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SC to hear Congress leader’s plea on VVPATs next week

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EVM VVPAT

New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hear next week a plea by Congress leader Kamal Nath for directions to the Election Commission to carry out verification of VVPAT units in at least 10 per cent randomly selected booths in each constituency of Madhya Pradesh ahead of Assembly polls.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra agreed to hear the matter as the petitioner’s lawyer mentioned the matter for early hearing.

Kamal Nath, President of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee, has also sought directions to the Election Commission to expeditiously decide all complaints and publish the voters lists thereof.

He has also sought prohibiting of the Election Commission from deleting the names of voters from lists without intimation to the political parties.

The elections to the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly are scheduled in November-December and are likely to coincide with those in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.

The senior Congress leader also sought a slew of directions, apart from random VVPAT checks, mock polls and recounting, collection of paper trails and storage, unique identification numbers on VVPATs and paper trail collection boxes, and transportation of EVMs and VVPATs before and after polls.

Referring to the commission’s press note that of the total 16.15 lakh Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) units, only 5.88 lakhs have been delivered and there was a delay in their manufacture and procurement, Kamal Nath expressed apprehension that such machines used in Utter Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly elections are likely to be used in Madhya Pradesh as well.

The petitioner urged for court directions to the Election Commission not to post any officials facing disciplinary proceedings or inquiries, or are on contract basis or on extension after retirement in key posts in different districts of Madhya Pradesh.

Seeking safe and secure transportation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPATs during the Assembly elections, the former Union Minister sought direction to the poll panel to conduct the Assembly elections with the latest tamper-proof EVMs and VVPATs.

The Congress leader sought directions to increase the duration of VVPAT display of exercised votes from present seven seconds to 15 seconds.

He sought a ten-fold increase in the number of VVPATs to be used in mock polls to 50 per cent of the total units.

This is the second time that the Congress had moved the top court before Assembly elections.

The Supreme Court had on December 14 last year declined to entertain Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee plea for directions to the Election Commission to count votes through paper trail attached to the EVMs in 20 per cent of polling booths in Gujarat, where Assembly elections were held in November 2017.

Declining to entertain the plea, the top court had then said: “We can’t substitute the Election Commission decision unless you demonstrate it is either arbitrary or not in accordance with law.”

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Jaitley rejects Congress’ demand for JPC on Rafale

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Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, Dec 14 : Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday rejected the Congress’ demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale aircraft deal and said the “family” was not above the Supreme Court in a democracy.

Addressing a press conference here with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hours after the Supreme Court dismissed petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale jet fighters, Jaitley said the apex court verdict was absolute and conclusive and the “truth in such matters come from judicial process and not on the basis of political partisan lines”.

“Was there any partiality in the deal? Was nation’s security compromised? Was the due process not followed? Truth in such cases is found through judicial process and not by dividing on partisan basis. Investigations can never be done and reviews of this can never be done by a body of partisan division,” he said.

Jaitley referred to the JPC over Bofors guns deal and said it was divided on political lines and conclusions of its chairman were subsequently rejected by courts.

He did not name Congress President Rahul Gandhi but accused him of spreading lies and attacked him repeatedly.

“In politics all over the world there is a tradition that if you lie, you resign or can be impeached. Presidents have been impeached for speaking lies. At least this should happen. Till yesterday Congress was demanding a discussion on Rafale. Today we said start it immediately. Those who built untruth, they should keep it in Parliament,” he said.

Asked about Gandhi’s allegation of crony capitalism, he said “people not able to understand complex issues rely on such slogans”.

“That is my understanding of his politics,” Jaitley said and termed Gandhi’s allegations of procedures not being followed in the deal as “fiction writing”.

Asked about the Congress stance that judiciary was not the right forum to decide about the deal, Jaitley alleged that the narrative was being created by Nehru-Gandhi family.

“They refuse to accept even the Supreme Court verdict just because of falsehood created by a family. In our democracy, family is not above the Supreme Court. Do they think the untruth of a family is above the Supreme Court?”

He said there was a fundamental difference between truth and falsehood.

“The truth always holds together, explains everything but falsehood was bound to fall apart, indeed it has a short life. In this case, it is few months. Falsehood lowers credibility of creator. The Rafale issue had each of these features. The disrupters have lost and lost on all counts,” he said.

Jaitley said the Congress lost on the count that the need for the fighter jet was “acute and necessary”.

“Why was national security compromised, the need of Indian Air Force compromised,” he asked.

Rejecting charges about the government’s involvement in the award of offsets, he said government had nothing to do with it and Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale fighter jet, had taken the decision.

Asked about the different prices given by the government and by Rahul Gandhi of the Rafale fighter jet, Jaitley said “government is correct and all figures given by Rahul Gandhi are wrong”.

He said the government had stated that the price of basic Rafale fighter was nine per cent cheaper compared to the cost negotiated by the UPA government and that of weaponised aircraft was 20 per cent cheaper at 2016 prices.

He said escalation clauses in the agreement were differently worded and there would be further increase in prices. “Truth only has one version. Falsehood has many,” Jaitley said.

Sitharaman said if the Congress does not stop its allegations, it will also be exposed politically.

The Congress on Friday accused the government of trying to hide its “theft” in the Rafale deal behind the court ruling and persisted with its demand for a JPC inquiry.

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RAW and IB chiefs’ tenure extended

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RAW and IB chiefs

New Delhi, Dec 14: The central government on Friday extended by six months the tenure of A.K. Dhasmana, Secretary, Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Rajiv Jain, Director, Intelligence Bureau (IB).

The extensions were approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).

Jain’s tenure was to end on December 30 and that of Dhasmana on December 29.

The ACC also re-designated NITI Aayog advisor as “Principal Advisor.”

IANS

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Sexual exploitation of women now criminal offence in Jammu and Kashmir

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Jammu, Dec 14: Jammu and Kashmir on Friday became the first state to have a law explicitly banning sexual exploitation of woman by those in positions of authority, having a fiduciary relationship or by a public servant.

The State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik approved the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

“The Bill seeks to amend the state Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) whereby specific offence under Section 354E is being inserted to provide for the offence of ‘Sextortion’.

“Amendments are being made in Sections 154, 161 and Schedule of Criminal Procedure Code and Section 53A of the Evidence Act so as to bring sextortion at par with similar offences prescribed under the RPC.

“Amendment is being made in Prevention of Corruption Act to amend the definition of misconduct and to provide that demand for sexual favours would also constitute misconduct within the meaning of Section 5,” an official statement said.

IANS

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