Plea in Supreme Court on President not inaugurating the new Parliament building

May 25, 2023 08:58 pm | Updated 08:58 pm IST

A public interest petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday challenging the inauguration of the new Parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not the “First Citizen of India”, President Droupadi Murmu.

The petition, filed by advocate C.R. Jaya Sukin, questioned why the President was not even invited to the inauguration ceremony. The plea in the Supreme Court has come amidst announcements made by 19 Opposition parties to boycott the inauguration on May 28. They have publicly accused the government of sidelining the President, terming it as an “insult”.

“The President is the First Citizen of India and the head of the institution of Parliament. Under Article 85, the President can summon each House of Parliament to meet,” the petition said.

Pointing out that the “Prime Minister is appointed by the President”, the plea mentioned the President appoints constitutional functionaries such as Governors, Judges of both Supreme Court and High Courts, Chief Election Commissioner, and so on.

Sukin said an inauguration of the Parliament, the supreme legislative body of the nation, without the President was “not according to the law”.

One man’s ego has denied President her constitutional privilege to inaugurate new Parliament building: Congress

The Congress on Thursday (May 25) stepped up its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the inauguration of the new Parliament building, saying “one man’s ego and desire for self-promotion” has denied the first tribal woman President her constitutional privilege to inaugurate the complex.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that the “arrogance” of the Modi government has “destroyed” the parliamentary system. “Mr. Modi, Parliament is the temple of democracy established by the people. The office of the President is the first part of Parliament. The arrogance of your government has destroyed the parliamentary system,” Kharge said in a tweet in Hindi.

“140 crore Indians want to know what do you want to show by taking away the right of the President of India to inaugurate the Parliament House?” the Congress chief said. The Congress’ attack comes a day after as many as 20 opposition parties announced their decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building by Modi.

Nineteen Opposition parties, including the Congress, Left, TMC, SP and AAP, came together to jointly announce the boycott, saying they find no value in a new building when the “soul of democracy has been sucked out”. Separately, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said if Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla does not inaugurate the new Parliament building, his party would not attend.

In a tweet, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “Yesterday, President Draupadi Murmu inaugurated the country’s largest judicial campus at the Jharkhand High Court complex in Ranchi. It is one man’s ego and desire for self-promotion that has denied the first Adivasi woman President her Constitutional privilege to inaugurate the new Parliament building in New Delhi on May 28th.”

“Ashoka the Great, Akbar the Great, Modi the Inaugurate,” Ramesh said.

Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal said the absence of the President in the ceremonial event would amount to “devaluing the ethos of our Republic”.

In a tweet, Sibal said, “Inauguration of the new Parliament building. Parliament symbolises our Republic. The President is the head of the Republic. The absence of the President in this ceremonial event amounts to devaluing the ethos of our Republic. Does the government care!”

Sibal, who was a Union minister during UPA 1 and 2, had quit the Congress in May last year and was elected to the Rajya Sabha as an Independent member with the Samajwadi Party’s support. Sibal recently floated a non-electoral platform ‘Insaaf’ aimed at fighting injustice.

After the Opposition boycott call, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had also launched a sharp counterattack, calling the Opposition stand a “blatant affront to democratic ethos and constitutional values of our great nation”.

New Parliament building inauguration: Parties talking today about President’s eminence spoke ill of her before she got elected: Nirmala Sitharaman

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the media at the Raj Bhavan in Chennai, on May 25, 2023 that the Opposition parties, now speaking of President Droupadi Murmu as an eminent leader from a tribal community, had ran a bitter campaign against her before she got elected as the President.

Responding to the criticism from a section of the Opposition parties that the Union government had “disrespected” the President by not having her inaugurate the new Parliament building, she said these parties did not just run an election campaign against her, but spoke ill of her, “abused her,” and said she was going to be a “rubber stamp”. “I do not wish to recall the kind of words they used at that time,” she said.

These parties said Murmu represented “evil forces” and not anything the country needed, she added. “Obviously [by evil forces] they had the RSS in mind,” she inferred. Sitharaman said she could give the entire list of parties and the words they used. “Not one in that group said anything to honour her at that time. Today, suddenly they feel that we have to recognise...” she said.

According to her, the present government at the Centre duly respected the President. “Our honourable Prime Minister himself gives her due respect. All of us are extremely proud of our Rahstrapati ji,” she added.

Alleging that it was former Congress president Sonia Gandhi who inaugurated the Assembly building in Chhattisgarh, Sitharaman asked under what capacity did she do that. She asked should the inauguration have not been done by the Governor, going by the logic articulated by the Opposition parties now.

Amid reports of shortage, FSSAI to conduct pan-India milk and milk products surveillance

Aimed at curbing adulteration of milk and milk products, in both organised and unorganised sectors in all the districts of the States/ Union Territories, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will conduct nation-wide surveillance on milk and other products (such as milk khoa, chenna, paneer, ghee, butter, curd, and ice cream).

The announcement on Thursday comes in the backdrop of the country facing an alleged milk shortage with cooperatives reporting an increase in production of only 1-2 % this year and organised and unorganised sector point registering stagnation. The sector also continues to grapple with the hit it took during COVID-19 and more recently the Lumpy Skin Disease (which caused the death of 1.9 lakh cattle) and fodder inflation at 30%.

Meanwhile, giving details of the proposed surveillance, the FSSAI said that the operation would identify hotspots for adulteration in milk and its products and devise corrective actions/ strategies based on the results of the study and suggest a way forward.

“The rationale behind choosing milk is due to its indispensable role in our food culture either as a fresh fluid or as processed dairy products. Milk contains vital micronutrients and macronutrients. People of every age group include milk or milk products in their daily diet. Changing lifestyle patterns and increasing health consciousness are the key growth drivers for milk and high value milk products in India,” said the FSSAI. Milk or milk products would be tested for compliance of quality and safety.

Previously, the FSSAI conducted several pan-India surveys on milk in 2011, 2016, 2020 where all samples collected were tested for critical parameters of quality and safety.

“In 2022, the FSSAI conducted a milk survey in selected 12 States (which includes 10 States where the Lumpy Skin Disease was prevalent and two States as under control with no reported outbreak). The administration of antibiotics/veterinary drugs in affected animals & spraying insecticides in the sheds may result in residual contamination in milk. In order to ascertain the safety of milk, the presence of antibiotics, pesticide residues & heavy metals were assessed in the samples collected. The outcome of the survey revealed that the milk sold in the selected 12 States is largely safe for consumption,” noted the FSSAI.

For retirees, leave encashment now tax-free till ₹25 lakh

The government has notified a hike in the tax exemption limit for leave encashment benefits received by salaried employees at the time of retirement from ₹3 lakh to ₹25 lakh, as promised in the Union Budget.

The changed tax treatment, which will be effective from April 1, 2023, could benefit 50% of personal income tax payers, who are salaried workers, as per Revenue Department estimates.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had noted during her Budget 2023-24 speech that the limit of ₹3 lakh for tax exemption on leave encashment on retirement of non-government salaried employees was last fixed in the year 2002, when the highest basic pay in the government was ₹30,000 per month. “In line with the increase in government salaries, I am proposing to increase this limit to ₹25 lakh,” she had said.

Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra had told The Hindu that this tax exemption hike would effectively translate into potential savings of ₹7 lakh in taxes that would have been payable before this amendment. “That is almost ₹20,000 of savings a year over a 33-year working life,” he had pointed out. Employees who switch to the new exemption-free income tax regime in the year of their retirement will also benefit from this change, Malhotra said.

Alwar court awards 7-year jail for four in 2018 Rakbar Khan lynching case

A sessions court in Rajasthan’s Alwar on Thursday sentenced four persons to seven years’ imprisonment for lynching a Muslim dairy farmer from Haryana, Rakbar Khan, on suspicion of smuggling cows near Lalawandi village in July 2018. The fifth accused was acquitted for lack of evidence.

This is the first conviction by a court in a case of violence by cow vigilantes in the State. All the six accused in the infamous Pehlu Khan lynching case of 2017, caught on camera, were earlier acquitted by the court, which gave them the benefit of doubt on the basis of “contradictions” in the investigation and the prosecution’s evidence.

The instance of cow vigilantism in Lalawandi, in which 31-year-old Rakbar Khan was beaten to death, had led to nationwide outrage and prompted both the Central and State governments to take urgent measures to control the situation. The matter also came up in the Supreme Court during the hearing of a petition against mob lynching.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Sunil Kumar Goyal held Paramjeet Singh, Dharmendra Yadav, Naresh Sharma and Vijay Kumar guilty under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 341 (wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code and handed them seven years’ jail term and slapped a fine of ₹10,000 each. They were also awarded one-month imprisonment and a ₹500 fine under Section 341.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Naval Kishore was acquitted because of lack of sufficient evidence. He had informed the police about Rakbar Khan and another person transporting cattle and was a crucial witness in the case. Though he was made an accused on the basis of his telephonic conversations with the other accused, the court did not accept it as “clinching evidence” and gave him the benefit of doubt.

Rakbar Khan and his friend Aslam were herding two cows on foot through the forest area near Lalawandi in Alwar district to their native village, Kolgaon in Haryana, when a group of villagers stopped and attacked them around midnight on July 20, 2018. While Aslam managed to escape, Rakbar Khan sustained severe injuries and died on the way to hospital.

The then Home Minister Gulab Chand Katari, who visited the spot after the quick arrest of the accused, had admitted that Rakbar Khan had died in police custody and there was a delay in taking him to hospital, as the policemen first made arrangements for taking the cows recovered from him to a ‘gaushala’. An assistant sub-inspector was subsequently suspended and three policemen were sent to the Police Lines.

The BJP government’s swift response was apparently guided by political compulsion and pressure from the Opposition in view of the impending State Assembly election of 2018. The incident came just over a year after Pehlu Khan was lynched by a mob near Behror in Alwar district on April 1, 2017.

The judgement was pronounced amid heavy police presence in the court building in view of sensitivity of the matter. As many as 67 witnesses were examined in the case and 129 documents were exhibited. Both the punishments will run concurrently and the sentence period will be reduced for the time already spent by the convicts in judicial custody.

The police investigation had established the links of the convicts, who were residents of Lalawandi and nearby villages, with the right wing groups. With the period of sentence pronounced by the court being lesser than expected, the prosecution was examining the scope for moving an appeal in the High Court for enhancing the quantum of punishment.

Imran Khan says ‘undeclared martial law’ in Pakistan; files plea in Supreme Court

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 25 filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the deployment of the army to aid the civilian administration in some provinces, terming it as “undeclared martial law” in the coup-prone country.

Khan moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan against Shehbaz Sharif’s government that invoked Article 245 in several provinces including Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Islamabad — the Federal Capital Territory. Under Article 245 of Pakistan’s Constitution, the army can be called in to aid the civil administration to defend the country.

In his petition, the 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief urged the court to take notice of the martial law-like situation in parts of the country and the ongoing aggressive crackdown on his party. Khan said that the arrests, investigations and trials of citizens under the Army Act 1952 were “unconstitutional and void and of no legal effect and amounts to negation of the Constitution, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.”

“The dictated exercise of this power by the federal cabinet in the absence of objective conditions for the exercise of that power is clearly violative of the fundamental rights,” the petition said.

He said that the “dismantling of PTI through forcible quitting of party membership and office are unconstitutional and void being against Article 17 of the Constitution,” the Dawn newspaper reported.

The plea named Prime Minister Sharif, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other as respondents, the report said.

The embattled politician also pleaded with the apex court to appoint a commission led by an apex court judge to probe the events surrounding his arrest on May 9 and subsequent incidents.

The petition was filed as the military court was planning to hear cases against 16 ‘miscreants’ allegedly involved in the attacks on the military installations, and Khan also raised queries about the trial by military courts.

Khan also argued in the petition that trying civilians in military courts would be synonymous with denying them the right to life, due process and fair trial, the dignity of man and equal protection of the law to the accused. The former cricketer-turned-politician has been under pressure due to the cases filed against him and the violence committed on the day of protest by his supporters.

The latest move in the court may be an effort to assure his supporters that he was still fighting. A day earlier, Khan on Wednesday appealed to the Supreme Court judges to save the democracy in Pakistan, saying “you are our last hope.”

The powerful Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 75 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif has said the attackers of May 9 violence targeted the “idea and identity of Pakistan and gave the enemies of the country reasons to celebrate”.

“I don’t see the tragic incidents of May 9 as merely a protest that became violent. The designs of those who planned them were actually very sinister,” he tweeted on Thursday.

“There was a clear build-up to the shameful incidents, as the whole nation witnessed in utter disbelief and a state of shock how the lust of some people for power made them do what was never done before,” he said.

Sharif said the “tragic and heart-rending events” of May 9 were a wake-up call. “We have to identify and expose all such people who want to destroy the foundations of Pakistan. May 9 has drawn up a dividing line between the protectors and builders of Pakistan and those who wish to weaken it,” he said.

In Brief:

Three people including two police officers were killed in Nagano in central Japan on Thursday, and a suspect with a rifle and knife was holed up inside a building, according to police and media reports. A witness told NHK public television that a woman fell while being chased by the suspect, who then stabbed her with a knife and shot at two police officers as they arrived at the scene in Nakano city in the prefecture of Nagano. The three were taken to a nearby hospital, where the woman was later pronounced dead, police said. The two police officers also died later.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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