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Friday,22-October-2021

Crime

Kerala CPI in spot as tree felling scam gets murkier

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E-Chandrasekharan

The CPI in Kerala- the second biggest ally in the ruling Left government, is in a spot ever since the tree felling scam to the tune of around Rs 150 crore surfaced last month. Things are getting murkier as the chances of the number two in the first Pinarayi Vijayan government — the then State Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekheran might be called in by the police probe team for questioning.

The now senior party legislator is in the dock after records surfaced that it was he who had issued orders for the felling of trees in Wayanad and other eight districts in October last year which said that no permission was required for felling of royal trees such as sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood and ebony.

And with the state under a total siege on account of the pandemic and lockdown when even movement of people from one place to another was difficult as the police were out in the streets, huge lorry loads of precious trees, some of which more than 300 years old were moving from one place to another in several parts of the state with neither the forest or other responsible officials knowing what was happening.

What has now surfaced is that Chandrasekheran, according to the records, had convened a meeting of the farmers of the Kattambuzha forest area on June 27, 2019 after they had requested permission to fell the trees that they had planted.

In the meeting convened by the minister, the forest department opposed the felling of trees and pointed out that the right was solely with the government. After the opposition of the forest department, the revenue department’s opinion was sought.

In the second meeting held on September 3, 2019, the forest department strongly opposed the move to cut the trees of the four species — Sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood and ebony. The meeting had then decided to amend Kerala government’s Land Assignment Act, 1964 and to allow the felling of trees that the farmers had planted and grown after they had received the title deeds of the land.

The minister intervened at this juncture and according to the records available, issued a special order without even consulting and getting it vetted by the law department which was the normal procedure.

Following an opposition outcry over the scam, Vijayan appointed a special police team to probe the case and as things stand, there is every chance that Chandrasekheran might be called in for questioning and if that happens, things can get even murkier as a new session of the assembly is scheduled shortly.

The question now that’s going around is — is it for this reason why Chandrasekheran was allowed to contest for the third successive time, while the party did not allow other colleagues to contest the April 6 assembly polls?

Crime

NCB ‘visits’ SRK, Ananya Pandey’s homes; conducts raids in Andheri

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Ananya-Panday

In a major development, teams of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) paid a formal ‘visit’ to the residences of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in Bandra west, and actress Ananya Panday in Khar west, and raided a location in Andheri on Thursday as part of the ongoing probe into the October 2 luxury cruiser rave party.

“The NCB Mumbai Zonal Unit officials visited ‘Mannat’, the residence of Aryan Khan in connection with the (Cr.94/21 case) for seeking certain material related to the investigation of the case from Shah Rukh Khan, by following due procedure of notice, etc.,” said NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede in a statement later.

He also dismissed reports in sections of the media dubbing the NCB trip to the superstar’s sea-facing bungalow as a ‘raid’.

The development, which grabbed national attention, came shortly after the Bombay High Court this morning decided to take up his son Aryan Khan’s bail plea on next Tuesday, October 26.

Simultaneously, Ananya Panday — daughter of Bollywood actor Chunky Panday and granddaughter of the renowned heart surgeon, the late Dr. Sharad Panday — has been summoned to the NCB offices this day for the probe and the actress.

The NCB has claimed that her name apparently figures in some WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan recovered by the agency, along with others.

As part of its probe into the cruise ship party raids, the NCB has arrested a total of 20 persons so far, and more arrests are not ruled out.

It may be recalled that Nationalist Congress Party National Spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik had last week claimed that among various Bollywood bigwigs targeted, Shah Rukh Khan was also on the radar of the central probe agency with sleuths keeping a watch on ‘Mannat’ in recent weeks.

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Crime

NCB drugs case: No bail for Aryan Khan, 2 others

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 Mumbai Special NDPS Court on Wednesday rejected the bail plea of Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

The court also declined the bail applications of Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, the two accused in the same case.

Khan’s lawyer said that though the detailed order of Special Judge V.V. Patil is awaited, they plan to “appeal to the Bombay High Court today or tomorrow seeking bail”.

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Crime

All eyes on Mumbai special court, suspense over bail or jail for Aryan

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 The Special NDPS Court in Mumbai is the focus of national attention as the bail plea of Aryan Khan — son of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan — and 7 other youths come up for hearing later on Wednesday.

The arguments in the bail pleas of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha were completed last week and Special NDPS Judge V.V. Patil had deferred the verdict till Wednesday, but the hearing of the remaining accused is pending.

The hearing comes under the backdrop of a senior Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari filing a plea before the Supreme Court Chief Justice N.V. Ramana demanding a high-level probe into the affairs of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the ‘violation of Aryan Khan’s fundamental rights’.

Meanwhile, the NCB has reportedly found the mention of a heroine in one of the WhatsApp chats of Aryan — who has been inside the lockup or custody for 19 nights continuously since his detention on October 2 and arrest on October 3.

The NCB has reportedly counselled him and other co-accused, offered them their religious holy books like Bhagwad Gita, Quran or Bible, Aryan reportedly is full of remorse and has promised to ‘reform’ himself after release.

However, Nationalist Congress Party National Spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik has challenged these claims and demanded the NCB should release videos of the purported counselling sessions instead of indulging in selective leaks.

In one of the most high-profile operations, Aryan Khan, along with 7 others was caught when the NCB team led by Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede swooped on an alleged rave party aboard a cruise ship on October 2 evening.

During subsequent investigations, another 12 persons, including a foreigner have been nabbed in the same case, while some others have been raided or questioned.

Simultaneously, fingers have been raised at the NCB’s style of working, the involvement of a fugitive and a politician, friends of the sleuths as ‘independent witnesses’, capped by the unprecedented plea to the CJI seeking a probe into the central narcotics agency’s alleged ‘mala fide doings’.

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