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SC approves Centre’s draft witness protection scheme

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New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the Centre’s draft witness protection scheme and asked all the states to implement it till the Parliament comes out with a legislation.

A Bench headed by Justice A K Sikri said that they have made some changes in the scheme.

The issue of witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

During the hearing on November 19, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the apex court that the draft scheme, which has now been finalised, would be made into a law “in due course”, but till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

The top court was also told by advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, that the government has finalised the draft witness protection scheme after discussing it with all the states.

The draft witness protection scheme, finalised in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception.

In April this year, the Centre had informed the top court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments.

The court had asked the Centre to finalise the scheme after getting response from the states and Union Territories. PTI


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National

Ensure smooth functioning of Parl, take issues related to people’s welfare: PM Modi

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New Delhi: As the Winter Session of Parliament commenced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday appealed to all political parties to ensure smooth functioning while assuring that all issues would be discussed in the House.

The session, which will have 20 sittings spread over a period of 29 days, is expected to be used by the Opposition parties for raising several issues like Rafale deal and alleged government interference in the functioning of institutions like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“This session is important; many issues of public importance will be taken up. I have faith that all the members of the Parliament will respect this sentiment and move ahead. Our efforts are that discussions are held on all issues. We have always tried to discuss on all issues raised by the Opposition, which sometimes turns into heated argument. The government will try its best to solve all the issues raised by the Opposition,” the Prime Minister said ahead of the Winter Session.

The government yesterday held a meeting with leaders of all the parties to discuss how the session could be run smoothly.

Addressing the floor leaders, Prime Minister Modi said, “The government is always receptive to the issues raised by all political parties.”

The Prime Minister also encouraged them to strive to create a constructive atmosphere during the Winter Session and collectively address the issues related to people’s welfare.

The all-party meeting was attended by among others Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Vijay Goel, and Arjun Ram Meghwal. All leaders also observed a two-minute silence to pay homage to former Union Minister H N Ananthkumar, who died last month in Bengaluru.

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Patel’s resignation ‘severe blow’ to nation’s economy: Manmohan Singh

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New Delhi: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh termed RBI Governor Urjit Patel’s resignation as “very unfortunate” and said it was a “severe blow” to the country’s economy.

Patel, who had a run in with the government over autonomy of the central bank, resigned from his job earlier on Monday, citing personal reasons.

His resignation came four days ahead of a crucial meeting of the board of the central bank that could have discussed issues of simmering differences with the government.

In a statement, Singh said he hoped that the RBI Governor’s sudden resignation is not a harbinger of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s attempts to “destroy” the institutional foundations of India’s USD 3 trillion economy.

He said it will be “foolhardy” to diminish institutions for short-term political gains.

“It is with great sadness that I received the news of the resignation of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel,” Singh said.

“Patel’s sudden resignation, at a time when the Indian economy is faced with many headwinds, is very unfortunate and is a severe blow to the nation’s economy,” he said.

The former prime minister added that he has known Patel to be an economist of high repute and also someone who cared deeply about India’s financial institutions and economic policy.

“Building institutions take a long time and effort but they can be destroyed in a whimper. It is institutions such as the RBI, among many others, that have served as the edifice of our great nation’s progress since independence. It will be foolhardy to diminish these institutions for short-term political gains,” Singh said.

He recalled RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya’s apprehensions about the government’s intent to raid the capital reserves of the RBI for fiscal purposes.

“I hope the resignation of the Governor is not a sign that this may soon become a reality,” he said.

“I also sincerely hope that this sudden resignation of the Governor is not a harbinger of the Modi government’s attempts to destroy the institutional foundations of India’s USD3 trillion economy,” he added.

Patel, 55, who took over as the 24th Governor of the central bank on September 5, 2016, had the shortest tenure since 1992.

His three-year term was to end in September 2019 and he was eligible for a second term, like most of his predecessors.

The government seems to have accepted his resignation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying Patel will be missed “immensely”.

No announcement of Patel’s replacement has been made yet.

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Economist Surjit Bhalla quits from PM’s Economic Advisory Council

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New Delhi: Eminent economist and columnist Surjit Bhalla on Tuesday said that he had resigned as part-time member of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) on December 1.

“I resigned as part-time member of PMEAC on December 1,” Bhalla said on social networking site Twitter.

The EAC- PM is headed by NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy. Economists Rathin Roy, Ashima Goyal and Shamika Ravi are other part-time members.

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