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What if UNESCO withdraws Taj’s world heritage site title, asks SC

“It is a world heritage site. What will happen if Unesco say that we withdraw the world heritage title,” asked the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.

Flooded lawns at Taj Mahal after rains. (Pic ANI)

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New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) Slamming both the Central and Uttar Pradesh government for the neglect of Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court on Thursday wondered what if Unesco drops the 17th century Mughal monument from its list of world heritage sites.

Asked if the authorities concerned have filed the management plan for the protection and preservation of the heritage site, Justice Lokur said: “It is very very difficult to understand something that is happening. Something is said on affidavit, something is said orally and something otherwise. It is unacceptable.

Coupled with this, the court also wanted to know which was the authority responsible for the protection and preservation of Taj as it found that the three affidavits filed before it were by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department, second by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and third by some other authority.

“Somebody has to take the responsibility. Who has to take the responsibility for Taj – either Centre or Uttar Pradesh government with an identifiable authority?” the bench said.

As senior counsel A.D.N.Rao told the court that the Archaeological Survey of India was responsible for the Taj, the court expressed surprise that the it has been kept out of the consultation process for preparing the draft vision document for the protection and preservation of the Taj.

Ordering that a copy of the draft vision document be made available to the ASI and asking its to share it with INTACH, Agha Khan Foundation, ICOMS and other similar entities who have expertise in protecting and restoring the historic monuments, the court also directed the UP government to give a copy of the vision document to petitioner M.C.Mehta for his comments.

Sharing the court’s concern on the possibility of Unesco dropping Taj from the list of world heritage sites, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the task involving the preservation and protection of Taj and other adjoining monuments including Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra fort at Mathura Ais massive and has to be carried by way of short term, medium and long term plan.

He told the court that short term plan itself would take two years to complete.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Lokur took exception to Uttar Pradesh government filing the draft vision document asking if the state government expected the Court to “correct it.”

The court was told that the Taj Trapezium Authority was responsible for executing the larger plans fior the protection of heritage monument, Justice Lokur said had it been doing its job, things would not have come to such a pass.

The court directed it be told “categorically and unequivocally” who is responsible for the TTZ.

“Whether it is Union of India, then which Ministry, if it is Uttar Pradesh government, then which Ministry,” said Justice Lokur, adding that “we are in a situation where left hand does not know what right is doing”.

TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq km spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.

As the Attorney General referred to the draft vision document involving multi-pronged approach to preserve and protect the heritage monument, Justice Lokur confronted him with an affidavit by the Uttar Pradesh government which said that there were 1,167 polluting industries in the area.

Venugopal then sought to clarify that all of them were being operated on clean fuel and UP government’s standing counsel Aishwarya Bhati said it was just the nomenclature to describe them which is in use for long.

This drew the court’s ire.

“They are polluting industries, your affidavit says but you are saying that they are not polluting but by nomenclature they have been described so,” said Justice Lokur.

“There is something wrong with your English or there is something wrong with ours,” he added.

India

After taking VRS, Bihar DGP Pandey may take political plunge

Meanwhile, Pandey has denied all allegations levelled by Shiv Sena and other political parties.

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Gupteshwar Pandey IPS

Patna, Sep 23 (IANS) A day after taking voluntary retirement, speculation is rife that Bihars former Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey may begin his political innings. Though nothing has been finalised yet, Pandey says he will talk to people and plan his journey ahead.

Speaking to IANS on Wednesday, Pandey said that it was not necessary to join politics to serve the people. Pandey, who is active in social service, said after discussing with people, he will decide on the road ahead and then disclose his future plans.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he said he was under pressure from the people of many districts in Bihar, including Jehanabad, Begusarai, Valmiki Nagar and Bagaha to contest the forthcoming assembly elections. Thousands of supporters from several places in the state, were in touch with him, he added.

Pandey came into the limelight for his vocal comments after the death of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput who was born in Patna. After the Supreme Court endorsed the CBI investigation recommended by the Bihar government, Pandey had said that Rhea Chakraborty “does not have the aukat (stature)” to comment on the Chief Minister.

Following the VRS , Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut launched a sharp attack on Pandey, saying he had been carrying out a political agenda in the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation while holding the post of DGP Bihar. “IPS or IAS officers of the country should be fair and must not be influenced by any political party,” Raut had said.

Meanwhile, Pandey has denied all allegations levelled by Shiv Sena and other political parties.

“People are connecting my VRS with investigation of Sushant Singh Rajput and blaming me of taken political advantage of it. I want to say that the FIR was registered in Patna since Sushant’s old father could not travel to Mumbai. He was not satisfied with the Mumbai Police investigation. As DGP Bihar, it was my duty to help Sushant’s father.”

Following a sharp attack by Shiv Sena over Pandey’s retirement, the BJP has defended Pandey’s right to join politics if he so desires. Nikhil Anand, the chief spokesperson of BJP Bihar unit, said it was best left to Pandey. “I don’t know why parties like Shiv Sena are making a hue and cry over his VRS or joining politics. We live in a democracy and it is his democratic right. The opinion of BJP or any other political parties is not required,” Anand said.

Pandey has praised Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Responding to a question he said, “Nitish ji is very strict in terms of administration and policing. He does not intervene in policing nor does he tolerate any outside interference in its functioning.”

Pandey, a 1987 batch IPS officer, took over as Bihar DGP last year. He was scheduled to retire in February 2021 but he took early retirement. Pandey, who has held the post of Superintendent of Police in several districts in Bihar, is renowned for his social work.

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India

SC directs no coercive action be taken against Facebook VP till October 15

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Supreme Court

Supreme Court issued notice on Facebook India’s VP and MD, Ajit Mohan and directed that no coercive action will be taken against him till 15 October, when it will take up the matter for further hearing in the case.

The Apex court was hearing the petition filed by Mohan against the notice issued by Delhi Legislative Assembly for deposing before it.

A 3-judge bench was headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.

Moreover, the top court issued notice to Delhi Assembly, Centre on plea by Facebook VP on summons asking him to depose on Delhi riots. SC recorded that Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee will not hold a meeting, till further orders.

Earlier, Mohan moved Supreme Court against the summons of the Delhi Assembly Committee, a notice issued by Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee to appear before it for its alleged role in the Delhi violence in February.

Facebook, Mohan, and others had filed the plea in the top court against the Delhi Assembly panel. Since Facebook had refused to come on first summon, the assembly panel had to sent second summon.

The petitioners had moved the apex court challenging the two summons issued by the respondent, Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi and others, against them — on September 10 and 18 — on the grounds that they violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21, guaranteed under part III of the Indian Constitution, the petition claimed.

The petitioners had approached the top court to quash these two summons issued by the Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi and others, against them.

The petitioners said that the first summon and second summon issued by the Peace and Harmony Committee of Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi and others directed one of the petitioners, the Vice President and Managing Director to appear before the Committee on September 23, 2020.

Facebook provides a safe place for expression. Notably, the petitioners also provide easy-to-use tools that allow users to report objectionable content. The petitioners provide users with options to report content that violates its publicly available community standards, the petitioners claimed.

The Committee’s insistence on compelling Ajit Mohan, to speak, and its categorical threat to his non-appearance as a “breach of privilege of the Committee and [to take] necessary action as deemed fit”, gives rise to a clear and present danger to the fundamental rights and liberties of petitioners in the ultra vires proceedings before the Committee, they claimed.

Accordingly, the petitioners are compelled to approach this court to avoid imminent irreparable harm to themselves, they added.

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India

Bilkis from Shaheen Bagh is TIME magazine’s hundred most influential people of 2020

Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.

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Shaheen Bagh

When I first met Bilkis, she sat in the midst of a crowd, surrounded by young women who were protesting with placards displaying verses of revolution. With prayer beads in one hand and the national flag in the other, Bilkis became the voice of the marginalized in India, an 82-year-old who would sit at a protest site from 8 a.m. to midnight.

She had been sitting there ever since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which could block Muslims from citizenship in the country, in December, and she continued through the cold winter. Bilkis, along with thousands of women who joined her in Shaheen Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi, became the symbol of resistance in a nation where the voices of women and minorities were being systematically drowned out by the majoritarian politics of the Modi regime. Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.

She said to me as a parting note: “I will sit here till blood stops flowing in my veins so the children of this country and the world breathe the air of justice and equality.” Bilkis deserves recognition so the world acknowledges the power of resistance against tyranny.

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