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EC special observers ask Tripura officials to take foolproof steps for Feb 16 polls

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 Three special observers of the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday asked officials in Tripura to take foolproof steps to hold the February 16 Assembly polls in a free, fair and transparent manner.

The observers, who arrived in Agartala on Monday, held meetings on Tuesday with senior civil and police officials.

On Tuesday afternoon, they will hold meeting via video conferencing with District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of the state’s eight districts.

Some political parties, including the main opposition CPI-M led Left Front, are trying to meet the observers to apprise them about the latest pre-poll scenario.

The observers are Yogendra Tripathy, retired IAS officer of Karnataka cadre; Vivek Johri, former Director General of Police of Madhya Pradesh; and B. Murali Kumar, IRS officer, who was special observer in the Assembly elections of Gujarat (2022) and West Bengal (2021).

After Tripura, the observers will proceed to another poll-bound state Meghalaya, where elections will be held on February 27.

Besides the special observers, the EC has also appointed five other categories of observers — general, police, expenditure, micro and counting.

The poll panel has so far deployed around 200 companies of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) in Tripura and more CAPF comprising Assam Rifles, Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force companies are expected to arrive in the state.

“The flag marches by the CAPF have already started since the second week of this month to ensure confidence building among the political workers for campaigning and among the citizens to cast their votes freely without any fear. The security forces are deployed well before the poll process so that they get familiar with the locality. Local police should extend necessary cooperation to the CAPF,” an EC official said.

The poll body on January 19 ordered an inquiry into attacks on a Congress bike rally in Majlishpur Assembly constituency in West Tripura district and next day asked the state government to suspend a Sub-Divisional Police Officer and remove two Officer-in-Charge of two police stations.

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Rajnath Singh to host defence ministers’ conclave at Aero India 2023

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rajnath singh

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will host a Defence Ministers’ Conclave on the sidelines of the 14th edition of Aero India being held at Bengaluru, India. The February 14 conclave will comprise defence ministers of friendly countries who would also be attending Aero India 2023.

Bengaluru, Feb 7 : Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will host a Defence Ministers’ Conclave on the sidelines of the 14th edition of Aero India being held at Bengaluru, India. The February 14 conclave will comprise defence ministers of friendly countries who would also be attending Aero India 2023.

The conclave would address aspects related to deepening cooperation for capacity building (through investments, R&D, joint venture, co-development, co-production and provisioning of defence equipment), training, space, AI and maritime security to grow together with the broad theme ‘Shared Prosperity through Enhanced Engagements in Defence (SPEED), a defence department release stated Tuesday.

The conclave is an opportunity for defence ministers of all foreign friendly countries and India to engage with each other to carry forward the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ for a secure and prosperous future for generations to come.

The conclave acquires significance in light of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi push for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India), in defence sector which is aimed towards increasing indigenous defence manufacturing and production capability to develop a self-sufficient defence ecosystem.

It also envisages involving like-minded nations in developing a reliable supply chain free of exploitation and disruptions by certain players; and provide affordable and robust defence equipment to friendly countries, the release noted.

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Former servicemen said idea of Agniveer came from RSS: Rahul

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Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday hit out at the Modi government over Agnipath scheme and said that it was imposed on Army by the RSS and Home Ministry.

New Delhi, Feb 7 : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday hit out at the Modi government over Agnipath scheme and said that it was imposed on Army by the RSS and Home Ministry.

“During the Bharat Jodo Yatra, retired officers of Indian Army told us that idea about Agniveer came from RSS and was thrust on the Army. They said we are training 1000s in weapons and then soon after, they will become civilians amid high unemployment. The officers told me that Ajit Doval is the man behind this idea,” Rahul Gandhi said in the Motion of Thanks on President’s address.

“How is it that the Agniveer Yojana was mentioned only once in the President’s speech? There was no word on unemployment and inflation in the address. So all the issues that people told me about during the yatra, we didn’t hear in the President’s address,” he added amid uproar.

“During ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, we heard people’s voices while we also kept our voices. We talked to children, women, and the elderly during the yatra. We asked the youth about their jobs… Many said they are unemployed or drive Uber. Farmers talked about not getting money under PM-BIMA Yojana and their land being snatched away, while tribals talked about Tribal Bill.”

“When we first started walking (referring to Bharat Jodo Yatra), we wanted to play the opposition and tell people about issues facing the country. However, as we progressed, after 500-600 kms, there was a major change. Instead of us telling the people the source of their problems, they themselves started speaking to us,” he said.

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‘Stretching it too much’, SC on hate speech claims against Madras HC judge appointment

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 The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it has a fairly robust scrutiny process and petitioners may be stretching it too much, as their counsel questioned the recommendation to appoint Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as an additional judge of the Madras High Court by saying that her “views are antithetical to the values of the Constitution, it is hate speech pure and simple”.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjeev Khanna and B.R. Gavai told senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, representing the petitioners, that there is a difference between eligibility and suitability, as far as suitability is concerned one can say it can be made subject matter of writ petition, and the aspect of eligibility is the only issue as required under the Constitution.

Ramachandran said a person, who is not in sync with the ideals of the Constitution or basic principles of the Constitution, is unfit to take the oath. He added that Gowri has rendered herself as incapable of taking oath by her own public utterances.

Gowri was administered the oath of office during the hearing before the top court.

The bench said there have been cases when people of political background have taken oath over here as judges of the Supreme Court and the high court. “You placed on record utterances of 2018 and we have seen it, and it must have been placed before the collegium…,” it added.

Justice Gavai said when collegium takes a decision, it also takes the opinion of consultee judges who have come from that particular high court and you cannot assume that judges of the particular high court are also not aware of all these things.

Ramachandran said the consultee judges may not be aware of social media posts and cannot presume every judge reads every tweet in public domain.

Justice Gavai said, “We have also been consultee judges and when we give our opinion it is based on all the factors…I also have a political background and I have been a judge for the last 20 years. I do not think my political views at any point of time have come in the way…”

Emphasizing that he is not on the aspect of political background, Ramachandran said political background brings a totally new element into judicial discourse, and added that judges can be of conservative or radical persuasion which adds to the richness of judicial discourse. “It is hate speech, you may be a member of the party…hate speech runs antithetical to the basic tenets of the Constitution, renders you unfit to take the oath…,” said Ramachandran.

The bench replied that “for us to go into all these aspects of suitability, merit or selection process would be like opening a new jurisdiction, which we have always refrained from doing.”

Ramachandran said her views are antithetical to the values of the Constitution, it is hate speech pure and simple and therefore, it is a clear case of ineligibility. “That will be stretching it too much, if the facts are known to the collegium, they must have examined it…facts not known, that it is not possible you cannot say that issues, background of the person were not known,” said Justice Khanna.

The bench said, “This is an aspect related to more suitability of the person, and not about the eligibility of the person…we can’t direct the collegium to reconsidera.”

There is a certain threshold of requirements, the collegium was stymied as certain information, we assume, were not put before it in view of an open court statement by the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Monday, Raju said.

“We have a fairly robust scrutiny process…assuming collegium may have not taken into consideration…,” said Justice Khanna.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, also representing the petitioners, said her views are extreme in nature making her ex facie ineligible to be judge. “We would be setting up a very wrong precedent, if we entertain the plea,” the bench said.

Senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra submitted that there has been no complaint against her by the Tamil Nadu State Bar Council.

The court also noted that she has been appointed as additional judge only and there have been instances where the candidates have not been made permanent in view of inadequacies of performance. “We are not entertaining the petitions, the reasons will follow,” the bench said, after hearing detailed arguments.

The top court order came on petitions filed by Anna Mathew, R. Vaigai, and others challenging Gowri’s appointment as an additional judge of the Madras High Court.

The Supreme Court collegium on January 17 had proposed the elevation of advocate Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as judge of the Madras High Court.

A group of Madras High Court lawyers have opposed Gowri’s proposed appointment after reports emerged about her affiliation to the BJP and also certain alleged statements about Muslims and Christians, including ‘Love Jihad’ and illegal conversion.

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