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Mallikarjun Kharge makes his presence felt on first day as LoP

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The newly-appointed Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, began his stint on an aggressive note on the first day of the House proceedings after recess.

On the issue of fuel price hike, the senior Congress leader gave a notice to the chair for suspension of business but it was not allowed, following which the opposition stalled the proceedings of the House.

Observers said that Kharge’s aggression is just opposite to his predecessor Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was more mild.

During the first leg of the ongoing Budget session, then LoP Azad had agreed to the discussion on the motion of thanks by the President, but it was delayed in the Lok Sabha even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi took pot shots at Rahul Gandhi for not being in sync with the strategy of the opposition in the Upper House. The Prime Minister had even praised the outgoing LoP in his farewell speech.

Congress insiders said that now the whole strategy will be monitored by Rahul Gandhi in the Upper House after the appointment of Kharge as the LoP.

However, the Congress has a parliamentary strategy committee headed by Sonia Gandhi to devise the party’s stand on crucial issues, which even met on Sunday. The treasury bench may feel the heat on key contentious issues, but the government has the numbers, so passing a bill may not be a problem.

On Monday, the House was adjourned for the day after the Opposition forced multiple adjournments in the Rajya Sabha, the first day of the second half of the Budget session, as it pressed for discussion on the fuel price hike.

The House was first adjourned till 11 a.m. and when it met again, Kharge repeated his earlier demand. Deputy Chairman Harivansh said the ruling of the Chairman could not be reconsidered. Pandemonium soon followed and the House was again adjourned till 1 p.m., then till 1.15 p.m. and after that till 1.30 pm and finally for the day.

Earlier, the Chairman of the House, M. Venkaiah Naidu, had rejected Kharge’s notice for suspension of business under Rule 267.

Kharge said, “Petrol price has reached Rs 100 per litre in some parts of the country and the government has earned more than Rs 20 lakh crore in the last six years through taxes, and it’s utmost important to discuss the issue.”

But the Chair did not allow the notice and said that it was against the rules. The House was adjourned after the Congress MPs resorted to sloganeering.

“I don’t want to take drastic action on the first day,” Naidu said.

Crime

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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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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‘Will act considering HC order’, EC to SC on disqualified Lakshadweep MP’s plea

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 The Election Commission (EC) on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it will consider the Kerala High Court order, which suspended the conviction of Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal in an attempt to murder case, and take action in accordance with the law.

Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Faizal, submitted before a bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph that the by-election cannot go on as the high court has suspended the conviction of his client.

Faizal’s conviction had resulted in his disqualification from the Lok Sabha. The bypoll was announced by the EC after Faizal was disqualified following his conviction in the case.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the EC, contended before the bench, also comprising B.V. Nagarathna, that the action will be in accordance with law against the backdrop of the high court order.

Singh took strong exception to the allegations made in Faizal’s petition that the poll body had acted in a malafide manner and questioned how a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution could be filed in the matter.

The bench said, “Without going into the allegations or pronouncing on any merits, we dispose of the writ petition recording the submission that action will be taken by the EC in accordance with law in light of the high court order of suspension of conviction.”

Faizal, in his plea filed in the apex court, had argued that the bypoll was announced without awaiting the outcome of his plea for stay of conviction and sentence in the high court.

Earlier this month, the EC had said the bypoll to the Lakshadweep Lok Sabha seat will be held on February 27 along with the byelections to six Assembly seats spread across five states.

Faizal, leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, had moved the apex court challenging the EC’s press note announcing by-election in his erstwhile Lakshadweep constituency, terming the announcement as was arbitrary, malafide and unlawful.

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