The Election Commission of India on February 17 recognised the Eknath Shinde-led faction as the real Shiv Sena and ordered allocation of the “bow and arrow” poll symbol to it.
In a 78-page order on the protracted battle for control of the organisation, the Commission allowed the Uddhav Thackeray faction to keep the “flaming torch” poll symbol allocated to it till the completion of the Assembly bypolls in the State.
The Commission said MLAs backing Shinde got nearly 76% of votes polled in favour of the 55 winning Shiv Sena candidates in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly polls. The Thackeray faction MLAs got 23.5% of votes polled in favour of the winning Shiv Sena candidates, the three-member Commission said in a unanimous order.
The Commission observed that the current constitution of the Shiv Sena party is undemocratic. It has been mutilated to undemocratically appoint people from a coterie as office bearers without any election at all. Such party structures fail to inspire confidence. In a landmark decision with far-reaching implications on political parties and their conduct, the ECI advised all political parties to reflect democratic ethos and principles of inner party democracy and regularly disclose on their respective websites aspects of their inner party functioning, such as organisational details, holding of elections, the copy of Constitution and list of office bearers.
“The constitution of political parties ought to provide for free, fair and transparent elections to the posts of office bearers and a further free and fair procedure for the resolution of internal disputes. These procedures ought to be difficult to amend and should be amendable only after ensuring larger support of the organisational members for the same,” the ECI said.
“The Constitution of Shiv Sena amended in 2018 is not given to ECI. Amendments had undone the act of introducing democratic norms in the Party Constitution of 1999, brought by the Late Balasaheb Thackeray at the insistence of the Commission,” the ECI added. The ECI observed that the undemocratic norms of the original Constitution of Shiv Sena, which was not accepted by the Commission in 1999 have been brought back in a surreptitious manner further making the party akin to a fiefdom.
The Rashtriya Karyakarini is a body which is ‘elected’ by a largely ‘appointed’ Pratinidhi Sabha. The Commission conveyed to Shiv Sena in the year 1999 on the draft amendments when Bala Saheb was made leader of Sena for life: “To put in a nutshell, the party Constitution envisages the President nominating the Electoral College that is to elect him. Therefore, any reliance on the ‘Test of Party Constitution’ for determining the present dispute case will be undemocratic and catalytic in spreading such practices across parties.
The ECI said that the 2018 Constitution of SS, by way of its plain reading on the vital axis of remedy/modality of dissent, stifles all options of the rival group(s) in its very formulation. It confers widespread powers of making various organisational appointments on a single person.
Last month, both the Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and former CM Uddhav Thackeray-led factions of the Shiv Sena submitted their written statements in support of their claims of control over the party name and symbol to the Election Commission.
The ECI had frozen the bow and arrow symbol of the Shiv Sena and had allotted the ‘Two Swords and Shield symbol’ to the Eknath Shinde faction of Shiv Sena and the ‘flaming torch’ (mashaal) election symbol was allotted to the Uddhav Thackeray faction for the bypoll in Andheri East assembly constituency in November last year. In November last year, Uddhav Thackeray had moved a writ plea in the Delhi High Court against the ECI decision to freeze Election Symbol of Bow and Arrow. However, the plea was dismissed by the court.
Notably, EC passed the interim order saying in Andheri East bypolls, neither of the two groups shall be permitted to use the symbol “Bow and Arrow”, reserved for “Shiv Sena”. The Commission’s ruling had come amid the ongoing symbol war between the Uddhav Thackeray camp and rival Eknath Shinde camp.
Adani-Hindenburg row: SC refuses to accept Centre’s suggestion of names for expert committee
The Supreme Court, on February 17, 2023, categorically refused to accept the government’s suggestion of names of members in the expert committee proposed to examine the regulatory framework and available regime in the backdrop of the Adani-Hindenburg case.
Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud-led Bench said it does not want to receive any names from the government in a sealed cover.
“We will select the experts and maintain full transparency. If we take names from the government, it would amount to a government constituted committee. There has to be full public confidence in the committee,” the CJI said.
The court reserved the case for pronouncing order on the names of members and remit of the expert committee.
The crucial hearing on the PILs by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India assumed significance in the wake of recent developments in which the Centre agreed to the apex court’s proposal to set up a committee, likely to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge, to look into the regulatory regimes.
Stressing that statutory bodies like market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are “fully equipped” and are on job, the central government had expressed apprehensions that any “unintentional” message to the investors that regulatory bodies in India needed a monitoring by a panel may have some adverse impact on the flow of money into the country.
The Centre had told the Bench, also comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, that it wanted to provide details such as names and the scope of the panel’s mandate in a “sealed cover”.
Stock market regulator SEBI, in its note filed in the top court, had indicated it is not in favour of banning short-selling or sale of borrowed shares, and said it is investigating allegations made by a tiny short-seller against the Adani Group as well as its share price movements.
Survey at BBC offices revealed multiple irregularities, says I-T Department
The Income-Tax Department on February 17, 2023 alleged that its survey at the Delhi and Mumbai offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) revealed multiple irregularities, including non-payment of tax on certain remittances that were not disclosed as income in India.
Stating that the survey action was carried out under Section 133A of the Income-Tax Act, the agency said it revealed that despite substantial consumption of content in various Indian languages (apart from English), the income/profits shown by various group entities was not commensurate with the scale of operations in India.
“During the course of the survey, the Department gathered several evidence pertaining to the operation of the organisation which indicate that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group,” said the agency in a statement.
According to the Department, it also found that services of seconded employees had been used for which reimbursement was made by the Indian entity to the foreign entity concerned. “Such remittance was also liable to be subject to withholding tax which has not been done...the survey has also thrown up several discrepancies and inconsistencies with regard to Transfer Pricing documentation,” it said.
The agency said such “discrepancies” related to the level of relevant “Function, Asset and Risk (FAR) analysis, incorrect use of comparables which are applicable to determine the correct Arms Length Price (ALP) and inadequate revenue apportionment, among others”.
It also claims to have unearthed “crucial evidence” by way of statements of employees, digital evidence and documents which would be further examined in due course. “...statements of only those employees were recorded whose role was crucial including those connected to, primarily, finance, content development and other production related functions,” said the Department.
“Even though the Department exercised due care to record statements of only key personnel, it was observed that dilatory tactics were employed including in the context of producing documents/agreements sought. Despite such a stance of the group, the survey operation was conducted in a manner so as to facilitate continued regular media/channel activity,” it added.
The group is engaged in the business of development of content in English, Hindi and various other Indian languages; advertisement, sales and market support services, etc.
IOC made to sign ‘unfavourable contract’ with Adani-owned Gangavaram Port to import LPG, alleges Congress
The Congress on Friday targeted the Narendra Modi government over a purported contract that the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) signed with the Adani Group to import liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) through the group-owned Gangavaram Port.
As part of the Hum Adani ke Hain Kaun [How are we related to Adani] series, in which the Congress poses three questions to Prime Minister Modi on Twitter every day, party general secretary Jairam Ramesh alleged that IOC is now being made to use the Gangavaram Port through an “unfavourable” contract instead of the government-run Visakhapatnam Port.
Ramesh’s allegation came a day after Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member Mahua Moitra alleged a “scam” in engaging the Adani-owned port without a tender. The IOC, responding to Moitra, clarified that its pact to hire the services of the Gangavaram Port for LPG imports was in addition to existing pacts with nearby ports and that there is no take-or-pay agreement. In a take-or-pay contract, a company either takes the product from the other party or pays them a penalty.
“It is now widely known that you [Mr. Modi] have used all the means at your disposal to help Adani [Group] expand its ports business, whether by giving port concessions in the absence of bidding or by inflicting income tax raids on business groups to encourage them to sell their valuable assets to Adani,” Ramesh said.
“Your government had previously blocked a 2021 bid by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust for the Dighi Port in Maharashtra, which ended up in Adani’s hands. Now we learn that IOC, which was earlier importing LPG via the government-run VisakhapatnamPort, is instead being made to use the neighbouring Gangavaram Port, and that too via an unfavourable ‘take-or-pay’ contract. Do you view India’s public sector simply as a tool to enrich your cronies?” he asked.
Ramesh further pointed out that IOC has clarified that it has only signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Adani Ports and that there is no binding take-or-pay agreement “as of now”.
“Did Adani Ports inadvertently reveal the game before it was finalised? Does the signing of an MoU not clearly indicate the direction in which IOC is being pushed? Does the fact that a take-or-pay contract was at all on the table not betray the fact that Adani was going to be made the primary port for the import of LPG rather than one of many, as IOC has stated,” the Congress leader asked.
Ramesh’s latest attack on the government comes on a day when the Congress held nearly two dozen press conferences across the country on the Adani issue.
Bipartisan resolution introduced in U.S. Senate recognising Arunachal Pradesh as integral part of India
A bipartisan resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday to recognise Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India, pushing back against Beijing’s military aggression to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control.
The resolution condemns additional Chinese provocations, including China’s use of military force to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control, construction of villages in contested areas, publication of maps with Mandarin-language names for cities and features in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and expansion of Beijing’s territorial claims in Bhutan.
The resolution says that China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory, which it calls ‘South Tibet’, and has invoked these claims as part of its increasingly aggressive and expansionist policies.
“The United States recognises the state of Arunachal Pradesh not as a disputed territory but as an integral part of the Republic of India, and this recognition is not qualified in any way,” says the bipartisan resolution introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, and Bill Hagerty, a Republican.
Senator John Cornyn, Co-Chair of the India Caucus, has co-sponsored the resolution.
Pushing back against Chinese claims that Arunachal Pradesh is its territory, which is part of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive and expansionist policies, the Senate resolution reaffirms that the U.S. recognises the McMahon Line as the international boundary between China and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The line that was agreed to by Britain and Tibet as part of the 1914 Simla Accord is named after Sir Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of the British-run Government of India and the chief negotiator of settling disputes with China.
On December 9, The Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a fresh clash in the Yangtse area of Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector, in the first such major flare-up after the deadly hand-to-hand combat in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday yet again assured that he will “take a call” about listing petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which deprived Jammu and Kashmir of its special privileges and led to the bifurcation of the State in 2019. The case was orally mentioned for early listing by petitioners. It had similarly been mentioned on December 14 last year. At the time, the CJI had assured the petitioners with the words “I will examine and give a date”. Prior to December, the case was mentioned for early listing on September 23, 2022, before the current CJI’s predecessor, Justice U.U. Lalit, who had promised that it would come up after October 10. The Article 370 case has been pending in the Supreme Court for over two years.
Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.