case.

They later approached the Bombay High Court challenging their conviction and sought for the trial court’s order to be quashed.

The CBI had also filed an appeal in the high court seeking harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted on the grounds that they were the main perpetrators of the crime.

According to the prosecution, on March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and seven members of her family were killed.

The trial in the case began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bilkis Bano expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and CBI evidence tampered, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.

( Source – PTI )

Vandalism case: Arrest warrant against Hardik Patel cancelled

Vandalism case: Arrest warrant against Hardik Patel cancelled
Vandalism case: Arrest warrant against Hardik Patel cancelled

The Visnagar sessions court today cancelled the non-bailable arrest warrant issued against quota agitation leader Hardik Patel after he appeared before it and gave an assurance to remain present during hearings in the future.

Sessions judge V P Agarwal had yesterday issued warrants against Hardik Patel, the convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), and six others, including Sardar Patel Group (SPG) convener Lalji Patel in a case of vandalising the office of a BJP MLA during the quota stir in 2015.

The court issued the warrants after Hardik Patel failed to appear before it for the second consecutive time, while Lalji Patel and others were absent for the first time.

The court cancelled the arrest warrants of Hardik Patel and others after they appeared before it today and gave an assurance that they will remain present during the future hearings. Each of them also submitted surety bonds of Rs 5,000.

The court has kept the case for next hearing on November 15.

Hardik Patel and others are accused of ransacking the office of Visnagar MLA Rishikesh Patel during the protest rally of the Patidar community in July 2015.

The quota agitation spearhead and others had in the past secured bail in the case.

The same court had earlier rejected Hardik Patel’s plea seeking entry into Mehsana district, which was then the epicentre of the quota stir.

The young leader had requested the court to allow him to enter the district by relaxing the bail conditions prescribed by the Gujarat High Court.

The Patidar community, under Hardik Patel, has been agitating for reservation in government jobs and educational institutes.

The quota agitation spearhead has been criticising the ruling BJP for not accepting the demands of the community.

Of late, he has intensified his attack against the BJP as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Gujarat polls, scheduled to be held in two phases in December.

( Source – PTI )

Vandalism case: Arrest warrant against Hardik Patel

Vandalism case: Arrest warrant against Hardik Patel
Vandalism case: Arrest warrant against Hardik Patel

A court in Visnagar today issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel after he failed to appear before it for the second consecutive time in a case of vandalising the office of a BJP MLA during the quota stir in 2015.

The warrant was issued against Hardik Patel, convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), and six others including Sardar Parel Group (SPG) convener Lalji Patel by Visnagar sessions court judge V P Agarwal.

Hardik Patel and others are accused of ransacking the office of Visnagar MLA Rishikesh Patel during the protest rally of Patidar community in July 2015.

Hardik Patel and others had in the past secured bail in the case.

The quota leader, through his lawyer Rajendra Patel, today moved an application seeking exemption from personal appearance citing his busy schedule. However, the court rejected his plea.

While the PAAS convener failed to appear before the court for second time, including today, Lalji Patel and others remained absent for the first time.

The same court had earlier rejected Hardik Patel’s plea seeking entry into Mehsana district, the epicentre of the quota stir. The young leader had requested the court to allow him to enter the district by relaxing the bail conditions prescribed by the Gujarat High Court.

The Patidar community under Hardik Patel has been agitating for reservation in government jobs and education.

The quota spearhead has been criticising the ruling BJP for not accepting the demands of the community. Of late, he has intensified his attack against the BJP as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in run-up to the Gujarat polls, scheduled to be held in two phases in December.

( Source – PTI )

Re-induction of retd cops: Officers undertake to resign

Re-induction of retd cops: Officers undertake to resign
Re-induction of retd cops: Officers undertake to resign

Two senior Gujarat Police officers, N K Amin and T A Barot, who have been accused in encounter killing cases, today undertook before the Supreme Court that they will demit their posts during the day.

Amin, who retired in August last year as Superintendent of Police (SP), has been re-appointed as SP of Mahisagar district of Gujarat on contractual basis for one year. He faced trial in the Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing cases

Barot has been re-inducted in October last year as Deputy Superintendent of Police with Western Railways at Vadodara for one year after his retirement. He was accused in the Ishrat Jahan and the Sadiq Jamal encounter cases.

A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud considered the statement of the lawyer appearing for the two police officers and asked them to “step down” from their posts during the day itself.

The bench then disposed of a plea filed by former IPS officer Rahul Sharma against re-induction of the two officers.

The ex-IPS officer, in his plea filed through advocate Varinder Kumar Sharma, has referred to the apex court’s order allowing the Gujarat government to accept the offer of state’s top cop P P Pandey to relinquish posts of director general and inspector general of police.

Sharma had challenged the Gujarat High Court’s decision dismissing his plea against re-induction of the two officers.

The plea alleged that Amin had been charge-sheeted by the CBI in the two encounter cases and has already spent “close to eight years in judicial custody” and was immediately re-instated as the SP after getting released.

“Moreover, Tarun Barot is also a charge-sheeted accused in two different cases of abduction and murder of various persons. He too was arrested in the afore mentioned cases and spent close to 3 years in judicial custody.

“The respondent state has preferred to re-appoint Barot immediately after his release as DySP, (Head Quarters), Western Railways at Vadodara,” it had said.

Appointments have been made despite “bearing in mind the questionable track record of the two officers” and these are in violation of guidelines of the Supreme Court and in violation of “the doctrine of public trust”, the plea had said.

“In fact, the said appointments are even de hors to the circulars referred to by the respondent state itself as these circulars prescribe that re-appointments/extensions shall be preferred only in cases where the officer being preferred for re-appointment/extension has outstanding merit and in cases where no suitable replacement is found for the seat being vacated provided that the state establishes that it has carried out the exercise to find a suitable replacement,” the plea had said.

The Supreme Court had yesterday directed the Gujarat government to take a call by today on the re-induction of Amin as superintendent of police after his retirement, observing he had serious charges against him and had spent eight years in jail.

( Source – PTI )

SC seeks Guj’s reply on plea over re-induction of 2 cops

SC seeks Guj's reply on plea over re-induction of 2 cops
SC seeks Guj’s reply on plea over re-induction of 2 cops

The Supreme Court today sought response from the Gujarat government on a plea alleging that two police officers, accused in separate encounter cases, have been re-inducted in the force after superannuation.

“Issue notice returnable in two weeks,” a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by former IPS officer Rahul Sharma alleging that two police officers – N K Amin and Tarun Barot – have been re-inducted as Superintendent of Police at Tapi district in Gujarat and Deputy Superintendent of Police in Railways, respectively.

The petition further alleged that Amin has faced trial in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing cases and Barot was accused in the Sadiq Jaman and Ishrat Jahan encounter cases.

Amin, however, has been acquitted in the Sohrabuddin encounter case.

Both the cops have been re-employed on contractual basis with the police force.

( Source – PTI )

SC asks Guj to give 50 per cent quota to in-service medicos

SC asks Guj to give 50 per cent quota to in-service medicos
SC asks Guj to give 50 per cent quota to in-service medicos

The Supreme Court today directed the Gujarat government to give 50 per cent reservation to the in-service candidates for admission to post-graduate medical diploma courses as per the regulations of the Medical Council of India.

The apex court directed the state government to grant the reservation to these candidates in the second round of counselling, starting tomorrow for admissions in PG courses.

The in-service medical officers are those who work for the government or public authority in remote rural and difficult areas.

A bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar, also asked the state government to define remote rural or difficult areas in which the in-service medical officers will be working.

The Gujarat High Court had on May 5 dismissed the petition of in-service medical petitioners on the ground that it was not mandatory for the state government to follow the rules and regulations issued by the Medical Council of India, particularly the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000.

The medicos have challenged the state government order of granting only 25 per cent reservation to the in-service candidates for admission in PG medical diploma courses.

The plea, filed by GMS Class II Medical Officers’ Association before the apex court through advocate Ankit Shah, said the state government had issued a notification on April 21 by which the seats allocated to in-service candidates were restricted only to diploma courses and excluded degree courses for the current academic year without providing any reasonable reason.

The petitioners said the issue involved a substantial question of law of public importance and its adjudication will have an impact on the large number of in-service medical officers working in rural areas in Gujarat.

“As per regulation IV of the MCI Regulation, 2000, it is mandatory that while determining the merit of candidates who are in-service of Government/Public Authority, an incentive of 10 per cent of the marks obtained for each year of service in remote and/or difficult areas upto the maximum of 30 per cent of the marks obtained in NEET may be given by the Government/ Public Authority.

“As per regulation VII of the MCI Regulations, 2000, it is mandatory for the state to reserve 50 per cent of the total seats of government medical college in Post Graduate Diploma Courses for medical officers in the government service, who has served at least 3 years in remote and/or difficult areas,” their petition said.

It said the state government had declined to adopt the mandate of incentive and 50 per cent reservation in accordance with the MCI Regulation, 2000 and the High Court has dismissed the petition affirming the said impugned action of the state government.

( Source – PTI )

Court takes cognisance of defamation case against Cong leader

Court takes cognisance of defamation case against Cong leader
Court takes cognisance of defamation case against Cong leader

A Delhi court has taken cognisance of a criminal defamation case against Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil by a state-run company over his statement alleging scam in the procurement of LED bulbs for government use.

Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria took note of the complaint filed by Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director of Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) which is a joint venture of PSUs of the Power Ministry.

The court fixed the matter for pre-summoning evidence on July 15. If convicted, Gohil may face a maximum jail term for two years.

The application moved through advocate Manik Dogra claimed that Gohil’s statements were “false and malicious propaganda” which were made “for gaining political mileage”.

Gohil in his statement of March 27 had alleged that the company had procured the LED bulbs under the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme of the government, without transparency and in violation of the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court and the Vigilance Commission.

The EESL had in a statement then refuted the allegations made by Gohil.

EESL was incorporated as a joint venture of 4 PSUs — the National Thermal Power Corporation, the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd, the Rural Electrification Corporation and the Power Finance Corporation Ltd.

The national LED lighting programme, inaugurated in January 5, 2015, was designed to reduce energy consumption in the lighting sector and promote LED based efficient lighting products.

( Source – PTI )

2 arrested ISIS operatives sent to police custody

2 arrested ISIS operatives sent to  police custody
2 arrested ISIS operatives sent to police custody

Two brothers with suspected ISIS links, who were arrested for allegedly hatching plans to conduct “lone-wolf” attacks in Gujarat, were today sent to 12-day police custody by a magistrate court here

The ATS had sought 14-day custody of the duo but Judicial Magistrate First Class R A Singh granted only 12 days.

Waseem Ramodiya and his brother Naeem were yesterday arrested by the Gujarat ATS team.

The ATS had sought 14-day remand as they wanted to know from where the two had bought explosive materials that are used in making bombs recovered from them.

The ATS wanted to know from the duo whether the two had in the past, made any attempt to carry out blasts or other anti-national activities.

It also wanted to find out if ISIS sleeper cells are active in Gujarat, ATS ACP Ramesh Faldu told the court listing reasons for seeking their police custody.

Wasim and Naeem, who have MCA and BCA degrees respectively, were allegedly in contact with ISIS handlers and were planning to target religious places like Chotila.

Based on specific information about their alleged activities “inspired by the Jihadi ideology of ISIS”, ATS officials had nabbed Wasim from Rajkot and his younger brother Naeem from Bhavnagar during an early morning operation yesterday.

Police had been keeping a close watch on their activities since last three months, as they were found to be in contact with ISIS through Skype and other social media platforms.

Investigation has revealed that the two had allegedly planned to attack the famous temple at Chotila town of Surendranagar district. They had also planned to carry out blasts at different places and also set on fire vehicles to spread terror.

To create terror, they planned to record and upload the video of the attack on social media.

The brothers were indoctrinated in Jihadi philosophy during the last two years after coming across ISIS literature online. They were also in touch with ISIS’ controversial preacher Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi, arrested by NIA in February 2016.

Police had yesterday said that the duo were held just in time, as they had hatched a plan to carry out bomb blasts at some religious places soon.

( Source – PTI )