Coming down heavily on the aggrieved wrestlers, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha on April 27 said the grapplers lacked discipline as they hit the streets to resume their protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh instead of approaching them.
Decorated wrestlers Bajrang Punia and two others are the three central characters in the renewed protests against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, who has been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation by the grapplers.
The IOA is yet to complete its probe into the allegations while the government-formed oversight panel’s findings have not been made public as yet. Frustrated with the three-month-long wait, the peeved wrestlers returned to Jantar Mantar to resume their agitation on April 23, and also approached the Supreme Court, demanding arrest of the WFI boss. It is clear that the IOA has not liked the wrestlers’ move.
“Our feeling is that for sexual harassment complaints, IOA has a committee and athletes’ commission. Instead of going to the street (again), they should have come to us, but they have not at all come to IOA,” Usha told reporters after the sports body’s executive committee meeting.
Asked if the IOA would reach out to the wrestlers since they are adamant that they would not leave the protest site until their demands are met, Usha shot back by saying, “Thoda toh discipline hona chahiye (there should be some discipline). Instead of coming to us they have gone straight to the streets. It’s not good for sport.”
Chaubey said, “IOA President Dr. PT Usha would like to say that this kind of agitation is not good for the country’s image. India has a good reputation globally. This negative publicity is not good for the country.” “We want to be with not just the wrestlers but with every athlete who has represented India, but under the rules and the law of the country.”
In a press release, Usha added, “They are sitting on a dharna and asking all political parties to join them, and that is what disappoints me.” Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia said IOA President’s statement is “shocking”.
“She herself was an athlete and she is also a woman. We did not expect this harsh reaction from her, we expected support,” Bajrang told PTI.
“If IOA thinks wrestlers demanding justice is tarnishing the image of the country, what was that when she broke down and explained her plight after being harassed by a few goons at her academy. What had happened then,” asked Bajrang.
The top wrestler was referring to Usha breaking down during a press conference in February this year when she spoke about harassment at her academy in Balussery, Kerala.
When Chaubey was asked if the wrestlers should have waited for the completion of the probe before hitting the streets, he said, “These are serious allegations, we can’t take a decision in haste. If we can have a little bit of patience and see what is coming out from these committees, then we will be able to comment, but right now, we just discussed day-to-day administration of WFI.”
The IOA Joint Secretary also confirmed that several witnesses are yet to appear before the panel. “The investigation is still going on. We are told that the committee has a list of witnesses and the committee will invite them and they will face the commission,” Chaubey said.
Chaubey said the IOA, as instructed by the Sports Ministry, has formed a three-member ad-hoc panel to manage the affairs of the WFI and also conduct fresh polls within 45 days of the formation of the committee.
“Bhupendra Singh Bajwa will represent IOA executive council in the ad-hoc panel while Suma Shirur is a woman athlete and also a SOM (Sportsperson of Merit). They will be in charge of WFI’s day-to-day activities.”
“We have also discussed (names) of judges and one of the retired high court judge will join these two members and it will become a three-member committee. The high court judge will guide the committee on legal things,” he added.
When reminded that the IOA constitution does not permit an ad-hoc panel running a national sports federation (NSF), Chaubey said, “There are exceptions in the world. If IOA intervention can help a sport or sportsperson, that will be in interest of India as a nation.”
The Supreme Court will hear the matter on April 28. The Delhi Police had told the Supreme Court that the matter requires a preliminary enquiry before they could proceed with the filing of an FIR against Brij Bhushan.
Opposition leaders slam Prime Minister Modi’s “joke” on suicide
Opposition leaders from across the political spectrum on Thursday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for cracking a joke on a sensitive issue like suicide and ridiculing mental health issues at a conclave of a private TV channel. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the subject of young people dying by suicide “is a tragedy, not a joke”.
The Prime Minister, while speaking at media conclave of Republic TV on Wednesday, narrated a joke about how a professor reading a suicide note by his daughter remarked on how she had got a spelling wrong despite his efforts.
Taking to Twitter, Vadra said, “Depression and suicide, especially among the youth IS NOT a laughing matter. According to NCRB [National Crime Record Bureau] data, 164033 Indians committed suicide in 2021. Of which a huge percentage were below the age of 30. This is a tragedy not a joke”.
Vadra added that the Prime Minister and those laughing heartily at his joke ought to educate themselves better and “create awareness rather than ridicule mental health issues in this insensitive, morbid manner”.
Party leader Rahul Gandhi added that thousands of families in India lose their children to suicides. “The Prime Minister shouldn’t make fun of them,” he tweeted.
Rajya Sabha member from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Manoj Jha tweeted, “Sickness is visible when the Prime Minister of the country tells a joke on a sensitive issue like ‘suicide’. But even more frightening is the applause and laughter after the joke. We have become a very sick society…Jai Hind.”
“Imagine the insensitive disregard for human life by our Prime Minister who needs to crack a joke on suicide!?!?Ironically, when this #AnpadhPM makes a sick & cruel joke on a girl’s suicide, the nation is expected to laugh!,” tweeted the official handle of the Aam Admi Party (AAP).
Karnataka Assembly elections: Kharge likens PM Modi to ‘poisonous snake’, later clarifies as BJP hits out
AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge likened Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a snake at an election rally in Gadag district on Thursday but clarified later in the day that his words were aimed at BJP and not Modi.
Addressing an election rally at Naregal in Gadag district on Thursday, Kharge said Modi was like a poisonous snake. ”If you try test whether it is poisonous or not, you will die,” he said.
However, later in the day, as BJP leaders took serious objection to his statement, addressing another rally in Ron in Gadag district, Kharge clarified that his words were not intended at Modi but BJP.
“What I meant was BJP is like a poisonous snake. Even if someone tastes it, death is certain. These words were not meant for Modi. Personally I don’t have any grudge against any individual,“ he said.
“BJP is mired in corruption. But if anyone questioned it he or she would be threatened with IT ED raids. That’s why Modi Government is like a snake,” he clarified.
Mocking Modi on his stance on corruption, Kharge said at the Naregal rally, “He [Mr. Modi] says ‘na khaoonga na khane doonga”. But he does politics by allowing those taking 40% commission to sit beside him. He has come to destroy the nation by his ideology.” He also subsequently apologised for his “poisonous snake” comment, saying, “If my statement has hurt anyone, if it was misconstrued and distressed anyone, I will express special regret for it.”
Won’t notify fact-checking unit for fake news against govt. till July 5: Centre tells Bombay High Court
The Union Government told the Bombay High Court on April 27 that it will not notify till July 5, a fact-checking unit to identify fake news against the government on social media under the recently amended Information Technology Rules.
A Division Bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale accepted the statement and said since the amended rules would be inoperable in the absence of a fact-checking unit, no urgent hearing was required on stay of the rules as sought by stand-up comic Kunal Kamra.
The Bench posted the petition filed by Kamra, challenging the constitutional validity of the rules, for hearing on June 8.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Union Government, told the HC that the fact-checking unit would not be notified till July 5, 2023, so that the court could hear the matter in June when it reopens after the summer vacation.
Kamra’s counsel Darius Khambata insisted the court hear the matter for interim relief on April 27 itself and argued that the rules would continue to have a chilling effect irrespective of whether the fact-checking unit was notified or not. The Bench, however, said the rules would not be operable till the unit was set up or notified.
“The rules, as it currently stands, are sterile or inoperable without this fact-checking unit or committee. Whether once the unit is notified it would have a retrospective effect or not is something that needs to be seen at that stage,” the High Court said.
Justice Patel in a lighter vein said if it is Kamra’s contention that he is going to be putting up some remark or comments or satire and may face action later then he should probably “take a holiday”.
“Take the summer off. If somebody chooses to be chilled then that is up to them,” Justice Patel quipped. The Bench also permitted Kamra to amend his petition to challenge the competence of the executive on the issue.
On April 6, the Union Government promulgated certain amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, including a provision of a fact check unit to identify fake or false or misleading online content related to the government.
Kamra, in his petition, claimed the new rules could potentially lead to his content being arbitrarily blocked or his social media accounts being suspended or deactivated, thus harming him professionally.
He has sought that the court declare the amended rules as unconstitutional and give a direction to the government to restrain from acting against any individual under the rules.
The Union Government in its affidavit filed in court last week reiterated that the “role of the fact check unit is restricted to any business of the central government, which may include information about policies, programmes, notifications, rules, regulations, implementation thereof, etc”.
“The fact check unit may only identify fake or false or misleading information and not any opinion, satire or artistic impression. Therefore, the aim of the government regarding the introduction of the impugned provision is explicitly clear and suffers from no purported arbitrariness or unreasonableness as alleged by the petitioner [Kamra],” the Centre’s affidavit had said.
As per the amendments, intermediaries such as social media companies will have to act against content identified by the fact check unit or risk losing their safe harbour protections under Section 79 of the IT Act. “Safe harbour” protections allow intermediaries to avoid liabilities for what third parties post on their websites.
LGBTQIA++ collectives of law school students condemn BCI resolution on same sex marriage
More than 30 LGBTQIA++ collectives of law school students have said the Bar Council of India (BCI) resolution urging the Supreme Court not to deal with pleas seeking legalisation of same sex marriage is “antithetical” to the Constitution.
The apex bar body, on April 23, had expressed its concern on the same sex marriage issue being heard in the Supreme Court, saying it would be “catastrophic” to overhaul something as fundamental as the concept of marriage and the matter should be left to the legislature.
The resolution, which was issued by the BCI after a joint meeting attended by representatives of all state bar councils, said any decision by the apex court in such a sensitive matter may prove very harmful for the future generation of the country.
“India is one of the most socio-religiously diverse countries of the world consisting of a mosaic of beliefs. Hence, any matter which is likely to tinker with the fundamental social structure, a matter which has far reaching impact on our socio-cultural and religious beliefs should necessarily come through legislative process only, the meeting unanimously opined,” the council had said.
It added that “any decision by the apex court in such a sensitive matter may prove very harmful for the future generation of our country”.
Condemning the stand of the BCI, the LGBTQIA++ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit, asexual, and ally) collectives of over 600 law school students said, “The (BCI) resolution is ignorant, harmful, and antithetical to our Constitution and the spirit of inclusive social life. It attempts to tell queer persons that the law and the legal profession have no place for them. We, the undersigned, are queer and allied student groups across Indian law schools,” they said in a statement.
The students belong to 36 law schools, including National Law University Delhi, Faculty of Law, DelhiUniversity and Gujarat National Law University. The statement said that as future members of the Bar, it has been alienating and hurtful to see seniors engaged in “such hateful rhetoric”.
The BCI’s resolution “entirely unwarranted and a deplorable attempt” to illegitimately create influence for itself, it said. The BCI must re-familiarise itself with the role envisioned during its establishment, look at the state of the Indian legal profession, and devote its resources to more pressing challenges – rather than needlessly entering constitutional debates, the statement said.
“We are most troubled by the BCI’s stunning disregard for constitutional morality. Our Constitution is a counterweight to majoritarianism, religious morality, and unjust public opinion..,” it said.
A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices S.K. Kaul, S.R. Bhat, Hima Kohli and P.S. Narasimha is continuing with its hearing arguments on the pleas seeking validation of same sex marriage for the sixth day on Thursday.
NATO countries have delivered more than 98% of the combat vehicles promised to Ukraine amid its war with Russia, the military alliance’s chief said on April 27, giving Kyiv a bigger punch as it appears poised to launch a counteroffensive. Along with more than 1,550 armored vehicles, 230 tanks and other equipment, member nations have sent Ukraine “vast amounts of ammunition” and also trained and equipped more than nine new Ukrainian brigades, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.