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VVPAT data destroyed before stipulated period, NGOs tell SC

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGOs, submitted before the court that “shocking fact” had emerged in an RTI response, and the parties will file application on this matter.

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EVM VVPAT

New Delhi, Feb 24 : Two NGOs — the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Common Cause – Monday alleged in the Supreme Court that the Election Commission has violated election rules by destroying data pertaining to VVPAT of the last general election, while the statutory one-year period for this process to conclude is yet to get over.

Citing the poll panel’s response received through an RTI application, the NGOs contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant that it is mandatory to retain the VVPAT data for a period of one year — under the Election Rules.

The court replied that at this moment it is not willing to examine the matter.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGOs, submitted before the court that “shocking fact” had emerged in an RTI response, and the parties will file application on this matter.

The top court had earlier issued notice to the poll body on the plea seeking a probe to examine the alleged discrepancies between the voter turnout figure and the number of votes counted in 347 constituencies. The poll body is yet to file response on this matter. The court has scheduled this matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The ADR, backing its claim on the research conducted by experts, said serious discrepancies apparently appear between the number of voters in different constituencies, which involves voter turnout data collated and provided by the poll body and the number of votes counted.

The NGOs, in the plea, seek direction to the poll body to develop a robust procedure to probe these discrepancies in future elections. “The Master summary of 542 constituencies shows discrepancies in 347 seats. 195 seats are without discrepancies whatsoever. The discrepancies range from 1 vote (lowest) to 101,323 votes @ 10.49 per cent of the total votes (highest),” said the NGO in the plea.

The plea also claims there were six seats where the discrepancy in the number of votes was higher than the winning margin. The petition has sought accurate reconciliation of data before poll results are declared and seek direction to the EC to bring in public domain the information in the statutory forms — 17C, 20, 21C, 21D and 21E — for general election held last year and all future elections.

“That in order to uphold and preserve the sanctity of elections, it is undeniably imperative that election results are accurate. It is not only sufficient that election results are accurate; the public must also know that the results are accurate. The entire electoral process is damaged if elections are not credible even in the absence of a demonstrable scam,” said the plea.

Election

All you need to know about the shutdown in Delhi

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Janata Curfew

New Delhi, March 25 : The Delhi government’s Health Department has issued a detailed standard operating procedure in the wake of the statewide lockdown, followed by nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Government employees engaged in providing essential services or activities will be allowed “unhindered movement in and out of Delhi”, on production of their official Identity Card, said the order.

“Those employees of Government/Autonomous Bodies/PSUs of GNCTD, who are requisitioned for providing essential services shall be allowed unhindered movement in and out of Delhi on production of a pass to be issued by the offices of the DMs concerned/ Divisional Commissioner/HoDs or any gazetted officer authorized by the HoDs in the prescribed format as per Annexure -II,” it read.

Outsourced and contractual employees engaged by Government Departments will be allowed to move in providing essential services on production of a pass to be issued, by the offices of District Magistrates, Divisional Commissioner or their department head.

Meanwhile, all the health care personnel who are private employees (private doctors/para-medical staff/lab technicians etc.) will also be allowed free movement on production of their employer ID cards. Self-employed doctors/healthcare personnel will be allowed movement in and out of Delhi on production of official I-Card issued by their regulatory body or a related government organisation.

But what about the private sector employees involved in providing essential services?

“Private personnel who are engaged in providing essential services shall be allowed to move in and out of Delhi on production of a pass to be issued, by the offices of District Magistrates concerned /Divisional Commissioner/ District Deputy Commissioners of Police concerned/ HoDs concerned or any Gazetted Officer(s) authorised by HoDs, in the prescribed format as per Annexure-II,” reads the government order.

Private vehicles for the persons involved in all above mentioned categories have to obtain passes issued by the District Magistrates or Divisional Commissioner or their HoDs.

But does that men general public of Delhi can’t move at all? They are advised not to move out of their homes unless absolutely essential and use of vehicles should be curtailed to bare minimum, insists the government. However, movement out of homes should only be made for procurement of essential services or commodities or medical emergency only.

Meanwhile, what should bring some cheer, those Delhi residents stranded outside Delhi for some reason, will be allowed to enter Delhi on production of any valid ID or residence proof showing their residential address in Delhi.

Those coming from outside can apply for an e-pass through WhatsApp to authorized mobile numbers or email ID ddma,[email protected] giving their particulars along with relevant documents. “Such an e-pass shall also be received on the same WhatsApp number or email of the applicant,” says the Delhi government order.

Meanwhile, a 24/7 Control Room has been set up at the Office of Divisional Commissioner in Delhi and also at all the offices of District Magistrates of Delhi. An ACP rank officer will be available at all Control Rooms at all times to ensure proper liaison with the offices of District Magistrates on real time basis.

Lastly, the order says, “An officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police and a revenue official of appropriate seniority shall be available round the clock at the inter-state border check posts at all entry points of Delhi, who will facilitate the seamless movement of vehicles engaged in transportation of essential goods/services/commodities as well as personnel engaged in providing essential services.”

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Will explain everything about accepting RS offer: Gogoi

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala questioned the government’s move, saying, “Justice Lokur rightly summarises it… ‘Has the last bastion fallen’?”

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Ranjan Gogoi

Guwahati/Agartala, March 17: Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who was on Monday nominated to the Rajya Sabha by President Ram Nath Kovind, said on Tuesday that “his presence in the Parliament would be an opportunity to underscore the viewpoint of the judiciary before the legislature and vice-versa”.

Gogoi, who retired in November last year after presiding over the Supreme Court for around 13 months, told the media in Guwahati: “Probably I would go to Delhi tomorrow (Wednesday). Let me first take oath (in the Rajya Sabha), after that I would speak in detail why I accepted this offer.”

A resident of Guwahati’s Zoo Narengi Road, Gogoi said during his brief interaction with the media at his residence: “I (have) accepted it (the offer to be a member of the Upper House) since I am confident that the legislature and the judiciary must at some point of time work together for nation-building. My presence in the Parliament would be an opportunity to underline the views of the judiciary before the lawmakers and vice- versa.”

Gogoi, who headed the five-judge bench which delivered a landmark judgement in the 70-year-old Ayodhya title dispute case before he retired from the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), was among the four sitting top court judges who had held a first-of-its-kind press conference in January 2018 when Dipak Misra was the CJI.

These judges, then in office, had alleged “selective assignment of cases to preferred judges” and “sensitive cases were being allotted to junior judges” by Justice Dipak Misra.

Leaders of the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) separately reacted to the nomination of Gogoi as a Rajya Sabha member. Citing news reports, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala questioned the government’s move, saying, “Justice Lokur rightly summarises it… ‘Has the last bastion fallen’?”

“Did Prime Minister Modi consider the advice of his former colleague and ex-Law Minister and Finance Minister, Late Sh. Arun Jaitley before recommending ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabham,” Surjewala tweeted.

“The recent development taking place involving the highest judiciary and the senior judicial officials is very unfortunate. We have to wait for a certain period of time to see when he (Gogoi) becomes a (Central) minister. The people of India are now expressing their doubts over the judgements passed by the courts. His (Gogoi’s) acts were condemned across the nation,” CPI-M politburo member and former Tripura Chief Minister Manik sarkar said in Agartala on Tuesday.

Gogoi became a judge in the Gauhati High Court in 2001 before being transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2010. He was appointed Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2011 before being elevated to the Supreme Court on April 23, 2012. He was appointed the 46th Chief Justice of India on October 3, 2018.

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Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi nominated to Rajya Sabha

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Ranjan Gogoi

New Delhi, March 16 : In a span of six years, two former Chief Justices have been accorded plum posts after retirement. Former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who retired in November 2019, is the latest after he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Former Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, who held the office for nine months from 2013 to 2014, after retirement was appointed the Governor of Kerala from September 2014 to September 2019.

The Home Ministry on Monday issued a notification announcing that President Ram Nath Kovind is nominating Gogoi to fill the vacancy originating due to retirement of one of the nominated members.

Gogoi headed the five-judge bench which delivered a landmark judgement in 70-year-old Ayodhya title dispute in November 2019. The apex court had ordered the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site by setting up a trust, while ordering five acres be given to Muslims in Ayodhya to construct a mosque.

The bench held that the “possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence from the Muslims,” while emphasising on tolerance and mutual co-existence, which played a crucial role to nourish the secular commitment of the country and its people.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi was sworn in as the 46th Chief Justice of India in October 2018. He was appointed for a 13-month stint, and he took over from Justice Dipak Mishra.

The bench also comprising CJI-designate Justice S.A. Bobde, and Justices S.A. Nazeer, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan also said: “The evidence indicates that despite the existence of a mosque at the site, Hindu worship at the place believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram was not restricted.”

A bench headed by Gogoi also ruled that Chief Justice Office falls under RTI but placed some riders. And, in another judgement, a bench headed by him in a majority judgement of 3:2 referred the Sabarimala temple judgement of 2018 to a larger bench. Justice Gogoi also pursued the Assam NRC, and tasked the authorities concerned to publish the final list before August 31, 2019.

In another politically sensitive judgment, a three-judge bench, headed by Gogoi, and comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, on 14 November dismissed a review petition challenging the Rafale deal case. A bench headed by Gogoi also censured Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for wrongfully attributing the “Chowkidar chor hai” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the top court.

On his last working day Gogoi had said the judicial system is facing new challenges, which emerge from within and outside of court complexes and judicial processes.

The Chief Justice, who demitted office on November 17, did not directly refer to the sexual harassment allegations against him by a court staffer, but instead said: “As an institution, we have tried to deliver much more than what is reasonably possible, yet, today each of us is required to deal with new challenges, which unfortunately arise from within and outside of our court complexes and our judicial processes.”

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