Lok Sabha set to discuss No-confidence motion on Friday

Lok Sabha on Friday will hold discussion on no-confidence motion against NDA government, brought by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and supported by other opposition parties.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan announced in the House during the first day of the Monsoon session on Wednesday that the discussion will be followed by voting on the same day.

“The House will take up the debate (on the motion) on Friday, July 20th. The discussion will be held for the full day, followed by voting on it,” said Mahajan.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said in a statement that her party has enough numbers for voting.

In reply to Sonia Gandhi’s statement, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale said, “I think such over confidence will serve no purpose. We will show clear majority on July 20. We will win comfortably and show our strength to the opposition”.

However, TDP President and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Naidu on Sunday wrote letters to non-BJP, non-Congress parties’ presidents and Parliamentary party leaders looking for support on a no-confidence motion against Narendra Modi party over demand for special category status to Andhra Pradesh

In addition to this Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Tuesday announced that all opposition parties have come to a accord to move the Vote of No Confidence Motion in the Monsoon Session.

Apex Court seeks guidelines on blacklisting corrupt realtors

The Supreme Court (SC) on July 18 directed the Union of India to come up with proper guidelines within the time frame of two weeks to blacklist those builders, contractors and architects who are found to have constructed buildings against the sanctioned plan.

The SC said that the sealing and demolition of unauthorised constructions in the national capital will continue.

The court has passed the verdict after the Centre said that it had not asked the authorities in Delhi to stop the sealing drive against illegal constructions.

A SC division bench, headed by Justice Madan Bhimrao Lokur told the Centre that hereafter, owners of illegal or encroached constructions would only be given 48 hours show cause notice as to why the building should not be sealed or demolished.

The apex court was informed today that Municipal Councillor, Mukesh Suryan, Chairman of Najafgarh wards committee, had allegedly prevented officers from carrying out sealing drives in the area, to which the top court sought his personal presence.

The bench also asked the Najafgarh authority to file an affidavit on the allegation that Deputy Commissioner Vishwendra Singh was transferred at the behest of Municipal Councillor Suryan.

The concerned authority, however, submitted in court that it was a routine transfer matter.

The sealing of commercial establishments under Delhi Master Plan 2021 started on January 7 from Khan Market on the orders of a Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee. 

ED files supplementary charge sheet in 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper scam

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on July 18 has filed a supplementary charge sheet in the 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper bribery scam against former Air Force Chief S P Tyagi, his two cousins, lawyer Gautam Khaitan, two Italian middlemen and Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland.

The charge sheet will be taken up for consideration on July 20.

The charge sheet is filed through special public prosecutor N K Matta, and accuses Tyagi brothers, including S P Tyagi, Khaitan, Italian middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke and Finmeccanica of money laundering of around 28 million Euro.

The ED, in its charge sheet, states that money has been laundered through multiple foreign companies which were used as fronts to route the kickbacks.

These firms have drawn the money in the name of consultancy contracts to Interstellar Technologies Ltd and others and these funds were further transferred to Dubai-based UHY Saxena and Matrix Holdings Ltd in Dubai.

Currently Shivani Saxena, an active director of UHY Saxena is under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and is in judicial custody.

On January 1, 2014, India had scrapped the contract with AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of kickbacks of Rs 423 crore paid by it to secure the deal.

Swami Agnivesh stage attack on himself to gain popularity: BJP Jharkhand Minister

Chandreshwar Prasad Singh, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Jharkhand on Wednesday alleged that Swami Agnivesh Staged the attack on himself to come into the limelight.

” As far as I know, Swami Agnivesh is a person who survives on foreign donations. The saffron dress that he wears is to deceive the simple Indians. He is a fraud and not a Swami. He had himself planned this attack to gain popularity,” Singh told the media.

The 80-year-old activist was attacked by a mob on the day the Supreme Court said “mobocracy cannot be the new normal.” He was punched, kicked, and verbally abused by a mob outside a hotel in Jharkhand’s Pakur district.

Chief Minister Raghubar Das has instructed the police to enquire the incident and security has been provided to Swami Agnivesh by Jharkhand state government.

MIG-21 Fighter Jet crashes in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh

A MIG-21 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force on Wednesday crashed near Mehra Palli village in Jawali area of Kangra district.

According to initial reports, the aircraft was coming from Pathankot air base in Punjab and crashed in Kangra district. 

SP Kangra has confirmed about the crash and said it occurred around 1:30pm.

The pilot of the plane was reported to be missing.

According to the sources, rescue teams are on their way.

More details are awaited.

Monsoon session begins, Key Bills lined up

The Monsoon session of Parliament began on July 18 and both the government and the opposition have planned their strategies for both houses of the Parliament.

The current session will have 18 sittings which come to 108 hours, excluding the Question Hour and the Zero Hour, 62 hours will be available for government agenda.

Over the next 18 sessions, it is expected to take up a total of 68 pending bills. During the session of among these 68, 25 bills are listed for consideration and passage and three for withdrawal.

At least, 18 new bills are listed for introduction, consideration and passage.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu have appealed to all political parties and MPs to stop the blame game and ensure that Parliament functions without unnecessary disruptions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaches Parliament ahead of the session and said that “I hope every MP; every party will make this a fruitful session. I always express this hope and make that effort. I am hoping this time too.”

At the onset of the session, in presence of the PM Modi, the opposition lawmakers staged a protest and started shouting slogans of “We want justice” – a reference to the special status demanded by Andhra Pradesh, as well as for a sudden rise in the number of mob killings across the country.

The Congress says it will support the Telugu Desam Party’s demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh but would also flag other issues that impact people elsewhere in the notices it files.

Key Bills & Ordinances Lined up for Monsoon Session

Fugitive Economic Offenders bill, 2018.

The National Sports University Ordinance, 2018. 

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018.

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018. 

The Commercial Courts, Commercial  Division and Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.

The Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017.

Is BJP starting Taliban in Hinduism, questions Shashi Tharoor

Congress MP Shashi tharoor, who had earlier triggered the controversy with “Hindu Pakistan” remark has again lashed out at BJP by questioning them whether they want to start “Taliban in Hinduism”

“They are asking me to go to Pakistan. Who has given them the right to decide that I am not a Hindu like them and I don’t have the right to stay in the country? Have they started a Taliban in Hinduism,” Tharoor said in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

This comes after Tharoor on Monday accused the BJP youth activists for waving black flags at his office in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and damaging his office. He alleged that slogans were raised against him; asking him to go to Pakistan.

“@YUVAMORCHABJP vandals attacked my constituency office in Thiruvananthapuram. They poured black engine oil on signs, doors, walls & gate, drove away innocent citizens waiting with their petitions, put up offensive banners & shouted slogans asking me to go to Pakistan. We have all been warned. The BJP’s answer to the simple question “have you given up the dream of a Hindu Rashtra?” is apparently vandalism & violence.  That is the face they have shown in Thiruvananthapuram today. Most Hindus will say these Sanghi goondas do not represent us,” he had tweeted after his office was attacked.

Stakeholders call for revising Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2018

Representatives from various NGOs, workers unions, and legal experts criticised the Trafficking Bill, which is sought to be introduced by the Minister for Women and Child Development (“MWCD”), Maneka Gandhi in the Monsoon session of Parliament. The group called upon the Minister to reconsider introducing the Bill or alternatively, refer it to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for review and consultations with all stakeholders.

The MWCD claims that there is no law on trafficking for physical and other forms of exploitation, when in fact there a large number of laws against forced labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation, begging as well as a comprehensive provision i.e section 370, Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”), which was introduced in 2013 on the recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee which punishes trafficking for all forms of exploitation with 7-10 years imprisonment. “What we need is accountability of State actors under existing laws and not new or more laws on trafficking,”said Enakshi Ganguli of the HAQ Centre for Child Rights.

The Bill is being justified as a means to address labour exploitation. Questioning the MWCD’s mandate on labour legislation, Kiran Kamal Prasad, who works with bonded labourers, stated: “Unless the three keys of labour rights—recruitment, wages and working conditions are regulated, forced labour and trafficking cannot be stopped. The Bill is absolutely silent on this aspect.”

The Bill must be seen in light of how it would affect workers, particularly those who are more likely to face difficult working conditions: women, dalits, adivasis – those who are desperate to find better livelihoods and migrate for this reason. The persistent agrarian crisis and lack of sufficient decent jobs – whether in cities or in rural areas has been lost sight of. “Instead of focusing on economic and social security, the Government is criminalising the poor and the vulnerable and their safety net,” remarked Konnonika of the National Federation of Indian Women. 

Gautam Mody, Secretary of the New Trade Union Initiative, said,“The approach of the Bill in focusing on rehabilitation is significantly different from laws like the Contract Labour Act and the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, which mandate registration of workers and require them to have benefits. The phrasing of the Bill limits responsibility to individuals, taking away from corporate criminal liability for trafficking caused due to their production lines or supply chains.”

Dr Prabha Kotiswaran, who has studied the legal response to trafficking internationally, lamented Bill’s uncritical application of raid, rescue and rehabilitation in “homes”, which are used in sex work to other situations of exploitation. The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children and other international experts have criticised detention of victims of trafficking as being incompatible with human rights. Yet, “protection homes” remain the mainstay of rehabilitation for trafficked victims. There is no compensation, monetary assistance or livelihood guarantee, which is what victims need most to rebuild their lives. The Bill has been drafted in a vacuum, devoid of social realities. 

The Bill ignores the recommendations of a Supreme Court-appointed panel on prevention of trafficking and rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work.

Dr Smarajit Jana, a member of the Panel from Kolkata, stated that the Panel’s suggestions were based on in-depth analysis and multi-stakeholder deliberations, including with various departments of the Centre and State Governments over five years. One of the key recommendations of the panel was to adopt community-based rehabilitation, i.e. alternatives that are not contingent on trafficked women staying in state-run “homes”. Another suggestion was to revise laws like the ITPA so as to distinguish between those coerced into sex work and those who engage in it voluntarily so that interventions are tailored to those who need them. “None of these ideas have been considered, let alone adopted in the Bill.”

Anand Grover, Senior Advocate, Lawyers Collective criticised the vague and overbroad provisions of the Bill, which kick in even when no trafficking has taken place. The Bill criminalises a host of activities including electronic communication through websites, social media and what’s app which “may lead to” or are “likely to lead to”, trafficking. This is dangerous for civil liberties and the freedom of expression.

​ ​“The Supreme Court has struck down similarly vague provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. If this Bill is passed, it will meet with the same fate,”said Grover.

Rejecting the Minister’s claim that the Bill does not target adult, consenting sex workers, Kusum of the All India Network of Sex workers and Nisha Gulur of the National Network of Sex Workers said that the provisions, directly and indirectly, criminalise sex workers. “Clause 39 criminalises “soliciting” through electronic messages and “obscene photographs” this is “clearly curbing our communication. Proposed offences of trafficking and exposure to HIV and pregnancy are aimed at sex workers. Besides, the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 is not being repealed and so, sex workers will continue to face arrest and imprisonment.”

“The Bill needs serious reconsideration. It should not be passed in its current form,” urged all the speakers.

Greater Noida buildings collapse: NDRF recovers 3 bodies, rescue operation underway

Two buildings collapsed in Greater Noida near Delhi on July 17 at around 8:30 pm as a six-storey under-construction building fell on top of a four-storey building next to it. Reportedly nearly 18 families were residing in the four-storey building in the Shah Beri village.

Chief Fire Officer Arun Kumar Singh reportedly said that at least 12 labourers were inside the building at the time of the incident and all of them are suspected to be trapped.

So far, three dead bodies have been recovered by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Several people are feared trapped under the debris.

“Two male dead bodies have been recovered. Four NDRF teams and dog squad are present on the spot, chances of any victim being alive are scant. Operations will continue until all victims are rescued,” NDRF Commandant, PK Srivastava said.

“District administration and NDRF teams are engaged in rescue and search operations. Some people are feared trapped in the rubble. Our thoughts are with the families of those who died in the incident,” KP Maurya, deputy chief minister Uttar Pradesh.

According to reports three people have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Local, Praveen Srivastava, while blaming the unscrupulous builders for the collapse said, “It took such a long time since the collapse but no rescue workers have reached. Not even an ambulance. Buildings collapsed around 8:30 pm but help only reached an hour and a half later.”

Following the incident Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took notice of the incident and asked the District Magistrate to follow up with the NDRF team and the police for relief measures and to ensure immediate rescue.

Court can’t wait for ‘majoritarian government’ to act: SC on section 377

The Supreme Court on July 17 reserved its verdict on whether to decriminalize section 377 saying that courts cannot wait for a “majoritarian government” to decide on enacting, amending or striking down a law if it violates fundamental rights.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, while hearing pleas challenging the validity of section 377 of the IPC, made clear that it may not strike down the law completely and deal with it to the extent it relates to consensual acts between two adults.

“If section 377 of the IPC goes away entirely, there will be anarchy. We are solely on consensual acts between man-man, man-woman. Consent is the fulcrum here. You cannot impose your sexual orientation on others without their consent,” the SC said.

The bench comprising of justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, added that “We would not wait for the majoritarian government to enact, amend or not to enact any law to deal with violations of fundamental rights.”

Justice Nariman added, “The whole object of the fundamental rights chapter is to give power to court to strike down laws that majoritarian governments do not touch due to political considerations. We are not bothered about what government does. They may enact, repeal, do whatever they want. It is our duty to uphold fundamental rights.”

Advocate Manoj George, appearing for two Christian organisations which want gay sex to remain as crime said that holding the law unconstitutional would have a cascading effect on personal laws of many communities and said, “Parliament must deal with it in its legislative wisdom”.

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