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LAHDC Act to continue, Amendments of 2018 to be protected: Govt

Monitor News Bureau

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Kargil, Aug 30: The Governor, Satya Pal Malik, visited Kargil on Friday to meet and interact with the representatives of the people of Kargil to understand their concerns following the formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh.

He was accompanied by Adviser K K Sharma, the Chief Secretary B. V. R. Subrahmanyam and the Principal Secretary Home, Shaleen Kabra. The Governor interacted with the members of the Joint Action Committee of Kargil and also a few other delegations.

Following detailed discussions with the delegations and understanding their concerns, the Governor assured them that their valid concerns would be given due consideration.

 

At the outset, the Governor assured the delegation that the entire nation admires and values the patriotism of the people of Kargil and the sacrifices they have made for the nation. Therefore, no injustice would be done to the people of Kargil at any point in time. The nation wants Kargil to prosper along with the rest of the nation and become a partner in the country’s economic progress. In fact, the recent decisions of the Government were meant to benefit the people of Ladakh, including Kargil, and speed up their progress as they would now be directly linked to the Union Government. The Governor assured the delegation that all steps would be taken to protect the identity, culture, heritage, language and social values of the people of Kargil.

On the specifics, the Governor mentioned that a few of the issues raised by them were in effect modifications of the State Reorganisation Act and these would be conveyed to the Union Government.

On most of the other issues, the Governor mentioned that steps would be taken to address the concerns of the people of Kargil. The LAHDC Act, as amended in 2018, would continue even under the Union Territory. The current LAHDC Act makes the Councils the most powerful councils in the country and would provide adequate scope for the people to fulfil their development aspirations. If any additional steps are needed to strengthen the LAHDC, this would addressed. Further, the arrangement of HODs created recently during the formation of Ladakh Division would continue equitably between Leh and Kargil. Further, the distribution of funds between the two districts would be equitable. This would ensure that both cities develop in tandem.

The details of the mechanism by which posts and employees would be split between J&K and Ladakh was explained to the delegation. As a UT which would be almost 100% tribal, protections to tribalscan be ensured under various provisions of the Constitution. With increased development and growth, there would be more employment opportunities for the youth. As for other policy matters and protections, there are a number of provisions in the Constitution protecting the interests of STs and tribal areas. The National Commission for STs would be asked to visit the area, discuss all matters and propose measures for ensuring adequate provisions for protecting the interests of tribal areas and STs. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs would also send a delegation of senior officials to work out modalities for ensuring benefits of all national schemes reach the people of Kargil. As for the status of J&K State Laws that are being made applicable to Ladakh and the future status of these if they get amended by the Assembly of J&K, this would be examined immediately and corrective measures would be taken under the State Reorganisation Act using the provisions to remove difficulties. On future amendments by the Central Government, the people of the region would certainly be consulted by the Lt Governor while proposing changes.

As regards the loss of current benefits available to Kargil in J&K, the Governor assured the delegation that seats in medical, engineering and other professional courses would continue to be kept available to Ladakh during the bifurcation process. The committee dividing assets and liabilities would ensure this. The Central Government would also be requested to reserve some seats for students in national educational institutions. On other issues, the Governor assured the delegation that nothing would be done to harm the long term interests of the people of Kargil.

The Governor assured the delegation that the interests of the people of this beautiful district were close to his heart and he would take all steps for their progress. The Kargil airport would be made a commercial jet capable airport for which preparatory work is going on. Kargil, Drass, Zanskar and all other areas would then become top class tourist destinations. Assistance would be provided for completing the KargilBhawan in Delhi and the Council Secretariat. Work on the Zojila Tunnel would be expedited. The two new degree colleges announced by the Governor would be operationalised soon. Vacancies at all levels would be filled up at the earliest. And most importantly, Kargil would be getting top priority for meeting its development need. The Governor requested the delegation to be patient and see for themselves the results on the ground in a few months.


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CJI’s office comes under RTI, rules SC

Agencies

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New Delhi, Nov 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the office of the Chief Justice of India was a public authority and fell within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict and dismissed three appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court.

Cautioning that RTI could be used as a tool of surveillance, the top court in its judgment, held that judicial independence had to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.

 

The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said only the names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment could be disclosed, not the reasons.

While the CJI and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna penned one judgment, Justices Ramana and Chandrachud wrote separate verdicts.

It said that the Right to Privacy was an important aspect and it had to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice. Justice Chandrachud said the judiciary could not function in total insulation as judges enjoy constitutional posts and discharge public duty.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna said independence of the judiciary and transparency went hand in hand.

Justice Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be a balancing formula for Right to Privacy and right to transparency and independence of judiciary should be protected from breach.

The High Court on January 10, 2010 had held that the CJI office came within the ambit of the RTI law, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.

The 88-page judgment was seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, K G Balakrishnan, who had been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

The high court verdict was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah (since retired) and Justices Vikramjit Sen and S Muralidhar. The bench had dismissed a plea of the Supreme Court that contended bringing the CJI’s office within the RTI Act would ‘hamper’ judicial independence.

Justice Sen has retired from the apex court, while Justice Murlidhar is a sitting judge of the High Court.

The move to bring the office of the CJI under the transparency law was initiated by RTI activist S C Agrawal. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan had submitted in the top court that though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it was hearing the appeals due to the “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer had described the reluctance of the judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘disturbing’, asking: “Do judges inhabit a different universe?”

He had submitted the apex court had always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State, but it developed cold feet when its own issues required attention. Referring to the RTI provisions, Bhushan had said they also deal with exemptions and information that cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always ‘outweigh’ personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office. Dealing with ‘judicial independence’, he said the National Judicial Accountability Commission Act was struck down for protecting the judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from ‘public scrutiny’.

Transparency activists on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the apex court had reiterated the established position in law in the matter.

“I welcome the decision of the constitution bench to reiterate the established position in law that the CJI is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,” said Venkatesh Nayak, head of access to information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO.

About the Supreme Court’s remark that RTI could not be used as a tool of surveillance, Nayak termed it as an “extremely unfortunate” observation. “Surveillance has unfortunately been equated with transparency that is required under a law duly passed by Parliament,” he told PTI.

Nayak said surveillance was what the government often does under executive instructions and that was not the purpose of the RTI Act. “People whose cases relating to their life, liberty, property and rights, are decided by the high courts and the Supreme Court. People have the right to know not only the criteria but all material that formed the basis of making the decision regarding appointments of judges in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act,” he said.

Nayak said where exemptions were available under the RTI Act, they would be legitimately invoked by public authorities and all other information should be in the public domain. He said the appointment of judges, who were public functionary, was a public act.

“People have the right to know everything that is done in a public way by a government, in a democratic country, which must be accountable and responsible,” Nayak said. Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi also hailed the top court’s decision. “I had expected the same decision to come as logically there was nothing else. It is unfortunate that this has taken 10 years. The CIC has upheld this. The Delhi HC had also upheld this. Now, the SC has upheld this. All public servants that are paid by the government are a public service, no matter what the position is. You need to be accountable for your work. I congratulate the Chief Justice and the court for having given such a decision,” he said.

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal lauded the top court’s verdict. “I welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict. It is a victory of the RTI Act,” he said.

Another activist Ajay Dubey said the apex court’s decision was ‘historic’. “It is a historic decision and I welcome it. All decisions made by a public authority must be in public domain and under the RTI Act,” he said.

Dubey, however, expressed shock over the top court’s remark that the RTI Act cannot be used as a tool of surveillance.

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Shopkeeper shot dead in Tral

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Nov 13: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a shopkeeper at Tral in South Kashmir’s Puwlama district on Wednesday, police said.

The slain was in his shop near Old Bus Stand, Tral, 36 kms from here, when pistol borne masked men shot at him from point-blank range at around 3 p.m.

Zarger was immediately shifted to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.

 

A police official while confirming the killing said the slain hailed from Tral town.

Reports said the killing created panic in the town.

In recent weeks, militants have started targeting civilians and hurling grenades at crowded places to impose shutdown in the Valley.

Last Monday one civilian died while over 40 were injured when militants threw a grenade in a crowded market near city center Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

Prior to that, non-local laborers, truck drivers and fruit traders were targeted by the militants in south Kashmir.

On August 30, unidentified gunmen shot dead a 65-year-old shopkeeper at Parimpora area of Srinagar.  On September 30, unidentified gunmen shot at apple grower at Sopore leaving the grower and four others including a four-year-old girl injured.

The Valley witnessed spontaneous shutdown after the Center abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5.

However, in recent weeks the impact of the shutdown is waning as more and more people are resuming their normal activities across Kashmir.

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Yet another accident: Four killed, 5 injured in Kishtwar mishap

Press Trust of India

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Jammu, Nov 13: Four people were killed and five others injured when a vehicle skidded off the road and rolled down into a deep gorge in Kishtwar district on Wednesday, officials said.

The vehicle, carrying pilgrims from Palmar to the Sarthal temple, fell into the gorge after the driver lost control over it, they said.

Police and locals rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to a district hospital in Kishtwar, where doctors declared four of them brought dead, the officials said.

 

Three critically injured people were shifted to the Government Medical College here through a chopper for specialised treatment.

District administration, Kishtwar, provided immediate relief of Rs 10,000 each to the family members of the deceased and 5,000 each to the injured.

This is the second such incident in 24 hours as 16 people, including five women and three children, were killed on Tuesday when a passenger vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Doda district.

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