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Boats, votes and booze: India’s 2019 Lok Sabha elections

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New Delhi: India will hold a general election starting in the world’s largest democratic exercise, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a second straight term.The election will held in seven phases until May 19 and votes will be counted on May 23.

Here are some facts and figures about the election in the country of 1.3 billion people.

About 900 million people are eligible to vote, nearly the combined population of Europe and Brazil, and 10 percent more than in the 2014 election.

 

About 432 million eligible voters are women. There are 15 million voters between 18 and 19 years of age.

In the first phase of the election, 1,279 candidates are contesting 91 constituencies, but only 7 percent of candidates are women. Of the 8,251 candidates in the last election, only 668 were women.

The Election Commission of India (ECI), an autonomous constitutional body, oversees the election with more than 300 full-time officials at its headquarters in New Delhi.

The fight is for 543 of the 545 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.

The remaining two seats are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community, which traces part of its ancestry to Europeans who intermarried with Indians in the colonial era. These members are nominated by India’s president.

Modi won by 570,128 votes in Vadodara in his western home state of Gujarat in 2014, the highest winning margin of all candidates.

The commission has set up about 1 million polling stations, 10 per cent more than in 2014. No voter should be more than 2 km (1.2 miles) away from a polling station.

More than 11 million government officials will travel by foot, road, special train, helicopter, boat, and sometimes elephant, to hold the election.

Polling stations are often in remote areas. More than 80,000 stations lacked mobile connectivity and nearly 20,000 were in forest or semi-forest areas, a commission survey said last year.

A polling station in the Gir forest of western Gujarat state will be set up for just one voter, a Hindu monk.

Voting will take place over 39 days, in part to allow officials and security forces time to redeploy. Vote counting for all 543 constituencies is done in a single day.

The 2014 election cost 38.7 billion rupees (USD 552 million), according to commission estimates.

Some political parties and their supporters offer cash, drugs and liquor in exchange for votes.

The commission has seized 5.1 billion rupees (USD 73.6 million) in cash, some 21,500 kg of drugs worth 7.2 billon rupees, and 8.8 million litres of liquor valued at 1.8 billion rupees.

It seized 12 billion rupees in cash, liquor and drugs in the last election.

The commission used 1.8 million electronic voting machines in the last election.

Opposition groups say the machines can be tampered with and they want the commission to tighten its security measures to cross check votes in this election.


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National

SC verdict on pleas seeking Rafale judgment review on Thursday

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New Delhi, November 13: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Thursday its verdict on petitions seeking a review of its judgment giving a clean chit to the Modi government in the Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.

On May 10, the apex court had reserved the decision on the pleas, including one filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking a re-examination of its findings that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, is likely to pronounce verdicts on three review petitions filed by the trio, lawyer Vineet Dhandha and Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Sanjay Singh.
On December 14, 2018, the apex court dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into the alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal.

 
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SC upholds disqualification of 17 Karnataka MLAs; they can contest Dec 5 bypolls

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New Delhi, November 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the order of former Karnataka Assembly speaker disqualifying 17 MLAs.

The SC, however, stroked down portion of Speaker’s order, which said MLAs would be disqualified till end of tenure of 15th Karnataka Assembly.

The SC verdict has paved way for disqualified MLAs to contest December 5 bypolls in Karnataka.

 

The SC said if elected in bypolls, these disqualified Karnataka MLAs can become ministers or hold public office.

The SC deprecated the manner in which these disqualified Karnataka MLAs directly approached it without first moving high court.

The top court said that its verdict was based on facts and circumstance of case and does not interfere in Speaker’s power to disqualify members.

The SC had reserved its verdict on petitions challenging the then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify 17 Karnataka MLAs before the crucial trust vote that led to fall of HD Kumaraswamy government in the state.

A Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana reserved its order after hearing counsel for the petitioners i.e. disqualified MLAs, Kumaraswamy and new Speaker V Hegde Kageri and others.

The decision eventually led to the fall of Congress-JD(S) government headed by HD Kumaraswamy, who was forced to resign after losing a trust vote. Thereafter, BS Yediyurappa-led government was formed in the state

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UK court set to hear Nirav Modi’s new bail application today

Press Trust of India

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London: A UK court is set to hear a new bail application on Wednesday filed by fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is fighting extradition to India on charges of nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.

The 48-year-old is expected to be produced before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London to make another attempt at being let out on bail until his trial in May next year.

He has been in custody at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, one of England’s most overcrowded prisons, since his arrest in March. “The bail application is at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday November 6. The grounds cannot be made public until the hearing,” said a spokesperson for the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian government in the extradition proceedings in court. Modi has reportedly claimed anxiety and depression in his latest application, with earlier bail applications at the court being rejected by Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, and then also on appeal at the High Court in London, as he was deemed a flight risk.

 

His legal team has previously described their client’s experience in prison as “damaging” and offered stringent electronic tag and other conditions akin to house arrest at his posh Centrepoint apartment in the West End of London in an attempt to persuade the judge to grant bail.

“His experience in custody has been vivid and damaging…he is willing to abide by any bail conditions imposed by the court because Wandsworth is unliveable and makes the effective preparation of his case virtually impossible,” his barrister Clare Montgomery had told Judge Arbuthnot earlier in the year. They had also doubled the initial bail bond offer of 1 million pounds to 2 million pounds in an attempt to sway the court. However, Arbuthnot had concluded that Modi was wanted in connection with a “large fraud” and the doubling of security was “not sufficient to cover a combination of concerns that he would fail to surrender”.

In June, Modi’s legal team took his appeal against that ruling to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where a judge was told about the diamond merchant’s troubled state of mind in “confidential” documents. “The circumstances he has had to endure at Wandsworth have been personally difficult and the confidential exhibits reflect the experience that has marked him deeply. The reality is that he is not the cold-blooded hardened criminal as claimed by the government of India but a jewellery designer from a long line of diamond dealers, and regarded as being honest, careful and reliable,” Montgomery told the High Court, adding that a number of individuals were willing to offer sureties and substantial sums to back up the claim that Modi is not a man who plans to run.

But in her judgment, Justice Ingrid Simler concurred with the Chief Magistrate that there were “substantial grounds” to believe that Modi would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to “abscond”. After considering all the material “carefully”, the judge said she found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it could recur if he was let out of prison.

There are no strict limits on the number of times Modi can apply for bail, but he would have to produce substantially modified grounds in a new application. He has meanwhile continued to appear via videolink before the magistrates’ court in London, appearing in a standard prison-issued grey tracksuit and mostly freshly shaved and upbeat. His next routine 28-day appearance required under UK law is listed for November 11, a date that still remains on the court’s lists.

At a hearing last month, Judge Nina Tempia had confirmed that his extradition trial is scheduled between May 11 and 15 next year, with the case management hearings set to begin from February next year. Modi has been behind bars at Wandsworth prison since his arrest on March 19 on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government.

During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that Modi was the “principal beneficiary” of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.

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