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CJI to Shinde: Ignoring political parties after being elected, isn’t a danger to democracy?

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 The Supreme Court on Thursday queried Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s counsel, that ‘if completely ignoring political parties after being elected, is it not a danger to democracy?’

Shinde’s counsel submitted that his client is not disqualified, and he has also not left the party, and emphasized on the aspect of dissent within a political party.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Shinde, submitted that disqualification under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution takes place, only if the Speaker reaches a conclusion that a member has voted against the stand of a party. Salve added that if the Speaker of an Assembly takes one or two months to decide on disqualification pleas against MLAs, then what does this mean? That they should stop attending the proceedings of the House? He further added, “There is no per se illegality principle, until and unless there is a finding of disqualification…”

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli said, “What is the use of whip then? Does anti-defection apply to only those things?”

Salve replied that the anti-defection law cannot be an anti-dissent law.

The Chief Justice queried, if completely ignoring political parties after being elected, is it not a danger to democracy? Justice Ramana further queried “You say this court and high court should not hear this and this is after you had approached us first.”

Salve said that in facts of this case, there is nothing to show that these people left the party. The Chief Justice told Salve, “Today you say the court can’t go into the issue…because the Speaker has the power”. Salve said, “I am not disqualified, I have not left the party…”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the Uddhav Thackeray faction, submitted that there was no need to refer the issue to a constitution bench.

The Chief Justice posed a query, suppose there are two groups saying we are the real political party, and general members of the political party cannot claim to recognise who is the original political party. Sibal contended that a group may say that they have the support of 40 out of 50 MLAs, so they are the real political party. He added, if the 40 are disqualified? If the Election Commission decides one way or the other, what happens to this defection?

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also representing the Thackeray group, said that till this court decides, how can Election Commission decide this issue, and later they would say that these proceedings are infructuous?

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing the Election Commission, submitted that disqualification of rebel MLA means their disqualification from the House, not from the political party. Datar added that this is not a political issue and the Tenth Schedule cannot interdict this. “I can only decide who can have the symbol after the evidence is adduced,” said Datar.

After hearing arguments, the top court orally asked the Election Commission of India to not take any precipitative action on the claim raised by the Shinde group for recognising them as the real Shiv Sena party in the meanwhile, and allow Thackeray faction to submit their response. The top court said it will decide by Monday whether to refer to a larger bench regarding the constitutional questions involved in the disqualification of MLAs arising from the Maharashtra political scenario.

National News

Delhi HC allows impleading city govt, CBSE, NCERT in plea seeking common syllabus, curriculum across India

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The Delhi High Court has allowed the petitioner to implead the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the Delhi government as parties to his plea challenging the syllabus and curriculum varying for each strata of society and seeking common syllabus for children across the country.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Yashwant Varma allowed petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyay to move an application to implead the above-mentioned three parties.

The court listed the matter for the next hearing on March 10.

Upadhyay argued before the court that all competitive examinations be it engineering, law and the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) should have a common syllabus.

He said: “But we have multiple syllabus at school level, how will it provide an equal opportunity for students? In Kendra Vidyalayas across the country, we have a common syllabus. Every developed country has a common syllabus in schools. It is unfortunate we are under pressure from the coaching mafia.”

He contended that as per the concerned Articles of the Constitution, students do not get equal opportunities.

Upadhyay’s plea read: “Education mafias are very powerful and have a very strong syndicate. They influence rules, regulations, policies and examinations. The bitter truth is that school mafias do not want one nation-one education board, coaching mafias do not want one nation-one syllabus, and book mafias do not want NCERT books in all schools. That is why the uniform education system up to the 12th standard has not been implemented yet.”

Provisions under the Right To Education Act which excludes madrasas, Vedic pathshalas and educational institutions imparting religious knowledge, were also challenged as per the plea.

“It is necessary to state that the purposive and harmonious construction of Articles 14, 15, 16, 21, 21A with Articles 38, 39, 46 confirms that education is a basic right of every child and the State cannot discriminate against this most important right. Right of a child should not be restricted only to free education, but must be extended to have equal quality education without discrimination on the ground of the child’s social, economic and cultural background,” the plea read.

The plea further said: “Therefore, the court may declare Sections 1(4) and 1(5) arbitrary, irrational and violative of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 21 and direct the Centre to implement common syllabus and common curriculum for the students of I-VIII standard throughout the country.”

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Teachers scam: WhatsApp chat hinting question paper leak recovered

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 The Enforcement Directorate (ED), probing the multi-crore teachers’ recruitment scam, has recovered WhatsApp chats hinting at possible advance leaking of question papers to select candidates who took the written examination for primary teachers’ posts in West Bengal in 2016.

Sources said that the selective leaking of question papers were mainly done by the youth Trinamool Congress leader, Kuntal Ghosh, who was arrested by the ED from his residence on January 21.

The probe agency has also recovered Whatsapp chats indicating that Ghosh enjoyed the patronage of former state education minister and Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee.

From the documents seized from Ghosh’s residence, the central agency officials have also recovered copies of the admit cards of certain candidates who appeared for the recruitment examination for primary teachers in 2016.

The ED sleuths have come across the names of 35 individuals who secured jobs as teachers in state- run schools by paying money to the arrested youth leader and all of them are currently employed with different schools. Each and every one of them will be questioned to take the investigation forward.

“The recruitment scam seems to be in multiple layers, which again have sub-layers involving multiple players and multiple angles. The uncovering of one layer is leading to other layers. That’s why the investigation process is getting prolonged,” said a legal associate of ED.

The fact that question papers were leaked to select candidates was established after the ED sleuths noticed that some extremely below-average candidates, as per their academic records, scored exorbitantly in the recruitment examination.

Sources said that the marks secured in their academic examinations did not justify their scores in their optical mark recognition (OMR) sheets.

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National News

Goa Police intensify night patrolling for women’s safety

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 In a bid to curb street crimes and to increase safety for women, the Goa Police on Friday announced a special four-wheeler patrol ‘Operation Jagruti’ in the state’s north district.

North Goa Superintendent of Police Nidhin Valsan told media persons that night patrolling will be intensified under this initiative.

“This exercise includes 38 Jagrut North District vehicles having 100 staff deployed from North District and other various units. There are 10 vital routes identified along with additional 40 internal routes in North Goa District in which these vehicles will be patrolling daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” he said.

Valsan said that besides this, they will attend to all the other calls received from the control room.

“The main intention of this exercise is to assist and help any distressed woman and child during odd hours,” he said.

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