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Sonia Gandhi rakes up intolerance bogey in Independence Day statement

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

New Delhi: Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi raised the intolerance bogey on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day on Saturday, saying there is no freedom to write, question or disagree, while accusing the Modi government of being undemocratic.

“Today every countryman needs to look into the conscience and ask what freedom means? Is there freedom in the country today to write, to speak, to ask questions, to disagree, to have views, to seek accountability? As a responsible opposition, it is our responsibility that we make every effort and struggle to keep India’s democratic independence intact,” said Gandhi in a statement.

Accusing the government of being undemocratic, she alleged, “Friends, we have tested our democratic values from time to time in the last 74 years of independence and have continuously matured them. Today it seems that the government is standing contrary to democratic system, constitutional values and established traditions. It is also a test for Indian democracy.”

She added that as a “responsible opposition”, it is our responsibility that we make every “effort and struggle” to keep India’s democratic values intact.

Gandhi also raked up the Galwan valley face-off with China while paying tributes to those bravehearts who laid down their lives for India. She also expressed confidence about overcoming the Covid pandemic and the economic hardships caused by it.

India

Lok Sabha passes Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020

As per the Bill, Kashmiri will be the official language along with four other languages — Dogri, Hindi, Urdu and English.

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Lok Sabha

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 with voice vote, allowing Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, to be official languages in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking on the Bill, Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said that it was a demand of the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the languages they speak should be official languages of the UT.

Since 53.26 per cent of people in Jammu and Kashmir speak Kashmiri, there was a need to include it as the official language of the state, he said.

The minister added that people in Jammu and Kashmir speak as well as write Kashmiri, so there is no problem in including it as an official language.

As per the Bill, Kashmiri will be the official language along with four other languages — Dogri, Hindi, Urdu and English.

Reddy said that 26.64 per cent of the people in the UT speak Dogri, while Urdu, which is currently an official language, is spoken only by 0.16 per cent the population.

The minister said while the government is not against any regional language, the Bill gives importance to those 70 per cent people who speak Kashmiri and Dogri in the UT.

For the last 70 years, Urdu has been the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, he said, adding that 2.36 per cent of the population in the UT speaks Hindi.

Opposing the Bill, Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference said the Central government did not have the legislative competence to frame a Bill in this regard.

He said it is not a fact that only 0.16 per cent of the population in J&K speaks Urdu which is a link language between the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley.

Masoodi asked that if only 0.16 per cent people in the UT speak Urdu, why would the government include it as an official language. No other state has five official languages, he added.

Participating in the discussion, Union minister Jitendra Singh said that he was surprised as the National Conference is opposing the inclusion of Kashmiri as an official language because his party ruled in the region for almost 60 years on the name of “Kashmiriat”.

“You have exposed yourself in front of Kashmiris by going against the language,” he said.

The Bill was later passed by a voice vote with Masoodi as the only Opposition member who objected to the draft legislation.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah later said in a tweet that it was a momentous day for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “With this historic Bill…Long-awaited dream of the people of J&K comes true! Kahmiri, Dogri, Urdu, Hindi and English will now be the official languages of J&K.”

Under the Bill, Shah said that special efforts will be made for the development of major regional languages like Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi.

Along with this, the Bill will also strengthen the existing institutional structure for the promotion and development of regional languages.

Lauding the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his commitment towards restoring the culture of Jammu and Kashmir through this Bill, Shah said that he wants to assure his sisters and brothers in Jammu and Kashmir that the Modi government will leave no stone unturned to bring back the glory of the erstwhile state.

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Cities

Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey Steps Down from Service, Likely to Contest Upcoming Polls

Sanjiv Kumar Singhal, the Director General of Civil Defence and Fire Services, has been given the additional charge of DGP Bihar till further orders.

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Gupteshwar Pandey IPS

Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey on Tuesday stepped down from his post after taking voluntary retirement from the services. His request seeking VRS was approved by Governor Phagu Chauhan.

Pandey is likely to contest the upcoming state Assembly polls.

Sanjiv Kumar Singhal, the Director General of Civil Defence and Fire Services, has been given the additional charge of DGP Bihar till further orders.

Pandey, who was involved in the investigation of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, found himself mired in controversy after his sexist comment aimed at Rhea Chakraborty. Hours after the Supreme Court last month ordered a CBI probe into Rajput’s death, Pandey had said that Chakraborty did not have the “aukat” (stature) to comment about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Pandey had later apologised for the remark.

Earlier this month, Pandey had hailed Chakraborty’s arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) as a big win for Bihar.

Pandey has been an Indian Police Service officer since 1987. He was selected as Bihar DGP in February last year out of 12 IPS officers recommended by the state government to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

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India

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.

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