The Maharashtra Congress on Tuesday called upon Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to order a judicial enquiry – on the lines of West Bengal – into the alleged snoop-gate scandal.
State Congress president Nana Patole and party MP from Chandrapur Suresh alias Balubhai Dhanorkar made the identical demand, seeking a judicial commission comprising retired judges to investigate the issue and unravel the truth behind the spying scandal.
In a statement, Patole said it has come to light in the global media that important political leaders, lawyers, journalists, social activists and others were being monitored through phone hacking by the Pegasus spyware.
“Though the central government has yet to order a probe, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has constituted a committee to delve into the issue. The Maharashtra government should also form a similar committee to go into the matter,” Patole.
Penning a letter to Thackeray, Dhanorkar said that there have been media reports that the then CM Devendra Fadnavis had sent some officials to Israel.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party has said that it was an agriculture study tour. But, prominent lawyer Satish Uke had written to Nagpur Police Commissioner Amitesh Kumar on May 23, 2021 whether any surveillance carried out by the BJP leaders, needs to be probed,” said Dhanorkar.
Referring to his own case, Patole said that during the Fadnavis regime, the phone numbers of several prominent political leaders were tapped.
“My own number was being tapped under the name of ‘Amjadkhan’ in connection with the drugs trade. The matter was raised in the assembly and it is being probed,” the state Congress chief pointed out.
“Given the gravity of this issue now, we need to know whether there is any connection between the phone-tapping during Fadnavis government and the Pegasus spyware, was this technology also deployed in the state, from where it came, and many other such unanswered questions. The truth will emerge if the Maharashtra government appoints a probe commission of retired judges,” Patole urged.
Seeking an independent investigation by retired judges, Dhanorkar said it was imperative to find the truth of how deep the tentacles of the snooping scandal are spread in Maharashtra.
“In a democracy, if the elected government is keeping tabs on people in such a manner, then it’s a very serious matter. The truth must be revealed,” the MP urged.
The Congress is a constituent of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government with Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party as the other partners.
Maharashtra ATS to enforce further crackdown on PFI after Centre’s ban￼
The agency has so far conducted raids in 12 districts in Maharashtra, arresting and detaining scores of people linked to the Islamist organisation
Following the central government’s imposition of a five-year ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) is planning to enforce a further crackdown on the organisation in the state, a senior officer said on Wednesday.“Relevant action has been initiated against the PFI in Maharashtra in accordance with the Centre’s ban this morning. We are getting details of their offices, members and bank accounts,” the officer said.
The agency has so far conducted raids in 12 districts in Maharashtra, arresting and detaining scores of people linked to the Islamist organisation. Sources said that more arrests are likely to happen in the days to come based on interrogations of the accused arrested so far.
The Union home ministry’s move banning the PFI and its affiliates under Section 3 of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act will be referred to a tribunal for adjudication, whether or not there is sufficient cause to declare the organisation “unlawful association”, people familiar with the procedure said.
Uddhav vs Shinde: SC allows EC to decide which faction is real Shiv Sena
In a big setback to Uddhav Thackeray’s faction, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stop the Election Commission from deciding the claim of Eknath Shinde group to be the real Shiv Sena.
After a day-long hearing, a constitution bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed the interlocutory application filed on behalf of Thackeray’s faction. The apex court’s decision is very significant in view of the impending Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections, where both Shinde and Thackeray factions would like to contest the poll.
The bench — also comprising Justices M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha — said there would not be any stay on the proceedings before the Election Commission on intra party dispute and ‘bow and arrow’ symbol of the party. “We direct that there would be no stay of the proceedings before the Election Commission of India,” it said.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, A.M. Singhvi and Devadatt Kamat represented the Thackeray’s faction. Sibal submitted that Shinde cannot approach the EC once he has incurred disqualification, saying “I challenged the very locus of the person who moved the EC”.
Sibal clarified that Shinde has incurred disqualification as his various acts amounted to “voluntarily giving up membership of the party” under the Tenth Schedule, and he also violated the party whip, which is also covered by the Tenth Schedule.
The Thackeray camp vociferously argued that since disqualification of Shinde and the MLAs supporting him was pending, therefore EC cannot consider their application over the party and the symbol. However, the top court declined to entertain this contention.
Senior advocates Maninder Singh, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, and Mahesh Jethmalani, assisted by advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, argued for the Shinde faction.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar represented the Election Commission.
Shinde’s faction counsel argued that under Article 324 of the Constitution, the EC possesses plenty of powers to deal with any situation which arises in relation to political parties and several party members have sent their representations to the EC supporting the Shinde group.
Kaul submitted that the nature of enquiry under Tenth Schedule and the Symbols Order are different.
Shinde’s faction counsel claimed a hopeless minority sought to remove him from the party, and contended that the Speaker, under the Tenth Schedule, has to exercise power to determine disqualification of a member and he cannot decide on the split or merger within a political party. Shinde faction counsel vehemently argued that a party member’s right to move the EC cannot be taken away.
The EC counsel argued that it worked independently, and its functions are different when compared with the Speaker. The counsel added that it can decide who held the majority in the party.
Shinde and his faction had rebelled against Thackeray, which forced him to resign as Maharashtra Chief Minister.
Shiv Sena’s General Secretary Subhash Desai had moved the apex court saying that Shinde and other MLAs, have purportedly initiated proceedings under para 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (Symbols Order) seeking to be recognised as the “real Shiv Sena” by the EC. Desai added that they are also claiming the right to use the election symbol of “bow and arrow” allotted to Shiv Sena.
Thackeray faction claimed that since the disqualification matter is pending in the apex court, Shinde faction are trying to illegally cobble up numbers and fabricate an artificial majority in the organisation.
The apex court, on July 11, asked the newly appointed Maharashtra Assembly Speaker not to go ahead with proceedings on the disqualification petitions.
Both Shiv Sena groups welcome SC decision
Both Shiv Sena factions – led by ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde – welcomed the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday allowing the Election Commission to decide on the ‘real Shiv Sena’ and the allotment of the iconic bow-and-arrow symbol.
In his first reaction, Shinde said he humbly welcomed the apex court decision and reiterated that his faction is the “real Shiv Sena”.
“In a democracy, the majority counts and we have that majority in the assembly, a majority of the MPs are supporting us. All decisions taken in the country are based on the Constitution, laws and procedures. We have not done anything to flout any laws and we have formed this government also on the basis of the laws. We were expecting this decision,” he said.
Shiv Sena ex-Minister Aditya Thackeray said that “this is not a relief” as claimed by the Shinde group leaders, while MP Arvind Sawant said that this decision is part of the legal procedures, and the whole country has witnessed the court proceedings.
“This is neither a shock nor relief to any side. The SC has now asked the ECI to take a decision in the matter. The ‘traitors’ have not got any victory as they are claiming. Now we shall present our case before the ECI. We have full faith in the judiciary,” said Thackeray Jr.
Terming it as “the first blow to Uddhav Thackeray” with more to come, Shinde said that they had full faith in the EC, even as several other leaders his Group hailed verdict rejecting the Sena’s plea for a stay on the ECI on the rival group’s claims before it.
Nationalist Congress Party state President Jayant Patil, Sena leaders like Anil Desai, ex-Minister Anil Parab and others also said that they accept the SC verdict and will now present their case strongly before the EC.
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