Ajit Pawar’s faction is real NCP: Election Commission

February 06, 2024 09:15 pm | Updated 09:16 pm IST

The Ajit Pawar faction is the real Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Election Commission (EC) announced on February 6, ending months of speculation over the factional fight with his party founder and uncle Sharad Pawar.

In an order, the EC also allotted the NCP symbol ‘Wall Clock’ to the group led by Ajit Pawar.

The decision followed the laid-out tests of maintainability of such a petition which included tests of aims and objectives of party constitution, test of party constitution and tests of majority both organisational and legislative, the Commission said.

“The test of majority in the legislative wing found favour in this circumstance of the case, where both groups have found to be working outside the party constitution and the organisational elections,” the poll authority observed.

The EC made a concession to Sharad Pawar’s group by allowing it a “one-time option” to claim a name for its political outfit and provide three preferences by February 7 afternoon in view of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.

Meanwhile former Maharashtra Minister said, “This is the murder of democracy. What happened is unfortunate.” The poll panel gave this ruling under “pressure from above,” Deshmukh told a TV channel.

The EC ruling proves that majority of party workers and elected representatives are with Ajit Pawar, former Union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel said.

Uniform Civil Code Bill tabled in Uttarakhand Assembly, live-in relationships to be registered

The Uttarakhand government on February 6 tabled the Uniform Civil Code bill in the State Assembly, which when passed will be the first such legislation to be implemented in any State after Independence.

The bill proposes a common law on marriage, divorce, land, property and inheritance for all citizens irrespective of their religion in Uttarakhand, excluding the Scheduled Tribes.

The bill stipulates registration of live-in relationships in the state and imprisonment of three months for failure to do so within a month. Any child born out of such a relationship will be considered legitimate.

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) of Uttarakhand, 2024 bill was tabled in the House by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who in a symbolic gesture, entered the Assembly with a copy of the original Constitution.

Treasury benches welcomed the tabling of the bill with thumping of desks and chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Vande Mataram” and “Jai Shri Ram”.

The original list of business for the day said the bill will be tabled, debated and passed by the House, but Speaker Ritu Khanduri amended it conceding to the demands of the opposition members who wanted more time to study the bill and present their views on it. Before the bill was tabled, there were protests inside the House by opposition members who said they were not given time to study its provisions.

“It seems the government wants to pass the bill without a debate in violation of the legislative traditions,” Leader of Opposition Yashpal Arya said. Slogans were also raised by the opposition members, who were pacified after the Speaker assured them that they would get enough time to study the bill.

They also protested against the decision of the Business Advisory Committee of the House to suspend the Question Hour to table the UCC. They contended that the Question Hour was necessary to raise issues of public interest like disasters, including land-subsidence in Joshimath and justice to Ankita Bhandari, receptionist of a resort in Pauri district who was murdered allegedly by her employer.

The bill applies to the whole of Uttarakhand and also to people from the State who reside outside its territories. However, the Scheduled Tribes have been left out of the ambit of the bill.

“Nothing contained in this code shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribes.... and the persons and group of persons whose customary rights are protected under the Part XXI of the Constitution of India,” the bill states.

It will come into force from the date it is notified in the gazette.

The bill makes it obligatory for partners of a live-in relationship within the state, whether they are residents of Uttarakhand or not, to submit a statement of their relationship under sub-section (1) of section 381 to the Registrar within whose jursidiction they are living in a prescribed format. It also says any child of a live-in relationship shall be a legitimate child of the couple.

Live-in relationships in which at least one partner is a minor will not be registered. Live-in relationships where the consent of one of the partners was obtained by force, coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation or fraud concerning the identity of the other partner will also not be registered.

The registrar will examine the content of the statement of live-in relationships to ensure that they are not of such a kind as as mentioned under section 380. Anyone staying in a live-in relationship for more than a month without getting it registered will be punishable with an imprisonment up to three months or a fine of up to ₹10,000 or both, the bill says.

A higher fine apart from an imprisonment of up to three months can be imposed on any person who provides false information in his or her statement on a live-in relationship to the Registrar. If a woman in a live-in relationship gets deserted by her partner, she will be entitled to claim maintenance from him for which she may approach a competent court having jurisdiction over the place where they last cohabited.

Once it becomes an act, Uttarakhand will become the first State in the country after Independence to adopt the UCC. It has been operational in Goa since the days of Portuguese rule.

The ongoing session of the State Assembly was convened especially for the passage of the UCC bill. Passing a legislation on the UCC will fulfil a major promise made by the BJP to the people of the state in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly polls, which saw the saffron party storm to power with a landslide victory for the second consecutive term.

Several BJP ruled States in the country, including Gujarat and Assam, have expressed their keenness to follow the Uttarakhand UCC as a model.

‘One Nation, One Election’ has hidden agenda to turn India into dictatorship, TMC leaders tell panel

A delegation of Trinamool Congress leaders told the high-powered committee on ‘One Nation, One Election’ on February 6 that it has a “hidden agenda” to turn India into a “dictatorship”.

Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Kalyan Banerjee appeared for a meeting with the panel chaired by former President Ram Nath Kovind after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was to attend the meeting, cancelled her trip to Delhi at the last moment due to state budget-related work.

Talking to media after the meeting, Kalyan Banerjee said they referred to a letter written by Mamata Banerjee to the panel and expressed opposition to the idea.

“We appeared before the committee headed by the former President. We referred to the letter written by our leader Mamata Banerjee. We have said very categorically that we are opposing the idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’. There is a hidden agenda to form a dictatorship government in future,” Banerjee said.

“Earlier there were practically two national parties which had political operations all over India. Now so many regional parties have come. The Constitution itself says so far as State legislature is concerned, it is the people’s will to choose their government for five years. Similarly people will choose the central government for five years. These two articles are the basic structure of the Constitution,” Banerjee said.

“These constitutional provisions cannot be interfered with and the power of people cannot be curtailed by bringing the concept of ‘One Nation One Election’,” he said.

“Let’s assume that a State government has fallen. That’s happening now everywhere. In that case, would that State government continue or for the rest of the period president’s rule will be imposed? In that case people’s choice will be compromised... This idea is really interfering with the federal structure of the country itself,” he said.

“For the last few years, the opposition parties have been saying that the central government is interfering with the federal structure of the country. Therefore, we are opposing this idea,” the TMC leader added.

Mamata Banerjee, who heads the Trinamool Congress, wrote to the high level committee on ‘One Nation, One Election’ last month, saying she does not agree with the concept as framed by them. She said she disagrees with their “formulation and proposal”.

The West Bengal Chief Minister questioned the meaning of ‘One Nation’ in the context and added that unless the “basic enigma” of where the concept came from is solved, it is difficult to arrive at any firm view on the catchy phrase.

Varanasi district court admits plea seeking ASI survey in remaining Gyanvapi mosque cellars

Days after a Varanasi court allowed Hindu devotees to perform prayers at one of the four cellars beneath the Gyanvapi Mosque, the court has admitted another plea seeking to conduct archeological survey in the remaining cellars. The case has been posted to February 15.

Lawyers of Anjum Intezamiya Mosque committee said they will file objections to the same.

The petitioner, Rakhi Singh, who is plaintiff no. 1 in the pending Shringar Gauri worshipping suit of 2022 at a Varanasi court, maintained that the survey of the remaining cellars was necessary to ascertain the religious character of the property in question.

A court in Varanasi on January 31 allowed puja to be conducted inside the ‘Vyas ka tehkhana’. Within hours, the Varanasi district administration ensured its compliance, and puja is being performed inside the cellar since then. Anjum Intezamia Masjid Committee, which runs and manages the Gyanvapi mosque, has appealed against the order in Allahabad High Court.

Inflation within tolerance band; government taking steps to check price rise: Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 6 said inflation has come down within the tolerance band as a result of the steps taken by the government to check price rise, especially in perishable commodities.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman said Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is working with the government on de-humidification of onions through Gamma Rays to give it a longer shelf life.

“The government is seized of the difficulties, which arise due to shortage of perishable goods, which are not grown in India. The committee sits and reviews periodically, and the efforts have shown on the ground that inflation is now within the tolerable band,” she said.

India’s retail inflation has declined from an average of 6.8% in April-December 2022 to 5.5% in the corresponding period of 2023. The retail inflation is now stable and within the notified tolerance band of 2% to 6%.

The Minister said that in order to check the volatility in prices of onion, the government has progressively increased its buffer size from 1 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) in 2020-21 to 7 LMT in 2023-24. As of February 3, 2024, a total of 6.32 LMT of onion was procured, and 3.96 LMT of Grade-A onion was released through retail sales, e-Nam auction and bulk sales.

“Currently, steps are being taken so that the preservation of very highly perishable commodities, like onion, can be improved,” she said, adding lots of steps have been taken by the government, particularly for meeting the shortage in supply of perishable goods.

Sitharaman said India has imported 8.79 lakh metric tonnes of Tur Dal and 15.14 lakh metric tonnes of Masoor Dal in calendar year 2023. Similarly, the country imported other dals and released them in the market.

India has also brought the branded ‘Bharat Dal’ through which Chana Dal is made available at Rs 60/kg for one kg pack and Rs 55/kg for 30 kg packs. 2.97 lakh metric tonnes of Chana have been sold already as of January 30, 2024. ‘Bharat Dal’, which is coming at a concessional price, is available in all retail markets.

“Since we don’t grow enough pulses in the country and due to a shortfall in supply, prices of pulses normally keep fluctuating, for which, by analysing the crop estimates, we start tying up for imports,” Sitharaman added.

Retail inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), in December 2023, stood at 5.69%.

India to fence entire border with Myanmar

India has decided to fence the entire 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced on February 6. The move could virtually put an end to the Free Movement Regime prevalent along the porous border.

The FMR allows people residing close to the India-Myanmar border to venture 16 km into each other’s territory without any document.

The 1,643-km-long India-Myanmar border, which passes through Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, currently has FMR. It was implemented in 2018 as part of India’s Act East policy.

Fencing along the border has been a persistent demand of the Imphal Valley-based Meitei groups which have been alleging that tribal militants often enter into India through the porous border.

The Meitei groups also allege that narcotics are being smuggled into India taking advantage of the unfenced international border.

In a post on X, Shah said the Narendra Modi government is committed to building impenetrable borders. “It has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1,643-kilometer-long Indo-Myanmar border. To facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved,” he said.

The Home Minister said a 10-km stretch of the border in Moreh in Manipur has already been fenced. Furthermore, two pilot projects of fencing through a hybrid surveillance system are under execution.

“They will fence a stretch of 1 km each in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Additionally, fence works covering approximately 20 km in Manipur have also been approved, and the work will start soon,” he said.

In brief

As many as 701 cases of sedition and offences against the State were registered from 2018 to 2022 and 5,023 cases were lodged under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Union Minister Nityanand Rai said in Lok Sabha on February 6. Rai, however, said the number of cases registered under sedition and offences against the State came down from 149 in 2021 to 68 in 2022. However, in cases registered under the UAPA, the number has gone up from 814 in 2021 to 1,005 in 2022, he said in a written reply to a question. The Minister said during this period, 788 people were arrested and charge sheet was filed against 500 in sedition and offences against state cases. A total of 131 people were acquitted too. He said under the UAPA, 8,947 people were arrested and 6,503 people named in charge sheets. A total of 550 people were acquitted too.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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