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Rohtang Pass reopened for motorists



File Photo

Manali, April 30: The majestic snow-marooned Rohtang Pass, located at an altitude of 13,050 feet in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, has been reopened for motorists after four months of closure, officials said here on Sunday.

For tourists, it will be opened this week.

“The road link to the tribal Lahaul valley through the Rohtang Pass has been reopened,” Mohan Lal, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Chief Engineer, told IANS.

“Snow clearing operation was crucial on the 85-km-long stretch between Manali and Sissu that received the maximum snow (during winter) and is prone to snow avalanches,” he added.

He said the civil administration would now take a decision on allowing the tourists bound for Lahaul Valley in Lahaul-Spiti district from Manali to cross the Rohtang Pass.

Regarding the complete opening of the 475-km Manali-Leh National Highway 21, Lal said the work of clearing snow was going on at a fast pace at different locations.

“Our target to reopen Manali-Leh highway is May 25,” he added.

Official sources said currently only small vehicles are allowed to ply across the Rohtang Pass, some 51 km from here.



Former SC judges divided over increasing retirement age



Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, Oct 21 : Former Supreme Court judges are divided over a suggestion to increase the retirement age of judges to 70 years. Those opposed to it say that 65 years is “optimal” and even at this age it is difficult to bear the burden of the court’s heavy workload.

While Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice K.S. Panikar Radhakrishnan dismissed the suggestion to increase the retirement age, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy endorsed it.

In the recent past, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal — the central government’s topmost lawyer — had on a number of occasions raised the issue of increasing the retirement age of the judges of the higher judiciary, including a three-fold increase in their salaries — a position not shared by the Narendra Modi government.

Those favouring enhancing the retirement age have cited increased life expectancy as a ground and comparing it with the prevailing practices in other countries, including US where Supreme Court judges serve for life, the UK where the retirement age is 70 year and other countries where it is 70 or 75 years.

Justifying the suggestion for increasing the retirement age on the grounds of increasing “longevity” and life expectancy, senior lawyer C.S. Vaidyanathan said that “physical and mental ability to work” beyond 65 years is “very much there” — a view endorsed by former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and senior lawyer K.V. Vishwanathan.

There is no rational justification to retire judges at the age of 65, Vishwanathan said, adding: “Judges mature and ripen in their late fifties or early sixties and one must tap their talent beyond 65 years.”

Buttressing the point, Vishwanathan cited the example of Justice Anthony McLeod Kennedy who rested his pen in US Supreme Court in 2018 at the age of 82.

He described Justice Kennedy as a “classic example” of a “prolific writer” at the ripe age of 82.

Justice Kennedy was succeeded by Justice Brett Kavanaugh — whose confirmation hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee saw the burgeoning of the ‘MeToo’ volcano denting the reputation of many among the high and mighty.

All this did not weigh with Justice Thomas and Justice Radhakrishnan, who thought 65 years was a good enough an age to hang up the gown, because at this age, mental and physical wear and tear start manifesting.

“There may be one, two or three judges who can carry on with the heavy, demanding work of the Supreme Court with the same tempo. But others find it difficult to work. My colleagues used to tell me the that they find it difficult to carry on,” said Justice Thomas, citing Justice P.K. Paripoornan as telling him: “I can’t keep up with the volume of work in the Supreme Court.”

Rohatgi, Vaidyanathan and K.V. Vishwanathan not only favoured increasing the retirement age but also bringing the retirement age of the High Court judges at par with that of the Supreme Court — an issue on which Justice Reddy differed.

While Justice Thomas agreed that the retirement age should be at par, Justice Reddy felt that the “distinction” should remain.

Justice Thomas asked: “If Supreme Court judges could work up to the age of 65 years, then why not High Court judges?”

Unequivocally asserting that even at 65, handling the Supreme Court’s workload is fatiguing, Justice Radhakrishnan said that the retirement age of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts could be increased, but with the option of quitting before reaching the age of superannuation — a practice prevailing in Zimbabwe, where a top court judge is appointed to retire at 65 years but can opt to continue till 70.

“Personally I was very happy when I retired because for a period of 15 to 20 years you have put in so much work which can’t be compared with any other service,” Justice Radhakrishnan said, adding: “A really hard-working judge would like to retire at the age of 65 as working for over 15 to 20 years takes its toll.”

“As a judge I have to do justice to the court,” Justice Radhakrishnan maintained, pointing out that “there can’t be any comparison with other countries. In America, the Supreme Court has 100 to 130 cases per year. Similar is the case with England and the International Court of Justice.”

The Supreme Court in India deals with over 65,000 cases per year.

However, there is no split view on increasing the salaries of the judges of the higher judiciary which, at the current level, is considered to be on the lower side. In January, the salary of a Supreme Court judge was hiked to Rs 250,000 a month from Rs 90,000 and that of the Chief Justice to Rs 2.8 lakhs from Rs 1 lakh.

Justice Sudershan Reddy said that the salary increase of the judges should be “commensurate with the work load they carry”.

(Parmod Kumar can be contacted at [email protected] )

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Data protection bill detrimental to economy, says advocacy group

The bill, if passed in its present form, may even cause to wipe out nearly one per cent of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) of the country, the letter said.



Data protection bill

New Delhi, Oct 21 : While the government is in the process of devising institutional measures to protect consumers’ personal data, an advocacy group has written to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad against the limited scope of the legislation in work, which, it said, will “harm the overall globalization of the economy” in the long run.

Consumer VOICE on Sunday said that though the move may seem right in the short run, it eventually will prove to be detrimental to the economy.

The government had earlier this year brought out the draft of data protection bill, an effort towards defining the legal boundaries of the use of personal data and bringing the matter under legislature.

“The bill in its current form will drastically hinder such progress and negatively impact consumer interests in garnering benefits of these global technological innovations, access to global best practices and options, economies of scale, knowledge base and opportunities,” the advocacy group said in its letter to Prasad, who is also the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology.

The bill, if passed in its present form, may even cause to wipe out nearly one per cent of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) of the country, the letter said.

“An international report has quantified harm to Indian economy and states that the potential impact on India’s GDP may be -0.8 per cent, domestic investments -1.4 per cent and the loss per worker may be equivalent to 11 per cent of the average monthly salary,” it read.

The letter said that restrictions on cross-border flow of data will have “far reaching negative consequences”, as will the data localisation, which will deny the citizens the access of “innovative offerings”.

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Amarinder heads to Israel

The Chief Minister is also scheduled to meet Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on October 23.



Amarinder Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. (File Photo: IANS)

Chandigarh, Oct 21 : Claiming to be “completely satisfied with the relief and rehabilitation measures being carried out for the victims of the Amritsar train tragedy” and following assurances by his ministerial colleagues that everything will be taken care of, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday decided to visit Israel.

The Chief Minister decided to visit Israel and hold the scheduled meetings there on Monday, an official spokesman said here on Sunday.

Amarinder was earlier scheduled to visit Israel on Friday, but had cancelled it at the last moment, following the train accident in Amritsar in which 59 people were killed and nearly 60 injured as a speeding train crushed them when they were watching Dusshera celebrations while standing on live railway tracks.

“While the Chief Minister spent complete day in Amritsar on Saturday, on Sunday he remained busy and closeted with his ministerial colleagues and senior officers to take stock of the situation.

“He issued instructions to the officials and ministerial crisis management group to take all the measures required for relief to the victims,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the Chief Minister had earlier decided to postpone the visit indefinitely following the Amritsar tragedy but he was “advised to go ahead” as he was supposed to sign three important memoranda of understanding in Israel on agriculture, preserving of water resources and dairy development.

“All these proposals hold lot of significance for Punjab, particularly in terms of agricultural diversification and saving the depleting water resources in the state.

Israel recycles 90 per cent of its water using modern technology, which Punjab can also adopt,” the spokesperson said.

The Chief Minister is also scheduled to meet Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on October 23.

“Besides, he has separate meetings scheduled with the Israeli minister for Agriculture Uri Ariel and the Minister for Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz for signing the memoranda of understanding on agriculture and water resources,” the spokesperson said.


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