Denying allegations of sexual harassment, retired Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly Monday wrote to Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam raising several questions about the apex court panel’s report which indicted him of “unwelcome behaviour”.
“After deep consideration of all that is going on in the media with reference to some allegations of an intern about me, I am constrained to break my silence. I wish to make it clear that I never harassed nor did I make any unwelcome advances to any female intern,” Ganguly said in the letter, a copy of which he has forwarded to President Pranab Mukherjee.
From questioning the procedures followed by the probe committee to being treated “like a person in captivity”, Ganguly raised many issues in his letter.
The union home ministry is consulting the law ministry on demands for removal of Justice (retd) AK Ganguly as the chief of the West Bengal human rights panel following allegations of sexual harassment against him, official sources said.
The sources said consultations have begun over letters written by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking action against Ganguly.
The letters were sent by the president to the home ministry.
West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress has been at the forefront in protests against Ganguly, seeking his resignation, and Banerjee has twice written to the president urging action in the case.
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising Sunday revealed the affidavit by the law intern who has accused Ganguly of sexual harassment.
The affidavit was submitted to a Supreme Court panel, which indicted Ganguly, finding him guilty of “unwelcome behaviour” towards the intern.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati Friday met President Pranab Mukherjee and urged him to impose President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh following the Muzaffarnagar communal violence that claimed 48 lives.
“We requested the president to impose Article 356 of the constitution in Uttar Pradesh as the law and order situation in the state has gone out of hand,” Maywawti told reporters after the meeting.
The meeting focused on the communal violence in the Muzaffarnagar district that also injured hundreds and displaced thousands.
“SP (Samajwadi Party) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were hand-in-glove in disturbing peace and communal harmony in the state. I request the people to reject their communal agenda,” she said.
She alleged that SP was playing politics over the riots.
“SP has failed in controlling the riots, and also in the rehabilitation process,” she added.
“If they would have paid attention on controlling the situation when the communal tension started, situation would not have deteriorated,” she said.
The BSP leader also welcomed the Supreme Court decision on the negative voting.
“We welcome the decision, Babasaheb Ambedkar was always in favour of this,” Mayawati said.
Describing the Directive Principles of State Policy as the “most magnificent Magna Carta of social and economic transformation”, President Pranab Mukherjee Saturday said the principles’ history goes back to 1937.
The Congress gained majority in eight states that year after elections were held under the Government of India Act, 1935. And with elections, the Congress was faced with the challenge of delivering on its promises, the president said.
At that time, Subhash Chandra Bose wrote a letter to all the Congress governments on how to go about their task. That was “core of the present directive principles, Mukherjee said in his inaugural address at a seminar here on “Directive Principles of Indian Constitution and Inclusive Growth” organised by the Confederation of Indian Bar.
The president said that although the directive principles are not justiceable (meaning they cannot be enforced by the courts), because of several pronouncements of the apex court they have come closer to fundamental rights.
He said that in the Keshvanand Bharti case, the apex court had ruled that the directive principles of state policy and the fundamental rights of citizens are equally fundamental to the constitution even though the directive principles are not enforceable.
The “raison d’etre for our founding fathers to include the directive principles in the constitution was the attainment of inclusive growth of the country through the development of every individual”, the president said
“It is the cherished goal of every democracy to ensure that each individual feels empowered to not only participate in the political process but also become a part of the economic development and social change,” he said.
The president said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act, Right to Education Act and the National Food Security Act were legislated in conformity with the spirit of the directive principles.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said: “The directive principles of state policy are not only an essential feature of the constitution”, they are also the “conscience of the constitution”.
Explaining that the directive principles and fundamental rights were both meant to balance and harmonise each other, Chief Justice Sathasivam said the principles were fundamental to governance.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, in his vote of thanks address, said that the primary aim of policy should be to make those who are “have-nots” into “haves” and to set high the bar for minimum living standards.
Salve said that there was a quantum shift in the perception of growth from Gross Domestic Growth to the Human Development Index.
Salve also warned against certain people being “above the law” and said it was a mark of enduring feudalism. Increasing crime against women too was a manifestation of the feudal mindset, Salve said, adding that the march to progress would be hastened by shedding feudalism.
In his introductory address, the president of the Confederation of Indian Bar, Pravin H. Parekh, said that in the 1950s it was believed that the directive principles had a second class status in the constitution.
However, the scenario has undergone a sea change with amendments in law and new laws being introduced. “Fundamental rights and directive principles are on talking terms,” he said, adding that pronouncements of the apex court have interpreted them harmoniously.
A thousand telegrams will go out from street children to various authorities, including President Pranab Mukherjee, apprising them about the issues they face, a non-government organisation (NGO) said Thursday.
“Street children from Agra, Delhi, Gwalior, Jhansi and Mathura will be sending telegrams from today (Thursday) till 6 p.m. Monday to various authorities about the issues street children face,” Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA), an NGO working for street children said in a statement.
Around 1,000 children will be using the telegram service, for the first and last time, as the 163-year-old service ends July 15, as the Department of Posts and Telegraph closes down the service on account of huge losses.
According to CHETNA, the children have come out with various kinds of messages. “Honorable President, please give time to share children’s issues and complaints”, says one telegram; “Sector 104 Noida government school is not giving us admission, kindly help”, pleads another. “Gambling and substance abuse is rampant in our park, stop it”, says a telegram, while another seeks spaces to play in: “There are no rides and swings in our park, we want them”.
“Making use of telegrams, children want to commemorate India Post for its achievement and emphasise the importance of messages that convey their problems and concerns,” Sanjay Gupta, director of CHETNA, said.
A day after President Pranab Mukherjee promulgated the national food security ordinance, a petitioner claimed it was “unconstitutional” and urged the Supreme Court to quash it for allegedly being inspired by the UPA’s pre-poll propaganda.
Petitioner advocate Manohar Lal Sharma said that the constitutional provisions on powers of the president to promulgate ordinances during recess of parliament were only to deal with a situation requiring emergent legislations.
Describing the promulgation of the ordinance as “unconstitutional”, the petitioner contended that a bill to enact food security law was introduced in parliament in the first week of May but it was allegedly not pushed by the government.
Describing the government move as “malafide”, the petition asked if constitutional provisions could be allowed to be misused by the ruling parties for pre-election propaganda.
Recalling the earlier proceedings in the apex court on the working of the public distribution system (PDS) and its revamp, the petitioner said the government did not act in 2010 when the judges told it to distribute food grain free to the needy if there were inadequate provisions for its storage.
Sharma said millions of tonnes of wheat had rotten because procurement agencies did not have storage capacity.
“We need an army of smart, committed and idealistic people to give voice to the voiceless and produce tangible change in our society,” he told the first batch of graduates from National Law University, Delhi.
Expressing hope that the graduates would take up legal aid for the poor as a life-long commitment and do their utmost to draw attention to the problems of the disempowered, he advised them not to do this in return for gratitude.
“Do it as your duty – your contribution to a more equal world and a motherland you are proud of – an India which has made you what you are today,” said the president.
The president said lawyers have a duty to fight injustice wherever it exists and they must lead the change against criminality, poverty, domestic violence, caste discrimination and other forms of exploitation.
He called upon the NLUD to take the lead in meeting contemporary moral challenges and ensuring that nine essential civilizational values of love for motherland, performance of duty, compassion for all, tolerance for pluralism, respect for women, honesty in life, self-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline are entrenched in the young minds.
Noting that recent incidents of brutal assault and child rape in Delhi have shaken the society’s collective conscience, he said they highlight the urgency to introspect at the erosion of values and the systems’ repeated failure to ensure safety and security of women and children.
“The legal fraternity, especially students of law, must be in the vanguard of the battle for women’s security, rights and welfare,” he said.
President Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday appealed for creation of adequate social awareness on women’s rights and against “barbaric” acts of violence against them.
Mukherjee said that women have played and aspire to play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic development of our country.
“Only when our ancient civilisational values of treating women with respect and dignity are formally embraced by us, can we consider ourselves a civilised society” he said while laying the foundation stone of the new building of National Commission for Women (NCW) named Nirbhyaya Bhawan.
Mukherjee stated that a greater sensitisation of society was needed to accord due respect to women.
He said that his appeal was to ensure that adequate social awareness is created on women’s rights and against the evil of barbaric acts of violence and atrocities against women and children, such as those witnessed in the recent past.
The president said the NCW has distinguished itself through its sincere initiatives for the rights, dignity and development of women in our country.
“It is therefore only appropriate that the commission, after 20 years of service dedicated to the cause of Indian women, should finally have its own permanent headquarters,” he said.
He added that once installed in its own premises, the commission would be able to create a better infrastructure for its work, augment its capacity for outreach and also significantly enhance its functional efficiencies.
The president also said the government of India is committed to equality and justice for all citizens – especially the marginalised – as envisaged in the constitution.
The new building of the NCW has been named after the Dec 16, 2012, Delhi gang-rape victim who was identified as Nirbhaya by a section of the media.
The Delhi government might increase its contribution to the Bar Council of Delhi’s corpus fund for welfare measures, Chief Minister Sheia Dikshit said Saturday.
The government had provided Rs.1 crore for the constitution of the corpus fund.
“Since it was long time ago, I am sure that the time has come to take a review and increase the amount,” Dikshit said at the national seminar on welfare of lawyers organised by the Bar Council.
The seminar was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee.