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Reorganisation of J&K into UTs : Countdown begins, Amit Shah to attend function

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Oct 15: Preparations are in full swing to celebrate the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories on October 31.

Several union ministers including Amit Shah is likely to attend a function on October 31, when Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh will be officially declared union territories.

“Union Home Minister Amit Shah, his cabinet colleagues including Ravi Shankar Prasad and Jitendra Singh are also likely to attend the function, which will be held at Civil Secretariat Srinagar. Guard of honour will be presented to new Lieutenant Governor (LG),” said a source at the Civil Secretariat.

 

So far no decision has been taken whether Satya Pal Malik will be the LG of new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Government has already directed the administrative secretaries to remain available at Srinagar on October 31. Earlier, government had removed Jammu and Kashmir’s flag that was flying next to the national flag on the Civil Secretariat.

Prior to August 5, Jammu and Kashmir had its own constitution by virtue of its special status. Every legislation except in the matters related to defence, external affairs, and communications began with an exception clause that the law will apply to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir.

Post abrogation of Article 370, 164 state laws have ceased to exist in J&K. Similarly 106 central laws will be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir when it officially becomes Union Territory from November 1.


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Militants still trying to interfere with normal life in Kashmir: DGP

Agencies

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Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh has said that despite much pressure from militant outfits.

He said the number of youths joining militant outfits is much lesser this year as compared to previous years. The DGP further said, militants were still trying to interfere with normal life in the Kashmir valley but asserted that police was making all efforts to thwart their attempts.  Dilbagh Singh was speaking during his visit to Kulgam district in South Kashmir yesterday. 

Dilbag Singh said police and security forces are working to give people a secure environment. He said the situation is much better now and normalcy fast returning in the Valley. 

 

He said that although graph of militant activities has come down in the recent past yet for providing peaceful environment to the people of J&K, there is still need to continue the fight against militancy with enhanced vigour to end it for all time to come in Jammu and Kashmir adding that final assault should be strategically planned and effective.

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Answer every question raised on restrictions imposed in Kashmir: SC to JK admn

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, November 21: The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Jammu and Kashmir administration that it will have to respond to each and every question raised on the restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state after the abrogation of Article 370.

A Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the administration, that petitioners challenging the restrictions have argued in detail and he will have to answer all questions.

“Mr Mehta you have to answer each and every question raised by the petitioners who have argued in detail. Your counter affidavit does not help us to come to any conclusion. Don’t give the impression that you are not giving enough attention to the case,” said the bench, comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai.

 

Mehta said most of the averments made by the petitioners on restrictions are “incorrect” and he will respond to each and every aspect when he argues in court.

The solicitor general said he has a status report with him but he has not filed it in the court as the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is changing every single day and would like to show to the court the exact status at the time of his submission.

At the outset, the top court clarified that except for one petition it does not have any detention matters pending before it.

“We are not hearing any detention matters with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. We are currently hearing two petitions filed by Anuradha Bhasin and Ghulam Nabi Azad which are on restrictions in freedom of movement, press, etc,” it said, adding that only one habeas corpus petition is pending.

It said only one habeas corpus (against detention of a business man) is pending because the petitioner had simultaneously moved before the JK High Court and the Supreme Court.

“Now they have withdrawn from the high court and hence the petition is pending here,” the bench said. 

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CJI’s office comes under RTI, rules SC

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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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