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Rafale: Can a ‘stolen’ document be overlooked if it is relevant?

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New Delhi, Mar 6: The hearing of the Rafale review petitions in the Supreme Court Wednesday brought an interesting exchange between the judges on the Bench and Attorney General KK Venugopal to the fore.
It all started when Prashant Bhushan, one of the review petitioners, submitted an eight-page note to the Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph.
At this point, AG KK Venugopal took exception to the same, stating that the contents of the note were “stolen” from the Defence Ministry, and that a probe into that was underway.
Referring to news items published in The Hindu and other publications, Venugopal stated that disclosure of the contents of the Defence Ministry note amounted to an offence under the Official Secrets Act.
Specific reference was made to an article in The Hindu titled ‘No bank guarantees meant a more expensive new Rafale deal’, published today.
“The strategy is to put out as a news item the day before the hearing so as to influence the hearing. Today also, [The] Hindu has published something. This by itself is contempt of court”, submitted Venugopal.
The review petition and perjury plea were liable to be dismissed on this ground alone, Venugopal further said.
Venugopal continued this line of argument when the Bench reconvened after lunch.
At one point, Justice Joseph queried,“Can relevant evidence be cut out saying it is illegally obtained? Can’t stolen evidence be looked into if it is relevant?”
An intense exchange between the AG and the judge ensued on whether or not illegally obtained evidence can be relied upon. Venugopal said,“They have come with a document which is stolen. Your Lordships might have your view on it (admissibility of such a document) but I have a different view.”
The AG went on to ask whether the Supreme Court will give directions to go to war or negotiate for peace. He also sought to find out where the petitioners got the document from.
Then, CJI Ranjan Gogoi weighed in, asking,“An accused is having difficulty in proving his innocence. He steals a document and shows it to judge. The document clearly shows he is innocent. Should the judge not admit the document?”
Venugopal responded,“He has to disclose the source of the document. The submission is, once the document is a subject matter of criminality, in my opinion, the court should not look into it.”
CJI Gogoi shot back,“If your submission is that petitioners have not come bona fide, then that’s different. But can you say that the document is completely not touchable?”
Venugopal went on to submit that the matter has been given a political colour. He called for the Court to exercise restraint in passing orders.
“In this limited area concerning the defence of frontiers, would it not be appropriate for Your Lordships to exercise restraint? This is a matter by which opposition is trying to destabilise the government.”
The hearing in the case will resume on March 14. (Courtesy Bar & Bench)

Says The Hindu chairman
‘Won’t give any info on source’
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, Mar 19:
Documents related to the Rafale deal were published in public interest and nobody would get any information from The Hindu newspaper on the confidential sources who provided them, The Hindu Publishing Group Chairman N Ram said on Wednesday.
The documents were published because details were withheld or covered up, the veteran journalist said as the government told the Supreme Court that documents related to the Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and an investigation into the theft is on.
“You may call it stolen documents…We are not concerned. We got it from confidential sources and we are committed to protecting these sources. Nobody is going to get any information from us on these sources. But the documents speak for themselves and the stories speak for themselves,” Ram told PTI.
He has written a series of articles on the Rafale deal, the latest one on Wednesday.
Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Official Secrets Act and contempt of court, Attorney General K K Venugopal said on Wednesday before a bench hearing a batch of petitions seeking a review of the court’s verdict dismissing all the pleas against the agreement on the fighter jet.
“I will not comment on the proceedings of the Supreme Court. But whatever we have published has been published. They are authentic documents. And they have been published in the public interest because these details have been withheld or covered up,” Ram said.
“… It is the duty of the press – through investigative journalism – to bring out relevant information or issues of great importance for the public interest,” he added.
On February 8, Ram wrote in The Hindu that the Defence ministry raised strong objections to “parallel discussions” conducted by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) during the negotiations over the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal between India and France.
It was allegedly based on government documents related to Rafale deal.
“What we have done is completely protected under article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution – freedom of speech and expression – and also under the relevant sections of the Right to Information Act, specifically, its section 8 (1) (i) and section 8 (2), which clearly protects this,” Ram said.

 
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Defunct street lights? Don’t expect SMC to fix them

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Srinagar, Jun 17: Srinagar plunges into darkness soon after sunset as most of the street lights in the capital city are defunct.

This being so since Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claims it is incapable to deal with the issue.

In absence of this basic facility, the city residents face a lot of inconvenience moving out of their homes to the markets or masjids during the evening and early morning hours.

 

Cases of burglary and dog-bites have been reported from many secluded areas where residents complain of either having defunct or no street lights.

People living in many of these poorly-lit areas feel scared to venture out of their homes in late hours.

“I prefer not to leave my home after Isha namaz. Dogs chase passersby since there is no street light in this colony,” said Bashir Ahmed, 60, a resident of Illahibagh.

SMC claims it has installed more than 40,000 street lights across the city. However, majority of them remain dysfunctional due to lack of an established electric division and less technical manpower in the corporation.

Executive Engineer SMC, Qazi Imtiyaz who looks after the Mechanical division, said: “We have nothing. Zero manpower to look after the technical faults of street lights. There is no electric division in our corporation.”

SMC Commissioner, Khursheed Ahmad Sanai said: “SMC lacks an established electric division as well as skilled staff to mend defunct street lights in Srinagar. But we are constantly making up to illuminate more areas through whatever little staff is available to us.”

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RKFC signs top English striker

More signings to follow; Club on track to become India’s football powerhouse

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Jun 17: J&K’s premier football club, Real Kashmir FC, has signed an experienced striker from England to play for the team in the upcoming season.

Announcing on RKFC’s official Twitter handle, the club management wrote: “RKFC is delighted to announce the signing of Kallum Higginbotham from Dunfermline Athletic, Scotland. Kallum is an experienced striker who has played at the highest level in the UK. Kallum has played for top teams such as Huddersfield Town, Kilmarnock, and Motherwell.”

Former Kilmarnock frontman, Kallum, who’s originally from Salford, England, will join the club in the third week of July, club sources told The Kashmir Monitor.

 

With Rangers legend David Robertson training the team, Kallum will be the second European player to play for RKFC after the coach’s son Mason.

The club finished third in the I-League last season in their first campaign in the top flight.

Terming it as an important signing, club’s co-owner, Sandeep Chattoo said: “Today’s signing of Kallum shows our intent that we mean business. We will leave no stone unturned to make RKFC a powerhouse of football not just in India but Asia. In coming days we will unveil more top signings. As a co-owner, I want to tell the fans that we will do whatever we can to play top class breathtaking football next season. RKFC is not just a football team. It’s the heartbeat of the state. For me personally it’s a project. We have just completed phase one. Lot more to follow.”

Head Coach David Robertson had a similar viewpoint on Kallum’s inclusion in the club: “Signing player of Kallum’s experience and quality is a huge statement and shows continued ambition of Real Kashmir. He will give us an extra edge upfront and can also play in various roles within the team. Our team is shaping up nicely and we are all eager and excited for the start of the new campaign.”

President J&K Football Association, Zameer Thakur congratulated the team on the signing.

“We welcome this signing and hope that RKFC will not just maintain but improve its last season’s performance in the upcoming one,” he told The Kashmir Monitor. 

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Overall nuclear arms decline but India, Pak, China expanding arsenal

Press Trust of India

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Stockholm, Jun 17: The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published Monday said.

At the start of 2019, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to estimates in a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

That represents a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to the start of 2018.

 

But at the same time all nuclear weapon-possessing countries are modernising these arms ¬– and China, India and Pakistan are also increasing the size of their arsenals.

“The world is seeing fewer but newer weapons,” Shannon Kile, director of the SIPRI Nuclear Arms Control Programme and one of the report’s authors, told AFP.

The drop in recent years can mainly be attributed to the US and Russia, whose combined arsenals still make up more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

This is in part due to the countries fulfilling their obligations under the New START treaty — which puts a cap on the number of deployed warheads and was signed by the US and Russia in 2010 — as well as getting rid of obsolete warheads from the Cold War era.

The START treaty is however due to expire in 2021, which Kile said was worrying since there are currently “no serious discussions underway about extending it”.

Next year the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — considered the cornerstone of the world’s nuclear order — turns 50.

The number of nuclear arms has been drastically reduced since a peak in the mid-1980s when there were some 70,000 nuclear warheads in the world.

While Kile said progress should not be underestimated, he also noted a number of worrying trends, such as the build-up of nuclear arms on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, and the danger of a conventional conflict escalating to a nuclear one.

There is also a more general trend towards an “increased salience” of nuclear weapons, where changing strategic doctrines, particularly in the US, are giving nuclear weapons an expanded role in both military operations and national security dialogue, Kile said.

“I think the trend is moving away from where we were five years ago, where the world’s nuclear weapons were being marginalised,” Kile said.

Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently urged nuclear powers to “get serious” about disarmament and warned there was a “very real risk” that decades of work on international arms control could collapse following the US pullout of the Iran nuclear deal, which he said sent the wrong signal to North Korea.

Global disarmament efforts also suffered a blow when the United States announced in February it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, prompting Russia to say it would also suspend its participation.

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