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Facebook India moves SC seeking to set aside Delhi Assembly Panel Notice

The case will be heard by a 3-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul tomorrow.

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Facebook

New Delhi, Sep 22 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear a plea by Ajit Mohan, the India head of social media giant Facebook, challenging a notice sent to him by the Delhi Assembly.

The petition stated that the subject matter under investigation by the Delhi assembly falls within the exclusive domain of the Union government and a state legislative assembly cannot compel witnesses to appear and provide evidence on such subjects.

“The Committee seeks to compel petitioner No. 1 (Ajit Mohan) to provide testimony on subjects within the exclusive domain of the Union of India. Specifically, the Committee is seeking to make a “determination of the veracity of allegations levelled against Facebook” in the Delhi riots, which intrudes into subjects exclusively allocated to the Union of India,” the petition said.

Regulation of intermediaries like Facebook falls within the Union list of the Constitution under the Entry “Communication” (Entry 31) in the said list. The Parliament, in exercise of that power enacted the Information Technology Act, 2000 to regulate intermediaries. Therefore, any assessment of the veracity of allegations against Facebook as an intermediary is exclusively a Union subject, it was submitted.

Besides, it was contended that the summons violates the right of the petitioner to remain silent and right to privacy which are fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

“By targeting Facebook – a platform that allows users to express themselves – the summons create a chilling effect on the free speech rights of users of the Facebook service,” the plea added.

The case will be heard by a 3-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on Wednesday.

Mohan was first summoned by the committee for its meeting of September 15 in connection with the complaints alleging deliberate omissions and inaction by the social media company in removing hateful content and posts. The committee had earlier said that in its meeting of August 31, it had prima facie found Facebook India was allegedly complicit in aggravating the communal violence in north-east Delhi in February that left at least 53 people dead and over 400 injured.

A notice was issued to Facebook officials on September 10 based on that finding asking them to appear before the panel on September 15 but Facebook officials had failed to appear for that meeting after which a second notice was issued on September 18.

In its summons issued on September 18, the committee had said that it is empowered to make suggestions to the central government and it is in line with co-operative federalism which “encompasses a large number of areas including making recommendations to the union government when the same is required.”

The committee is investigating the matter based on several complaints received from the public after an article was published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on August 14.

The WSJ report titled ‘Facebook hate speech rules collide with Indian politics’ had alluded to the role allegedly played by top Facebook officials, particularly its public policy head Ankhi Das, by citing business imperatives to refrain from applying hate-speech rules to at least 4 individuals and groups linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), though the groups and individuals had been internally flagged for promoting or participating in violence.

Meanwhile, Facebook had written a letter to the Delhi assembly’s panel on September 13 stating that the matter was already under consideration by a parliamentary committee and the subject matter relating to content regulation is outside the scope of state assembly.

This stance was reiterated by Facebook and Mohan before the top court with the petition stating that a state legislative assembly cannot compel non-members to appear before it for an investigation into a subject matter which is beyond its jurisdiction.

“The Constitution of India, in conferring powers upon Parliament and State Legislatures endows them with the power to hold a non-member in breach of privileges, but only if that non-member has impeded or obstructed the body’s legislative functions. The Committee’s powers do not extend to compelling non- members to appear when the non-member has not impeded or obstructed legislative functioning,” the plea said.

Business

Failing to pay property tax by Oct 31 may land Gurugram property owners in trouble

Charitable educational institutions, charitable hospitals and special schools for children, which charge the same fees as government schools and hospitals, are given a 100 per cent exemption.

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Gurugram: Property owners in Gurugram can lose their water and sewage connections if they fail to clear their property tax dues by October 31, officials of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) said on Wednesday.

According to the MCG officials, as per the notification issued by the Haryana government, only three days are left to avail the benefit of exemption in the payment of property tax issued by the MCG.

According to the notification, the government is giving an interest waiver and 25 per cent rebate to those paying their entire property tax dues by October 31.

“We have given a last opportunity to the property owners to pay their dues within the next three days. If they still do not pay their property tax, the process of cutting their sewer and drinking water connections will be initiated by the civic authority from November 1,” MCG Commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh said.

“A special drive to seal commercial buildings will be carried out and the process of auction can also be adopted by sealing the building,” he added.

As per the government notification, property owners who deposit their entire outstanding property tax by October 31 will be given a 25 per cent exemption on property tax from 2010-11 to 2016-17.

“Property owners who have deposited their property tax in the last three years till October 31, will be given an additional 10 per cent rebate along with the regular 10 per cent rebate. Those paying by auto debit mode will get the benefit of an additional 5 per cent discount,” an MCG official said.

Charitable educational institutions, charitable hospitals and special schools for children, which charge the same fees as government schools and hospitals, are given a 100 per cent exemption.

The officials further informed that the civic body has also started an incentive scheme for all the resident welfare associations (RWAs) of the city. Municipal corporations will give an incentive amount of Rs 5 lakh to the RWAs which submit property tax of more than 80 per cent.

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21-year-old woman raped in Gurugram

“The victim is not in a condition to record her statement. The statement of the victim will be taken only after clearance from the doctors, he said.

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Rape Sexual Violence

Gurugram : A 21-year-old woman, admitted at Fortis hospital in Sector-44 on October 21 due to breathing problems, was allegedly raped by a man when she was unconscious during the treatment from October 21 to 27.

The victim’s father reported the matter to the police on October 27 when she regained her consciousness and revealed her ordeal to her father.

She reportedly handed a three-page letter to her father and accused a man identified as Vikas.

Whether the accused is a hospital staff or not is yet to be known.

An FIR has been registered in connection with the incident at Sushant Lok police Station on Wednesday.

After receiving the complaint, the police rushed to the hospital to take the woman’s statement, but the doctors said that the woman was not in a condition to give the statement.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (east) Maqsood Ahmad said that the matter is being investigated. The record of the hospital, CCTV footage are being scanned.

“The victim is not in a condition to record her statement. The statement of the victim will be taken only after clearance from the doctors, he said.

“The case is being investigated. The parents of the woman do not even know whether the accused is an employee of hospital or not. We are also questioning the hospital management about the incident. The situation will be clear only after the woman gives her statement. Further investigation is on,” the DCP added.

According to the police the victim is a residen of Mahendragarh district and suffering from tuberculosis. Due to breathing problems, she was placed on a ventilator.

The victim’s urged the police to carry out a medical test of his daughter.

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ED attaches 21 properties of Andhra businessman

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Enforcement Directorate

New Delhi, Oct 28 (IANS): The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday said it has attached 21 immovable properties and bank balance of a businessman from Andhra Pradesh in a bank fraud case.

The assets worth Rs 7.57 crore of businessman Polepalli Venkata Prasad and his family members have been attached.

The ED in a statement said that it attached the assets, including a deposit of Rs 50 lakh with an ARC firm, namely Meliora Asset Reconstruction Company under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The attached assets are located in Tanuku, West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh.

The ED registered a case of money laundering on the basis of an FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Prasad, Managing Partner of the PBR Poultry Tech and other partners for defrauding the Indian Overseas Bank, Veerabhadrapuram branch in West Godavari District.

It said during the investigation, it was revealed that the PBR Poultry Tech had availed a term loan of Rs 5.60 crore from the Indian Overseas Bank by grossly inflating the value of the mortgaged properties in collusion with Panel Advocates.

It also alleged that Prasad also obtained credit guarantee fund trust for the micro and small enterprises (CGTMSE) loans in the name of his associates to the tune of Rs 1.74 crore.

The ED alleged that the loan amounts were diverted and not repaid causing a loss of Rs 7.34 crore to the bank.

“When the accused could not get more loan from this firm, they set up another shell firm for obtaining loan,” it said.

The ED said that investigation also revealed that the accused availed term loan of Rs 6.73 crore and cash credit of Rs 3.2 crore in the name of a shell company named PBR Agritech Private Limited from the Andhra Bank, Venkatayapuram Branch in Tanuku, by again inflating the value of the mortgaged properties in collusion with the panel advocates.

“These loans were taken on the pretext of construction of a poultry shed, but instead the money was siphoned off and diverted to the main accused, who in turn used this money to introduce share capital and machinery in PBR Poultry Tech.

“The Andhra Bank loan has also become NPA,” the ED said, adding that thus, Prasad generated total proceeds of crime worth Rs 17.27 crore.

It said that investigation further revealed that the accused are trying to use the concealed proceeds of crime available with them to buy-back their mortgaged properties by doing private deals with the ARC firm.

“This way they will be able to buy these assets at discounted prices and that too from the defrauded loan money,” it added.

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