At fag end of SC hearing of Union versus Delhi govt tussle, Centre surprises with a plea to refer case to a seven-judge Bench

January 18, 2023 08:00 pm | Updated 08:00 pm IST

The Centre on January 18 surprised the Supreme Court by suddenly seeking a reference of the Lieutenant Governor versus Aam Aadmi Party regime dispute to a larger Bench of seven judges on what may be the last day of the hearing. “We may not be remembered in history for having handed over the National Capital to a complete anarchy,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, told a five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.

The Centre’s unexpected move came a day after it had completed oral arguments before the Constitution Bench. Mehta’s request came as senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for the Delhi government, was about to begin his closing submissions. The Bench reserved the case for judgment immediately after Singhvi completed his rejoinder in which he said the court should lay down in “black and white” the contours of power between the Delhi government and the Centre to avoid “overreach” by the latter.

“A plea for reference to a larger Bench has to be argued at the very outset… You never argued it. Had you, we would have looked at the case very differently… You cannot argue it now when Singhvi is in a rejoinder… We would have even finished hearing this case yesterday,” Chief Justice Chandrachud expressed his surprise after hearing Mehta’s request for reference to a larger Bench.

Mehta said all he wanted was to just submit a two-page note on the point. The case covered “issues of federalism between the Union and a Union Territory….All the points were argued without mentioning the word ‘reference’,” the law officer said.

The last few days of hearings in the case had seen the Centre face tough questions from the Constitution Bench, including one by Chief Justice Chandrachud about “the point of having an elected government in Delhi if the administration of the national capital is supposed to be carried out at the beck-and-call of the Centre”.

Singhvi said the plea for reference by the Centre was an “ambush”.

“This case came up before the Supreme Court at least 10 times in one year. Not once did the Centre mention the need for reference to a larger Bench… This is just a dilatory tactic,” Singhvi submitted.

“This is hardly dilatory. We are about the capital of the nation… My learned friend (Singhvi) may be in a tremendous hurry to do certain things… But we (the Centre) are more on the future course of action,” Mehta countered.

Singhvi claimed the Centre’s “two-page note” on the point of reference was actually about 150 pages.

“We cannot repeat the ‘capital’ mantra every time. Of course, it is the capital, and it is a capital with a legislature representing a democracy… It will be unprecedented for a Constitution Bench to consider the question of reference to a larger Bench at the stage of rejoinder,” he submitted.

The court however allowed the Centre to give its note on the point of reference. Both Centre and Delhi governments are contesting for power over civil servants in the National Capital. Protests against the Lieutenant Governor had coincided with the hearings in the court, prompting the Centre to complain before the Bench that the Kejriwal government was resorting to “theatrics”.

This dispute over the control of administrative services is part of a long-standing power spat between Arvind Kejriwal’s government and the Central government.

Make in India has become ‘Joke in India’, says Telangana CM KCR 

The ‘Make in India’ initiative has become a ‘Joke in India’, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said on Wednesday, taking a dig at the BJP-led Centre.

Addressing the first public meeting of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) here, party chief Rao said free power would be provided to farmers across the country if a ‘BRS proposed government’ captured power at the Centre in 2024, following polls to the Lok Sabha.

“Make in India has become Joke in India. There is Make in India, but there are China bazaars in every street (in the country),” he said ridiculing the NDA government’s flagship programme.

He further said if BRS comes to power, the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in Armed forces would be abolished. Schemes like Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu (for the welfare of farmers) should be implemented throughout the country and it is his party’s slogan and demand, KCR asserted.

He slammed the BJP and Congress, alleging that both the parties are responsible for interstate water issues. He said the BRS is opposing tooth and nail the ‘disinvestment of LIC’.

Presided by BRS President Rao, the meeting was attended by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI General Secretary D Raja and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.

Taking a dig at the Prime Minister Modi’s comment in the national executive meeting that there are only 400 days left for the 2024 elections, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav said here on Wednesday that the ruling BJP has started counting its days and would not last a day more in power.

Speaking at the first public meeting of Bharat Rashtra Samithi here, Yadav said, “The BJP will be out of power after 399 days and a new government will be in place on the 400th day.” He said that the ruling BJP has been pushing the nation behind and it is time for all progressive leaders to come together and work for the country’s development.

“In this historic land of Khammam, Telangana Chief Minister and BRS president KCR has gathered such a huge crowd and given a message to the whole country,” Yadav said.

Noting that Uttar Pradesh will eventually join other states in rejecting the ruling BJP, he said, “Today when we have gathered in such large numbers and in front of this gathering, I can say that if the BJP is being resisted in Telangana, then UP is not far behind.”

Accusing the BJP-ruled Centre of ‘undoing’ the foundations of the nation’s democracy, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday called for a ‘new resistance’ to protect secularism, democracy and the Constitution and said people’s unity has to emerge against the communal agenda that seeks to divide the country.

“I hope that today, in Khammam, the land of people’s resistances, we will have the beginning of a new resistance, a resistance to secure the ideals that we fought for in our freedom struggle. A resistance to protect our secularism, our democracy, our Constitution and thereby our nation,” Vijayan said.

Without directly naming BJP, Vijayan said there is a “peculiar situation” in which a political formation that was not part of our national freedom struggle is in power in the country.

Charging that the followers of those who tendered unconditional apologies to the colonisers and promised to serve the imperial crown are at the helm of affairs today, he said they have been and remain “antagonistic” to the values of the anti-colonial struggle.

“Since those in power now were not part of our collective struggles then, they do not know the values on which India has been built as a sovereign, democratic, republic. So, they seek to alter the basic structures on which our modern nation has been built,” the Kerala Chief Minister further said.

Further sharpening his attack against the BJP-led Union government, the Marxist veteran said by signing various international defence agreements, the Centre goes against the concept of sovereignty.

Accusing the Centre of having a mission to make India a ‘unitary state’, he said slogans such as ‘One Nation One Tax’, ‘One Nation One Uniform’, ‘One Nation One Election’ are all attacks on federal structure. Alleging that the Union government is consciously trying to destroy the country’s federal structure, Vijayan said laws are being enacted repeatedly by the Parliament on subjects in the State List in the Constitution, be it law and order, agriculture, cooperation, power or so on. Bills that infringe upon the rights of the states are being enacted into laws even without seeking the opinion of state governments, he said, adding that even while entering into international agreements that affect the states, they are not being informed.

When states try to mobilise resources through additional alternative sources, the Centre intervenes and sabotages such moves and even the funds that are made available to the state by the Constitution too are denied, he said.

“Such attacks are most acute in the states that are ruled by governments that are opposed to the BJP-RSS combine ruling the Union. We are seeing it in Telangana, as well as in Kerala,” he said.

Apparently referring to the ongoing tussle of his government with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on various issues, he said attacks against the states’ rights and powers are being carried out even by politically misusing the office of Governor. “Widespread efforts are on to take control of the higher education sector through the Governors, in their capacity as Chancellors. Assent to legislations that have been enacted by the State Legislatures are being withheld. Such affronts on the supremacy of State Legislatures weaken not just our federal structure, but even our democracy too,” he pointed out.

He also criticised the BJP government for its alleged effort to portray Hindi as a national language by sidelining other regional languages and for its alleged bid to destroy judicial autonomy.

SIMI ban: Objectives of the organisation against basic fabric of Constitution, Centre tells Supreme Court

Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is mobilising Muslim support to create a ‘caliphate’, it wants to replace Indian nationalism with an “international Islamic order” and considers idol worship a “sin”, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said, listing the outfit’s objectives before the Supreme Court, to justify banning the organisation.

A petition seeking to revoke a July 2019 ban on SIMI as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 came before an apex court Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on Jan. 18. The court adjourned the hearing.

The Home Ministry, in an affidavit, said the objectives of SIMI were against the basic fabric of Constitution.

“SIMI aims to mobilise students/youth in the propagation of Islam and obtain support for Jihad. The organisation also emphasises on the formation of ‘Shariat’ based Islamic rule through ‘Islami Inqalab’. The organisation does not believe in nation-state or in the Indian Constitution including its secular nature. It further regards idol worship as a sin, and propagates its ‘duty’ to end such practices,” the affidavit pointed out.

The Centre said the financial situation of SIMI was “sound”, with donations and memberships from Gulf countries. The funds received within the country can be broadly classified in two different heads; Jhakat/donation and funds and by robberies and dacoities.

“SIMI through its members has contacts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Nepal. Being an organisation for students/youth, SIMI is influenced by and used by various fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organisations operating inter alia from the State of Jammu & Kashmir,” the affidavit said.

Terrorist organisations such as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have successfully managed to penetrate into the SIMI cadres to achieve their anti-national goals. It is active in States, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

Dutee Chand tests positive for prohibited substances, provisionally suspended

India’s top sprinter Dutee Chand has been provisionally suspended after her ‘A’ sample returned positive for prohibited anabolic steroids during an out-of-competition testing.

The report of the adverse analytical finding, a copy of which is in possession of PTI, says Dutee has tested positive for SARMS (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators), a type of supplement that helps increase muscle mass and strength and is also known to help burn fat and improve stamina.

The urine sample of the athlete showed traces of ‘andarine’, ‘ostarine’ and ‘ligandrol’, which fall under the SARMS category and are banned under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules.

In the letter issued to Dutee on January 3, 2023, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) said, “I do hereby inform you that your sample A was tested at the NDTL (National Dope Testing Laboratory) in accordance with the procedure set out in WADA’s (World Anti-Doping Agency) International Standard of Laboratories and was returned adverse analytical findings.” The sample was collected out-of-competition on December 5 last year at Bhubaneswar.

The 26-year-old, who won the 100m and 200m silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, can now opt for a ‘B’ sample test under WADA rules and if that also returns an adverse analytical finding (AAF), or she cannot establish that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional, she could be banned for four years.

The letter states that Dutee has seven working days to appeal for a ‘B’ sample test, failing which NADA will deem that she has waived her right to have the second sample analysed.

Given that the notice was issued on January 3, Dutee’s time to appeal for a ‘B’ sample test would have ended by now. However, Dutee, when contacted on Wednesday, said she was unaware of the ‘A’ sample testing positive. “I do not know,” she said.

Dutee holds the 100m national record with a timing of 11.17 seconds, which she achieved at the Indian Grand Prix IV at Patiala in 2021. Dutee is currently not a national camper and is not training with any Athletics Federation of India (AFI) coach in Hyderabad. Dutee moved to Bhubaneswar to train on her own.

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said he had no news about Dutee’s positive test.

“I have not received any news on her testing positive. Ask NADA. They inform us about the tests via registered post, which takes a few days to arrive. Ask Dutee if she has got the letter (of adverse analytical findings),” said Sumariwalla.

Dutee had qualified for the women’s 100m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, 36 years after sprint legend and the current Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha took part in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The Odisha athlete had a long battle with the International Amateur Athletic Federation (World Athletics) after being barred from competing in 2014 because of high levels of testosterone hormone, exceeding the standards laid down for female athletes.

The hormone, which is naturally produced in the body -- less in females, more in males -- is understood to give women significant competitive edge. However in 2018, IAAF altered its hyperandrogenism rules, excluding the 100m and 200m events from the gamut of the rules.

In Brief:

2023 Assembly elections | Tripura to vote on Feb 16, Meghalaya and Nagaland on Feb 27

The Election Commission of India January 18 announced the schedule for Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya Assembly polls. Tripura will vote on February 16, Meghalaya and Nagaland will vote on February 27, and the counting for all three States will be held on March 2. The term of the three Assemblies is set to end on different dates in March. While Tripura has a BJP government, in Nagaland, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party is in power. Meanwhile, National People’s Party, the only party from the North-East to have a national party recognition, runs the government in Meghalaya.

Punjab Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal quits Congress, joins BJP

The former finance minister of Punjab, Manpreet Badal, joined the BJP on January 18 just hours after quitting the Congress over what he termed as a “disappointing” attitude within the Congress towards Punjab and rife factionalism within the leadership. He joined the BJP at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi with Union Minister Piyush Goyal and party general secretary Tarun Chugh present at the event. Badal, who is the nephew of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, had begun his electoral career in 1995 by winning the Gidderbaha bye-election as part of the SAD. BJP is the fourth party to which Badal is swearing loyalty to, starting SAD to floating his own outfit, the Punjab People’s Party and later merging that entity with the Congress.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow. 

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