Relentless rains continue to lash northern India; 17 killed in Himachal Pradesh

July 10, 2023 08:33 pm | Updated 08:33 pm IST

Relentless rain continued to lash most parts of Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh for the third straight day in a row on July 10, putting normal life out of gear. The rain across the northern parts of the country has led to landslides and flash floods in the region.

In Himachal Pradesh, during the past three days, at least 17 human lives were lost. In Haryana, at least six people lost their lives while in Punjab two people died in rain-related incidents, according to officials. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said at least 17 persons have been killed in the rain-related incidents, while extensive damage has been caused to the roads, power transformers, electric sub-stations, and numerous water supply schemes. “As per an initial estimate the loss could range between ₹3,000 crore to ₹4,000 crores,” he said.

Sukhu said that efforts were underway to evacuate around 300 stranded people, which include tourists and residents in Lahaul-Spiti and Kullu districts by using helicopters once the weather permits. He said the ‘Shrikhand Mahadev Yatra’ has been halted for the rest of the season due to six deaths reported during the pilgrimage.

In Mandi district’s Nagwain, six stranded people were safely evacuated on Sunday night, while 29 people trapped in Manali’s potato ground were rescued at around 8 a.m. The Mandi administration got 113 houses evacuated in the wake of a flood-like situation in River Beas. About 200 tourists are stranded near Chandertal Lake in Lahaul and Spiti district, and efforts are underway to rescue them. An operation has been launched to trace the eight missing local people at Lohardi in the Baijnath area of district Kangra.

Heavy rains that triggered landslides have left hundreds stranded as several roads — including national highways — have been damaged due to landslides, adversely impacting vehicular movement in Himachal Pradesh. The incessant rains have left rivers Sutlej, Ravi, and Beas flowing through Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in Haryana in spate. In Haryana, rivers Yamuna and Ghaggar are flowing close to the danger mark.

Flood-like conditions and water logging have been reported from several places in Punjab following continuous rain including Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar (Mohali), Anandpur Sahib, Pathankot, Roopnagar, Nawanshahr and Fathegarh Sahib districts. Several roads, railway tracks, and farmland have been inundated following rains. People have been complaining of no power and water supply in many parts of the flood-affected areas.

As Punjab and Haryana sought help from the Army, the flood relief columns of Western Command were mobilised to assist the civil administration in rescue and evacuation efforts in the flood-affected areas.

Supreme Court agrees to hear Delhi govt’s plea for interim stay of L-G’s ‘firing’ of 437 independent consultants

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on July 17 an interim plea made by the Delhi government seeking a stay of the Lieutenant-Governor’s executive order “firing” 437 independent consultants of the Delhi Legislative Assembly.

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Shadaan Farasat said the L-G’s order was passed pursuant to the promulgation of a central ordinance which gave the L-G control over ‘civil services’ in the national capital.

The interim application seeking relief for the 437 consultants was filed by the AAP government as part of its larger petition challenging the legality of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023.

“Their salaries have been stopped. They have stopped working… I am their employer, so I have come for interim stay of the executive order which is based on the ordinance,” Singhvi argued. The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, countered that many of the consultants were party workers. “One of them is the wife of a sitting MLA,” Mehta alleged.

Senior advocate Sanjay Jain, for the L-G, said an Article 32 petition under the Constitution cannot be “converted” to challenge the firing of “independent consultants”.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha issued notice to the Centre and impleaded the Delhi L-G V.K. Saxena as a respondent in the petition against the Ordinance, which allows the L-G to appoint the officials in the national capital. The court directed the respondents to file their replies in two weeks.

Appearing for the AAP government, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and Shadaan Farasat, said the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023, effectively gave a carte blanche to the bureaucrats in Delhi to disobey their Ministers.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has argued that the Ordinance was promulgated within just eight days of the Supreme Court’s May 11 verdict in favour of the authority of Delhi government to make laws and administer civil services in the national capital.

The May 11 judgment of a Constitution Bench led by CJI Chandrachud had limited the role of the Lieutenant Governor (L-G), an arm of the Centre, over bureaucrats in the capital to three specific areas — public order, police and land.

“The Ordinance has now wrested control over civil servants serving in Delhi from the Government of NCT of Delhi to the unelected Lieutenant Governor… It has done so without seeking to amend the Constitution, in particular Article 239AA, which holds that the power and control over services should be vested in the elected government,” the Delhi government, represented by advocate Shadan Farasat, has submitted.

Singhvi said the structure of the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) envisaged the Chief Minister as a “minority voice” in the governance of Delhi. The Chief Minister, though the chairperson of the NCCSA, was outnumbered by the Chief Secretary and Principal Home Secretary, who function as Member and Member Secretary, respectively.

The NCCSA exercises authority over civil service officers working in all Delhi government departments except those in public order, police and land. NCCSA would decide transfers, postings, prosecution sanctions, disciplinary proceedings, vigilance issues, etc, of civil service officers deputed to Delhi government departments by majority of votes of the members present and voting. The Lieutenant-Governor’s decision, in case of a difference of opinion, would be final.

The Ordinance was promulgated within days of a Constitution Bench judgment on May 11, which had upheld the Delhi government’s control over the civil servants. The government said the Ordinance subverted the judgment without explaining why the court’s decision to give the authority over services to the elected government was wrong in law.

The government said that by giving the L-G a final say, the dual scheme of governance envisioned in Article 239AA has suffered a collapse. Under the Article, the L-G enjoys a discretion only in matters following outside the Delhi government’s legislative and executive domain. In all other issues, the L-G is bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. The May 11 judgment had said the dual arrangement was essential to preserve Delhi’s federal system of governance.

Madras High Court to examine and quash criminal cases against minor boys for consensual relationships with minor girls

The Madras High Court has decided to embark on an exercise of quashing criminal cases registered against minor boys for having consensual relationships with, or having eloped with minor girls, if it finds that these cases are against the interest and future of the children involved, besides being an abuse of the process of court or an abuse of the process of law.

Justices N. Anand Venkatesh and Sunder Mohan have also decided to put an end to the two-finger test conducted on victims of sexual offences and the archaic potency test conducted on the suspects, by collecting their sperm. The judges have directed the police to come up with a standard operating procedure to conduct a potency test by merely collecting blood samples.

The interim orders were passed on a habeas corpus petition filed in 2022 with respect to a missing minor girl in Cuddalore district. After finding it to be a case of elopement, the judges recorded the submission of the police that they had already filed a closure report before the Juvenile Justice Board after not finding the commission of any kind of offence.

However, when the judges’ attention was drawn to a similar case of two minor children having eloped from Dharmapuri district to Chennai where they rented a house, the Bench found that the personnel of an All Women Police Station had registered a case against the minor boy under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.

Further, a Block Development Officer (BDO) had taken away the minor girl and lodged her in a private home for over a month. She was not allowed to go with her parents despite being pregnant. The minor boy too, was detained at a ‘place of safety’ as defined under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 for nearly 20 days.

Pointing out that the minor boy and girl involved in such incidents would fall under the definition of the term ‘child’ (any person below the age of 18 years) as defined under the POCSO Act, the judges were shocked to find the police had treated the minor girl in the case as a victim, and the minor boy as a child in conflict with the law.

“This case must be taken to be a wakeup call to ensure that such incidents at least do not happen in the future. It is sad that none of the stakeholders were sensitive to the fact that both the boy and the girl were under 18 years and both of them are categorised as child under the relevant enactment,” the Bench wrote.

After finding the minor girl to have given a statement to the police that it was she who forced the boy to elope with her and also taking into account the disinclination on the part of her parents to prosecute the case against the minor boy, the judges quashed the First Information Report (FIR) registered by the police on the basis of the BDO’s complaint.

The FIR was quashed by exercising the High Court’s writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution read with Section 482 (inherent powers of the High Court to pass such orders as may be necessary to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Authoring the order, Justice Venkatesh said, as many as 1,728 such cases appeared to have been registered in Tamil Nadu since 2010 and of them 1,274 were pending. Similarly, 21 cases were pending in Puducherry, six in Karaikal and two in Yanam (a total of 29). All these cases were either at the stage of investigation or trial. The Bench led by him directed the Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police to identify the cases involving consensual relationships from among the 1,274 pending cases and prepare a separate list by August 11. A similar direction was issued to the Puducherry DGP.

“If those cases are segregated from the pending cases, it will be easy for this court to deal with them and in appropriate cases, this court can also exercise its jurisdiction and quash the proceedings if the proceedings are ultimately going to be against the interest and future of the children involved in those cases,” he wrote.

Supreme Court seeks updates from Union, States on action taken against lynchings

The Supreme Court on July 10 decided to take stock of what the Centre and State Governments have done so far to punish lynchings, mostly spurred by communal hate, since its July 2018 judgment condemned these “horrendous acts of mobocracy” as an anathema which requires a special law and punishment.

A Bench of Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Bela M. Trivedi directed the State Governments to file year-wise data, from 2018, regarding the complaints filed, FIRs registered and challans submitted in courts concerning incidents of mob violence and lynchings.

The court said the Home Ministry could meet with the departments heads concerned of States and provide an updated status on measures taken by them to comply with the preventive remedial measures directed by the Supreme Court on its July 17, 2018 judgment in Tehseen Poonawala case.

The judgment had directed States to form Special Task Forces (STFs) to collect intelligence on likely incidents of hate speeches, mob violence and lynchings in districts. The judgment had made it clearly the duty of the Central and State Governments to take steps to curb and stop the dissemination of explosive messages, videos, etc., which have a “tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind”. The court had directed that the police were duty-bound to register FIRs, arrest the accused, carry out effective investigation and file charge sheets in complaints of mob violence and lynchings.

There have been at least 10 such instances in the last one year… Please direct the Centre and the State’s to file status reports,” advocate Shoeb Alam, for the petitioners who include activist Tushar Gandhi, urged the court.

The court directed the State Governments to file status reports detailing the steps taken by them to comply with the directions in the 2018 judgment. The 45-page judgment, in 2018, had wondered whether the “populace of a great Republic like ours has lost the values of tolerance to sustain a diverse culture?”

The litany of spiralling mob violence, their horror, the grim and gruesome scenes of lynchings were made worse by the apathy of the bystanders, numbness of mute spectators, inertia of the police and, finally, the “grandstanding of the incident by the perpetrators of the crimes” on social media, Chief Justice (now retired) Dipak Misra had written in the judgment.

Describing lynchings and mob violence as “creeping threats”, the court warned that the rising wave of frenzied mobs — fed by fake news, self-professed morality and false stories — would consume the country like a “typhoon-like monster”.

Derek O’Brien, Saket Gokhale among 6 candidates named by TMC for Rajya Sabha polls

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has announced its candidates for six Rajya Sabha seats in West Bengal. The party has retained three of its sitting members and announced three fresh faces for the Upper House, branding its choice of candidates as a blend of experience and youth. Sushmita Dev, who joined the Trinamool after quitting the Congress, does not find space in the list.

The seats will go to polls later this month. The six names include sitting MPs Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray and Dola Sen. O’Brien has been an MP since 2011 and is currently the floor leader of the party, while Ray, who was first sent to the Upper House in 2012, is the Deputy Chief Whip. Sen, a senior leader and trade unionist, became an MP in 2017.

The newcomers are Bangla Sanskriti Mancha president, 35-year-old Samirul Islam; TMC’s Alipurduar district president 42-year-old Prakash Chik Baraik; and RTI activist and TMC spokesperson 36-year-old Saket Gokhale.

The selection of three new faces signals careful political calculation by the TMC. Baraik’s nomination, party insiders say, is aimed at bolstering the party’s influence in north Bengal, where the BJP had managed to make inroads. To Baraik’s credit, Alipurduar’s BJP MLA Suman Kanjilal jumped ship to the TMC this February, becoming the central party’s sixth legislator to do so. He is also the tribal face of the party.

Islam is an assistant professor at Howrah college and is the minority face of the party. His organisation Bangla Sanskriti Mancha is believed to wield huge support in the districts of Birbhum, Murshidabad, Malda, East and West Burdwan and Hooghly. While both Islam and Baraik have been working in the party for long, Gokhale only joined in August last year. He hit the headlines earlier this year when he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged crowd-funding and misappropriation of funds.

Besides O’Brien, Ray and Sen, the tenures of Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya, TMC’s Assam leader Sushmita Dev and its Darjeeling leader Shanta Chhetri ended, following which the six seats fell vacant.

It is learnt that Sen will be fielded from Assam in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. A seventh Rajya Sabha seat from West Bengal is also vacant after former Goa Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro resigned as TMC MP in April. A by-poll will be held for that seat along with the elections to these six seats on July 24. The seventh seat from the State is expected to be won by the BJP, which has not yet announced its pick.

In Brief:

The Supreme Court on July 10 agreed to hear on July 31 a petition filed by Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray challenging an Election Commission of India order allotting the party name ‘Shiv Sena’ and symbol ‘bow and arrow’ to the faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. Appearing before Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud for Thackeray, advocate Amit Anand Tiwari said the case was last heard on February 22 and was directed to be listed within the next three weeks. The case, however, failed to come up.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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